Tassie 2011

Saturday, Jun 11, 2011 at 11:53

Member - Dalb (SA)

Tasmania - March/April 2011 - Highlights

Its 5.30am, still dark, we are doing 100kph with about 5 tonnes of heavily loaded cruiser and van in one of the five lanes packed full of traffic heading up to the Westgate bridge, B-doubles each side of us and appear to be closing us in. We manage to get into the left lane, the handbrake says ‘lookout for that fuel tanker coming in on an entry lane’. Suddenly our left lane closes and we merge to the next lane in the darkness. Now, where is that bloody exit to the Tassie ferry?

We somehow find the correct exit at the other end of the bridge, but now where to? It all looked so different yesterday during our daylight practice run. We did one wrong turn but managed to recover with a tricky U-turn in the traffic. From then on, the traffic thinned and there was some welcome signage to the ferry terminal. We likened the WG Bridge crossing to a night-time lap in some foreign Grand Prix race…..

On arrival at the terminal we were waved straight in, vehicle checked, collected our tickets and told to join the queue. When the lady handed us our tickets, she half-winked and made some comment to the effect that we had the really flash cabin (more on that later). In the excitement we had failed to notice that there was no ferry at the terminal – it was running about a half hour late – so we waited and talked to the other anxious ferry-first-timers waiting in line.

In the dark we could see the brightly lit Spirit of Tasmania heading toward us. It was a very impressive sight as it slowly approached. Eventually it loomed large over the dock and slowly moved sideways as the thrusters busily stirred the waters amazingly close to shore. There was a flurry of activity as soon as the mooring lines were set. The bow of the ferry opened up, the dockside gantry connected and then the ferry began to disgorge an amazing procession of semi- trailers, trucks, buses, FWD’s of all descriptions, cars, motorbikes, wizbangs, caravans and campers – hundreds of them! In all the excitement we had not noticed, but there were now hundreds more behind us waiting to board. Eventually we were waved on and drove up the ramp and into the bowels of the ferry. We locked up and taking our day trip packs with us, headed to the lifts to reach the upper decks and find our cabin.

Based on advice from others who had travelled previously, we had booked a cabin so we could rest up and have our own shower and toilet. We went for the deluxe cabin as we thought it would be a little treat for not much more. Boy, when we opened our cabin door we thought we were in the presidential suite of the QE2, as it was so huge and luxurious. We later found that not all deluxe cabins are created equal and ours was about three-times normal size. Why we were allocated it we do not know, perhaps because we booked about six months ahead? There was even a complimentary bottle of fine Tassie sparkling wine in the fridge, fluffy white dressing gowns etc etc. We felt like royalty and really lapped it up. With a forward window each, we watched the ferry negotiate the Bay, seemingly heading almost towards the main street of Rosebud, and then to the tricky Pt Philip heads, all the while sitting in our lounge chairs and sipping our champers……what a start to our holiday!

We arrived in Devonport and by the time we cleared the ferry and Tassie Quarantine it was getting dark. Quarantine were quite thorough, looking all over the Cruiser and van, but just when they seemed to be finished, along came Mr Plod with his sniffer dog and the pooch re-inspected everything. Pooch sat down on the tailgate, and this turned out to be a signal he had found ‘something’, so Mr Plod went through our car fridge and found some steak in a cryovaced pack. Mr Plod said that’s OK and we were waved on, passing one very unhappy Queenslander who was made to wash off all the mud from under his 4WD. We had heard the local van parks were not so good, so we had booked ahead at Latrobe.

Latrobe looked an interesting place, but we decided to ‘do’ it on our last day while waiting for the return ferry. We drove to Sheffield, known for its murals of ‘rural life’ scenes painted on many of the town buildings. The Annual Steam Festival was on and we saw a classic old steam bus near the main street. The local bakery looked inviting so we had an early lunch there. We decided to have a look at Cradle Mountain, but as we climbed higher we went from full sunshine to low cloud and spitting rain. We decided to continue and when we reached the famous National Park there was sunshine again. We hopped on the free (if you have a Parks Pass) Park bus and were taken to Dove Lake. The scenery was picture-book fantastic, and while most people there walked around the Lake, we opted for the shorter walk to the small Lake, behind to the right. There were Tea Trees in flower and these made an attractive frame for photos. On leaving Cradle Valley, we side-tracked to have a look at the up-market Lemonthyme Lodge, beautifully nestled in its tree-top setting. We then took a pretty back-roads route to the west of Lake Barrington and eventually came out at Forth, where there was to be a Blues Festival the next weekend. Tempting, but alas, we needed to move on. This route did provide some added interest in that there seems to be some sort of a competition amongst the locals to see who can make the most innovative letterbox out of scrap metal – there were spacemen, emus and even a whole V8 motor block, to name but a few.

