Well, we decided it was time for another outing, just slightly further afield than our own neighbourhood and so we hopped in the recently purchased car and headed back up to Cradle Mountain for a weekend of peace and plodding. Steve was very excited to be taking the recently purchased car to the spiritual home of the Subaru…a National Park. The good ol’ Mitsubishi Magna had clocked up kilometres well into the six figure digits and it was time to send it on its way to retirement pastures. Replacing it with a Subaru Outback, Steve was stoked to line up the National Parks Pass car sticker on the windscreen and step back to admire the complete picture with satisfaction…a 4WD…with a National Parks sticker on the windscreen…and mud splatters along the doors that were the real deal and not suburban mud transfers stuck on to make a 4WD look ridgy didge, even though the most off road it might see is a speed hump. No, Steve was taking Stan the Subaru for his first outing to a National Park, with a Parks Pass sticker on the windscreen and mud on the doors…proper Tasmanian now!
Day one of our weekend of roaming started with a very pleasant and relaxed breakfast in our accommodation, which I had said to Steve, “I want one of those breakfasts, like we had on the bike trip, where we could sit back and I could have fifteen cups of tea and six rounds of toast if I felt like it” and just bask in the relaxed glory of the best meal of the day, which is of course breakfast. We did just that. I wore a hole in the floor making numerous trips back and forth to the toaster in the breakfast room, pocketing umpteen packets of marmalade while I waited for the bread to brown and then sat back to enjoy it all with enough cups of tea to fill a small reservoir. Bliss. Steve stood at the toaster, while an older man stood beside him and chatted amiably about his life and the day to come, with Steve nodding and offering a snippet of chit-chat here and there. Aaah, it did bring back memories…memories of our travels when we would have random folk stop for a chat and we’d meet lovely people everywhere and when, on a go-slow day, we could enjoy a leisurely breakfast with nary a care to concern our thoughts. Nice.
But…the sun was shining and the day was calling. We hopped into Stan, drove to the entrance of Cradle Mountain National Park and waited to hop on the shuttle bus that would take us into the park proper. This is a requirement these days, with vehicular access restricted and it’s a logistical marvel, seeing the shuttle buses coordinating their in and out schedule on the single track road, so two shuttles don’t meet nose to nose at an impassable section of road. They have their radio code and timetabling down to a fine art. The shuttle bus was packed and, with that pesky virus still circulating around, it did feel very unsocially distanced in a sardine-in-a-can type way. But, such is life these days, so we masked up and, with all seats taken, stood up the front and worked our core muscles into ironing board tightness as we braced ourselves with the rocking and swaying of the bus as we rolled around the corners and chugged up the hills, making our way to the drop-off point at Dove Lake.
We all spilled out of the bus, into a glorious day of blue sky, sunshine and the lake before us, lapping at the base of the two peaks that sit either side of the dip in the hills, that is the “cradle” of the mountain itself. We set off on the walk around the lake in the recommended clockwise direction, which gives you a view of the mountain most of the way around and made our way along the wooden duck board, with families and excited little tackers running around enjoying their adventure in the great outdoors. Even though the shuttle bus was full and the car park back at the entrance was busy, we soon found ourselves on our own, walking along the track with no one else around and just the sound of the trees, the birds and then, as we stopped beside the lake, just the gentle lapping of the water onto the shore. Perfect.
The leisurely stroll along the lake continued on, partly on easy duck boards, sometimes on bush track through trees and then we’d emerge to look up at the mountain and continue our circumnavigation of the water. There was a nice, uphill stretch towards the end that got the heart rate up a bit, with a bit of scrambling on rocks, then down the hill towards the lake again and the iconic and historic boat house on the lake shore. A lovely, gentle, scenic roam around Dove Lake and at the foot of Cradle Mountain on a shiny day. Magic.
A shuttle ride back and we hopped off for a spot of our BYO lunch, sitting on an outside table, where we were joined by Colin the currawong who had obviously come down with a dose of wishful thinking because he tried the stare-down technique, hoping for some fall out from our lunch. He perched on the railing and then hopped along until he was standing right behind me. Sorry fella, no luck, we know not to feed you. Nice try though.
We took ourselves for another slow stroll through the “Enchanted Forest Walk”, which is a short, easy walk along duck boards, through bush. Then, we had what is always a special encounter…WOMBAT! Completely unfazed and oblivious, this wombat just waddled across the path in front of us and continued on into the trees. Special.
When we emerged again into daylight, we walked along the path around the chalet and saw a group of people stopped on the path, looking at something. Not wanting to disturb them, we skirted around them a different way and then saw what had captured their attention. WOMBAT! We sat and watched, as another wombat happily grazed in the long grass without a care that it had the attention of a small group of admirers. The group walked off, all but one man, who stayed watching the grazing little ball of podge.
“He’s been here for ages,” he said, “I could reach out and pat him.”
“It’s always special when you get to see one,” I said, “especially up close like this.”
He was from New South Wales and declared, “I love Tassie,” which is always nice to hear. We sat and chatted and watched the uber relaxed wombat continue its grazing, when a lady walked around the corner of the path.
The man looked up at her with smile and expression of relief. “Thanks darl, I’ve been waiting hours to take this photo!” he said, reaching for the camera proffered by his wife. He then began some stealth moves, as he leaned this way and that, stretched and lunged and squatted to take photo after photo of the wombat super model. His wife, who had obviously done the helpful thing of walking back to the chalet to retrieve the camera while he waited “hours” for her to bring it to him, looked on benignly. We completed a few more minutes of wombat watching and then made our way back to Stan.
A magic day in a special place. I do like Cradle. It has glorious scenery and walks that can range from a leisurely stroll to a serious scramble for the more intrepid of spirit. On a day with blue sky and sunshine, it was just perfect, made even more special with not one, but two wombat sightings. Thanks Cradle, thanks darl, you’re a gem. Tomorrow we explore some more!