I left the motel early. The day was clear and sunny, but a little cool. The perfect day to visit... CAVES! I planned on going to Mole Creek to tour one of the three, but as I reached Deloraine I noticed a heavy band of cloud to the North, over Bass Strait. Change of plan: Cradle Mountain first, then the caves. First stop, the Deloraine bakery for a yummy steak pie breakfast.
Meander River, Deloraine
When I was last at Cradle Mountain in the mid 90s, the road had only recently been sealed and very few people were there. I drove right up to Dove lake and parked. Now the park is so popular they have a boom gate at the entrance to regulate the number of vehicles in the park. As one vehicle leaves the gate opens to let another in. I parked at the huge new information centre abut 2km outside the National Park and caught a shuttle bus in. The buses run every 10 minutes and are free if you have a NP Pass. I'm glad I took the bus; the place was packed and the queue to get into the park was long. Cradle Mountain was once only accessible to dedicated hikers, now it's being populared to death.
Tiny alpine plants that make up a mat of ground cover.
I pondered going for a walk around the lake but I wasn't dressed for the hike. The weather here is dangerously changeable. A few years ago a young guy went for a hike around Dove Lake and vanished despite the walk being considered easy. All they found was his backpack. Tasmanian devils won't attack and kill you but they are highly efficient scavengers. If you die in the Tasmanian wilderness authorities have about a week to find your body, or what's left of it. So I sat and soaked in the view and the cold, and hopped on a shuttle back to the rainforest centre. There is a board walk that does an easy loop from the centre, into the forest and back and takes about 30 minutes to walk. The more adventurous can take the board walk from the centre to Dove Lake (8km) but I was happy with the little loop.
Pencil Pine Falls
I caught the shuttle back to the information centre and the car, and headed for Mole Creek and Marakoopa. Whoever programmed Ada's maps at TomTom did a really crap job. They included logging roads past, present and non-existent, and often didn't include the main road. Poor Ada kept telling me to take the next right, which was often a dirt track or a vertical wall. Her manual says I can edit the maps but any attempt is met with a red screen telling me that this map is not editable. Eventually I reached a road she approved of, and we got to Marakoopa in time for the Cathedral Cave tour.
The Marakoopa caves are full of glow worms, but they aren't the only life I saw.
Tasmanian Cave Spider.
The day was getting late, the weather was closing in, and may last night in Tasmania was here.