Gordon River Cruise

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July 23rd 2014
Published: July 23rd 2014
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We had an early start this morning for our Gordon River Cruise because we were due at the cruise office down at Strahan Wharf at 8.00am for an 8.30am departure. The alarm was supposed to be set to go off at 6.30am, but didn't. Fortunately Bernie woke up at 6.31am anyway. He must have a Jack Reacher-like inbuilt alarm clock in his head?

The weather was absolutely beautiful as we walked from Risby Cove around to the wharf. The sky was blue and the sun was rising into the sky behind Water Tower Hill. We could not have chosen a better day to be taking a Gordon River Cruise. As the Lady Jane Franklin II made her way out into Macquarie Habour the only blot on the horizon was a band of low cloud hanging over Macquarie Heads.

A pass through Macquarie Heads, otherwise known as Hell's Gates, was supposed to be the first point of interest on our cruise. With only one cruise boat out today, Captain Rob and crew decided that we would sail instead to Sarah Island and make our pass through the heads on the return trip this afternoon.

So, it was full steam ahead at 25 knots (approximately 50km/hour) for Sarah Island the site of Tasmania's first convict settlement. On our way to Sarah Island we passed the fish pens where they are farming Atlantic salmon and ocean trout. Tasmania led the way in developing salmon farming in the 70s and during the 80s they applied the techniques to rainbow trout to create a new industry for what is known today as ocean trout.

Science nerd fact learnt today - wild salmon gets its orange colour from the carotenoids in the white bait that they feed on. With farmed salmon the 'orangeness' of the fish can be manipulated by altering the quantity of carotenoids in the fish pellets that they are being fed. We were shown a salmon colour swatch - ranging from light to dark orange - that customers can use to order their salmon as light or dark as they want it. The Japanese in particular think that the darker orange the salmon is the better. It all left me trying to decide if fish farming (25,000 fish to a pen) is as bad as caging hens to produce eggs?? Another ethical food dilemma.

Next we docked at the eight hectare Sarah Island that was a convict prison for 12 years from 1821. The men sentenced to serve their time on Sarah Island worked in gangs from sunrise to dark, often waist deep in water felling and hauling Huon pine logs. Later the convict settlement became the largest shipyard in Australia turning out 131 vessels made of rot-resistant Huon pine. Janelle took us on an excellent guided tour of the island during which she shared many stories about the island's past inhabitants and its present day ruins. Only ruins remain because most of the buildings were dismantled and moved to Port Arthur when it was decided that Sarah Island was too remote and therefore too expensive to maintain.

From Sarah Island we sailed on to the mouth of the Gordon River where Captain Rob cut the boat's speed to reduce the wash which damages the fragile ecosystem along the banks of the river. We thought we had had our fill of spectacular scenery being reflected in mirror smooth waters up at Cradle Mountain, but here we were on the Gordon River being spoiled with yet more beautiful scenery being reflected in the tannin-dark, mirror smooth water.

Our second stop for the day was at Heritage Landing where we were able to disembark for a short walk in the temperate rainforest for which the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area is globally renowned. It was like stepping back in time ... until the sound of a jet aircraft passing overhead spoiled the silence! Despite the encroachment of the 21st Century, it was still an idyllic half an hour in the wilderness. With the extreme density of the rainforest vegetation it's no wonder it was nearly impossible for the convicts to escape from Sarah Island. Even if they managed to wander off when on logging detail they couldn't get far through the rainforest.

Bernie booked the Captain's Premium Upper Deck for our cruise today so we were served canap├ęs and beverages as we cruised up the river. Back on the boat after our nature walk, it was time for lunch as we cruised back towards Macquarie Harbour. With the sun streaming into the cabin and food and wine in my stomach I have to confess to dozing a little bit as we sailed back past Sarah Island and the fish pens! That's OK, I's already seen those.

I woke up in time for our approach to Hell's Gates at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. With the water's of Macquarie Harbour very smooth today we enjoyed a very smooth passage out through the heads. We sailed just past the end of the three kilometre 'training wall' that creates a giant funnel that speeds up the tidal flow to force it along the wall to scour out sand and keep the channel clear for shipping. Venturing out onto the deck for some photos, the invigorating breeze cleared my head of sleepiness.

After an absolutely perfect cruise - we could not have had better weather if we had been able to order it! - we returned to Strahan Wharf where we disembarked. We made a couple of small purchases in the gift shop and then strolled along The Esplanade to Morrison's Woodwork Gallery. So much beautifully worked timber; not just Huon pine, but Leatherwood, Myrtle, Blackwood and Sassafras too. There were some magnificent pieces, but we managed to restrict ourselves to a set of four coasters in four of the varieties of timber mentioned and a cheese knife with a Huon pine handle.

We bought ice-creams for the walk back to Risby Cove and picked up a couple of baguettes to go with the pumpkin and ginger soup we are going to heat up for dinner and a spare baguette for the ducks! After dropping into our cabin we strolled along to the People's Park just down the road and took the walk into Hogarth Falls. A lovely gentle walk compared with what we did around Cradle Mountain!

The ducks weren't about earlier, but when we returned to the cabin they just about charged the verandah looking for food. Did they know that we bought an extra baguette?? They're a motley looking assortment of ducks. I think they're all domestic ducks that have escaped so I think it's OK to feed them? It's not like they're wildlife. And who knew that ducks could catch? I thought they ate grass and slow-moving prey like snails and slugs and did not expect them to be quick enough to catch morsels of bread.

After eating (and drinking) all day it's a quiet night in catching up on the travel diary and photo processing.

12,719 steps today (8.74 km)

Additional photos below
Photos: 17, Displayed: 17


23rd July 2014

Are you sure this is right? " to rainbow trout to create a new industry for what is known today as ocean trout."
23rd July 2014

The tour guide is always right
I expect it is a marketing thing to differentiate between genuine river-caught rainbow trout and the trout that is farmed in the brackish waters in Macquarie Harbour near the mouth of the Gordon River??
25th July 2014
Rainforest Canopy

There's something special about the light over the Gordon River. You have caught it beautifully. And the canopies...this one of yours is a beauty. I got into taking shots of those in Tasmania too so I can vouch that your pic is an extra good one..
25th July 2014
Rainforest Canopy

Hi Dave, thank you for the compliment on my rainforest canopy photo. I was captivated by the separateness that the trees had maintained to create a lovely, lacey effect and decided to try to capture it in a photo. I was pretty pleased with the result considering that I was shooting in auto and put all of my trust in the camera!

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