In Melbourne and Preparing to Ship Home

Devonport, Tasmania. From left: Rod, Dearne, Yvonne, Paddy

Devonport, Tasmania. From left: Rod, Dearne, Yvonne, Paddy

We spent our last days in Tasmania staying in Devonport with an ex shipmate of Rods, Paddy Haddock. Paddy and his wife Yvonne have retired to Tasmania from Brisbane and both are very much part of the ‘art and craft’ scene in Devonport. Rod always knew Paddy was ‘crafty’ but not in the sense of today. Many thanks guys for a great couple of days and we look forward to returning your hospitality when you visit over our way.

We caught the ferry on Sunday night back to Melbourne to prepare the motorhome and ourselves for our return home. On arrival Melbourne on Monday morning we met with our shipping agent who advised us that the ship now wanted the motorhome on the wharf on Thursday 5 March rather than Friday 6th March. This threw us into a Plan B as we had organised the internal and external cleaning of the van for the 4th and 5th March. We are now expert at Plan B’s.

We still had to pick up our bits and pieces from Brian and Louise’s some 60km south of Melbourne in Frankston so we decided to make our way there on the Monday and stay overnight.  We drove back into Melbourne today and are staying at a Big4 Holiday Park in the city until we have to deliver the van to the shippers on Thursday. We managed to get most of the van spic and span today and are now sitting back and relaxing with a few wines to celebrate the end of our wonderful journey. We will finish it all off tomorrow.

We were asked today what we would miss about Australia when we return home. We gave this considerable thought before responding. A few wonderful things stand out for us:

  1. We will miss the daily occurrence of getting up in the morning and not having a clue which direction we will head or where we will end up for the night. Mystery is magical!!
  2. We will miss the new friends we encounter on the road everyday. We were on the same journey but maybe in a slightly different way. Five o’clockers will not be the same without you.
  3. We will miss the climate. Nearly two years on the road and only 30 days of rain, eight of which were in our last month in Tasmania. We have loved the sunshine and the temperatures but have to admit the 40C to 45C days were testing. No complaints tho’.
  4. Not sure who he belongs to but he made himself at home with us in Melbourne

    Not sure who he belongs to but he made himself at home with us in Melbourne

    We have loved the wild life here. Parrots in the motorhome, magpie in the motorhome, wallaby and kangaroo resting in the shade of the motorhome, wild dingo at our door, snakes and lizards of all sizes around the motorhome and of course the odd domestic animal that thinks we would make good ‘parents’. This grey cat popped in tonight and shared our shrimp meal followed up by a bowl of warm milk. We have a feeling he is going to get a bit grumpy when we put him out tonight.

It is with great sadness that this will be our last blog update from Australia. We return to New Zealand and home on Saturday 7 March where we will start to plan our next adventure whatever that may be. We would like to thank everyone who has taken an interest in our travels and have followed us through the blog over the last two years. Your many comments, emails, phone calls and texts have kept us in touch with home, family and friends. If you are thinking of doing a similar journey, we would be only too happy to give you the benefit of our experiences.

What now with the blog? Our plan is to leave it up as is for the time being. Many travellers are using our road map as an reference for their travels. We are also being encouraged to turn the blog into a book. A new skill would have to be learned me thinks to make such a project a best seller. We shall see! You can be sure we will add to the blog when we get back on the road again.

Take care all and we would love to see you down at ‘the beach’ sometime.

Rod and Dearne

www.dearneandrod.com

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Around Tasmania’s Midland and back to Devonport

We were told prior to leaving Launceston last Sunday that the small towns and villages in Tasmania’s Midlands are generally agricultural based and most have a very strong focus on maintaining their historic past in conjunction with creating tourist opportunities in their town. We found this to be so true.

A typical residential home in Ross,Tasmania

A typical residential home in Ross,Tasmania

On departing Ol’ Macs Farm on Sunday, we made brief visits to the villages of Perth and Campbell town on our way south. They were not long stops but just an hour or so to stretch our legs. We arrived at around lunchtime at the village of Ross, the navigator’s namesake. Ross is an historic town on the Macquarie River and located 78 km south of Launceston. Ross became an important stopover on road journeys between Launceston and Hobart. In 1891 the town was developed as a base for the local garrison and a female convict settlement. Between 1848 and 1854 approximately 12,000 female convicts passed through the Female Factory, the name given to female prisons.

The navigator was keen to have a look around to see if there was any family links. As luck would have it, none were found. We spent an hour or so in the town, had a lovely lunch then continued on our way south.

The flour mill in the centre of town at Oatlands

The flour mill in the centre of town at Oatlands

Our next stop was Oatlands. Oatlands, 115 km south of Launceston, is an important historical village on the shores of Lake Dulverton. The town is thought to have the largest number of colonial sandstone buildings in any town in Australia with many of them being built by convict labour. The centre piece of the town is the Callington Mill. Situated in the centre of the town the flour mill was built in 1837 and was restored to working order in 2010. It is a stunning bit of architecture. The townsfolk provide travellers with a free park up directly behind the mill and just off the main street. That was us for the day – Oatlands was our home for the night.

