Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200402 Australia-Tas

SUNDAY 1 FEBRUARY 2004 – Continue our drive through Wilderness Country passing lots of bikes on 4 days cross-country race.   In it’s hey day the mining town of Zeehan had 10,000 inhabitants and a grand theatre to accommodate 1,000.  Today few people live here but it still claims the longest main street in the southern hemisphere.  Next stop on the tourist route is Strahan.  Situated on Macquarie Harbour it became famous when “greenies” tried to stop the Gordon River being dammed.  Celebrities including David Bellamy were arrested during the protests.  It’s now a World Heritage listed area and to view it we book a cruise $65 (£28) from 2pm – 8pm.  To kill time we walk to Hogarth Falls on the edge of town, pretty but not outstanding.  Our boat trip begins by heading out to sea through Hells Gate to look at the 2nd tallest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere and get a feel for the conditions at sea in the roaring 40’s. Back within the harbour we pass trout farms before arriving at Sarah Island.  Featured in the book “For the term of his natural life” it was a penal colony for secondary offenders.  Our guide explains the extremely harsh conditions and severe punishments handed out whilst pointing out ruins of many of the buildings.  We then head up the Gordon River with pristine rain forest looking much as it would have done hundreds of years ago.  As in most of Tasmania the water is bronze coloured, stained with the tannin from the button grass but still pure enough to drink.  The deep river waters create an inky black colour that gives beautiful reflections but today these are marred by the wind and rain.  Our final tour stop is a forest boardwalk taking in the rare Huon Pine valued by boat builders.  On the journey back you can enjoy a Tasmanian Buffet $12 (£5.20) including salmon and a selection of cheeses.  Steve tucks in but remembers his greed the other day and shows some restraint.  A nice boat trip but not dissimilar to ones we did in New Zealand.  On return we drive straight out to Ocean Beach to free camp and also see the baby Shearwater’s (Mutton birds) returning.  It’s blowing a gale and spitting with rain so we wait in the van until just on dark when the birds begin to appear.  They do a number of circuits before dropping into their sand holes for the night.



MONDAY 2 FEBRUARY – Return to Strahan to use the free hot showers opposite the Post Office.  It’s rainy and misty as we head towards Queenstown so we do miss out on the lookout spots.  Queenstown has been ruined by past mining operations.  Whole mountainsides of forest were removed in the process and this in turn has led to acid rain problems.  The lunar landscape is pitiful but on the plus side you do see interesting coloured rocks.  There’s a nice mining statue in the centre of town and a couple of attractive hotels but little else to interest us. Just east of town we pull over to do the Nelson Falls Nature Trail.  Better than but similar to Hogarth waterfall but we now feel we’ve seen enough waterfalls, nature walks, rainforest, wilderness and rain.  Trying to get wet clothes dry in a small campervan is not funny.  I manage to persuade Steve to set out on the Franklin River walk after lunch but the swing bridge doesn’t materialise and the rain gets heavier so we turn back.  One thing we have found in Tasmania are fantastic free camping spots so we are not surprised to find the boat ramp area by Lake King William is another gem.  It’s only mid afternoon but we’re ready to call it a day and read and play cards to pass the time.  We’re definitely experiencing unusual amounts of rain as the newspapers have reported people fishing in the streets!



