Arthur River – Lindsay River – Waratah (Tasmania)

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. 

Wood Piles In Scottsdale Area (Tas)

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 

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Latrobe – Boat Harbour – Stanley (Tasmania)

12/02/18  Honestly, we weren’t looking forward to pulling out of Gunns Plains. Three roads led in and out of the valley, each offering its own particular blend of steepness and windiness, and the thought of pulling the van up those hills came with a sense of unease. Over the course of our stay, we’d driven each of the roads on the various day trips we’d done and while they were no problem for the Landy, adding a van to the back would make for a whole different kettle of fish. But we had to choose one of them and settled on the road we’d come in on as being best of the bad bunch. In the end, though, it turned out not to be such a big deal after all. We were 160 litres of water lighter than coming into the valley eight days earlier and, fresh from its recent service, Landy bounded up the incline like a startled gazelle; well, not really, but she handled it with ease.

We returned once again to the campground in Latrobe to await Landy’s impending operation which went very well and by mid-afternoon the next day she was back from Launceston with a new wheel hub and front brakes fitted. Under a dreary overcast sky the following morning, we made preparations to head 90kms west along the coast to Boat Harbour Beach. The rain forecast for the next few days was without doubt brought on by our imminent plan to camp at a beach. It seemed our run of bad luck with Tassie beaches was staying true to form. Nevertheless, on the upside, rain was setting in right across Tassie, hopefully damping down the bushfires and easing the very dry conditions. Fingers crossed – a few days of inclement weather might allow us to complete our travel plans.

The drive to Boat Harbour was somewhat eventful. We were beyond Burnie, happily tootling along the Bass Highway at 90kph, when I suddenly realised someone had placed a bloody great roundabout in the middle of the road ahead – no warning sign, no reduced speed sign, no nothing. We were suddenly approaching the roundabout at speed on a wet road surface. Four-letter word expletives…jump on the brake pedal…grab the manual override for the van brakes…throw every anchor out the window…and hold on tight. We honestly don’t know how but the rig dug in and pulled up straight as an arrow on the wet road, with not a hint of the skid that I thought would happen for sure. The new front brakes would’ve played a big part but I think manually engaging and feathering the van’s disk brakes probably kept everything straight and prevented a jack-knife. Phew… The second thing that happened was a brick-sized wooden missile that dislodged from an oncoming log truck and hit the van with a loud wallop. Thankfully, we couldn’t find any damage at all, not even a point of impact. Phew again… Whichever guardian angel was riding with us that day, “Cheers, Mate.”

So, a little shaken but not too stirred, we pulled in to the free camp at Boat Harbour Beach later in the morning than we generally like to arrive because of an earlier detour to take on water at Forth. We were aware that the very popular small campground filled quickly, particularly the areas suitable for bigger rigs, and as we drove in a lot of vehicles were parked up close together and things weren’t looking too promising for getting a spot. By chance, as we pulled up to take a look on foot, a van was being readied for a late departure…and pretty soon we were backed in to an excellent spot overlooking the small rocky cove. That, however, was sadly the end of our luck for the day. No sooner had we finished setting up than the clouds opened, the wind picked up and it rained for the rest of the afternoon and on throughout the night. 

Both of us had a disturbed sleep from the continual rain and the wind shaking the van. Early morning showed little improvement to the dreary weather, but by mid-morning a glorious blue sky pushed the clouds away and the day brightened. We took a drive along the coast to nearby Sisters Beach and Rocky Cape, and checked out the tiny beach hut communities of Hellyer (isn’t that a great name, hell yer!), and Crayfish Creek. These tiny communities comprise a pack of old thrown-together shacks that have generally not weathered the years very well. They do have a simple style about them, though, of a bygone less-complicated time. It’s regrettable that so many of these classic thrown-together beach huts are progressively being replaced with contemporary two-storey McMansion weekenders that stand so discordant with the neighbouring cottages and wild landscape. They just look so wrong sticking up among the small shacks.

Di and I enjoyed our first proper swim in two-and-a-bit months in Tassie, in the invigoratingly cold surf at Boat Harbour Beach. Aside from a handful of board riders, we were the only ones in the water, bodysurfing the breakers and generally soaking up the sunshine while it lasted.

We took a day trip to Stanley and loved its well-preserved colonial buildings particularly those along the main street. We learned the street and other parts of town had been used as the backdrop for the filming of the movie “The Light Between Oceans” in 2014 when the historic town was transformed by a 1920s makeover. We enjoyed the galleries and many interesting stores along the main street, though not so much the one in which a slight tap of my heel while taking a step backwards caused a large $250 ceramic bowl to topple from its stand and shatter like a bomb exploding. I stood frozen feeling like Ferdinand the Bull in a china shop. Despite our apologetic offers to pay for the breakage, the gallery owner graciously declined and we beat a genial but hasty exit, to check out Stanley Hotel and its old cellar.

