Tasmania 10 – 21 February 2020, part 2 of 2

As I was getting ready to leave Lyn’s on Monday 10th February I asked if she would like a lift to Bruny Island (my next stop for 3 nights) to visit her friend Tony there but he’d told her he wouldn’t be there then as was staying with his daughter and Lyn and he had had a bit of a falling out although Lyn wasn’t exactly sure why. Apparently he suffers from depression. He had told me, when I met him on my first trip, to ask Lyn for his number when I was on the island but obviously this wasn’t possible. I suggested to Lyn that she might like to join me anyway and could maybe find accommodation. She wondered if she might be able to pitch her tent in my Airbnb hosts’ garden (they had a few acres) so we contacted them and they agreed, no problem, and would charge her $25 for the night. Lyn got ready quickly while I popped to the supermarket for supplies.

It was just a 40 minute drive from Hobart to Kettering where we got onto the 2pm ferry, which left 10 minutes early as it had filled up by then. It cost $32.50 return which I thought was reasonable considering it was a car ferry, the crossing taking about 20 minutes. From there it was about a 30km drive to my Airbnb (‘A taste of Bruny’) in Simpson’s Bay for which I’d paid $70 per night. I knew it wasn’t going to be that special a place but most of the rest of the available accommodation on the island was super expensive.

My room was very small, not much bigger than the bed, and was in a run down building next to the main house. The bathroom was pretty grim but the shower turned out to be fine and there was a washing machine and dryer. On the deck area was a barbecue, which I wouldn’t be using, a microwave, fridge and kettle. Our hosts were Mhrylyn aged 70 (originally from Bow, East London who emigrated to Oz when she was 18 with her parents and came from a long line of Romany gypsies with lots of other countries in her blood) and Willem, Dutch, who appeared to be several years younger than her. Mhrylyn was apparently a trained chef who had good reviews about her food offered me dinner for $25 and breakfast for $15. Having originally booked for breakfast and dinner every day I’d decided I’d just have one dinner on my first night. They had a large garden with lots of fruit trees and vegetables but the whole plot was pretty run down. There were lots of chickens of all ages but we were never offered an egg.

Lyn decided she’d put her tent up on the deck but in the end just slept in the open air on the deck. After a cuppa and dropping our things we went off to explore the local area on foot. Just opposite was an estuary and wetlands, which apparently attracts lots of birds although we didn’t see many there. We walked up the lane and there was a goat posing on a tree stump which I felt sorry for as it had no companion. There were only a few houses, one very nice house with an annexe and a very run down house with a couple of old bangers outside on the top of which a naked child of about 5 was standing one day but this day was running around the garden naked.

Posing goat

I’d arranged to have dinner with Willem and Mhrylyn tonight while Lyn had some food she’d brought. I had a nice conversation with them overlooking the estuary and wetlands but can’t say I was overly impressed with the 2 course meal we ate nor that it was worth $25. Mhrylyn has apparently lots of food allergies, and knew I was vegetarian, so dished up for me what she could eat I guess, which Willem also ate. So I had a thinly vegetable layered mush with grated cheese on top with two side salads made of lentils and various vegetables from their veggie garden. Dessert was a gluten free cake with a blob of cream and yoghurt, not as nice as the banana loaf that Lyn had rustled up and brought along with her. A very strange offering by a ‘trained chef’ and I was glad I’d cancelled the other meals.

The next morning Lyn wasn’t sure whether she should go home or stay a bit longer. There was a bus at the ferry landing in Kettering to Hobart but the last one was about 3.30pm. I suggested she stay and she contacted Mhrylyn who was happy for her to stay for just $10 per night. Lyn had been rudely awakened in the night by a possum trying to get into the rubbish bin that was on the deck, and woke me (not that I was sleeping that heavily) when she banged her hand on the decking to shoo it away.

Lyn had been to Bruny Island twice before with Tony and had asked him to take her to the lighthouse, but he’d refused saying it was too far. So I said we’d go as it was south of where we were. In one of the few towns on the island, Alonnah, en route we stopped at a shop where I was surprised that Lyn bought a hot ‘National Pie’ (beef) which she proceeded to eat, followed by an ice cream – and this was 9.45am! She also bought a cold ‘National Pie’ for later. The shop was run by two women who looked similar (they had peroxide blonde long hair) and when I asked if they were sisters I was told no, that they just went to the same hairdresser. I wasn’t sure if this was true or their joke, but we had a chuckle about it later.

Cape Bruny lighthouse had been taken over by someone who’d decided to charge for ‘tours’ which we resisted and just looked from the outside. There was supposed to be a short circular walk around the lighthouse and a much longer walk nearby, which I’d thought about doing, but the footpaths had unwelcome ‘no access’ signs, probably by the same person who’d bought the lighthouse. Governor George Arthur had ordered the construction of this lighthouse after several ships were wrecked at the entrance to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel – a body of water located between Bruny Island and the south-east of the mainland of Tasmania. It was built by convicts and completed in 1838.

