We were cold, tired, and miserable standing in a huddle on the trail along the West Wall in the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. The fog thickening in the distance, the wind howling all around us, and the rain continuing to slam into our backs.
It started to rain the night before, just as we commenced our 4 hour steep ascend to Wild Dog Creek, a popular camping site inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park. It didn’t seem so bad at first, but the pounding rain combined with the weight of bags packed with sleeping gear, food, water, cooking equipment and additional layers of clothing made every step seem more and more unbearable. It had been the first time we came face to face with harsh Tasmanian weather conditions. The temperature had dropped by about 10°C and the cold was quickly seeping through our bodies. We weren’t well prepared. My running shoes were soaked, my limbs frozen, and the 20kg backpack was rubbing the flesh on my hips and back. Every step was a struggle, physically and emotionally.
The rain never stopped that day. By the time we reached our campsite and set up camp, we were too exhausted to even make a cup of tea, let alone explore the surroundings. I climbed into my sleeping bag and fell asleep at 4pm.
It was now day 2 of our trek through the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, a park that is thought to resemble the walls of the city of Jerusalem, that we added to our itinerary on a recommendation from a local guide. It was meant to be an incredible place. Rugged. Untouched. Unspoilt. Breathtaking.
We’d been hiking in the rain along the trail for what seemed like hours. The thick smog made it impossible to see more than 100 meters ahead, it covered what we knew were the stunning views of the peaks of Walls of Jerusalem around us. I was starting to lose hope.
“If we walk ahead for another hour, that’s 2 more hours of hiking in this wet nasty weather. And then we still have to come back to camp, pack up and descend to the bottom of the park for another 4 hours”, I complained “ My body hurts, i’m cold, my feet are soaked and there is nothing to see!” I wasn’t exaggerating and the others agreed.
For a few minutes we seriously considered calling it quits and turning back around. We thought if we head back down now we could get out of the park and head straight to our next stop – Cradle Mountain National Park. We could warm up, get a good rest and be ready to go for another day of hiking tomorrow. Surely, the views at the Cradle Mountain would be much better. (It’s one of the main attractions in Tasmania, so they have to be better, right?)
“No. Let’s keep going!” Max announced “Let’s give it another 30 mins and if the weather doesn’t improve and the views don’t get better, we’ll turn around”.
Max is always the force that pushes me forward. If it wasn’t for him I probably would’ve never ended up in the middle of a Tasmania’s wilderness to start with.
The thing is, I’m really not an avid adventurer. I’m all for long overnight treks, physically challenging adventures and mountain climbs… in theory. I like the idea of accomplishing something grand, going off the beaten path and exploring in the wild. But in reality, the second the going gets tough, I turn into a cry baby. I don’t do cold. I don’t do windy and I especially hate the rain (unless it’s a refreshing drizzle on a hot summer day). I much prefer an afternoon at the beach, or even better, a lazy morning in a hammock with a cup of tea. I choose markets over mountains, and sandals over running shoes.
But Max has always pushed me go outside my comfort zone. He was the one that pushed me on a 7 hour hike to the top of Adam’s Peak in Sri Lanka and the one that suggested we take an alternate route to the top of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, and he was about to do it again.
“Ok” I nodded my head and let out a long sigh. “Let’s give it another 30 mins”
So we pushed forward. In about 15 mins we reached a fork in the road, the trail on the left would lead us to the Pool of Bethesda, and the trail on the right would continue towards the Damascus Gate. I turned left, longing for a view.
Just a few meters along the track my eye caught some movement in the bushes. I squinted and noticed two wallabies hopping along the side of the trail. It was the first time I spotted wallabies in the wild. I was thrilled. Max was about 200 meters behind with our camera, so I pulled out my iPhone and quietly tried to get closer to one of the wallabies. He was so brave and curious, sitting still as I inched my way closer. I got as close as I could and snapped a selfie. Score! It was the worst quality photo I took that entire day, but one that I absolutely adore! Walls of Jerusalem Park had just earned a point.
“I took a selfie with a wallaby!” – I ran back to Max glowing with pride of my precious little wallaby pic. “You just missed him, he was right here on the trail”.