Monday morning we continued south as far as the village of Melton Mawbray, hooked a right then drove north along the Lake Highway. We had only been about an hour into the drive and it started pouring down. The road access to many of the lakes had turned into mud so we decided not to risk getting bogged at this late stage of the journey. We continued along the Lake Highway, through the steep and torturous Great Lake Conservation area and back onto the plains at Poatina. The rain was easing but the chance of finding somewhere  ‘dry’ to park for the night was very slim. We decided to carry on a further 70km to the town of Deloraine.

The Meander River beside our camp at Deloraine

The Meander River beside our camp at Deloraine

Situated on the Meander River in the central north of Tasmania and along the Bass Highway, Deloraine is a predominantly rural farming town. It is also well known throughout Australia for hosting the annual Tasmanian Craft Fair in November  each year. The Fair attracts around 34,000 people annually, there are 13 venues and over 200 stalls operating around the town. Because of this and the towns large population of artists, Deloraine is considered a cultural centre. Unfortunately for the navigator our visit did not coincide with the Fair however we did spend the night at Deloraine so she should have a look around the many craft shops and centres in the town.

Tuesday was a tour day. There was still quite a bit northern Tasmania we wanted to visit so after departing Deloraine we drove west through to Mole Creek. Mole Creek is very much a tourist destination in the form of arts and crafts however the nearby Mole Creek Karst National Park and its show caves, Marakoopa Cave and King Solomons Cave, have been popular with tourists for 100 years. Also nearby is the Trowunna Wildlife Park which is known for Tasmanian Devil conservation and a successful breeding programme.

Had this lovely little 'brown fella' pass our motorhome at O’Neills Creek Reserve at Gowrie Park. We quickly moved our chairs to let him through

Had this lovely little ‘brown fella’ pass our motorhome at O’Neills Creek Reserve at Gowrie Park. We quickly moved our chairs to let him through

From Mole Creek we drove to Sheffield then onto Lake Barrington. We had every intention of staying the night at Lake Barrington but unfortunately we were too large to fit into any of the remaining sites. After a quick look at Wiki Camps (our Australia Travel Bible) we made our way to a free camp called O’Neills Creek Reserve at Gowrie Park and at the base of Mt Round. Another attraction of O’Neills Creek was that it was only about 50km from Cradle Mountain and because we had a spare day on Wednesday, we had decided to return to the mountain and undertake another trail. O’Neills Creek was another winning spot within a forest reserve, beside the creek, on flat ground and very quiet. By nightfall we had been  joined by ten other vans and tents for the night.

Dearne standing confidently high on Glacier Rock at Cradle Mountain

Dearne standing confidently high on Glacier Rock at Cradle Mountain

On Wednesday morning we departed the Creek at around 8.30am and was on the mountain by 9am. On our last visit to the mountain there was clear skies and a warm day. On this visit it was cold, cloudy and a wind off the mountain. Once we had dressed for the weather, we caught the Park bus to Dove Lake and commenced our exploring. We managed to get to parts of the National Park we missed on our first visit. We could not attempt the climb to the top of the mountain as the cloud base was down and we saw not point in taking a risk at this late stage of our journey. After coming out of the Park we made our way back through Sheffield and onto Railton where we spent the night. Another lovely little free spot behind the Railton Hotel. Tasmania sure loves the traveller over here.

Today (Thursday) is our last day on the road in Tasmania. We departed Railton this morning and made our way 20km to the town of Latrobe. Latrobe is on the Mersey River and is approximately 8 km south-east of Devonport. When we first started our journey in Tasmania we were told we must visit here as there was a ‘quirky’ shop that stocks just about anything in the entertainment area. The shop was built in 1870 and consists of twentysix rooms with each room having different categories of entertainment product for sale. The products a sourced from throughout the world. When you visit Tasmania you must come to Latrobe and go to ‘Reliquaire’. We spent about two hours there but could have spent longer had we had the time.  You can visit them online at www.reliquaire.com.

Our plan is to stay in Latrobe overnight tonight then drive in to Devonport tomorrow. We will stay with Paddy Haddock and his wife Yvonne until Sunday then catch the ferry back to Melbourne on Sunday night.

 

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Our Weekend in Launceston comes to an End

The original George Town Hotel in George Town of course

The original George Town Hotel in George Town of course

Our journey on Friday from Myrtle Park back into Scottsdale, then around the top end before driving south into Launceston, was brilliant. It was a warm sunny day, the roads were great and surprisingly, there was very little traffic. We made stop offs at Bridport and George Town but really there wasn’t too much to stop off for in between.

Friday was another one of those ‘Plan B’ days. Our original intention was to drive through Launceston and stay 20km south at Evandale. However during the last couple of days we were told of a terrific camping spot about 6km out of Launceston on a private property called Ol’ Mac’s Farm. We decided to go and have a quick look before we headed to Evandale.

