Author Archives: dimcfarlane369

About dimcfarlane369

My husband Peter and I are currently travelling around Australia in our new Kimberley Kruiser.

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

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

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

Bird Watching – Petal Point To Bicheno (Tasmania)

5/12/18

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Ironhouse Brewery – Bicheno (Tasmania)

5/12/18  Di and I got itchy feet after four days at Pyengana, and headed down the mountain to St Helens to replace a recently-filled tank of water that tasted deplorable. Chlorine taste usually starts to dissipate after a few days but not that last lot. The Tasman (cough) Highway goat track continued on south from St Helens down the coast – very narrow and bumpy, camber all over the place and little elbow room between us and oncoming vehicles – until just beyond Scamander where it seemed to finally become a proper grown up thoroughfare.

The original plan was to go from Pyengana through St Helens and on to camp at the town of St Marys, but along the way Di remembered reading something about avoiding St Marys Pass if towing a van. Wikicamps provided us a good alternative, a nearby free camp at the Iron House Brewery which looked good for two reasons – 1. It was free; and 2. It had beer – both admirable ticks in my book. After sampling their beer taster, we headed in to the restaurant for lunch with terrific views overlooking McIntyre Beach. The stretch of coastline from the small village of Falmouth in the north to where we were at Ironhouse Point was our most favourite so far; snow white beaches, granite boulders, and beautiful turquois water. We camped in the brewery’s grassy bush camp area for three days, and had it all to ourselves until the final afternoon. I’d always thought it’d be rather convenient to live at a brewery. And I was right.

St Marys wasn’t too far away and we still wanted to see it. With the van left back at the brewery, we negotiated the twisty St Marys Pass on the way up the mountain range to have a look around the small town and the nearby villages of Cornwall and Fingal, and came back down through the even narrower and twistier Elephant Pass. With due care, St Marys Pass would be doable with a van, but I wouldn’t like to try Elephant Pass, up or down. After driving both these roads, we were glad Di had cautioned us away to our brewery camp.

Tasman Highway (Tas)

Continuing south down the east coast after leaving the brewery, the (cough) highway again narrowed and became a goat track. Everyone seemed to agree that it’s the worse road in Tasmania. We both felt that we needed a break from travelling, and went into a caravan park at Bicheno. The awning came out (which doesn’t happen all that often) and our initial booking of three days kept getting extended. It was just too easy to keep pushing it out. Our first three days were glorious – clear skies, mild daytime temperatures, and slight breeze – and we thought “Why leave?” The next four days were overcast and showery with 30-45kph wind gusts, and we thought “Why leave?”

Tassie’s climate is better suited to the production of white wines and Pinot Noirs. A handful of wineries also produce Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon blends and finding those has been part of our Tassie mission statement. Just out from Bicheno, an enjoyable couple of hours were spent at the Freycinet and Devil’s Corner wineries, sampling their reds and taking in the vineyard scenery, particularly the views from the distinctive lookout at Devil’s Corner fashioned from shipping containers. In fact, much of their cellar door and eatery facility was formed from a cluster of repurposed containers.

Despite the inconsistent weather, we enjoyed resting up in Bicheno. One evening, sitting on the foreshore rocks after sunset, we watched Little Penguins coming ashore across the rock shelves, just visible in the moonlight. And heading back up to the car to go, a small group of them were just off in the vegetation near where we’d parked. The following evening, we went off on a Devils in the Dark guided tour to see Tasmanian Devils. What an amazing experience. We sat in a glass-walled semi-underground viewing hide with wild Devils carrying on at eye level only a metre or two away outside as they fed on a kangaroo carcass. The first Europeans to Tasmania were apparently very freaked out by the unearthly wailing and growling sounds coming out of the bush at night. And we could totally understand their reaction; the group of seven Devils we viewed sounded like some zombie ghoul movie.

Just as the animal threatens to devour him, Bugs looks up “Tasmanian Devil” in his encyclopaedia and discovers that it’s a “strong murderous beast” that eats just about any animal. It doesn’t mention rabbits, and so the Tasmanian Devil, who has been reading over Bugs’ shoulder, pencils in “rabbits”. Bugs calmly asks, “What’s up, doc?” – Devil May Hare (1954) cartoon storyline

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

Pyengana (Tasmania)

25/11/18  The morning was sunny when we left Derby, heading east to the coast to St Helens and Bay of Fires. But climbing the winding Tasman (cough) Highway up into the hills, conditions changed to rain and fog. The narrow road (it’s not right to call it a highway) choked down even more in many places. We came across one tight switchback after another near Weldborough Pass and progress was down to just 20kph. By the time we started to descend, we’d only travelled 40kms with a further 26kms to go to St Helens on the coast. But I’d had enough, feeling a bit over-stressed and under-intoxicated, and we turned off to Pyengana to pull in to the recreation ground.

Pyengana isn’t really a town; it may have been once but now was mostly a cluster of farms; more a district. The recreation ground was a great little camp, a big green grassy area with large trees, toilets and hot shower facilities. 100 metres back down the road was the Pyengana Dairy with its Farm Gate Café where we had lunch and picked up some of their cheddar cheese – Tasmania’s most famous according to them – and some other condiments for a van platter. About the same distance up the road the other way was the well-known watering hole, the Pub in the Paddock, where we had a couple of drinks. Cold beer at the rustic bar, roaring fireplace and convivial publican made for a good time and we ended up chatting with a group of fellow travellers, also down from Queensland. Is anyone over 60 left up there?

