Tag Archives: Wayatinah

From Catagunya to Wayatinah – post 4 of 4

I took a series of forest photos most of which are blurred. I am adding some here to give you an idea of what parts looked like – sorry about the quality.

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20170424_111909.jpgThen the white shape of the Wayatinah Power Station appeared between the tree trunks.

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The closer I came to the Wayatinah Power Station the steeper the hills seemed. For vehicles travelling down the road, the final gradient requires a low gear in a 4WD. The drizzle on a day like the one on which I went, meant the clay and soil track surface was exceptionally slippery and dangerous for the inexperienced or inept.

Then I was out in the open again. This time looking down to Lake Catagunya past the Wayatinah Power Station.

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To my right, additional infrastructure punctured the sky.

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Further up the hill and connecting to the huge surge tank, the snaking length of wooden penstocks started.  See my earlier post for more information about wooden penstocks here. Can you remember the wonderful photos which Andrew took in this blog posting?  My photos are less detailed but still show the dramatic line of the penstocks.

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I ended the day with a thick coating of mud on my boots and a smile on my face. Yet another day offering me a memorable experience along the Derwent River. I am especially grateful for the extensive information and access provided by GL. Please note that private and corporate owners control access to this section of the Derwent River and the many gates are locked with an assortment of sophisticated processes. General public access is not available.

From Catagunya to Wayatinah – post 3 of 4

 

I followed a road aiming to intersect with the transmission lines ready to follow that towards Wayatinah to the extent it would be possible.  Massive heavily forested gullies made continued close access to Lake Catagunya (full of Derwent River water) impossible.

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Even the cleared area wasn’t clear enough for anyone to walk through on foot, although it was sufficiently clear to keep the power lines unaffected.

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When I stood on high, misty wisps reshaped distant hills and threatened to obliterate views of Lake Catagunya. Fortunately I could always see its glistening surface way below.

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On top of the second last hill before reaching Wayatinah Power Station, the western end of Lake Catagunya appeared through the clouds.

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Before long the metal pipeline streaming water into the Wayatinah Power Station became visible.

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Often the bush was amazingly quiet. This film  seems to be without sound. Only near the end can the faint crarking of a crow be heard.  This bush silence was an unexpected beauty of my day from Catagunya to Wayatinah.

From Catagunya to Wayatinah – post 2 of 4

Since Andrew had walked this way, much rain had fallen so that any chance of crossing Black Bob’s Rivulet somewhere near where he walked was zero.

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I continued back to the old Cooma property through more locked gates.

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The owners were in the distance checking on some of their animals. Incredibly healthy cattle wandered around the unfenced land. Big curious fellows.  Superb condition. Beautiful black coats. Brown coats. Mixed colours.  As usual I talked to the animals.

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Elsewhere, I watched a large family of yellow tailed Black Cockatoos raucously calling from tree to tree.  On another occasion a rush of coloured parrots whipped through the bush with astounding speed.

A large number of gravel roads and tracks meander over the hills between Catagunya and Wayatinah. Many do not appear on maps. Without a compass a walker could spend hours taking useless tracks – apparently people have been known to become so disoriented they find themselves way north of the river and after many kilometres back on the Lyell Highway.  In part, the tracks were created to service plantation forests  grown after original native forests were cleared and burnt.  The other user is TasNetworks, the State company which travels around to access the electrical power transmission towers and to check the levels of vegetation  along the transmission lines.

Since massive bush fires many years ago in one part of the area between Catagunya and Wayatinah, the remnants of hundreds of hectares of pine plantations have created a problem for the forestry industry. The small remaining stands of living trees are awkward to reach and not profitable to harvest.  Much of the land is covered by burnt parts of trees none of which can be used.  The cost to clear seems too high. Lost money. Lost opportunity. And lost original native forests. Nature always attempts to reclaim its place however in practice this means that those plants which breed well and grow quickly can create monocultures no less damaging than the single species plantation forests . In parts along the burnt out section, native plants that act like weeds such as some wattles are already taking over.  Monocultures do not a forest make.

The finish is in sight – towards Wayatinah post 9 of 9

Once walking on the hard and consistent surface of the Lyell Highway, good speed was made walking for approximately 8 kilometres, until Andrew reached the turnoff to the township of Wayatinah, pausing only for the passage of multiple camper vans, hire cars and enthusiastic motorcyclists making their winding way between Hobart and the West Coast. This was an extremely unpleasant piece of road for pedestrians.  The road was designed in remote central Tasmania with never an expectation people would walk along its edge.  The result is that verges are narrow or almost non-existent, and guard rails often sit at the top of a dramatic drop. I know elsewhere I have needed to hop over such guard rails when vehicles approach and hold on for dear life so as not to fall down a massive incline.  But Andrew survived the walk with care.  Earlier plans to walk with pleasure listening to music through ear phones had to be abandoned in order to listen for traffic speeding around tight corners in the winding road.

After walking to the Wayatinah township Andrew continued downhill to the bridge over the Derwent River where his vehicle was parked. A moment of concern flashed through his mind as he approached.  When walking towards his ute Andrew could see a couple of guys including a burly chap wearing a high-vis vest hovering around the vehicle and peering in the windows. Oh Oh. Was this someone about to break into the vehicle and steal it? Had he arrived just in time to prevent such a loss? As Andrew approached, the chap called out, “Is this your bus?” “Yes!”, Andrew replied, somewhat relieved.  “Thank God you’re alive!” The fellow was a SALTAS salmon hatchery employee and, rather than having an intent to interfere with the vehicle, he had been deciding whether to call the police. He had seen the ute parked unattended for over 24 hours and feared that a fisherman had fallen into the river and disappeared!

