Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A short walk, not in the Hindu Kush

Just to show that Racing Ruth doesn't have a monopoly on walking adventures, I report on last weekend's excursion to the Central Highlands of Tasmania. Almost, but not quite, as luxurious as the SW Coastal Path, in that we camped at the Lake St Clair campground, thus getting the advantage of hot showers, good coffee, and a pub just down the road. But I did have to sleep in a tent on the hard ground!

Lake St Clair NP Visitor Centre

Lake St Clair, looking north to Mt Ida.

Lake St Clair is almost at the centre of Tasmania, and at the southern end of the Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair National Park. It is a good base for day walks, so I headed up there with a couple of friends from church rather early in Saturday morning (6.30!), early enough to get the tents set up and coffee drunk and still be on the track by mid-morning. It was a glorious day and our destination was Mt King William, a dolerite mountain just south of the Lyell Highway. Access is easy, thanks to a rough track that goes more than half way up, to service the fire-watching station at the summit.

Mt King William

Track to Mt King William

The views from the top were fabulous, though the wind humming in the fire tower spoiled the wilderness experience a bit.

Looking south east from Mt King William

Looking west from Mt King William

Mt King William summit
The igloo is base for a fire watcher in summer

We were back in good time for a shower before repairing to the Derwent Bridge Hotel at beer o'clock for a pre-prandial. Dinner was good; I had the game platter: wallaby steaks, possum sausages (really) and a quail kransky that was a bit salty.

It rained quite hard in the night, to the extent that we cancelled our proposed long walk on Sunday, and went instead to see The Wall, a wonderful project to construct a 100 metre long bas relief carved in huon pine illustrating various themes about life in the highlands. The cravings are stunning; I was reminded of the Elgin Marbles. I loaned some specimens of pouch young devils to the artist a few years ago and he has created the most exquisite life-sized carvings of them. Drop in next time you drive by Derwent Bridge; well worth it.

By now the weather had cleared, so we put the boots back on and walked a four circuit taking in Shadow Lake, which sits beneath Mt Rufus and Mt Hugel. The track is mostly through tall forest, but opens out into alpine woodland and moorland higher up.

Shadow Lake and Hugel's Little Horn

The knees and hips aren't what they were, but all in all it was a good weekend. And it will get me in shape for a bit of walking in the UK next week, as I am going there for my niece's wedding. Watch this space!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Friday the Thirteenth

Look, I'm not superstitious, but today has been BAD.

This is a picture-less blog, because we just can't bear to show you what our lovely new deck at the Boat Harbour shack looks like now.

The idea was to seal it. You know, add years to its life, bring out the natural features of the wood.... We consulted widely and bought a lot of (very expensive) materials to clean and seal the thing. The first process is to use an oxalic acid based bleach to clean the surface and "open the wood's pores" (it said that in the instructions). But this had to be removed before the paint went on, and the instructions clearly said to use a high pressure water cleaner. So I duly hired one from a place in Burnie that dealt in large orange machines that would have made Angus very excited.

On the deck we coupled up the hoses, turned the machine on and started cleaning. It was certainly powerful, and sure nuff, you could see the dark stuff being blasted away. It was only later when we had put on the first coat of sealer, which goes onto the wet wood, that we realised that the power cleaner had actually stripped the wood surface off! Where this had happened the sealer, which had more pigment in than we really wanted, has been absorbed much more, so now we have a piebald deck, and the original smooth surface is distinctly furry in places. Jean says we should call it a suede finish and pretend that we meant it, but there's no disguising the fact that we've made a mess of it.

Put it down to experience, I suppose. And we will be able to recover the surface eventually with the help of a sander; but right now we are having a serious fit of the "if onlys". And it was hard work too!