Back at Boat Harbour Beach, we were woken at 3:00am that night by gale-force winds shaking the van. Any possibility of more sleep similarly blew away. Bleak overcast conditions challenged the solar charging and, with so many RVs camped close together, I was reluctant to fire up the generator and spoil the damp tranquillity. So we opted to move on and indulge ourselves with the facilities offered by the caravan park at Stanley. Long showers and quick electric kettles become pleasurable treats in their absence, and help to make bad weather a little more tolerable. 

In all, we stayed four days in Stanley while the skies randomly varied between stormy and from-here-to-infinity blue, and all points in between. We took advantage of one of the brief dry spells to take the chair lift from town up the side of the Nut for a windy walk around the flattish top of the sheer-sided bluff which looms above the town. The views from the top were pretty special as was the chair lift ride back down that Di hadn’t been looking forward to owing to her experience on the Kosciusko chair lift. But this one was a baby in comparison and she enjoyed it. No sooner were we down than it rained…again.

On another day, we did the Tarkine Drive south from Stanley through Irishtown, looping east through Trowutta and around to Arthur River on the west coast, before heading north to Stoney Point and back to Stanley. The short walk in to see the Trowutta Arch was amazing, through a primeval forest of giant tree ferns. Everything was just the most verdant green and covered in sphagnum moss. Further on, we stopped for a while at Tayatea Bridge spanning the wild Arthur River and also at a flooded limestone sinkhole just beside the road which sat like a circular pond in the rainforest. This drive gave us our first real sense with the wilder side of Tasmania that we’ve been looking forward to seeing. We’ll hopefully experience more as we soon begin to head down the west coast. 

The wet weather continued and turned colder. We’ve heard it’s snowing on Cradle Mountain.

”There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” – Sir Ranulph Fiennes

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Bird Watching – Oatlands To Gunns Plains (Tasmania)

3/02/19

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Chudleigh – Latrobe – Gunns Plains (Tasmania)

3/02/19  The small rural village of Chudleigh, 60kms west of Launceston, had at one end of its main street a shop that made and sold honey products, a general store/cafe at the other end and, in between, plantings of roses forming a glorious hedge along the footpath. About 40 houses lay within the town’s boundaries. It was there that we again met up with Clem, who camped beside us in the small showground that hosts one of the state’s oldest agricultural shows. This year will be their 130th show.

The three of us took a drive through nearby Mole Creek to the Marakoopa Cave where we did a guided tour. The ancient limestone cave with its two subterranean streams, large open passages and vaulting Cathedral Chamber dates back more than 180 miliion years to when most of the continents of the Southern Hemisphere comprised the single super landmass of Gondwana. Pretty old. The glittering expanses of flowstone, delicate limestone straws hanging from the ceiling, and stalactites and stalagmites of all sizes were all remarkable, further complemented by an interesting tour guide who had a bit of a Gandalf thing going for him. But the definite highlight of the cave was the glow worms that lived on the ceiling of one section. When all the cave lights were turned off throwing the cave into absolute blackness, the tiny light from the glow worms appeared like a starry night sky. The Marakoopa Cave has the largest display of glow worms in a publicly accessible cave in Australia and we were pleased to have been able to see it.

We stayed on a second day at Chudleigh to look around the area while Clem did the nearby Higgs Track walk to the top of the Great Western Tiers and, before leaving Chudleigh the following morning, we all joined in the Australia Day Breakfast at the community hall, a $15 a head all-you-can-eat cooked breakfast, plus fruit, pastries, champagne, juice, tea and coffee. Chatting with the locals over a yummy brekkie was a nice way to kick off Australia Day.

To go on to Sheffield, we had a choice of two routes – either backtrack down the valley to the Bass Highway, or continue further up the valley and cross over the mountains. On the map, the mountain route was shorter and didn’t look twisting, meaning it shouldn’t be too steep. Worth a go with the van on, we thought. Man, were we wrong. While indeed not twisty, the road climbed straight up the mountain range, almost vertically it seemed. Down to first gear, speed no more than 10kph, I considered putting the Landy in low range but the very last thing I wanted was to stop and lose what precious little momentum it was clinging to. But, like the stout-hearted lady that she is, the Landy made it up and over.

After a quick stop at the boutique Seven Sisters Brewery in Railton to take on supplies, we had a look around Sheffield, picked up some gear in Slatters Country Store outfitters, and continued on to overnight in Latrobe where we’d spent a few days back in November.

The extensive Henley-on-Mersey Australia Day Festival was underway in Latrobe’s riverside park. We arrived in time to catch the finals of the wood chopping competition and were helped with the chopping rules by a small group of elderly gentlemen standing next to us in the crowd. With a cheeky grin and a sparkle in his eye, one character asked if there was anything else he could teach the ladies about. Tongue-in-cheek octogenarians – gotta love ‘em.

Before heading off the following morning, we took a stroll up the main street to show Clem the fascinating toy and gift shop, Reliquaire.

