Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Marrawah 21 February 2008
After having a look around Smithton, we set off for the west coast. This will be the last area of Tasmania for us to explore and is signalling that the end is near.
Marrawah consists of a pub, a tiny general store with very little, a hall and two churches. Green Point, reputed to be one of the best surfing beaches in Oz, is a few kilometres down the road. It is a dedicated camp spot and made a lovely overnight stop. While there wasn’t much surf, we enjoyed walking along the beach in the warm sun. It was a still calm afternoon and the beach looked like one of the best east coast beaches. We explored nearby dirt roads and found deserted beaches that were intersected by beautiful rocky outcrops with wind tolerant vegetation of autumn tones and varied textures. Sections were devoid of sand and filled with large rolled rocks. There is a lot of kelp on the beaches and there is a small industry drying kelp for fertilisers.
Quite a few campers crowded n to the allocated space which is a rare experience for us. It was still very peaceful as everyone respected each other.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Monday, February 25, 2008
Smithton 20 February 2008
After a short drive, we settled by the water at Smithton. This is the only town in the area with any facilities and it is supported by local farming, timber and fishing industries. It is much prettier than we expected, being on a river estuary, with a small harbour of boats. We found the leatherwood honey we tried at the beginning of the trip and loved was harvested here! It won first prize award from Hobart Royal Agriculture Show. We think we can tell the difference in leatherwoods now!
Saturday, February 23, 2008
Stanley 18 - 19 February 2008
After a slow start we set off along the coast to Stanley, enjoying the undulating farmlands and coastal views of rolling surf. Stanley is a very pretty place, small and quaint, but openly very dependent on tourists. Most of the old houses are renovated B&B’s.
Stanley is dominated by a pugnacious plug of basalt, known locally as The Nut.
We climbed The Nut, a strenuous hike up the VERY steep path, rather than wimp out and take the chair lift. While we used muscles we didn’t know we had, we had the satisfaction of feeling…… half dead!
At the top we had an hour’s circuit walk with superb views of the ocean, the town and the farming hinterland. The view was much better than we had expected! It is hard to imagine that early settlers cleared most of the vegetation in days of old and grazed sheep right up here! I only thought goats could make it! We had two nights of free camping – the first on the old wharf area with about 20 other vehicles (all buffeted by quite a strong wind), so the next night we chose a quieter sheltered spot near the showground. Phew!
Parked for the day by the waters edge on the lee side of the Nut on the beach and felt like we were in Gerringong. Same look, but no green grass on the headland!
Set off to visit Highfield, the home of the original settlers of this area. The Van Diemen’s Land Company, established in London by businessman, merchants and politicians, was granted 250,000 acres of land in the south-west and were virtually potentates of this region. It took nearly 80 convicts to keep it going! When the convicts were no longer available it all fell apart! This part of Tasmania was considered to be very poor land, as the company soon found this out, when ninety percent of the Merino sheep died in 2 years - too cold and wet! Though it was tough then, the company still survives and has farms in the area today!
One of the disturbing aspects of life at Highfield was the regular excursions where Aboriginals were killed. A letter written by a lady visitor describes the honour felt by the settlers in killing natives and she stated that their goal was to exterminate them entirely!
Friday, February 22, 2008
Sunday, February 17, 2008
Wynyard 15 – 17 February 2008
Woke up to a very cold morning. Examined the car and it was covered in ice and frost. Frost on the grass as well with the car thermometer stuck on minus 2deg! The morning quickly turned into one of the most beautiful days. The weather man tells us there is a high stuck over Tassie! We had a wonderful trip travelling out of the alpine landscape and stopped at a high spot to look out to the many mountain peaks. Heather found a number of special flowers that were still out, even though the best time to see them is late spring and early summer. I think we were a little late - another time!
Stopped along the way at Hellyer Gorge for lunch and enjoyed two short walks along the river and into the forest. The river bed was strewn with large smooth rocks showing the force of the river when the snow melts. We moved on through lots of state forests in various stages of harvesting in great contrast to natural forest and suddenly we were in farming fields with hay and livestock again! We had not seen any of this since New Norfolk! It was surprisingly very dry and yellow, not green as it was in November as we approached Wynyard. It was so warm and summery after frost for breakfast. Back into sleeveless tops! The town looked so pretty and lively! This was a big surprise to us! We came here one, cold wet Sunday afternoon and found it to be miserable! How impressions are made and can be so opposite!