Next day we headed west again and were surprised to find a beautiful freeway, however we elected to take the scenic coast road via Ulverstone and Penguin. It was Sunday and the Penguin Markets were in full swing, but unfortunately it was not a farmers market where we could stock our fruit and veg. We quickly looked at some nice beaches, but we were in Tassie to see the mountains and forests. Similarly, we quickly motored through Burnie and Wynyard. We headed up to Dip Falls and the Big Tree. There are many ‘big’ trees in Tassie, but this one is called the Big Tree, so we had to have a look – this was more like it! On the basis of a good forecast for the west coast, we kept heading that way. This turned out to be a very fortuitous decision, as there were later storms on the east coast that caused heavy rain, flooding and considerable road damage – while the normally stormy west coast had over a week of sunshine.
Stanley is a little gem of a place – very reminiscent of an English or Irish fishing village. We were vaguely aware there were quite a few free camps in Tassie, but we had not yet come to terms with the fact that, unlike the mainland, it was openly encouraged nearly everywhere. We called in to the Stanley van park to find it was booked out (long weekend) but the lady, instead of coolly sending us away like they do in Broome and other places, told us where to find a good beach frontage cement slab just down from the park. The town is small, picturesque and immaculately tidy. We visited a gift shop in the main street and the lady was also selling some home-made bread that looked good. We bought a loaf, tasted it, and rushed back to the shop for more. We tried several different types of loaves, all beautiful, but voted the olive bread the best we had ever tasted. We bought a crayfish and ate it by the beach.

The weather was holding so we headed for the Arthur River area on the west coast, stopping for lunch at the unfortunately named (from a marketing viewpoint anyway) Dismal Swamp on the way. Dismal Swamp is part of the Tarkine Forest Adventures by Forestry Tasmania and appears to be a wonderful place to stop for those with families. There is a high speed 110m slide down into the swamp area, mountain bike tracks and a wonderful treetop view from the restaurant there. The Tarkine cannot be found on most maps, as it is a word derived from the aboriginal name for the Tarkina tribes that lived in the west coast area roughly between Arthur River and Struan. We arrived at Arthur River, crossed the bridge and stayed in the pretty Prickly Wattle site provided by the National Parks. There was a large drum at each campsite but no wood, and being a NP you cannot collect wood. Lesson no.1, although fallen timber is seen everywhere, you need to pick up wood outside the parks, as you go. I found a Ranger, and she said most people drive under the bridge and go towards the Arthur River mouth, (only 100m or so), and there will be plenty. Well, there was plenty, but it was mainly huge logs, and not having a chainsaw we had great difficulty getting suitable sized ones up onto the roof – but we had a great fire at our secluded camp-site that night. We did not do either of the Arthur River cruises because we had been looking forward to the Pieman River cruise in the old huon pine boat – but we later met other people who had enjoyed their Arthur adventure up-river. There is a lookout near the river mouth called the Edge of the World, as it is possible to travel 20,000 kilometres in a westerly direction before hitting land (the east coast of South America). We threw a rock into the water in response to the following poem: “I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity to be washed by the ocean of time. It has shape, form and substance. It is me. One day I will be no more but my pebble will remain here on the shore of Eternity. Mute witness for the aeons that today I came and stood at the edge of the world”. Brian Inder

We had planned to go the coastal road to Corinna next, but were advised that the Savage River Bridge was closed for repairs and we would have to backtrack and go right around via Wynyard and Waratah. We had been so looking forward to that part of the trip that we decided to do part of it anyway. We travelled the coast road to Couta Rocks, which is a tiny wild and windswept fishing village interestingly nestled among some dangerous looking rocks. From Couta, the through-road heads inland towards the old mining town of Balfour. But where were all the trees, the pristine primordial forests that we had expected? All we saw was low coastal bushes and small trees, and they appeared to continue all the way to Corinna. Very disappointed, we decided to go no further on this road, and take the road that headed back north through Kanunnah Bridge. It eventuated that this road traversed some beautiful forests and we took the circuitous South Arthur Forest Drive, staying at the Julius River free camp overnight. There was a lot of beautiful scenery, but for us, the walk into the Lake Chisholm Forest Reserve was a highlight of this area. Satisfied that we had now seen some beautiful forests we did not mind the round trip to Waratah, and the drive through Hellyer Gorge was very impressive. Waratah is an interesting town and one can only wonder how the miners of old got there and lived and worked in such a remote place.

