Lake St. Clair

November 30, 2013

Last night it was raining, but it wasn’t raining very hard or surely we would have heard it on the roof of our cabin. But the weather was pretty good (for Strahan) as we packed up and headed back up the road. We planned to stay at Lake St. Clair, which was only a two-hour drive along the B24. The road as usual was winding, and we wound our way up the mountains with the occasional rain shower for variety. Soon we rejoined the A10 at Queenstown, which had been a major mining centre in the past. Perhaps it still is, but we couldn’t tell. But even to us non-geologists it was obvious that the local rocks had a high metal content.

Along the way we stopped at viewpoints and a couple of short walks. By the time we reached Nelson Falls, our first stop, it was close to lunch time so after completing the lovely forested walk to the falls we had a picnic lunch. It was very pleasant sitting in the cool sunshine. Back on the road our next short walk was to Donaghy’s Lookout, but when we arrived at the trailhead it was to find the trail blocked by orange plastic fencing and a sign saying that a tree had fallen on the track. Our next walk was the Franklin River nature trail, once again a lovely forested walk. Soon we came to a roadside sign which said that we were at the east-west divide. And then everything changed. The sun came out and the road got straighter and flatter, and it was bordered by fields rather than forests.

After this it didn’t take us long to reach Derwent Bridge and the turn-off to Lake St. Clair National Park, where we had decided to stay tonight. If we had walked the Overland Track from Cradle Mountain, this is where we would have finished. There was very little accommodation around the area; in fact the Lake St. Clair lodge was basically it. We didn’t feel like putting up the tent again, and our research told us that we could stay at the Drumlin Bunkhouse for the night. The man at the reception desk tried to talk us into staying in a room at the lodge for an extra $100 per night, saying that we wouldn’t have to walk outside to use the toilet. That certainly wasn’t worth $100 to us so we got our room key and drove to the bunkhouse.

After unloading the car we checked out the washrooms and the camp kitchen. Both were quite nice so there was no problem there. Our room was a tiny room with a bed and a small window and it cost $110, but we didn’t really have an alternative. The camp kitchen was bright and spacious, so we sat in the sun there for a while.

It was now after 2 pm, so we didn’t have the option of doing most of the medium and longer trails. So we headed out on the trail leading towards the platypus viewing area. By now the day was quite warm, which was a pleasant change. Along the way we met a girl coming towards us who pointed out the tail end of a tiger snake which was disappearing under a log. It must have been sunning itself on the trail when she came along. The tiger snake is extremely venomous so it was lucky for all of us that it was not annoyed. This was only the second snake we had seen in Australia and we had almost forgotten about them, but now as we continued along the trail we kept our eyes open for more snakes. We crossed the Cuvier and Hugel rivers and very soon arrived at the platypus hide. The parks people had actually built a screen there with little gaps to look through, just like a bird hide. It was mid-afternoon and we knew we had little chance of seeing any platypus, and we didn’t see any.

By the time we got back to the bunkhouse it was dinner time. While we were in the kitchen a couple came by asking if we had a phone charger. They were stuck at the park while their friends were driving into Hobart to get the wife’s probably-broken wrist checked out. It turned out that the phone was an iPhone 4, so Rosemary lent them her charger. It also turned out that the wife had broken her wrist while trying to climb over the fallen tree on the Donaghy’s Lookout trail. And most surprising, it turned out that the couple we were talking to lived near Falmouth in Cornwall, and the nearest town to them was Mylor Bridge where Paul’s aunt Jean lives!

We made our dinner, and as we were washing our dishes we met the other residents of the bunkhouse. They were three lady librarians from various places in Tasmania. They had accidentally bought a bottle of wine with a cork, and there was no corkscrew available. (In our experience Australian camp kitchens never have corkscrews.) But we had one—on our Swiss Army knife! So we lent it to them. One of them was very impressed that we had been to Narawntapu National Park, which is very close to where she lived in Port Sorell.

After a while we went down to the dock, where the librarians were hanging out. We watched the sky darken as we waited for a platypus to swim by. There were no platypus, but we did have a good time chatting with them. When it was nearly dark we all headed back to the kitchen to sit inside and warm up. The sky was clear so the temperature was dropping but inside the kitchen there was a gas fire which made it nice and warm. The couple who had driven to Hobart arrived back so we got to hear their experiences. (The wife’s wrist was broken, but it had just been taped and it would be looked at later when they got home.)

Before we went to be we headed back to the dock to look at the stars. The lake was so calm that we could see them reflected in the water. Definitely a lovely sight. We identified a few constellations, along with the two Magellanic clouds, before heading back to our room.

Next: Back to Hobart

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