Tasmania – Part 4, Maria Island

This may have been the highlight of the trip. Maria Island is a magical place – peaceful, beautiful, full of gentle creatures.

We took a ferry from Triabunna, which is about an hour drive from Richmond. We took the 1030 am Maria Island Ferry. It was a lovely 45 minute ride to Darlington, Maria Island.

When you first arrive, there’s a welcome center where you can learn about the rehabilitation of the Tasmanian devil population, as well as the life of the prisoners who were sent here in 1825. You’ll also read a little bit about the original land owners were the Puthikwilayti people, who lived here for more than 40,000 years! There’s more of the history here.

It was raining off and on when we arrived, so we spent some time exploring this old settlement. Once the weather cleared up a little, we headed out. We decided we would walk to Encampment Cove, which according to the map, was 3.75 hours away. Along the way are the Painted Cliffs, a sandstone formation with beautiful colors.

The rest of the walk had quite a diverse landscape, and was very enjoyable. It rained a little off and on, but it was a pleasant rain and it helped to keep us cool on the hike.

When we reached Encampment Cove, we sat down our belongings, and took in the setting. There were all kinds of kangaroos, and – the most amazing animal EVER – a wombat!

And then we set up the tent, and as we were getting the fire going, a rainbow came out over the water, with a kangaroo and a wombat in the foreground. It was the most picturesque Australian scene I have ever seen!

And the of course the sunset was great.

That night we saw two Tasmanian devils sprint through our campsite. We saw the flash of white on their fur, which helped us to know that they were the infamous tassie devils.

The next morning we lingered, enjoying the wonderful scenery before we headed back. We even saw an echidna on the way another first!)!

Once back at Darlington, we saw these cool Cape Barren geese, and then when we got on the boat, we saw dolphins! The perfect end to our Tasmania adventure.

Maria Island will always hold a special place in my heart.

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Tasmania – Part 2, Tasman National Park

After two nights in Hobart, we made our way east to the Tasman National Park to hike along the Old Cape Pillar Track. Our itinerary had changed several times because of weather – snow at Cradle Mountain, rain in the northeast. Since we were in our tent, I didn’t want to have to camp in adverse weather conditions. We decided that hiking/camping along the Old Cape Pillar Track looked pretty cool. Recently, the Parks & Wildlife Service opened up a walk called the Three Capes Walk, which is a 3 day, 4 night trek across the peninsula. You have to book ahead of time to stay in the huts along the way – it looked like a great walk, but again, since we had our tent, it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for. Because the Parks & Wildlife Service had just constructed this new trail, there weren’t that many people who still used the Old Cape Pillar Track. It would be a two night, three day adventure for us.

I think we got on the road just before 11:30am. A little more than an hour into our drive, we were hungry for lunch, so I checked google maps for any restaurants that might be up ahead. There wasn’t a lot between us and the Tasman National Park, but we knew we needed to get lunch before we started our trek.

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Our route, taken from TasTrails: http://tastrails.com/cape-pillar-circuit/

Fortunately, there was a cafe called Fish Lips that was open. It is owned and run by a Finnish couple, who live in Tasmania during the Tassie summer, and in Finland during the Finish summer. Sounds like a good arrangement to me!

We arrived at the start of our hike just after 3pm. Here’s a good description. With our packs on, we set out.  According to the map, it would take about four hours until we reached our campsite at Wughalee Falls. The hike was relatively flat until we came to the extremely steep decent down to a hollow where the campsite was constructed. This is the only place along the trail where you can camp if you are hiking the capes independently.

We arrive just after 6pm. After we set up, we boiled some water and cooked dinner that night.  We also walked a bit up a less used path that headed SE out of the campsite valley, we saw glimpses of the sea before turning around and heading back to the tent.

The next morning, when we woke up, it was incredibly rainy. So we waited a little bit to see if it would subside. We probably started on our hike to Cape Pillar around 9:30am. This part of the track follows the new Three Capes Walk. We stopped at Munro Hut for about 20 minutes to warm up our hands, have a small snack, chat with the resident ranger, and dry off a little. Then off we went, and amazingly, the wind died down, the clouds lifted, and we were left with these amazing views of Sheepish Bay.

The most stunning view were from “the blade”, which is at the end of the penninsula and overlooks Tasman Island and the Tasman Sea.

The next day we packed up and left the camp site around 10:30am. On our way, we decided not to take the detour to Cape Huay. It would have been a couple of hours, but we decided we wanted to spend our time down at Fortescue Bay instead.

We made it back to the parking lot just after 12:00pm. We splashed around in the water for a little bit, although it was freezing, so swimming in it was difficult.

We stayed for about an hour, and then we made our way off of the peninsula, and over toward Port Arthur for some local sightseeing. What a great three days!

