September 2015 - Apsley Gorge

Robert and Di did this walk while enjoying a weekend escape on the East Coast with Wanda.

We thought we'd take a little look at the Apsley River end of the Douglas-Apsley National Park, having not been there before.  This is one of Tassie's Parks and Wildlife Service's Great Short Walks, so some details can be found here.  PWS suggest doing the walk over the hill and returning along the same path (2-3 hour return, 5.6km return).  We used the walk description in "Day Walks Tasmania" by John and Monica Chapman - they suggest doing the full loop  i.e. returning along the river bed.

With thanks to "Day Walks Tasmania"
Go 4.5km north of Bicheno, turn left onto Rosedale Road (well signposted), then enjoy 7.5km winding through pleasant farmlands (mostly unsealed), and find the roomy carpark.  After signing into the walkers' log there is an option of a short 5 min loop walk to the Lookout over the Apsley River - but NOTE the Lookout is currently closed off for repair.

It is a few minutes' walk down to the Apsley River, which is very pretty, and home to the Australian Grayling (they ask you not to wear sunscreen if you are going for a swim, as it is harmful to the fish).  Here you can swim, picnic, and rockhop across to the other side where the Apsley Gorge walk commences (and the longer Leeaberra Walk comes in from the north).

We set off northwestwards from the river at 11am, thinking of just doing a short walk as we hadn't packed a lunch or much in the way of gear. This is a comfortable uphill climb, with lots of nicely made stone steps where required.  We spotted a hooded orchid at the side of the path and later on met a chap taking lots of photos of orchids (he'd found a spider orchid).

There are no lookouts along the path,  which rises to a long ridge and passes through attractive typical East Coast dry forest.  The track was dry and conditions were perfect on this spring day.  Lots of spring flowers were out.
Comesperma volubile (Blue Love Creeper)

Banksia marginata

When we reached the end of the ridge, we made the snap decision to keep going and do the full loop walk.

There had been plenty of warnings about precautions for people choosing to walk back along the river, such as the Chapmans'  "The walk through the gorge requires scrambling over rocks and sturdy footwear is recommended.  There is no track through the gorge and it should not be attempted after heavy rainfall".   PWS had alarming signs posted showing people falling off rocks and a note that there is no mobile signal in the Gorge.  Duly warned, we decided to give it a go.  We were wearing sturdy shoes but not boots, which would have made it easier, but it was a beautiful day, so what the heck.

At about midday we reached the river upstream in the Gorge.  It is a beautiful spot.

Once again, a great spot for picknicking and swimming, more pristine and a lot more private than at the beginning of the walk.

The Chapmans measured the loop as 6.1km.  My recording via Strava showed 8.4km to and from the carpark!  I believe Strava.

It took us about 3 hours to rockhop our way down the riverbed back to the walk's start, and it used every muscle in our bodies. There is no marked track, you have to continually judge the best (only?) way forward, having to cross the river again and again to make progress.  It was rugged, pristine and beautiful.   The rocks ranged from huge boulders to sheer cliff faces to stretches of river gravel, and occasionally some minor bushbashing was required to navigate our way without getting our feet wet (or worse).

Slipping and falling could have been quite serious, and prospects of getting help in a hurry were pretty slim, so our minds were focussed!  Di had emergency muesli bars packed (Be Prepared!), so we were able to stop for a snack and let our legs recover a little.  It seemed to take forever (we had missed lunch, after all) to rockhop down the many bends, admiring the spouting waterfalls and clear but cold pools.

At about 3pm we made it back to the beginning, exhausted but smug. So the total walk time was 4 hours.  Notes for next time:  do take lunch and have a good picnic on the beautiful river rocks; be well prepared with rockhopping footwear and contingencies for accidents (such as a Personal Location Beacon PLB);  and make sure the river is not high. 

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