The stunning 'Ol Macs Farm Stop' at Launceston

The stunning ‘Ol Macs Farm Stop’ at Launceston

The farm consists of approximately 25 hectares, half of which is on a flood plain. Rather than have any concerns around managing livestock on the wet land during winter, the owner turned the flood plain into several small lakes and in the summer allows self contained vehicles to camp on the hard ground around the lakes. He also set up a restaurant on the farm and leased the kitchen to a couple of local cooks. Between the campers (there were about 30 vans each night we were there) and the kitchen lease, the farmer is probably doing very nicely thank you without the worry of stock. We decided the farm was to be our stop for the night. While we were charged $10 per night to stay, it is one of the best camps we have found in Australia.

Saturday morning we were up a bit earlier than normal, had a ‘campers’ breakfast at the farm restaurant, then made our way to Evandale, a small town on the banks of the South Esk River and about 20 km south of Launceston. It is classified a historic town with many of its buildings remaining largely in original condition. We have grown to love the look of the 1800 to 1850 style of stone building in Australia. We are not sure what they would be like to live or work in, but they sure look stunning.

Out on his own midway through the endurance section

Out on his own midway through the endurance section

The real purpose for our visit to Evandale was to experience the annual National Penny Farthing Championships. The event began 1983 and has been hosted by Evandale since its inception. The competition attracts enthusiasts from across Australia and around the world. John Davey from Christchurch represented New Zealand in this championship. John was once crowned New Zealand’s fastest man on a penny-farthing. After spending a few hours of taking in the competition and the local market, we made our way back into central Launceston to have a wander around. By 4 o’clock the Captain had had enough and suggested we make our way back to the farm and stay another night. It seemed like a good idea and a great way to finish our Launceston visit.

This morning (Sunday) it is back on the road to undertake Tasmania’s inner loop. The loop involves travelling Tasmania’s interior so we will be driving south to visit Tasmania’s Perth, then onto Campbell Town, Ross, Oatlands and into Melton Malbray. From Melton Malbray we will turn north and drive through Rothwell to the Great Lake, onto Mole Creek, La Trobe then to Devonport. The total distance is about 400km and with all our stops we plan to be back in Devonport by this Friday. Not every stop will be an overnighter so we should be fine.

 

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Departed Tasmania’s East Coast

St John the Baptist Church in Buckland

St John the Baptist Church in Buckland

We received a bit of a buffetting on Sunday night at the park up in Dunalley. While the land area itself was great, unfortunately for us the site was on the top of a cliff that faced south. The overnight southerly wind and rain made it feel more like we were on a ship than in the motorhome.

Monday morning we awoke to sunshine and clear skies and our first task was to drive 30km back into Sorell to pick up fuel and LPG. From Sorell it was onto the Tasman Highway and north. While the road was steep and winding in places, we drove through some stunning country. Morrison Forest and the Three Thumbs State Reserve consist of vast areas of massive dry eucalyptus trees with many being over 80m tall. A brilliant part of the country.

The first village we drove into was Buckland. The area around Buckland was originally settled around 1820 and is renown for its many old churches. While the oldest remaining house dates from 1826, the historic St John the Baptist church took our fancy. The foundation stone was laid on 22 August 1846 and even today it is well maintained and is a stunning building.

The village of Orford was our next stop. Orford is 73km north east of Hobart in Prosser Bay and at the mouth of the Prosser River. Beyond Prosser Bay are the waters of Mercury Passage and excellent fishing (we were told). As lovely as the village was we decided to carry on.

Our fishing vessel 'Mata Cara' in Triabunna

Our fishing vessel ‘Mata Cara’ in Triabunna

Twenty kilometres further on we came to the town of Triabunna. Triabunna is just off the Tasman Highway and is sheltered within Spring Bay at the mouth of MacCleans Creek. Triabunna was initially established in the 1830’s as a garrison town for the penal settlement just off the coast on Maria Island. The town is now home base for the region’s fishing and timber industries as well as providing ferry services to and from Maria Island.

After exploring the town we decided to make Triabunna our stop for the night. We parked up at the free spot directly across from the hotel and beside the port area. We could have undertaken a couple of bush walks while here but instead opted to give fishing one more try. The waters of the local area are famous for its fishing including squid, blue mussel and scallop. We booked ourselves on a half day charter with the target fish being flathead.

Rod fishing for flatheadAt 8.30am on Tuesday morning we mustered at ‘Mater Cara’, a converted traditional cray fishing boat and out into the ‘blue yonder’. Maximum numbers were ten but there was only four others on the charter so we had plenty of room. We were told that we would be fishing in the ‘traditional’ Tassie way with hand lines. Once on the ‘spot’ in the Mercury Passage and an hour later, we had about 30 flathead in the bin. It was great fun albeit just a wee bit cold out there. The captain had never caught flathead before let alone filleted one. After a brief demonstration by the boats skipper, it was only a couple of fish later that Rod was well into his work. Dinner on Tuesday night was of course flathead fillets. By the time we got back into harbour and had a late lunch we decided to stay on for another night.

