Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The Springs to the Pinnacle - Mt Wellington

Meeting place: Davey and Molle (Mt W. just visible through the clouds)

Saturday 25th January, 1834
We were both enchanted by the magnificent natural scenery through which we passed. From time to time an opening in the dense forest afforded us a view over the Derwent and Hobart Town with the mountains beyond. The air was so invigorating, the day seemed made for an excursion such as this. I shall never forget the lovely green of the ferns as we sat beneath them, or the sunlight stealing through the tall trees and lighting them up. We stopped for only a short rest. I must confess I have never felt a more tonic effect than from the stimulating and invigorating air at this altitude. It filled my lungs and sent the blood coursing faster through my veins. p.112

Looking back to the day before; Water Works Reservoir

Friday 14th February, 2014

Von Hügel is describing the lower reaches of Mt Wellington, where, to reiterate, the tree ferns stand above head height, casting a soft cool light all around. I am reminded of something said to me at dinner the other night when I was effusively commenting on the beauty of Hobart and surrounds. Michael said, 'I say to people, too much oxygen, wait 'til you get used to the air and calm down a bit—then see how much you like it here.' Admittedly I have only been here a week, but the oxygen is yet to wear off. I particularly noticed it when passing from Waterworks Rd into the 'bush'. The transition from weedy verges to minty smelling eucalypts, the quiet company of dark furred wallabies, skittering birds and a screeching, arching flock of sulphur crested cockatoos produced a sense of calm and peace equal to the tonic described by Von Hügel.

Saturday 15th February, 2014

The last stretch of the walk to the top of Mt Wellington is via a choice of two tracks at the Springs. I was lucky enough to have company for this leg, not to mention a car ride to the starting point. The shorter zig zag track was chosen. It is less than 6 km to the summit, but took us about three and a half hours return (including lovely peppermint tea at the top thanks to Cate's foresight). It is notable, that, as one climbs the vegetation changes quite abruptly. Each new ecology pushing the one before it back almost beyond my imagination, in spite of or perhaps because of the sudden transition. As a consequence there is the illusion that the view from the mountain of a few moments before can feel a lifetime away. Perhaps it is simply the oxygen.

Setting off, 9.30am misty/overcast

Still misty and damp

Red berries, first change in flora

Saturday 25th January, 1834
The forest now becomes sparser and low-growing and you can see the top of the mountain for the first time, but still in the far distance. The terrain becomes more and more barren and soon vegetation disappears entirely.... When we had almost climbed the first summit, such a strong wind swept over it that it was almost impossible to keep walking against it.

This marks the beginning of a unique and splendid type of vegetation. Presumably the snow in winter and wind borne sand and dust have gradually built up a primary layer of  soil, which, simply by virtue of the vegetation itself and its decomposed litter fall, has in many places become thick enough to support a forest (that is, in terms of species) which, however, can grow only to a height of 12 to 15 feet. p. 112


Saturday 15th February, 2014

The wind kept still for our walk and 180 years on there is a safe and sturdy path to follow. At times there is even a chain rail to take hold of, or a stone seat to rest upon and soak up the views. The vegetation is indeed surprising, and very beautiful. I think we missed the height of spring—instead of flowers we admired red, pink, white and purple berries. 

Gaultheria hispida and spider web

Hobart through the trees

Saturday 25th January, 1834

'The panorama is sublime. The islands and peninsulas and the surrounding sea lie spread out like a map, showing neither elevations nor depressions, and the ships dwindle to tiny boats.' p. 113

Saturday 15th February, 2014

I had also been told that a walk to the pinnacle of Mt Wellington on a clear day would reveal Hobart and its place in the landscape—that I would see where I was. Indeed this was so, even with light cloud cover; but I imagine it was more dramatic for Von Hügel. In an age of satellite photography and the corresponding map technology, I must confess I had already 'flown' above Mt Wellington, and had zoomed along the various rivulets I planned to explore later on foot in 'real' time. So while it held a particular charm and beauty, incomparable to screen based viewing, it did not feel totally new.  Hobart, albeit with the hole in the ozone, is still very clear and bright—Von Hügel might be alarmed at some of the changes were he given a bird's eye view today, but I think Hobart Town today would be one of the more recognisable places he visited on his 6 year voyage in the 1830's.

 Clouds lifting

Ozothamnus ledifolius, at the summit

View from the lookout 

Back down, very steep


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