1997 Troopy goes to Tasmania, Part 2.

Wednesday, Sep 10, 1997 at 17:52


Moving on to Queenstown we booked into an underground tour of the mine that produces copper, gold and silver. First we had to get kitted up with hard hat, gumboots, goggles, lamp, battery pack and emergency breathing gear. Feeling like real miners we packed into a mine vehicle and for the next 3 hours we were shown how the mine worked while steadily descending into the bowels of the earth. We went about 600m below ground level or 350m below sea level in the process, driving down about 5km of big zigzagging ramps. Occasionally our vehicle would stop in a small side bay while the lights and huge wheels of some underground monster lumbered past us. Whenever we left the vehicle there was much water and mud about so we appreciated the boots. We saw big machinery, pumps, drilling rigs and how the rock was prepared for blasting. One tonne of explosive could bring down 2,500 tonnes of rock. This tour was an amazing experience that was over too soon.

Back in the sunlight we headed southeast from Queenstown where we camped near the Crotty dam in some spectacular country. From there we drove down a track that was another old railway line to Bird River. From there we walked a further few kilometres through beautiful forest. The track would have eventually taken us to the eastern end of Macquarie Harbour if we had planned to do the walk, which we hadn’t. Instead we headed back east along the Mt Lyell highway, checking out many of the walks and sightseeing points. Despite the low cloud we saw enticing views of rugged country and the Franklin River valley.

At Lake St Clair we had a look around the visitors centre before checking into the campground where we had an interesting time trying to have a shower with the coin operated showers – where you had to leave your shower cubicle to put another coin in the slot! We ran into some Canberra friends so we had a pleasant company around a campfire that night. We walked out along the lake shore for a few hours taking in a short section of the Overland Track. It is beautiful country.

Leaving there we headed towards Deloraine, past the Great Lake, before turning west into the world heritage highland lakes area. This is amazing country, flattish but with sand dunes, even small sand blows, and lakes of all sizes. Although many fishermen were camped there we managed to find a place to camp, then spent the rest of the day exploring on foot. Around our lake there were stunted and gnarled pine trees, together with heath, cushion plants and alpine daisies. It was very cold as the sun set, when swarms of insects appeared, but fortunately they didn’t seem too interested in us.

We explored some more in the morning before moving on to Deloraine, passing the rest of the Great Lake with its many fishing shacks. There was rugged country with hillsides covered in rocky scree, then finally after travelling roads lined with hedgerows, we reached Deloraine set in lush green grazing country. The town is very pretty with lots of interesting old buildings.

At Mole Creek we found a good “I” centre with information about caves and walks. It pointed us to a lovely little campground with basic facilities and a pretty little creek with platypus to entertain us. We used this as a base from which we visited nearby King Solomon’s and Marakoopa Caves. Marakoopa is a deep and spectacular cave; King Solomon’s are smaller and close to the surface but still with great limestone formations. We were able to drive up to Devil’s Gullet where there were great views looking west towards Cradle Mtn., then on to Lake Mackenzie, following a big water race beside the road. The lake, although small is damned up. In nearby heath Val was delighted to find large cushion plants, something she had heard a lot about but had never seen. Their smooth soft appearance belied their firm feel and tough prickly surface.

A visit to Westbury revealed a large collection of restored steam engines, tractors and other old farm machinery lovingly tended by an elderly gentleman. Many were restored to working order, and there were also working scale replicas of steam engines – we had a ride on one. There is also a big traditional maze formed by clipped privet hedges. It took us about half an hour to find the centre and about ten minutes to find our way out. Other features of this delightful town were the village green dating from the 1820s with some original buildings and lovely old trees, and some spectacular murals.

A scenic drive from Mole Creek took us through wild mountainous country to Cradle Mountain, where we found the park very busy with tour buses and commercial operators. The campground had good facilities but was quite expensive. We walked around Dove Lake admiring the views and reflections and the old gnarled trees. [Image not found]The next day we had an excellent walk around Crater Lake, and John climbed up to Marion’s Lookout. We returned to the campground via Wombat Tarn, Weindorf’s forest and Waldham Chalet. We marvelled at the early walkers in this area, especially the women who climbed the peaks in ankle length skirts!

Leaving the park we headed south and after some exploration found MacIntosh Dam that provided a good camp spot, along with a swim as it was quite a warm afternoon. Next day we went into Rosebury then on to Zeehan where we had an all too brief look through the excellent Mining Museum. We also found a local wood turner who had developed a way of turning using unusual spiral routed patterns, and bought a couple of pieces of his work – a huon pine lamp base and a blackwood bowl.