The weather continued to be miserable – cold, very wet and gusty. We had no internet or phone reception at Pyengana and when I’d last checked at Derby, the forecast was for rain for the next 7 days. We decided to sit it out for a while before heading on to the coast and, fingers crossed, the glorious sunshine of the Bay of Fires. Much as we dislike the noise of those things, the generator was fired up to charge the batteries, but it does come in handy if you want to stay on in nice places like this in prolonged poor weather.

By the third day of rain, we were both coming down with cabin fever from being cooped up inside the van. There’s only so much reading you can do before going nuts. We decided to bust out, left the van at camp and drove to St Helens for a lookaround, did some food shopping, checked out the camping spots along Bay of Fires (found a likely spot), and had a beaut lunch of Tassie mussels at the Lichen Restaurant overlooking the sweep of snow-white sand of Binalong Bay, with its brilliant turquoise waters and red-stained shoreline boulders. Our day at the coast had been encouragingly warm and sunny, and we considered bringing the van down from Pyengana but word from the locals was that more rain was on the way for the next few days; and sure enough, by mid-afternoon it was raining and continued through the night back home in the van. Apparently, Tassie’s had a very dry winter and spring this year; it’s certainly making up for it now.

 

We took a drive north on gravel roads through mountain forests to the small coastal village of Anson Bay and nearby Policemans Point, and into Mount William National Park to the old lighthouse station on Eddystone Point. We checked out the beach and stormy seas for about two minutes before retreating back to the comfort of the car. In a sheltered spot out of the arctic winds, we had a picnic lunch and cuppa sitting on the tailgate of the Landy.

‘Stormy Weather Ahead’ (Tas)

Every blog entry since we arrived in Tasmania has mentioned the weather. A trend is developing.

“Why is the forecast so bland? Why instead of ‘stormy’ don’t they just say the sea’s ‘a frothing maelstrom of terror and hopelessness’?” 
― Jeremy Clarkson, For Crying Out Loud!

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

Petal Point – Derby (Tas)

21/11/18  Earlier this year, we’d travelled up to north Queensland as far as Laura and Cooktown. The average price of diesel for that 8,500km trip was $1.527 a litre. After 4,000kms on our current trip through New South Wales and Victoria to Tasmania, the average go-juice price has been $1.670 – up $0.15 a litre or an average increase of 9.4% from earlier this year. Two years ago, we did 29,500kms through western New South Wales, western Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and back, and the average fuel cost for that trip was $1.326 a litre. So, in two years, there’s been a 26% increase in average fuel price. And in NT and WA, we were buying fuel in some out-of-the-way places for totally outrageous prices which would have inflated the average price; that are 26% less than now! I wonder why diesel has risen in price so much? What’s driving it? My revenue stream certainly hasn’t gone up by that rate so it’s having a detrimental impact. Fuel is a big line item for what we do. ANYONE who can do SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT and MEANINGFUL about fuel pricing will definitely get my vote. That said, I’m old enough and ugly enough to know that that’s just not going to happen in this world of globalised corporate level playing fields; too many hands in too many pockets. I reckon the way fuel prices are increasing and incomes stagnating, it’ll eventually be cheaper to just hire people to push us around.

From Low Head, we travelled east on the Bridport Road through the coastal towns of Bridport (which we liked the look of) and Tomahawk (which we didn’t) to camp at Petal Point, located up in the top right-hand pointy bit of Tasmania at Cape Portland. We had the isolated coastal camp entirely to ourselves. From our elevated camp, we looked out on the blue waters of Foster Inlet, with Lemons Beach at our 2 o’clock, Semaphore Hill in the distance at 12 o’clock, and Baynes and MacLean Islands just a little off shore at 10 o’clock. That night, we saw our first wombat in the wild, very near the van; a big beefy bulldozer of a thing. There’d been wombat sign everywhere so were hoping for a sighting, and Di was very excited to have finally seen one that wasn’t lying dead on a road.

When we came in to Petal Point, the 50kms of gravel road hadn’t presented any problem, apart from being pretty narrow in parts and coating the vehicles in a fine white powdery dust, but throughout that night we had strong gusty winds and rain, and the following morning’s weather report warned of further heavy rain, winds and possible flooding. With the likelihood of it not easing for a few days, we were concerned about the state of the road going out and made contingency plans in case we needed to move. By lunchtime, the clouds had cleared, but mindful of the changeability of the Tassie weather, we decided to err on the side of caution and get the heck out of there while we could. So we headed south to the small village of Derby and camped beside the Ringarooma River (sounds like some country dance step at the local hall, doesn’t it).

Derby is a quaint little town sitting in a steep valley. Many old homes and buildings still exist, some refurbished as B&Bs and hostels for tourists. Derby owed its existence in the old days to tin mining. That’s all finished and the town now relies heavily on a vigorous trade catering to droves of lucre-clad mountain bikers who come to cycle rapidly along mountain bush trails. It looked all too energetic…perhaps an electric bike would have done the job for us…I should have asked about that at the mountain bike shops in the main street. Not sure how I’d look in all the clobber, though. As we sat by the van sipping our afternoon drinks, two ambulances and a police car sped past and turned up a bush track, to return a while later and load an unfortunate biker who’d face-planted a tree into the Westpac Care helicopter for a chat in Hobart with a maxillofacial surgeon. Ouch.

“My doctor told me I shouldn’t work out until I’m in better shape.” – Steven Wright

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

Bird and Animal Watching – Devonport To Deloraine (Tasmania)

27/12/18

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

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