17/02/19 Heading off from windy Stanley on the north-west coast, we continued west to the end of the Bass Highway near the tiny township of Marrawah (the last fuel stop for quite a while), then turned south on the Arthur River Road and began making our way down the Tasmanian west coast. We set up for a night in the Manuka Campground on the outskirts of the small coastal village of Arthur River, Tassie’s westernmost settlement.
Unhitching the van, we backtracked a little way north to see the Aboriginal shell middens at West Point, renowned as one of the largest aboriginal occupation sites and one of the richest known shell middens in Australia. We also drove in to Bluff Hill Point, Tasmania’s most western spot if you discount the offshore islands. There was little there aside from an unmanned lighthouse and lovely low dense shrubby coastal scrub, but it got a tick on Pete’s Extreme Points of Mainland Australia (PEPOMA) List (revised version, now incorporating the diminutive heart-shaped smidgen of land down at the bottom of the Main Bit).
Returning back to Arthur River village, we crossed the long single-lane wooden bridge spanning the Arthur River to check out the Edge of the World plaque on the rugged coastline at Gardiner Point on the southern side of the river mouth. At this spot, the tannin-coloured waters of the wild Arthur River pour out from the Tasmanian wilderness to meet head-on the raging forces of both the Great Southern Ocean and Roaring Forties winds. The rugged coastal landscapes here were truly spectacular. Bleached trunks and limbs of enormous tree carried down from the Tarkine wilderness were stacked along the shoreline from the river mouth, having been expelled into the ocean and washed up on the rocks in untidy piles.
Back at camp, I was doing something outside when this bloke walking by asked “What does it weigh?” I didn’t quite catch what he said and asked “Sorry?” “How much does this thing weigh?” he repeated, waving a finger towards the Kruiser. When I told him the weights, he pondered for a moment and replied “So, that’s pretty much the same as a caravan then.” “Yep…pretty much…I guess” was all I could manage in response, as he continued on his walk. He left me standing there scratching, wondering just what he thought it was if not a caravan.
Next morning, we packed up and headed south to meet the unsealed Pieman Road that would take us down towards Corrina. As far as gravel roads go, it wasn’t too bad, damp from the regular showers and with many water-filled potholes that, if you couldn’t avoid them, sent sprays of dirty water up over the bonnet and windscreen. Both the car and front of the van were soon plastered with white mud – beauty cream for Land Rovers and Kimberleys. I was stoked to again be on a gravel backroad, driving through some lovely country. At most we managed only 60kph on the snaking track – not a problem, we had plenty of time and the leisurely pace afforded an opportunity to enjoy the scenery. Camp was in a small clearing in the low scrub just off the road where it crossed the Lindsay River, just us. It was a lovely spot with nice views of the fast-flowing tannin waters and birdlife for Di to pursue; only the occasional 4WD going past on the road to disturb the solitude.
We continued on the next morning, across the Lindsay and Donaldson Rivers, following the twisting Pieman Road over hills and ranges, the gravel track ahead looking like a white snake on the green hills. Only on one section just before the Corinna turnoff did the Landy have to go into low range to pull up a very long and steep incline. Fortunately the especially steep sections were all sealed; otherwise they’d be very hairy in the damp. After Lindsay River, the road narrowed, becoming steeper as we went up and down mountain ranges, taking us steadily higher as we went along. At one spot we stopped for a cuppa and seemed like we were on the top of the world. At a fairly calm pace that wouldn’t be too hard on the vehicles, the 112kms from Lindsay River to the small town of Waratah on the edge of the Tarkine wilderness took 4 hours, and in that relatively short distance we were surprised at how the flora changed – from low coastal heath, to dense woodland, to alpine shrub, to tree fern rainforest.
Winters are to be taken very seriously in Tasmania, it seems. We have never seen such elaborate, well-prepared wood piles as those that are commonplace throughout Tassie. Though, to call them “wood piles” is very much an understatement as they more closely resemble woodblock fences or hedges than piles, more like dry-wall stone farm fences but made of wood, uniformly about chest height, with each split-wood block placed with all the care of a master stonemason. The stack I’m presently looking at as I write this is in the backyard of the house bedside our camp. It comprises a few hedgerows of tightly stacked split-wood blocks, each stack approximately 10 metres long. The effort that has gone into creating these would have been considerable. Different colours of the blocks indicate that it was laid down over time, not all at once, with fresher timber evident against the paler and much drier older pieces. As the guy was working to add yet another row with more wood, I went over to the fence to complement him on his workmanship and asked how long it all would last. “Just the winter. Usually about 30 metres worth each winter”…they measure their wood piles in metres down here.
We spent a day at Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, doing the 3-hour walk around Dove Lake, and then the shorter Enchanted and Rainforest Walks. The area was extraordinarily beautiful and, honestly, trying to describe the rugged peaks, moor, lakes, tarns and ancient forests wouldn’t do it justice so I’m not even going to attempt it. So instead, here are some shots we took on the walks. While the day was generally overcast and drizzly, we both agreed the misty conditions added to the atmosphere of the mountainous location as well as keeping us a little cooler on the walks. And true to form, we saw lots of wombat poo but no wombats. Though the two nasty looking Tiger Snakes coiled up just beside the boardwalk trying to get warm gave us pause.
“No internet at Lindsay River. There’re enough trees around, you’d think we’d be able to log in.” – Pete