Tasmania Two - 26 February to 5 March 2011

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March 24th 2011
Published: March 24th 2011
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We had always wanted to visit Tasmania (known by the locals as Tassie) and we were so enjoying our travels here on this island in the Bass Strait. After leaving the beautiful area of the Freycinet Peninsular we headed north towards the fishing port of Bicheno where we stopped to walk to its famous blowhole where the sea in full force blows upwards through a small gap in the rocks. Even though the tide was low there were several huge waves that caused the blowhole to shoot the water far up into the sky and you had to be careful that you were not washed away. We stayed well clear but others ventured a bit too near and there were some very close calls!! We continued along the coastal road on the Tasman Highway and decided to turn off to undertake a walk in the Douglas-Apsley National Park which is mid way up the east coast of Tasmania. The turn off to the park was down a 6km unsealed road but was ‘just’ suitable for our small 2WD but nonetheless rather bumpy in parts. The NP is one of the few that conserve the diverse wealth of dry forest plants found on the east coast and has deep river gorges, waterfalls and undisturbed dry eucalypt forests. We intended to do the Apsley River Waterhole and Gorge walk which should take rougly three hours and was graded as ‘3’ which is the most difficult in the park. The walk crosses the Apsley River at the waterhole and then takes you away from the river up through dry open forest before descending back to the river at the Apsley Gorge. The track was not a well-walked route and we had to divert many times off the track to avoid the fallen trees and growth across the track. The start was particularly difficult, after a slow ‘rock hop’ across the river which can only be done when the river is low, we then climbed continuously up hill for quite a while before the track levelled off across the forest floor where although we did not see much wildlife there was quite a diverse selection of flowers, plants and toadstools. We saw several lovely pink orchids shooting straight out of the forest floor and a variety of spiders and their huge webs but luckily, no horrid snakes. After what seemed like ages (and me deciding perhaps we should turn back) we finally started to descend into the gorge itself, which was quite a steep decent down the rocky gorge edge until we at last reached the river below with wonderful views down through the gorge valley. We ‘rock hopped’ again into the middle of the fast flowing river and sat on a huge boulder where we had a picnic lunch, watching the water meander down stream on all sides – a truly unique wilderness experience (if you have seen Bear Grylls in action that’s what it was like) before we climbed all the way back up out of the gorge and trekked back through the forest to the very welcome car park. We continued along the east coast road towards St Helens, an old whaling town which today is home to Tasmania’s largest fishing fleet. The next day we set off to visit the Bay of Fires, somewhere I have always wanted to visit since my geography lessons at school, heading northeast over a low tidal swamp area to Binalong Bay. The Bay of Fires is exquisite, powder white sands and foaming blue water backed by scrubby bush and lagoons, just lovely. Despite the proliferation of signature bright orange lichen on the rocky points and headlands, the early explorers named the bay after seeing Aboriginal fires along the shore and not after the ‘lichen’! We walked along the edge of the lagoon before coming out onto the beach and continued along the sands to several beaches which stretched for miles before returning along the bay. It was a really hot day and we decided to sit and have lunch on the beach but had to find some rocks that gave us a little shade. We then spent a lazy afternoon on the beach watching the world go by and had a visit by a friendly kookaburra perched on the rocks before we wandered up to a small café and had a flat white coffee with views to die for. The next day we headed west inland to Derby an historical mining town and stopped at Berrie’s Cottage (circa 1895) a quaint place selling homemade food using fresh Tasmanian produce and sat on the balcony overlooking the township and hills eating homemade scones. Derby was established in 1874 with tin mining employing hundreds of men successfully for many years. From a handful of people the population rose to about 1100 in the early 1900s with three hotels, banks, boarding houses, post office, police station, three churches and schools as well as a variety of other small shops. Sadly the school closed in the 1970s and the population of the town is now only 280 - perhaps one day it will have grown again…………The local ‘Tin Centre’ outlines the story of the mining of tin in Derby and it’s importance to North East Tasmania at that time. We travelled on still heading west along the top end of Tassie, stopping at Legerwood a memorial village. On 15th October 1918 a tree dedication ceremony was held at the Railway Reserve in Legerwood and nine trees were planted to honour local soldiers killed in World War 1. As the names of the fallen were called out, a relative or near relative came forward to hold the tree until it was planted along the village road. Douglas Fir, Giant Sequoia and Deodar trees were planted and a Weymouth Pine at each end of the avenue representing