Sights along the pathway to the Philosophers Falls

Principally the walk is through native old growth eucalypt and myrtle forest. One of the first spectacles we saw was a blaze of brilliantly coloured fungi feeding off the end of a lichen covered fallen log.

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On later days when we met other travellers in the Tarkine, we found that everyone makes the journey to the Philosophers Falls, and everyone was desperate to show me the prize photo of their walk. It was always this same batch of fungi.  In a forest of variable greens, browns and greys this brilliant display was a startling attraction.

We loved the unexpected.  Along the pathway, amidst a world of tall straight trees, one tree with curvy branches took our attention.

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We puzzled over this phenomenon for a while and eventually recognised that the very large fallen trees surrounding this tree must have shaped it when they were still standing, as it grew during its infancy stages.

I loved the clever spider traps amidst the lichen and rotting logs.

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This was a very wet environment, albeit one we encountered on a sunny dry day. Despite my bushwalking experience seldom had I seen every tree and every bush and every rock covered in lichens of one sort or another.  This meant that all edges were softened, and in the dappled light in the undergrowth it required a great deal of concentration to determine where one object started and another stopped.  The features of the bush often seemed to blur together.

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Not long after crossing a bridge over the Arthur River,

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interpretation boards have been installed to help understand the historic water race that flows next to the later section of the path. Workers in the early 1900s built the race by hand to supply water to the nearby Magnet Mine which closed in 1940.  You can see and listen to a small section of the race in our video here.

Where does the name for the Philosopher’s Falls come from?

James “Philosopher” Smith was searching for silver when he discovered tin at Mount Bischoff near Waratah in 1871. This changed the fortunes of the entire state of Tasmania and the Falls were named after this man for his significant achievement. If you want to read more about him then read Nicholas Haygarth’s thesis The ‘Father of Tasmania’? Measuring the legend of James ‘Philosopher’ Smith 

 

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Tarkine in Motion – artists’ impressions; exhibition opens

The Tarkine in Motion project was organised by the Bob Brown Foundation to provide a special opportunity for around 150 artists to immerse themselves over Easter.  Tonight, the official opening of an exhibition of their work will bring together a whirl of people at the Long Gallery at Salamanca Arts Centre, Hobart.  This spectacular exhibition continues until the 1 May and presents startling and beautiful images.  The ‘card’ below is added in here from the Bob Brown Foundation site.

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Later this year the exhibition will travel to the mainland – eg July in Melbourne. More information can be read here.

This project plays a vital role in the ongoing campaign for the protection of this global treasure, the Tarkine. Thumbnail images of some of the works of art on the website should attract your attention – I hope that all Tasmanians will be able to visit.  120 works of art will be for sale if you fall in love with any.

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The way to Philosopher’s Falls

Having travelled the 10 or so kilometres west along Waratah Road and then driven one or two kilometres down a narrow gravel road, it was pleasing that the start of the walking track to the Philosopher’s Falls was clearly signposted. However,  later when you reach some downward stairs with a track continuing further on, there are no signs and you need to take the stairs.  I believe that the continuing track will take you to the old Magnet Mine township and requires hours more walking for the return trip. I could find no information about the time such a walk will take but looking at maps I suspect this is a seriously longer walk and when steep terrain is taken into account, the going may be slow.

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The map above is taken from here where more information about the mineral resources in the area can be read. There is an alternative track to that old mining township which makes it a very long and arduous day walk from another starting point and you can read about it here and here.

The Falls are part of the upper reaches of the Arthur River which continues northward by winding through the landscape and eventually turns west and empties into the Southern Ocean.  That distant western directed ‘line’ roughly marks the northern extremity of the Tarkine.  But here we were, in the deep south eastern part of the Tarkine.

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The walking path is soft and leaf strewn and the surrounding forest is reasonably open. Truly beautiful and so satisfying.

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No words can convey how thrilling it was to be able to walk within this part of the Tarkine forests.