On Wednesday morning we reluctantly departed Triabunna and continued north along the Tasman Highway. Our first stop for the day was at Bicheno. Bicheno is about 185km north east of Hobart and was first settled in the early 1800’s. With the discovery of gold in Victoria in the 1850’s, most of village’s population moved to the mainland and the village became the ‘sleepy’ fishing village of today. Of interest to the captain was that in February 2004, the village presented a freedom of entry charter to the Australian Merchant Navy, the first time any locality in the world has granted ‘freedom of the city’ to the merchant Navy. While we could have made Bicheno our home for the night, we decided to continue north for 60km; hook a wee left and visited the village of St Mary’s.

Scamander Beach along Tasmania's stunning east coast

Scamander Beach along Tasmania’s stunning east coast

St Marys is a small township nestled at the junction of the Tasman Highway and the Esk Highway just10 kilometres from the coast. To be honest the reason we wanted to visit St Mary’s is that to get there you have to drive through the Little Beach State Reserve and cross the mountain range through either St Marys Pass or Elephant Pass. We were told that the Tasmanian Tiger can be found in Reserve and is sometimes seen along the narrow mountain road. Unfortunately none was seen on our journey so we are yet to see a Tiger in the wild. On the upside, when we arrived at St Marys we discovered the village provides travellers a free overnight stop at their Recreation Reserve so that was us for the night. Also staying at the Reserve were two other Kiwi couples in motorhomes – both were from Auckland with one couple being from Takapuna and the other from Northcote. A very pleasant 5 o’clockers was spent at St Marys.

On Thursday morning it was onto the Tasman Highway again and driving 10km back to the coast. While at St Marys we were told of a great little spot about 160km away at Myrtle Park and beside St Patricks River. The attraction of the site for the navigator was that she was also told that platypus were aplenty in the river. It took us all day to get to Myrtle Park as we made stops at the villages of Scamanda, St Helens, Derby and Scottsdale before arriving at our destination. All these villages had great art, craft and antique studios so it was not difficult to enjoy the journey. We passed by some stunning bays on the way through. Little beachside settlements dotted the Tasman Highway all the way through to St Helens.

At last a shot of the elusive platypus in the wild at Myrtle Creek

At last a shot of the elusive platypus in the wild at Myrtle Creek

We are excited to be able to tell you we have at last managed to get of shot of a platypus in the wild. They are elusive and shy little creatures but one finally made it into the lens. While we saw quite a few in the river, because they only stay on the surface for a very short period, getting a good shot was difficult. Well done the navigator. We did learn that handling platypus could be quite dangerous. If they get their tail barb into a dog or a cat, it can kill the animal within 2 to 3 hours. If the barb goes into a human, the victim can be ill for up to 18 months. Swimming in the river was not the go!!

The plan this morning (Friday) is to drive back through Scottsdale and north to Bridport, hook a left at Bridport and go to George Town, hook another left and then drive south through Launceston to the town of Evandale. Saturday in Evandale is the annual penny-farthing race so we will stay there overnight on Friday, watch the race then drive back to Launceston for the rest of the weekend.

 

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Hobart, Port Arthur and heading north on Tasmania’s East Coast

Hobart's Tasman Bridge in the city and in the pouring rain

Hobart’s Tasman Bridge in the city and in the pouring rain

We had a very relaxing few days in Hobart this weekend. While the weather was not that kind to us, we still were able to get out and have a good look around. Hobart, located on the Derwent River and founded in 1804, is the capital of Tasmania and is Australia’s second oldest capital city after Sydney. In the early 1800’s the settlement rapidly grew into a major port as a result of the whaling and sealing industry in the Derwent River. Hobart became a city in 1842.

Our home for the weekend was the Royal Hobart Showgrounds at Glenorchy, a suburb about 6km from the city centre. It was nothing flash but it was a quiet stop with fresh water and power being available if needed. The local shops were only a short 1km stroll so topping up with groceries was no problem. On Saturday morning we took ourselves off to the Salamanca Markets. On Saturday mornings Salamanca Place at Sullivan’s Cove in the city becomes a huge outdoor market selling stunning local crafts, artwork and fresh produce. According to the navigator this would was one of the best markets we have been to in Australia. We spent a pleasant few hours wandering around the hundreds of stalls.

The Salamanca Markets - yep! it's still raining

The Salamanca Markets – yep! it’s still raining

After leaving the markets we took a formal two hour tour of the city on an ex London double decker bus. What a great way to get an insite into the cities history. We were told that fifty percent of Australia’s heritage listed buildings can be found in Hobart. It’s not just the odd house that has been restored, but whole streets, giving it an historic integrity rare in Australia. The areas of Constitution Dock and Battery Point have some of the most stunning historic buildings with a good mix of residential and commercial use. Believe it or not but many of these old buildings are quite affordable. We are not sure what the upkeep cost would be but if you are into that sort of thing, the upkeep would be of secondary importance.

This morning we made our way onto the Arthur Highway and down to Port Arthur. It was only a distance of about 100km but with all our dawdling it took us about three hours. We passed through Sorell (and stopped at another market!!), drove onto the Forestier Peninsula and through Murdunna, then onto the Tasman Peninsula, through Nubeena and finally into Port Arthur.

