Tag Archives: treks
Could This Be the Most Unexpected Landscape in Australia? Hiking The Tarn Shelf Circuit in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania
Can you imagine the feeling of every cell in your body waking up out of a sleepy state? Of a bubble of awe and appreciation for all around you building in your body, rising up through your feet right to the top of your head with each and every step that you take? Of a great, great sense of peace and contentment?
This was how it started.
With light feet D-man and I descended down and across the tarn shelf and through a green, rocky landscape dotted with clear water mountaintop lakes. It was still early morning and other than another hiker who had taken the turn off for the extended trek to K Col, we hadn’t seen a soul. This world – a place so different to the expected, stereotypical scenes one has come to expect of Australia – was ours for the enjoying. Mount Field National Park was showing itself to be a place full of visual surprises.
The air was crisp and drinkable yet the sun packed some punch, even at this time of the day. We juggled layers, sunhats, woolen hats. Finding the right balance was an impossible act.
The stretch before Lake Newdegate is scattered with naked snow gums, a scene from a fairytale or a fantasy film, spikes of ghostly pale sticking out at all angles against a green brown scrubland.
We shared our lunch space with another solo walker. He perched himself outside the hut while D-man and I sat of the boardwalk at the edge of the lake, looking out over the water and those spikes of ghostly pale, and observing wisps of low hanging mist.
By the time we arrived at our next stop of the Twilight Tarn hut, we had made our way from a somewhat mystical landscape, past the Twisted Tarn and on into the eerie. Preserved in a state of sepia were old battered boots and wooden skis, creaky floorboards and ageing photos. Onwards.
A small black snake stopped me in my tracks – my first encounter since I arrived in Australia nearly two years ago. Dragonflies danced in front of our faces before landing on the edge of puddles and pools of crystal clear water that glistened in the sunshine. We, humans, felt the indelicacy and invasiveness of our increasingly heavy footfall. There was still some way to go.
And the way to go was downhill over a loosely defined path of rocks, heavy on the knees and demanding of concentration. Surrounded by spindly trees and moving away from the higher alpine wonder of the tarn shelf and surrounding areas, my focus shifted to the finish line.
Barely glancing Lake Webster through the trees, we pushed on along boardwalks and a straighter pathway, across marshy spots and into dryer, enclosed bush land through which a good slither of blue sky could still be seen.
As we drove back down to the main entrance and visitor centre of Mt Field National Park some six hours after we first strapped into our walking shoes that morning, I observed how the imagined cliffs of last night’s drive up were in fact fairly, well, imagined. Mind at rest and body tired from a thorough trek, tonight’s sleep, I realised, could only match that of the night before. Bring it on.
The Tarn Shelf Circuit walk via Lake Newdegate/Twilight Tarn and Lake Webster is approximately 12km of mixed terrain. In places it is very exposed and at times it can be challenging. It took us 6 hours to complete the circuit, which factored in three stops plus regular pauses to take photographs.
- Discovering the Most Stunning Scenery on the Tarn Shelf Circuit (travelola.org)
- Eucalyptus pauciflora – Snow Gum, White Salee (anbg.gov.au)
Discovering the Most Stunning Scenery on the Tarn Shelf Circuit in Mount Field National Park, Tasmania
I must have slept well. Having completed a drive up to Lake Dobson long after sunset that had me gripping the passenger seat with fear of what appeared to be precarious cliff drops off narrow dirt tracks, the relief of arriving must have taken hold, and – together with recent memories of glow worm magic – my body and mind shut down the moment that my head hit the pillow.
Because now I was wide awake, the sun was burning through the last of the dawn haze and I was ready to stretch my legs. It had been too long since my last proper trek. Surely it wasn’t way back in in 2012 during a stint travelling in South America? I love trekking. What happened?