Andrew explained that he was not a fisherman but a bushwalker and then proceeded to describe the project to walk the Derwent. The employee emphatically declared it was not possible to walk the full length between Wayatinah and where Andrew has started the walk the day before. “The river can’t be walked, the country’s too steep!”  He felt the project to walk the Derwent was “nuts”. “You can’t walk down there’.  It was useful to have confirmation supporting Andrew’s experience.

After dropping off his pack at the ute, Andrew then wandered upstream for a few hundred metres to the weir where SALTAS has a water intake.

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He then continued on a track for a further few hundred metres until he reached a bend in the river where there is a flying fox for what looks like Hydro Tasmania equipment. Beyond that point familiar-looking scrub fringed a river bank which steepened quickly and dramatically.  Further walking on the river edge was clearly impossible from then on, and the volume of water in the river made walking in the river impractical.

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With that, the Tarraleah to Wayatinah section was essentially complete – complete except for about 4-5 km of winding gorge which was undertaken higher up away from the river bed and its edge.

I am so very grateful for Andrew’s persistence with the walk, his notes and his wonderful graphic photos. From these I could ‘feel’ the journey.  I felt my heart soar when I saw the photos. I could feel the rush of the water, smell the freshness of the bush, and hear that clean ‘noisy’ atmosphere of the terrain. They took me out there.

As I had imagined, this was a walk compressed tightly into a narrow valley, over rocks and around water pools and flood debris for endless kms. With steep sided hills pressing in on both sides, there were no vistas or panoramas just the sight of the next corner ahead.  Never a chance to get a walking rhythm.  This was a walk which held both physical and mental challenges.  Other than where to put his feet next,  Andrew’s greatest ‘problem’ could well have been associated with ‘when will this relative sameness ever end’. While he saw snakes sunbaking on the river rocks, he was never in danger. He didn’t turn an ankle and he was able to walk out and live to tell the tale. Bushwalking always involves endless problem solving and I have always felt it is likely to be an activity that could stave off dementia.

One of my hopes was that there would be things to see or hear that are not normally seen – and that Andrew would experience completely new things which will thrill him.  Seeing the Counsel River gave him that excitement and he has planned to return, albeit getting there from the land on the other side of the Derwent River and not via the River.

This was a walk conducted safely.  Andrew used his maps and GPS constantly to be pinpoint his location and monitor progress. For example, walking through the plantation forests without this equipment could have been difficult because maps are out of date and endless new unsignposted roads and tracks exist which do not always follow contours. Getting lost would be easy.

That Andrew accepted having clothes ripped, and his body scratched and bruised in the quest to see if something was possible, is completely admirable. Even a week after the walk, one spectacular bruise on his shin (caused by slipping between two lumps of wood) was still working its way through the green and yellow stages of healing. This is not a walk which others should try; it was rough and the walk was mostly hard going. Regardless, the country was amazing and the rainforests sensationally beautiful – “there were heaps of interesting forests, and cascading waters from the hills”.  I still feel thrilled that he undertook the walk and that there has been a new story to tell and photographic evidence of the journey to walk along the Derwent.

Time to set up camp– towards Wayatinah post 7 of 9

Less than a kilometre downstream from the entrance of Beech Creek, a number of islands sit midstream.  As the day progressed it became clear that it would not be possible to complete the descent to Wayatinah within one day. The walk was increasingly slow and the concentration required to make each step safely, increased fatigue.

As the hillsides closed in and became steeper, the opportunities for a suitable campsite became more limited. At 6.30 pm Andrew came across a delightful flat glade in rainforest on an island. It was a bit early to stop with only 9 km covered, but it was too good a spot to pass by and 8 hours of hard work seemed to justify the stop. The tent was pitched and, after a quick meal of miso soup and ‘beige’ flavoured dried food, the map was checked to determine the plan for the following morning. Then it was off to bed and straight to sleep in the midst of the constant comforting sound of water rushing by.

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A better camping spot would be hard to find!

 

Beech Creek and beyond– towards Wayatinah post 6 of 9

The water volume (in quantity and sound) increased again where Beech Creek announced its arrival, bringing water from the large catchment around Mt Shakespeare.

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Andrew reached this section of the Derwent around 5.45 pm. Approximately 9 km of the River’s length had been walked through the day. Having first arrived at the river’s edge around 10.50 am, clearly the difficulty of walking the river is apparent.

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As the river level rose and the water speed increased, the process of walking downstream slowed. It was taking increasing time to find a safe route. The river was crossed frequently, looking for the most efficient route. At the same time, the river bank edges rose dramatically and the river entered a series of bends. The banks on the outer edge of the bends were invariably steep where the river had cut into the landscape, and the inner edge provided more exposed boulders. Between the bends were large, deep pools with the water moving more slowly. It became increasingly difficult to cross the river above or below these pools and a lot of time was spent scouting the best way forward. It sometimes became a choice of making a difficult crossing in sometimes fast flowing water; clambering up, over, around the flood debris on the river banks; or pushing uphill through tangling scrub and over fallen logs to bypass the cliffs at the water’s edge. Remember all of this activity occurred while carrying a backpack with the weight of overnight gear.

Only once did Andrew fall in the river; after all the inevitable small tumbles and stumbles this was the only mishap. Having picked a sturdy looking large rock to stand on, when it rolled Andrew landed waist deep but feet first in a pool of water.

 

Nature’s patterns – towards Wayatinah post 5 of 9

 

Fascinating patterns floated on the water surface at the edges of some pools where the Derwent River’s movement was slower.

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The creation of these white swirling patterns has been explained as follows: The natural tannins from button grass plains and other vegetation seeps into the soil and, with rain, runs off the hills into creeks and rivers. The washing of water over the rocks creates a slight foam. When in deep pools the foam gets pushed into back-waters and the continual slow movement of the water creates the lacework.  Mesmerising to watch the gradual changes.