Corinna captivated us immediately – mountains, forests, the serene Pieman River, no electricity, no mobile phone and the quiet is only interrupted by the occasional gentle chugging of the ferry motor. Once a colourful mining town accessible only by sea, Corinna is now only a pub/restaurant/store, a few restored houses and a small campground with some lovely tent sites along the riverfront. The pub, the Tarkine Hotel, is new but has been very tastefully done and even the new galvanized iron roof has been painted to make it look a little rusty – a touch that works really well. Norm and Lorraine were our hosts on the Pieman River cruise aboard the beautiful 80 year old Arcadia II, built with huon pine planks and celery pine decks. We joined Norm at the wheel and he provided a wealth of information about the boat, the river, the forests and pretty much everything else about the area. Norm said if the Arcadia were to be built today, the huon pine alone would probably cost over $1m, if you could get it at all. The Arcadia slowly cruised to the mouth, slowing to show us ancient huon pines and other points of interest. Lorraine handed us a refreshing packed lunch and we disembarked to walk to the fishing shacks and timber covered beaches beyond. This cruise is thoroughly recommended. There are several interesting walks around Corinna. Next day we boarded the ‘Fatman’ ferry to cross the Pieman. The ferryman was looking concerned, as there is a 9m limit (between tow vehicle front wheel centre and the van rear wheel centre) and we had not a millimetre to spare. It cost $25 to cross, and we were on our way, straight up a very steep hill through thick forest, and fortunately this part of the road had been bituminized.

Zeehan was our next stop. Not the prettiest town, just a relic of its former mining glory. But, as nearly always, one should not judge a book by its cover. The van park was pleasant, and the host was helpful and told us of interesting places to visit. We are not big on museums but had heard the Zeehan Mining Museum was particularly good. So we went for an hour, and stayed for three. Included in the museum precinct is the interesting old Gaiety Theatre which was part of a hotel. Nellie Melba and other famous names were reputed to have performed there. The theatre has recently been restored and was re-opened just after we left Tassie. We also visited the historic Spray Tunnel that had been dug by hand through a hill for mining operations long ago. The tunnel has now been closed to vehicular traffic, but the area has been beautified and it is still worth visiting for a walk through. We did a very interesting day trip to Rosebery and then Montezuma Falls via the 4WD track. There are two access roads to Montezuma. The bitumen one from the Rosebery end allows 2WD access, but then there is about a 1 hour walk to the actual falls. The rough 4WD track from the Zeehan end largely follows the old mining rail line and hence is single lane with few passing points, and there are a couple of fairly challenging creek crossings – not deep, but with steep exits for relatively inexperienced drivers. The 4WD track goes to within 50m of the falls where a swing bridge crosses under the falls and over the valley below. We met some people who had done the long walk in and somehow they suddenly realized that we had driven in – one quite distressed lady was muttering murderous thoughts about her husband for making her walk all the way in……….

Strahan was all it was cracked up to be, despite several comments we had heard along the way that it was no good because, wait for it, ‘you had to pay to park in the main street’! Those narrow thoughts aside, we loved the place and blind Freddie could see that something had to be done to control parking in so tight a space along the waterfront. The day we did the World Heritage cruise to the Gordon River was dead calm, starting with a rare smooth passage out through ‘Hells Gates’ and around to Cape Sorell lighthouse for a quick look, then back through the ‘gates’ and headed up-river through the beautiful mountain rimmed Macquarie Harbour. We stopped at a large atlantic salmon fish farm and we were told about the farm operation, and the logistics of obtaining fingerlings, feeding and transferring grown fish etc, which was very interesting. Next stop was the old convict settlement on Sarah Island. How so many survived here in that enigmatic place of heavenly views, contrasting a life attuned to the rule of the cat-o’-nine-tails, we can only imagine. The story goes that Sarah Is was settled because some gun boatbuilder came to Hobart to build boats for the colonies, but the local timber was not suitable, so the boatbuilder came to the source of that magical huon pine, and many fine boats were constructed by the convicts here. The visit to Sarah Is was made all the better by having a local theatre group ‘act out’ the many interesting stories about penal life on the island.
Onwards to the mighty Gordon River that flows into Macquarie Harbour. The Franklin Gordon saga, ending with its ultimate world heritage listing, will now forever be etched into Australian folklore. It is said that the exceptional reflections in the water in the lower parts of this river are due to the fact that the sea and river water do not mix and the two layers give the better reflections – whatever the reason, when there is no wind, it is difficult to find the horizon even over a short distance. The scenery is awe inspiring and one can see why Abel Van Tasman said something about Tasmanian forests to the effect that ‘you can see back to when time began’…… On the Heritage Landing Nature Walk we were shown a leatherwood tree only about 2m high and told that it was already about 70 years old. This really brought home to us the stupidity and total short-sightedness of felling native forests to make woodchips for cardboard. We did the Gordon cruise on the ‘red’ boat because it is locally owned, but there was another bonus in that included in the sumptuous lunch was all the smoked salmon you desired. On return to Strahan the big red cat berthed at Morrisons timber mill for a demo on cutting a huon pine log. As no more felling of huon pine is allowed, the logs that are being milled could have fallen hundreds of years ago, as the timber just seems to last forever. We later drove to Macquarie Heads and along ocean beach. On this calm day we just had to imagine the treacherous surf rolling in. We saw lots of vans and campers enjoying the many free campsites in the park near the heads. We had a great souvlaki with tzatiki pizza from the shop, just to the left of the Strahan pub. Next night we returned for their gourmet seafood special pizza– yum!

