Armidale – Scarborough (New South Wales – Queensland)

29/05/19  Our homeward journey continued, north from Gulgong on the Black Stump Way to Gunnedah, then on through Tamworth to Armidale – another big day of travelling that took well over five hours to cover 400kms. By the time we arrived at our friend Warren’s property near Armidale, we were more than ready to get out of the car. Over a nice pasta and a bottle of shiraz, we spent the evening catching up on all we’d been up to since last seeing each other in October on our way through to Tassie. 

The next morning, we continued on, overnighting at a rather worn out caravan park in Tenterfield where dusty cobwebs in the amenities block were deserving of heritage listing, and then headed east the following day over the Great Dividing Range towards the coast. At one stage, while driving through the mountains, we heard above the music a sound very much like the squeal off a dry wheel bearing, and with a feeling of dread, I turned off the music and lowered the window to better hear what might be causing it. The repetitious high-pitched bell-like sound was in fact the calls of Crested Bellbirds, coming from the forest around us. There must have been lots of them, all having a morning sing-song, as their distinctive calls accompanied us for several kilometres through the hills. 

Beyond Lismore and its many annoying roundabouts, we pulled in to a caravan park in South Ballina, had a bit of a rest, and visited our friends, Ros and Dean, for a great evening at their lovely home beside the Richmond River. We’d last seen them over in Perth in 2016 so it was great to catch up again and share an enjoyable meal together. In Ballina for a couple of days, we also visited Janet at her home at Ocean Shores and for lunch at The Middle Pub in Mullumbimby, and later in the day met up with another friend, Anna, for dinner. Lots of socialising with friends and eating out in Ballina, and also a visit to the re-opened Kimberley Kampers headquarters and factory to touch base with James, Brett and Adam. Wonderful to see KK back up and running again and carrying on the production of great recreational vehicles.

There should be sympathy cards for getting to the end of a trip. After 203 days away and 12,800kms, Di and I are now back home in Scarborough, busily cleaning out the van and car, contemplating ways to shed the few extra Tassie kilos collected along the way (I refer to my kilos, of course; I would not risk commenting on Others’), and settling back into apartment living. It took two days to breathe life back into the dishwasher (who knew it had a Smart hose from the water tap!) and track down why all our free-to-air TV channels had gone dark during our absence (someone had unplugged our cable in the Comms Cabinet. Nice one). So, we’re back to static living…and contemplating the next trip. Where to? Don’t quite know for sure yet. Somewhere.

I’m a travel addict on the road to recovery. Nah, just kidding. I’m really on the road to __________ (fill in the blank)

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - Queensland | Tags: ,

Hamilton – Gulgong (Victoria – New South Wales)

25/04/19  Leaving Winchelsea, Di and I took a couple of backroads north to meet up with the Hamilton Highway and  follow it west, past dry, sweeping paddocks scattered with sheep, to the town of Hamilton. It was a pleasant drive until a light smattering of raindrops on the windscreen soon developed into a heavy downpour that buffeted the car and van with strong side winds. Once again, the weather had come along with us, and we were discussing going into business as Rainmakers. We set up at Hamilton in a caravan park by the lake, and headed around to catch up with our old friends, Ian and Lesley. 

We’d last called in on them in Hamilton in May 2016 on our way through to SA and WA, and it was great to again catch up at their place over drinks and dinner. Ian’s like me, he loves to cook with wine, and sometimes even adds it to the food. Needless to say, a few corks were pulled (doesn’t that sound better than ‘screw caps were unscrewed’; a little of the romance has been lost with the introduction of the wine bottle screw cap) and we settled in to nine enjoyable days of picnicking and being shown around the district, and evenings of good hospitality and conversation in the warmth of their fireplace.

Hamilton had a nice, comfortable feel about it, with its gardens and autumn-toned trees very reminiscent of Toowoomba where we used to live. And despite a reluctance to leave, inevitably our stay came to an end and we headed off to begin making our way back home to Queensland. 

We spent a very cold night in a pleasant recreation reserve on the outskirts of the small town of Glenlyon, near Daylesford, in a large area bordered by old oaks and river gums. The next morning, we continued north through bone-dry sheep country, through Shepparton, and crossed over the Murray River into New South Wale at Tocumwal. From the bridge over the river, hundreds of vans and motorhomes could be seen parked up on the Victorian side for the Easter long weekend. The riverside camping area looked more like an RV sales yard, and I reckoned I could have stepped from one van roof to the next for the whole length of the campground; they were so close together. Not my idea of getting away from it all to commune with nature. We were hoping to soon stay again at our favourite camp spot on the Murrumbidgee River, but guessed that it would be just as popular over the school holidays as the Murray was, so best to be avoided.