TUESDAY 3 FEBRUARY – We’re amazed to wake up to a dry day with the sun attempting to peak through the clouds.  Cradle Mountain National Park extends south to Lake St Clair and this is where we head.  By chance we bump into Peter & Margaret and as they are heading in the opposite direction to us we exchange info on places to visit etc over a cup of coffee.  None of the short walks at Lake St Clair inspire us and we certainly don’t want to chance getting soaked on a long hike so we leave.  Our journey takes us through Tasmania’s Lake District with lots of hydroelectric power stations and places with delightful names such as “Laughing Jack Lagoon”.  Mount Field National Park sounds to have different scenery so we combine 4 walks to see Lady Barron Falls (OK), Tall Trees (superb high swamp gums), Horseshoe Falls (OK) and finally the magnificent Russell Falls, a huge drop and lots of wide ledges with water cascading down to the viewing platform.  Just east of the national park (opposite Belcher Road and before the wildlife centre) we find another beautiful waterside camping spot on the banks of the Tyenna River.  For the first time since we arrived in Tasmania we haven’t had rain and in fact it is sunny enough for us to bathe in the river and sit out.  Just after 6pm Steve spots a platypus in the river directly in front of him. We spend the next few hours on watch and get see it swimming on top of the river for brief spells before diving.



WEDNESDAY 4 FEBRUARY – We linger in bed until the sun warms things up a bit.  Consequently we’re very surprised to find that the platypus is still around (normally you only see them at dawn and dusk).  It’s a nice day so we stay put and get all the washing done before relaxing.  Get another glimpse of the platypus around dinnertime.  A couple come down to fish late afternoon but the trout aren’t biting.



THURSDAY 5 FEBRUARY – New Norfolk on the banks of the River Derwent is our first stop.  It’s a pleasant town with a few interesting old buildings.  We continue along the north banks of the river, a nice scenic drive.  Richmond is famous as the oldest town in Tasmania with the oldest bridge, prison and church.  Just east of Sorrel we detour on the coast road towards Dodges Ferry.  By luck we veer off in Lewisham down Richards Avenue and come to a grassy parking area behind the beach and directly opposite seven-mile beach.  It’s a beautiful spot and with the sun out it’s not long before we are sunbathing on the beach.  It’s low tide and quite a walk out to the water dodging hundreds of soldier crabs.  The main channel into Pitt Water is pretty deep and fishermen and pulling out flat head.  The water is pretty chilly but we still swim.  In the evening we sit out drinking wine and eating our steak and chips whilst watching the changing scene as the tide comes in followed by a lovely sunset.



FRIDAY 6 FEBRUARY – We drive towards the Tasman Peninsula stopping at Eaglehawk Neck to admire the geologic formation of the tessellated pavements.  Port Arthur is the most visited tourist spot on Tasmania and $22 (£9.50) gets you a two-day pass that includes a guided walk and a 20-minute cruise.  As you buy your ticket you are each given a playing card at random.  The start of the exhibition is explaining how Port Arthur became a secondary convict station and your playing card matches you up with one of the prisoners.  Following the fortunes of this inmate makes an interesting way in learning the history.  Steve is linked with Walter Paisley from Newport (Gwent) who came here as a young boy.  My character did rather well and became one of the floggers and overseers with extra privileges.  Next we take the guided walk before heading off on the cruise around the Island of the Dead (the cemetery) and Point Puer (the boys prison area).  Walking back for lunch we pass the memorial to the 35 people shot here in1997 by a mad man.  We spend the afternoon exploring the buildings in the grounds, some ruins but others intact and with furniture etc inside.  Watching the old film “For the term of his natural life” means so much more in this setting.  We’ve seen enough by late afternoon so head to Doo Town where all the houses have Doo in the name – “Gunnadoo”, “Doodle Doo”, “Thistle Doo”, “Toucan Doo”, “Love me doo” and worst of all “Do f**k all”!  Beyond the town we are impressed by the rock formations carved out by the strong seas.  The Blow Hole, the Tasman Arch and the Devils Kitchen.   



SATURDAY 7 FEBRUARY – Peter & Margaret are visiting their friends Kathy & Tony in Dunalley so we drive there to meet them.  Tony & Kathy live directly on the waterfront on about 1 ½ acres of land with 2 houses, all bought for just $100,000 (£44,000) 3 years ago.  They are having a break from travelling and are in the process of renovating the second house to use for a bed & breakfast.  Kathy is an animal lover and runs a wildlife rescue centre.  At the moment she is rearing 2 Paddy Melons (very small kangaroos) whose mother got killed.  We’re having problems with Billy so during our stay we work on that and get some outside help. It’s a nice hot day so after sitting out by the water for most of it we take a late stroll to the jetty.  Tony’s 89-year-old Mum and her 87-year-old partner are also visiting so there are 8 of us for the evening meal and following drinks and chat.



