Mt Field National Park – Alpine hikes

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” John Muir

Mt Field National Park – Setting off on Tarn Shelf Hike

Mt Field National Park in Tasmania is unique for its diversity in vegetation. There are tall swamp gum forests, giant tree ferns and gorgeous waterfalls in the lower reaches of the park, which I have described in another blog Mt Field National Park – The waterfalls.

There’s also the stark, but beautiful, alpine vegetation in the higher elevations, where there are ski fields for the winter and plenty of hiking options for summer including day walks and overnight treks.

On our visit, in late September, there was still a bit of snow around, but we decided to try the Tarn Shelf Hike via Lake Newdegate, Twilight Tarn and Lake Webster. The walk began on a picturesque trail that meanders around Lake Dobson, before veering off onto Urquhart Track and then onto a service road. Here snow was completely covering the road, but it wasn’t too deep, so we pressed on. For a while it was fun tramping in the snow as we hiked past the ski club buildings and onto Snow Gum Track.

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Mt Field National Park – The waterfalls

“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty.” John Ruskin

Russell Falls, Mt Field National Park

Tasmania is a wonderful place to go hiking with hundreds of trails, from short walks to multi-day hikes. It’s also the place where my hiking buddy lives so, on most of my visits, I get to pull on my hiking boots for an overnight trek, base camping or even just a short stroll to a waterfall. We are slowly ticking off hikes in all corners of the state and one my favourites is in Mt Field National Park. The Russell Falls/Horseshoe Falls/Lady Barron Falls/Tall Trees Circuit is six kilometre walk, which takes two to three hours depending on how long you linger at each of the waterfalls.

Mt Field National Park is about 60km north west of Hobart and is particularly unique for its diversity in vegetation. There are tall swamp gum forests and giant tree ferns in the lower reaches of the park and alpine vegetation in the higher elevations, where there is also ski field above Lake Dobson. At the time of our visit, September, there was still snow in the alpine regions and our longer hike was foiled because we were sinking up to our thighs in the snow, not to mention losing sight of where the trail went – but that’s another story (Mt Field National Park – Alpine hikes).

Fortunately, the waterfalls circuit is suitable at all times of the year and Russell Falls, which is one of Australia’s most photographed waterfalls, is only a 10 minute stroll from the visitor centre. Here are some of my photographs of this beautiful hike.

Sunlight filters through the thick canopy and there is so much water coming over Russell Falls that the spray drenches us. We have to stand further back to take photos.

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My journey with The Black Arm Band

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” Mark Twain

Indigenous readers are advised that the following blog contains images of deceased people.

One of the things I love about travel is that it opens your eyes to different cultures. It teaches you tolerance and acceptance of people different to yourself. And, if you stay in a place long enough, you might also learn something about the politics and history of the country that you may otherwise have missed if you were relying on the daily news bulletin.

But sometimes you can also increase your knowledge without leaving your hometown – by reading a book or watching a great piece of theatre or listening to music. Over the last couple of years I’ve taken a journey with The Black Arm Band – by going to their concerts and listening to their music – and, as a result, I’ve learnt more about the history of my own country than I ever learnt in school.

dirtsong

“From little things, big things grow.” Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody

I first saw The Black Arm Band perform at the Myer Music Bowl as part of the 2010 Melbourne Arts Festival. The show, Seven Songs to Leave Behind, was a particularly moving event bringing together artists from across the globe (including Sinead O’Connor, Rickie Lee Jones, Gurrumul Yunupingu and John Cale) to share songs that held special meaning to each of them. This included their first song, a song from Leonard Cohen and a song that they would like to leave behind for future generations.

Over the years I have seen hundreds of concerts, as I used to work at some of Melbourne’s entertainment venues, and this night was up there with the best of them. The concert showcased a special group of performers with an amazing selection of songs, but more importantly, it introduced me to some of Australia’s most talented Indigenous artists – including Leah Flanagan, Shellie Morris, Dan Sultan and Ursula Yovich.