Our little convoy comprising Di and I in the lead and Clem following behind in her hire car took the Bass Highway north through Devonport and west along the coast to turn off at Ulverstone where we went south on back roads up into the hills around Mount Lorymer. Clem reckoned descending behind the van down the steep and winding road into the pretty Gunns Plains valley was the longest 9.5kms ever. Us too. We pulled into the Wings Wildlife Park and set up camp in a large open area beside the Leven River. It’s generally very pleasant camping on a waterway, but we’ve learned down here that it also comes with the nightly honking and caterwauling of the Tasmanian Native-hens. Roosters have got nothing on these little road-runner guys that look like a cross between a chook and those little lizard things that run around the forest in Jurassic Park. Once one starts up, all the others in the area race in to see what’s happening and start carrying on too. What a racket.

Clem stayed with us for three days, her small hiking tent tucked in next to the van. In the late afternoons, we sat by the river watching for the platypus that had a burrow in the opposite riverbank. The three of us drove to Penguin to have a look around and check out the undercover market that disappointingly offered mostly bric-a-brac rather than the handcrafted goods we’d expected. We also visited Leven Canyon in the Loongana Range where the river runs through 300-metre limestone cliffs carved by the water. Di and I did the individual walks from the carpark out to the two lookout platforms above the canyon, while Clem covered the additional 697 steps on the Forest Stairs track linking the two lookouts. That many steps didn’t appeal to us. On the way back to camp, Preston Falls was pretty despite having only a minor flow of water.

While Di and I stayed on at Gunns Plains, we said our final farewells to Clem as she headed off to complete her Tassie travels before flying out in a week or so to spend some time in New Zealand. After that, she’ll be returning home to France. It was great sharing parts of our journeys with her in Queensland last year and Tasmania this year. We’re certainly going to miss her and look forward to catching up again sometime, perhaps over her way, n’est-ce pas?

We took a drive to Burnie on the coast. The $1.00 coin I fed into the parking station to cover all-day Sunday parking was rejected, dropping $2.20 down into the change slot. A winner! At the second attempt the coin was accepted, and I had my parking permit, my money back and a tidy 20% profit. Who needs to work with investment returns like that? Keep it up, Burnie. I’ll definitely be back to play your parking station slot machines.

You know you’re in Tassie when you’re woken in the dead of night by a couple of Devils having a disagreement close to the van. And I thought the Native-hens were bad!

We took the Landy back to Launceston for a service that identified a failing wheel bearing (the source of a random noise that had been bugging us) and worn front brakes (no doubt due in part to the way-too-many hills down here). Consequently, we stayed on at Gunns Plains a little longer while Landy awaited her operation scheduled for the following week while parts were being choppered in from the big island to the north. In the meantime, we’ll be pulling up stumps to move a little closer to Launceston to avoid a repeat of the 4:15am alarm to get in to the mechanic by 7:00am. Anyway, the additional time at Gunns Plains allowed us to have another look at the rest of our Tassie itinerary before we row back across Bass Strait at the end of March. Plans have been revised, locked and loaded; we just need the bushfires to cooperate. They are down in areas we’re hoping to go next; but the way things have been going with the fires, we’re keeping a very open mind about that.

Pete Working Hard At Caravanning

 

 

“Stay safe in Tassie. Remember: Stop, Drop and Rock & Roll” – Shane McDougall, SEQ Campers and Gear (sound advice as always)

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Launceston (Tasmania)

23/01/19  I’m under orders not to keep harping on about the state of roads down here. Fine, but could I just say that heading up towards Launceston on the Midland Highway, we enjoyed a long stretch of good Tassie road – smooth, level and wide like a real road is supposed to be. So, yep, one does exist down here. Ok, that’s it; no more about the (cough) roads.

As there seemed a lot to see and do in Launceston, we figured on a stay of about six days at Old Mac’s Farmstay on the southern outskirts. Facilities were basic (no power or showers, and only limited toilets 500 metres away) which was fine as we’re totally self-contained. We’d expected the campground to be little more than a paddock, and were pleasantly surprised by the number of grassy sites to choose from. We settled on one beside a pleasant pond from which families of Tasmanian Native-Hens regularly emerged to graze on the grass around our camp. I got quite good at imitating their danger clicks, that had them scurrying for cover when they got too close and looked like doing a dump on our ground mat.

We liked the unhurried pace of “Launie”, its lack of traffic and abundance of parking spaces, and strolled around city centre, spending quite some time at the QVMAG Art Gallery and museum.

City Park offered a pleasant shady walk through old English trees and flower gardens and tucked away in one corner was Monkey Island, housing a large group of macaque monkeys from Japan. A glass wall and small moat separated the monkey-friendly enclosure from visitors, and we watched one of the macaques swim underwater.

Di headed off for a massage and I headed off to the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania that housed a mouth-watering collection of cars and bikes. MONA in Hobart displayed a very over-weight couch potato Porsche called “Phat Car”. Well, in Launie was the slim and fit version.

