Day 3. 17th October 2018.
We really need to find more superlatives. "Wow!" and "that's so beautiful" have officially been overused, but with good reason. We kick started ourselves this morning and were out of the unit by about 10 o'clock. I think. Our first port of call was the The MUSHroom. Waratah's cafe, and yes, they serve real coffee. Gioconda coffee, to be precise, which is roasted in Tasmania. Sadly, the lamington was shop-bought, but we got the impression the owner of the cafe was run off her feet and didn't really have time to be knocking together a batch of lammos. The cafe has a real country feel, with its wood panelled interior walls and wooden floor. And it was packed! Well patronised by the locals and certainly did the trick for our caffeine hit.
Despite TLC's best advice, we decided to chase waterfalls, and after topping up the fuel tank, we set off for Philosopher Falls. More breathtaking scenery of green undulating hills interspersed with tracts of forest and wild meadows but, again Google, telling us to 'head south' isn't especially helpful, especially when one can't see the sun's position due to an overcast sky. After a not insignificant number of kilometres and silence from our virtual tour guide, someone decided to interrupt the directions to see if we were headed in the right direction. The map wouldn't reload because we were now out of range, so we would need to turn back and find a signal to reload our mostly helpful guide, lest we became irrevocably lost and perished in the delicious countryside. As luck should have it, the first opportunity to make a u-turn was the turn off for the falls. We chalked that up as a win and arrived at our destination five minutes later.
The wilderness around us was like nothing we'd ever experienced. Like the Blue Mountains on steroids. Lichen-covered tree trunks, wild mushrooms sprouting from logs and veils of moss on fallen trees, boulders and rock faces. The walk towards the falls was gentle. Quite level. I really didn't understand why the signs said 'steep climb' and 'uneven surfaces', until we reached the last one-third of the walk. First it was a couple of short but steep embankments, winding downwards, followed by a few stairs and a little bridge over the creek. I could hear running water and was sure we were close. We kept walking: the gradient was a little bit steeper than the first part of the walk, but nothing too severe, I reasoned. The scenery along the creek part of the walk brought more moss, more lichen, some fallen logs and a cute miniature waterfall to the left, which streamed down and joined the main creek. Birds were happily chirping and singing away. We're still yet to see any (live) wildlife apart from some very well-fed crows on the roadside.
Eventually, we came to another stair case which we knew led to the viewing area for the falls, so we walked down, and down, then down some more. It felt like hundreds of quite steep stairs, but we'd come this far! The view was worth the effort, which goes without saying. The creek we'd been following for the last ten minutes spilled over a rock ledge, forming a pool on the natural terrace below before cascading over the final precipice onto the forest floor. Needless to say, we didn't feel inspired to descend any further. We made photographic, video and audio records as souvenirs then, like two old steam engines way past retirement age, we puffed and wheased our way back up that gigantic staircase and now not-so-gentle gradient back up the track, ever grateful for the shade of the canopy above. At the top, we decided the trip to see Montezuma Falls could wait for 'another day'.
Not to be defeated, we decided to do a little grocery run and planned on having nice meal in tonight. The closest supermarkets are in Burnie, which is almost an hour away. Thankfully, a drive through the countryside in Tasmania never disappoints. We passed a good number of tree plantations, some of which had been logged leaving only piles of tree roots that will, I assume, be burned before the land is replanted. As we passed through a couple of small towns it became apparent that rhododendrons are very popular in this part of the world and seem to grow exceptionally well. So well, in fact, that the towns could rival Blackheath in the Blue Mountains as the epicentre of rhodo love. As we neared Burnie, a thickish fog set in, but lifted as we got to the coast.
You'll be happy to know that K-Mart and Coles are consistent with what you'd find at home. There's nothing like a strong, consistent brand to make you feel safe and secure. The check out operator in K-Mart originated from Burnside in Adelaide. The checkout operator in Coles orginated from Daw Park in Adelaide and happily gloated that she had upgraded from a two-bedroom unit in Adelaide to a five-acre property in Tasmania. She obviously identified as a true local now, judging by her comfort in telling us we looked like we weren't from 'around here'. She did, however, give us a great tip-off on some more natural sites to check out on the way back to Waratah.
Guide Falls weren't too far away on the return trip and with the promise of a very short walk to the vantage point (no worse than the walk to the travelator, in fact!) we were sold. The falls were, indeed, very close to the car park and the short, yet quite steep slope to the viewing ledge was a little bit more than described, but it was close enough. We were rewarded by a wide veil of water rushing over a rock wall and running towards then cascading over a couple more ledges. Think Victoria Falls, but on a much smaller scale. Much, much smaller. Of course, the photo opportunities were better at the bottom, which meant climbing a significantly shorter staircase (scores instead of hundreds).
Waterfalls are magical settings. The sound of the water pounding the rock surfaces, sculpting their shape in a work that has been forming over many thousands of years quickly brings a sense of powerful calm. They rejuvenate the soul, preparing one for the climb back up. And that hill was steep, but we didn't come all this way to stay cooped up in a (lovely) holiday unit. We each had a dose of cough medicine (one of our investments from Burnie) and completed the trek to our temporary home base. Fire lit, dinner consumed, we've had a great day.