Queenstown was a pleasant surprise, due to the fact I had previously seen it on a school trip in 1957, when the surrounding hills were best described as a ‘desolate acid etched moonscape’. Clearly, much has been done, apparently quite recently, to reclaim the hillsides and replant future forests. The town itself was looking a little tired, but increased tourism is likely to improve this. I had travelled the ABT rack railway in 1957, before it was closed down about 1963, so it was exciting to find the railway has recently been re-instated. The old steam engines, so magnificently well built in 1898, were refurbished and are now operating as good as new. The track follows the original route, still traversing the thick native forests. The route is Queenstown to Strahan, starting at either end, with steam locomotive from Queenstown and diesel loco from Strahan, meeting in the middle to change trains at the curiously named Dubbil Barril station. There are theories as to how the station was so named and spelt, but I won’t spoil this for you, as in our carriage we had a wonderful actor who provided a lot of entertaining stories, including those relating to the station. Apparently the West Coast Wilderness Railway is owned by an overseas-based consortium, but we could not fault the authentic way the whole operation is run.

Next stop was Lake St Clair and it rained lightly all night. We have always been fully supportive of Australia’s national parks and all they are about, but we are becoming more skeptical about some of their operations the more we travel. Tiny, unnecessarily crowded camp sites and track and even park closures as an easy means to solve vandalism and funding problems is becoming all too common. This park charged $40 per night (much more than any other private van park we stayed at), the sites were small, water flooded through the site, the showers flooded to 3 inches deep (thongs and other belongings were floating into other peoples cubicles), and so on. We later met a guy who said he went to the park office to politely complain about the amenities, but someone else had beaten him to it and was going off like a madman, so this guy just quietly left. We are quite happy to rough it, but not at $40 a night. Despite this, Lake St Clair is a beautiful pristine area (all due credit to the parks people) and should not be missed.
The turnoff to Lake St Clair is at an unremarkable place named Derwent Bridge and it is here that one of the absolute gems of Tasmania is located in a large ‘shed’ on a forested block. Inside the ‘shed’, one that any man would be proud to own, is a series of wood carvings known as The Wall. It cost about $10 entry and when I read ‘no photographs allowed’, I nearly spat the dummy and left. Luckily, common sense prevailed, as along the way we had heard glowing reports about The Wall, and we went in, minus cameras. We had taken but three steps in before being blown away by the stunning reality of wooden carvings like the ‘overcoat’ and the ‘glove’. Then came the wall, which is about 50m long (each side), 3m high and 100mm thick. The artist, Greg Duncan, has beautifully carved a pioneering history of Tassie, and in a depth of a maximum of only 40mm has achieved a wonderful 3D effect. It is a work unfinished, but we believe some of it should remain that way, as it shows how he has gone about starting each carving. Whatever way you look at it, it is an extraordinary work of art and we were later perfectly happy to buy Gregs book, entitled ‘the Wall’, for just $22. (The book is of such quality that it looks to be at least $75 value).
After doing ‘the Wall’, we drove into the tiny Tarraleah township and found a nice looking café, called ‘Teez’. It had a pleasant modern décor and the food was innovative, tasted great and was quite moderately priced. The more we travelled in Tassie, the more we found cafés and bakeries, often in small localities, that went out of the ordinary to please – in stark contrast to most small localities on mainland Oz.

