Cradle Mountain: Pademelons, Turbochooks and Twins
Our Tassie hiking extravaganza continued in World Heritage listed Cradle Mountain, where we took the boys to the summit of Marion’s Lookout, and then cut across to complete the scenic Dove Lake circuit via Wombat Pools.
Miranda and I made the trip to Cradle Mountain nearly a decade before, in one of our first camping trips together, and reached the Cradle Mountain Summit. I remember it clearly — because my memory is the only clear thing about that hike filled with rain, snow, fog and wind. If we hadn’t stumbled onto Bay of Fires the following night, our visit to Cradle Mountain may have been our last camping adventure. Somehow the only space remaining to pitch our tiny Oz tent was on an incline, and we were utterly unprepared for the frost and bitterly cold rain that ensued. I ended up buying a winter hat from the Parks Department because I woke up with frost in my beard.
This day eight years later with the boys was completely different. The conditions were great from the moment we awoke, with a bright sun and clear blue skies from start to finish. We ate cereal in the pleasant company of a pademelon family, which was not in the least intimidated by our presence. And we were more worried about sunscreen than snow- a vast improvement!
The ranger at the National Parks office took a look at Lake and Finn before we headed out and said, “Maybe you should just do the Dove Lake Circuit. It’s flat, pretty, you can go as long as you’re comfortable and turnaround, and everyone does it.” No, we wanted something more challenging. Lake said we would prove HIM wrong! The distance wasn’t as far as some of our other hikes, maybe 4 hours, but the hike up Marion’s Lookout was pretty steep – and actually involved a safety chain to help pull yourself up some steep rocky parts as you positioned for a run at the summit. It took our little boys about an hour to warm up to the idea that we were going to be hiking all day and there was no turning back, but then they rallied and were all in for the adventure. The treats on this hike were TimTams cookies and a jelly bean or two, plus dried fruit. TimTams are an incentive unique to Australia that any youngster would hike many kilometers for.
After two hours we reached a kind of saddle before making the push up to Marion’s Lookout. Cradle Mountain is a popular destination, and there were several other hikers who watched with raised eyebrows while Lake and Finn darted up towards the lookout, a steep scramble about an hour up from the saddle.
As we progressed the kids really started to get into the idea that when you’re up high, things you’ve already walked past look smaller. Finn especially was into this, as he LOVES the idea of shrinking things. When we tell imaginary stories, he always wants his characters to have the power to shrink his “enemies” down to the size of toys. Then he puts them in his pocket until they “promise to be good.” Well, things got pretty small as we climbed towards our TimTams!
The nice part about the hike was that the way down took us past new scenery, Wombat Pools and Dove Lake. Wombat Pools was a very peaceful place, and somehow we didn’t come across any other hikers as we walked among them. We did come across a black Tasmanian Tiger Snake, however. Yikes! Double Yikes! Not even Finn, who loves tigers, wanted anything to do with the Tassie Tiger Snake. They are poisonous and big, but I’ve been told by locals that it’s “not too bad” if one bites you because the (deadly) venom is sprayed from the back of the teeth rather than the tips, so you have a bit of a sporting chance to seek medical treatment if one bites you.
“Oh, it’ll kill your children, Mate, but you’ll probably survive if you clean it and treat it,” this kind sir offered over a Boag’s Draught.
I eventually replied, “Um….”
Fortunately the Tiger Snake slithered on its way, and we hurried past along to the more popular Dove Lake circuit, which had postcard views of blue water beneath Cradle Mountain if you are lucky enough to go on a clear day. The guide told us clear days like the one we had were actually less frequent than snowy days (like the one we had last time!), so we were fortunate indeed!
As our hike concluded we trudged over to take a shuttle back to the car park. This is a nice feature that makes Cradle Mountain accessible to almost anyone. There are about 30 walks of different lengths and difficulty and shuttles to carry everyone back to the original car park. Unless you are beginning the multi-day Overland Track to Lake St. Clair, which Lake and Finn have pledged to do with us in ten years from now.
I wonder what it’s like to be a shuttle driver in Cradle Mountain National Park, taking the same loop all day, saying the same five minute speech over the intercom, dodging the many tourists in rental cars, who think “oh we’ll just drive down to where we’re going ourselves”, not heeding the clear signs alerting you to the fact that your auto insurance stops as soon as you start on the road, and that the parks road followed mining rules of the road, which of course no one understands except people who drive in mines.
Our driver was a certified grump at the end of this day, and was moving at a quick clip back to the main car park. He lost his marbles at an oncoming tiny green rental that narrowly squeezed by us without yielding on a narrow turn. Finn and I had the pleasure of sitting in the front passenger seat, right next to the driver, and were treated to a long-winded and detailed description of the mining rules of the road. (According to Grumpy MacGrumperstein, it basically means yield to every possible situation, especially if the oncoming traffic is in a larger vehicle, and under no circumstances should anyone fail to yield to him). I can attest from my front seat vantage point, that although the other driver didn’t yield, the fact that I could see the whites of his eyes the size of softballs suggested he sure wished he had.
One thing I will give Grumpy MacGrumperstein is that he did have a soft spot for wildlife. I saw an echidna along the road and pointed it out to Finn. When Grumps saw Finn’s face light up he said, “look up on this hill up there on the left – and you will see a wombat and kid.” Sure enough, a few seconds later we were treated to our best wombat sighting in Australia so far, as a pair of furry brown balls waddled across the bushy windswept grass. Grumps nodded, smiled a knowing look, maybe I needed to rename him after all…. Then a weird bird shot across the horizon on foot – fast! It was brownish and carried a slightly jiggling belly as it motored across the way. “That’s a Turbo Chook!” Grumpy announced proudly.
Turbo Chook! Guffaw!
“It’s so fast!” I said excitedly, whereupon I learned they can travel up to 50ks per hour. “Is that sort of like the bush turkeys in Queensland? They are pretty fast, too?” I asked, naively.
“Hurumph!” That was the end of our budding friendship. His eyes narrowed. “No,” he sighed, as if any comparison of a Turbo Chook to a Bush Turkey was a sacrilege. “Turbo Chooks are native Tasmanian hens. They have no relation to turkeys”. And like that, the conversation was over. And so was our wonderful trip to Cradle Mountain. We look forward to making it back again in the future!