SUNDAY 8 FEBRUARY – We head to Hobart the capital of Tasmania to visit our friends Teena & Dan whom we met in Vietnam.  Teena had a baby boy on 29th January so we are not surprised to find lots of other visitors when we arrive.  Connor Joseph is lovely and has blue eyes and lots of brown hair.  We go out for the afternoon into Hobart where one of the biggest ships in the world “The Star Princess” is docked.  It’s an amazing sight and we spot many of the 2000 passengers around town.  The drive up to Mount Wellington is rewarded with the most fantastic all round view.  We drive past some interesting buildings in the city but there is nothing else in Hobart that appeals to us. When we arrive back at Teena & Dan’s the afternoon visitors have left but shortly after another family arrive.  Fortunately we are staying in the basement so once they have left Teena can get some sleep at the same time as Connor.



MONDAY 9 FEBRUARY – Connor has been very good and we only heard him once in the night.  We spend the day relaxing and chatting with me cooking the meals and helping where possible.



TUESDAY 10 FEBRUARY – We set off at 8am to catch the ferry to Bruny Island.  Unfortunately we soon realise we still have a van problem and end up turning back to go to a garage.  When Steve cleaned the battery connections the other day he made it more efficient and it is now blowing the fuse that keeps the engine ticking over.  The problem is traced to the fridge and a new relay system is fitted with the total bill $45 (£19).  We’re too late for the ferry so now set off on the Huon Trail.  We pass through pretty waterside villages and enjoy looking at the scarecrows that are being entered in a competition.  There’s excellent free camping in Gordon and we take the prime spot at the back of the rocky beach.  By evening we are joined by another 6 motorhomes.



WEDNESDAY 11 FEBRUARY – Continuing around the circuit we spot our first Tasmanian devil – dead at the side of the road!  In Huonville an avenue of trees were planted to commemorate the Boar war but having past their safe life span they have been cut down and carved into superb statues.  Turning back towards Hobart we stop for lunch at Taroona Park, again a lovely waterside spot.  Late afternoon we head to Pete & Penny’s and arrive just before Keith & Diana from Noosa.  After spending the rest of the afternoon together we head off to explore Battery Point with traditional mariners cottages, Salamanca Place with lots of pavement cafes and finally the wharf where we pick up fish & chips.  Return to spend the evening with Teena, Dan & Connor.



THURSDAY 12 FEBRUARY – Meet the east coast at Orford then follow it north.  There’s a nice camping spot at Mayfield Bay $2 (90p) night.  It’s pretty busy but we are lucky to find a small site just behind the beach.



FRIDAY 13 FEBRUARY – We wake to a beautiful morning so straight after breakfast set out to walk along the beach.  There’s a small convict built 3 arch bridge with a fresh water stream flowing through, perfect for rinsing off after being in the ocean.  After strolling the length of two beaches we return for the sun lounger and settle into a secluded corner to sunbathe.  We’ve been texting Bernie to try and arrange a rendezvous and he drives us just as we are getting lunch ready.  Spend the rest of the afternoon on the beach together. Sitting by Bernie’s van for “happy hour” we suddenly hear a vehicle racing around the campsite. A large Ute (utility truck) pulls onto the pitch beside Bernie slamming the anchors on right at the last moment.  A bloke hops out with beer bottle in hand followed by a woman.  He then produces an axe and heads off to collect firewood despite there being a sign saying you shouldn’t do this in the conservations area.  He returns with some logs and begins hacking away at them showering us with splinters.  It’s Friday 13th so maybe he’s the mad axe man.   All we need now is for him to pull out a chainsaw!  Bernie joins us for tea down at our van and when we return to his site the neighbour from hell has his car stereo blaring away and a huge fire big enough to warm the whole campsite. 



