New Zealand / Australia Diary
Tuesday 24 April 2012

Horseshoe Falls

The weather forecast was for heavy rain but the day opened bright, clear & sunny so we threw caution to the wind, loaded up the car with lunchtime goodies and headed north along the banks of the Derwent. Our objective - Mount Field National Park.

As we drove out of Hobart the houses thinned out although the land remained gently rolling. The towns dwindled into villages and housing developments became farmland, mostly for livestock rather than crops although we did pass through an extensive area of hop frames, bare & stripped in these autumn days. The road began to rise and the woodland to thicken around us as we approached the loftier hills ahead.

Once at the park we headed off on foot. The humidity rose and the temperature fell as we entered the rainforest, following the path through tall ferns as giant, arrow-straight gum trees rose majestically into the canopy far above. There was a cathedral-like hush with just an occasional bird cry off in the distance but as we walked further into the trees I began to hear the rush of falling water, slowly growing in volume.

This turned out to be Russell Falls, a multiple-level cascade of water crashing down through a gap in the forest. It was quite a thing to experience - not just the visual spectacle but the thundering roar, it was as if you could feel the impact of the water onto the rocks below. And all of this through the thick, wet air - part mist, part spray, part rain.

Faced with this wonderful scene I was inspired to start investigating the options & capabilities of my camera. Since switching from film to digital several years ago I'd been generally happy to leave my camera set on AUTO and just snap away, letting it take care of the metering & exposure as it saw fit. I'd had a quick look through the various menus when I'd bought it but had found myself soon lost in the dozens of possible settings, and over time I'd been generally content with it as a point & shoot device.

But not today. I began exploring the other modes and found that 'in action' they made a lot more sense, and after a while I was merrily switching between them, tweaking the settings and snapping away. It even brought back some of my dormant photographic skills as I rediscovered exposure levels, depth of field and other arcane ways of playing with light. A lot of the results turned out to be 'interesting' but enough of the rest were good enough for me to feel happy with the return of this Lost Art.

From the base of the falls we took the winding path up to their top and continued upriver to the smaller Horseshoe Falls. These, although less dramatic than the great cascade below them, were just as beautiful, set in moss covered rocks and with richly green ferns spreading around them and tall trees overhead, filtering the light to a gentle green glow.

Returning to the car we drove a short distance to the picnic area, deserted at this point in the season. Peter & Krista set about their bushwork and had soon collected a small pile of light kindling which, after producing clouds of thick smoke, consented to burn. The billy can was filled & placed on top for our tea and we tucked into a splendid packed lunch, watched over by a small group of currawongs, keen to see if we would be leaving anything behind. These black, crow-like birds had piercing yellow eyes and powerful, strong beaks, they looked like they meant business and seemed disappointed by the thin pickings we left behind.

Being interviewed on Hobart FM

After lunch we took the Tall Trees walk through the park. This certainly lived up to its name with giant swamp gums rising 70m and higher into the sky, their tops almost impossible to make out through the leafy cover up above. Equally fascinating was the huge variety of fungi down at ground level, allsorts of colours & shapes slowly eating their way through the trees. The hush of the earlier forest was replaced here by loud, raucous cries from above - I guessed dinosaurs but they were apparently white cockatoos.

In the evening I had a new experience ahead of me, being interviewed live on local radio (Hobart FM - The Sound Of The City). Peter drove me into town, through town, and out the other side, crossing the bay and eventually ending up at a medium-sized building in the suburbs. We climbed a set of outside stairs and found the studio perched on top, a small cluster of rooms with a professional but casually funky feel. Betty, the presenter of the folk music show I'd be appearing on, met us at the door, led us in and helped us settle down - an impressive achievement as she was in the middle of her show by this time and seemed to be the only person in the studio, there was no engineer or other support person around.

Betty & I had a quick chat about what questions she'd be asking and which tracks would be most appropriate to play (with short breaks while she lined up music or made announcements), then I put on my headphones, had a quick lesson in microphone placement ("Keep close to it") and we were away. I'd worked with PA systems in the past so wasn't too phased by using a mic but it was a bit daunting to imagine my voice spreading through the æther, even if it was just that of the greater Hobart area.

Luckily Betty was an excellent interviewer, quickly putting me at ease and encouraging me to chat away without letting me ramble on too much. We talked about dancing, music, ethnic instruments and the ritual aspects of community dance and managed to plug my upcoming workshops while doing so. There was lots of fun & laughter and the time flowed quickly by, so much so that before I knew it she was wrapping up the interview and moving on to the rest of her show. As we drove back, listening to the rest of Betty's programme, it was as if it had all passed in an instant. I could get a taste for this radio lark.

Mount Field National Park

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

The primeval forest

Getting the billy going

Peter and a Tall Tree

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