Tasmania’s Devils Cauldron (in Lees Paddocks, Cradle Mountain National Park) is well named, and certainly on Sunday it resembled its namesake in Africa rather well … except for the snow that decked all the surrounding mountains. If you don’t conjure up myths like Faust’s (well, Goethe’s) Walpurgisnacht (or Shakespeare’s hags in Macbeth) with devilish witches stirring bubbling pots of fuming brew, doubtless noxious, and wish to turn to river metaphors named after the idea of satan with a spumous pot, then you will need to look to the original African version, in which the Nile squeezes its way through a gorge of approximately 7 meters width, to burst with a thunderous roar into the “pot” below. The Wurragarra River had only what seemed like three metres width in which to force its flooded way through, and it was carrying all the melted snow and runoff from the many mountains above. Its force was impressive!
One begins one’s journey to this spectacle in a humble carpark, fit for maybe five cars, advances through an open green boom gate, and encounters the first swimming pool in the track not too far down. In the end, I was to clock up 20 kms today, so was in no mood for wetting my feet so early. I found a way around through the bush. I was to repeat this little chassé dance many times. After 8 or so minutes, one reaches a swinging bridge, and gets a first glimpse of how the Mersey is faring today. Big, wide, had a bad night’s sleep and is not in the best of moods. Treat with caution.
On the other side, the creeks come thick and fast. I spent a while at each one searching out two poles to balance myself on the slippery submerged rocks. Sometimes there was a wood option, but I don’t trust wet wood, so sought out other alternatives. My feet were dry at the end of the day, thanks to quality Scarpa leather, and dodgy pussyfooting (and, probably, the poles, which I refused to cross without).
Forty-four minutes after beginning my journey, I was at the turnoff to Oxley Falls (having passed the Lewis turnoff a bit before). This section of the forest had been beautiful, as was the early paddocked area beside the river, with white mountains closing in to left and right, and light drizzle falling. I was not to be tempted sidewards right now, however. On I pressed.
The moss, myrtle and sassafras not only looked wonderful in its lush greens, it also formed a protective canopy which soaked up the rain before it hit me. It did, however, rob the surroundings of light, so that 9 a.m. had the feel and look of 7.30 p,m.: gloomy, dour, no lighthearted jokes tolerated.
An hour after I left the car, the forest opens up a bit, letting in light (and rain), and allowing the growth of bracken and lower ferns for a while until it closed back in. Not knowing the area, I thought I’d reached Lees Paddocks, but I had to wait another 30 minutes before I was reading a sign announcing I was there, and that I was to close the gate. I climbed it instead. I am light and it was heavy. (Ie, 1 hr 32 to this sign from the car, in case you want that feedback).
The button grass of the paddocks was the slowest part of the hike (isn’t it always?). I was just negotiating my way from lump to lump as I approached the Wurragarra River, when I heard a non-owl call my name. I turned to see Shane, a web friend and fellow waterfalls aficionado. He had started 10 minutes after me and caught me from behind. How lovely. We walked over the lumpy clumps together, wending our way to the forest edge, and proceeding together to our infernal pot.
(Google SEO: that = Devils Cauldron. Is there anyone else in the world who cares about the fact that google’s search engines are ruining good style by demanding the relentless repetition of words for the dumb, mindless SEO rather than encouraging pleasant-to-read and stimulating good writing, which avoids boring repetition. I refuse to succumb to American notions of what I should be doing with my language, which means the myopic search-engines have trouble locating me. I treasure good writing over being found).
Together we climbed up the creek until the lion’s roar warned us that the devil was cooking his stew, and he must be nearby. The pot was blasting over. Neither of us had any information on how to actually reach the base of the falls, and in conditions like today, any suggestions would have probably been drowned anyway. We went as far as we could at river level, delighted in what we saw of the high, striated cliffs and rumbling, foaming water, the dripping ferns and singing moss, and then tried other creative ways to reach our goal. Success. Kind of. There was so much spume that my lens misted over before the 2-second self-timer had set off the start button of my camera. Long exposures produced a nice shot of the innards of a cloud. Furious wiping, cut exposures down to 10 seconds, change the angles … I got something, but not the shots I came for. I’ll be back.
What with setting up my tripod and filters and so on, I was taking a lot longer than Shane. Besides, I wanted to stay and play for a few more hours, and explore the river up higher, whilst he had to get back, so we parted, although I climbed back to safety before he left, and he kindly stayed to see that I had emerged alive before we went our separate ways. It’s amazing how you can flit away several hours, just moseying around and exploring. Well, I can.
On the rebound, I had time for Oxley and Lewis Falls. It was only early afternoon. I made my way towards the first, being shocked that I could feel the ground vibrating before I heard the sonic booms of the voluminous water rushing over the edge and slamming into the territory below. I could see the river in the distance, so walked beside it, waiting for the actual falls to happen, and noting the the Upper Oxley Falls were just swallowed up into insignificance in a context like today’s.
I didn’t return to the track after Oxley, but chose to remain by the river and proceed pathless to the next waterfall (Lewis). From there, it was a mere 2 minutes back to the track, and a further 32 minutes to the car.
My photos don’t indicate the shape of Oxley falls. The fat lady had eaten too much dinner for any shape to be evident. Besides, my photos are not “record shots” to show what something looks like. They are my artistic response to the beauty I have witnessed in that place. Sometimes that shows what it looks like as a side perk, but that is not my objective in shooting, whether we are talking waterfalls or mountains. Nature is amazing, beautiful and various. Each waterfall and mountain evokes a different mood and response, which, of course, relates to the stimulus, but it is not all about the fact of the object that is there, but the personal and creative response to that object. Mostly, I am taking photos of the same thing, every location, every time, and I have been doing so for as long as I remember: Light. Goethe’s “reines, einfaches, helles Licht”. How he loved it. And how do I!!!