Friday, December 6, 2013

Dear diary,

Well this is the beginning of my birthday weekend, from Friday through Sunday. My choices all the way... How about that! Are you excited for me?

So, what's first...

Well, I've had a hankering for a long time to visit The Pub in the Paddock at Pyengana, St Columba Falls Hotel, even with its long-held reputation hung on the beer-drinking pig, who is nowadays prodigy Pinky after predecessor Priscilla's demise, which wasn't necessarily the attraction, but moreso just the enjoyment of the visit. Phew, diary - alliteration! And after lunch, a walk in to Ralphs Falls.

So, little diary, that was the first day's agenda, and with the falls on my mind I didn't even think to take any photos of Pinky. Oops... Sorry girl... Next time...

The Pub in the Paddock, St Columba Falls Hotel, Pyengan, Tasmania, Australia

Approaching The Pub in the Paddock is quite a disarming experience, with the sprawling, single-storey establishment set exactly as oft described mid the green fields of Pyengana, with tree-covered undulating hills behind. And there's the swine, in a pen to the right as one approaches. Immediately a sense of age and time envelopes the visitor, as this little inn was established way back in 1880 and has been licensed continuously since 1901 and where the distinct sense, the ambience of those past days still lingers.

As I walk through the door for some inexplicable reason Ned Kelly and Glenrowan rushes to mind, and I feel there shouldn't be electric lighting, but oil lamps dimly glowing in the charming olde-worlde atmosphere of this place. Iron cooking pots and wooden beer barrels are dotted about, while a cheery fire crackles in one of the number of fireplaces nearby.

It is not busy, with only one other party in the dining room. Licensee Anne Free is very attentive, chatting away as she sees to our needs and takes our order. We have Irish red ale, and apple juice reminiscent of scrumpy.

We settle in to our new surroundings, noting the light streaming in to what might otherwise be a small stage for visiting artists, balladeers and minstrels plying their wares, rending their musical talents about the countryside, but taken up for now by the healthy zygocactus and other greenery in tubs. There's much raw-hewn timber in the heavy framing, and old saws with vicious teeth line the walls. Period posters add to the timelessness of this little inn still showing its face in a world where its counterparts have become far more slick and sophisticated around it, ever-increasingly frantically rushing towards modernity, all glitz and glass and showy lighting. But not here, diary. In a sense, time has stopped. It's easy. Unhurried. There's time to take time... 

Lunch arrives. Big platefuls. Meat and 6 vegetables, well cooked and easy on the eye, which is very important, isn't it little diary. The eyes take in the first bright-colour impression and the tastebuds follow, happily.

In hindsight, dear diary, it now appears somewhat insensitive of me to have approached Pinky in her sty with the aftertaste of pork ribs still on my lips and then breathing a cheery hello to her. She didn't appear to notice, so maybe I got away without offending her... Oops...


Setting off towards St Columba Falls, prior to the carpark here one has to deviate at Intake Bridge, to get on to the Mt Victoria Road and head towards Ralphs Falls. The uncertainty of the drive soon dissipates, as the road is in very good order at the Pyengana end despite a wet winter and spring. At the falls there's a sturdy barbecue shelter and the odd table or two scattered about. People are picnicking in the shrubby enclosures.

There are two choices for the falls - one is the short walk directly into Ralphs Falls, while the other one is longer and takes you past Cash's Gorge and falls. We opt for the shorter route.

A waratah in bloom catches the eye and brings great delight, as it is unexpected and a great find, and then there's another, and another. How wonderful.

Beautiful native waratah was a delightful find. And there were more...
Long drop loo

Another aspect altogether brings not necessarily delight, but the thought of relief, and that is, for ladies there's actually a toilet available, a single unit just off the entrance path to the falls and up a ramp and built on stilts. It'll be a long-drop, no doubt - but it's here and it beckons...

But not for long...

However long it's been since any park ranger or caretaker came along with a bucket of water, a brush and a gallon of disinfectant is anyone's guess. It was the most disgusting, filthy experience one could imagine - and no toilet paper either, if one was game enough to use it. Someone had thought to leave some of that hand gel in a plastic container, but upon using it I found it was the kind of cleaner that actually needed water to rinse it off, so I was left with that clammy, soapy coating on my hands until I could return to the car and use the proper stuff. My strong advice based on my experience is for anyone wishing to visit this place, if they're game enough to step up to the drop, then take your own paper - take your own hand-gel - and good luck...

I have to say I was being quite intrepid on this jaunt into the falls, having not done anything like this for quite some time for various reasons, as you know, little diary.

The descending path was easy, gravel-coated, mid fern and tall timber, moss-covered and beautiful. However, travelling further along, the ravages of the winter season and heavy rainfall still showed, with the pathway now a flowing stream, the topping of gravel having washed away to leave behind a rubble-stone and clay stream-bed which, after clambering over a log barring the way, one has to straddle on a slippery clay descent without a handrail. At this point I thought it prudent to call a halt to further progress for me, so my trusty sidekick volunteered to go on ahead with the camera, undeterred by a little water and greasy clay, while I returned the sunny carpark where I made notes.

A log bars the way on the walk to Ralph's Falls.

I see I mentioned the rivulet-pathways, and even the drains that couldn't cope with the flow. I had dire imaginings of my feet shooting from under me and I finding myself flat out on those stones with the newly formed mountain stream backing up and flowing about me! Oh no sirree, diary dearest, that'd be too, too much... I do say "fair dues" and appreciate the season that's been and the impracticality of re-gravelling pathways while the weather still holds foul on occasion lately so I do have hope that this shortcoming will be rectified in the near future.

The pathway's turned to a stream...
The rustic bush-stone steps leading to and from the falls

I sit back in the car seat, close my eyes and allow the sun's rays to warm my face as I listen to the pairs of honeyeaters with golden flashes on their wings flit about with spring on their mind and no doubt nest-building to follow.  

Ralphs Falls

And before we leave this place of narrow waterfalls cascading down a sheer rock-face, we should leave an image to share, shouldn't we, diary dear. So here is a picture of the falls I didn't get to see, more's the pity. But there's always another day, and perhaps boots with stops on the soles, so I don't slip on clay. A good idea? Maybe not... I can imagine the mess that'd create as it all built up to a massive, heavy slop on the soles of any future boots... Back to the think tank...

Peak of Mt Victoria

Of course there's much to take in on the return to Pyengana from the falls. The luxuriant myrtle and ferns, the distant mountain peaks all add wonder to this place that was carved through these mountain reaches - Mt Victoria and Mt Albert, although, diary, I have yet to determine which exactly is Albert. I'm fairly certain of Victoria, and if someone reads to this point and knows, perhaps they will tell us both, you and I little diary, which mount is where in the topography of the setting. 

A button-grass plain

And apart from the wildlife occasionally seen, there is also beauty in the button-grass plains stretching wide in some places. At this time of year the grass was in 'bloom' if that is how one describes the interesting little buttons, the seed heads dancing on filaments in the breeze.

Plaque, Mt Victoria road opened, 1998
A great barbecue shelter
Old and new
Gnarled roots
Cerise foxgloves predominate, but there are occasional white ones growing as weeds along the roadway
The old West Pyengana school site is being taken over by profligate foxgloves
Foxglove and fence post
Bracket fungus on myrtle trunk

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