Most of the route to the lighthouse had been a fairly slow drive on an unsealed road, but it was pretty smooth. As we drove on Lyn spotted a sign outside a house with ‘Art Garden Open’ with a $10 entrance fee. I didn’t want to bother but she was really keen and offered to pay my entrance, which I accepted. It turned out to be worth while and we were greeted as we got out of the car by a very smiley woman who introduced herself as Grietje, and said she was Dutch although had been in Tasmania for some years. She told us her partner was Keith whose first wife’s parents had decided to grow trees on the large plot that they hoped would be there 100 years later. Ann, Keith’s first wife, had continued planting and Keith (who came from a long line of depressives) made items/sculptures from wire and wood etc and had found it very therapeutic. Grietje was artistic too (she’d met him through a dating website – not sure what happened to his first wife who was still alive and helping Grietje with a map of all the trees) and had a huge glass fronted studio in the grounds which she later showed us, with a lot of different areas for different projects. She said she had got inspiration from Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor and photographer.

We wandered around the garden, having first drunk a cup of tea over a chat with Grietje and Keith, looking at the trees, three ponds and various art works. We sat and had our lunch, as had been suggested, before being shown Grietje’s studio. It was, as Paul would say, “a pleasant little interlude”. They were a lovely couple and were going to have an open day for a group on Friday.

We then went to Cloudy Bay, where Lyn had a dip in the very cold sea while I watched some surfers. I was impressed with one of the surfers who surfed in so far, then turned his board around and paddled out with an oar without falling off. I then went for a walk along the length of the beach which took 50 minutes, having left Lyn sitting waiting, at the end of which was a path to the headland but the path was swampy and looked as if it would be another hour each way. So I decided not to do that and walked back meeting Lyn who’d decided to walk along the beach. She told me she had rheumatoid arthritis and also issues with her hips, despite having had two new ones, which meant she couldn’t walk far however she seemed to manage well and felt quite pleased I think.

By the time we got back to the car it was nearly 6pm and there were some young people sitting out by their camper vans. It was a lovely evening and I rather envied them as it was the perfect spot and free camping. Nearby was a loo which had a one way window so you could see the beach while sitting on the loo but couldn’t be seen from outside!

We drove back and I suggested we check out the pub in Alonnah (Hotel Bruny) for dinner as Lyn had nothing to eat and didn’t want to share what I’d brought (salad!). So she had fish and chips, I had calamari and chips all washed down with some watered down ‘Bruny Cider’. The possum came back again that night and Lyn decided she’d try to take a photo of it.

On Wednesday I suggested we check out Adventure Bay Area, which had a few points of interests along the coast, and Bligh’s Museum. Adventure Bay was the first landing for ships to replenish supplies of fresh water after leaving the Cape of Good Hope. In 1793 Captain Furneaux anchored his ship ‘The Adventure’ after which the bay was named. Captain Cook visited the bay in his ships ‘Resolution’ and ‘Discovery’. In 1788 ‘The Bounty’, under Lieut. Bligh’s command, anchored there, Bligh planting Tasmania’s first apple trees.

We stopped at Coal Point, the site of the third attempt at coal mining in Oz from 1876 – about 1891. At its peak in 1884, 900 tons valued at £560 were shipped to Hobart. The coal seam can be seen in the cliffs.

We stopped at Two Tree Point, an area that had changed little since 1792, with the same two trees as depicted in a painting by Lieut George Tobin, Principal Artist with Bligh on ‘Providence’ in 1792:

There was a nice little cafe which we dropped into and then I paid a visit to Bligh’s Museum, Lyn didn’t want to pay the $3 entry fee having looked in from the outside. A man who lived next door appeared soon after we did to turn the light on and take my $3. The Museum was very small and seemed to be stuck in the 1950s with items crammed together under dusty glass cases. There was Bligh’s Journal, which the man assured me was original (I very much doubt) and told me there were original letters and some of Cook’s log which was original. Why would items of such value be stuck in a miserable little, quite insecure, museum like that and not lodged in national archives? So I doubted the man, although that was probably what he’d been told. Anyway, it was all such a jumble that I could hardly process anything so left being not much wiser than when I went in.

By the beach was an interesting sculpture of the world with a mother whale and baby by Matt Carney:

Mhrylyn had recommended the Cape Queen Elizabeth Walk, which was off the Neck (thin strip of land linking the North and South of Bruny Island so I drove there. The first 30 minutes was a walk from the car park passing lots of birds with yellow tails which we later discovered to be finches. I was hoping to see a forty spotted pardolote bird, Tasmanian, and some birdwatchers we passed said they had seen one in the area but we didn’t. At the end of the track you could either turn left and go up Mount Bluff, which I did, or turn right to the beach (only at low tide, which it was just) which Lyn did. It was a short uphill walk, then along the ridge and dropped down to the first of three bays. I met Lyn in the second and we enjoyed exploring and photographing the rocks in the area. Back to the car park after an enjoyable three hour walk, which Lyn hadn’t found troublesome.