80kms north of the Murray, at Jerilderie, we camped at a quiet spot beside Billabong Creek, and had the place almost to ourselves apart from a family camping in a 4WD and tent. It had been a big drive that day, 330kms, massive by Tasmanian standards, but a good drive on mostly long, flat roads, non-existent by Tasmanian standards. Our travelling mojo was back and we were once again enjoying the road. At Jerilderie, we were deep in Kelly Country. Ned and his gang held up the bank and post office in 1879, burning all the mortgage documents held by the bank and shouting the bar at the Travellers Rest Hotel to the cheers of all in the room, before making a getaway with their ill-gotten booty on stolen police mounts. Our camp spot was only a 5-minute stroll along the creek to town where these shenanigans occurred 140 years ago, and it was easy to picture it as we looked at the buildings that still stand in the small town’s main street.

The Landy clocked up 200,000kms, of which 90,200 have been done on our travels since June 2014. We’d started to think the return trip back to Queensland was going to be fairly quick. Only two days out from Hamilton, we’d done some big distances, each day longer than the previous. We both weren’t feeling like doing much touristy stuff, just finding nice camps and taking it easy. Our focus was pretty much on getting back home to see everyone and having a break from travelling. Anyway, we decided we were coming back to the Daylesford area again for a longer visit at some stage, so will catch up with everything around there when we do. 

The small town of Canowindra was our next stop after an overnighter at The Rock, and we headed there through some very pleasant country that steadily became greener, paddock dams began to have water in them and paddocks carried healthy-looking sheep with tiny, white new-born lambs at their sides. We were fortunate to arrive at Canowindra during the Balloon Challenge held in the town each year. We woke in the morning to the roar of balloon burners and the visual spectacle of 30 or so hot air balloons taking flight from the paddocks nearby. Several floated slowly over our camp spot just above the tree tops, calling “Hello” down to us. What a great way to start the day. This time around, the free camp was much busier than last October when we came through on the way south to Tassie, but was still a good little overnighter located beside a flowing stream.

From Canowindra, we took the Molong Road to bypass Orange and connect with the Mitchell Highway that took us north to Wellington, where a turn east took us through the hills to Gulgong. We camped at the grassy showgrounds for three days in the shade of pepperina trees. The further north we travelled through New South Wales the warmer the days were becoming. Overnight temperatures were still pleasantly cool, but the days were regularly reaching the high 20s and sometimes into the 30s. So we took advantage of the available power at Gulgong to enjoy some relief from the midday heat, courtesy of the van’s air-con. It was also an opportunity to catch up with the laundry and take long hot showers. Let me tell you, a little glamping every now and then goes a long way.

There is nothing better than scrubbing the road off your skin and changing into a fresh, wrinkled set of clothes.

Categories: Travel News, Travel News - Multiple States, Travel News - New South Wales, Travel News - South Australia, Travel News - Victoria | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tooradin – Winchelsea (Victoria)

8/4/19  To catch the evening ferry over from Devonport to Melbourne, that morning we departed Low Head, headed across the Tamar River’s Batman Bridge, went on to Latrobe and parked up for the remainder of the day in the campground there. Latrobe was just 15 minutes from Devonport, placing us on the starting block for the final run in to the terminal later that evening. At the slightly delayed time of 10:00pm, and following a long wait in the vehicle queue staring at the rear end of a Viscount caravan owned by Des and Gloria from Victoria who preferred UHF Channel 40, we boarded the Spirit of Tasmania, bade farewell to the Apple Isle, and hit the sack in our overnight cabin. All the anti-seasickness medications ingested and voodoo paraphernalia strapped on me and shoved in me had me sleeping the sleep of the innocent right through the night until woken by the breakfast alarm at five bells the next morning, very refreshed…only to look across at a rather tired-looking Di. The caffeine in the anti-seasickness medication had kept her awake most of the night, and by morning she’d gotten very little sleep. Still, one consolation was that she was able to provide me with a good account of what was apparently a bumpy crossing in parts. I was glad I slept through it…

Di and I were aware of some low overhead bridges in Melbourne that de-roof the occasional unwary bus and truck. At 4.0 metres high, they are OK for most caravans, but the rail bridge on Montague Street had only 3 metres clearance, definitely not enough for the Kruiser. So, to ensure our exit from the Melbourne terminal would be smooth and uneventful, I got into preplanning the route to avoid the Montague Street Bridge. However, as we rolled out of the terminal and into the morning traffic, my well laid plan very quickly fell apart. A momentary hesitation caused us to miss a crucial turn, which had us ‘recalculating’, and winding our way through back streets and along main streets until we rounded a turn onto…yep, Montague Street, with its dreaded low overhead bridge visible in the distance. What the…! How did that stupid Google Maps manage to bring us there, bearing down on the van killer bridge in Melbourne’s morning peak-hour traffic! Fortunately, I’d read about the detour signs that divert high vehicles safely away from the bridge and, spotting one on the left, followed it into a side street and along to a right turn, and then along to another right turn, that took us…back to an intersection with bloody Montague Street and the bloody bridge just there on our left! What the heck sort of detour was that! 