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It was only a rock. Not a large rock.

The quality of the light and shade along the road to the start of the Philosopher’s Falls walking track held us in thrall. We were lost in those ethereal moments.  Yet Jeanette must continue to drive, stay on the road and not become oblivious to the fact she was the controller of a machine. But that was a hard ask in such a magical landscape.  We were both very relaxed and very happy.

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We reached the cul de sac at the end of the road, circled around and prepared to stop and park near the signpost to the Falls. The car was allowed to roll back to be closer to the edge of the road so that other vehicles might not to be obstructed.  And it casually rolled right over a rock and came to a halt after some severe alerting noises beneath the car.

Hmmm.  Neither of us spoke. The engine was turned off and the handbrake applied.  We stepped out of the car. Jeanette onto the road.  I stepped awkwardly into a ditch having not looked first. Under the circumstances it did not seem appropriate to make any sound of pain as my feet and legs seemed to move in unusual angles to each other.  But no harm done. Strange how one possible calamity fills the mind so another is not considered.

Back we walked to have a look at the back left wheel. It looked quite comfortable resting calmly between two rocks. Very little of the car was resting on any rock. ‘Let’s get the weight out of the car!’ I started lifting eskies and bags from the car. Onto wet soil and plants and gravel.

Jeanette got back behind the wheel and gave it a good rev.  All the tyres spun effortlessly and the car went nowhere.  ‘OK, you get in and drive and I will push’, Jeanette directed.  More happily spinning tyres.

Out came the car jack.  ‘Let’s see if we can drive off with the jack up.’  No success.  I looked around for rocks to fill the space beneath the tyre in the gap when the car jack was fully raised. Not many around at all except the two that were trapping our car, but I was able to find a few.  With trial and error we made the jigsaw of rocks and stones work. Eventually we were able to create a fairly flat and immovable base that the tyre could get purchase on in order to roll over the front rock. Back into the driver’s seat I went, started it up and in full throttle and with Jeanette pushing, the car moved off with comparative ease.

We probably had an inflated view of our abilities but we smirked with pleasure in our achievement as we reloaded our gear.  If we had been unsuccessful, Waratah was only an 11-12 kilometre walk away for us to get help – such a walk was not on our events packed timetable and itinerary.

Throughout the process I thought of taking photographs but I did not want to be seen as not engaged in the problem solving and helping.  We should have.  Thankfully we do have a record of the rocks taken after we parked in a completely different and flat spot.

20170304_105710.jpgI know these rocks look mild, and you must wonder what all the fuss was about.  We were not travelling in a four wheel drive rather in a small around-the-town manual drive car (you know the sort where you manipulate a clutch) so our options were limited.  But we laughed for a long time after this incident. Throughout the rest of our Tarkine adventures we amused ourselves looking for rocks to park over.  Well no … not really.

There was one other positive aspect to this story.  Around 5 or so years ago I sold my car  (mostly I walk and take public transport to get around) and I have not driven a car since then. I wasn’t sure I could drive one.  So to get into a manual car and think nothing of it, and to find that all those learned behaviours of the past came back automatically, was a special delight.

 

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No time to explore Waratah so early in the day

As much as we wanted to explore the historic sites of Waratah, our timetable demanded we continue along the bitumen sealed Waratah Road seeking the Philosopher’s Falls.  The turn off to the Falls was signposted around 10 kilometres westwards from Waratah. We followed that gravel road for a kilometre or so until the road ended when we reached a cul de sac designed for parking cars and other vehicles. That off the main road drive was magical.  Dense forest edged towards our car and linked overhead in places.  Ahead we appreciated the light at the end of the tunnel.

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We expected to see no-one else in that isolated spot and we wondered what the frequency of traffic was.  I noted that green vegetation grew down the centre of the road seeming to indicate minimal usage. This was an area without mobile or internet reception and we were not travelling with a Personal Locator Beacon. Never did we envisage a need for self-reliance and resourcefulness further along. We were hypnotised by the fresh bush smell and the beauty on this enchanting road.

