1997 Troopy goes to Tasmania, Part 1.

Sunday, Aug 10, 1997 at 17:49


When Troopy was not much more than a lad – in late ’96 – he went on a honeymoon. And in a way so did we. It happened like this - one of our sons and his new wife wanted to tour Tasmania for their honeymoon. Their sedan could have gone, but Troopy gave added flexibility. So Troopy was duly offered for the trip, and accepted – the deal was that the happy couple would leave Troopy at the airport in Hobart and fly home, whereupon we would fly down and continue the trip.

So after much polishing, preening and packing all was ready. A last minute windscreen replacement nearly ended in disaster when a windstorm blew a big roller door down onto the top of the cabin. There was a bit of a dent but no real damage – the scars are still there even now. Finally the big day came and the young folk set off on their adventure…. and a few weeks later they were back, all smiles.

So we boarded the plane and before long we were stepping off at Hobart. Troopy had sat in the January sun in the airport carpark for a couple of days and our son’s collection of Tasmanian timbers stacked inside gave us an aromatic welcome. Keen to get cracking we headed into town and were just in time to catch the Salamanca Place markets. After lunch and some food shopping we set off in search of a caravan park where we could repack Troopy and get some of the wood out of the way. Our search took us to the Shot Tower, which we duly climbed, then back to the Sandy Bay Caravan Park where we set up our tent and started on the repacking.

We used the caravan park as a base for a few days while we explored Hobart and Mt. Wellington with its amazing rock formations and enticing views over new country (to us anyway) just waiting to be explored. Meanwhile the history in and around Battery Point, the docks and marinas and a Tom Roberts exhibition at the Museum kept us busy. A service for Troopy and dinner with friends and we were ready to leave town heading south to Cockle Creek.

As we went south the scenery became increasingly spectacular, with hills, stretches of water and increasing forestry areas. The number of logging trucks increased too. Cockle Creek was a very quiet little place on a secluded waterway, but there were plenty of people camped there. We set up our tent and had a walk along the shore. During the night light rain set in and the following day was cold and windy as well. It did not look good for our planned walk to South East Cape, so we had a lazy day reading and adjusting to this unexpected cold weather.

The following day was even colder, wetter and windier so we decided to explore some of the forest areas, thermal pools and caves. At Hastings Cave we had an excellent guided tour led by an informative and enthusiastic ranger. Afterwards we swam in the wonderfully warm thermal pool, and saw quolls, Tasmanian devils and a platypus as we did some of the walks heading out from the pool. Our exploration of some forestry areas took us to Duck Hole Lake and past recently logged areas that looked like a moonscape.

The following day was still cold but fine enough to set out on our walk. The cape is about 8km away and the return walk should take 4 to 6 hours return. But we are novice walkers, and we saw many who, all kitted up, are either starting or finishing walking the SW track, making us feel like really rank amateurs. The walk started out through forest, crossed heath and swamp via boardwalks, across wooded sand dunes to finish at a stark headland covered in fine shale scree. Down on the beach, where a lot of giant kelp had washed up, it was cold and windy but we had the place to ourselves for lunch. The scenery was forbidding as several lines of breakers rolled in under a leaden sky. On the return trip we saw a furry echidna. Back at camp we were footsore and tired but well pleased with our achievement.

Leaving Cockle Creek we headed for Geeveston and the Timber and Heritage Centre that housed displays of the history of the area, but presented a fairly blatant justification of the current “clearfell and burn” logging practices. Out in the deserted Saturday afternoon street we chatted to a man who turned out to be the local butcher. He took us into his shop to show us how he smoked salmon - we bought some as it was excellent.

In the Tahune Forest Reserve we did more walks, despite being rather footsore from the previous day’s effort. We saw our first Huon pines and learned to recognise their characteristic scent. There were huge stringybarks and even bigger stumps and fallen logs. In the Hartz Mountains we did some short walks to Osbourne Lake, which is a tarn lake in an old glacial landscape. There were waratahs in bloom, and we saw King Billy and Celery Top Pine as well.

North again via Hobart and New Norfolk in 35-degree weather. Missed seeing the Oast House as it was closed. At the Salmon Ponds we admired the large fish, mainly brown trout, and saw how fingerlings were grown.There we were given directions to a great camp spot out of Maydena, beside a freezing cold, crystal clear stream. From there we walked through big tree ferns up to Junee Cave where the stream emerges.

At Mt. Field National Park we sought respite from the heat at Russell Falls, before driving up the mountain as far as vehicles were permitted, to Lake Dobson. Here it was windy but cooler, there were even some patches of old snow here and there, so we walked around the lake through snow gums and “pandanus”. Troopy then was called on to recover a vehicle that had become stuck in a table drain.

Back down into the heat and smoke haze, heading through amazing mountain scenery towards Scott’s Peak Dam. Light rain started to fall and by the time we reached the campsite it was raining steadily and continued most of the following day – well the annual rainfall there is about 2 metres, so what did we expect. We walked short sections of tracks in between showers. This was a good sheltered campground with intriguing “no urinating” signs in the toilets!