So there we were, now much closer to the bridge, facing onto the main road with bumper-to-bumper traffic both ways, not able to turn left because of the van killer bridge, and very little chance of breaking across the traffic to make a right turn away from the bridge. We were going to be there for life. But, I have to say, just when it seemed our darkest hour and all hope lost, Melbourne’s peak-hour drivers restored my faith in the human race…as the traffic both ways parted like the waters of the Red Sea, magically opening a hole before us, and like the winger of my youth, I saw the gap and took it, sidestepping and squeezing the rig through. I swear as we drove away from the bridge I could hear Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus playing in my head. Melbourne, you can keep your bloody low bridges all to yourself.

So, with that welcome, we were now back on the mainland after five months travelling throughout Tasmania. Reflecting on our time there, in the main we enjoyed it despite the criticisms sometimes mentioned in our blog. We loved the historical buildings and the many well-preserved examples of its colonial past. The erratic weather we disliked, sometimes intensely, and hated the dreadful goat-tracks passed off as (cough) roadways. Road signage was constantly confusing as to when to turn (I understood there was a consistent standard for road signage throughout Australia, but apparently that’s not the case), and fuel was a little more expensive. Making a full bodied red wine down there seemed problematical (their pinot noirs are award-wining, but not so much for me). And their thing for firewood and plantation forests had us fascinated. But for all that we disliked, there were many, many aspects of Tassie that more than compensated, like the scenery, and the cheeses, and the chocolates, and the scenery, and the food, and the beers, and the smoked salmon, and the scenery… The amount of fresh roadkill (mainly possums) was just crazy, but they have these things that clean it all up overnight, called Tasmanian Devils.

We now know that after managing the mountain roads down there with the van, we can handle any roads anywhere. And in terms of its weather, the island felt like it should be positioned somewhere off the coast of England. Yes, the weather had not been kind to us, but the locals kept saying it was an unseasonal year and they needed the rain, so I couldn’t begrudge them that. Tassie to us stood apart (excuse the pun) from anywhere else in Australia. It’s so compact, and yet took so long to get anywhere. In our travels around Australia, we’d left Tassie to last, being tucked away right down the bottom of the country and requiring an expensive ferry trip to get to. We’d always been intrigued by the place and the wildlife, and were glad we went.

Anyway, after escaping the madness of Melbourne’s low bridges and traffic, we chilled out for two days at the Tooradin Foreshore Reserve on the shores of Western Port, then headed for a few quite, relaxing days at a nice camp beside the Barwon River at the town of Winchelsea, 120kms south-west of Melbourne beyond Geelong, doing no touristy stuff at all, beyond taking the occasional walk around town and checking that the beer was cold at the Barwon Hotel. It was nice to just sit and not do anything for a few days. And the getting there was great – our first long, flat, straight stretch of road in five months…Woohoo!

“When I was a kid, the world was such a big place, and I had no idea that I would be afforded these great moments in between doing what I love to do. I’m able to actually choose places to go which have intrigued me for the last god knows how many years, and Tasmania’s always been one of those places. I see it all and yet I see so little because it’s so fast.” – Robert Plant, Led Zeppelin

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

Richmond – Low Head (Tasmania)

31/03/1  We headed north from Geeveston, along the Huon River to Huonville, then east through the hills to Kingston at the mouth of the Derwent River, further north through the busy traffic of Hobart, across the Tasman Bridge, and on to Richmond where we’d spent a couple of pleasant weeks over Christmas/New Year. It was nice to be back in the historic town with its interesting stores and nearby vineyards and cheeseries. And, despite arriving under blue sunny skies, weather was yet again on the way. The temperature dropped and no sooner had the awning gone up than it began to mizzle. Is that where the word “miserable” comes from; if not, it should be. The despondent weather kept us from doing very much at all, but we did venture out one evening to catch up with Jenny and Lesley, our previous Richmond camp neighbours who’d moved on since we last saw them, replacing their home on wheels for permanent hard walls at nearby Old Beach, and met up with them for a lovely dinner at their new house. 