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Monitoring resources

As we travelled on the west coast of Tasmania, we were mindful of the rarity of cafes, food stores and refuelling options.

The Tarkine and its surrounds is not an area with food and fuel laden truck stops, despite the amount of forestry operations and logging which occurs in the region. So, anticipating a lack of petrol stations when we moved deeper into the Tarkine, we topped up our petrol and engine oil supplies as soon as we arrived in the centre of Waratah. With a small non-petrol-guzzling vehicle we knew we could cover a long distance.  In fact we did not refuel until the final day when we stopped at Campbell Town with only an hour and a half’s drive remaining to Hobart.  Your type of vehicle will dictate how frequently you should refill your tank.

In addition, the balmy weather prompted us to load up with bottles of drinking water before we headed off into the bush to discover tracks and waterfalls.

Where in Waratah can these resources be found?

There is only one place: the Waratah Roadhouse has the monopoly in the region.  The Roadhouse supplies a limited range of groceries, newspapers, excellent freshly cooked take-away food, a small sit -own dining area, and fuel and oil for vehicles.  The ordinariness of the building is hardly noticed because of a little madness; an inflated Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine) stands prominently on the roof (international travellers please note the Tasmanian tiger is now extinct so you should not expect to see one in the wild).  All you can do is marvel at this glorious apparition in midtown Waratah:

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Despite the aged look of the Roadhouse, it is clean albeit cluttered, and the couple running the place are friendly and competent.  It was refreshing to shop in a Roadhouse that is a local privately run operation and not part of a massive national franchise.

The Waratah Roadhouse has been captioned as “A must stop on the road to nowhere”.  Yes it is a ‘must stop’ to make sure you have the necessary victuals and other goods, however it is definitely not on the road to nowhere.  Waratah is the start of a most amazing journey into the pristine and primeval Tarkine.

 

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Into Waratah

 

Once leaving the Fossey River Rest Area, we drove easily north and then were surprised to see a comparatively tiny finger-post sign pointing down Waratah Road (B23) to Waratah and beyond.  Please note: there is no advance warning for this road when travelling from the south so, if you are driving a large vehicle or caravan, you may not be able to stop in time. Then you may have a long drive northwards along the Murchison Highway before you can turn your vehicle around.

After screeching to a halt we turned into Waratah Road and headed west on the 10 kilometre trip to the town. We passed some saddening remains of cut plantation forests and other tall commercial forests along the southern side of the road. Quite quickly we reached Waratah.

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As we arrived, into view, came the astounding spectacle of an immaculate town giving every impression it hopes to win the official Tidy Town Award for Tasmania.  The day was brilliantly sunny with an intense blue sky overhead. These two features combined to enhance the rich green of the carefully mown grass that covered every piece of unbuilt-on land we could see.  I don’t believe I have ever seen so much mown grass.  The golf course was mown. The extensive areas around Lake Waratah were mown.  Private gardens presented mown lawns.  Verges, nature strips and parklands … all were mown.  It was so complete that it felt rather ridiculous and we giggled. And yet it was stunningly beautiful in its perfection.  My brain must have stopped functioning with all the glamour of this careful manicuring so that I forgot to take a photo to show the extent.  I have located a blogsite which includes photos of closely shorn grass, so I recommend you look at Town of Waratah: To Live, Or Not To Live  by Roger Findlay.

The more mown grass we passed the more I kept an eye open for someone mowing, but I never saw a soul or any sort of noisy mowing machine. So the verdant landscape was also very quiet which made Waratah seem like a town in which time had stopped for a moment.  A few days later I learnt that the Wynyard/Waratah local government employ two people to mow. When we transited through Waratah on our way home a few days later, I did see mowing in action from a very large ride-on mower. Looked like fun and I imagine those mower men loved their job.

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