It seems to be a recently established tradition that we climb Hartz Mountain the day after we return to Creekton Falls to have a family ‘Bruce memorial’. That is, we did it last year, and again this year. Hartz is near our base of Driftwood Cottages at Dover (nearer still to Geeveston), and is doable for the children. Traditions are good things to have, as long as you don’t become their slave.
I recently read a book by Katherine Abetz (An Obstinate Love) set in the Federation era, when they took three days to climb Hartz Mountain (and wore long frocks and high heels shoes). Abby wore a tutu, as you do if you’re three, and strapped leather shoes, and we were back by early afternoon of the day we set out. Gussy had his proper bush shoes on, and Abby agrees that she needs a pair. She got her feet very muddy, and a little bit wet. Unlike the characters in Katherine’s book, the children elected to run most of the way, despite Abby’s tender age. We adults, more burdened down with gear, went at a more measured pace. Gussy pressed on the accelerator between Ladies Lake and the top, so I left the group to keep him company, tucking in behind him to let him keep his nose in front. I rather think that next year, when he will be in third class, I will have no choice in the being behind bit. This year I was comfortable, but aware that the pace was verging on the “not so”. Soon I would be puffing. He is getting very fit, and already has a fantastic beep test score.
Keithy braved a swim in Ladies Lake, to “have one for Bruce”, who, for most of his life until Parkinson’s got a good grip, swam any season, any weather, any altitude. I have pictures of him and our daughter swimming with icebergs in the Alps. Keith was a delicate shade of blue at the end. The rest of us watched.
Predictably, Abby was very prepared to examine insects and other interesting features on the way down. She is a diminutive three, and her running on the outbound journey must have been pretty exhausting.
My daughter and I only had a day and a half on Bruny in which to enjoy the light, but managed to squeeze in quite a lot of walks, including bagging the only waterfall on the island (Mavista Falls) as well as the only mountain worth points (Mt Mangana), plus doing a couple of other popular walks, like Fluted Cape and Cape Queen Elizabeth. I love exercise, so enjoyed the walking. Lena had work to do, so combined sitting at the dining table of our fabulous air bnb (Baywatch) editing, with joining me for most of the walks.
Much as I love walking, however, I think my favourite part of being on Bruny was shooting the dawn. I really do love the early hours of the day: the light and colours thrill me; I like having the landscape to myself; and I love hearing the dawn chorus, which is far too early for actual sunrise, but I like to arrive about 40 minutes or so before the sun comes up, so I get to hear the ornithological choir practising.
As I really love seeing waterfalls, whilst Lenie prefers other types of walks (she doesn’t enjoy bushbashing), I visited Mavista Falls alone, whilst she used my absence to knock off some of her work that was pressing. I find that each waterfall I visit engenders a certain feeling connect uniquely to it. And what is the lingering aura connected to my short walk to Mavista Falls? As usual, I guess, part of what resonates is the actual process of movement through place, of negotiating my way through that particular environment of lush greens and rich, muddy browns – similar in type to many such places in Tasmania, and yet with its own individual characteristics that make it different: under, over, around fallen logs; through the creek many times as this side, then that side was easier; trying hard to leave no trace, as the moss was so beautiful yet greatly and noticeably compromised by people who were careless of where they trod, and did not respect the place or the right of others to see it in its pristine condition.
The creek was wonderfully clear as it ran its course under the mossy logs. This should have aroused sheer pleasure, but I couldn’t help being disappointed at the way moss had been trodden on unnecessarily, and I was rather alarmed at the amount of mud under foot. It looked as if a pack of elephants had been to see Mavista Falls. Perhaps some teacher had taken in a school group? Why do these people have to tread on rather than over a log that is a mere 30 cms high? Why do they have to tread on mossy rocks when other options are available? And why on earth do they go to such a beautiful place – hallowed ground – and leave behind drink bottles, tissues and pink plastic? Is it really so very hard to treat nature with respect?
The falls themselves teased me. The map said I was there, as did my gps, and the 7 metre drop in front of me was the right height; however, the October output was significantly less than that of the only photo I have seen of the falls, taken in enthusiastic winter flow, and I became uncertain that I was really there. One thing is sure, however: I must return when Bruny has had some really good rain. What I saw was still lovely, but I know it can look even more wonderful in the right conditions.