We went back to the Airbnb and saw no sign of Mhrylyn or Willem and heard nothing of them either which surprised me as yesterday they’d come round to ask us what kind of a day we’d had. By the time we went to bed, Lyn by now quite used to sleeping on the deck, we still hadn’t heard them and I was convinced they’d either been murdered or had made a suicide pact! My imagination was running wild!

On Thursday 13th I awoke at 6.30am and decided I wanted to get away quickly to get an earlyish ferry as had a long journey ahead, also to get away from the fairly unpleasant surroundings as soon as possible. I wondered if we should check on Myrhlyn and Willem, just in case they had been murdered (!) but knew that they slept in until at least 9am (as they’d told me) and that, should they be lying in a pool of blood we’d have to call the police and would be there all day and I wouldn’t get to my next stop on time. In the car I then discussed with Lyn how the police might find me, given that I’d be the prime suspect as their last Airbnb guest!

Despite my wanting to get an early ferry I told Lyn I’d like to go to the northernmost point of the island (Dennis Point) and see where Tony, her friend, lived who said he lived very frugally on land he was buying. I knew he had a shipping container and a caravan on the island as his living quarters and a van that he drove around in and slept in when visiting Lyn and other friends on the mainland. En route I stopped along the Neck at Truganini Lookout where there were over 200 steps up to a lookout and a memorial to Truganini who was widely considered to be the last full blood Aboriginal. It was a good vantage point to see both sides of the Neck which couldn’t be done from the road:

So I drove us to the north, which was fairly desolate although there was one small town, and the road just continued in a sweep coming round to near Tony’s road – Power Road. Lyn wasn’t expecting him to be there, but his van was so as we approached his patch she called out his name. There was no answer (me thinking to myself he’d committed suicide as he was suffering from depression) but eventually we found him sitting in a dark corner of his living quarters/kitchen, which was a cut out container with extension, reading a book. Lyn later said he wasn’t that happy to see her. She told me he’d lied about where he was going to be as had said he’d be with his daughter.

We had a cup of tea with Tony, milk supplied by us as he had none and cake supplied by Lyn. I was impressed with the creativeness of his patch, with lots of recycling having gone on and all sorts of objects hanging and on display. His toilet was a Tardis!

We got the ferry back across to Kettering and, I must admit, I should have liked at least another night on the island to do some more of the walks but certainly not another night in that Airbnb! Lyn suggested I might like to drive back to Hobart via the Huon Valley and when I discovered it was twice the distance than the normal route I was a bit miffed given that I had nearly 300 km to drive from Hobart to Strahan, however I decided it was worth it as is said to be one of the best drives in Tasmania. We didn’t stop at all but went through a little town called Cygnet where Lyn told me she’d nearly bought a house but missed out and where every year there is a wonderful Jazz Festival.

I dropped Lyn back at her house and went in for a cup of tea and a quick bite then got on the road at 2pm. The journey to Strahan was fabulous and I have to say possibly the best drive I’ve ever done in my life. Once we left the suburbs of Hobart the route was through countryside and then winding round and round the mountains, with some very tight bends. I certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed towing a caravan around it, although I should hope they’re not allowed on it. On two occasions a group of bikers overtook me, crossing double white lines whilst approaching blind bends at high speeds which was somewhat unnerving. They must have stopped ahead of me as they all passed me again later. There were lots of signs for short walks to falls and a few lookout points but I hadn’t given myself enough time to take advantage of them. I particularly wanted to stop at a place called Derwent Bridge where there is a massive wooden sculpture called ‘The Wall’ but I noticed it was closed by the time I passed. I’d heard about it from the woman I briefly spoke to on the ferry.

Some views en route to Strahan:

I got to Big 4 Holiday Park in Strahan around 6.30pm where I had a cabin for 3 nights. There’s a stream running through the park (which was pretty crowded not just with people in cabins but campers and caravans) where I was told I might be lucky to see a platypus at dusk or dawn. Strahan is a small town and former port on the banks of Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Tasmania.

I’d booked a Gordon River Cruise for Friday 14th with World Heritage Cruises, the favourite one as it’s a local family owned one, having been run by the same family (the Grinings) for five generations. The Grinings were among the settlers of the fledgling port of Strahan and pioneered tourist cruises into the Gordon River in 1896. The cruise left at 9am and near me were two women travelling together, Lyn and Anne, who I chatted to and we sat together throughout. The Captain commented on and off. First point of interest was going through Hell’s Gates, the name of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour and so called by convicts going through this shallow and dangerously narrow passage from the wild southern ocean en route to Sarah Island (their hell on earth).

