We’ve been playing the Qantas points game pretty hard for the last two years, buying the items needed to clock as many points as we can for the holiday in our future. We’ve played hard enough that our stay at Peppers in Cradle Mountain is completely on points, along with some others during the trip, saving us nearly $4000 in accommodation. You’ve got to be in it to win it.
Peppers is a treat, we’ve got a cabin overlooking wombat hill where we can sit in our snug room, curled up by the fire, sipping whiskey and watching wombats enjoy their evening meal. The weather in Tasmania has been outstanding so far with only one rainy day and sunny warm ones for the rest. The weather when we arrived in Cradle Mountain was predicted to be exceptional, two days of sunshine and warm then getting chilly quickly, down to 0c kinda chilly with a chance of snow.
Given the shift in weather we decided to hit the ground running and do our big hike on the first day. Up at 4:30am before the birds had begun, winding our way along the 10km one lane road through alpine forest and pademelon pockets into the centre of the park to start our 16km hike loop to take in Marion’s Lookout, Cradle Mountain Summit, Hanson’s Peak and Dove Lake. It was worth the early start, we were the first people to arrive and sign into the hiker’s checklist for the day, and within the first five minutes as we started our plod along the boardwalk over the button grass and slowly snaking freshwater streams we spotted a wombat finishing his night. We walked through the forests and waterfalls for an hour, enveloped by the mist sitting low in the valleys and the sky waking up above us.
We arrived at Crater Lake, veiled in smooth clouds of mist twisting and weaving off the glacial water, the sun calmly rising over the mountains, the clear cold water glistening off the morning light. We were completely alone. We sat still, holding our breath not wanting to disturb the calm, consuming our surrounds with every one of our senses and taking in the crisp clean air and the remarkable vista in front of us. Not a whisper of wind, or a rustle of leaves, just an occasional bird call. Perfection.
Each lookout and mountain had its own spectacular view of the others, all hugging around the beautiful Dove Lake in the centre. The largest of them, Cradle Mountain, has a summit which reaches the dizzying height of 1514 metres and it’s climbable. So, we climbed, and gosh darn it, it was bloody terrifying. It took us two hours to climb, and two to descend heaving ourselves over boulder after boulder, stepping over crevasse after crevasse, looking down at the ever-increasing height and fall. Adam only cried once, after climbing for an hour and a half, having reached the false summit (bloody false summits are the worst of the worst), only to reach a boulder that was bigger than him and simply impossible to climb alone. Fear and anxiety at the height and the future decent was already making him shaky, teary and nervous, this was without a doubt the scariest thing he’d ever done, but I offered words of encouragement and managed to lift him up and over the boulder through tears rolling down his cheeks. And he did it, what an achievement. Oh wait, that was me, yep, definitely me.
The summit was absolutely worth it, as scary as it had been, we were the only ones there for a while scanning the world in every direction joined by a solo crow who seemed to make a fuss about being able to fly there with ease compared to our breathless pursuit, puffing its chest out displaying its brilliant shiny feathers. The sky was clear, and you could see for hundreds of kilometres at the beauty of Tasmania’s pristine landscape.
On our way down, as I’d crowned myself the Master Bum Descender, we were overtaken by five-year-old’s doing the same climb. Yep. Five. No fear, no vertigo, no consequence. Embarrassing really.
We kept working our way along the ridge edge, traversing lakes and peaks until we finally reached the finish line, burning legs (well mine were) and exhausted bodies. I had ankle surgery early last year from an incident with a kelpie with no spatial awareness so I’m proud we were able to manage that hike, it was the hardest I’ve ever done. 10.5 hours of climbing.
We amazingly completed a number of other hikes over the next few days, walking over 40km and managed to see more wombats, echidnas and even a platypus which is something I’ve never seen in the wild. We walked the Pencil Pine Walk, the King Billy Pine Walk, the Enchanted Walk and the Cradle Valley Walk through rainforests rich in green hues and mossy textures, over button grass hills and through bracken and bushes that ripped the skin from our shins. Cradle Mountain is a gem of Australian landscape. It’s untouched and immaculately managed by the National Park rangers. It’s in our top five places in the world.
Facts we’ve learnt in Cradle Mountain:
- Wombats are prolific path poopers. A field of fresh grass doesn’t do it for their cube shaped poops, always a path, or a rock. And some of the paths are boardwalks, which are 2ft off the ground so it’s a miracle they can get up high enough to do their business on their chubby, stumpy legs.
- Wombat poo also just smells like grass, or so Adam tells me.
- The Vale of Belvoir, at the foot of Cradle Mountain is a rare grassland surrounded by old growth forests and the only surviving grassy valley of its kind, unchanged since Aboriginal wallaby hunters 18000-20000 years ago.
- In the 1910’s Gustav and Kate Weindorfer climbed the mountain and proclaimed “this should be a national park for the people for all time. It is magnificent, and people must know about it and enjoy it.”
If you haven’t been to Cradle Mountain, do it, and do your walks early, it’s worth shoving down your muesli and tea and getting started before the five-year-old’s hit the peaks, if for nothing more than pride.
Snake encounters: 8
Wombats/Echidnas/Tasmanian Devils: 10
Local food feasts: 43