Our next intended stop was to be Strathgordon, but it was getting late so we went in to the Styx State Forest for a look. It started drizzling so we set up camp on the side of the dirt road where it was dry due to some rubble having been dumped for a turnaround. In the fading light we sat outside for happy hour amidst a beautiful garden of tree ferns and the butts of magnificent towering swamp gums. In the dampness down by our feet we could see something small moving towards us – OMG, leeches! We retreated to the van and had dinner, but later saw one very fat leech crawling on the van floor, so one of us had been attacked by the creepy little vampires. Next day we walked the short circuit to yet another ‘big tree’, which was a very impressive 87m tall, but it was apparently not the biggest in the forest. Just a little down the road is Mt Field NP. We walked the short ‘Falls’ circuit and when we came to Russell Falls the view was truly magnificent. Montezuma was high and impressive, but Russell Falls has to be as close to perfection in a natural setting as things could get. Further up the path, Horseshoe Falls would rate as a tourist attraction in most places, but they are completely overshadowed by Russell. After suffering the trauma of having refused to leave our van behind to climb the incredibly steep Five Rivers lookout road at Wyndham on a previous holiday, I wisely unhooked the van before climbing the mostly single lane track up Mt Field, to a height of about 1100 odd metres. About a quarter way up we moved over for an old Landcruiser coming down at a fair rate, and as it passed us with smoke coming from the wheels there was this overwhelming smell of hot brakes. Apparently they made it down ok, but we then took extra care for the rest of the interesting journey to the ski clubs and back.

That night we moved into the very pretty New Norfolk van park, which was to be our base camp for Hobart and surrounds. It was a superb late afternoon, autumn leaves, sunshine and no wind, so we carried our chairs and drinks to the rivers edge for a relaxing happy hour, only to be met with a large ‘alcohol free zone’ sign – oh well! Next morning was Saturday and we were off early to haggle with the merchants at Hobart’s famous Salamanca Markets. We had been there years before and were not disappointed this time either, so we bought heaps of unnecessary things, wined and dined and had a great day. Next day was a very pleasant round trip, firstly north to Oatlands, where we strolled the main street filled with Georgian architecture and had an early scallop pie lunch before visiting the impressive Callington Mill, which is still making fine flour today. Scallop pies came to be our most sought after lunch for the whole trip, as every bakery makes their own. So, unlike wine tasting, which is difficult when driving about, there is a lot of pleasurable fun to be had scallop pie tasting instead. We then headed cross country to the touristy historic town of Richmond, and being a Sunday it was very busy. We late-lunched at a small outdoor café, and had a beautiful anti-pasta loaded with quality local products, which was washed down with a very pleasant Tassie Pinot, all for a very reasonable charge.

Next day was to be MONA day, that is, the Museum of Old and New Art in the Hobart Derwent-side suburb of Moonah. We might easily have given a ‘museum’ a miss, were it not for having read an article about it in an Adelaide magazine. The museum is privately owned, by a publicly shy but amazingly philanthropic Tasmanian man named David Walsh, who has apparently spent over $200m on an art collection and then housed it four stories underground at the Moorilla Winery, which he also owns. MONA just has to be seen to be believed, the architecture alone is stunning, the art works range from rare ancient Egyptian mummies, pottery and sculptures to modern Australian and international art all mixed together to form an aesthetic whole. Every exhibit is beautifully presented, but not labelled. However when entering MONA, visitors are provided an ipod-like device that tells you on a screen and/or headphones about all the exhibits in your near vicinity – and you can instantly search for more info on both the subject or author. There is a winery, quality café and restaurant, a library to die for, books for sale etc, but best of all and despite dozens of staff everywhere, entry to the museum is free to all. We have seen great museums and art galleries all over Europe, and though it may be smaller, we can confidently say that MONA is something for all Australians to be proud of.

Leaving Hobart, we wanted a last look at the quaint houses around Battery Point. Bad move, with the van on we caused quite a few headaches to the locals as we navigated the narrow streets and eventually gave it away. We were heading towards the Huon Valley, but stopped at Kingston to see Telstra about a dongle to get better access to our emails. We had intended to rely on the wifi of caravan parks, but most either did not have it, or the speed was so slow it took 30 mins to download 10 emails – and we had over 250 banked up waiting. Anyway, we won’t get into the dramas with Mr Telstra and his useless dongle, as that is for some other blog, and it’s a never ending story anyway!