Seeking somewhere a bit drier we headed for Coles Bay after realising we needed to get in to a campsite before places filled up for the Easter weekend. Coles Bay was full already but we found a good spot along the River and Rocks Road with a view of the Hazards. This became our base for a few days while we explored the surrounding area. We walked to beautiful Wineglass Bay and did the return loop via Hazards beach, about 12km and a lovely walk.

Moving north we explored the towns and beaches. Near Bicheno we bought lobster from a roadside stall, and watched the blowhole and fishing boats in a heavy swell. Shopping and laundry at St. Helens and on towards Mt. William NP through forested and partly cleared country. At Policeman’s Point we found a sheltered campsite beside a lake. The bright white sand looked inviting but strong winds made the beach unpleasant. Next day we explored the impressive granite tower of the now unmanned lighthouse at Eddystone Point. At Stumpy Bay we found a large camping area with hardly anyone there except for the very quiet wallabies that would have happily eaten all our food.

Turning inland we admired the Blue Lake, then past pretty bush towns to Scottsdale and the lavender farm where the annual harvest was in progress. There were big heaps of lavender heads drying in the sun and the small still gave forth a steady stream of pale coloured scented oil. The souvenir shop was doing a roaring trade. Further meanders brought us to a strawberry farm, where we picked raspberries – strawberries were finished. Then down to where Southern Cross Country made waterproof jackets, and bought one each. Finally on to Georgetown in time to join a ranger led group to spot fairy penguins and their chicks. While there weren’t large numbers of birds we were able to get quite close and have a good look at them.

The restored pilot station at Georgetown had become a maritime museum so we spent an interesting time there before going in to Launceston and the obligatory visit to the Tamar Knitting Mills. The tour of the knitting machines was well done and there were goodies to be had in the shop. A visit to Cascades Gorge where we admired the peacocks and some hot walks rounded out our visit. Our camp that night was at Asbestos Range NP where we had lots of miniature wallabies, or were they bettongs, for company.

From there we drove west on back roads through magnificent looking farmland, where deep red soil grew potatoes, onions, beans, broccoli …and poppies. All very green and lush. Tried to do some shopping at Latrobe, only to find most of the town shut, as it was Saturday.

At Stanley we had a look at the tiny cottage where Joe Lyons was born, before walking up the steep path to the top of the Nutt (John has an aversion to chair lifts). The spectacular views from the top make the climb worthwhile, though it was very windy. Highfield, an 1830’s house and farm buildings were another reminder of pioneering days, although we weren’t able to go into the house.

From Smithton we headed south through lush dairying and cropping country before entering forest reserves where there were stands of blackwood, beech and sassafras. Then onto the newly built “Western Explorer” road through remote, sometimes desolate country to Pieman River. Built to encourage tourism it is a steep and winding gravel road with a blinding white surface. It took us through heath, button grass and rainforest pockets before coming to the Pieman River where we had a short walk while we waited for the small ferry to take us across.

Camping at the Pieman didn’t appeal so we continued on to Granville Harbour, an isolated fishing village on a rocky coast. There we found a spot on a headland some distance from any houses and got set for the night. Then some local lads on motorbikes decided that they didn’t want us at their crayfishing spot, and proceeded to circle us on their bikes. We felt uncomfortable so took the hint and left, eventually finding a quarry where we spent the night. [In all our travels this is the only time that we have ever felt the need to move on from a camp.]

Arriving at Strahan we checked into the caravan park then did some exploring, first to a colony of shearwaters at Ocean Beach, and out to Macquarie Heads. We booked a Gordon River cruise and then went to a play at a theatre down at the wharf. It was called “The Ship That Never Was” and was acted by two players plus lots of entertaining audience participation. John was the Captain. The play told the story of a ship that was built at Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour, and how the ship was used by convicts to escape from that wretched place. It was exceptionally well done and very entertaining – one of the highlights of our trip.

We had a clear warm day for our cruise up the Gordon River in the “Wanderer”. First we headed out through “Hells Gate” at the entrance to the harbour, where many ships have been wrecked – but the sea was unusually calm, so no hellish experience to be had there. Heading east up the harbour we passed several fish farms where rainbow trout raised in salt water become large ocean trout. Our first stop was at Sarah Island and our tour guide Richard was none other than one of the actors from yesterday’s play. Richard has an extensive knowledge of this prison island and outlined how the convicts lived there. He donned a wetsuit to show where the extensive docks had been built to enable many wooden vessels to be built there. All too soon we were back on board and cruising up the Gordon River. We ate a delicious buffet lunch while admiring the magnificent scenery and dense forest of sassafras, myrtle and blackwood. We pulled in to a small jetty and took a boardwalk to an ancient gnarled Huon pine, and then it was time to turn around and head back to Strachan.

The next day we did the King River drive that follows an old railway track. On a short walk we saw huge tree ferns and dense forest, giving us an insight into how difficult it must have been for the pioneers in this country. The King River is very polluted from the Mt Lyall mine; the banks are covered with toxic silt so nothing grows there. Restoration efforts appeared not to be successful. Back in Strachan we found a sawmill that sold off cuts of huon pine, so a bit more wood was squeezed into Troopy. Our camp that night was in a pine forest near Macquarie heads – very peaceful.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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