It had fallen to me to choose the day’s walk. Having looked at the options I thought the Dove Canyon Circuit fitted the bill nicely. ‘This 5km Circuit crosses buttongrass plains, open forest and myrtle rainforest to the deep gorge of the Canyon. Numerous waterfalls on Pencil Pine Creek, including Knyvet Falls. Some short steep climbs and descents. Some sections which are rocky, muddy and could be slippery.’ Fair enough. Not outwith our experience and similar to the previous days walking……. Now here’s the thing – my advice now is never to take a walk where gorge, canyon and ‘rocky’ are involved in the same description. We found out the hard way – by doing it 😳
The day started well. It was warm and sunny and not the showery day predicted. As a warm up we took the car to the Rangers Station where we had ended the previous day’s walk and did the 20 minute Enchanted Walk which meandered through very pretty woodland beside a stream after a very impressive water fall. Very nice.
We then crossed the road and took the signed route of the Dove Canyon Circuit, with an estimated time of 2 – 3 hours. Alarm bells should perhaps have rung then at this length of time for a 5km walk. However, undaunted we set out. We first took a short detour to see the Pencil Pine Falls. 2 minutes each way. Lovely!
At this point the wooded walkway gave way to a narrow stony path. We walked just above the stream as the path gently climbed and descended. The danger of tree roots made looking around a bit dangerous but all was good. Eventually we started to climb up a rocky path, a bit damp in parts, but we eventually came out onto a bit of a plateau of button grass. Occasionally we could hear the throb of the helicopter from the Visitor Centre flying overhead. There was no wind – the only other sound was that of the water moving over the rocks below us. It was a beautiful still summers day.
The next up was more difficult. First through trees and then over rocks that ran along the back of a wooded area. The path was definitely getting more difficult. It was about here that we met a couple coming the other way who said we were in for some fun ahead and what they described as a path that involved a bit of ‘scrambling’. 😳🙄💡😨⛰🏔 We had definitely not signed up for scrambling! As the route behind us would not have been a good one to walk back on, we all agreed that they were exaggerating, laughed a bit and continued on our way.
They were not exaggerating. The path turned inward towards a wooded escarpment which we continued to climb, to the point that the roots that had initially been problematic underfoot alternated between being handy toe holds or useful handles to pull yourself up on. Occasionally we came out of the trees and into a clearer area. To our left the rocky outline of the lip of the gorge could be seen, the sound of the water crashing below us could be heard clearly but was not visible.
Towards the end of a woodland section was a sign that said we would coming to the top of the cliff edge and that ‘care should be taken with children’. I am not sure that anyone in their right mind would have undertaken the route we were walking with children in tow! It was as much as we could do to get ourselves up the steep incline. The going then got really steep, but we eventually came out near the edge of the rocks. Once again the water could only be heard below but the cliff was too sheer for us to see it. The rocks on the other side of the gorgethe were quite close.
There was a wire fence of sorts reminding us not to go too close to the edge (particularly with those children, I guess!). After a short time our route turned us away from the edge and we thought we had reached the highest point and were over the worst. We were wrong. The ‘path’ took us up through a very narrow crack in the rocks. We were ascending again, steeply.
A little further on it was impossible to walk and we were climbing! It was hard work and not a little frightening as we worked our way slowly upward. We kept thinking we had reached the top and then found we had another top to reach, but eventually after coming down slightly we reached the sign going the other way about the cliff edge and children, so we had passed the worst. ….. please note that there are no photographs of this section – I was a bit busy staying alive and not falling on my compatriots!
Shortly afterwards, we reached the trees again and entered a silent forest. It was lovely. The light was muted and a clear blue sky could be seen above the tall trees. Heaven! A couple of currawongs followed us for a bit. We meandered along a path that was not always clear – unusually. Most of the paths we have followed in the national park have been clearly sign posted. It was here particularly that I thought about what I had read about aborigines in the area. Apparently, an English chap decided to send all the aborigines that they found off to Robinson’s island for a programme of ‘civilisation’. Many of them were transported there and then, the report said ‘the final family were captured twelve years later’ I could imagine an aboriginal family hiding in this silent place, terrified of these white men who hunted them like foxes. Another not proud moment for the British. Before ‘our’ arrival, the Cradle Mountain was on the travelling route of tribes of aborigines who hunted and fished in the area.
For us, real relief came when another section of boardwalk appeared. It was fairly short lived but by now we were back into buttongrass and the occasional rotting tree. Some spectacularly.
In about another 10 minutes we had reached the cross path. We had made it safely back. It took another twenty minutes or so to get back to the Ranger Station but this was mainly down hill and very pleasant.
Despite the dodgy moments we had achieved the walk, but felt the challenging nature of it had not been clearly advertised or perhaps we had just not taken what it said seriously enough…….. either way, no-one had died (thankfully!) and we had had a great insight into the rugged landscape. I think we felt quite pleased with ourselves that we had been tested and met the challenge.
We had our lunch when we got back to the Rangers Station and felt it was well deserved. After a quick trip to the Visitors Centre it was back to no 26 for a shower and siesta. We had a night with the nocturnal animals ahead!
At 8.30 the bus picked us up for our evening with the animals. The local marsupials are nocturnal. Greg the driver shone light beams into the grassy verge as we left our accommodation park and there before us were paddy melons (mini wallabies – I think!), wombats and wallabies. During the evening we also saw one or two possum. I was amazed at how many animals we saw. A veritable hotspot for marsupial night life!
As interesting as this was, our main port of call was the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary. This little creature gained its bad reputation and its name from the early settlers association with. It sounds constantly irritable and aggressive opening it’s pink mouth and baring its teeth to snarl menacingly at the slightest provocation. The English, and European for that matter, had not come across such a creature. As the devils took to living under the new settlers houses, It must have been somewhat disturbing and understandably caused some alarm and displeasure. Hence the name. As half grown devil chaps romped around a big enclosure they looked quite cute. When their night feed came in, in the shape of a dead wombat, there was no question that they are quite ferocious! They eat literally all the animal – the fur to provide the roughage they need as they are totally carnivorous we were told. At a distance we could hear them crunching the bones of their supper. Every now and then a little devil made a dash for freedom with a piece of booty clenched between his teeth. There was a constant yanking and tearing, growling, yappng and snarling until nothing of the meal remained. What started out as a whole dead animal was totally consumed
75% of the population of Tasmanian devils in the wild suffer from a disease called devil facial tumour disease. This is a cancer peculiar to the devils and transmitted through their jaws during their constant fighting and bickering. Places like the Sanctuary set up quarantined communities living a similar to wild experience to prevent the specie dying out like the Thylacine, the Tasmanian Tiger striped nocturnal dog like predator that disappeared at the beginning of the 20th centuary. To date no antidote has been found for The Devils fatal malady and their only hope of survival is the breeding in captivity being carried out on various places on the island.
The next creature was the amazingly marked quoll. This is an animal that neither Keith or I had heard of. Considerably smaller than the devil, more like the size of a small cat, the quoll is another carnivorous of the area. Their colourings went from shades of beige through to black with beautiful spots, making them almost camouflaged in the dappled sunlight of the rain forest. They were pretty little things with long snouts but equally ferocious when confronted with raw meat!!
Following our visit to the sanctuary and a comprehensive commentary on the two animals being nurtured and a very interesting commentary there by a young and very enthusiastic keeper, we left at about 10.00 to observe further late night grazing activity by the local marsupial population. It was fascinating!
Ironically, we probably got the best sighting of a possum on the walk back to hut 26 in the discovery park – we had a bush tailed possum walk right across our bows!