Port Arthur is a small town and former convict settlement on the Tasman Peninsula. It is one of Australia’s most significant heritage areas and forms part of the Australian Convict Sites consisting of eleven penal sites originally built on Australian coastal strips. Port Arthur was also the scene of the worst mass murder event in post-colonial Australian history. In April 1996, 25 people were killed and 23 wounded by a 28 year old shooter from Hobart. He was given 35 life sentences without the possibility of parole.

Port Arther in the pouring rain and a howling southerly. Note the cruise ship coming in in the background

Port Arther in the pouring rain and a howling southerly. Note the cruise ship coming in in the background

We had every intention of staying the night somewhere at Port Arthur but again the weather was against us. Howling southerly winds and temperatures of around 5C drove us 40km northward to the village of Dunalley. The Dunalley Hotel has a 3 hectare paddock beside the hotel and allows travellers to camp there free for the a night. That’s us for tonight.

We received confirmation this week that the motorhome will be shipping home on the 9 March 2015. When we think back we do not know where the last two years have gone. We have loved the journey and experienced an incredible and diverse continent. Loosely our plan from here is to return to Melbourne on the 1 March, deliver the motorhome to the shippers on the 6 March and it will depart Australia on the 9 March. We will fly home on the 7 March.

Back to today, tomorrow we plan to continue to drive up the eastern coastline as far as St Helens then turn west with a plan to be in Launceston by next weekend. We have been told that cellphone and data is not all that reliable in the direction we are heading so if you cannot get hold of us or we are slow responding to calls and emails, you will know why.

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Still on the east coast and into Hobart for the Weekend

Goodness the nights are cold in southern Tasmania. We woke in Hamilton on Tuesday morning to a stunning sunrise but a rather refreshing 5C. We stayed at a small recreational reserve the town has made available free of charge to travellers. A problem we had was that the fresh water tape was away from the reserve and only one van could access the tap at a time. On Monday night we could not get near it because of the queue so Tuesday morning we did an early move to be first at the tap. We needed about 500 litres of water so had plenty of time for breakfast and coffee while we filled. After breaky it was onto the Lyell Highway and toward Hobart.

The navigator about to explore a Cygnet village craft shop

The navigator about to explore a Cygnet village craft shop

The captain found driving through Hobart a little stressful on Tuesday. Our GPS instructions were average to say the least (maybe it was because we have not done an update for 18 months!!!), lane markings and road directions were not very clear and the traffic lanes themselves were very narrow. More than once we were in serious competition for our lane with a much larger vehicle. The captain was most relieved when we arrived at the cities outskirts.

From Hobart we drove 100km south to Southport. Situated in the far south east region of Tasmania, Southport is a secluded little fishing village and is one of the oldest settlements in the area. According to a local, the villages population is about 200. We had intended to stop over at Southport but the wind coming off the Southern Ocean was bitter and any park up was directly into the wind. After a bit of a look around we decided to make our way north again to the coastal village of Franklin where we stopped for the night

Eggs and Bacon Bay and over looking the  Huon River

Eggs and Bacon Bay and over looking the Huon River

Franklin is on the western side of the Huon River in the southeast of Tasmania. Until the 1930’s Franklin was the major town in the Huon Valley. It was busy and thriving with shipping that docked at its many jetties. While the rest of the world has moved on, the towns 300 residents are thankful that much of the old Franklin remains. We parked up in the middle of town and directly beside the Huon River. A lovely overnight stop.

On Wednesday morning we made our way 20km north on the Huon Highway to Huonville, hooked a right, crossed the Huon River then travelled south down a peninsula that lies between the D’Entrecasteaux Channel on one side and the Huon River on the other. This jut of land is the centre of the fruit growing Huon Valley where apple, cherry and berry orchards line the hills. The drive was slow going as the road was steep and windy but we pass through some stunning bays on the way – Cygnet, Egg and Bacon Bay, Verona Sands just to name a few.

Our park up at Gordon, Tasmania

Our park up at Gordon, Tasmania

Most of the orchards and farms this area are organic so apart from picking up a kilo of beautiful cherries from a roadside stall, we felt very relaxed about stopping on the side of the road every now and again and picking the roadside blackberries. By the time we arrived at our next over night stop at Gordon, we were well stocked. Gordon is situated at the southern end of the peninsula and on the shores of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.   We found a parkup on a nice flat area of grass directly on the waters edge. Once we had settled a Kiwi couple who have lived in Australia for 27 years and who have been on the road for 3 years, came over and introduced themselves. We had a very pleasant 5 o’clockers to finish the day.

This morning we made the decision to continue 30km up the east coast as far as Kingston before turning left and driving into Hobart for the weekend. We are parked up at the Hobart Showgrounds and plan to stay here until Sunday when we will make our way to Port Arthur. The big event this weekend for the navigator is the Salamanca Market. The market is a major tourist attraction in Tasmania and she is hoping to gather a few more ideas for her market involvement when we get home.

