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February 5th 2013
Published: February 6th 2013
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Tasmania is three times the size of Vancouver Island and has perhaps six times more usable land. A welcoming committee handed us plastic bags, filled with discount coupons and advertising for the many tourist destinations on the island, as we drove off, the ferry, the Spirit of Tasmania II at Devonport under blue skies and a setting sun. That night we found a near empty caravan park at Burnie forty minutes west of the ferry terminal across the street from a beach where the clay berm at the top of the beach is home to families of blue-headed Fairy Penguins. The next day we cycled up the enchanting Guild river looking for platypuses, explored Burnie, listened to a naturalist talk about the penguins and just after sunset watched the penguins waddle up the beach to the loud calls of their babies who came to the edge of their burrows waiting for their nightly feed.


After Burnie we drove to Stanley on the north west coast through rolling hills of lush agricultural land. Rolande asked “Why can’t the farmers put big signs up telling us what is growing”. Some crops were easy to identify but some we had never seen before. There were acres of what looked to be poppies in many of the fields. Apparently Australia can’t get enough of this big cash crop from Tasmania. The poppies are grown here for medicinal opiates. We were warned not to try making a tea from the poppy heads because the opiates are so strong chances are you will probably overdose. Instead we overdosed on the best tree ripened fruit we have ever eaten. The apricots, cherries, plums, and fresh blueberries were to die for. All this in January. Nice.

Stanley is a beautiful quaint town built on an isthmus connecting the “Nut” to Tasmania. We camped along the mile long beach beneath the Nut. I hiked up the 173 meter high Nut and Rolande took the chair lift. It is called the Nut because when Captain Flinders was sailing by one of his crew said the huge rock on the beach reminded him of the nut on top of a Christmas pudding. We hiked around the Nut, discovering hundreds of burrows in the dirt made by nesting shearwaters. The shearwaters are beautiful sea going birds who follow the sun between Tasmania and Alaska, breeding twice a year in the high latitudes of the north and the south....and we thought we were travelers. We hiked two kilometers around the top of this giant rock and while going through a forest on top of the Nut we encountered a fearless Wallaby.

We had to cut our visit to Stanley short to get Rolande to a dentist in Burnie but we did travel to the extreme west coast marked as a windmill farm on the map. We had lunch and watched the windmills tilt until Rolande’s tooth ache carried us back to Burnie and a friendly, very good and inexpensive Chinese Dentist who fixed her problem.

We drove back through Devenport bought, some groceries at Coles to get out 8-cent/liter discount on fuel and headed east to camp at Port Sorel. We had a wonderful time, after finding a quiet spot away from the millions of kids and giant families, riding our bicycles through the parks and watching the games and antics of the kids. It is school summer holidays here. We felt quite smug having learned the ropes, first wander through the camps find a suitable spot, go to the office with our request, rather than getting an unsuitable spot assigned We stayed in Branxholm for two nights to see the platypuses in the Ringarooma river. The river was so still it was difficult to tell the reflection from the bank as we sat waiting. When the water turned to reflected gold of the setting sun a lone platypus swam lazily up the river and around the bend.

To get to the coast you must drive through a mountain range on a very narrow road through forests of grass trees (giant prehistoric looking ferns). We free camped along the east coast on long empty beaches, visited the area on the Tasman Peninsula inspecting the devastation of the bush fires to Dunallay and Port Arthur and then to Hobart. Hobart is one of the most spectacular cities in Australia about the size of Victoria on Vancouver Island and nestled on a long inlet between Mount Wellington and several other high peaks. I was impressed with the acting at a performance of “Her Story” where we were a part of an interactive set in a nineteenth century woman’s factory for convicts. It was frighteningly oppressive, exemplifying the brutality the British used to build the British Empire.

In 2008 we had met some Australian sailors Mike and Sue on Yarandoo in Drake’s Bay California We met them again in Mexico and Australia and found them this time in Kettering, Tasmania. We shared fond memories over an incredible dinner on their boat which was on a mooring ball in the bay. The protected waterways around Hobart remind me of the Gulf Islands in the seventies with beautiful un-crowded anchorages everywhere. Mike and Sue usually travel between Brisbane and Tasmania every year except when they sail to the South Pacific and sometimes America.

