Mt Owen June 2014
The glorious Franklin
I did not intend to climb Mt Owen this weekend – that is, I did not leave home with that intention – but I snapped my tooth, and had some of it sticking into the roof of my mouth just before our group set out on the venture I had been intending, so had to quickly form a plan B). (This goes to show you shouldn’t eat home-made cherry muffins with the seeds left in when about to go walking). Rather than get into the middle of nowhere and then discover that I urgently needed dental attention, thus ruining the walk for the others, I opted to forego this trip. Sadly, I waved them farewell.
But what should I do now? I’d driven all this way (2 1/2 hours). I wasn’t just going to turn around and drive home, and my husband had already gone bush with other people, so no one would even be pleased at an early return. Well, I’d never seen Nelson Falls. Let’s start with that and see how the tooth was then.
(This is a later photo. The 2017 Louise hates the 2014 Louise’s photo).
As I drove in that direction, I came to a sign advertising a walk in the rainforest, so I pulled over. Might as well do all the tourist things. It was beside the Franklin River. Great. This river holds a special place in my heart. I was one of the multitudes who voted for Bob Hawke on the strength of the fact that he promised to save this wild river AND he kept his promise. I wanted to walk its banks here, even if only for a short distance, and immerse myself in a little history.
However, there was a sign there warning against entry, and informing us that dangerous trees lurked behind the barricade. I was fascinated. I know of dangerous fungi that poison, and dangerous snakes that bite; of lawyer vines that grab you and won’t let you out of their clutches, but dangerous trees! I must see and photograph them, so I climbed around the warning sign and went seeking. I found a magnificent, beer-coloured river gurgling intently as it urgently rushed downstream, lots of soothing green mosses and lichens, but no dangerous trees lying maliciously in wait for me were to be seen anywhere.
At Nelson Falls, I found a different sign. This one warned me that in nature I might slip. NO. How dare nature be natural ! That’s surely not what I came to see. Anyway, I managed to see the falls without slipping or finding cause to sue someone who has somehow become responsible for my behaviour if something goes wrong. The falls had so much water you could barely see them for the white spume-blur.
Climbing Mt Owen
I haven’t climbed Mt Owen yet, so in Queenstown I decided that would be a good mountain to do when in doubt about your teeth, so off I set for the base of Owen.
Having not planned on day walking, I lacked a day pack, so just set out hoping the rain wouldn’t return, carrying only gps, camera and compass. Halfway up, the sky changed from benign to threatening. On I strode, hoping I wouldn’t get too wet. The anorak I’d chosen was windproof, but no longer useful protection against rain, being about as old as the Franklin Dam issue. In rolled more clouds. As a rule, I loathe being made to stop on my way up a mountain, and one of the enormous blessings of going solo is that there’s no one there to ask me to stop. However, I hit a view that I feared might have vanished by my return the way the weather was changing, so stopped long enough for a couple of quick shots before continuing on, staring at what appeared to be a cross at the top of the summit still visible. Unlike Australia to be religious, I thought. However, the ‘cross’, I discovered when I drew nearer, was indeed something religious, but was nothing about the God of Christianity; rather it was about our sacrifice to technology. I should have known.
Not only was I disabused as to the nature of the object on top, but also to the site of the summit. My tower, I could see once there, was unfortunately not the summit. There was something bigger and better (and with a trig on) in the distance through the mist … and then it vanished. While it was visible, I took a compass bearing on it, more so that I could get back to where I was now standing than to reach it in the first place, as I was pretty confident I could maintain direction having once spotted it, but turning around is often tricky. It’s easy to get confused.
The view from the top was hardly exotic in such mist, but I still had enough sense of its promise from the few tachistoscopic glimpses I did get, to know I want to return – preferably on a long summer’s evening to watch the light gently fade. Right now, the clouds were getting increasingly darker and it was time to head back down, having only just arrived. Considering the mining operations on Mt Lyell facing this mountain, perhaps the mist was a bigger bonus than I knew. It looks as if the entire mountain will be eaten by the machines in the near future. I quitted the scene of mass destruction and headed back to Lake St Clair, and, for the first time in my life, slept at the Derwent Bridge end.
Do I need to tell you I had been officially trespassing the whole time I climbed my mountain? This was a grand day of warnings and disobedience.