First camp in the Huon Valley was the free camp at Gordon, which was an exposed but beautiful site on the D’Entrecasteaux Channel with Bruny Island so close across the water. We did not visit Bruny, but by all accounts it is well worth going. Similarly, we did not visit Hartz Range and Tahine Forest, as these seemed very touristy and we had more or less had our fill of forests, and other places beckoned. We did visit Recherche Bay and Cockle Creek, which is as far south as one can go by road in Oz, so now I have visited the four extreme points of the Australian compass. Cockle Creek was interesting and the mountains to the west of it looked very wild and enticing, but they are only available to serious bushwalkers with something like an eight day or so walk to Bathurst Harbor. We enjoyed an excellent lunch at the Dover bakery (yes, another scallop pie) and later stayed at a free camp at Castle Forbes Bay. The sereneness of the area by day was rudely interrupted by large trucks roaring past all night and using their exhaust brakes on the downhill runs – we also had the same experience at other sites throughout Tassie, including near the paper mill near New Norfolk, and can only assume they are native forest logging trucks sneaking through under cover of darkness, away from the eyes of locals and tourists alike.

Next day we were heading east, by-passing Port Arthur as we had explored it fully on a previous trip. We know it is relatively small, but we drove through Hobart in literally minutes due to their excellent freeway system. Just near the Hobart airport precinct is a seafood outlet and very modern looking restaurant (can’t remember the name of it, but on the Tasmania Tourist Map it is marked as ‘Oysters’) we bought a dozen local oysters and they were magnificent. We did not buy more as we thought we would pick them up everywhere, however there were some severe storms on the east coast preventing further oysters from being harvested due to dirty water from runoff – disaster had struck us! If it wasn’t for scallop pies the situation would have been depressing. Instead of following the Tasman Hwy at Sorell to Triabunna, we continued towards Copping and there turned north through Bream Creek to see if we could find some interesting campsites, but to no avail. We did see some pretty scenery around the Marion Bay lookout, but the through track to Orford was blocked (bridge down) and so we had to deviate inland. Triabunna to Swansea was the only part of Tassie where free camping was actively discouraged and so we quickly drove on – preferring to give our business to localities that more deserved it. We drove on to the Freycinet Peninsula and stayed at a beautiful free camp with the inviting name of the Friendly Beaches. From here it was a short drive to Coles Bay from which we walked to the lofty lookout over Wineglass Bay. The Bay is hyped up on the tourist map and this proved to be well justified. It was quite a walk down to the Bay and back and we gave this a miss, opting for, believe it or not, a scallop pie from the Coles Bay bakery. This place (Coles Bay) had a wonderful ‘feel’ about it and we would like to have stayed longer, but…… There were eleven yachts moored in Wineglass Bay and I really envied them. Next day we saw them heading northwards to who knows where under ideal sailing conditions – ‘Oh well, you can’t do everything’ says the handbrake!

We had been to Bicheno about 10 years ago and loved it. If anything, it was even more pristine than before, with immaculate streets and foreshore. We bought some seafood from the shop at the wharf and then hit the towns famous butcher ‘Sir Loin somebody’ or other. We stocked up big-time, including aged eye fillet on the bone and a big chunk of his wife’s home-made duck liver pate. We hit the bakery for bread and then passed a deli type shop further down the main street advertising home-made scallop pies for only $3.50. We ate these on the beachfront and were still drooling when we returned to the shop for more. They were different to all the others we had tasted in that they seemed to have been made in a jaffle-like thingy, and we voted them the best in Tassie (and probably the world!).

We free camped at one of the prettiest campsites we have ever seen, at Dora Point in the Humbug Conservation Park, out of St Helens. The site was secluded from other sites by natural huge rocks and had ferns and a variety of trees overhanging. We cooked the eye fillets on our charcoal grill and they were magnificent. Every twenty minutes or so, the camp was cleaned by up to 15 or so superb fairy wrens, that twittered and quietly picked up every crumb. Next day we visited the Pyengana cheese factory and bought several blocks of their 2yo cloth-bound cheddar cheese. We had lunch in their Holy Cow café, and after having a chat with the German chef, he cooked us up a magnificent rolled beef concoction that was so tender and contained some beautiful flavours. While eating lunch and admiring the superb view of the valley below, incredibly green pastures, contented cows and forested hills as a backdrop, we noticed cows slowly and randomly heading up the hill and negotiating a series of gates into the dairy. We noticed that nobody was driving the cows in, they were coming only one at a time. We then noticed that no-one seemed to be in the dairy, but cows were being milked, and one by one were slowly returning to the pastures below. Later we asked an employee what was going on and were told the dairy is completely unmanned, cows enter when they feel like it, have a feed while being mechanically washed, and the cups are automatically laser guided onto the teats for milking. The cows all are tagged, firstly to stop them entering the dairy too often, then their milk supply is recorded for performance, then the cow moves towards the exit and stands under a stiff brush that commences rotating and they get their back scratched. The cows then leave the dairy through a series of electronic gates to return to the pastures. We could not believe our eyes! It’s cow and dairy heaven, and 24/7 person free milking.
After our fine lunch we headed down the road to St Columba Falls. These were the second falls claimed to be the tallest in Tassie, and they were impressive in their beautifully forested location. On the way back we had a beer at the aptly named ‘Pub in the Paddock’ where kids, young and old, feed a beer to Priscilla the pig.