Besides, I need to return for other reasons. Bruny was fabulous, and I have not nearly tasted all she has to offer. I actually did rather a lot of the other kind of tasting: enjoying coffee and scones at the Penguin and Pardalote Cafe in Adventure Bay, oysters at Get Shucked and dinner at the Bruny Hotel, where the whisky mouse was maybe even better than the fish. But … er … I wasn’t really there to eat. That was just to fund the exercise.
Before I went to the waterfall, we “climbed” Mt Mangana, which was a nice little excursion (30 minutes exactly in each direction), although not much of a workout, as you drove almost to the top, and so just enjoyed a fairly flat walk along a quaint path through very lovely green and mossy forest until we arrived at the rather non-event of a summit, the only unappealing part of the walk. The forest had been cleared and a tower erected, but there was no view, and you were not allowed to climb the tower (and were prevented physically from doing so). I longingly eyed up the kind of short trunks going up the pole, but there were none at my kind of height. I guess workers bring a ladder.
Two walks that did have a view were (i) Truganini’s Lookout near The Neck, a fun little climb for an expansive glance over a large length of beach, although it takes no time at all to reach the highest point; and (ii) the Fluted Cape circuit.
I did both of these with Lena. The Fluted Cape walk begins with a flat 23 minutes to Grass Point, before climbing nice and steeply for another 32 minutes to reach the summit of the cape (272 ms asl). The views along the way are very dramatic, even on a day like the one on offer, which was rather dull and flat. I thoroughly recommend doing this clockwise, as I think that makes for the best views and drama. (It took 34 minutes to get back from the summit to the car, making for a round trip of nearly 1 hr 30).
The other walk we did on this 1.5 day visit to the island was to the beach at Cape Queen Elisabeth. There were fabulous rock crevices and caves that were fun to explore. We took 30 minutes in each direction to the beach, and then spent maybe 20 minutes exploring rock formations. We haven’t nearly explored all the possibilities of this walk, or of Bruny Island. I can’t wait to go back.
Please note: not one of the places mentioned here knew who I was, or that I have a blog. My good opinion is not bought, but I like to support small businesses, so when I have enjoyed what they have to offer, I try to give them a good word.
The red dot on Waterfall Creek (centre, above) is the location of Mavista Falls, which you approach from Adventure Bay. Google maps will take you to the start anyway. After that, follow a nature trail for a while, and then either call it quits, or follow the creek to the falls. Mt Mangana is also on this map, and you will see you also approach it from Adventure Bay (just north thereof). Again, Google maps will take you to the car park, where you will see the start of the walk.
I was completely taken by surprise by my strong emotional reaction to being in the Lake District this year. I gazed out my hire-car window at the usual quaint pastoral scenes: lush grass, gorgeous Herdwick sheep, stone walls, charming cottages, and huge spreading trees that always fill me with delight; I smelled the marvellous combination of roses and other early-summer flowers; and I heard the welcome call of blackbirds along with other twitters that I can’t identify. All these aspects of what I love filled me with an aching nostalgia and I burst into tears that shook my body.
I have been travelling to the Lake District on and off since Bruce and I first completed undergraduate studies at university. We’d been there three times by the time we had children; of course, we took our girls there to walk the high fells; and we have been there many times since, but this was my first visit since my husband died late in 2017, and I realised here, standing in the lanes near Skelwith Bridge, how much all this beauty surrounding me was part of the very being of my husband. The Lakes were not just an area Bruce admired: they were actually part of who he was.
The teenager Bruce imparted to his little teenager girl friend, later wife, his deep love of all things English. Bruce inhaled English literature. By the time he had finished his honours degree, he had read every great book written in the language before 1900, could burst into Old English at the drop of a hat, or chat about any of the characters that filled the books as if they were old friends. The Lakes were beloved as the padding ground of many of his favoured poets. He loved telling me stories of their experiences here. This area embodied much of what filled his being and sparked his enthusiasm, but now I was here without him. I was yanked back to younger days, but without the person who made them meaningful.
Together as recent graduates in our early twenties we had roamed its hills, with me photographing while he wrote poetry on the summits. Later we loved sharing what we loved with our girls. When we did post-graduate work at Oxford, back we came for more, and somewhere in there, I realised I could “get” all the Wainwrights, so then we came back each year to enable that. But by then, Bruce had developed Parkinson’s disease. Bit by bit he got slower and less coordinated, but still he came, and still he wandered up high, gathering fells with me, and delighted in being there. He died just over a year after his last trip there.