After four days in Richmond, and with just under a week to go before catching the Spirit of Tasmania back across the Ditch to Melbourne, Di had a notion to see out the remaining time up at Low Head on the north coast where we’d camped back in November. With all the rain that’d dogged us down in the south, she was wishing for some fine weather at a beach to build up her Vitamin Sea. Low Head is located on the eastern side of the Tamar River mouth up on the north coast, about 220kms from Richmond. So we headed up through the middle of Tassie, breaking the trip with an overnight camp in Campbell Town beside the old Red Bridge, interestingly, now the oldest surviving brick arch bridge in Australia and the oldest bridge anywhere on the National Highway network.

When we arrived at Low Head the next morning, it was, unfortunately, yet predictably, true to form – overcast, blowing an icy gale, with rain and mizzle. We even had hail, small, but hail nevertheless. I said to Di “That just leaves snow on the list of weather we haven’t yet had down here.” I wasn’t ruling out snow just yet, though, as higher parts of Tassie had indeed had snow falls from this latest bout of cold weather. The temperature dropped to zero overnight and I was looking forward to maybe building a snowman on Di’s beach if conditions didn’t improve. 

We took a drive for a big day in Launceston; a big day, firstly, for the Landy with the dead tyre replaced (hallelujah, no more annoying TPMS alarm going off every time it was started up), and a big day for Di as well, with a 90 minute massage from her new bestie masseur, Dan, followed by a 90 minute hair pamper with her new bestie coiffeur, Rosie. Me, well, I found a dark corner somewhere, read my book and drank coffee. Well…OK, I did manage a couple of beers in there as well to pass the time. 

Back at Low Head that afternoon, and determined to have at least one camp fire in Tasmania, I set up the fire pit, broke open the firewood bag we’d been carting around since NOVEMBER (!!), only to find… it was filled with crap milled softwood offcuts. Note to self: Don’t ever buy firewood from a servo in a plastic bag you can’t see through, because, like Forrest Gump’s chocolate box, you’ll never know what you get. What with the almost pious fascination in Tassie for all things ‘firewood’, I’d certainly expected only the best quality hardwood, right? Nope, this wood was so full of sap, it actually bubbled and sizzled in the flames and gave off as much black smoke as an Iranian oil field in Desert Storm. Half the bag produced just enough coals to cook the chops. Anyway, I had at least had my campfire (and burned off the rest of the wood the next day to get rid of it).

Low Head – East Beach (Tas)

Low Head – Lagoon Beach (Tas)

So, with the crossing looming, we’re looking at where we’ll go next week in Victoria, and Di wants Ballarat. Guess what’s in the news this morning…out-of-control grassfires west of Ballarat! Is it just me or are we hexing places just by thinking of going there? Anyone would think we’d been bitten by a DNA-twisted spider that bestowed us with mutant Bushfire Thought superpowers.

Well, it finally happened. Give Tassie enough time and it can produce glorious weather. Some days are diamonds, and we’ve just had five of them in a row. So, why couldn’t the first nineteen weeks down here have been like our final one? Oh, well…

“Que sera sera” – Doris Day 

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

Southport – Geeveston (Tasmania)

19/03/19  Five days of bleak overcast skies and steady showers at Gordon had us yearning to go onto 240 volt power somewhere. Our solar panels had been constrained by only short bursts of sunlight through fleeting gaps in the overhead cloud cover, and while the generator (as much as I dislike it) provided a noisy alternative, there’s nothing quite like plugging into power in prolonged wet weather. Besides, we needed to catch up on the laundry again and put the dehumidifier to work drying out the condensation generated by the two of us in the closed up van. So we moved across to Huonville and down the Huon Valley to the small community of Southport, located close to South Cape, the southernmost point of mainland Tasmania. The local pub operated basic caravan and camping facilities out the back, but most importantly offered power. Beer on tap was also an additional drawcard.

Daytime temperatures this far south continued to be pretty cool, and with much colder nights. Where we stood at the whale sculpture at Cockle Creek, 30kms south near South Cape, we were in fact closer to Antarctica than to Cairns, and were feeling it too, despite being all rugged up. Cockle Creek is the most southerly point able to be reached by road in Australia. From nearby South Cape, if you were to somehow travel due west, the next landfall you’d make would be South America, and to the east it would be the narrow sliver of New Zealand with nothing beyond that until South America came around again. So this part of Tassie is very exposed to the effects of the Roaring Forties winds that sweep around the world in these forties latitudes, bringing with them very changeable and often extreme weather. 

Back at camp that evening, we shared a glorious log fire in the pub bar with a small group of travellers and locals. The Southport Hotel is Australia’s most southerly watering hole, bookending nicely the drink Sim and I had up on Thursday Island at the northernmost pub when Sim, Andrew and I did our McFarlane Boys to Cape York Trip in 2013. One of the locals mentioned that deer could often be seen in the bush along Lady Bay Road, so we took a drive out that way the following day in the hope some might be around. Unfortunately, though, none were but it was still a nice drive anyway. We stopped off at Lady Bay for a look along the stony beach, collecting some pieces of washed up bull kelp that Di reckons she’ll get creative with when we’re back home.