Laced up in hiking shoes and carrying a backpack stuffed full of water and snacks, D-man and me stepped out into a brisk day full of early morning light and signed in at the check hut at the southern side of Lake Dobson before skirting clockwise around the water and onwards along an easy path through a forest full of pandanis.
And then started the upward hike. ‘Best to get this climb out of the way at the start of the day,’ I said, but by the time we reached the huts and sagging lifts of the Mt Field ski village we had to stop for the first break of the day, legs burning. I took off a layer, one of many. Be prepared for all weather eventualities on these hikes, I’d been told.
The next stretch was easier; flats and gentle inclines along solidly built boardwalks. This was a place to make up some time and to take in views down over a craggy landscape, Lake Seal and the Tarn Shelf.
We reached some signposts and the first decision of our day: the option to branch off to K Col and the Mt Field West area, a highly recommended extra 6km scramble. It tempted me momentarily, but we stuck to the plan. Months (and months) without a decent full day hike might not put us in the best state of fitness for a 18km walk. No, stick to the plan.
It was possibly the best decision we made that day.
- Mt Field National Park Activities (parks.tas.com.au)
- Di’s Walk a Month: Tarn Shelf, Mt Field (blogspot.com.au)
- Photo Essay: Tarn Shelf Circuit (bushwalkingblog.com.au)
- Bushwalking: Tarn Shelf Circuit, Mt Field National Park (walkweb.net)
I’ve always wished that I could fly. As a child I loved flying foxes in playgrounds and swings at the fair, as a teenager the rollercoasters that left you dangling facing downwards and whizzing through the air as though free from gravity. Zip lining was something I’d done only a little bit of in the UK, most recently as part of a fun day with friends at Go Ape, Exeter. When given the choice to spend the morning walking for three hours to our lunch spot or going ziplining, well, it was a no brainer.
At $30 it wasn’t a cheap option (in Mindo, Ecuador, for example, you can do a similar round of cables for just $10) but this was supposedly the highest canopy experience in South America and I was happy to give my legs a rest.
No such luck. To get to the first run involved a twenty-minute steep scramble up mud paths through bushes and trees. People stopped regularly, puffing and red-faced and sweaty in the strong sun. My legs hurt like hell.
The guys at Cola de Mono Canopy Peru had given us a quick briefing and kitted us out with all the gear. The gloves freaked me out. We were expected to slow ourselves down with our gloved hands by pressing onto the cable. Really?! I expected the worst: sparks and smoke, or at the very least some serious sores to the hands. (Nothing happened).
The first run was a gentle start building up to the fourth, the longest, where creativity was encouraged (spin, turn upside down, video, photograph or just cruise with your arms out).
On the fifth, the fastest of the lot, I nearly crash landed, mistaking the guide’s gestures to slow down as a sign to stick out my arms and legs. I arrived at the platform full speed, nearly knocking a few people out. It worked out okay, really, some nervous laughs and disbelief but no one was hurt. All good.
A bus ride later and we arrived at a little random office in the middle of nothing else near the Machu Picchu National Park to register our entry to Machu Picchu before taking a short walk and climb up to a restaurant in Hidro Electrica.
Some people found the afternoon walk boring: a steady pace alongside the rail tracks with little variation in scenery. I loved it (even if I did lose the second sun hat of my travels so far). Maintaining the momentum was easy with nothing to cause serious pressure on muscles or joints, and at only 1,000-2,000m, no altitude problems to worry about. Ideal. Sometimes there was a pathway, sometimes just gravel, and sometimes you had to walk on the actual train tracks.
The path didn’t deviate from the track, trees lining one side, lush mountains and a fast flowing river on the other. It was nature at its truest: calm and ferocious and powerful all at once.
And after nearly three hours, we arrived into Aguas Calientes accompanied by the gentle patter of rain. Supposedly an ugly little town, I was surprised by how much I liked the place. It was dusk and lights shone out of the damp mistiness from a host of hostels and hotels and tiendas that lined the high street.
Machu Picchu, I’m ready for you.