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Published: February 9th 2014
Not wishing to spend the period between Christmas and New Year at home in Hobart - most of our friends are away with their families, many of them interstate, and besides the weather forecast is too good to be stuck at home - we strike out on Christmas morning, the boot of the car loaded with camping gear and an esky (that's Strine for an coolbox, by the way...) full of food. We are heading northwards, driving through the rural heart of Tasmania towards Bass Strait, the 250km-wide strip of ocean separating our little island state from the vast expanse of what Tasmanians, in all seriousness, call the mainland
After a wonderfully relaxing first few days soaking up coastal landscapes in Narawntapu National Park, and scoffing cherries and spotting platypuses in sweet little Latrobe, we turn westwards and inland towards the Central Highlands, one of Tasmania's most beguiling national parks, and certainly one of its most romantically-named: the Walls of Jerusalem. Located on a high plateau deeply scarred by glaciation in millennia past, the main attraction of this park is that, strangely, it is not directly accessible by vehicle. It has therefore retained a wild and remote character despite being
a relatively easy - if uphill - two-hour hike from the nearest road. The park has few marked tracks other than the main route in from Lake Rowallan, where we leave the car, and with the exception of a single (but well laid-out) formal campsite the Walls of Jerusalem are virgin territory.
Having set up our tent on clever purpose-built wooden platforms at the stunningly-sited but stunningly-windy Wild Dog Creek campsite - the ground here is soft and the flora highly fragile: Tasmania's Parks and Wildlife Service has done an excellent job of constructing this low-impact but well-equipped site, with wire tent tethers, standpipes and even a toilet here in the middle of nowhere - we spend the next three days, the last ones of 2013, exploring this beautiful park. The weather is a typically Tasmanian alternation of revolting (the first full day is spent in the shelter of the tent, holed up in our sleeping bags reading our Kindles while munching on salami sticks) and utterly gorgeous. New Year's Eve is nothing short of splendid - wall-to-wall blue sky and perfect conditions for exploring the park's signature landscape of soaring rock walls, dense alpine gardens hugging the shores
of crystal-clear tarns and forests of ancient and gnarled pencil pines.
The park's place-names are almost exclusively Biblical in origin and, in such a grandiose natural setting, seem strangely appropriate despite the Tasmanian high plateau bearing little resemblance, I imagine, to the dry and dusty landscapes of the Middle East. The Wailing Wall, Mount Jerusalem, King David's Peak, Solomon's Throne, the Pool of Siloam...Our favourite turned out to be the Pool of Bethesda
(the Biblical significance of the name escapes me entirely), an achingly beautiful circular tarn where, on the morning of New Year's Eve, we sat spellbound and watched a platypus - yes, here, at twelve hundred-odd metres altitude on an alpine plateau - dive and resurface for nearly half an hour. In the late afternoon, large numbers of particularly soft and fluffy-looking wallabies - indeed, the wallabies up here have evolved thick pelts to survive the bitter winters and were, until the latter half of the twentieth century, widely hunted by trappers whose huts remain scattered throughout the park as relics of days long gone - could be spotted browsing among the dense vegetation, occasionally bounding off at speed in that weird, alien and frankly hilarious way
I will never tire of watching, even if I spend the rest of my days in Tassie.
Easy climbs to the top of King Solomon's Throne and Mount Jerusalem rewarded us with breathtaking views of this exceptionally attractive park - in almost every direction mountains, mountains, mountains... The eastern sector of the Walls, utterly devoid of tracks - to venture out here, which is perfectly possible if not encouraged, you'd better be pretty sure of your navigational skills! - is a maze of hundreds if not thousands of tarns large and small peppered across the plateau, left behind by glaciers long since vanished.
The Walls were a particularly wonderful place - of all of this island's wonderful places - for Alex and me to spend the closing days of the year; to reflect on the last ten months since our Big Move; and, of course, to look forward to our future in the very, very special place that is Tasmania. 2013 has been a funny old roller-coaster of a year, even by our standards - but regrets? Absolutely none.
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