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Down the Lyell Highway towards Hobart

The navigator settling in for the cruise

The navigator settling in for the cruise

It was an earlier than normal start for us on Saturday morning as we had to up pick and make our way from the Strahan Golf Club to the town’s wharf area by 8.30am where we were to catch our boat for the cruise. We parked on the jetty, picked up a coffee and then made our way on board.

We selected a World Heritage cruise, owned and operated by the Grining family who are in their 5th generation of cruise operations. Our vessel was a luxurious alluminium catamaran 35 metres long, 9.5 metres wide and with a cruising speed of 27 knots. We decided to treat ourselves to ‘business class’ which meant we were on the top deck in a very comfortable lounge environment with morning tea, buffet lunch and wine provided. We decided that if we were going to be on board for six hours, we would do it properly!!

Macquarie Harbour from the 'Eagle'

Macquarie Harbour from the ‘Eagle’

On departing the wharf, we made our way to the entrance of Macquarie Harbour, commonly known as ‘Hells Gate’. Macquarie Harbour is twice the area of Sydney Harbour however the entrance to Macquarie is only 60m wide and 20m deep with rocks on one side of the entrance and sandbars on the other. Many a ship in the 1800’s and 1900’s came to grief on trying to enter or leave the harbour. Because the sea was calm on Saturday, the boat managed to take us out of the harbour entrance and back in again. Once back in to the harbour, we made our way inland stopping off at many points of interest on the way. There are a number of salmon and trout farms in Macquarie Harbour – smoked salmon was a favourite at lunchtime.

Sarah Island (or Devils Island) created fear in the hearts and minds of prisoners sent to the colony

Sarah Island (or Devils Island) created fear in the hearts and minds of prisoners sent to the colony

One of our stop off points in the Harbour was Sarah Island or otherwise known as ‘Devils Island’. The island was set up as one of the first places in the British Penal System to use ‘behaviour modification’ techniques to resolve criminal activity. Prisoners sent to Sarah Island were normally already prisoners on the mainland or in Hobart who need that ‘added incentive’ to get their act together. The colony was active from 1822 to 1833 and was a dreaded ‘posting’ within the prison system. Hard labour, cruel and vicious punishments were encouraged and occurred on a daily basis. Interestingly, many of the prisoners became excellent boat builders such was the plentiful supply of good wood on the island and its surrounds. They often became sought after as boat builders once released from prison.

At the top of Macquarie Harbour is the entrance to the Gordon River. The Gordon River is one of the major rivers of Tasmania. It rises in the centre of the island at Lake Richmond and flows westward for about 193km where it empties into Macquarie Harbour. The entire course of the Gordon River is an uninhabited wilderness area. The cruise boat was only permitted to travel 14km up the river but the journey reminded us very much of cruising the Queen Charlotte Sound in places. Prior to turning the boat around and heading back down the harbour, we were able to go ashore and wander around a section of the rainforest via a boardwalk that had been built by the tour group. We were back at the jetty in Strahan by 3pm.

What a great day – words do not do the journey justice. More shots of our day HERE .

Queenstown from the 'top of the hill' on the way east

Queenstown from the ‘top of the hill’ on the way east

Back at the motorhome, and because it was still quite early in the afternoon, we decided not to stay a second night at Strahan but to make our way east to Queenstown. Queenstown is a town in a valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen on the West Coast Range. The towns history has long been tied to the gold and copper mining industry specifically at Mount Lyell. The mining operation at the original Mount Lyell mine still continues today with its copper concentrates being shipped to India for processing. We did intend staying at Queenstown for the night but after viewing the area designated for overnight camping we decided to give it a miss.

Lake Burbury

Lake Burbury

Sixty kilometres further east, and over some of the steepest roads we have driven in Australia, we arrived at Lake Burbury. The lake is man-made, has a surface area of 54 square kilometres and is created by the Crotty Dam. Its waters feed the one of the regions hydroelectric power stations. The camp ground at the Lake was grassed but on peat soil so we kept a careful eye on the weather. Rain on peat soil means we could be stuck up to our axles. The weather was on our side so we ended up staying at the Lake on Saturday and Sunday night.

We departed Lake Burbury this morning and continued our way east. There was no plan for the day however there was one or two ‘points of interest’ we wanted to stop off at. We decided that wherever we were by about 3pm, that is where we would stop for the night.

Nelson Falls just off the Lyell Highway

Nelson Falls just off the Lyell Highway

Our first stop was the nelson Falls. Situated beside the Lyell Highway in the Princess River Conservation Area in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park, the falls are an easy 30-minute return walk from the highway. To make things even easier, the Conservation Park has constructed a boardwalk from the highway to the falls. If you are passing by this way, pause for an hour. The walk through the rainforest to the falls and back is a treat.

Our second stop for the day was at “The Wall”. Located 1km east of Derwent Bridge in the Central Highlands and on the Lyell Highway, ‘The Wall”, consists of 100 metres of timber paneling that has been sculptured to depict the history, hardship and perseverance of the first settlers to the area. The wall is mostly rare Huon Pine, uncanningly real and is the work of Greg Duncan who we were fortunate to meet while there. Camera’s were not permitted at the work so we cannot show you any shots but if you are passing, it is worth pausing for an hour to have a look at his work. Very spectacular.