At Woolmers Estate near Longford, 25kms from Launceston, we took a guided tour of Australia’s finest example of a pioneer farm from the early 1800s and spent most of a day wandering around the collection of original buildings that comprise its farm village community. We also called in to neighbouring Brickendon Estate. They were established in the early 1800s by two Archer brothers and farmed since then by six generations of their families. The last heir of Woolmers died in 1994. Both farms were time capsules of the past as nothing was thrown away.

Cataract Gorge in Launceston came as a surprise. We’d expected to have to drive to it up into the hills, but it’s right in town opposite Royal Park. We took a walk across the old King’s Bridge and followed the South Esk River up along the gorge to the First Basin where the river widens forming a popular swimming hole and parkland area. Apart from seeing the gorge itself, we also wanted to see the art installation, Man, a 12 cubic metre illuminated sculpture of a man sitting cross-legged floating in the basin, part of the Mona Foma music and arts festival in the city. Turned out some kids had swum out and deflated it, so all we saw was a collapsed white shapeless bag floating on the water, clambered over by orange-clad people in search of the hole. The artist mustn’t have kids. Or they would have used material more puncture-proof.

We took a day drive out to Scottsdale, via Ledgerwood, which we were both disappointed with; don’t know where our expectations came from but we were expecting more of the town as most people said it was a must visit place. Morning tea at a tearoom on Springfield Farm owned by the McCallum’s, one of Australia’s few Amish families, made up for it though. Di had one of their Cinnamon Scrolls with her cuppa, and I couldn’t go past an apple and blueberry pie served with the best ice-cream ever. Everything was home-made and yummy. While eating, we noticed the absence of electric lighting, switches and power points in the tearoom, stemming from the Amish reluctance to adopt many conveniences of modern technology. The only concession to modern ways that we saw was the hand-held calculator used to tally up our bill, which needless to say was not paid by eftpos. The farm was interesting, with an extensive cottage garden comprising mostly edible fruits and vegetables interspersed with flowers. The diverse range of hand-sewn craft items offered for sale evidenced a definite lack of television and internet distractions. We came away with a large apple pie, homemade chili tomato sauce and a jar of raspberry jam. That night, while looking for information on Amish people in Australia, I came across a recent article on the McCallum family in The Sydney Morning Herald.

Heading home from Scottsdale, we detoured to Station Tunnel Road at Tunnel to see – yep – a railway tunnel. A short stroll along the disused rail line brought us to the stone mouth of the 1888 tunnel. We couldn’t proceed unfortunately because of a sign warning of unsafe conditions. And we’d forgotten to bring a torch anway.

I spent a few days batching on my own while Di flew to Brisbane for a family funeral. Staying behind to look after the rig, I got up to exciting guy stuff like emptying the toilet cassette and filling the water tanks. While the cat’s away, hey?

We’ve had a fairly eventful time in Tassie, experiencing all sorts of weather conditions (sometimes all in the same day) and now we had bushfires and smoke to think about. So far, the fires were limited to the Central Plateau and down the Huon Valley, areas we weren’t planning to be in for a month or so. For now, though, the issue was more about dodging the smoke. Having been in the Rural Fire Brigade in Queensland for 15 years, I can feel for the firies doing their best to deal with things in the hot gusty conditions. I think I’ve still got my firie boots back home with the soles melted from the heat of the dirt on the fire ground.

And we are still carrying around the bag of firewood from when we arrived in Devonport in November, unused because of the constant fire bans. I’m thinking I need to throw it away to cause conditions to improve and the ban to be lifted. – Me

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Oatlands – Ross (Tasmania)

10/01/19  Smoky conditions persisted around Richmond and Hobart and on down the Huon Valley from the large fire still burning upwind in the heritage wilderness area to the north-west. Hazard reduction burns being carried out further south contributed more smoke down there.

Accordingly, we saw little joy in continuing to head down that way; we’d simply be following the unpleasant smoke. So our route was revised and we’re now heading north to Launceston, to loop across the top to Stanley, down the west coast to Queenstown and back through the middle towards Hobart to head down to Bruny Island and Cockle Creek. That’s the plan for the three months left to us on Tassie before crossing back over to the North Island; for now anyway. Our plans always have a way of changing.

Following the 18-day layover at Richmond, we pointed the Landy north and within a short time were beyond the smoke column in clear air. 60kms up the Midlands Highway, our camp was in the village of Oatlands in a large paddock enclosed by a rustic stone wall. The paddock had operated back in the day as a sale yard with only a small remnant of the yards still evident. Now it held mobs of RVers instead of sheep. The Callington Mill was just over the stone wall. Dating back to 1837, it’s the only working Lincolnshire-style windmill in the Southern Hemisphere, and from our camp we could hear the rumble of the grinding stones in operation and we came across the various types of flour produced by the mill on the shelves at the local IGA.