Hell’s Gates

There were several lighthouses, one being the southernmost working lighthouse (middle picture):

We had a large school of dolphins travelling along with us for a while which was lovely:

We passed aquaculture pens (fish farm) of salmon and ocean trout where a man was watering an area with apparently pellets in the water canon for the fish so they were evenly distributed:

We had an hour on Sarah Island (the harshest convict settlement in Oz which became the largest shipbuilding yard in Oz) and could either do a guided tour or self guide by picking up a leaflet and walking round. I decided to do the latter as didn’t fancy walking round with so many people but later realised I’d made a mistake as the guides were bringing it all to life by talking about various characters who’d been on the island. It was named Sarah Island in 1815 by James Kelly after Sarah Birch, wife of the doctor Thomas Birch who financed his expedition (circumnavigating Tasmania from December 1815). Most of the buildings that had been there were just piles of rubble and I found it difficult to imagine how they would have been. What a shame it was all left to fall into ruin, but I doubt once convicts were no longer imprisoned there no-one could have imagined it might become a tourist attraction.

We had a very generous buffet lunch on the boat as we travelled slowly along the river which was as smooth as glass and reflected the sky and forest:

We had a stop in the ancient rainforest and the Captain pointed out the various trees including Huon Pine, Blackwood and Leatherwood.

Then a film was shown on the boat as we made our way back, with some elderly men relating about the times they’d worked in the forest for a month at a time cutting down the Huon Pine trees. Unfortunately I fell asleep during some of the film, probably due to the beer I’d drunk and lunch, but was told it dragged on rather.

The tour finished at 3pm when we disembarked at a Huon Pine saw mill. I arranged to meet up with Lyn and Anne to go to see a play: ‘The Ship That Never Was’ – physical theatre with audience participation and just two actors, a man and woman. Apparently it’s Australia’s longest running play telling the dramatic and hilarious true story about the last great escape from Sarah Island. ‘In January 1834 the last ship built at the convict settlement in Macquarie Harbour is about to sail for the new prison at Port Arthur, but 10 convict shipwrights have other ideas! So begins the story of an amazing escape and an extraordinary voyage’. It was funnyish but I felt it was rather childish and would have been better just geared for children. I walked back with Lyn and Anne, who were staying at the same place as me, and shared a bottle of wine (theirs) with them in my cabin with some cheese and biscuits chatting to them until 9pm. They’re off tomorrow to Bruny Island.

Quite an early rise on Saturday 15th. It had rained in the night so was a bit cool. I had to check in for my West Coast Wilderness Railway tour 30-45 minutes before its 8.30am departure from Strahan’s Regatta Point station to Queenstown and back, stopping along the way. It was to be a full day and I wondered if I might get bored spending so much time on a slow train and hoping there’d be some interesting people to sit with.

The railway was built in 1896 to transport ore from Queenstown’s mines to the port of Strahan, and the West Coast Wilderness Railway now carries visitors through Tasmania’s western wilderness in style aboard historic carriages pulled by meticulously restored steam engines. There were three carriages and mine was the middle one (Heritage carriage), the cheap seats, in between two Wildnerness carriages where passengers had a glass of sparkling wine on arrival and food throughout the journey, costing a lot more than I’d paid. I was seated opposite a retired Queensland couple, Brenda and Peter, who were travelling around Tasmania with their caravan and next to me a nice young woman called Katie, a midwife, who was with her parents and her mother’s cousin and husband. They were all very nice people. I also noticed a family who had been at last night’s play and it turned out they were 4 generations: great grandma aged 86 who had flown in from England and lives in Sevenoaks, Kent (small world), her daughter who had moved to Australia because her daughter had and her two young daughters, who were very well behaved throughout. I took a picture of them, unbeknownst to them clearly:

A chap called Jonny Palmer had got the last seat on the train in our carriage just before we were about to leave and I noticed he was English. He told me he lived in Halesowen (near Birmingham) and worked as a racing (motor) commentator and had been working in Oz (Bathurst in fact) and had combined it with a short a trip to Tasmania. Again, small world.

In our carriage was a lovely young man called Simon who gave a commentary on and off along the journey, on a microphone, his commentary going throughout the whole train. Simon reminded us throughout what a difficult job it must have been for the workers to cut their way through the rock and dense forest, sleeping in tents and no heating. Apparently they were paid 6 shillings per day out of which they had to pay for the cost of their tools, food and accommodation leaving very little else. The 35km railway went from 9 metres above sea level to its highest point of 250 metres following the King River for much of the way and the Queen River for a shorter distance. The men were learning as they went along how to construct bridges, some of which were sent in parts without instructions. Very much trial and error.

Simon, our guide (standing)

Our first stop was Lower Landing Station, on the edge of the King River, to stretch our legs, go to the loo and for the driver and mate to fill up the engine with water. The locomotive had been converted from running on coal to oil some years previously. We saw the remains of the old ‘Quarter Mile Bridge’ in the King River as we crossed:

The next stop was Dubbil Barril station – it’s not really known why it’s spelt like this. Here there was a short walking trail through the rainforest where there were Huon Pine trees and other native species.

Back on the train and we travelled up to 250m of elevation over 3.5 km, the steepest section of the track under the power of the Abt rack and pinion system (the only operating Abt rack and pinion system in the Southern Hemisphere and invented by Swiss engineer Dr Roman Abt) to reach the next stop of Rinadeena, meaning ‘Raindrops’.