We joined in with the local Film Club in a lovely restored theatre to see a 2007 French movie, Orchestra Seats. We really enjoyed it and loved the chocolate brownies and cuppa as a finishing touch!
Next day was more perfect weather. After spending the night in the official free camp at the cricket grounds we moved down to a perfect spot for the day on the harbour, (to avoid a cricket ball through the window)! Peter scored well at the garage sales, we read the Australian, BBQ’d lunch in the park, walked the local streets finding nectarines on an overgrown tree in the street and chatted with fellow travellers! Back to the Cricket Grounds where we had to wait with 4 other vans for someone to get “out”! We actually watched cricket, as it did not finish until 6.30. The evening was so beautiful no one wanted to stop! Had another quiet day on Sunday and enjoyed the ambience of the town.
Cradle Mountain NP 13 – 14 February 2008
We treated ourselves to breakfast at the chalet overlooking the water! Then back to the motor home to watch the Sorry Ceremony. We were pleased the day had finally come when we have a government that has the generosity to acknowledge past injustices and path the way to start to deal with the present problems. From our experiences, there are no easy answers to the multiply issues facing Aboriginal communities, so we will have to see how these new initiatives work.
After the broadcast, we had another walk down around the lake to pick blackberries and two dishes later we were off!
We drove to Cradle Mountain and as we climbed higher and higher the vegetation became distinctly alpine. We settled down in a quiet spot, had a hot lunch and went on two short walks to the Pencil Pine River/Falls and the Enchanted Walk. It was cool and fresh as expected and we found the Native pepperberry bush growing everywhere as well as moss, lichen, massive tree trunks, tree ferns and running water. Water levels are low and the melting snow must bring the most wonderful energy to the creek and river beds of smooth, rolling stones.
The night seemed very cold so we bunked down with the lot! It was 5deg outside when we went to bed! The motor home was well insulated! Up to a cold, windy but SUNNY day! Rugged up in 4 layers on top and double trousers, scarf, and beanie as it was 5deg again! Dove Lake was a wonderful sight with Cradle Mountain towering behind. The wind bit into us in the early part of the walk but settled at the half way point! It was a walk that we did not want to finish - so many different experiences in one walk. We saw a huge rock ledge scrapped smooth by a glacier, lake beaches of tiny smooth pebbles, gnarled weathered trees, old pencil pines, strange ferns recalling dinosaur landscapes, alpine ferns, sassafras, towering King Billy Pines and the iconic boat shed built from that same pine! An extra special find was the white boronia Heather found that had a lovely lemony perfume! We took our time and Heather wanted to go around again! We didn’t, but we do need to come back!
We did another walk to King Billy Forest and were in awe of these huge 40 metre trees. Visited the Parks Information Centre to learn a bit more about this unique place!By this time we had made a plan to “invade” the guest section of the Lodge - happy hour, the papers and evening snacks! Back to the motorhome to bunker down for another cold night. Clear blue skies at bed time equals cold, cloudless nights!
Tullah 12 February 2008
We got up early to visit the museum in Zeehan, which houses a very impressive collection (in the former Mines School), with extensive information about mining. Kept us busy until lunch time by which time it was raining, misty and grey! Off onto new towns through lovely forests and lush, green, fern valleys. Stopped in Rosebery (the home of mining company Zinifex!), and onto Tullah. Rain kept coming down! Tullah has a beautiful location and is another old mining town that developed into a modern hydro workers town in the 70’s and is now in major decline. A local bought a house here 5 years ago for $17,000! We spent a nice evening before tea in the Chalet by a big log fire overlooking a perfect lake.
Zeehan 11 February 2008
We stayed in Strahan by the water, catching up with a few tasks and left late in the afternoon. We do have to do a few things from time to time! We enjoyed a fairly quick trip to Zeehan, and noticed the large amount of road kill, including three Tasmanian Devils and a spotted Quoll. Zeehan was once the 3rd largest town in Tassie, but appears to be another mining town in grand decline. It is now dominated by very substandard 60’s fibro housing, built cheaply in the boom time! We camped at the football field and had a restful view overlooking lovely mountains.
