Departing Sydney early one Saturday morning bound for Launceston
In January 2017, a group of fourteen scouts, ex-scouts, leaders and parents ventured down south to experience the natural beauty of Tasmania’s world-heritage-listed Cradle Mountain National Park and to enjoy the quiet beauty of Maria Island off the spectacular coast of eastern Tasmania.
As all experienced hikers in alpine Tasmania will know, the weather, even in mid-summer, can be extremely fickle with reports of snow, in January, not uncommon. Cradle Mountain itself has an average of only 6 clear days every January and just under 70 in a year – it’s one of the rainiest and overcast places in Australia.
The Tambo Group spent considerable time preparing and planning. Pre-hikes, menu plans and gear preparation focussed on coping with hot, cold and wet conditions. They were well prepared.
The Group departed Sydney on an early Saturday morning flight, conveniently flying directly to Launceston where they piled into a minibus and, with gear in tow, travelled to the Cradle Mountain National Park. The next day, carrying heavily laden packs, they hiked up the infamously rough Horse Track to the Baden Powel Memorial Scout Lodge which was to be home for several days.
Resting on Marions Lookout with Cradle Mountain in the background
They explored many of the major day-hike tracks and sights around Cradle including Crater Lake, Marions Lookout, Ballroom Forest, Lake Wilks, the Face Track, and Kitchen Hut. There was some excitement as some in the Group assisted with the “rescue” of a small group of ill-equipped Chinese tourists as they were descending back to Dove Lake late in the day as the sun was setting and the temperature was dropping. Some others in the Tambo Group even got a small taste that day of how quickly the temperatures can drop and the wind can come up as they took temporary shelter in Kitchen Hut – specially reserved for such emergencies.
The summit of Cradle Mountain on a rare cloud-free day
The Tambo Group spent the next day ascending and descending Cradle. The Group lingered on the summit for a long lunch enjoying magnificent, rare, cloud-free 360-degree views.
Canyoning in the Dove River
On their fourth day, after hiking back down from BP Lodge, the group spent an afternoon canyoning in the Dove River. The extraordinary clear and warm weather had lasted for the full three days they were in the Park – seasoned tour guides were heard to remark that the weather was the best they had experienced in many years.
Cradle Mountain in the north-west and Maria Island in the south-east
The long trip diagonally south-east to the seaside fishing town of Triabunna passed along hair-raising roads – racing to meet the last scheduled daily ferry to Maria Island National Park. The island has an eclectic past involving convicts, tourism and mining entrepreneurs, and wildlife conservation. Our Tambo Group spent time getting to know the island and its history, swimming, exploring parts of it by push-bike, discovering the extensive concentration of wildlife, including Cape Barren Geese, wombats and Tasmanian Devils (yes, close up viewing of the Devils), and climbing the spectacular Bishop and Clerk Mountain. Again, the Group was lucky to have (mostly) fine and clear weather for their time on Maria Island.
Robbie risks all to photograph the departure from Maria Island in high seas
The ferry trip off the island coincided with a change in the weather and some very high winds. The Group, aided by the local Ranger, pushed their gear on large trolleys along a jetty as waves crashed over them. The ferry trip back was more adventurous than the trip on calm seas a few days earlier. The ferry rose up on high waves before crashing down with a thump ahead of the next wave. Dolphins were even seen leaping in and out of the water alongside the heaving ferry.
Back in Triabunna, the Group, some a little green, re-boarded their minibus. This time for a more leisurely trip back to Launceston via the beachside holiday town of Bicheno and a route passing through the many tiny farming townships along the Fingal Valley.
At Launceston Airport the Group had a final moment of excitement as they ate their dinner awaiting a delayed flight back to Sydney that was within moments of missing Sydney Airport’s notorious curfew – many were starting to look forward to an unexpected last night in Tassie, comfortably accommodated in a Launceston hotel.
They are very pleased to report – 0 injuries, only 4 blisters, just 2 snake sightings, 2 broken Maria Island bikes, 100% of their planned itinerary achieved and an extraordinary average trip satisfaction score (by the Scouts) of 9.8/10!
A big thank you to the leaders and parents who came along to help: Christine, Vanden, Paul, Steve, Fabrice, and Kim.
And also to the boys for being so well prepared: Gabe, Luke, Duncan, Xavier, Isaac, Lucien, Tim and Robbie.
A selection of the many photo’s taken can be found here.