There was a brief stop at Lynchford, where we didn’t get off the train, and Simon told us about Cornelius Lynch, an 1880s Explorer who had found a large nugget of gold which started the gold rush.

We arrived in Queenstown (originally called Queens Crossing) at 1230 and had until 2pm there. Included was a guided walking tour, one straight away and another at 1.15pm. I took the first with just 3 other people. We were walked around some of the town by a woman called Charlie who showed us some of the historic buildings such as the Paragon Theatre (now refurbished inside with comfy seats and old cinematography equipment on show), two old hotels and the post office. The town is bounded by two mountains, Mount Lyell and Mount Owen, which make it particularly picturesque. The mountains were formed from different minerals.

There were also some nice murals:

I had a quick lunch then back on the train which left at 2pm. We stopped at Lychford, this time getting off, where there were some lovely old photos of railway workers, annual picnics on the train and where some of the group had a go at panning for gold. When we stopped again at Lower Landing there was some honey tasting of the local Leatherwood Honey (which some people think tastes of old boots) and two other nicer honeys, then the chance to buy honey which I resisted (not difficult!).

We arrived back at Strahan just after 6pm and I can saw that I thoroughly enjoyed the day.

On Sunday 16th I checked out of my cabin just before 10am. I had been deliberating whether to retrace some of the route I’d driven to Strahan in order to visit ‘The Wall’ at Derwent Bridge and drive to Wilmot (next stop) from there but it would have added 150km to my journey and seemed ridiculous. If I’d got an early ferry from Brundy Island I would have had time on the way to Strahan. So, should I ever return to Tasmania that will be on the itinerary. ‘The Wall’ consists of carvings in 3 metre high wooden panels by the artist, Greg Duncan, and is his commemoration of those who helped shape the past and present of Tasmania’s central highlands. It’s 100 metres long and the carvings depict the indigenous people, then the pioneering timber harvesters, pastoralists, miners and Hydro workers. There were two volumes about it on the Gordon River boat with pictures of all the carvings and it looked fabulous.

So, instead I took the shorter route which was also a pleasant drive, hardly any cars on the road which again was winding but, this time, long winding bends not the short sharp ones into Strahan. I stopped at Zeehan, once Tasmania’s third largest town and known as ‘Silver City’. There were some Art Deco buildings, but the place seemed pretty dead however there was the West Coast Heritage Centre, which looked interesting and was open, so I went in. I was served by a very interesting young man called Kieran and just had to take his picture:

Kieran at the West Coast Heritage Centre, Zeehan

It was a fascinating museum housed in what was originally the Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy. There was a ‘world-class’ mineral collection and lots of social history. Upstairs was a huge pictorial exhibition with lots of mining pictures and various people associated with mining, pictures of ships that had been wrecked, stories of war veterans etc. Outside was a large conglomeration of old locomotives and a lot of rusty machinery associated with mining and engineering, a blacksmith’s workshop and an underground mine simulation which was great. There was a Freemasons’ hall and audio commentary explaining the history of the Freemasons and some of what goes on, and as I left a man was replenishing the leaflets and we had a chat. He was 75, although looked at least 10 years younger, and had come to Tasmania in 1970 aged 25 to work as an electrician. He nearly went back to the UK but decided not to. He’d grown up in Streatham (I told him I used to go ice skating there) and lived in Swindon. Small world again!

Then I popped into the old Police Station with attached magistrates court, also part of the museum, and into the lovely old Gaiety Theatre which had a display of costumes, exhibition of some of the pioneering women who’d lived in Zeehan and in the theatre itself old silent black and white movies on a loop, although there was no one watching at the time. The theatre was built in 1898 and was the venue for J.C. Williamson’s stage shows brought from Melbourne. I learnt that a world famous pianist, Eileen Joyce, had been born in Zeehan in 1908 but her family moved to Western Oz when she was 2 where she learnt to play the piano. She moved to England in 1930 and made her debut under Sir Henry Wood with the Philharmonic Orchestra in London and she toured the world from 1948-1962. She died in Surrey in 1991. So not really much of her life was spent in Zeehan but they’re claiming her anyway! Had I not needed to drive on I would have stayed longer.

I drove through Rosebery, which apparently has Australia’s steepest golf course and the Southern Hemisphere’s highest tree-covered mountain although I didn’t stop to check, and stopped by Lake Rosebery in Tullah for a quick bite.

Lake Rosebery

My next stop was Cradle Mountain lookout, where I plan to walk tomorrow:

The Vale of Belvoir, in the foothills of Cradle Mountain as seen in the above pics, is an extensive natural grassland surrounded by old-growth rainforest. Much of these grasslands are rare and endangered providing habitat for threatened plant and animal species. It’s of World Heritage significance and is the only surviving grassy valley of its kind, unchanged since the Aboriginal wallaby hunters of south west Tasmania 18-20,000 years ago. The valley is widely recognised as one of the most important places for nature conservation in Oz.