Dan Sultan

That night I also caught up with my cousin and his partner, filmmakers Rhys Graham and Natasha Gadd, who had put together the film footage featured in the concert. They told me about their latest project, working with The Black Arm Band on a documentary called murundak: songs of freedom, and, a year later, I was invited to attend the premiere.

“Like the songs of the civil rights movement in the US and the anti-apartheid songs of South Africa, our songs sing of anger and pride, of political protest and of the profound optimism of our people.” Rachel Maza Long

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Photo story – spotting an elk near Jasper

“The great hurrah about wild animals is that they exist at all, and the greater hurrah is the actual moment of seeing them.” Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

The Canadian Rockies are a pristine wilderness with green forests, snow-capped mountains, canyons, spectacular glacial lakes, hot mineral springs and plenty of wildlife. On my travels, including several hikes into the wilderness, I was fortunate enough to see grizzly bears, black bears, bighorn sheep, deer, caribou, a female moose with a calf, hoary marmots, squirrels and pikas. But it was this elk that gave us our best photo opportunity.

Large herds of elk live in and around the townships of Banff and Jasper, and we spotted this guy as we journeyed from Jasper to Maligne Lake. He seemed to be enjoying his surrounds as much as we were. 

Through the red centre

My head is chock full of instructions – when you hit the sand, drop into a low gear and pedal furiously; on the corrugated sections, relax your wrists and don’t grip the handlebars too tightly; and most importantly, keep your mouth shut to avoid swallowing one of the 10,000 different insects species that live out here. I’m not sure if that’s an exaggeration, but Kakadu National Park has plenty of other wildlife, so why not. I keep my mouth shut, just in case, and commence riding.

At first, I’m concentrating so intently on technique that I don’t take much notice of my surrounds, but as I grow in confidence, I glance around. This is a harsh, but strikingly beautiful landscape – burnt-red soil, rocky outcrops, and a forest of eucalypts (including Stringybark and Darwin Woolybutt trees). I remember it distinctly from an around-Australia-trip I did years ago, but this is the first time I’ve seen it by bike.

Remote Outback Cycle (ROC) Tours, as the name suggests, take participants to some of Australia’s most remote and spectacular locations – including Kakadu in the Northern Territory, the Kimberley in Western Australia, Flinders Ranges in South Australia, and the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland. So, when my sister, Lynn, suggested that we do their Alice Springs to Darwin tour, I didn’t take much convincing.

On a brisk August morning we stand on a deserted corner in downtown Alice Springs waiting for others participants to arrive. We are both a little nervous that they will all be serious cyclists and put us to shame, particularly as we haven’t done much training. Sure enough, the first person to arrive is retiree Don, from Western Australia, resplendent in his lycra cycling gear, and he looks capable of riding 100km without any effort at all.

Fortunately, when others arrive, we realise there’s a good mix of people of all ages and abilities and, as the tour gets underway, we’re already enjoying a camaraderie that seems to flow naturally on these types of active adventure tours.

Day one is a long drive of about 500km, with only a short ride at the end of the day, but there’s a good reason for this. First, we’re escaping the freezing winter mornings of Central Australia by getting as far north as possible for our first night of camping, and second, there’s really not much to see between Alice Springs and Tenant Creek, except for the Devils Marbles and a few quirky towns.

Wycliffe Well, for example, is certainly quirky. Established in the 1860s for its reliable water source (which was useful on the stock route and for the establishment of the telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin), the town is now infamous as the UFO Capital of Australia. Our guide, Ben, is quick to point out there’s also a very extensive range of beer on sale at the pub and perhaps this is a more logical explanation for the numerous UFO sightings here. Fortunately, the only strange creatures we encounter are those featured in colourful wall murals and cheesy sculptures. Even the Australia Post letter box is decorated with a ‘little green man’. Mulder and Scully, eat your heart out.

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