We drove into the central plateau and camped the first night at Bronte Park, an old camp where returning WWII soldiers went to recover. The camp is now a trailer camp mainly occupied by displaced Australians. We were there on Australia Day and shared stories in front of a wood fire built in the bucket of some old digger. We wondered about the lines of skinned corpses with furry tails attached to a line behind their trailers. The guys hunt marsupials to feed their dogs, fish in the lakes and drink beer when they are at the camp. Some of them were permanent residents who also cut and stack giant piles of wood they use to heat their trailers through the long cold winter. We stopped along the way to Strahan at Queenstown. I was so exhausted after driving on a very twisty road. I was frightened half to death because the road looked like it could fall off the edge of the cliff it was clinging to at any moment carrying us to our deaths far below. You could see the cracks in the pavement where it had already started to slide. You know that feeling you get in your stomach when you are about to die, well it went on for what seemed like hours and we were on the outside of the road for the whole way. Queenstown is like Trail, BC. Houses are built around a large copper mine, with a gold sideline, which should produce for another fifty years. We met a gimpy looking miner who told us the story of the place saying the gold alone pays the operating costs. He now drives the bus used to return tourist who have taken the steam train to Strahan.

The weather showed usually nice weather for the next day. We had to choose between Cradle Mountain and a boat cruise out of Strahan. We chose Cradle Mountain and were glad we did after the bus driver at Cradle Mountain told us it rains there two hundred and seventy days a year and we had lucked out with a clear day with little wind and not a cloud in the sky. I hiked to Marion’s lookout, 1760 meters up, on very well organized trails with chains on the steep bits and boardwalks over the marshy ground while Rolande attended the naturalists talk and leaned about Wombat poo. Cradle Mountain is a beautiful park rivaling the beauty of Paradise meadows and I was pleased to see the well-staffed Australian Parks Service maintaining it in a near pristine state. We were told it is a walking park with complimentary busses to carry tourists to the most spectacular venues.

We left Cradle Mountain late the next day after a wonderful hike around Dove lake and headed east through rugged mountains to Deloraine where we camped along the side of a picturesque river. The scene included a very English looking village built just behind the walking paths, which snakes along on the river’s banks.

We are now finishing our third week on Tasmania in a caravan park in Green Beach, a place we selected because the weather maps showed the northeast corner as the warmest with the least amount of rain. We made ourselves comfortable while fronts from the southern ocean dumped rain on us. According to the locals the weather up until that point had been unusually fine. We took advantage of the clear skies on the morning before our return to Melbourne by visiting The Cataracts in the city of Launceston. The Cataracts is a park set in rocky gorge with a river flowing over a series of water falls surrounded by a beautiful green park, a chair lift, huge swimming pool, suspension bridge, walkways along the rocky cliffs and an inclinometer (a kind of elevator clinging to the edge of a cliff on an angle). We spent all day exploring Launceston and this magnificent park.

It was sad to see the lush fields and quaint villages recede over the horizon as we steamed out of the port of Devonport on a clear warm morning on the Finish-built ship, the Spirit of Tasmania II, which carried us the two hundred and seventy nautical miles to the port of Melbourne in a mere ten hours.

Additional photos below
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The kitchen in the Cradle Mt camp ground is Hobbit likeThe kitchen in the Cradle Mt camp ground is Hobbit like
The kitchen in the Cradle Mt camp ground is Hobbit like

Angus is the expert on the barbie. The camp kitchen behind has micro waves, fridges, hot plates, sinks with hot water and picnic tables. Perfect for the frequent inclement weather.

6th February 2013

Thanks for the update...Angus you are such a prolific writer! Love hearing of your adventures! Want that tide pool here!!!!!!! Miss you guys! Love you, J, K & Z xxx
6th February 2013

Sad to see you go
Hi guys it was great to read your blogs and know that you enjoyed this wonderful island of Tasmania - the forgotten south of Australia. We are kind of glad that all cruisers do not venture this far south - selfish I know but we do enjoy our un-crowded cruising here in Tassie. So saying Hobart is alive with boaties. The Wooden Boat Festival is about to start (Mike is on duty today berthing boats as they arrive). I don't get to start until tomorrow when I am on Administration duties - registering all the boats. The festival has a massive programme with world reknowned sailors as guest speakers. KC from Port Townsend is giving 2 lectures and I hope to get to them both but Mike is on duty for the first one. It sure is going to be a busy, mad, wonderful, informative few days and the wx forecast is doing us proud. It was 31 degrees yesterday and I was baking all day for the friend who loaned us his car - he will be doing lots of entertaining aboard Solquest over the weekend. Mike left at 6.00am this morning with John and De aboard Silver Air and I will drive up to Hobart later in the day. Tomorrow I have to be in Hobart by 7.30am and it is about an hour drive as you know so another early start to the day. Fortunately I have pressed our uniforms and all our gear is packed. Well I better get ready for the radio net so best wishes to you both. Good luck with selling the van and enjoy Sydney. Cheers and much love Sue and Mike
16th February 2013

Looks like lots of fun!

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