A chap at the historical museum informed us there were 138 sandstone buildings in the town, 87 of which were located on the main street. This is apparently the largest collection of sandstone Georgian houses of any town in the country. Our stroll along the main street to check them out extended into the following day as there were just so many of them.

Across the road from our camp was Lake Dulverton Conservation Area with its large expanse of water attracting birdlife. Di spotted one she hadn’t seen before – a Flame Robin – a real show-off perched on a sign happy to pose for photos.

Our next frog hop landed us 35kms further north in Ross on the Macquarie River. A quiet village, bypassed by the Midlands Highway like Oatlands was, Ross has retained an English kind of quaintness as it hasn’t yet been too overrun by tourism. The place had its own share of beautifully preserved buildings and two award-winning bakeries. Sweet. While Richmond has the oldest stone bridge in Australia, Ross also has one, a sandstone bridge, the third oldest in Australia completed in 1836.

There are not a lot of koalas in Tasmania; none in fact. There’s heaps of Chinese tourists, though; everywhere, all wielding selfie sticks. Salamanca Market was a particularly high risk environment with an extreme stick-to-people ratio. We had to be vigilant not to get poked in the eye as we negotiated through the crowd. I just don’t get the stick craze thing. They’re everywhere, extended or retracted, attached to mobile phones that can no longer fit in a pocket or bag because of the stick thing. The need for a device designed with the single purpose in mind of enabling people to take photos of themselves eludes me. The poses are interesting to watch, though, and the process of taking 30 selfies before that one perfect spontaneous Instagram moment is finally achieved. It’s a shame the “narcissisticks” aren’t long enough to capture how ridiculous people look using them. These days the Generation Gap takes on a whole new meaning– old people use walking sticks, young people use selfie sticks.

“The Selfie Stick has to top the list for what best defines narcissism in society today.” ― Alex Morritt

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Bird Watching – Freycinet Peninsula To Richmond (Tasmania)

7/01/19

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Richmond (Tasmania)

7/01/19  With the Christmas holiday season on us, we’d opted to go to ground somewhere to wait it out till the campsites cleared of summer holidaymakers. Reasoning somewhere close to Hobart would give us access to sightseeing around there, we settled on a caravan park at Richmond, and booked in for almost three weeks. And for only the third time in five years, the complete canvas annex even went up to give us a “downstairs” living space. What a luxury; our home on wheels had doubled in size. We were compelled to buy a small table to furnish all that extra space.

Richmond is a quaint little village of many lovely stone buildings, and being only 30 minutes from Hobart, it’s a popular drawcard for day trippers. The close proximity was to our advantage in doing day trips the other way. The village is home to the Richmond Bridge, Australia’s oldest surviving large stone arch bridge, built by convicts in 1825. It’s still in daily use and coming into Richmond we crossed over it with the van. A couple of days were spent strolling around the local attractions and stores, including the old Richmond Gaol.

A little before Christmas, we caught up again with our French “backpacker daughter”, Clem, who was in Tassie doing some HelpX volunteer work at a horse riding property not too far away. We hadn’t seen her since July up in far north Queensland and it was great to meet up again. She also joined us for Christmas Day in the van for an antipasto Christmas lunch of cured meats, a variety of Tasmanian cheeses, nuts, fruits and marinated vegetables, accompanied by a local Shiraz and a Moscato for Clem. We dropped her in to Hobart the following day to meet up with her next HelpX host who operates a Gypsy Cob horse stud where she’ll be working. After seeing her off, Di and I took in the sights of the waterfront precinct and Constitution Dock, where busy preparations were underway in readiness for the arrival of the Sydney to Hobart Race yachts. We quite liked Hobart; lots of interesting old stone buildings and galleries and, aside from other things, parking meters that when you go to pay on a public holiday say, like “Nah. It’s cool. No charge for you today.”

Mawson’s Huts Replica Museum on the waterfront was a fascinating true replica of the historic hut constructed in Cape Denison, Antarctica, in 1911 by Dr Douglas Mawson’s Australian Antarctic Expedition. Constructed by heritage architects and builders, the replica hut was outfitted as closely as possible to the real one, even down to the soundtrack of blustery Antarctic winds playing in the background. Time was also spent in the Tasmanian Museum and quite a few art galleries in the vicinity, before we finished up over a pint of ale at Irish Murphy’s pub on Salamanca Place.

On the first Saturday, we headed in to Hobart to check out all the open-air stalls at the renowned Salamanca Market on the waterfront. It was bustling with around 300 stalls selling clothing, Tasmanian wood products, wines, knickknacks, all sorts of food and lots of other stuff. Well worth the visit.

A visit to the lookout on top of Mt Wellington was planned around forecasted clear weather, and for once the gods were kind. We had a beautiful clear day (ignoring the cyclonic winds up that high) with spectacular views down across Hobart and the Derwent Valley. Talk about a narrow, twisty drive up and back, though. It’d be truly hairy in rain or snow. I’ve yet to find a good road in Tassie (apart from a 4kms stretch of the Tasman Highway just east of the Tasman Bridge).

