Tuesday 26th November
After breakfast (that’s code for ‘I can’t remember what we ate’) we got our walking clothes on and prepared ourselves for the task ahead of us. Our activity of the day was David’s choice – not that I disagreed, but it’s rare for him to make any decisions at all, and this is what he’d asked to do.
We began by walking 1.5 kms (about a mile) along the streets to the beginning of the Kings Bridge and took a big breath or 3 before taking the very first of many large rocky steps up the western side of Cataract Gorge. You may remember what these steps were like from a previous page of the story.
The terrain was either like this, or a dirt track, or sometimes even larger steps, and continued on for about a kilometre. According to our SportsTracker ‘app’ we climbed approximately 80 metres in the 1 km distance so it was quite a climb. When we reached The Basin we continued over the suspension bridge without stopping and then jogged down the paved eastern path all the way back to, and over Kings Bridge to complete the circuit. At this point we turned our SportsTrackers off and decided to walk back, half-way up the paved path to see what ‘David’s Rock’ was up to. The water was even higher today, completely covering the set of 3 rocks and we stood amazed at the quantity of water, the incredible power of it, and the thunderous noise. Then we walked back to Alice’s Cottages at a fairly leisurely pace, a total distance of 5.8 kms.
David said he would then like to go back with our cameras to take photos of the higher water level so we got in the car and followed the map to park in the upper car park at The Basin. The roads to get there were, of course, incredibly steep, but it wasn’t far. However, there were parking charges and we get cross about paid parking so we drove home again and then walked back via Kings Bridge once more. Yes, we’re mad!
Believe it or not, the water level had gone down a bit by the time we got back to ‘David’s Rock’ and we were a bit disappointed not to be able to capture it at its highest, but never mind. When we got closer to The Basin we were incredulous to see that what had yesterday been a 3 metre strip of grass between the swimming pool and The Basin water was almost gone – the water had risen, despite the large area for the water to spread at this point, about a metre, and was occasionally flowing into the swimming pool. We now understood why the swimming pool hadn’t been the beautiful clear blue of the brochures the previous day!
We decided that we had earned a nice lunch in the restaurant again, so crossed the good old suspension bridge and went around to the other side, hoping for the corner table once more, but it was reserved. We got the next table along though and still had a wonderful view over the whole Basin from the expansive 2nd floor window.
I chose a chicken madras curry with an iced chocolate and David had a burger and iced coffee. The burger was massive. I’ve never seen David struggle to bite a hamburger, but he did with this one, it was just so tall. The curry was a lovely flavour but the chicken had skin and bones which I hate, so having to fight with my meal spoiled the experience rather. I’m already a ridiculously slow eater, but this messing around makes me even worse.
After we’d eaten we decided on extra drinks so David ordered a long black and I ordered a mango juice, but received OJ. Can’t win them all I guess lol
Once ready to step out again, we wandered towards the flooded swimming pool and could not believe our eyes. There was debris far up the grass, showing that the water had been at least a further metre higher than we had previously guessed. We took some photos of the murky brown water and the ducks, who were enjoying it just as much as any other day. You can see the log and other debris on the grass indicating where the water level had been at some time in the night or this morning.
Then we made a perhaps stupid decision. Just this side of the suspension bridge were signs pointing further up the gorge to ‘Duck Reach Power Station Museum’. It warned that there were 190 stairs (pah! child’s play!!!) and that it was a 45 minute walk in each direction. Well, this was our only chance, seeing as we were to fly home the next day, so we decided to do it.
It was an easy walk, though I walked through this archway under the rock that could fall loose at any second saying in a doubtful voice “I can do this, I can do this!” I was joking, to make David sigh at me, and he did. Soon afterwards we passed a younger couple who looked pretty shell-shocked, we knew not why. And very quickly after that we hit the stairs. But they were upwards for us, not the other couple – unless they’d given up part-way there and turned back.
There were enough steps to make us puff well, but not have to stop for a breather. Then there was a steep path upwards and some more steps; at which point we came upon a group of apparent council administrators with clip-boards, obviously discussing a little lookout that we were near. They seemed so surreal, along this rough path, (not to mention the hard hats and hi-vis vests!!!) but it was obvious they’d arrived from a little side path with a road, and presumably their cars, just a few feet away. Obviously a dangerous journey!
We continued our journey and eventually began to get some pathways leading downwards, towards the level of the water once more and could see here yet more evidence of the river having burst its banks and then, at last, the old power station came into view.