Geeveston – Platypus (Tas)

Following two days at Southport, we moved on to Geeveston, to camp in the large, grassy and park-like Heritage Reserve, located just behind the main street and bordered on the far side by the small Kermandie River, home to platypus. Geeveston was an appealing little town with a focus on tourist visitors. We found a number of interesting stores in the town centre including a little eclectic shop where we picked up a couple of cheese boards made from Tassie timbers, one of huon pine, at the most reasonable prices found so far. They were made by a young local man in his startup business. Tasmania has a thing for large wooden carvings; we’ve come across them everywhere, and Geeveston had a few located around the town centre honouring past and present local identities. We feel we’re both a little over chainsaw sculptures.

Our granddaughters, Anna and Charlotte, play this travel game where they call out “Spotto!” whenever they spot a yellow car, and the one with the highest count wins. Along the Huon Valley, I’ve been calling “Spotto!” whenever I see a Land Rover…and it’s driving Di nuts as there are just so many of them down this way, old ones and new. This area south of Hobart is like Land Rover heaven. And, you know, their drivers are all eager to give out a wave to a fellow LR driver as they go by, ‘cause we’re such a friendly bunch. But, after the first dozen or so of my spottos, I sensed that Di was tiring of the game when she started yelling at me. Guess she didn’t understand…it’s a Land Rover thing…even I don’t understand it. 

We did a day trip to have a look around nearby Franklin and Huonville, and went on to the bakery at Ranelagh for a loaf of their fruit and nut sourdough bread that we’d come across previously and made a point of noting where it came from. It was yum, but probably not good for the waistline (who cares!). The highlight at Franklin was a guided tour through the Wooden Boat Centre where a number of small wooden dinghies and boats were under construction by students learning the craft from master boat builders. The centre provides a number of short courses for anyone wanting to learn boat building skills, and I regret not knowing about it until too late in our visit down here. I’d have loved to have taken the two-week course on building a wooden-framed Inuit kayak. There were a lot of apple orchards around Geeveston, all bearing fruit. We called into one and purchased a big bag of tree-ripened apples for $3.

It was so pleasant at Geeveston we stayed on for a few days. I had a look at the tyre we blew at Waddamana a couple of weeks back, but unfortunately the hole was too big for a tyre plug to seal. Maybe it wasn’t the nail that did the deed. Looks like I’ll be sourcing a new tyre in Hobart. A lesson for the lazy: air down properly on gravel roads.

This area down here completes our planned tour of Tassie. We’ve pretty well covered all the areas we’d intended to visit in the five months here, so from now on we’ll be working our way back up through the middle, stopping off at a few places and doing day trips in the meantime, before catching the mainland ferry at Devonport in just under two weeks’ time. I’m looking forward to some flat country and straight roads…

5 things I like almost as much as travelling: thinking about travelling; talking about travelling; watching TV shows about people travelling; reading books and blogs about people travelling; coffee.

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

New Norfolk – Gordon Foreshore Reserve (Tasmania)

12/03/19  Dropping down from the Tiers, we followed alongside the meandering Derwent River, now considerably wider than up at its source on Lake St Clair, and pulled in to the riverside town of New Norfolk, checking into the local caravan park for a few days to wait out the bushfires and smoke that was hanging in the air. Smoke hazard alerts had been issued for the Derwent Valley, Huon Valley and Hobart, so on power it was way more comfortable in the air-con, avoiding the smoke and staying warm during a couple of very cold days that brought snow to nearby Mt Wellington. The cool spell was well-timed as it helped to douse the fires.

We took a drive out to Mount Field National Park and walked in through a glorious forest of tree ferns to the picturesque Russell Falls, after which we drove on further to Lake Pedder and the spectacular Gordon Dam. The country out there was just spectacular with rugged mountain peaks and rocky ridges overlooking glacial valleys, and near Maydena vast areas looked blackened and apocalyptic from recent bushfire.

Our itinerary was adjusted, once again, due to the looming public holiday long weekend when all the coastal camping sites would be packed out with local holiday-makers. So, heading south through Hobart, we leap-frogged past a few of our intended camp spots to pull up in the foreshore reserve at Gordon where we’d sit out the three-day weekend. We were fortunate to find a good spot in the almost full campground where we could look out on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel and across to Bruny Island. The awning went out, the ground mat went down and we were comfy.

We took a day drive back up the coast to check out the small communities of Middleton, Flowerpot and Woodbridge (where we had lunch in the restaurant at the Peppermint Bay Hotel ), then headed across to Cygnet and Glaziers Bay on the Huon River, to follow the shoreline right the way around back to Gordon. It was a very pleasant drive through some lovely farming country. 