Gallipoli and the Anzacs. All was well until in 2001 a report on the condition of the trees showed that they were no longer safe and the community was devastated that the memorial would be lost. In 2004 it was suggested that carving the stumps into a likeness of each soldier would enable the memorials to be retained. Eddie Freeman, a chainsaw carver from Ross, Tasmania, was employed by the local committee to sculpt the masterpieces that can be seen today. A fitting memorial that will now live on forever, we spent some time walking amongst the trees and chatting to locals who were selling small wooden gifts carved from the same trees and sold to raise funds to maintain their continuing upkeep. We purchased a small perpetual calendar that we would give to Ros as a thank you for her hospitality whilst we stayed with her in Somerville. We wanted to purchase an exquisite carved cheese knife but would probably have had difficulty with customs taking it back through the border back to Victoria. We continued on and stopped at a look out with views of the countryside for miles where we met ‘Ben the Blacksmith’. Ben came up to this lookout most days just to chat to tourist, his wife had died some years earlier and he was lonely. He had a huge beard and a personality to match and told us some amazing stories of his life as a blacksmith in Tasmania. We talked for ages before bidding farewell and continuing our journey, now doubt he will be back tomorrow chatting to more tourist. We passed through the topiary village of Railton where the village had many examples of these delightfully clipped trees, including a group of service people standing to attention at the war memorial which was quite unique. We continued on and spotted a couple of Echidnas on the side road which we had to persuade to move off the road as they were both waddling down the middle oblivious to the passing traffic – not that there was much of that though! We finally arrived in Sheffield our overnight stop. Sheffield’s public walls are all painted with huge murals, currently there are about 50 dotted throughout the township and you can follow a walk around these and it’s like walking around a giant outdoor art gallery - quite unusual. We stopped for the night at the Sheffield Country Motor Inn a motel located right in the centre of town which was extremely well run by an elderly Austrian man and his English wife. We visited the local information centre to book our next day accommodation as we intended to go on a long walk at Cradle Mountain and then head up to the far north west of Tasmania at a place called Stanley. We met a lovely lady called Sharon who came from Sheffield, which we thought was quite amusing as when she called to book us some rooms she said she was Sharon from Sheffield and as our daughter’s married name is Sheffield it was quite strange! Later that evening we walked across the road for a meal in the local pub and met Errol and Mary who were touring Tasmania and who came from Buderim in Queensland. They invited us to stay with them when we get to Queensland – again….such friendly people. The local Lions Club were holding a youth speaking contest which was quite interesting to listen to whilst we ate our dinner which was quite delicious. We headed out of Sheffield early the next morning passing the massive Mount Roland towards Cradle Mountain National Park via an extremely windy road. The weather was not too good but we hoped it would improve as we intended to do several long walks around the Cradle Mountain area. We climbed steadily along a very narrow bendy road up into the mountains and parked the car by the information centre where we enquired about which walks were open in the park. They said the weather and visibility was not looking good and best to stay on the lower mountains walks so we selected to do the Ranger Station to Ruddy Creek Boardwalk which should take about 1½ hours. We caught the shuttle bus that ‘ferries’ walkers around the area and got off bus at the Ranger Station where we signed the ‘walkers log’ to let them know where we were going. As soon as we started the walk the rain became quite heavy and as there was no shelter along the trek we had to continue and got extremely wet and cold. It was such a shame as the area was lovely with tall gum trees and huge clumps of spiky grasses covering the ground around the boardwalk meandering for miles into the distance. Despite the rain we enjoyed the walk even though we had to keep avoid the masses of ‘wombat poo’ which was all over the edges of the boardwalk. We knew it was wombat’s and not any other animal because we had been told by a ranger that it was ‘cubed shaped’ and believe me it really was!!! About half way around the walk we arrived at Snake Creek and decided to wait for the shuttle bus here as we were soaking wet and it would give us a chance to try and dry out so that we could hopefully continue on the walk around Dove Lake which was what we really wanted to see as this gave views of cradle mountains itself. Believe it or not we were the only people on the bus and the lady driver said she had just come from Dove Lake and it was snowing but the weather is so changeable and she thought it might change by the time we got there and we could at least do some of the walk. However when we arrived it was blowing a gale and the snow was coming down horizontally and quite heavy. She asked us whether we wanted to get off the bus and we both said ‘no,’ so we remained on the bus all the way back to the ranger station where we