Rainbow Valley

6 September 2017

At the beginning of November 2016, we went to Rainbow Valley. Rainbow Valley is just over 100km outside of Alice Springs. Most cars will be able to make the journey, but it’ll be a bumpy ride, taking about an hour and a half to get there. If it’s been raining, then you’ll want to check on road conditions before heading out there.

 

Rainbow Valley, which is inside the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, is known for its sandstone cliffs. It’s an absolutely beautiful spot, and well worth the drive. We camped, which I highly recommend. Although the drive back isn’t that long, it’s worth it to stay and see the sun set against the cliffs, to watch the sandstone turn different shades of orange and red. If you’re really into photography, you’ll get some amazing photos of the stars (and/or the moon) against the formation as well.

The drive out there is pretty interesting, because as soon as you turn off of the Stuart Highway, the dirt is bright red. And then, when you get those first glimpses of the sandstone, you’re instantly in awe of the place.

We arrived at the site just after 4pm. After setting up the tents, we started on dinner prep. The campsite itself is pretty basic. There are pit toilets, a picnic area with gas barbecues and even fire pits. Before you get to the reserve, you’ll want to gather your firewood. There’s plenty of dead trees, so we didn’t have any problems collecting wood for the night.

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You can do a little walk around the claypan, which is the area around the sandstone. After it’s rained, the claypan fills with water, and the photos people have taken of the place are beautiful. The walk is short, about a kilometer long.

There’s also a sign posted that informs you of the fact that it is a weed free area (so check your shoes and tents for any errant seeds before you go out there). Because there are no weeds, there is different flora in the area than anywhere else in the Northern Territory.

For dinner, we brought vegetarian Indian food that is sealed in foil packages. You submerge them in water to heat up the food, and in a couple of minutes, you have a piping hot Indian meal. It’s pretty awesome.

I played with my camera settings that night, and tried to get some night sky shots. A friend who really knows his stuff was there, and he was helping me a bit.

The next morning we did the walk out to Mushroom Rock. It’s hot in November, but the walk is about a kilometer, so it won’t take you that long. And, the other rock formations are stunning. 

The wind carved out these rocks, giving them these unique shapes.

It was a fun weekend camping in a new spots with good friends!

If you want to know more about the reserve, this is a pretty good, informative website: Travel Outback Australia.

Palm Valley

14 August 2017

One of my favorite spots to camp is Palm Valley. I was just there again this past weekend, and my happy memories of the place were renewed. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there, although the times can vary widely, depending on the last 18 km. The first hour and a half of the trip is on Larapinta Dr, a paved road that will take you all the way to Hermannsburg, which is about 130 km west of Alice Springs. Hermannsburg is the last place to get fuel, so it’s worth filling up if you have a small fuel tank. The one gas station in Hermannsburg also has limited hours, so it’s best to fill up if you think you might need fuel.

Also, if you’re hoping to stretch your legs out a little, the town of Hermannsburg has a museum, a cafe and a gift store. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Here is some more information.

Back on the road, less than 2 km west of Hermannsburg is the turnoff for Palm Valley. It’s the second left, after the turn off for the dump. There will be a sign shortly after you turn off, warning you that the road is for 4WD vehicles only. From here, the path is fairly clear, but the terrain can vary. From the sand to the boulders, you’ll want to take your time. The first time we went was October 2016. It had been a while since it had rained, but throughout the winter and into spring, we’d had a bit of rainfall.

For the first approximately 15km, you’re able to collect firewood, but that ceases to be true once you enter into the Finke Gorge National Park. There’s plenty of dead wood to pick up along the way, so don’t feel like you need to stop at the first sight of wood.

The drive to the campsite is pretty fun, but then the campsite itself it what makes it all worth it. It’s beautiful and serene, and we got lucky – there was water in the river. There are a number of campsites available, and there are actual facilities at the campsite – fire pits, grills, toilets and even showers. Here’s the official website for the campsite.

That evening, we had a feast of veggie Indian meals, chips and salsa, fruit and veggies. All the food was cooked in the glow of the setting sun. And once the sun was down, we used our newly acquired wood to get a nice fire going in the fire pit. By then the birds has quieted down, but every once in a while we’d hear the howls of dingoes.

The next day we went to the Palm Valley hike. It’s 4 km away, but because of the rough terrain, the rangers say to allow 45 minutes to get there. For us, it took about 20 minutes.

Palm Valley is a place not to be missed because of the Red Cabbage Palm Trees. You don’t expect to see palm trees in the middle of the desert, and yet here they are. And they have been here for thousands of years.

 

The day started cloudy, which we were grateful for because we knew as soon as the sun emerged, it would be hot. Hiking in October can be risky! We started hiking just before 0900, but in a short period of time, the clouds would dissipate, and it would indeed get quite warm. The hike is about 2 hours, but once you climb through the valley, and up onto the ridge, there is no shade. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a hat!