Take note of the hill on the right of the power station, there’s more about that shortly. I wish I’d included the top of the hill in the photo now, but you can tell that there’s plenty more of it.
Anyway, we had arrived, opposite the power station. There were some incredibly steep and large steps heading downwards to the actual river’s edge and we went down them, but there was nothing of interest there. Maybe without the flood conditions there might have been, but we clambered back up them again. These were huge steps, a couple of them almost knee-height!
There was a sign, and I stupidly missed the vital words ‘Interpretation Centre’ – perhaps it was as well not to have seen. If they’d put that at the beginning of the walk we would not have taken it! I don’t want to ‘interpret’ things, I want to chat with a friendly someone when I’m on holiday!
The only thing between us and the Museum now was this…
On one of the brick supports it comfortingly told us ‘When the power station was first built in 1895 the means of access across the river was by flying fox. I blinked. A lot! Strewth!
And in other heartening news, the bridge had to be rebuilt in 1930 after being destroyed by flood in 1929, and was then destroyed once more in 1969 by floods. And here were we in flood time – oh joy! I took a breath and headed across. The thing rocked like a baby’s cradle in a bad storm!
And after all that effort, on the other side of the bridge were 2 empty, dark buildings, 1 of which we could walk through. Some ‘museum’! It wasn’t interesting, there was nobody to interact with. Ggrrr to ‘Interpretation Centres’. All that meant was that there were heaps of large black and white posters on the concrete walls that we could have stood and read. I love reading, I love knowledge, but to have walked and climbed all this way for some posters? No, it just didn’t thrill me to bits at all and, to be honest, I couldn’t wait to be on our way. David reads nothing he doesn’t have to, so he had even less interest than I did.
We stood and discussed whether to walk back the way we’d come, or continue the circuit. The signs to continue said that it was 60 minutes, whereas we’d just come via the 45 minute route. I was all for retracing known steps but David wanted the new adventure so we headed in that direction.
Behind the museum were some pink flowers that had been growing up the rocky sides of the gorge at regular intervals and here were some close enough to be worth photographing. Neither of us had even got our cameras out in the ‘museum’ lol
Then we headed towards the pathway for about 3 feet precisely before hitting some steep steps to climb. In all the sets of steps we’d climbed in this holiday, this was the daddy of them all.
I think the photo says it all. You can see the roof of the power station below us, and we’d barely begun on the climb! At one point we’d had to duck to waist height to get under the large, rusty pipeline that you can see in the photo. Other than that it was just zigzag sets of steps, ever upwards!
You can see in the photo above how high we’d climbed and what a small distance we’d travelled to achieve the climb. There’s the tiny suspension bridge on the left of the picture.
By the time we had about 30 huge steps to go I was sounding like a women’s tennis match all by myself and I honestly had to get David to haul me by the hands up the last 5 or 6! He admitted he wouldn’t have wanted to tackle many more himself! As far as I can ascertain, we’d climbed 200 metres in all.
At last we reached the top and then the path was relatively flat, just a bit rocky with some sludge and puddles to avoid, as we walked through rather sparse trees with nothing of remark at all. It quickly smoothed out to just a wide dirt track and seemed like just a long walk. We were too high and too far away to hear the river surging through the gorge.
It would have been a pleasant country walk if we weren’t starting to tire. But at last there was a sign saying that we should turn right. It didn’t, however, end up being particularly good news. We were no longer walking on a path, but what I could only call an imitation of a dried up river bed. It was incredibly rocky and we had to watch every step so as not to twist an ankle or have a fall. I landed crookedly once and was half way to the floor before I could regain my balance. David held my hand and tried to help for a while after this, but the path was definitely only wide enough for one person at a time for the most part.
We were shocked when a younger couple came running past us, skipping like gazelles down the treacherous rocks. It’s a wonder one of them didn’t break their necks!
I suddenly spied a thistle so had to stop for a photo – that’s a chance I haven’t had since I visited Scotland in about 1970.
And soon after this David stopped in his tracks and said “Look!” There was the most beautiful little blue wren by the side of the path! I didn’t manage to get a very good shot, but enough to see it happened.
Unfortunately, a couple that had passed us as we had climbed the steepest stairs in history, but then sat for a long rest at the top, chose this point to catch up with us once more. They halted because we had, and David pointed out the bird so they grabbed their nasty little camera (lol I know, mean aren’t I?) and barged through, pointing their camera, presumably trying to take photos, and scared the bird away. I know it probably wouldn’t have stayed around long anyway, but I’d have loved the chance to try for a decent photo, or at least have the bird leave of its own accord. I felt as if a beautiful gift from Nature had been wrenched away from me. Well, it had!
