Carlos, our friend Jason and I set out on a road trip last weekend to Cradle Mountain. Jason hails from sunny San Diego and he popped over to Tasmania from sultry Bali. An outing in the snow fields of Cradle Country probably wasn’t the first thing on his “to-do” list when visiting. As we packed the car on Sunday morning preparing for our trip he commented that he hadn’t done much camping before. And when I asked about his hiking shoes, poor Jason said he hadn’t exactly hiked either. I would be worried about some friends in this situation but I know Jason is a killer mountain biker and snow boarder so I figured he’d do just fine with us out in the bush.
I was super excited for this road trip because Cradle Mountain has been on my radar ever since I heard it was one of the only places in Tasmania where the deciduous beech tree (Fagus) grows. Tasmania officially has seasons. I say this because it is officially cold here. And the Fagus is cool because it is one of Tasmania’s indicator of Autumn. It turns brilliant gold in May and so back when I was plotting this trip out I reasoned that May would be ideal. Of course, I didn’t factor in the cold part of this equation.
We packed the Cruiser with heaps of food, blankets and warm clothes because I knew there wouldn’t be much options for provisions in Cradle Country. About two hours after leaving Hobart, Carlos looks at me and asks if I remembered the tent. Oooops! (For the record, while I am NOT the sole camping packer in this relationship, I certainly won’t let that happen again). Waisting expensive gas to go back for the tent wasn’t an option. We’d have to rough it. But the temperature was dropping.
One other stark reality about Autumn in Tasmania is that it gets dark early. By five o’clock the sun was setting and we had neither a campsite nor a solution to our tent issue. We kept driving west and saw signs for the Mole Creek caves. That might work! We drove into a dark passageway looking for caves that might substitute as tents but alas they were all locked up to the public. No dice. Further afield we saw the Mole Creek National Park sign and Carlos pulled the Cruiser into the dark forestry road with hopes of a designated camp spot to light a fire. We lucked out. The bright stars lit up our home for the evening so we could get a fire started and roast some potatoes and snags for dinner. Though the sleeping situation hadn’t been discussed, the three of us knew that cramming into the Cruiser was our only option. Carlos tried to argue that sleeping outside would be fine but fearing the wrath us his mother when she found out he froze to death in Tasmania, I insisted we give the car a go.
It was not a good night’s sleep but we made it. The sun was out in the morning and after a picnic breakfast by the river, we set out for Cradle Mountain.