I walked the lanes still crying. I don’t care. There’s nothing wrong with crying. As I climbed Loughrigg Fell, my first fell for this trip, and became distanced from the cottages and lanes, roses and blackbirds, and up into the zone of open spaces and expansive views, my spirit picked up. Up there on the ridges and summit, with the breeze in my face, I was able to tap into a different version of me, of us. I am probably at my most peaceful in life going up or down a mountain : moving freely in grand nature with space all around.
It’s good that I did recover my spirit, as I had a party to attend that night, and I didn’t want to ruin its mood. My dear friend, David Purchase, was celebrating his 30-year Monroaversary, as well as the completion that day of his second round of the Wainwright Outlying fells. I sure would have dampened his summit party had I arrived in time for that one, but by evening when we all met up, I was ready for a party, and could focus on celebration, and not my drowning wave of emotions.
What do you do when you come from Tasmania and have climbed all the Wainwrights, but still want to keep climbing? Why, you begin all over again, of course.
So, the day after the splendid party, along with party guests Stephen Moore and Michael Earnshaw – both mighty multiple completes of meaningful lists of mountains – I climbed five Wainwrights of my Round Two Collection. I have now, as of the end of this short stay, climbed thirty five fells on Round Two. It’s fun beginning again. I am every bit as haphazard and unsystematic as I was on the first round, just climbing what I feel like / what takes my fancy at the moment. I want to return next year and begin the task of photographing the ones Bruce and I climbed in the very early days, but which I failed to photograph, as photography was very expensive when you were still a student and each slide cost 1/6th of my weekly scholarship allowance, aimed to keep two of us alive. Other photos are just blurry prints from when I downgraded cameras to save money, and did a triple downgrade in quality.
You know, it’s not just being up high in the endless space with mist or breeze (or both) in my face. I also love the valley life in England. I love it that if you pop into a pub for soup at lunchtime, almost every single other person there is wearing walking boots, and there is a map on the table. Spontaneous conversations begin across tables as people compare where they’ve been that morning, and what conditions were like up the top before we all venture out for another round in the afternoon. I love the attitude to dogs, especially as I live in a ridiculous canine-ophobic society that seems to think dogs are the worst pestilence that has hit planet earth. How my little Tessie would love to come freely roaming the hills with me instead of being forced to walk suburban blocks with a lead around her neck. (Yes, she comes waterfall bagging with me, but I can’t think of a single real mountain she’s been allowed to summit, as they are all placed in National Parks).
I just can’t wait to be back, reacquainting myself with long-neglected fells. Tessie will be babysat in Tasmania.
I really didn’t want to do the Mt Gower walk. Having to hire a guide to climb a mere 850 ms had no appeal, and spinning it out over eight long hours was similarly unattractive. I had the vision of a gang of snails waiting for permission to take each step. However, I did want to go to the top, so I found myself being grilled by the lady in charge as to my possible fitness for this venture, and then being taught how to climb and hike. I had trouble keeping calm. I told her a few of the things I’d climbed but she bowled on regardless. I later found out I was not the only one who received this treatment.
I cycled to the start in the relatively cool morning air, enjoying the breeze created by the bike, and, as always, delighting in the whole experience of cycling on the beautiful island. Who should be there waiting by the start gate but Nicole, a lovely person I’d met on day 1 out on a mountain slope. Hoorah. The bus containing the rest of the group arrived soon enough, and helmets in hand, off we set to begin our ‘epic’ before the day got too hot.
The first two kms are just a flat coastal walk, and I met four others of the group in this stretch, and was starting to really enjoy myself. It seemed to be a great bunch. First bit of fun for the day was a tiny climb (80 metres) to what is called Low Road – a photogenic stretch begging you to take photographs – and then a bit of an uphill slope to Erskine Creek where we’d stop and have a drink and snack before continuing. The day was heating up. I liked Dean’s way of operating, which was to set a pleasant pace for I’m not sure how long, and then to stop and wait for the rear enders to catch up. I don’t mind this method at all: it’s being forced to walk slowly that rankles. With Dean’s method, you can look at the forest and chat while you wait, so the time goes by pleasantly enough. It also meant we didn’t overheat or loose moisture with sweat. I do have a tendency to rush up mountains, and this discipline on a hot day was not a bad thing at all. His information was interesting, and presented in a manner that raised other issues to do with conservation and the island.