Just about 200 metres further along we were in The Basin recreational area once more, and very relieved to have level and paved ground under our feet!
We decided to have a treat at the little café. We desperately needed drinks but the choice to have an éclair each was purely gratuitous and needless – we just felt that it had been hard-earned and we deserved a treat! We had mineral water and a hot drink each and guzzled them down lustily.
One of the peacocks was milling around so we kept our food right in the centre of the table, and even then kept an eye on him. Once we were ready to leave there was a true hesitance to actually go. We simply adored this area and truly longed to have something similar in Perth! Somehow we started to walk away but the peacock was still around and we wanted some final chance to take some shots of him so we came back again.
The peacock did the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. He opened up his tail and fluttered it at David as if to say “Here you are. I’m beautiful, I know it, and you can photograph me if you wish!” David did wish, and squatted down on the footpath with his camera firing.
I got as near as I dared without putting the peacock off, and sat on the footpath and started taking photos too when the peacock turned to me in all his glory and fluttered at me as well. He continued this for a good 5 minutes, turning from one to the other of us, in all his radiant beauty, waiting until we’d taken a few photos before turning to the other. It was the most incredible experience – I’m getting goosebumps now as I remember and write about it. This was absolutely the highlight of the holiday for us both!
When the beautiful peacock finally decided that we’d had enough of a taste of heaven, he packed his tail away and wandered off. I whispered after him, aloud “Thank you. Thank you so much!”
Getting up from the path wasn’t so easy after the distances we’d walked that day, but we managed it, and then almost crawled home for a final spa. We had walked 16.5 kms (around 10 miles) for the day. Our longest walk in the past has been 17.25 kms but that was on the flat so this far exceeded that effort with all the climbing involved.
These were almost the last photos we took for the holiday. When we looked at our start and finishing numbers, David had taken 1300 photos and I had taken 2234 for the entire holiday.
We totally relished that last spa and enjoyed a ‘little tipple of alcohol’ while we bubbled. Next was to view our photos on the TV and then very sadly pack all that we could into our cases. We settled for toasted cheese croissants and yogurt for our dinner and went early to bed.
Wednesday 27th November
It’s always a sad day when a holiday comes to an end. We really didn’t feel that we’d done half of what we wanted to do in and around Launceston. We’d barely seen anything of the actual city itself!
But we added the final few things to our suitcases, enjoyed a last breakfast of toast with that beautiful assortment of jams, and then David carried the suitcases to the car.
Just to waste the final few moments until the office opened we took a few more photos of some of the flowers in the garden.
Check out was so friendly with the beautiful Louise and we were so sad to leave. We had a very easy 10 minute drive to the airport and returning the car was also a breeze with a very kind lady there too. Then it was spoiled a bit by having to wait in a queue at the airport for ages because nobody turned up to serve at the check-in desk for about 20 minutes.
Launceston Airport really was small but there was a little café with a lovely server who made David a nice coffee and me an incredibly yummy hot chocolate!!!
It was a bit of a wait for our plane to land, but I suppose with such a short journey from Melbourne it would not have to refuel so didn’t need long to turn around again. It was our first ever propeller plane flight! We were to be seated in row 8, which we expected to be near the front of the plane but it wasn’t. There were only 12 rows in the whole plane, and each row had 2 seats either side of the aisle. Out of my window I could see the wheels!!! It was so exciting to actually watch them lift and disappear after we’d taken off, to say nothing of actually watching them hit the ground and begin to turn as we landed!
I took a couple of photos of the wheels from my window but seem to have lost the last 70 photos from the holiday 🙁 It was just more flowers from the cottage garden and some shots of our flight landing, plus the wheels from the window. Thankfully not anything more important. I’ve never ‘lost’ photos before and, fortunately, this has been a relatively painless lesson.
All I can say is that this plane journey was really smooth and unbelievably quiet. We really loved the propeller experience! By contrast, our big jet plane journey to Perth was fairly bumpy at times.
We landed in Perth on time and, as they say, another one bites the dust. The next holiday report will be in July when we are going to Club Med at Cherating Beach Malaysia. Thank you for reading, and thank you to any of you who have written comments here on the site or via email. If you’ve read the entire story then you’ve seen 224 photos. I’ll ‘see you’ next time!
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