Next day we did a day trip north via Binalong Bay (a pretty spot) and The Gardens (not such a pretty spot), and then wound inland through the forest until we came out at Ansons Bay, which would probably be a good spot for fishing, if you had a boat. We were happy to return early to our campsite at Dora Point for an extended happy hour. Time to head west, up the long but beautiful Weldborough Pass, a climb that made the fuel gauge look more like a tacho. At the top is a nature walk that was very pleasant, and it carried a strong message that preserving small patches of native forest is fine except that unless larger forests are preserved, they will ultimately all be lost. Just down the road we lunched on shepherds pie at the historic Weldborough Pub. We camped at the free camp at Lilydale, which is located on a small but pretty site adjoining the Lilydale Falls. Someone at the park suggested we may not be able to leave the park next morning as the Targa Tasmania road race would be passing through and all roads would be closed – wrong. Next morning we packed up and went in to Lilydale to watch the race start at the other end of town. This race is big deal in Tassie and the Targa is in its 20th year. There were hundreds of very expensive cars competing – Lamborghinis, Ferraris, Aston Martins, Audis, Porches and wait for it, a souped-up FX Holden. After the start they all disappeared into a petrol haze and were not seen again, but we heard on the radio later that several had crashed on the narrow roads. We moved on, and after a few mouth watering aperitifs at Jansz winery, had an excellent lunch at Pipers Brook winery. You guessed it, all washed down with a pleasant Tassie Pinot.

Next stop was Georgetown, just for a quick look, when we noticed an old building claiming to be the Bass and Flinders Museum. Thinking it would be just another small-town museum with a few old flags, maps and drawings etc, I nearly by-passed it, but after talking to the person at the door I realized this could be really interesting so went in. [My particular interest in Flinders goes back to 2002 when a mate with a 33’ yacht invited a few of us to participate in the 200th anniversary of Flinders exploration of the South Australian coastline. We sailed from Adelaide to Pt Lincoln and Pt Augusta, with ceremonies at ports along the way]. This museum, of course, celebrated Bass and Flinders exploration of Bass Straight in 1798, and contained a full size replica of their vessel, the Norfolk, which was actually sailed in the re-enactment in 1998. The Norfolk was built by Bern Cuthbertson and a team of volunteers from Huon Pine, and not a screw or nail was used. It is 35’ long and B&F had a crew of eight, plus Flinders famous cat. Also in the museum is a replica of the ‘Tom Thumb’, a whaleboat, and many other interesting boats and memorabilia. It is a great museum, run by volunteers, and this visit was very much an unexpected pleasure.

We booked in to the Beauty Point caravan park for a few days to explore Launceston (affectionately known as Lonnie) and surrounds. The van park is somewhat unique in that they have planted hedges around every van site, making it just a little more private and attractive. The park is also on a headland with water and mountain views on both sides. Next day we went for drive to Lonnie, over the Batman Bridge and down the east side of the Tamar, and later back on the other side. Someone had told us about a gourmet food shop in Lonnie called Davies Garage, so we went for a look. It’s in what must be the main thoroughfare, in an old servo, and we managed to get a park at the front door – amazing. It certainly did have gourmet food and we stocked up on Spanish ham, French cheeses, olives, white anchovies, stuffed peppers and lots more for Saturdays big day, our 45th wedding anniversary – as we thought we would stay home rather than run the DUI gauntlet by going out to a restaurant. We called in to the Pirie winery for some special Tassie Sparkling and Pinot for tomorrow’s celebrations – the view from this winery is something special. Next day was a great scallop pie lunch at the Exeter bakery and a visit to the Victoria Museum, which we had heard advertised on the radio. The funny thing was, the Vic Museum art gallery has just been re-furbished, and the visit was advertised so people could see the re-furbishment itself – there was no art on display at all! Geez, ya gotta laugh, after all the trouble to find it, get a park etc……

Saturday was a fine sunny day and we celebrated the big anniversary in style. We had planned to move on next morning and heard on the radio that Lilydale was having a market and an Italian woman would be making traditional pizzas in a wood oven – so that was it, off back up the mountains to Lilydale. The Lilydale market is small in size but big on quality, and the eye-catcher of the market is a large Mongolian hut called a Ger, inside which is a traditional European pizza oven. The pizzas were exceptionally delicious and clearly made from high quality ingredients, so we were not disappointed with the long drive, towing the van from Beauty Point. Later that afternoon we visited the market at Evandale, which is south of Lonnie, but things were just closing up. Unlike Lilydale, this market looked just like most of the others.