We were at Constitution Dock for the arrival of competitors in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race and found a great spot right on the finish line buoys. The first yacht to cross the line in front of us was the Tasmanian yacht, Alive, which ended up taking out overall race honours on handicap, the first Tassie boat to do so in nearly 40 years. What a buzz. We watching a couple more cross the line, and then headed back to Salamanca Place to take in the Taste of Tasmania Festival featuring food and beverage products from a heap of local Tassie producers. Yummy.

Speaking of beverage products, Hobart is the home of Cascade, Australia’s oldest brewery and second oldest continually-operating company. While Di stayed in the restaurant, I took a very interesting guided tour through the brewery that finished back in the restaurant with a beer tasting session. I also put my hand up to compete in a beer pouring competition. My game strategy was to fill the glass right to the top within the required time – minimum head for maximum beer. But the official Cascade standard apparently required a dome-shaped head about a thumb-width deep. Needless to say, I didn’t win but no worries, I got to drink the upsized beer I poured.

We occupied most of a day at MONA, the Museum of Old and Modern Art. Interesting place. The art had more to say to Di than to me but the building was fascinating, like nothing we’ve been in before. Imagine an Egyptian tomb crossed with an air-raid shelter that has aspirations of being a nightclub. The labyrinthine layout was very disorientating and had us regularly consulting the floorplan map, that itself could have been hung on the wall as an example of discombobulating Escher art. Everything about MONA was eccentric and interesting.

With good weather forecast for the following day, we drove back to Triabunna to spend the day on Maria Island, which we’d missed out on doing earlier due to crappy weather. Once on the island, the only modes of transport were walking and cycling; we chose to walk; more a trudge, really, as it ended up a very hot day under the Tassie ozone hole. But, it was worth the effort to see the Painted Cliffs and the convict era settlement of Darlington, maintained in a good state of preservation.

Absolutely everyone we’d spoken to about Maria Island had assured us we’d be tripping over wombats; they’d be everywhere. But after three hours of trudging in the heat, not one was to be seen. “Well, we’ve not seen more wombats here on Maria than we haven’t seen anywhere else in Tassie” I said to Di. A Ranger we spoke to reckoned they’d all be trying to keep cool and pointed us down to where we might likely find some. He was right; we came across one taking a midday snooze in a shady spot on the creek, along with a Potoroo and a couple of Pademelons which was nice. Note to self – wombats are best tripped over on cool days.

A morning was spent exploring the laneways of Battery Point located up beside Hobart’s waterfront precinct. The 19th-century housing styles were certainly diverse, ranging from tightly-nested cottages once occupied by waterfront workers and fisherfolk to large stone mansions of well-to-do merchants. Recent gentrification of the area has skyrocketed real estate values while still retaining the quaintness of the historic maritime village. We finished up our morning stroll with lunch at the old Shipwright’s Arms Hotel in one of the backstreets.

On our hottest day since arriving in Tassie, we visited a couple of wineries and cheeseries (is that a word?) near Richmond. The sky over towards Hobart was an ominous apocalyptic kind of red from a smoke plume stretching for hundreds of kilometres across the state off a large fire in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. Didn’t deter us from the tastings, though.

The remainder of our day was spent cloistered away in the van with the air-con cranked down to sub-Antarctic. For the past couple of weeks we’ve suffered the occasional day of very strong wind gusts. On the worst of them, the front annex wall bore the brunt of 65kph winds, billowing like the spinnaker on Wild Oats and bending the leading awning pole. I was able to engineer a replacement pole from bits and pieces from the local BCF, along with two bracing bars to stiffen up the awning frame. Our annex now laughs in the face of winds. I can fully appreciate what Douglas Mawson would have gone through, confronted with these very same issues down where he was – aside from the snow and temperatures and sled dogs, of course. Otherwise, exactly the same.

“We had discovered an accursed country. We had found the Home of the Blizzard.” – Douglas Mawson

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Swansea – Triabunna – Dunalley (Tasmania)

19/12/18  On the move south to Swansea, we came across one of those big LED road signs warning of roadworks ahead on the Tasman (cough) Highway. “Beauty”, I thought. “Finally some maintenance is being done to the Goat Track since it was built by convicts to the requirements of horse-drawn vehicles.” Up the road a bit, though, it turned out the roadworks in question were happening in a paddock just over a farm fence. What the…! That hardly count as road works.

Stopping for a tasting at the Milton Vineyard, we came away with a bottle of their 2016 Reserve Shiraz that I’m looking forward to cracking with friends, Ian and Lesley, when we see them on our way back up through Victoria next year.

Just north of Swansea, we free-camped for a couple of days nearby the boat ramp on the Swan River, where it feeds into Moulting Lagoon.

