Monday, February 13, 2023

[CRADLE MOUNTAIN] So Not Summer at Dove Lake

Knowing that it will be summer during my time down under, the only reason I packed a thick winter sweater is because I already booked a Cradle Mountain day tour even before leaving. Today is the day. I wake up late and rush to the pick up point. I forgot the damn sweater, hooray. Nah, it’s summer. How bad can it be, right? And then we arrive at the damn mountain two hours later and it’s effing 6 degrees Celsius with wind-chill. Oh well, as the late Nida Blanca once told Dina Bonnevie: “SUFFER!” And I did, but just for a few hours. I lived to tell the tale, so no drama.

So why is the weather so bipolar at Cradle Mountain? Don’t ask that anymore, just expect it to be that way and be prepared so you wouldn’t have a disappointing experience. First things first, how to get there? I booked my tour via Viator. The tour agency is McDermott’s and the day tour costs around AUD155 (~PHP5,800). This included roundtrip transpo in a van as well as packed lunch which was actually just a sandwich. I don’t recall paying any entrance fees at the park.

The van makes a glorified toilet stop at Sheffield, a small town which probably got tired of being a toilet stop that it reinvented itself by encouraging people to paint murals. Now it’s referred to as a mural town, and those murals are awesome to say the least. With the ever majestic Mt. Roland stalking you from the background regardless where you are in town, the murals give the landscape some colorful flair. Unfortunately, you only stop there for fifteen minutes max because it’s not the main destination.

Another hour of driving takes you right to the entrance of Cradle Mountain which has been designated as a national park. Aside from parking, the only other amenities there will be a rather long row of toilets, with some cubicles totally enclosed and can be a shelter from the cold. A few cartwheels away is the visitor center where you have to go to catch the free shuttle bus taking people to Dove Lake and other popular areas of the park. Our driver dislodged the trailer there before we headed to Dove Lake.

The good thing about Dove Lake is they just constructed a multi-million dollar modern indoor shed there with floor to ceiling glass windows. What this means is you can enjoy a view of the lake as well as the peaks serving as its backdrop without actually going to the lake and braving the crazy weather. This place saved my trip to be honest, because I wouldn’t have lasted half an hour outside in that chill, not to mention dying of Hypothermia was not really on my to-do list for today. It was foggy in the morning, but the sun made an appearance at around 2 PM right before we left.

Dove Lake is just one of several lakes in this area of Tasmania but obviously the most popular perhaps because of its accessible location right by the entrance. From here, a glance at the map of the park will show you various trails and peaks that you can hike with various levels of difficulty. This is probably not doable on this day trip because they only gave us an hour to enjoy the views of the lake. Hiking will involve hours or even days so you might want to check in at one of the hotels here for that purpose.

Part of the tour is going to Waldheim, a replica of the wooden chalet that once stood on the same location belonging to Gustav Weindorfer, the Austrian botanist hailed by many Tasmanians as responsible for the creation of this natural park. Along with his wife Kate, it is because of their vision that early tourism here boomed and remains to be the case until now. The cabin is small and it is the forest behind it that serves as the main attraction, with its reserves of King Pine trees as well as many flora endemic to Tasmania. Wombat droppings also abound but we never saw one.

Wallabies were what we saw, some of them baking under the sun and grazing. They look like giant rats to me yet still a curious sight given how it’s my first time to actually see one. Some of them look like miniature kangaroos, though. Heading back to Launceston, we passed by Ashgrove Cheese Factory which is popular for its cheddar produce and ice cream. Back in Launceston, you can head over to Cataract Gorge where they constructed a swimming pool right next to the dam overlooking Alexandra Suspension Bridge.

[CRADLE MOUNTAIN] So Not Summer at Dove Lake

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