Rain was forecast so we booked into the Deloraine waterfront van park, only to be told by the resident gossip that if it rains a lot, the park will flood and we would all have to evacuate. It did rain, but not enough to warrant starting to build the ark. Deloraine did not look that exciting in the lightly drizzling rain, but on closer examination there were some very good food cafes and shops. The town is also noted for its local art and there were some excellent works for sale in several outlets. We visited Liffey Falls which we found quite attractive. Next day we did the trip through Mole Creek and on to Devils Gullet, which, although I hate the misuse of the term breathtaking, it is as close to it as you can get to it without jumping over. The view is of a long valley, but the drop under the viewing platform must be at least 100m or more straight down. It appeared to be above the snowline and it was quite cold up there and so did not stay long. It was disappointing that, for part of the field of view, a hillside of what appeared to have been pristine forest had been recently completely decimated for woodchips and this rather spoilt the experience. When will they learn? Next we drove towards the Walls of Jerusalem, only to find there is a whole day walk to the actual Walls, however the scenery here and around the Mersey White Water area was wonderful. Maybe next time we will give the white water a go….

Port Sorell van park was our next stop and was to be a base for our final explorations before leaving Tassie. We went back to Latrobe to have a good look around and found good eateries, galleries and what should be a national treasure – a shop that defies a single description, named Reliquaire. We nearly did not go in, because at first glance inside all one could see was a large staircase absolutely packed with all kinds of dolls. But it is much more than a doll shop and sells just about everything imaginable. I will not try and list them, but suffice to say we bought a black clay pottery pot made in Colombia, some French-style numbers for our house, some food, postcards etc. and we were sorely tempted by some beautiful hand-made Venetian masks for about $350. There were just so many things you don’t find anywhere else, and certainly not together in one shop. We later visited the Annvers chocolate shop and found these hard to resist. Next day we drove to Leven Canyon, a place we had missed at the start of our journey, and were not disappointed. We did the short but steep walk to the valley floor and noted that it was possible to follow tracks all the way through to the north coast from here – it would be a great walk, for those so inclined.

All too soon it was time to board the Spirit of Tassie for the voyage home. We had the ‘last day of the holiday blues’ and could not get interested in anything much all day. Consequently we were one of the first in line to board, arriving about 4.45pm. By 6.45pm we were getting very agitated as hundreds of ‘latecomers’ had boarded before us, and the handbrake was muttering something like ‘this is a complete waste of good drinking time’. Well, we were finally waved on-board and found that we had been given the same luxurious cabin we had for the voyage over – complete with complimentary bottle of Tassie sparkling wine in the fridge! All was forgiven and the bottle hit the empties bin in record time. We booked in for the 3-course dinner at the restaurant and were pleasantly surprised by the quality and, of course, it was all washed down with yet another bottle of fine Tassie Pinot. It was a completely calm voyage and in the moonlight about 3am we watched the Spirit negotiate the entrance to Port Phillip. About 6am we berthed and found why we took so long to board back in Devonport – we were the second vehicle to drive off. We had a bit of time to kill so we went for a drive along the Melbourne beaches towards Sandringham. This was not a smart move, given my hangover, and as it was Saturday, about five thousand lycra clad bike riders had the same idea. We returned to the terminal over an hour later (so we could find our way to the WG Bridge without hitting the toll roads) and saw vehicles still leaving the ferry.

What a great holiday it had been. Five weeks was nowhere near enough. People are right when they say you need three months, and still there are things you would miss. We did 4,500km and found the roads to be equal to anywhere else, and surprisingly did not witness any of the reckless road behavior for which Tassie seems to be renowned. The only word of warning is to be careful with downhill runs as they inevitably end in a 15kph tight turn at the end. Oh, and beware of the scallop pies and Tassie Pinot Noir, they are habit forming!

Tassie Highlights:
• MONA – Museum of Old and New Art
• The Wall
• The Tarkine
• World Heritage Cruise, Gordon R
• West Coast Wilderness Railway
• Curried Scallop Pies
• Leatherwood Honey
• Bakeries everywhere (nearly all were good)
• Cafés/Small Restaurants, often in remote places
• Tassie Pinot Noir and Sparkling White wine (relatively expensive, but the quality justifies most)
Free camping is actually encouraged in most places
Cheers, Dalb
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