Rather than taking the van across to Bruny Island, we decided to do a day trip instead as a few people had mentioned it could easily be got around it in a day. So we put the Landy on the vehicle ferry at Kettering for the short trip across the Channel to Bruny and headed down to the South Bruny National Park in the hope of seeing an albino wallaby, high on Di’s wish list of animals to see in the wild. On the way, we stopped off at the Big Hummock, mid-way along the narrow Neck joining North and South Bruny, to take in the view from the lookout and walk on Neck Beach. Down at the national park, after unsuccessfully stalking around in pursuit of the elusive white wallaby, we were about to give it all away when we wandered into a particularly promising patch of bracken fern and came face to face with the rare white wallaby (Twenty-Fourth Tick for Di’s “Animals in the Wild” List) in all its glory in its natural habitat. And there sitting alongside it was its non-albino mate. We did our best David Attenborough impersonations, slowly making our way in quite close to them, all the while whispering in voices heavy with a Cambridge education. “Doing a David” worked for us, but it became plainly obvious these wallabies were very used to being gawked at and photographed by tourists as they were not at all disturbed by our presence. It was a lovely encounter, and Di was ecstatic at seeing a white wallaby after looking forward to it for so long.

We tucked into the Bruny food trail, starting with lunch at the Bruny Island Seafood Restaurant, then on to the local Chocolate Company for a selection, and following a drive down the western shoreline to Cape Bruny Lighthouse, called in to Australia’s most southern winery, Bruny Island Winery, for a glass of pinot noir and a shared slice of cheesecake, finishing off with a cleansing ale at the Bruny Island Hotel, Australia’s southernmost pub. We were on the island on the last day of a long weekend, which meant getting off again involved a wait of an hour and three-quarters in a kilometre-long queue to board the return trip, even with three ferries operating. Still, we were in no hurry, the weather was pleasant, and the view nice. In fact, the scenery and water views were lovely everywhere on Bruny. It was certainly a picturesque place.

“Queueing is the only word with five consecutive vowels.”

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

Bird Watching – Wynyard To Tarraleah (Tasmania)

3/03/19

Categories: Bird Watching, Travel News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tarraleah (Tasmania)

3/03/19  In a rest area beside the Bronte Lagoon Bridge on the Lyell Highway sits a large stone cairn erected in 1983 by the Tasmanian Division of the Australian Institute of Surveyors to commemorate the State’s early surveyors. Of particular interest is that the surveyors placed the monument at the geographical centre of Tasmania. This spot, then, makes it onto our list of Extreme Points of Mainland Australia (revised version, now incorporating the diminutive heart-shaped smidgen of land down at the bottom of the Main Bit) that we’ve so far visited on our travels.

We relocated a mere frog-hop to Tarraleah, a small town in the Central Highlands built in the 1930s by the Hydro Electric Commission to house construction and maintenance staff in the early days of Tasmania’s hydro-electricity system development. The town ceased to serve that function some time ago, was put up for sale and purchased in its entirety to be restored as a boutique recreational and leisure resort, including caravan and camping facilities. It was quite an unusual place to stay a few days while we had a look around the area, and the small herd of Scottish Highland cattle in the paddock over the fence made it all the more bonnie, ye ken?

Pretty much the entire Central Highlands is dotted with lakes and lagoons, most interconnected by open canals and pipelines to serve the State’s extensive hydro-electric generation process. Near the resort, huge pipes run steeply down the side of a valley, gravity-feeding water to the Tarraleah power station sitting far below the resort.

Di and I “spoked out” from Tarraleah for a looping day drive which took us north on the narrow gravel Marlborough Road to Miena on Great Lake, then around south to take another winding gravel road, Bashan Road, down to the old Waddamana Power Station Museum, then further south to Ouse (pronounced Oose as in “There’s a moose loose in ma hoose at Oose, ye goose”) for go-juice, and back to camp at Tarraleah. It was a good drive through the mountainous countryside, large sections of which had been burnt out in the recent bush fires that had come right in up against the communities of Little Pine, Miena and Waddamana. We pulled into many of the lakes and lagoons to check out camp spots and scenery, and especially liked the old power station at Waddamana, Australia’s first hydro-electric power station, commissioned in 1916 and decommissioned in 1964. What a job it would have been to construct the facility and its water supply system mainly by hand labour. Fortunately, shortly after its decommissioning, the power station was established as a museum to its former self and so has retained all its facilities and records intact and its wonderful power generation equipment in near pristine condition. It was well worth the visit. Our museum tour ended on a bad note though when Ian, the Curator, came to inform us that the Landy was outside with a flat tyre. Bugger. Ian graciously pitched in to help with the tyre change and, for his troubles, was presented with what I believed was the offending Waddamana rusty nail. 