SATURDAY 14 FEBRUARY – In the absence of any tent we reckon the axe man slept in his car and this may explain him running the engine at 6am to put the heater on after the cold rainy night.  Fortunately he leaves after breakfast.  Bernie is now planning on travelling with us for the rest of the trip.  By mid morning the weather has not improved so we head further north.  Spiky Bridge was also built by convicts and named because of the stones sticking up on the parapets.  It’s also a great spot for picking blackberries and we fill a bowl.  Morris’s General Store in Swansea sounds like an interesting building from the early 1800’s so we pull up to look around.  Camp up on the Freycinet Peninsula at Friendly Beaches where we get a serious blasting walking along the shoreline.  It’s beautiful white sand but with the bitterly cold wind it could easily be snow.  The camping sites are nicely secluded and numerous Bennett’s Wallabies join us.



SUNDAY 15 FEBRUARY – It’s a dry start to the day so we drive down to Coles Bay then into the Freycinet National Park.  We take on the Wineglass Bay and Hazards Beach 10km walk that is supposed to take 5 hours.  It’s easy to see why when we set off clambering up and over rocks only to come down the other side before another ascent.  The rocks in the area are pink granite and the largest ones make up the three peaks known as “The Hazards”.  After over an hour we make it up to Wineglass Bay lookout.  We are high above a beautiful sandy bay said to be in the world’s top ten beaches.  Climb down to the beach itself where Steve tests the waters and reports them to be cold.  A walk across the isthmus brings us to Hazards Beach where he water is much calmer.  By now the sun is out so we strip off to make the most of it and all end up in the water.  The walk takes us back along the west coast with great views.  So far this is the nicest walk we have done in Tasmania even if we are shattered by the time we get back 7 hours later!



MONDAY 16 FEBRUARY – We wake to a really hot morning with clear blue skies.  After our exercise yesterday we feel no guilt in sunbathing all morning on the beach then in the afternoon by the vans.



TUESDAY 17 FEBRUARY – The day starts well when we stop off in Bicheno to visit the Blowhole.  Steve & Bernie get drenched when a bit jet bursts through.  In Douglas Apsley National Park we enjoy the short walk to the lookout then down to the swimming hole to bathe in the crystal clear green waters.  We make the 6km return walk along Denison Beach to see “The Porches”, an interesting natural rock formation created by the pounding of the waves.  The main free camping spot at Diana’s Basin is quite busy so we take a small turn off on the main highway and end up with our own secluded campsite on the edge of the Basin.



WEDNESDAY 18 FEBRUARY – St Helen’s is the largest town on the east coast and at the foreshore car park we are pleased to use the free warm showers.  After stocking up on groceries we head out up the coast.  There’s a scenic drive that takes us up Humbug Hill then down to Dora’s Beach and Skeleton Rock.  The road continues through Binalong Bay to Bay of Fires where there are lots of free camping sites.  The Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia are holding the national rally in Tasmania next month and the island is already busy with vans that have arrived early.  We check out many sites where you have wonderful beach camping but unfortunately no privacy.  We even drop Bernie’s van off and head off in Billy to explore the smaller spots all the way to the end of the road at The Gardens but with no luck.  At Swimcart Beach we settle for a spot at the end of the track and strip off to sunbathe.  Unfortunately unbeknown to us there is a lookout on the rocks directly opposite!  Bernie has spotted another motorhome with the same satellite dish as his.  After making Colin’s acquaintance he invites him to join us for a chat in the evening.



THURSDAY 19 FEBRUARY – Yesterday’s afternoon walk revealed a better area for camping to the right on the way in.  We relocate and get a superb spot directly behind the beach where we can be nude.  The sand is squeaky clean and white and the sea very clear and a beautiful blue colour – paradise.  Our distant neighbours soon come along and introduce themselves as Trevor & Roslyn, also naturists. 



