Tasmania November 12 - 26
Devonport to Stanley
Within moments of arrival in Devonport we are on the street, rain landing lightly on the windshield. Tourism volunteers hand bags of brochures and coupons through the window of the van. “Welcome to Tasmania,” they cheerfully call out. Nice welcome at 7 am on a Saturday morning.
Among the coupons is one for free coffee with breakfast, so we stop off and enjoy two fresh made Egg McMuffins (local style, not Mackers) with our free coffee. Total bill: $7 for the two of us. There is no discount for asking them to "hold the beet root," only incredulity. The Aussies stick beet root on everything. Even Subway and Mackers (as they call McDonalds) proudly advertise "Australian style beet root sandwiches and burgers." Steve does like pickled beet root so he is cautiously beginning to include it in his burgers, but we're still a bit tentative about it.
From there, into the town centre to pick up local information and weather reports from the Visitors Centre. Based on that, we decide to head for the northwest coast
Enroute we stop into Kmart to find Steve some warm pants. No go there but I find a great fleece toque that after all the markdowns it is mine for $1.60. Not bad. Strikes me as funny that the two places in the world I have had to buy a warm toque are Africa and Australia – places where I would least expect to need one.
Trying to find our way out of town we come on a bazaar at a senior’s centre. There are lots of booths with everything from crocheted and knitted goods to hand made jewellery. Tons of baking and preserves and home made candy. There is an old fashioned fishing pond where I am cajoled into giving it a chance. I win a bottle of punch and a bag of crisps. I also buy a big bag of great crunchy apples for one dollar. At the produce prices charged in stores, that is a great deal.
So, on with the trip ...we drove along the beach towards town of Penguin ....bright, beautiful flowers have been planted along the fronts of people’s properties, and also across the street on the ocean side. Looks lovely. By now it is pouring with rain or I would have taken photos.
Make our way up the coast ...incredibly lush green rolling hills, dropping down into the ocean ...all picturesque.
We stopped at several beaches and went for a walk, even if it was in the rain. The most interesting stop though, came about because we were so bushed after that night on the ferry that we pulled off at a turnoff called “Goat Island Preserve.”
This was a narrow little road that led us over the tracks and down the hill to an open area. We parked and both had a short sleep ...then got out and walked around. Interesting beach with some pretty shells. According to the signs, penguins come ashore here to nest and there is a big fine for disturbing them, but we never saw any.
Also drove out to Rocky Cape ...this is a magnificent lookout over the north coast of Tasmania. Of course it was socked in with rain and fog so the coast was barely visible but it would be a great view otherwise.
Continued on to Stanley. A very nice little town – lots of historical houses and buildings. A real tourist oriented town in the sense that the heritage homes have been converted into B&Bs and the main street is awash in art galleries, craft shops, and tea rooms.
There is a chairlift here that takes you up on top of the local mountain called The Nut. The town lies just below it.
We are staying the night at the Big Four Caravan Park here ...took a cabin for $70 as it was cold, windy, and raining. After nearly three months in the campervan we feel like millionaires – a bedroom, a bathroom, a hallway with three bunks, a kitchen/living room/ dining area. A table, a couch, a full kitchen, a television ...just lovely. Watched TV last night for the first time in three months. Can’t say there’s been anything to miss there.
Good day today – sunny and bright. Started the day by going up The Nut in an ancient chairlift. Very informal operation with a lady that looks like someone's Granny banging the bar down when you take off and another that lifts it at the top. I couldn’t help thinking about all the safety precautions and maintenance that go into the Whistler/Blackcomb lifts at home where my son and brother work. Wondering what the maintenance schedule here looks like.
At the top it was a two km circular walk – at least that is what the sign said. It felt like a lot more. There were lookouts along the way, but both Steve and I agreed that there was a lot of walking for very little scenery. Most of the walking was just through grassy fields and there was nothing to be seen. Biggest excitement was a dead rat at the side of the path. All the walkers gathered around and discussed what it was, but it was clearly a common rat.
Cost $9.00 each. At the bottom there was a souvenir shop and I spotted some of those little stretchy gloves we buy for $0.99 each at home. I’ve been wishing I had those ...so ran over to snap them up but they were $5.95. I think not. Not when I have a half dozen pairs at home. I’ll keep my hands in my pockets. But if anyone is wondering if there was any one thing I didn’t pack and wish I did ...I long for a pair of those cheap little stretchy gloves.
From there we drove west to Greenpoint, near Marrawah. This is a lovely beach and the most north-westerly spot you can drive to in Tasmania on sealed roads. We enjoyed a good walk here on the sand. Not too much in the way of shells, although did get a huge cuttlefish shell which I will probably donate to Mom and Dad’s cockatoo. Will probably last George the rest of his life.
On the way back we actually had the best experience of the day ....watched a lady on an ATV rounding up hundreds of cattle for milking. Most moved steadily towards the barn, but there were a few with a mind of their own; determined to get in a little more grazing or make a last minute run to the waterhole. Of course there were lots of last minute toileting episodes as well. She saw us watching and rode over for a chat.
After a while we continued on down the road and around the corner. There her husband was waiting, persuading the cattle to cross the road to the milking barn, not wander off down the road to greener pastures. We had a great chat with him too. The two of them milk 300 head of cattle in about 1.5 hours, with the help of machines, of course.
We settle in Somerset for the night. Looks like a cold one ...I’ve got my toque tucked in beside the pillow.
Took off in a southerly direction down the Murchison Hwy (A10) towards Roseberry but cut off on the C252 to Zeehan. Then Hwy B27 to Strahan then the Lyell Hwy B24 to Queenstown.
