There were seven of us today - Di, Robert, Bob, Caroline, Angie, Julie and Lyn - on this expedition into the Florentine. It was a lovely spring day, the first day of daylight saving. We gathered at Di's place at 9.30am, where Robert obligingly made us all a coffee, before we set out before 10am.
We had to stop first at Mt Field National Park office, where Di signed on the dotted line to get a key (booked ahead) for access to F8 East forestry road. There is a $300 deposit for the key, and list of dire warnings like "There is no mobile phone coverage", and "The area features many hidden sink holes" just to reassure you. We picked up a copy of the latest Mt Field park map, which we found very useful when navigating.
Turning right back onto the Gordon River Rd (B61), drive west. Just beyond Maydena there is a large road to the right with big tourist signs pointing to Styx Valley and the Big Tree. This is the Florentine Rd, turn right. This is a wide, well maintained forestry road. Follow the road through the Lady Binney reserve, over the saddle by Tim Shea, and into the Florentine valley. About half an hour after leaving Maydena you will find forestry roads F8 West and East. Turn right into F8 East, where you'll need the key to get past the gate. A four wheel drive would be useful here, but our i30 made it through! After 2 km of the narrow gravel, wet and in a couple of places, boggy, road, you come to the end of the road. Here Robert identified the Tasmanian Froglet in a little pond, using his NPWS Tasmanian Frogs app!
Another reminder that you are on your own out here.
The walk is mostly level, and winds through beautiful myrtle and sassafras bush, with lots of mosses, lichens, ferns and plate fungus. There are slippery logs to clamber over and little bogs to splash through.
Boots and gaiters are essential and a walking pole recommended. We didn't notice any leeches though (yay).
Track markings are minimal, and failed us completely right at the end, where we got lost just near Growling Swallet. So, listen up! Not long after you can hear the rushing water over to the right, and just before you reach a small cavers' campsite with old fireplaces, there are two long very mossy trunks lying on the ground across the track. These should be followed down to the right, where there is a slight scramble down the gully to the Growling Swallet. This is a magical spot, beautiful and pristine.
The Swallet entrance to the Florentine karst is awe inspiring and the limestone rock formations curious.
Apparently at high water levels the cave growls as the waters surge downwards. The moss covered rocks and logs are very pretty.
Our diversion was to go beyond the campsite, along a trail someone had marked, to a fallen log upstream of the Swallet. There is a lovely mossy bank here which would be ideal for a picnic.
We couldn't stop today, as Caroline had to get back to town early and we hadn't thought through the matter of the locked gate.
It's about 45 minutes walk to the Swallet, and about 30 minutes coming back (once you know the path!).
Caroline had recommended Junee Cave, and we decided to go there for a late lunch. We drove back to Maydena and headed up the well signposted road to Junee Cave. This is a well made gravel road, with a good parking area, which we reached at 2.30pm. It is then about 200 metres walk to Junee Cave, where the waters which dived underground at various points such as Growling Swallet emerge out of the karst as the Junee River.
We finally had our picnic on a grassy bank of the Junee.
It was a lovely day out!