I got to my Airbnb in Wilmot and met Pauline, one of the hosts. She’s very nice (has a heart of gold in fact) but talks incessantly which I found very wearing. She had a cousin, Colin, and his wife Alice staying in the room next to me. Pauline was originally from Northern Ireland, but was only there while a baby, and had met up with Colin over there last year for the first time in 40 years. As it turns out, Colin and Alice are Housesitters and are off to the UK later to housesit there. Pauline very kindly invited me to have dinner with them, and her husband Cameron (a baker who’d baked some lovely bread and fruit bread) and their 20 year old daughter Casey. They have two dogs, Taylor and Stella, who seem to nearly always be locked up in their room, and a lovely Ragdoll cat called Charlie who recently got bitten by a snake. Dinner was nice, although it was difficult to get a word in as Pauline monopolised the conversation. I went for a walk with Colin and Alice to a creek in the village where there were apparently platypus. By the time we got there it was almost dark so we couldn’t see them but could hear something. Some Kookaburras were laughing, well they sounded as if they were laughing.

I got up early on Monday 17th as it was a 35km drive to the turn off to Cradle Mountain National Park. I got to the visitor centre at about 8.30am and was shown a circular route to include the summit. I knew the summit would be hard as involved climbing up boulders and thought I’d get there to see what it was like before deciding whether to take up the challenge. There was a free shuttle bus to various stops. I’d been recommended to start walking from the Ronny Creek stop, and a few others got off there too, including a young married Ozzie couple, aged 27, called Reuben and Katie who asked if they could walk with me, which was kind especially as I’d been thinking on the bus how silly they were wearing shorts and looking down my nose at Reuben’s dreadlocks! It’s time I learnt not to judge people by appearances as they were lovely:

Reuben and Katie

We walked initially along the Overland Track, which included a stop at Crater Lake. Then reached Marions Lookout before then going up to the start of the summit track which I decided I’d do. This was very hard and involved climbing up huge boulders, and rock climbing skills but this is just the sort of thing I enjoy, although knew it would be harder coming down. Anyone with the slightest fear of heights wouldn’t have been able to do this. Along the way I got chatting to a nice Ozzie woman, aged 52, called Marilyn who was with her 12 year old son, although I thought he was a girl as he had long hair. She told me she also had a 15 year old daughter and had home schooled them both. I’m pretty anti home schooling but kept that to myself and asked her about it. She told me she found out what their passions were and went with those. Her son, Iban, was diagnosed with Aspergers and generally doesn’t talk to anyone else except his mum. She told me she’d converted a Toyota Hiace van into a camper, which they were travelling in, and back in Oz (Noosa Hinterland, or something like that) she had converted a school bus which she and Iban lived in on land rented at $100 per week from a lovely lady:


I negotiated the summit for a while with Marilyn, her son, Reuben and Katie having gone ahead, until she decided she would go no further. I should probably have done the same but decided to go on which meant I didn’t see Marilyn again. She’d asked me to call Iban back and he obediently returned to find her. He was running down the boulders like a mountain goat as were a few others but most were taking it steadily.

I sat at the first summit eating part of my lunch but was bothered by flies, so went back down and was accompanied down by an English chap called Brendan, who’d lived and worked in Sydney for 12 years and was with a group of men friends doing the Cradle Mountain overland trek – 60km – which meant staying in huts for 4 or 5 nights. He was very kind as showed me the way down (and as anticipated it was far more difficult getting down than going up) then joined his friends. I twisted my ankle and thought I’d broken a big toe at one point when I slipped. I later discovered my ankle was very swollen and big toe sore. I hadn’t seen Reuben and Alice for ages, but it turned out they’d taken a long time getting up the second summit. I’d been told to then take the Face Track (as a different route back) and Reuben and Alice followed, but this turned out to be very hard and slowed me down. At one point we were hanging onto chains where the rocks were jagged and impossible to walk across otherwise. Eventually Katie went ahead and Reuben walked with me as we knew the last bus left Ronny Creek at 6pm. He was so kind and even offered to carry my backpack but that wasn’t the issue, I was just extremely tired and thirsty as ran out of water, which he had too as had given the rest of his water to Katie. He had some grapes which he shared with me which gave us some liquid. Without him I would have been very miserable, definitely a lot slower and would have missed the last bus.

The Face Track joined the track going around part of Dove Lake which was also difficult at the start but eventually led onto board walks, some more uphill (someone was having a sense of humour when they laid the track!) and then back to the car park where we just made the last bus, which I’m sure I’d have missed if it hadn’t been for Reuben. I was shattered! I was very grateful for the help I’d had today from everyone. In future I shall be much more circumspect about what I take on as I felt a burden to Reuben and Alice. There was a lot of camaraderie, which is generally the case on treks, so if things got difficult someone would be there to help out. I said goodbye to Reuben and Alice who had an hour’s drive to their campsite at Mole Creek.

Walking route in black biro!

When I got back to the Airbnb there was a very nice Finnish couple staying in the 2 bedroom cottage. I don’t recall ever having met Finns whilst travelling.