When we were camped at Richmond over Christmas, there was a guy there who’d appear every time someone new pulled in and hit them up with rapid-fire questions – “G’day, what’s your name? Where’re you from? Where’d you come from today? What’d your van set you back?…” and on and on. We got the initial interrogation and the same whenever we got back from a drive – “Where’d you get to today? Did you have a good drive?…” and on and on. Lesley and Jenny in the van next door called him “The Greeter”. Well, we met a guy at Tarralea who could be his brother. We called this one “The Greeter” too. Same as the Richmond Greeter, he’d appear whenever anyone new came in, or came back from being somewhere, or was just standing in the one spot too long. But unlike that guy, who wanted to know everything about you, this new Greeter wanted you to know everything about him – where he’s from, where he’s camped, what he’s seen, his many medical issues…and on and on and on. Efforts to steer the conversation off-topic to something – anything – else would be doggedly ignored to continue on-topic (sigh). Did you ever meet someone for the first time and want to buy them a toaster for their bath tub? 

After three days, we snuck out of Tarraleah under The Greeter’s radar, to head south-east to our next planned camp spot before spending a few days in Mount Field National Park. But we seemed to be driving into more and more smoke as we went along and, enquiring at Ouse, learned that fires had again flared up in Mount Field National Park and a couple of places down the Huon Valley from the recent hot and windy conditions. We seem destined not to see these areas, and are holding off at New Norfolk for a couple of days to see what happens with the fires.

Best to be philosophical about it, I guess.

“To be is to do.” – Nietzchzche
“To do is to be.” – Sartre
“Do be do be do.” – Sinatra

Categories: Pete's Extreme Points Of Mainland Australia List (PEPOMA), Travel News, Travel News - Tasmania | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Derwent Bridge – Bronte Lagoon (Tasmania)

28/02/19  The stretch from Strahan to Derwent Bridge was a big one – 126kms on a flat map – but then Tassie is hardly a flat map. From go to whoa, it took us four hours. Leaving behind an overcast Strahan after four glorious days, we headed east to Queenstown and a quick fuel stop, before continuing on to the tiny community of Derwent Bridge. Whereas the haul up to Queenstown was winding and slow-going, the stretch beyond Queenstown up to the Central Highlands was far, far worse. Through switchback after switchback, we climbed higher, past Lake Burbury and into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park where, beyond McKays Peak and Mount Arrowsmith, the landscape finally levelled off and we rolled into Derwent Bridge to free-camp at the pub. Man, there are some hills down this way. As ever, Landy performed like a trooper.

By now, we’d left the wild shoreline of the west coast behind us and its “stuff you, in your face” attitude of nature’s elements. We’ll miss the rugged coastline but had little alternative as we’d simply run out of roads and couldn’t go any further south from Strahan. The country beyond there was so wild and mountainous as to be impassable for even the most determined Landy, let alone with a van in tow. Most of the information centres around the State have these 3D wall charts of Tassie hanging up that prove the theory you can shred a cauliflower on just about any parts of the State with relative ease. First time I saw one of those charts, I freaked at the terrain and re-evaluated our itinerary because there was just no hope of getting into some of the areas we’d intended visiting.

The small cluster of buildings that make up Derwent Bridge, strangely enough, are located either side of a bridge over the Derwent River, only a rivulet up here with its origin about 6kms north at Lake St Clair at the southern end of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. We stood at the spot where the lake waters spill into the narrow Derwent to begin their southward journey to Hobart, and took a couple of short walks around the very scenic shore of Lake St Clair, through temperate rainforest to Watersmeet where the Hugel and Cuvier Rivers meet, and to Platypus Bay but it was the wrong time of day to see an Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus. The beach was particularly panoramic, though. Our walking track met up with the famous Overland Track that starts 65kms in the north at Ronny Creek in Cradle Valley and ends at the Lake St Clair lodge, so by turning left onto the track at the junction and returning back to the lodge, I guess we can say we finished the Overland Track, right? Driving on a side road after leaving the lodge, we came across a young wombat making its way slowly across the road in front of a wombat crossing sign – how appropriate was that. 

