Outside Roseberry, where we spent a comfortable night in our rented caravan, are the Montezuma Falls. We drove the 10K or so to the carpark and set off on the walk. The area used to be a large-scale lead, zinc, iron, copper and gold mine. The walk to the falls even included a since-replaced wooden bridge and the old tram tracks.
The mine was active between the 1890s and 1940s, and the photographs from that era showed a rainforest that had been seriously depleted by the expansion of the mining operation. Since then, however, the forest had bounced back considerably and was absolutely gorgeous. The flora was vibrant and healthy, with 6-foot wide ferns and water flowing off rocks at every turn.
The falls were magnificent, the best we had seen so far and, because the drought on the mainland, possibly the best in Australia at this time. We each took several shots of the falls, but I only later realized that the lens cover on my camera had frozen only a third of the way open, so most of my pictures give you just a glimpse.
The suspension bridge that connected the tracks on both sides of the river valley came with a warning, saying it was safe for only two adults. Jake had dropped behind, so Ben, Steffen and I all jumped on the bridge together. The bridged swayed with our footsteps, but was otherwise quite sturdy.
Before we left the falls, I asked Steffen to take a shot of me in front of the very bottom of the falls. The spray was very refreshing, but I was thankful for the Gore-Tex raincoat I had on. It’s a bit dark, but you can see my outline towards the lower-left hand corner of the picture.
On the way back to the carpark, we passed a couple who had brought a bottle of wine for the trip, and were enjoying it on a bench near the water. Well done.
Back in Roseberry, someone (me, I think) had floated the idea of fajitas for dinner. We stopped back in Roseberry to buy supplies before heading north towards the northern tip of the Cradle Mountains.
When we reached the mountains, the sky was overcast, freezing rain fell at a fast angle and the temperature itself had plummeted. We fooled ourselves into thinking that the day could be saved by consulting with the visitor’s center about walks we could do. We figured that if we found accomodation for that night, a new day would bring new weather. The only backpackers in the park wanted $35 dollars per night for a bed, or $17 for an “alpine hut” which is no more than a platform covered by a canvas tent. In another visitor’s center within the park itself, we grilled the staff about the closest, cheap hostel. The young woman, who was on her first day of work, told us that a town called Gowrie Park, about 40K north of the mountains, had a caravan park with backpacker accomodation. The nearest town to that is Sheffield, with similar options.
Ben really wanted to get a shot of view from Dove Lake in the Cradle Mountains, so we drove down to a carpark and waited for the skies to clear … at least a little. After 15 – 20 minutes, with no change in the clouds, we gave up and left the national park. Forty-five minutes later we found the caravan park in Gowrie Park (after first stopping at a lookout of the area. By the way, the weather that short a distance outside of the mountains was gorgeous, with very few clouds in the sky).
The caravan park, also with backpackers dorms, seemed like a cult settlement, with buildings spread out over a large, open area. We followed signs up to an unassuming reception room only to be greeted by a sign saying the desk was closed. As we were scratching our heads, a man approached us from behind. He had long grey hear, hidden under a Vietnamese knit hat. He wore an orange fleece jacket, khakis and white Converse sneakers.
“You guys looking for rooms?” His voice was slow and relaxed, neither high nor low, neither overly-friendly or cautious. He spoke like a hippy who actually knew where he was at the time, truly the leader of this cult establishment. We asked about dorm rooms, and he said he could give us four separate rooms, one for each of us, for $10 dollars. I thought I saw Steffen’s eyes turn glassy and moist. I myself had to choke one back. Ben spoke with him for some time about traveling in SE Asia since he had just returned from 3 months in Vietnam. After setting us straight with keys, he bid us goodbye. I asked him his name, “Jai”, he replied. “Joy?” I said, fighting my way through his thick Australian accent. “Jai”. If you’re following along at home, think of the mathematical symbol “Pi”, and sub in a ‘J’. Based on his temperament and general emotional detachment from everything around him, if anyone has reached Enlightenment, surely it is Jai.
The rooms were small, but nice. After so many months of sharing a room with someone, it was nice to have a place to myself. We surrounded by a mountain range as well, including Mt. Roland, Mt. Van Dyke and Mt. Claude. This is the view from my door; for $10, I don’t think it gets any better.
We set our things down and went about looking for a television: it was Sunday, and the finals for the Australian Open were on. Some older folks we consulted in the dining room suggested Sheffield, a town 15K down the road, but we should really ask Rebecca, the owner, they advised.
As we left, Rebecca pulled up in a stationwagon, and we asked her about televisions. TVs came standard with cabins, which were $90 a night. She said she’d have a look to see if those TVs could pick up the match, but our best bed would be the pub in town.
Rebecca was incredibly friendly even running around and profusely apologizing for not being able to find the TV guide she usually keeps around. In fact, while we were walking back to the car, a young couple pulled up in a campervan and asked her if she had washing machines. “Are you staying here?” “No, we’re just looking to do some laundry.” Now, in most cases, you’d get a loud “Then @#%& off!” from the landlord, but Rebecca pointed them towards the laundry room and even told them they could use the free washing powder near the machines.
We drove into Sheffield and found the pub. The other guys ordered some food, but I snuck into the car and made myself a peanut butter sandwhich. We cancelled fajitas for the night and rescheduled for the next day.
The pub was run by a friendly older gentleman and his two children. The son, Matthew, was no more than our age. The match only started around 8 PM, and the pub closed at 9, so I was noticably worried. Jake talked to the landlord and he said that he’d stay open until the end of the match; after all, the cricket was also on and they wanted to see the end of it.
Each of us bought a round of Boag’s, and we settled into our seats, chatting up Matthew about everything from traveling to baseball. Matthew and his family were from South Australia, a little town called Port Lincoln, and they had come to Sheffield for the job.
Near the end of the Federer v. Gonzalez match, Matthew walked up from behind us and very nonchalantly said, “Hey boys, it’s Sunday night and we gotta clean the lines”, and then he laid two large pitchers of Boag’s on the table in front of us. I thought I was alseep. Or at least severely hallucinating.
As Matthew walked away, he looked back with a curious expression on his face, “Anyone like Guiness?” I quickly piped up and said yes. “Great! Be right back.” He came back two minutes later with a pitcher of Guiness and a pint glass, just for me. I looked at the boys and we all exchanged a quick look of disbelief before tearing into the drinks.
By the time we got through the pitchers, Matt’s dad had gone to bed and it was just the five of us in the main room of the pub. The match had ended, and we were flipping through the channels with Matt, talking about his desire to travel. Matt wanted to head back into Australia and travel around the country, but his real passion lay in backpacking across Europe, and hopefully finding work there. Since his dad was born in England (though Australian by heritage), he was in the process of applying for dual citzenship, a gold mine when it comes to the EU.
Every so often, Matt would duck behind the bar and bring out a couple six packs and distribute it amongst us. We didn’t quite understand it, but he had saved up some tokens from some kind of pub-related beer give-a-way deal and so all the sixers were free. The five of us must’ve polished off at least 10 – 12 beers each. Matthew was loads of fun to hang out with, and even started suggesting that he toss in a movie on the big widescreen. We were all rather “tired” (see amount of beer consumed above), so we decided it was time to call it a night. Though I felt quite bad for the guy: we must’ve been the first guys his age to wander through that joint in some time. He told us to swing by the next night, which would be a major pub session since he had the following day off work.
We got back to the dorms and crashed. Literally — I slept in the same clothes and with the lights on. But it was OK, since the room was all mine!