The ropes were not necessary on a dry day like today, but I can sure imagine they would be more than welcome in wet weather when everything would be slippery. I also noted at least one member of the party who had legs that had turned to jelly or wood or both on the way down, and the rope probably saved him from a nasty accident. Meanwhile, the rope sections were jolly good fun, for steep it was. I was reminded of Mt Bartle Frere and also Mt Sorrow, both in tropical far north QLD, where the gradient is somewhat similar. I love four-limbed ascents; they’re exhilarating. Maybe I have cat in my genes.
One aspect of this climb that I knew I was going to love was Moss Forest – a misty, moisty forest (under normal conditions) – at the top, where there are two species of palm tree that grow there and only there in the whole wide world. How exciting. This forest was magnificent, even in the current drought with some brown and curled leaves, and there was plenty of time for me to photograph while we waited. I was rather miffed, as I did have loads of time, and even though it was a sunny day out there in the real world below us, in the forest I was having to push my ISO up to 1200 and shoot with a fairly wide aperture in order to get enough light into the camera. There was easily enough time to have set up a tripod for better photos, but the lady who “taught me how to bushwalk” told me there would be absolutely no time for tripod photography, and, perhaps stupidly, I had been scared out of bringing it along. At least I hadn’t been talked out of my full frame camera, although midday glare hardly shows what it can do to advantage. I would love to see this forest in winter, with real mist hanging around, and to see the mosses and ferns less stressed out and shining. Even in a thirsty forest, it was a wonderful place to be. It was for the forest rather than the views that I was there, and I didn’t even bother with a photo from the top. Midday record shots aren’t my thing.
I did, however, enjoy imbibing the views there and elsewhere with my new companions at the top, and at our waiting spots on the way down. Even at Erskine Creek, where the noise of cicadas hit rock-concert volume, it seemed eerily still and quiet in a different way. It was refreshing.
On the way home, Nicole and I stopped our bikes at Blinky Beach and completed a perfect day with a swim. There was even a turtle in the water. At dinner that night, two other couples from the climb ate where we did. For the rest of the week, we found ourselves waving to our new friends at this and that location, or as we cycled by, or they did. On the final night, Yelena’s husband, Jonny, had been fishing and caught a King Fish that was almost 6-foot big, as well as a huge Trevally and I think the third fish was Snapper. We had way too much fish (even though he’d given heaps to the island supplies). At a nearby BBQ we spotted Laure and Vincent from the climb: “Hey, come and help us eat fish”. We had such a fun BBQ together. Next morning, Tim and Katrina from the hike were having coffee and muffin at the same time as I was, so we shared a table and had a final chat. Nicole was on the same plane out to Sydney. It was a lovely small island, and climbing Gower together brought us into contact with other like-minded people. I’m so glad I did it.
NSW Lord Howe Island Mt Lidgbird Goathouse Cave (420 ms asl)
At three and a quarter and seven, the children were a bit too young to take up Mt Gower, which we’d done the day before, so a climb to the Mt Lidgbird Goathouse Cave – only half the climb – was seen as an excellent consolation prize. The children always enjoy a good bushwalk, so off we set. While we climbed, Gussy discussed with me his birthday wish for when he turns eight (he’s not yet seven and a half), which is to have a family climb up a mountain in Tasmania. We aired a few suitable possibilities. There can still be snow in August.
I had sent the others on ahead, planning to catch them some time after the first saddle, allowing me to move at a faster pace for a while, which I enjoy. Once we’d reunited there, Gussy chose to go ahead with me, and he is getting delightfully fit so we had a great time together. Just before the roped section we waited for Abby and her patient parents to catch us and have a snack and drink together, and then it was full steam to the top. Abby did all the roped climbs by herself, and walked a very good portion of the whole. Many steps were shoulder high for that little poppet. Her little face was a picture of effort and concentration – and determination.
Up the top, we all adored the views and the masses of birds that circled us and popped in for a brief visit while we ate. You feel dramatically and suitably high.
I was interested to watch Gussy descending. I do remember the days when descending turned my legs to jelly – back last century, haha, before I became a mountain runner. You can be very fit for going up, but not have the musculature for a strong descent, and that was the case with our little seven year old. It had also been the case with a teenage boy on Gower the day before. Strength of that kind and cardio-vascular fitness are two separate items. Gussy did well to be cautious and use the ropes to help him, and to take a bit longer down than up. The route is very challenging yet not dangerous if you are sensible, thus making for a perfect adventure for those at an appropriate level of readiness. Gussy’s last mountain had been Hartz Mountain in Tasmania (1254 ms asl) so we knew he was well-able to do this one.