On Tuesday 18th I decided to have a gentle day after yesterday’s extreme activity. I planned to drive to a couple of towns that I’d heard were interesting. The first stop was Latrobe where I’d heard from Lyn & Anne, also Pauline, that there was an interesting shop that sold all sorts of gifts with some themed rooms. The drive there was lovely, through the countryside along the winding roads. Wilmot where I’m staying is known as ‘The Vale of Views’ and it certainly is with Cradle Mountain in the background.

The shop in Latrobe is called ‘Reliquaire’ and I was greeted by a woman offering me a taste of their homemade fudge and explaining the layout of the shop. It was interesting but reminded me in some ways of a shop I visit with Margaret sometimes but not as good as the latter includes antiques. The themed rooms were Alice in Wonderland, Space, a Medieaval room and Harry Potter.

I walked up and down the main street then drove to Sheffield because it’s known as ‘The town of murals’. En route to Sheffield I drove through Railton, ‘The town of topiary’, and was stopped in my tracks by the following two examples in particular:

In Sheffield there appeared to be a coachload of elderly people wandering round looking at the murals and a minibus of Chinese tourists doing the same. There was an area described as an outdoor exhibition of murals but, in my opinion, they weren’t great and too modern. Far more interesting to me were those on walls of buildings and shops, some of which highlighted the history of the town and others which matched what the shops were selling and had probably been there for some years:

There was also a bizarre shop called ‘Emporium’ that Colin and Alice had visited yesterday which sold all sorts of collectibles, all second hand, particularly books and records:

I was feeling pretty tired by 1pm so decided to drive back to Wilmot. I’d noticed interesting post boxes in the area and stopped to take photos of some of those that were most bizarre. Just like in NZ, post boxes in Tasmania tend to be at the end of the lanes. It seemed that the houseowners were trying to outdo each other in quirkiness:

After lunch I had a long afternoon nap and a lazy evening, chatting to Pauline for over dinner, managing to extricate myself after an hour!

It started raining in the night and was still raining heavily when I got up on Wednesday 19th. I wasn’t complaining because I’d been expecting a lot more rain in Tasmania but thus far had really only had rain once. Also thinking about people back in the UK currently suffering severe flooding after the recent storm Ciara followed immediately by storm Denis.

I had a chat with the Finnish couple who were leaving before me. They are in their 50s and she told me her name was Lena and has been a social worker for 25 years, now working in child protection. His name was something like Pekka, and he is a University lecturer in Civil Engineering. I wondered if all Finnish people were as friendly as them, they said yes but very shy. I didn’t quite get the name of the town they live in, somewhere beginning with ‘J’- could be Jyvaskyla.

After checking out and saying goodbye to Pauline and Cameron, who really are a very nice couple, I went on my way deciding to go a long way round to my next and last stop, Stanley, on the North west coast. The drive was interesting as kept taking me off on different roads, one in particular that made me smile was called ‘Nowhere Else Road’ and eventually I arrived at the Bass Highway not all that far from Wilmot (!) stopping at a place called Burnie to visit the Regional art Gallery and Museum that I’d picked up a leaflet about. I was rather disappointed with the art gallery as there were just two small exhibitions: ‘Forest Obscura’ bringing together 4 multi disciplinary artists each inspired by the theme of nature-human relationships and ‘Yet to live in a place without house sparrows’ (Fernando do Campo) which was rather lost on me! There were just two paintings on show from their permanent collection and an interesting exhibit made of leather by Garry Greenwood, so no idea where the rest were.

The museum nearby, in a separate building, was more interesting although quite small too. Their permanent collection was a replica of a street (Federation Street) in Burnie dating back to how it was in 1900. This was the brainchild of a man called Peter Grenville Mercer who had been an avid collector of objects since a young boy, many of which were exhibited in the ‘shops’ in the street. He had been inspired by the famous period streets of the York Castle Museum in England (which I’d never heard of) and so the Pioneer Village Museum opened in 1971 to become the first indoor historic village to be built in Oz, being rebranded in 2011 as the Burnie Regional Museum as it is now.

The nearby library had a lovely mural outside:

Not far from Stanley I stopped to take a picture of The Nut, which dominates the town:

I got to Stanley about 4.30pm and checked into my hotel, the Stanley Hotel, an historic building built in 1847. I noticed in reception they had copies of the book ‘The light between oceans’ for sale which I’d read and enjoyed and recently seen the film of it on Netflix. I asked why they were selling it and was told that the town had been used as the set for the town when filming in November 2014! The hotel was filmed also. In the street were some picture boards of the filming and I took photos to match the boards:

On Thursday I walked up the Nut, a very steep but fairly short track up to the top. For those not able, or too lazy, to walk there is a chair lift. The Nut is a 143 metre high volcanic plug (a volcanic object created when magma hardens within a vent on an active volcano) rising from Bass Strait, that towers above Stanley. At the top was a very nice 2km circuit with lookouts across the Bass Strait and inland:

Apparently Tasmanian Aboriginal people sheltered from the wind on the lee side of the Nut as traces of their presence can be seen in the middens they left behind: piles of shells from their seafood diet. In European times, ships were able to take shelter from the prevailing winds in the natural harbour formed by this great rock projecting into the sea, and was a major factor in the settlement of Stanley which sure is windy!