booked ourselves out of the walk log. We caught the next bus back to the information centre and had a hot drink to try and get warm before deciding to give up on trying doing any more walks in the mountains as the weather continued to close in. Because of the poor visibility we never did get to see Cradle Mountain which was a shame but it was too cold to do anything else so we continued back down the mountain towards Stanley our next overnight stop. We found our accommodation with no problem as it was in the ‘old’ Post Office which had a couple of self contained rooms on the side of the historic building and is still used as a Post Office for the villagers. We had a huge room with comfortable reclining armchairs, a huge bed and separate kitchen and bathroom. At the back there was a barbecue area with views out over the ocean and at the front we were right on the main street with the extraordinary bulbous Circular Head (known as the Nut) dominated the whole area. The Nut is an iconic, 152m high volcanic table-top which can be seen for miles around, it reminded us very much of a ‘green’ Uluru (Ayres Rock) and if you see the picture you will know why. We intended to climb the Nut the next day even though there was a chairlift to the top, need to still try and keep active!! That evening we walked around the small town of Stanley and thought we would try and stay another night as there was much to do and many other walks. However our room was booked out for the weekend and when we awoke in the morning the weather was still terrible so we had to miss the walk up the Nut and move on, such a shame. We had hoped to continue down the west coast but as the roads were poor it would have taken too long to get back to Hobart this way so we headed south towards Tasmania’s Midlands where early settlers had cleared the forested area for sheep and cattle grazing and the roads were much better. This route became the main link road from Launceston to Hobart and garrison towns sprung up along it to protect travellers from bushrangers and the roads were mainly dead straight. It was still a long journey and we stopped first at the delightful village of Evandale for coffee before continuing on to Ross another convict built village nestled on the banks of the Macquarie River. Ross had many restored historic buildings and churches but the pride of the town was the 1836 convict built sandstone bridge with its intricately carved arches. The two convicts that carved the bridge were given their ‘pardons’ because of their intricate work. We continued to Oatlands our overnight stop, perfectly situated half way between Launceston and Hobart. The village boasts the largest collection of sandstone Georgian building in Australia, the landscape offers a rare glimpse into the colonial history and the settlement of Van Dieman’s land. Original buildings have been reinvented as retail outlets, galleries, bakeries, cafes and accommodation. We stayed at Oatlands Lodge, recommended by our Lonely Planet guide book, which was an elegant sandstone lodge built in 1837 right in the centre of the town. We were met by Gerald who showed us around the lodge and let us select which room we wanted. We choose the attic room which had velux windows and reminded us of home but was also lighter than the other rooms most of which were crammed full of antiques. Gerald recommended that we went to the RSL (Returned and Services League) to eat rather than the hotel across the road for our evening meal. We walked around the village and looked at the Callington Mill (1837) which had recently been restored and is the only working example of a Lincolnshire style windmill in the Southern Hemisphere. Later as we walked around the river it turned chilly and so we called in at the RSL where there was a roaring fire which was delightful and we chatted to a chap travelling on his own with a campervan that had come in to get warm. He said that he had never known such cold temperatures and he wished he was staying in motels rather than in a van as he had been quite cold. We chatted to him for a while before wandering into the restaurant to eat (we were the only ones in there which seemed quite strange) but we were met by a lovely lady who said that if we had the special of the day it would only be $18 for three courses so we decided to go with that. To entree was Sweet Potato Soup, main was Roast Beef and the sweet was local greengages and ice cream. It was a lovely meal and whilst we were eating the Rotary Club arrived for their evening meeting and meal which we had just eaten. Apparently they met every week for a meal and meeting and we were entertained by the formal meeting and the ‘banter’ that went on around it!!!! One of the main characters was quite jolly and we enjoyed ‘listening in’ on what was going on and the jokes radiating around the dining table. We set off back to our accommodation and settled down with a ‘nightcap’ and as they only had ‘port’ in the lounge we had one of these and sat and watched the TV in front of a roaring fire. We were later joined by another guest who had just arrived and chatted to him for a while before Danny arrive, he was the partner of Gerald and believe it or not he was the chap ‘entertaining’ us at the Rotary Meeting. About two hours later when Danny had stopped talking, we all retired to bed! We awoke early the next day and went downstairs to breakfast and met the wife of the other couple that had stayed overnight. They were from Brisbane and travelled quite extensively and were a delightful