FRIDAY 20 FEBRUARY – Rain in the night leaves us waking up to a cloudy and windy morning.  Between wind and brief showers we manage to sit out but not for long.  It gets so windy in the afternoon that we have to put the pop-top down.  It’s quite heavy and difficult to lift so we are very surprised when a sudden gust of wind lifts it right up again.  Consequently we are not surprised when we hear on the news of gales hitting the island and storms warnings for the night.



SATURDAY 21 FEBRUARY – Highlight of the day is when a naval ship passing our beach sends up distress flares.  Trevor & Ros pick up on the radio that a man is overboard.  Soon after a report says the man has been picked up. Just before lunchtime Steve gets up after lying down but feels very dizzy.  It’s quite bad and he staggers around before sitting down.  Food and a lie down don’t seem to help and we suspect that he may have got an ear infection.



SUNDAY 22 FEBRUARY – Get up early, as the weather is nice and sunny.  Steve’s feeling much better and so long as he doesn’t do anything quickly he’s fine.  Our end of the beach is becoming a naturist domain with Trevor’s neighbour stripping off and a Britz van rocking up with naturists Graham & Ina.  When we return from our evening at Bernie’s we have a text message asking us to contact Claire urgently.  We only have enough phone strength for texting but find out that Steve’s sister Annette’s husband Alan has died of a heart attack.  It’s late and dark so we are not keen to travel on dirt roads to find a phone so settle down for a sleepless night in utter shock.



MONDAY 23 FEBRUARY – Get up at daybreak to drive to the nearest phone.  Apparently Alan died in the early hours of yesterday morning at home, he was only 46 years old.  Annette is too distraught to talk but we speak to their daughter Lauren and other members of the family who fortunately are all there at the moment.  There’s nothing else we can do at this stage so drive into St Helens and wait for Bernie to catch us up.  Heading inland we stop to do the walk to the highest waterfall in Tasmania, St Columba.  We’re both feeling down so ignore a few other minor tourist sites and press on to Derby where you can free camp by the river.  Bernie is quite keen to check out the camping at Cascade Dam 5km south of town so we follow him.  The road starts as narrow bitumen but soon turns to dirt.  At the 3km to go sign the dirt becomes rubble and rocks and the going gets tough.  Bernie insists on pressing on even though we are most concerned about damage to his new motorhome.  Eventually we have to give up and then spend considerable time slowly backing out.  We are all very relieved to get back to Derby with no damage done.  Bernie then gets out the free camping guidebook and reads that the road to Cascade Dam is for 4WD vehicles only.  Steve and I have a brief nap then walk around the old mining town where all the houses are made of wood.  It’s very pleasant really but we can’t work up much enthusiasm and still feel like we have had the stuffing knocked out of us.



TUESDAY 24 FEBRUARY – We are surprised to find main supermarkets and lots of shops in Scottsdale.  Since leaving Hobart we have only encountered the IGA small grocery stores with their higher prices so we do quite a shop.  Alan’s funeral is on 4th March and we find out Steve can get an early flight back but when he speaks to Netty she tells him to stay here.  Lilydale Falls makes a nice lunch stop.  Bernie & I walk to the lower and upper falls, pleasant.  The camping area is well services with a toilet block, showers and laundry.  In the centre of town all the telegraph poles have been hand painted with pictures and we are impressed enough to get out and walk.  We cross the Tamar River on the Batman suspension bridge and it’s quite a sight.  Heading towards Launceston we settle onto Paper Beach, another great free camping spot with toilets and picnic tables.