The other day, we took a a drive and ended up in this little hamlet up in the hills that looked to have been lifted out of the Great Depression; ramshackle houses in various states on dilapidation and decomposition, in yards littered with a lifetime of debris, and a general decomposing mouldy look to everything. I was inspired to sing the theme song to the 1960’s television show “The Beverly Hillbillies” from start to finish – “Come and listen to my story about a man named Jed. A poor mountaineer, barely kept his family fed…” and Di was looking at me like “I don’t understand how you can remember every word of that song.” Beats me; what can I say. Sometimes I can’t remember why I walked into the kitchen.

But I can remember when service stations had driveway attendants who came out when you pulled up at the bowser. A bloke would appear at your car window, fill your tank for you, check the oil and water, and clean the windscreen. That’s where the “service” part of the name came from. With my first car, a 1955 Morris Minor panel van, I’d be like “Fill‘er up, thanks, and put in a shot of upper cylinder, too” – sounds like some kind of cocktail but it was a fuel additive that I had no idea at the time what it did except Dad said to always add it to each tank fill, so I made sure I did. While driveway service has long since disappeared on the mainland, they still provide it in some petrol stations in Tasmania. First time I came across it was a little awkward, like “No, I can do it myself, thanks.” But then I kind of warmed to it. It’s nice watching someone else getting diesel over their hands from a crappy fuel nozzle.

And you stayed in your car the whole time, paid through the window and change was trotted back out to you. These days, you run the gauntlet from the servo entrance past the grocery aisles to the register, to maximise their chances of getting deeper into your wallet. Notice how far it is to the register once you’re inside the servo? Always the furthest end.

On the subject of cars, since the plastic shopping bag ban came in, does anyone else have plastic bags full of plastic bags in their car or is it just me? And like me, do you totally forget them until you’ve begun unloading at the checkout and just cave and buy more? Yep, I reckon by the time it becomes habit to take the bags into the store, I’ll be dead and gone.

On a section of the Goat Track between Swansea and Triabunna, we came upon the odd-looking Spiky Bridge, built in the 1840s on the old coach route by convict labour under the equivalent of the Work for the Dole Program. The purpose behind the bizarre placement of stones along either side is not known, but I figure it was to dissuade the convicts from sitting down on the job.

We’d planned on spending a couple of days in Triabunna to afford time to see Maria Island, but Di’s knee had been playing up and probably wouldn’t have managed a day’s hiking around the island. We decided instead to do a guided boat cruise along the coastline with some time to look around on shore as well. But, our run of bad luck with Tassie’s weather persisted and the combination of big storm fronts up in Victoria and North Queensland pushed the elements down on our heads. Staff at the local information centre told us that all Maria Island cruises had been cancelled for the next few days due to swells of up to 3 metres. “Oh, bad luck.” Quietly relieved that I’d avoided a probable encounter with seasickness, I consoled Di while shouldering open the door of the information centre against the winds blustering outside. We chose to move on rather than waiting out the bad weather, and come back to see Maria Island after Christmas when conditions would hopefully be kinder.

With a week to go before checking into our Christmas/New Year camp spot in Richmond, Di and I headed to the small village of Dunalley to free camp beside the hotel. It was a good place to leave the van while we went off each day in the Landy to the scenic and historic sites on the Tasman Peninsula.

First stop was at Bangor Vineyard where a bottle of their 2016 Abel Tasman 375 Anniversary Pinot Noir made its way into the Kruiser’s cellar. From there, we headed across the narrow Eaglehawk Neck onto Tasman Peninsula to the coastal features of the Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Blowhole, Tasman Arch, Devils Kitchen and Remarkable Cave.

A day trip to the historic convict precinct of Port Arthur was a much-anticipated highlight, made even better by a whole day of unexpectedly fine weather. Walking around the 100-acre penal complex in very warm conditions tested our fitness levels but with occasional assistance from the golf carts that continually cruised the facility offering assistance to weary tourists we completed the day and covered most of what was to be seen.

To provide yet another reminder that this was Tasmania, on the day we went to see the convict ruins at the Coal Mines Historic Site it was lightly raining but, between showers, it was still an enjoyable walk around the site. We thought it amazing how much of what would have been quite extensive stone constructions were no longer there, gone to whoever carried all the stone and other materials away in the intervening years. Between a period of time when the buildings served their intended roles and when they were finally recognised for its historic significance and protected by government, they would have been used for a variety of purposes by a succession of owners, mostly left to deteriorate, with various materials recycled off to somewhere else. Bushfires also caused a lot of damage over the years. It’s a shame that so much can vanish in a relatively short a period of time. Di and I also discussed this while walking around the penal facilities of Port Arthur; how mind-blowing it would have been for the convicts to try to imagine that in two hundred years’ time, thousands of people would pay to walk around those same facilities, picnic on the green and buy t-shirts emblazoned with “Guilty”. Time changes everything. I wonder what people two hundred years from now will think when they look back on us and how we lived.