Rod strolling through the rainforest at Nelson Falls - a peaceful environment

Rod strolling through the rainforest at Nelson Falls – a peaceful environment

We are now parked up at Hamilton on the Lyell Highway and have made it our home for the night. We travelled a total of 160km today with most of it on steep and windy roads. At a guess our average speed for the journey was probably about 60kph. The plan tomorrow is to pass through Hobart (about 70km away), and pick up fuel and LPG before making our way 100km south of Hobart to Southport. The plan is to work our way north along the east coast from there.

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Western Tasmania via the Murchison Highway

From Stanley on Wednesday morning we made our way back along the Bass Highway to Burnie, picked up fuel and a few groceries then drove to Somerton where we accessed the Murchison Highway. After a quick lunch at Somerton, we drove the princely distance of 39km before arriving at the Hellyer Gorge State Reserve. The Hellyer Gorge itself is within the Reserve and has the Hellyer River flowing through it. If you have ever driven the Awakino Gorge on your way south to the ‘naki or the Karangahake Gorge near Waihi, the Hellyer Gorge has both their similarities.

Parked up at the Hellyer Gorge Roadside Park - great spot but very cold!!

Parked up at the Hellyer Gorge Roadside Park – great spot but very cold!!

We made our home on Wednesday night at a free camp at the base of the Gorge and directly beside the Hellyer River. We were told that Platypus is regularly seen in the river but nothing was sighted during our night there. Being what it was i.e. a spot in the middle of a forest and beside a river, temperatures dropped rapidly from 3pm. We even cranked up the diesel heater for a few hours during the evening. We woke Thursday morning to 5C in the motorhome.

On departing the Gorge onThursday morning we decided to do a small deviation and visit the village of Waratah about 5km off the Murchison Highway. Waratah is one of the wettest and coldest locations in Tasmania and was constructed to support a tin mine at Mount Bishchoff. The town was built beside the Mount and at the top of a waterfall where water was diverted from the stream to provide water for mine slucing and processing. The mine was closed in 1946. Interestingly, Waratah was the first town in Australia to have electric street lighting in 1886. After a bit of a wander around and a coffee, we continued south to our next overnight stop at Tallah.

Tullah is in the northern part of the West Coast Range and approximately 50km from Cradle Mountain, our Friday destination. The village is located on the shores of Lake Rosebery and we are parked up at a free spot in the middle of the village at the vintage steam railway yard. We were informed that the village has a population of around 200 and is known for the sightings of wombats, wallabies, the occasional tiger quoll and Tasmanian Devil. We did see a wallaby late in the afternoon but that was it. I think part of our problem is that we wander around with a glass of wine and rum and coke in hand while nattering about the day’s adventures. Any shy critter would hear us coming for miles. We must improve on our tracking skills.

Lake Rosebery beside out parkup at Tallah

Lake Rosebery beside out parkup at Tallah

The navigator took herself off for a wee walk last night but shortly into the walk came across a sign warning her of the three type of snake she may encounter on her ramble. Being ‘snake adverse’, it was onto Plan B. While returning to the motorhome she met one of the local townsfolk. On explaining her concern, the local provided the navigator a bicycle so she could carry on with her exercise programme. Many thanks Angela – we have met some wonderful people on our journey and we have added you to our list. Maybe we will catch up next year??

During our wanderings of the past few days we were told that the best day this week to visit Cradle Mountain was going to be Friday such is the mountains habit of clouding over very quick and spoiling the climbers day. Cradle Mountain is a mountain in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. At 1,545 metres above sea level, it is one of the principal tourist sites in Tasmania. The mountain has four summits – Cradle Mountain (1,545m), Smithies Peak (1,527m), Weindorfers Tower (1,459m) and Little Horn (1,355m). The mountain itself is named after its resemblance to a gold mining cradle.

The Captain 'sort of getting wet' in Dove Lake at Cradle

The Captain ‘sort of getting wet’ in Dove Lake at Cradle

Listening to the locals paid off. Today was a stunner and our visit to the mountain was perfect. We departed Tullah early this morning and retraced our steps 60km back up the Murchison Highway to Cradle Mountain. We were not disappointed. What a beautiful National Park! If you get the chance to visit Tassie, put it on a list of must-sees.

A few more shots of our Cradle Mountain visit HERE .

On leaving the mountain, we headed south again along the Murchison Highway and through Tallah, Rosebery, Zeehan and into the town of Strahan where we are parked up for the next two nights. We have made our home for the two nights at the Strahan Golf Course. Just wondering #2 if you would like to pop over and drive a couple of balls into the side of the van!!!!

Strahan is a harbour-side village with a dark and fascinating convict past set on the edge of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage area. On the shores of the Macquarie Harbour, Strahan is the gateway to the World Heritage listed Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. We have booked ourselves onto a Gordon River cruise tomorrow and are looking forward to getting into the pristine temperate rainforests of the Gordon River.