“You were so caught up taking selfies with the wallaby that you missed an even more exciting development”, he said pointing up towards the sky.
I looked up and saw a ray of light. The rain had stopped and the clouds were now zipping across the sky, revealing the light behind them. My spirits lifted. One more point for Walls of Jerusalem.
Things were starting to look up.
After snapping a few shots at the Pool of Bethesda (I gave the Walls another point for the views there), we pushed passed Damascus Gate turning right to head towards Solomon’s Throne, our destination for today’s hike. Other than the crappy weather, the hike was actually rather easy. We left our bags at the campsite, giving our bodies a much needed break. The trail was mostly flat and the track was covered in raised wooden boards. The rain made some parts of the track wet and slippery, but apart from the occasion skip and a hop along the rocks on the side of the trail, we didn’t struggle too much.
Until we reached Solomon’s Throne itself… The trail to the top ascended over a steep mountain face covered in broken rock pieces. No railings, no real path, just us and the wallabies hopping around the rugged landscape. It wasn’t tough, but it sure wasn’t for the timid or vertigo challenged.
I held my breath climbing up, afraid to make one wrong step.
The views at the top were nothing short of breathtaking. (I awarded the Walls with 2 points for the views here). This was the rugged and isolated Tasmanian wilderness I had always imagined. And to think we almost didn’t make it up here!
After a short break and a snack at the top, we commenced our descent and our hike back to the campsite. The sun was now out in full force and I couldn’t believe how different the Walls looked without the fog and the rain.
The ancient pines were reaching for the skies, the chain of alpine lakes reflecting the blue skies. The trail was surrounded by mounds of green cushion plants. The western peaks of the Walls of Jerusalem stood stark against the blue sky.
It was spectacular.
And suddenly, the misery, the cold, the nasty rain, the wet feet, the sore legs, the aching backs were all worth it. In my mind, Walls of Jerusalem has now earned all the points it needed. My spirits were lifted.
It took us 3 hours to return back to our car from the campsite. The descent was still grueling, but we were charged with a new energy, a deep feeling of appreciation for the wild, a feeling of gratitude for what we saw and what we experienced.
Our hike to Walls of Jerusalem taught us a big lesson. One of misfortunes, good and back luck, and serendipity. Our time inside the Walls of Jerusalem National Park turned on a dime, taking our experience from miserable to unforgettable in a span of just one hour.
Serendipity is one of my favourite things about travel. You can plan your trip all you want, your can prepare well and set your expectations high, but if there is one thing I learned over the years of travel is that serendipity always has the last say. The only way to control it is to never give up and to believe that eventually, things will start looking up.
Essential Travel Info:
Getting there: The Walls of Jerusalem National Park forms a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The entrance to the Walls of Jerusalem National Park is located just off Mersey Forest Road. No vehicles are allowed inside the park, so access is on foot only. The track begins at a small dirt parking lot and accents through the Central Plateau.
Where to stay: The best place to stay the night before your trek is a small town of Mole Creek. We stayed in Mole Creek Holiday Village, a selection of cozy heated wooden cabins in the country side. The cabins had a kitchen and were completely self sufficient. You can book them through Agoda.
Inside the park, most hikers stay at Wild Dog Creek or at Dixon Kingdom Hut. There are no facilities at either campsite, other than a small wooden toilet, so all cooking and sleeping equipment must be carried into the park. The water in the running streams is safe to drink, however water from lakes and standing streams is best consumed after boiling.
What to do: If your schedule allows it, spend at least 2 nights inside the park. Your initial climb to Wild Dog Creek will take anywhere between 3-5 hours. Wild Dog Creek to Solomon’s Throne is 8kms (4 hour return). Wild Dog Creek to Mt Jerusalem is 13 kms (5 hrs return).
What to bring: Bundle up, it gets cold inside the park no matter when you are visiting. Down sleeping bags, jackets, rain gear, mittens and hats are strongly recommended. Hiking boots are not necessary, but are advised if you have them. Running shoes with a good grip will do in the summer. Don’t forget your camera – the views are fantastic!
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