Back down and I walked around the town, noting a few more historic buildings, including Joe Lyons’ birthplace and childhood home (a former premier of Tasmania and Tasmania’s first Prime Minister of Australia from 1932-39 and one of the most popular) and ones that I liked the look of:

I walked to the cemetery that I’d seen from the Nut where there were a few pioneer settlers buried:

Then I popped into the little museum, much better than Bligh’s Museum but still a little bit jumbled up. St Paul’s Anglican Church was next door, painted the same colour:

Originally the Shamrock Inn in 1849, one of 5 pubs at the time, now boutique accommodation

I bought some lovely fish and chips – the fish was called Flathead and the chips probably the best I’ve ever had – and sneaked them into my room with a beer from the bar, hoping that the next occupants of the room wouldn’t get a whiff!

After checking out I drove about 2km to Highfield House which was built by convict labour for the Van Diemen’s Land Company in 1827 as its headquarters, becoming a virtual ‘Government House’. The Company was established in London in 1824 by a group of influential merchants, businessmen and politicians in the hope of making a fortune from fine merino wool as landowners in other parts of the Island were at the time. The company was hopeful of receiving a large fertile land grant but by the time their agents arrived only land in the far west was on offer and the company was granted 250,000 acres in the North West, which was less than perfect and proved to be unsuitable for sheep who succumbed to the extreme cold and rain so the wool enterprise failed. However, once the land had been cleared of its dense timber most of it proved suitable for agriculture and the company moved from wool to land sales.

The house was originally lived in by Edward Curr, his wife and their children (they had 15 but they didn’t all live there as some were in England at school). At 27 he was made Chief Agent for the company and Magistrate for the North West. He apparently controlled his convicts and indentured servants (there were up to 100 brought from England) with an iron hand authorising twice as much punishment as anyone else in the colony at the time.

The house is quite large and interesting to walk around with a lot of information boards and various sounds such as conversation over dinner in the dining room and a woman crying in the bedroom (Mrs Curr whose daughter Juliana died in an accident aged nearly 3).

Despite it being interesting it was awful to read what the employees of the company had done. Tasmanian Aboriginal people were living in the area at the time, and had been for many thousands of years, but most of them were massacred, moved away from the area and died of colonial diseases in order for the company to take over the land. Typical of what happened elsewhere in the country.

I drove on to Devonport, after stopping briefly for lunch, and went into the art gallery. There were 3 rooms, the first was a collection of art by women, none of which I was impressed by. In another room were photographs taken of a canning factory in 1958, a bit more interesting but the third room did hold my attention. The exhibition was entitled ‘Beyond Sight’ by Katrin Terton: ‘a multi-sensory exhibition in which visitors can explore the artworks through touch, sound, smell, sight and imagination’. I particularly liked ‘Driftsongs’ – 8 touchable sculptures made from driftwood, various natural materials and found objects’. When each was touched an evocative soundscape would be played, composed by sound artist Stephen Hamacek. Also ‘Wall of Whispers’ with 8 cocoon-like sculptures each with a tube through which soft recordings of people were emitted, mostly relating to the heart.

I then spent some time in the lovely library before driving to the ‘Spirit of Tasmania’ to drop off the hire car there and check in for the 9.10pm sailing back to Melbourne. I’d booked a reclining seat, not a cabin. Although I didn’t expect to sleep I must have done, intermittently, as had some dreams. I was surprised that nobody snored!

So this has been a very pleasant trip and, given the opportunity, I’d definitely return to Tasmania. I enjoyed the west side much more than the east, although did like the islands. I’d say Tasmania in many ways resembles parts of New Zealand, very different from mainland Australia.

And finally:

The Three Rs!

Roads: The roads in Tasmania have been very similar to those in New Zealand, even the main roads being mostly single carriageway. Other roads are good unsealed roads or not so good. The maximum speed limit is 110km per hour, a speed which the trucks seem to drive at when possible but somehow the driving doesn’t seem to be as mad here as in NZ.

Roadkill: I’ve seen a lot, mostly wallabies and possums. My first experience of this was driving from Liffey Falls to Launceston when there were dead animals every 50 metres or so to the left and right. There are notices urging drivers to go slowly, particularly from dusk to dawn. Fortunately I haven’t killed an animal but had to stop for a wallaby which just looked at me and was in no hurry to get off the road, so no wonder.

Roadworks: A bit of a bugbear as they seem to be all over the place, sometimes leaving the ‘roadworks ahead’ signs after they’ve long gone. However, there’s rarely traffic lights to stop traffic but usually some poor soul who has the job of holding a ‘Stop’ sign or ‘Slow’ sign which must be incredibly dull.

Over and out, for now…

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