WEDNESDAY 25 FEBRUARY – Heading towards Launceston we take in the fine view of the Tamar Valley from Brady’s lookout. Grindelwald is a kitschy Swiss village but with a noticeable absence of flowers on the balconies. On the edge of Launceston we drive up to The Basin within Cataract Gorge.  A short walk takes us over a swing bridge to a lookout then retracing our steps we head further into the gorge, all very nice.  Steve is still not well; think it’s a combination of his ear problem and the news of Alan’s death.  We leave him parked at Kings Park whilst Bernie & I set out to walk the sights of Launceston.  It’s Launceston Cup day today so everywhere is very quiet.  I’m impressed by the Customs House with a Greek style façade.  On the corner of City Park we enter Albert Hall to look at the massive Great Hall with a water organ made in Yorkshire.  We make our way round the park then back to the vans without seeing anything else outstanding. Following the Great Western Tiers tourist route we are again a bit disappointed in the “heritage towns”.  Guess that coming from England we can’t expect to be impressed by buildings from the early 1800’s!  Deloraine has a parking spot for motorhomes and we’re all a bit weary so park up even though we are missing a waterside spot for the first time in Tasmania.  Being beside the racecourse where we can watch the horses training and next to netball courts with games in progress is a bit of compensation.



THURSDAY 26 FEBRUARY – Bernie heads off early to visit Cradle Mountain.  We drive to Railton known as the town of topiary (fancy hedges to you).  There are a few interesting shapes with many more in the making.  Sheffield, the town of murals, drew inspiration from Canada.  There too a town was dying but by paying someone to paint murals on blank walls they began to get tourists to visit.  Sheffield now has lots of splendid murals and streets full of camera touting tourists to boot.  We’re in an area of strange village names here, Paradise, Promised Land, Garden of Eden and No Where Else so we are not surprised to find within the Promised Land the town of Lower Crackpot complete with Post Office.  One of the main supermarkets in Australia is Coles and the town of Wilmot still retains the original store and has another claim to fame as the town of unusual post boxes.  Driving round we see cows, figures, a dunny and other oddities.  Nearby Lake Barrington offers free camping and we arrive there at dinnertime to wait for Bernie to catch us up.  He arrives around 6pm so we stay for the night.



FRIDAY 27 FEBRUARY – We cut across country (no easy task in Tasmania as there are often no signposts) through Latrobe and out to Narawantapu National Park.  Bakers Beach is known for nudity and also promoted in the local tourist newspaper as a place to skinny dip.  I ask the ranger which area of the beach the naturists frequent.  He tells me that since the advert in the paper they have had lots of nudists using the beach and this has caused a lot of complaints.  The upshot is that they are now patrolling the beach and say they will prosecute anyone going nude.  We drive to the car park for a look and find a lovely long expanse of sand with dunes behind.  Whilst eating lunch a ranger drives down on to the beach so we figure they are serious.   However the ranger told me that naturists often use Moorland Beach as it is not patrolled.  Turning down by the Australian Paper Mill in Wesley Vale we come to a stretch of beach by the airport with chance for us not only to go nude on the beach but to camp up and be nude by the vans.  The beach is also popular with fishermen, bikers and horses but big enough for us all to have space to do our own thing.  It’s a hot sunny afternoon so we sunbathe and give the passengers a thrill as the aircraft circle over us before landing.



SATURDAY 28 FEBRUARY – It’s a lovely morning perfect to relax and play boules on the beach.  Mid afternoon a strong wind gets up so we pack up and head to Coles Beach on the northwest outskirts of Devonport.  The surfies are making the most of the wind and we enjoy a great view over the bay.  Unfortunately by evening rain sets in so perhaps it’s time for us to leave Tasmania.



SUNDAY 29 FEBRUARY – We’ve had a bad night with lots of cars coming and going often with music blaring out.  We’re booked on the 9am ferry to Melbourne and boarding goes smoothly.  Bernie has a cabin and we find seats in the restaurant area.  The time passes quickly as there are free movies to watch.  Dock in Melbourne VICTORIA around 7pm and follow Bernie back to his home in Kew. 



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