On our second full day (but third all up) at the Pump House, the 13th of November, heavy rain was forecast to last all day so we drove to Queenstown through staggeringly beautiful country. Rainforests, meadows of rust coloured sedge, winding up and down and between mountains. All through pouring rain. On the way we passed a number of short walks that had been recommended to us by Pump House staff and we hoped the weather would be clear on our return journey.

When we finally reached the outskirts of Queenstown we were startled to see this burnt out building. Not a great welcome. Looks like a film set but it seems to just be a burnt out cafe.

To get to the township we had to ascend what seemed to me an almost perpendicular mountain; I think it’s Mount Owen which is to the north of the town. At the time the road was being swept by pouring rain pushed along by howling winds. At the very top I was sure we were going to be blown off. It was scary! Even the descent was tricky as it wound around and around the mountain.

But we made it into the town past the copper mine that is still a going concern although now they send the copper to India for smelting. There were some lovely old buildings including a pub. The surrounding hills are slowly recovering from the complete de-forestation that occurred during the mine’s heyday. This was due to the logging of trees to feed the smelter, the consequential erosion of top soil due to the heavy rainfall. and fumes from the smelter. We discovered that Queenstown has the heaviest rainfall in Tasmania – a great place to come on a rainy day!

We had lunch in a little cafe that was decorated with mining paraphernalia – hard hats, picks and shovels and miners lamps – the lot. Good pies though and frequented by the locals. We were at the gateway to the South West Wilderness part of Tasmania, but we didn’t see many tourists. One family joined us in the care. Mum and Dad in a motorbike leathers. We saw them later at one of the walks; he was riding and she was in the side-car -dinky! But given we were not far from Strahan I would have expected more serious bush walking types.

I dreaded the road back up the mountain which was our only way out, but we made it safely up and down, helped by the fact it wasn’t quite as wild and windy as before. To my amazement people were walking up a perpendicular stairway to view an enormous waterfall cascading down another mountain across the way. I was too scared to take a photo!

I did manage a couple of photos on the journey out of town. Of the mountains – which were beautiful. They’re often snow-capped during winter, but weren’t this day.

I think this is Lake Burberry which Wikipedia tells me is a popular fishing and recreation venue after the Darwin and Crotty dams were built by Tasmanian Hydro after the Gordon below Franklin Dam was cancelled in 1983 after massive protests.

Here in Tasmania you are also very aware of the weather. You see it coming.

Fortunately, as we’d hoped, the weather cleared enough for us to venture out of the car and make the short walks that had been recommended. Our first was the Franklin River Nature Trail. This was a short and easy walk hrough a picnic area and largely on wooden walkways. Through magnificent bush.

Alongside the Franklin River, which was roaring powerfully beside us.

A sign reminds visitors of the campaign to keep the Franklin and Gordon Rivers running free.

Well made paths made for easy walking. I am very impressed by the tourism infrastructure here; paths clearly marked, steps and boards where required; all sensitively done vis a vis the environment. Including clean toilets wherever we stopped.

We walked through some wonderful bush. Awe inspiring vistas at every turn.

All the while it was freezing and showers were continuing from time to time. So it was good we were rugged up and largely waterproof.

We walked for a while beside another, calmer bit of water. This is the Surprise River; so-called because the Government Surveyor, MR. J E Chalder stumbled across it unexpectedly in 1840 while marking a track between Lake St Clair and Macquarie Harbour at Queenstown.

The scenery was spectacular. Moss covered trees and skeletons of trees.

Trees which towered above us – moss covered, dripping water on our heads.

Verdant green moss everywhere. I wonder what it is like in summer – whether it is ever dry here. On this rainy day with everything wet and glistening there was greenery everywhere.

That moss is spectacular close up – an emerald green.

Enormous trees collapsed alongside the path, covered with moss. This is what I always imagined a rainforest would be like.

On to our next walk which was Nelson Falls. The sign assured us it was One of the Tasmania’s Great Short Walks.

We were told it was too wet for us to venture along it, but fearless we pressed on – what harm would wet feet cause? We were getting used to being wet. The first noticeable thing on this walk was the size of the tree ferns.

They were wonderful, enormous cascading things. And they were everywhere.

We discovered that yes, the walkway was flooded. There was water everywhere – and more than our feet got wet!

The amount of water over the track reflected how wet it had been over the past few days and the heavy rain that had fallen in the morning.

Once over the flooded bit the track was in good shape and the walking was very easy. We pressed on through more ferns.

I got arty – not terribly successfully. I wanted to capture the majesty of these amazing plants.

In addition to the ferns there were some amazing tree-scapes.

Hard to do justice to the ferns on an iPhone.

I used Joe for scale – but even this doesn’t quite capture their size and grandeur.

We heard the waterfall well before we could see it. A great roaring noise that was getting louder and louder as we progressed. This is our first glimpse through the trees.

We actually felt its spray on our faces before we saw it. And when we finally glimpsed it I didn’t want to go much closer because I didn’t want to get soaked.It was like a gigantic bucket being poured out, Joe said.

Joe had no such qualms, in for a penny in for a pound. Here he is getting drenched as he takes a video.

It was worth the walk and Joe getting wet. Here are the amazing Nelson Falls.

Back we came, with a backward glance from a safe distance.

Then back past the river – the Franklin again. So powerful, you could understand why all those hydro electric engineers wanted to capture that power. Although we’re glad they didn’t.

Our final walk for the day was to Donaghy’s Hill Lookout. We were very lucky with the weather, it seemed to clear up as we came to each of these tourist spots while pouring while we were driving. This was another well maintained walk with steps dug into the hill-side – which was good as it was a pretty steep incline up quite a large hill.

There were the familiar ferns. Even larger than along the Franklin. This time we were looking down at them from a long way up.

Here the trees were spectacular. I wonder how old they are to get this big. Years and years. This is a Gum-topped stringybark.

I don’t know what this one is, but it took two photos to capture it.

Here’s another giant of the forest.

We were on our way to here – a very high look-out that was very windy and I was loath to let go of a firm handrail to take pictures. But here’s Joe hard at it. You can see that the wooden structure has been built around the stony top of the hill.

The views were worth the climb. The river in this picture is the Franklin.

This is the view of the valley on the right of the river – I can’t tell whether it’s East or West.

Surrounded by mountains.

And spectacular forests all around.

I was pleased to get out of the wind and wend my way downwards; which I did very gingerly.

Managing a closer look at the river on the way down.

From there we drove back to the Pump House via Derwent River where we stopped at the pub. It’s famous for its Sri Lankan curries – of course, in the middle of Tasmania! We had a coffee (Joe) and red wine (me); the staff setting a heater near us to help us dry off. There was a group of grey nomads around the fire. We were told the atmosphere here is great at night and you imagine it would be. It’s a great barn of a place.

Back at the Pump House we had a scratch dinner of biscuits and cheese in the lounge near our room instead of venturing out to the Shore House. It had been a big day.

 

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