Growling Swallet is one of the deepest cave systems in Tasmania at about 360m, coming in a close second from Niggly caves which just wins with 375m. It is part of the Florentine-Junee karst area and it pretty damn spectacular. As with most caves, unless you are an experienced caver, or with an experienced caver then you shouldn’t venture into them. Unless you don’t care if you get lost and die. I’m not a massive fan of that one, so I didn’t risk climbing right down to the start of the drop. I can’t say how far into the walk the right hand turn to the swallet is. I took an insane amount of time getting there because I was sitting in the mud looking at the fungi and the moss. Maybe 15 minutes if you are a normal person. Anyway, you can hear the water and there is a bit of a track leading right. You can have a look from the top, or you can climb down a bit to the ‘streamy’ area. It’s steep, but only a couple of metres, just be careful. You wouldn’t die if you slipped down it, but you might get bruised and battered, maybe break something if you are unlucky. It’s very slippery on the rocks and fallen logs, so seriously, don’t kill yourself. Don’t take kids down there either, that would just be a tragedy waiting to happen. It is worth getting down the first little path to the ‘water edge’. It is just magnificent. Only an hour or so from ‘civilisation’ and you feel like you are in the middle of the wilderness, back in a time where bryophytes and trees ruled the world.
If you are wondering about why it is called Growling Swallet, then apparently it sounds like it growls when it is flowing really heavy, and it is a swallet, which is basically a big sinkhole where a creek/river/stream pours down into the cave system. There are loads of caves littered around the Florentine area, as well as lots of sinkholes which can be well hidden and easy to fall into if you venture off track. Doing some searching to find some more info out about the area and I came across this video of some cavers down in Growling swallet https://southerntasmaniancaverneers.wordpress.com/videos
Anyways, I wasn’t there to cave, just to wander and look and be in the most gorgeous old growth rainforest you could imagine. Myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii) trees that were so freaking huge it almost makes you wonder if they are the same species that you see on the mountain, or through Mt Field. You can’t even see the tops properly and their trunks are massive and all gnarly and would tell an amazing story if they were literate. Same with the Eucalyptus regnans, so amazingly tall that it is almost incomprehensible. They are the tallest flowering plant in the whole wide world and can grow up to about 100m and even past that, but holy crap, they are big. A few times I stopped and looked up and had a ‘shit, those trees are tall’ moment…
The walk through the ‘rainforest’, which I dunno, I guess technically it is ‘mixed forest’ because there were still some Eucs popping their heads through, although it is pretty close in the scheme of things to be ‘rainforest’, so I’ll call it that. It’s really everything you picture when you think of Tasmania’s temperate rainforest. Moss, lichens and liverworts covering pretty much every surface and the paths adorned with fallen Myrtle leaves. Then there is that smell. It’s so hard to describe that smell, it’s a bit like sweet dirt, but different, maybe its the smell of the fungi doing it’s job and breaking down the dead bits, I’m not sure how to describe it really, it’s a fantastic smell though.
Being March, it is really the very start of the ‘fungi season’. Of course there is fungi around all the time, however autumn and winter are the seasons where it chooses to ‘fruit’ the most. It’s been a pretty darn dry summer, but there has been a bit of rain fall lately and it’s been enough to kick things into action. There was a whole lot of brown fungi today, a bit of red and a splash of blue. I don’t discriminate though, I love them all equally. Okay, that’s not true at all, I definitely have my favourites, I’m just not sure which ones they are because they change all the time. Definitely a place to go back and visit when it gets colder and wetter and foggier…
All up the Florentine and Styx Valleys are just wonderful places to go and visit. No matter what area you choose to go to. It was so nice to finally get back out into the forest now the awful summer hotness has gone, and what an amazing place to do it. Do yourself a favour, go and explore the Florentine today. Or tomorrow, or on the weekend, or whenever you can get there… Just sometime before you die.
Care of the forest
So I was chatting to someone the other day about the forests and fungi and orchids and plants and photography and all that stuff and it came up about how some people seem to have little respect for the bush. Which I find kind of strange, and hard to believe. I guess I just assume that if you are passionate enough to go walking and looking for beautiful things to photograph or look at then you will be extra respectful about not screwing them up. Apparently I am not totally right, and a lot of people do trash things.
I would like to think it’s not entirely intentional, and perhaps just comes about because not all people have a strong understanding of what can damage an ecosystem. So please, if you are out walking in the bush just for a stroll or to take some photos here is a few pointers on how to minimise your impact:
- Stay on the tracks – Tracks are there for a reason, to stop you getting lost and minimise trampling of the forest floor. Especially tracks which are boarded are generally boarded for a reason, because the areas around are sensitive. Also, in areas like Growling Swallet, going off track means you might fall down a big hole and be lost forever.
- Don’t wreck stuff or pick stuff – Let’s take fungi for a prime example. It’s how they reproduce, don’t pull them out of the ground. I can hear you say ‘But the animals do!’ and yes, that is right they do. They eat them, bugs hide in them and they provide food and shelter to a whole lot of organisms. It’s their supermarket, don’t demolish it. Plus, the next person walking along that track would also like the opportunity to see them. Same applies to flowers and plants of all kinds.
- Don’t kill stuff – Big or little. If a wallaby came jumping along in front you, then you wouldn’t beat it to death with your walking pole… I hope… So treat the little things the same. Insects,spiders and snakes all have a place in the ecosystem. They might not be cute and fluffy, but they are just as important. None will kill you, okay, so maybe a snake might, but trying to kill it will be more likely to end in your death than leaving it be. Yes, people are allergic to a lot of bites and things, and if you forgot your epi pen and a crazy jack jumper is climbing up your leg, then naturally you would squash it. Point is, look at the bugs and stuff, but treat them with the same respect you would treat someone bigger and cuter and fluffier.
- Take your damn rubbish – I would assume this is common sense, but it ain’t. Don’t leave your trash for the wallabies to choke on, and if you are smoker, take your freakin butts with you. Stick a little container in your pocket to use as an ash tray…
I know that we all like to get the best photo we can, and some people really like to get the ‘original’ shot, and that’s cool, but just think before you go traipsing through an area. Especially in sensitive areas. I appreciate that not all people really know what a ‘sensitive’ area could be, so just try to keep to the tracks, and try not to stampede and break stuff. I love photography and I encourage people to get outside and walk through our amazing natural areas that we are so lucky to have here in Tasmania, just be mindful that these areas are special and are more important than a good photo, so we all need to make the effort to keep them special and un trampled.
Because at the end of the day the ecosystem comes before our wants and photographs.
Drive to Maydena, then about 3 minutes past Maydena turn right up Florentine road towards the Florentine Valley, not the Styx Valley way. You pass a whole bunch of little forestry roads, but you are looking for the one called F8 east, it’s about half an hour along Florentine road. It has a gate on it, which you can get a key for at the Mt Field visitor centre ($300 deposit). Although cars have made a bit of a ‘track’ around the side of the gate. I chose to park my car at the gate, I had heard mixed things about the road and I only have a little Hyundai 2wd so decided not to risk it. Glad I didn’t go up because there were some pretty hefty pot holes, a few massive puddles and a bit of a crest in the middle of the track so chances are I would have wrecked the bottom of my car. 2wd’s do go up there, but personally I wouldn’t, I’m also not experienced driving through roads like that. It’s probably about 1.5km give or take to the start of the track and is a really nice walk up the road. The track is also fairly narrow, especially when you get to the muddy bit it gets even narrower, so you’d be screwed trying to turn around.