couple. We chatted for a while before Gerald arrived and said breakfast was ready and showed us into the huge dinging room which was also ‘decked’ with antiques in every available space. Well you would not believe it – the biggest breakfast ever and we were also joined by Danny at the table with his own full breakfast whilst Gerald sat down and only had coffee as he was on a strict diet and it was so funny as he still had his rubber gloves on which he wore to prepare our breakfast! A couple of hours later following the most entertaining breakfast ever we finally got on our way, travelling south towards Kettering to decide what to do for our last couple of days in Tassie. We walked along the harbour at Kettering and called into the information centre to see what accommodation was available in the area and to see if we could cross to Bruny Island just of the coast of Kettering. Bruny is made up of a North and South Island which are separated by a narrow isthmus called "The Neck". Access to the island is by vehicular ferry departing from Kettering and it only takes about 15 minutes. The home of the South Bruny National Park, the island provides the ultimate Tasmanian wilderness experience and we were hoping to do some bushwalking as well as see the unique white wallabies on the south island. We were also hoping to pick up a cruise at Adventure Bay to see the stunning coastline. The lady at the information centre tried several places but they were fully booked until she managed to locate some self contained accommodation in a converted barn on a vineyard (sounds good already). With regard to crossing to Bruny she said it would be best to wait to see if the weather improved as it would be pointless going over to the island at the current time. We drove to our accommodation and it was probably the best we had stayed in so far on our trip, absolutely perfect. It was a converted barn at the bottom of a field of vines with views out over the D'Entrecasteaux Channel towards Bruny Island. The conversion was to the top floor of the barn and we had the whole building to ourselves, no-one else around with our nearest neighbours being the owners in the main house at the top of the hill. We had a huge living kitchen area with wood stove, two double bedrooms and bathrooms. Outside we had our own balcony with wonderful views over the channel, forest and vines and below was a boat and wood storage area. We could have stayed forever but we only had three days left in Tassie. We had a lovely evening in ‘our barn’ and as it turned chilly Paul lit the wood burning stove and we settled down with a cosy drink (the owner had left a bottle of their red and white wine in the room) overlooking the vineyard – pure heaven. The next day unfortunately the weather had not improved so we decided that we would just take the ferry across and back to Bruny, this was free for foot passengers and we got good views of the channel as we crossed over although the weather did not really improve. Hopefully the next day it would but it didn’t so we drove along the coast instead but it was a shame that we missed out on a visit to Bruny Island, never mind maybe next time……... We awoke to our last full day on Tassie and we wished we had some more time as there was still more we would have liked to do, but the really bad weather had curtailed our plans somewhat. We had booked overnight accommodation at the airport for our last night and our hire car had to be returned by 1000 hours before our flight in the early afternoon. We decided to make the most of our last day and travelled to Richmond to visit ZooDoo a wildlife park; it was home to lots of native animals but also had some exotics as well. Like the previous park we had visited you were in amongst many of the native animals rather than them being caged. We enjoyed our visit and were lucky enough to see quite a few unique White Wallabies (we had missed these on Bruny) roaming around freely as well as Kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils and the cuddly Wombat. We also had great fun joining an open topped wagon out to see the Emus and Ostriches. We were giving a bag of food by the ranger and told to keep our fingers firmly on the bag as he drove into the enclosures!!! Well as soon as we got into their fields they came pounding over and put their huge heads into the wagon and snatched the whole food bag away, we were in fits of laughter it was so funny. However I quickly moved into the centre of the wagon out of reach of their long beaks – well nearly! Later we walked down to the lion and tiger enclosures where you were able to get up close and feed meat to the tigers through the wire, quite a strange sensation being so close to these animals and not something one could do in the UK, so it was a bit bizarre but an experience nevertheless. We made our way out to the airport for our overnight stay and had a lovely meal in the airport hotel of local oysters which were quite delicious especially accompanied by the local sauvignon blanc. Next morning we returned our hire car and walked through to the airport, we would have a long wait as our flight was not until the afternoon but Paul managed to get us on an earlier flight and we only had to wait 30 minutes which was great. Now back to Melbourne to re-visit Ros, collect our backpacks for our onward journey to Torquay to meet Paul’s cousin whom he had never met before and to continue our journey along the Great Ocean Road – see you there.


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