Will tell you of the adventure in our next update.

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Tasmania’s North West Corner

Parked up at Shipton Harbour

Parked up at Shipton Harbour

The first leg of our journey in Tasmania was no different to any of our travels over here in that we never made the destination we set out for. Our initial plan was to get to the Green Point camping area on the north west coast 200km from Devonport. However we decided to call in to Smithton, a small town 140km from Devonport. After a bit of a look around we ended up staying the night on the foreshore and close to the boat ramp. Freedom camping does not seem to be an issue in Tasmania – in fact they appear to encourage it. We saw a number of advertised free camps during our journey on Monday. We love the place already.

Smithton is on the far north-west coast of Tasmania and lies on the Bass Highway. The town and the region is noted for its natural beauty and its agricultural based economy. Other industries that contribute to the local economy are fishing, aquaculture, crop farming, timber plantations and tourism. A lovely little town with a stunning harbour.

Tasmania's opium crop is well protected by signage and security staff

Tasmania’s opium crop is well protected by signage and security staff

One of the crops that was plainly evident during our drive on Monday was the large concentration of poppy crops along the northwest coast. We did not know it but Tasmania is the world’s largest producer of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market with forty percent of the world’s legal opiate crop grown here. The poppy industry is a major financial contributor to Tasmania’s economy with the area sown in poppies approximately 20 000 hectares and with each hectare producing around 2.4 to 2.5 tonnes of poppy heads.

For the ‘Navy’ lads following the blog, we caught up with Paddy Haddock (ex sparker) and his wife Yvonne in Devonport on Monday morning. Paddy departed New Zealand a number of years ago and after having business interests in Queensland, retired to Tasmania. While Paddy has his health challenges, he has lost none of his wit and humour. We plan to touch base with them again at the end of the month before shipping back to the Aussie mainland.

Crossing the Rapid River during our South Arthur Forest drive

Crossing the Rapid River during our South Arthur Forest drive

On Tuesday morning we did the South Arthur Forest drive, a distance of approximately 200km starting from Smithton and finishing at Stanley. The drive allowed easy access to the States north west corner and took us through the villages of Repa, Marrawah, Arthurs River and Edith Creek and treating us to many forest reserves and working forests. With all our stopping on the way, the 200km took us about 5 hours to complete. We are happy that we have explored all the north western corner that we are able to do in the motorhome. Without having the jeep, our journey has changed slightly.

We arrived at Stanley late Tuesday afternoon and decided to make the village our home for the night. We were again parked up on a foreshore and at a free camp. We cannot get much better than this. Stanley is a town on the north-west coast of Tasmania and with a population of around 500, is the main fishing port on that coast. The most distinctive landmark in Stanley is “The Nut”, an old volcanic plug that has steep sides rising to 143 metres and with a flat top. While it is possible to walk to the top via a mesh of zig zagging tracks, we decided to make the journey via the chairlift system. We saw no point in risking life and limb just to climb a cliff.

The prominent "Nut" at Stanley

The prominent “Nut” at Stanley

Today (Wednesday) is our last day in the north west of the State. We will meander back down the Bass Highway as far as Wynyard where we will hook a left and join the Murchison Highway down to Queenstown. The drive is probably around 200km but we are not quite sure how long that is going to take us to get to Queenstown. You know us – we are always deviating from the main road to explore. It could take a few days.

Our first impressions of Tasmania? While there are similarities to New Zealand in terms of flora and the weather (8C in Stanley this morning), the island has its own distinct flavour which we would find difficult to replicate at home. We are appreciating the journey.

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Arrived Tasmania

Getting the motorhome on and off a ferry is always a bit nerve wracking for the Captain but at 6.30am this morning we disembarked safely ashore in Devonport, Tasmania. We departed Melbourne last night at 9pm in 30kt winds and bumpy seas so being able to tuck up in a cabin over night was very beneficial. We felt for those passengers this morning that had to spend the night sleeping in chairs in the different lounges around the ship.

Spirit of Tasmania

Spirit of Tasmania

Our voyage last night was on the Spirit of Tasmania, a Roll On/Roll Off passenger and freight vessel built in 1998. The vessel is 194m long, 25m wide and has an average speed of 27 knots. The distance from Melbourne to Devonport was 232 nautical miles (429km) and we made the crossing in 9.5 hours.

So where to from Devonport? We have decided to head west today primarily because that part of Tasmania is out on a bit of a limb and if we run out of time by the end of the month we may not get there. The plan is to drive through Burnie and Smithton to Green Point where we will stop for the night. It will be a trip of about 200km. Tomorrow we will drive a further 20km into the Warra Creek Forest Reserve to have a look around. Over the next few days we will try a come up with a ‘Tasmania’ plan. Our next firm ‘appointment’ is the 1 March when we will board the Spirit of Tasmania back to the mainland.

We are not sure how efficient cell phone or data coverage will be as we travel Tasmania so if you cannot get hold of us just leave a message and we will call back as soon as we are able.

 

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