The first part of the trip took us through incredibly lush rainforest with ferns that must have been ten feet tall.
Then we climbed high into the mountains and witnessed km after km of clearcuts. We crossed the Reece Dam ....pretty impressive. Stopped at Zeehan for lunch, a tin mining town and finally came down to the ocean again at Strahan. This is where all the tourist river cruises and the tourist train take off from so it is a little precious looking with all its shops converted to look like historical treasures.
Did come on a sale of fleece jackets though ...end of season winter weight. Beautiful jackets clearing out for only $22 each. Amazing price and Steve really needed a warm jacket. Mine is getting pretty worn so I can’t resist the deal either. Unfortunately the only colour he’ll wear is black and the only colour in my size that I liked was black ...so we are now walking down the street in twin outfits ...an end we swore we would never come to.
In the Visitor Centre a woman was giving a talk on the Tasmanian Tiger that was very interesting. The proper names for this animal is thylacine and they are a dog-like animal, about two metres long with distinctive stripes. The last authenticated specimen died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. However, there have been many unconfirmed sightings, mainly around the west coast.
At the turn of the century these were deemed to be a hazard to livestock and abounty placed on their head. They were hunted to extinction by 1936, although not officially declared extinct until 1986. There are those, however, who do not believe they are gone and sightings are reported in regularly. If you want to know what to look for – a skinny, tiger-like-dog with golden tan coat marked with black zebra-type stripes.
At the Strahn Visitor’s Centre they have a rug that was stitched out of thylacine pelts. They keep it under cover to help preserve it and uncover it for viewing with all the reverence that would be reserved for a viewing of the holy grail. I ’m not really mocking that. I am glad that there are people who care so much about things like extinct species. They keep some balance in this world of ours.
And what is truly sad is the video clip they show you of that last thylacine in the Hobart Zoo ...pacing it’s tiny cage, clearly highly stressed and trying to escape. That clip is shown in many museums in Tasmania as well as on the mainland. It’s a very sad comment on how we humans use our power over other species.
We stop for the night in Queenstown, a copper mining town lying in a valley below mountains stripped of trees, foliage, even dirt.
It is POURING with rain. There is a games room but it is full of men playing games – pinball, pool, watching tv. There is a motorcycle club doing a road trip through Tassy – we ran into them on the ferry – mostly middle-aged sorts who drink a lot and enjoy telling tall tales. That’s all fine, but not exactly the contemplative atmosphere I’m needing for working on my writing. So we’ll stay snug in the van, Steve working out routes for the next ten days, me on the laptop.
Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair and Field National Parks
Woke up to a clear sky and warm day – so much so I sat outside to eat my porridge. It was a bit strange as Steve made it and boiled the water first so the porridge kind of glommed up like glue instead of being creamy – no matter, points for trying and we ate it anyway. Probably won’t have a bowel movement for two weeks, but that’s not all bad when you are camping and the loo is miles away through a cold, dark, wet night.
So....day looks mighty good and we set off for Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park.
Enroute we come on the Lyell Copper Mine ...actually, they took copper, silver, and gold out of the mine. It is huge, the barren mountainsides and hills of tailings going on for miles and miles. We come on what is called the Iron Blow. This is the biggest hole in the earth that I have ever seen. This mine was staked and started in 1883 and worked until 1929. It is incomprehensible to think about a hole that big being started with a shovel and worked with machinery that would not have come close to the mammoth machines they have now for moving earth. The hole now has a beautiful lake of blue-green water at the bottom, so we cannot see how deep it actually goes.
Back on the road we come on Nelson Falls – a pleasant walk and pretty falls.
Then, ...on to Lake St. Clair. This is an okay lake – have no idea why it is considered to be such a big deal. Overheard a tour leader describing the 8-hour bush walk he and clients were about to set off on ...and even he warned them there was not much to see.
Headed south and stopped into Tarraleah. On the main road, the citizens have placed a sign saying “Visit Tarralean – free coffee.” This sounded like a friendly offer we couldn’t turn down and it was only a one km diversion so we bit. It was a lovely one km, with the most beautiful lupins in full bloom – purple, pink, white, and variegated. We spotted an echidna mooching around in the grass at the side of the road. Normally these shy little creatures curl up into a ball and refuse to move if you are around. But this fellow did not seem to realize we were watching him because he continued about his business – absolutely charming to watch.
Tarraleah seems to be the “bedroom community” for the big power station just below it. There is a lookout there and it is quite something to see – banks of four or more humongous pipes trail down the mountainsides and into the power station. They are coming from Lake St Clair and Lake King William in the west and Lake Echo in the east. The signage there states that before the water reaches Hobart – where it is the town’s drinking water, each drop will have passed through eight different power stations. They certainly max out their hydro resources.
From there we headed south towards Hamilton, but cut off early, taking the rural road to Ellendale. This road has a really interesting and very long bridge called the Dunrobin Bridge – the valley it passes through is very picturesque – lush, rolling green hills, thousands of sheep and some really bright auburn-coloured cattle.
We came, finally, to Mt Field National Park, our destination for the night. Here we settled into the campsite then headed off to see Russell Falls. These really are spectacular and I fear that no photo we’ll ever take will do them justice. Masses of water tumble over a series of ledges ....it almost looks contrived ...like they were made of cement, but they are natural and stunningly beautiful.
The walk to and from the falls is easy and enjoyable. Steve carried on
from there to Horseshoe Falls. I backed off because there many steep stairs.
I enjoyed walking back slowly, taking multitudinous photos of the oversized
ferns – some with trunks like trees.