Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Strahan 7 – 10 February 2008

The road to Strahan was windy and narrow and kept Peter on his toes and Heathers complexion green! Strahan is a very pretty little harbour town obviously set up for tourists. After spending 4 nights there we concluded it is dominated by one big tourist company! It’s very busy in the short high season with virtually every tourist taking the train and boat rides. A local told us that Strahan is still very hampered by isolation, very bad weather and difficult road. We decided to join the other tourists and take the train and the boat trips.

The steam train ride was an all day affair up the track following the original 35 km track that the pioneers built to carry the copper from the Queenstown mines to the port at Strahan. The day was very wet, cloudy and grey - very appropriate for the ride! The first part of the trip followed the King River, which unfortunately had been killed by the toxic outflow from the mines. The guide told us that very few animals or birds live in this area and there are still no fish in the river. They told us as normal not to put anything out the window. This was TRUE! The fronds and branches sprung back from the windows incessantly reminding us we were in the middle of a wilderness! The main feature was the section over a steep hill with a gradient of 1:12 (down) requiring the marvel of a system called a rack and pinion. You could feel the feel the jerking as the clogs constantly engaged. The day ends with a bus ride back to Strahan where Heather AND Peter both experienced green complexions!

The next day was fantastic, perfect weather with glassy water conditions and full sun! We took the day cruise to explore Macquarie Harbour. As the weather was so good they took us through Hell’s Gates, the tiny opening into the Harbour. They can only do this about 50 days a year! The opening is treacherous and only 75 metres wide! Convicts called it Hells Gates as this was the beginning of a terrible punishment at Sarah Island for the worst of the worst. The captains called it Hells Gates whilst they waited days for weather to improve enough to pass.
We then explored Sarah Island for an hour and were regaled with more horror tales about the convicts. The ruins are very sparse, due to the systematic destruction of most of the buildings by people who were ashamed of the convict history. Interesting features were the smallest solitary confinement cells we had seen (1 metre wide), the intact remains of the slip yard made of Blue Gum logs visible in to the water and the huge intact Huon Pine floor under soil and mud.
From Sarah Island we glided slowly and serenely up the majestic Gordon River whilst we enjoyed a wonderful buffet lunch. Gordon River had been saved from the Tasmanian Government’s plan to dam the Franklin and Gordon Rivers and no matter what your political view you could only be thankful it still exists in splendid isolation.
An interesting aside is the book that Heather has recently finished called Gould’s Book of Fish which is a fictional account of convict life much of which is set on Sarah Island. The “List of 100 Australian books to read before you die” recommend this one though it might be too graphic for some! The book really helps set the mood of life in Tasmania long ago!
Another wonderful experience was watching the Short-Tailed Sheerwaters (Mutton Birds) late at night returning to their nests to feed their young on Ocean Beach (a 30km long beach). The National Park Ranger guided those that survived the rough road out, through the amazing facts and stories of this defenceless and admirable bird. A few amazing facts are the annual journey to Antarctica and on to the Artic Circle is 30,000 kms and they return on the same date (i.e. same day!) each year to rekindle their romance with the same partner who they have not seen for the year! A problem arises if the nest has been destroyed as they can’t find each other! They live about 40 years repeating this same pattern. When the adults leave their mature, fat teenagers and fly off, the young eventually get hungry and work out how to get food and in a month follow the flight pattern without assistance. They never know their parents again! They estimate they have been doing this for over 1 million years! They also now believe the birds see the magnetic fields in colour and follow that. It felt very special to see them.


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