Strahan 7 – 10 February 2008
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.
Queenstown 6 February 2008
Onto Queenstown to see the famous lunar landscape! Guess what? It’s growing back in many places and there are lots of trees! There are still some areas that are slow to improve after the poisoning of the landscape (from sulphur fumes from the copper mines) many years ago! The locals are reported to be disappointed with the “grow back” as they promoted the lunar landscape as a tourist attraction. Strahan is taking over and drawing tourists to stay there instead. Queenstown has a very authentic character that is reflected in the original condition of many the wooden buildings and the sense of a poor community pervades the town. Still cold and the day temperature rose to 10degs. We drove back up the 99 bends leading to town to look at old copper mine called the Iron Blow, and see the old mining towns abandoned in recent years. Gormanston was interesting, more of Deliverance than Deliverance! Hey Katie! Great venue for a spooky movie!
Burbury Lake 5 February 2008
The trip to Burbury Lake involved lots of lovely extensive vistas across valleys of wilderness. We really had hit the west coast! We walked along the Franklin River twice and marvelled at boulders in the river bed and imagined what it would be like when the snow and rain filled it up with powering water. However today it was very peaceful and leafy. We walked along yet another deep green track to Nelsons Falls and although beautiful we were hassled by a big bus load of oldies making lots of noise and pushing around at the viewing area – must be getting a grumpy old man (and woman) - we have been spoilt as crowds have not been part of our experiences. We found a great campground at Lake Burbury surrounded by a huge lake with majestic mountains capped with barren rocky outcrops that looked like snow. Obviously they have snow for long periods. Ironically the area is very reminiscent of Queenstown and surrounds in NZ, as this area is only 20kms from Queenstown, Tasmania! There was a wonderful peacefulness in the air which must come from being surrounded by the lake and the high mountains. You could have heard a pin drop and topped by a magnificent sunset!
Derwent Bridge (Lake St Claire) 3 - 4 February 2008
We set off for the West Coast and were soon travelling up and down but predominantly UP! We were entering yet another different environment - the air became cooler, the plants greener and thicker, the rain and clouds came in and the feeling hint of Scotland and NZ came to mind. We stopped at a 300 acre estate that was once a Hydro development town from the 1930s/40s. It must have been a tough place then but now a big company has refurbished the 40s cottages and lodge, put in a quality restaurant and coffee shop over looking the huge pipes carrying the water for the power station at the bottom. Despite all the misgivings about the dams and the wilderness this is a very CLEAN power source! Burning coal and nuclear power for energy doesn’t compare to the use of hydro power. Future plans need lots of thought, as we have seen the damage from dams as well. The day before we arrived, the bush fires were here and the smoking bush was right beside us, as we walked by dressed in beanies and thick coats in drizzling rain and mist!
Arrived at Derwent Bridge and explored nearby Lake St Clare NP ready for a long walk the next day. We took a boat to the top of the lake early in the morning for a lovely sight-seeing cruise. We were then dropped off on the Overland track at the top of the lake to make our way back. We were fascinated with the overland hut on the track that the seven-day hikers use. The rack was a rope with plastic bottles on each end that spin around to stop the rats walking the rope to get your food hanging up in bags! The fire-place had instructions not to use it if the temperature was over 10degs (i.e. a hot summer day in Tassie!)
There was more forest than we expected with many varieties of ferns and tall trees of leatherwood, sassafras and celery top pines. We found the aroma of crushed sassafras leaves for the first time - missed a heavenly treat for much of our lives! A combination of plum pudding, vanilla custard, rum and cinnamon! Huge trees had fallen in the forest and their large size when lying on the ground amazed us. A special experience was the confetti effect of the fallen white petals from the Leatherwood trees that had dropped over the ferns and the track. The lake glistened behind the trees as we took breaks on the water’s edge and pockets of warm air abounded in fern filled gaps. We saw an echidna (who ignored our close presence), snout pushing under moss digging out the food, by standing on his hind legs and slowly dragging himself up a bank. You could see the resemblance to the platypus (for Laura’s benefit, they are both monotremes that are egg laying mammals with backward facing pouches for their young). The walk included lots of ups and downs and obstacles such as tree roots and we were happy when we finished 5 hours and 400 photos later - we enjoyed the fact that we were on our own virtually the whole time!