Talk about a small world. One afternoon, we arrived back at the van after a day drive to find a Kimberley Karavan, our Kruiser’s smaller brother, parked next to us along with its Land Rover Disco 4 tow vehicle. “Nice outfit,” I thought. After introducing ourselves and chatting a little to the new neighbours, I realised they were Jake, his wife Amelia and son, Oliver. I’d corresponded with Jake via many text messages to purchase some Kimberley gear from him before we headed off on this trip. Though, we’d never actually met, here they were travelling in Tassie and parked up next to us. Huh! They were a lovely family (7 year old Ollie is mad keen on Land Rover so he’s off to a good start in life) and it was great to get to know them over a couple of drinks across at the pub. And quite by chance, we also met up again with Mirjam from the Netherlands who we’d first met at our Pyengana camp. She pulled in to stay the night, recognised our van and knocked on the door. It was great to catch up with what we’d all been up to since then and to hear of her wilderness hiking experiences.

It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small world after all. It’s a small, small world. – Be honest now, you couldn’t help signing along to that, could you.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Coles Bay (Tasmania)

9/12/18  It’s very easy to get badly sunburnt in Tassie due to its close proximity to the hole in the ozone layer. In addition to that anomaly, there’s a further irregularity I’m convinced is at play in Tasmania concerning the space-time continuum that causes kilometres in Tassie to be unlike kilometres in the rest of the known Universe. On the mainland, 32kms gets you to Bunnings and back for a tap washer and sausage sizzle. 32kms in Tassie gets you from our camp in Bicheno to the camp in Coles Bay. Now, mainland Australia laughs out loud at 32kms between camps. 32kms doesn’t sound far but, after driving it to Coles Bay, my force was spent; I was ready to curl up for a nap. Perhaps at this point I should bring up the very ordinary condition of the Tasman (cough) Highway on which we travelled those 32 Tassie kilometres; that black hole of a (cough) road that demands every bit and more of your concentration, saps your energy and transforms your usual Ghandi-like demeanour to that of a cranky bugger. Take a deep breath, Pete…breathe…

So, 32kms of goat track later, we reached the Freycinet Golf Club at Coles Bay. Besides providing quite good facilities for the striking and pursuit of small white balls, the club also offers a low-cost camping area for self-contained RVs and the occasional sneaky backpackers who slip in late and bolt early minus the payment. After setting up and a cuppa, we headed off around the area in the Landy to check out coastal views and note impressive homes and weekenders for when we crack the big Lotto win.

The community of Coles Bay was surprisingly smaller than we’d expected given its reputation as one of Tassie’s Must-Do destinations. Still, it was refreshing that the township still retained an authentic laid-back feel about it, not yet worked to death by developers. The scenery of the bay and views across to The Hazards were as good as we’d been led to believe; as were the wind gusts that came close to blowing us both off our feet down on the beach. We stopped in at the Freycinet Lodge resort in the National Park to have a break from the wind and partake of D&Vs (drinks and views) in the lounge looking out across Coles Bay. The terrific view was ours for the mere price of some drinks instead of the $1100 a day accommodation rate.

There are a number of ways we could have seen iconic Wineglass Bay, on the opposite side of the Freycinet Peninsular just a short distance south of Coles Bay – take a pricey day cruise around to the bay; take an even pricier scenic flight over it; take a less-expensive water taxi to nearby Hazards Beach and then hike across the rest of the way; or drive through the national park and hike up to Wineglass Bay Lookout to look down on it. We took the last option. The grade 2 walk sounded suitable; easy enough for Di’s knee. She did very well, despite misreading the brochure – it was actually a Grade 3 walk. An hour of walking and climbing many, many steps paid off with a terrific view down onto Wineglass Bay. While an overcast sky dulled the colours of the water, the view was still great. I mean, who can hope to emulate those professional tourism photos anyway. I just couldn’t see the wineglass thing, though.

At Friendly Beach, Di caught a fleeting sight of an Eastern Quokka (Twenty-Third Tick for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List) as it darted across a track and into the scrub; another tick on her Animals in the Wild list. Have I previously mentioned the wind in Tassie? Well, that wasn’t really wind. We now know what real wind is after visiting the Cape Tourville Lighthouse. Man, was it ever windy standing on that boardwalk that wraps around the top of the cliff like a large horseshoe! I thought I was smart swapping the Akubra for a cap, but it blew off into the bush pretty quickly. The views across Carp Bay and Sleepy Bay and into the white sands of Wineglass Bay were absolutely spectacular. And across the bay, we watched as a solid white cloud front spilled over the top of the ridge of Cape Forester and crept down towards the bay; just awesome. A little way offshore below us, seals basked on the rock shelves of one of The Nuggets islands, including some big bulls that were getting into it about something. Di got lots of sea bird shots, some of new birds including a Shy Albatross. Most of my panorama shots didn’t turn out; smooth pans being impossible to manage in the buffeting winds.

It’s so windy it’ll blow a dog off a chain, that’s if it doesn’t hang itself first.

Categories: Animals In The Wild List (AITW), Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,