From Queenstown we had a day’s drive first east and then south and west again to Strathgordon and the Gordon dam, finding drier weather this time. The dam was a massive thing though Strathgordon turned out to be almost a ghost town. The views were spectacular too and the weather was clear allowing for good viewing. We finally made camp at Wedge River where we had the fairly open campground to ourselves.

Learning that a friend at Port Arthur was expecting us shortly, and as the weather had turned wet we headed east again, taking short cuts on back roads, but stopping long enough to pick a good feed of blackberries. A quick look around at Risdon Cove and Richmond which we found to be a bit touristy, then on through Sorrell and Weilangta Forest Reserve to Thumbs Lookout where we found everything we needed to be comfortable for the night. There were great views over Maria Island although the misty weather restricted our view.

From there we explored north, and wondered at the old convict structures including the Spiky Bridge. We visited a steam driven bark mill which was a working replica of a plant that was used to shred wattle bark to make tannin, and another museum of old machinery and wool craft. There was supposed to be a tannery somewhere but that eluded us.

Then it was time to move south to Port Arthur, via Sorrell for some shopping and laundry. Near Eaglehawk Neck we saw the tessellated pavement, then explored a few side tracks around Fortesque Bay where we came close to getting bogged, and around Doo Town where many of the houses humorously sported names incorporating “doo”; Thistledoo, Gunnadoo, Doolittle etc. Finally we met our friend after he had finished work at port Arthur and we all went out for an excellent seafood dinner.

The next day was drizzly and grey, perhaps fitting weather in which to explore historic Port Arthur which was still in solemn mood following the tragic events there in April 1996. Indeed there were not many people about, so it was easy to move about and see and take in all that is there to see. A cruise across to the Isle of the Dead was a sombre experience, hearing stories of some of the terrible things that happened there and the harsh living conditions. A half hour guided introductory walk gave us enough background so that we could spend the rest of the day exploring the many buildings on the site. A day did not really give enough time to see all there was to see, but we came away with fresh awareness of our convict heritage.

There are more convict sites in this area, so we went exploring out to Lime Bay Nature Reserve, and on the way saw the remains of old convict coal mines at Plunkett Point. We spent the night at the campground at Lime Bay, basic but quiet with lovely views over the water towards Hobart.

From this southerly point we meandered north past pretty little beaches and through green paddocks, picking blackberries as we went. Back at Richmond we drove over the famous old bridge before heading towards Oatlands, which had once been quite a large town but which now seemed to be struggling for survival. Despite misty drizzle the country here was very dry, so we headed out to Interlaken through timbered stony country. At Interlaken the campground at first sight seemed pretty minimal – until we found a brand new amenities block with welcome hot showers. We had the place to ourselves, not surprising as it was now cold and windy, even our fire was reluctant to burn. It was just as cold next morning, as we headed towards Ross on a steeply descending road that wound through occasional cleared patches of stony ground.

Ross, although small, seemed a thriving town rich in convict history. There was another old stone bridge to admire, a church, the women’s factory where an archaeological dig was in progress, old cemeteries and stone walls. A lot of work has gone into restoring these structures and providing a worthwhile tourist experience as well. The wool centre had some really good displays and handcraft items for sale.

A little to the north we had lunch at Campbell Town where we admired yet another convict bridge, this one in red brick, as well as other carefully restored convict buildings. From there we headed north east, turning off at Fingal and heading for the Griffin camping area in pine forest beside the South Esk River. There were quite a few campers there, and the river is broad and shallow and unspoilt, so we had a lazy day there enjoying some warmer weather.

Continuing east we explored along forestry trails which were thankfully well signposted, before reaching the coast again at St. Helens. We explored around Binalong Bay and up the coast as far as the Gardens. There are a lot of camping areas behind the beaches, most just with pit toilets. The sea is an incredible shade of turquoise blue and very clear, but a strong breeze makes it necessary to find a sheltered spot. There is a long weekend coming up so we need to find a camp before the rush starts. We settle on a spot at Schooner Reef and settle in as it begins to rain.

We spent a few days in this delightful spot, walking on the beach and exploring the rocky headlands with their granite rocks crusted with brilliant orange lichen. It is nearly time to head for Devonport and the ferry home. We skirted around Launceston and spent our last night in Tassie back at the Mole Creek campground. The next morning a heavy fog turned to rain making it difficult to pack up. We headed north through Paradise and Sheffield where we admired the murals, then through Latrobe again before arriving at Devonport in time to have a look around town.

Then it was into the queue for the ferry and the novelty of finding our cabin and exploring the ship. On deck we watched the sun set as we farewelled Tasmania and remembered the highlights of our 7 wonderful weeks there. One day we will return.
J and V
"Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted."
- Albert Einstein
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