We spent the night at Derwent Bridge, as the hotel allowed us to park out the front in exchange for a few drinks in their comfortable premises.
New Norfolk 29 January – 2 February 2008
The drive up the Derwent valley back to New Norfolk was quick - nothing seems far in Tassie! We had a relaxing time on the river in New Norfolk at the caravan park. They gave us the whole cricket ground as an unpowered site to ourselves and Peter was content using a hose to wash and polish the motorhome! Just as we decided to leave, we realised there was a motorhome rally next door on a very nice spot on the river. After saying we were not the types to join in, we decided to attend the rally to give it a second chance. It was not too bad and we learnt a few new things about motorhomes and met some road acquaintances yet again!
We went back to the abandoned Derwent Hospital and picked lots of blackberries and a bag of nectarines and peaches! It was the first time we had had really sweet blackberries and we NOW know why they are so well liked!
Hobart 25 – 28 January 2008
Up early and took a back road, through Richmond again, and on through the windy hills to the eastern suburbs of Hobart. The smallness of the city was obvious when we passed hill-billy houses in the bush and hills, with a ‘10 km to Hobart City Centre’ sign next to them!
Filled in our time in Hobart with things we missed last time. Free camped on the water again, catching up with an older couple who we have bumped into at least 4 times since the early part of the trip. Laurie is 85 and his young wife, Monty is 80! They have a nice big Winne and say they can have a stroke or a heart attack at home or in the motorhome. They look so young it would seem it they have a lot more time left! They are basically doing nearly everything we do.
On Australia Day we went to the local events including the Citizenship Ceremony where a large number of Africans, two habited nuns from Poland, Sri Lankans, Indians and a small number of Anglo Saxons from Canada, NZ and UK received their papers. How things have changed! Only one Pom! The entertainment included magnificent Ethiopian Dancing with the backdrop of the Australian flag and a portrait of the Queen. It was bizarre!
We took a long afternoon drive south along a very windy coastal road, stopping at a very interesting Shot Tower and learnt things we did not know (again)! It was very intact and dominant in its structure. It was built by a Scottish builder to make shot pellets of many sizes, by dropping melted lead and arsinic from a great height through a large colander. As they fell, they formed a tear drop shape and at the right distance turn into a sphere and dropped into a pot of water at the bottom! The structure seemed very sound and original and we climbed the internal staircase (that was part of the wall) to the top. It was quite challenging but fun!
We travelled onto Kingston and reflected how it was once a distant town due to the high mountains, but now it’s a little Penrith with lots of new housing - all 15 mins from Hobart Centre due to the alternate highway connection.
We headed back to Hobart and enjoyed fish and chips on the waterfront again. It looked different from last time when all the yachts were in!
Joined in a picnic lunch in a big bush reserve with the Hobart Jazz Club. They had the concert in a large protected shelter with the BBQ and tables inside – this is a Tasmanian style not yet seen anywhere else so far! They keep telling us it can snow at Xmas!
Visited Old Hobart Goal and the visit amplified our dismay at the cruelty of times past. The irony of having very small solitary confinement cells under the big Chapel (opened to the general public) was not lost on us. Most of the buildings have been destroyed and only a small portion of the original goal is intact.
Partook of another high tea, this time at Hadleys Hotel, an old upmarket hotel in Hobart. It was elegantly served and very enjoyable with lots of berry treats! This time they had all the right components (after we sent the tea bags back for tea leaves)! Reminded us of our home!
On Monday, we visited a lovely National Trust home - Runnymede. Jai’s, (from Heather’s work), Great Aunt was living there until recently when it was bequeathed to the Trust. It had belonged to her G.G. parents and the family resemblance in the photos was noted! We continue to enjoy the history of these homes that seem to be so well conserved and feature beautiful antiques. We are still learning something new every time - though we are pretty knowledgeable now! Stocked up with $6/kg fat juicy cherries (no raspberries now!) and prepared to move on.