Ever since arriving in Tasmania, we’d been looking forward to seeing The Wall in the Wilderness by sculptor Greg Duncan, and as the gallery is located at Derwent Bridge we were finally getting to see it. We’d heard from friends just how special it was, and weren’t disappointed. The lifelike detail of the wood carvings was stunning. Photos weren’t permitted and wouldn’t do justice to the skill and beauty of the carved panels anyway, so we purchased two of their books on the amazing artwork as keepsakes. The day was finished off with a drive along Harbacks Road, a rocky bush track that had scrub brushing against the sides of the Landy, to an isolated stretch of the Lake King William shoreline where we spent some time exploring before heading back to camp. Early the following morning, a call from outside of “Are the McFarlanes up yet?” had us out for introductions with relatives of fellow Kimberley Kruiser owners, Fred and Di, who we’d enjoyed meeting (over many convivial wines) at a camp in Sale, Victoria in 2014. Small world, hey?

After two days at Derwent Bridge, we moved on to a quiet little bush camp beside Bronte Lagoon, just 30kms east. The view across the lake was beautiful and for most of the day we had the place to ourselves until late in the afternoon when three vans pulled in to fill the small camp spot. Them’s the breaks. It’s rare to have a spot to ourselves, especially in Tassie and more so if the spot is listed on WikiCamps, unless we take a less beaten track as we did with the Pieman Road recently. Anyway, they were nice folks and we ended up joining them for refreshments before dinner, sharing some yarns.

“From the abundance of these creatures we are thinking of calling the place Ornithorhynchus Paradoxus Glen, only the name is rather short.” – From an account of Morton Allport’s trip to Lake St Clair in 1863 in a letter written in March 1863 to his brother, Curzon.

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

Strahan (Tasmania)

25/02/19  From Zeehan, we took the Henty Road south to Strahan, a good drive that followed the coastal route of the old railway link, more gradual and pleasant than via the twisting Zeehan Highway route higher up in the mountains. After setting up the van at the Strahan Golf Club, we checked out the coastline at Ocean Beach, Tassie’s longest stretch of beach, running north of Macquarie Heads and Hells Gates. We also drove in to the northern shore of Hells Gates at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour.  This is one of only a couple of places around the massive harbour accessible by vehicle.  

The main accessible spot is the town of Strahan itself, located on the northern shore of the harbour. On- and off-street metered parking zones around the tourist attractions and small town centre area let us know we were back in civilisation. But it came with a kind of ripped-off feel to be confronted with parking stations in a sleepy town that really doesn’t offer a great deal for visitors beyond a handful of attractions, albeit iconic Must-Dos – the heritage train ride to nearby Queenstown, a cruise boat around the harbour and up the Gordon River, and a sawmill and gallery devoted to Huon pine timber products.  We’ve been to many larger towns in Tassie offering many more things for visitors that provide free on-street parking, so we couldn’t quite see where Strahan’s council was coming from with their set up. The parking cost was immaterial; the principle was of much greater value. Our initial drive around Strahan left us wondering where the main part of town was, that perhaps we’d missed it. Guest houses were everywhere, so people obviously must come to stay in Strahan, but we saw very little to cater for those visitors. We saw cafe, restaurant, supermarket, and petrol station facilities – but just one of each, most of which you had to pay to park at. Decidedly odd. Council’s definitely got it wrong, we thought; so did some of the local businesses who suggested not to pay as it’s not policed anyway.

Our booking for a day-long heritage train ride from Strahan to Queenstown and back got changed to a half-day journey between Queenstown and Dubbil Barril and the King River Gorge due to mechanical problems, but in hindsight we reckoned the 4-hour ride was enough. The steam train took us deep into western Tasmania’s cool temperate rainforest, we panned for gold at Lynchford Station (no luck), climbed the steep mountainside at Rinadeena Saddle, under the power of the Abt rack and pinion system, the only operating Abt rack and pinion railway in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoyed terrific views down on the King River Gorge, and watched the locomotive being turned on the turntable to haul the carriages back to Queenstown. You wouldn’t write home about the food but the regular commentary on the PA was very entertaining and informative.

Our other big splurge was a gold class World Heritage Gordon River cruise. The weather gods were kind for once and we had a glorious clear and still day for it, one of only 20 or 30 days in the year that allowed the boat to sit off the Cape Sorrel lighthouse after exiting the heads of Hells Gates, and the water inside the harbour and along the Gordon River was as still as a pond. The food on the “Red Boat” was terrific, with local smoked salmon, Tassie cheeses, fresh salads, meats, etc – yum. The cruise wasn’t cheap but was well worth the cost and was a definite highlight of our trip so far. 

Back at Strahan that afternoon, we took in the play, “The Ship That Never Was”, Australia’s longest running play in its 25th year at Strahan. What a hoot; we had a great laugh, and fortunately dodged getting dragged up on stage to play a part in the script, as it’s very big on audience participation. We had a ball.

Our four days at Strahan were marked by great weather. Odd town but we really enjoyed our stay and the activities.

“Steam engines and train rides in swaying carriages through glorious scenery are the stuff of dreams.” – Roger Smith

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

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: