Destination Tasmania – Part 9 – The East Coast

23rd to 25th February 2020

There was no sign of Tom or Jane when we departed Windsong next morning but we now know that Jane exists. We heard her voice through the wall. The only sign of life was a group of small marsupials, one of which was peeping through our bedroom window.

We made our way back along the dirt track, through two closed gates, back to the highway and turned north towards Swansea. We passed the small roadside community hall that appeared to be Little Swanport as we headed for the turn off to Coles Bay and the Freycinet National Park.

On the way Ruth’s sharp eyes spied a tourist spot of which I had read. It was the Spiky Bridge. For some reason the builder finished its parapets with sharp stones on end. It is now bypassed by the main road but we drove across, just for fun. The bridge now leads to a farm gate.

The Spiky Bridge near Swansea, Tasmania

But there is a story. The government official who controlled the purse strings for such expenditure was holding out on providing funds for a bridge to span a troublesome stream. A local land owner took the official for a ride in his horse drawn cart and drove over the road through the creek bed at top speed. He proved his point. Money for the bridge was made available. The Spiky Bridge is the result.

The Spiky Bridge was built in 1843. Not bad for almost 180 years old.

Continuing on, we crossed a mountain range and came upon Devils Corner. An extensive vineyard has been established there with vines planted on the lower slopes, reaching down towards Oyster Bay. A three level viewing tower has been provided as part of a visitor facility. The vineyard is well known for its Pinot Noir based wines. Views from the deck are among the best to be had of Oyster Bay and the Freycinet Peninsula.

Devils Bend Vineyard and Winery
The vineyards slope towards Oyster Bay. The ranges of the Freycinet Peninsula are in the background.

After coffee at Coles Bay we headed on into the park to the parking area for the walks to Wineglass Bay (a long walk) and the lookout (a much shorter walk). I intended to have a go at getting up to the lookout although I was a bit daunted by the 600 steps involved. But there was not a parking spot to be had in any of the three levels of the car park. Vehicles that could not find a parking space were parked nose to tail well back along the road towards Coles Bay. We decided not to add to the number fighting for a parking space. It would have been a long walk back just to get to the starting point.

Cape Tourville Lighthouse
View south from the Cape Tourville boardwalk. Wineglass Bay is behind the rear headland on the right of the photo.

Instead we did the short but steep and winding drive to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse and lookout. The lookout is in the form of a board walk in a sort of semicircle around the edge of the cliff top, below the base of the lighthouse. The views south along the east coast are magnificent.

Ricky mountains at the northern end of the Freycinet Peninsula.
Coles Bay Jetty. The Pennicott Wilderness Journeys boat tour to Wineglass Bay departs from here. Mountains on the Freycinet Peninsula in the background.

We returned from the lighthouse to Coles Bay for lunch. At the bakery I finally found a scallop pie. It met expectations.  Not bad at all!

There is only one road in to Coles Bay so we retraced our steps to the highway and travelled another 12 km to Bicheno. Our accommodation for the next three nights is a ground floor studio apartment in an older two story house on the southern edge of town, overlooking the ocean.

The following day, Monday, the sun had fled. It was cloudy with that persistent Tasmanian cool breeze. The order of the day was a drive up the coast to St. Helens. But first some medical needs.

I’d had a sore on the side of my head for all the time we had been in Tasmania.Since I have had skin cancers taken off my head previously, we thought it should be checked. Or what if I was growing a second head?  So, I sought medical advice. It was just a persistent boil. The doctor squeezed it out (Ouch!) and prescribed some antibiotic cream to for me to apply.

Ruins of an old port building and The Gulch at Bicheno.

That got rid of most of the morning. We spent the remainder of the morning looking around Bicheno. The main town is a little way back from the water but the small harbour is worth a visit. It is the base for lobster fishermen who ply this rocky area of coast. The small harbour, known as the Gulch, is a narrow and deep channel between a large rook and the mainland, with another rock island of similar size close in and to the north east.

Fishing wharf and the south end of The Gulch

The buildings at the wharf include a very busy fish shop with dine in tables and a substantial take away business. Above the harbour, at the road side, a red building houses the Lobster Shack which features, as its specialty, the local lobster.

Seafood cafe and take away at The Gulch, Bicheno

After lunch (not at the Lobster Shack) we embarked on the activity of the day. St Helens is about an hour further up the coast. The town is located at the furthest point inland of the rather long Georges Bay. The bay runs to north east to south west and is contained on its south eastern side by a long and broad peninsula, largely composed of sand. The town of Akaroa and the small wharf at Burns Bay are at its north eastern end.

The fishing boat wharf at Burns Bay near St Helens, Tasmania

The first 10 km of the drive was along a decent road lined with houses, some of which enjoyed sweeping views of ocean and bay. Beyond the end of the road at the jetty the coast continues around to St Helens Point. The scenery is very attractive with white sand and large rocks, many of which are partly covered by red lichen.

Rock pool surrounded by lichen coloured rocks.
Ocean south of the beach near St Helens with St Helens Island in the distance.

We drove through St Helens and on the extra 10 km to Binalong Bay, mainly because Binalong Bay marks the southern end of the long series of indentations into the coast known as the Bay of Fires.  The bay was named by Captain Tobias Furneaux in 1773, because of the many fires that he observed along that strip of coast.

View north along Bay of Fires from Binalong Bay

The Bay of Fires runs all the way from Binalong Bay to Eddystone Point. That is 61 km by road but probably about 35 km in a strait line. The southern headland is formed by huge boulders with many smaller boulders surrounding them. Their unique feature is patches of rusty coloured lichen, like those that we saw at Burns Bay.

Lichen covered rocks at the headland at Binalong Bay make for a very pretty picture.
A mural on the side of a building in the main street of St Helens
The turn to Binalong Bay turn in the main street of St Helens

St Helens has a substantial fishing fleet. Oyster beds are located in many of its bays and inlets. It is the largest town on the east coast of Tasmania.

Houses over look Georges Bay and moored boats at St Helens
Fishing boats and wharf at St Helens
Tourist facilities at the St Helens port include eateries

The only other town that we drove through, both coming and going, was Scamander. It is located where a stream, which cuts the town in half, also cuts through the sand to reach the sea. Like every town along this stretch of coast, where hills overlook the sea, they are covered by houses built by those seeking that magic ocean view.

For the first time in Tasmania we were seeing green fields that were not the result of irrigation. It is mostly sheep country but vineyards regularly appear by the road side, many with cellar doors and restaurants. Tourism is as important to this part of Tasmania as to any other. The upper east coast is a very comfortable drive from Hobart and has a superior climate. Grey nomads and not-yet-grey backpackers are there in considerable numbers.

We used our second day at Bicheno to travel inland to see the area that we missed by not travelling directly between Hobart and Launceston. The route took us south, back past the road into Coles Bay and past Devils Bend. The road that we were seeking is called the Leake Highway. At its western end, it joins the Midland Highway just south of Campbell Town. About the midpoint of the morning drive is Lake Leake, from which the Highway takes its name.

Lake Leake at less than full capacity

The lake has tourist facilities, so we followed the 7 km of dirt road to the picnic area. It is a smallish dam that appears to hold water for release into a larger dam. The area seems popular with fisher folk and deer hunters. There is a sort of lodge/hotel adjacent to the retaining wall of the dam.

Another Queensland registered vehicle pulled in. We spoke to the occupants, as you do. They were a Redcliffe couple caravanning around Tasmania.

A view of Ross Bridge from the North. The bridge carries traffic over the Macquarie River.

We drove on to Campbell Town and turned south to the small historic town of Ross. The convict built bridge over the Macquarie River at Ross vies with the bridge at Richmond in claims of design and age. Richmond wins at 1825 but Ross is not far behind, built just eleven years later. The Ross bridge has a greater amount of intricate stone work.

Bridge parapets were engraved with distances. The distance to Hobart is shown on the opposite parapet

Ross has been bypassed by the highway. The town does not appear to have been adversely effected by the change. The streets are wide and lined with British Elms. Every building in the main street is old, many historic. Businesses operate from historic structures and people live in houses getting on towards 200 years old.

The Uniting Church at Ross viewed from the Ross Bridge.
The cenotaph at Ross

Ross has a wool centre building that tells the story of wool production in Tasmania and offers a range of woollen clothes for both ladies and men. There are samples of unprocessed wool and information on the development of merino sheep in Tasmania. Wool is still a vital product to this area. We drove past many flocks of sheep grazing on the pastures. The grass was not as lush as we had seen the day before but greener and more plentiful than in the west and highlands.

The Man O’ Ross Hotel (1835)

We found a bakery, one of two in town. Our choice was offering both scallop pies and “the world’s best vanilla slice”. And coffee! So the decision about lunch was easy to make. We chose the older establishment. It was the original bakery and flour mill. The old mill building is now tourist accommodation.

We sat in the shade of the tree to demolish our pies and vanilla slices
An old house with bicycle hire next door.
Ross Post Office, built in 1889 is a relative newcomer to Ross’ list of historic businesses.
Cupid’s Nest B&B in the main street of Ross, Tasmania

We then drove back to Campbell Town, about 10 km north. Yet another historic bridge carries highway traffic over Elizabeth River, a tributary of the Macquarie. This one is known as the Red Bridge and was convict built in 1838. Like the Ross Bridge, the Campbell Town Bridge assisted the flow of traffic between Tasmania’s two major centres and was on the same road until Ross was bypassed.

Campbell Town’s Red Bridge was built in 1838.

The Red Bridge at Campbell Town carries the Midland Highway over the Elizabeth River.

Campbell Town is substantially the larger centre and has a greater amount of more recent construction as well as renovated and modified buildings. But a great number of historic buildings remain, mostly still in use. We could have spent more time as there was more to see.

Part of this old hotel is now a book shop.

We returned home via the Heritage Highway that follows the Fingal Valley and a variety of rivers and creeks through to Conara, where it meets the Midland Highway. Then through Avoca, Fingal and St Marys. The road then crosses the coastal range over Elephant Pass on a narrow, steep winding route until it meets the coast highway about 17 km north of Bicheno.

It was quite a varied and interesting drive. For much of the distance we were running beside and continually crossing a railway line that showed evidence of use. At Fingal we saw a coal washing plant and a bit further on the turn to a colliery. Question answered.

Between Bicheno town and port a rocky hill rises with a lookout on top, which must have great views all around. I am left with this assumption unproved because after a full day, with much walking, I lacked the energy to climb it.

Destination Tasmania – Part 8 – Richmond & Port Arthur

21st & 22nd February 2020

Tasmania got rid of most of their trains many years ago. Only limited goods services remain and I am not certain that they are run by the government. But Tasmanians still seem to have an attachment to trains. You see museum and recreational railways often.

Margate Shopping Train

The top passenger train was the Tasman Limited. It operated between Hobart and Launceston but operations were stopped in 1978. Some enterprising people bought a complete train and set it up at the suburb of Margate, south of Hobart, as a boutique shopping centre. Original carriages have been set up as specialty shops, facing onto a covered platform.

Typical fitted speciality carriage

But the scheme seems to be running out of steam. Some shops were signed to open at 8.30 am but at almost 9 o’clock no one had turned up to open up anything. There were no signs saying that it was closed but I think perhaps that particular train is experiencing its second obsolescence.

The Shot Tower

We drove on to the Shot Tower in the southern suburb of Taroona. Built in 1870 to manufacture lead shot for fire arms, it stands beside the main road, to the south. It is 58 metres high and was the tallest structure in Tasmania for 100 years.

Molten lead was carried to the top of the tower and dropped through a copper sieve. Surface tension shaped the lead particles into small balls as they fell, to be caught in a water filled cooling tank on the shot tower floor.

Outdoor section of the cafe

To get to the top 318 wooden steps had to be climbed. The stairway is there to this day. Visitors may climb them for a small fee for the experience and for the fine view of the lower Derwent.

We had a pleasant chat with the lady who runs the shop and with the wife of a man who was climbing it. Upon his decent he showed us his videos. The view is certainly grand. The Shot Tower has a shop that sells souvenirs as well as a coffee shop in its basement.

Shot tower building including the base of the tower

At the recommendation of the lady in the shop, as we drove on to Richmond, we detoured to the sight of the Alexandra Battery near Wrest Point Casino. It provided excellent views without needing to climb over 300 steps. Alexandra Battery was one of the many built around the Australian coast during the late 1800s when it was feared that the Russians would invade Australia’s east coast.

Houses on the hillside above the old Alexandra Battery site.
The old gun foundations and the Derwent.
An observation deck at the old battery site provides good views of the port, river and city.

We then passed through Hobart, crossed the Tasman Bridge and made our way by an indirect route to Richmond, where we spent the night. It was on this drive that we came upon the little town of Campania to the north of Richmond, where we had lunch. The fare was home made pies and coffee, which we dealt with seated at a small table in the grocery/hardware/post office/coffee shop/service station.

A bronze casting of school children at the original state school at Campania near Richmond.

Our drive took us through areas of vineyards and fruit orchards, interspersed by broad areas of brown dead grass. The drought is about four years old in this part of Tasmania, but irrigation keeps the fruit and grapes growing. Some growers were busy placing white netting over their crops. I assume that the fruit was starting to ripen and birds needed to be kept at bay.

Prison precinct coffee shop at Richmond

Had we come directly to Richmond we would have found plenty of places to have lunch. Historic buildings can be readily converted to purveyors of food and beverage.

A classic photo of Richmond Bridge.
Richmond Bridge viewed from the other side at river level.
St Johns Roman Catholic Church at Richmond.

We took a look at Richmond’s historic bridge and walked, as well as drove, over it. We then looked in at St Johns Catholic Church (1836), just a short drive away, followed by a walk around the Richmond prison precinct.

An old building in the Richmond prison precinct converted to a retail outlet.
The original bakery has been modernised into an extensive Cafe and Coffee Shop.

Ruth was beginning to be walked out so we checked into our accommodation. I returned to the historic precinct on foot and walked and looked and read and took photos. St Lukes Anglican Church is through the town on the other side of the river and a bit of a walk so it marked my turning point to return to the town area.

Our unit at The Barracks. It was called “The Retreat”.
St Johns Anglican Church, Richmond was built in 1834.
Stained glass windows at the sanctuary end if St Johns church

Richmond has a prison precinct that has been very well restored, with excellent use made of the old facilities. The prison itself remains largely unchanged and tours are available. As we were headed to Port Arthur the next day we didn’t tour the Richmond Prison. There are eating places within the prison area including a cafe in the original bakery.

By the time that I had covered this area I was walked out too, so returned to the unit to put my feet up for a while.  Our accommodation was at The Barracks, small group of holiday units resulting from the renovation of old buildings. Very comfortable and well appointed.

The supermarket operates from a historic site.
Richmond Arms Hotel
The western end of Bridge Street, Richmond.

The following morning we left Richmond for Port Arthur under clear blue skies which remained, with a few clouds around the edges, for the rest of the day.

As we neared our destination we stopped to look at some touristy things. At Dunalley we checked out the canal that provides a short cut for smaller boats between Hobart and the east coast and it’s lift bridge. It seems to open on request from the passage making boat. This channel is quite short. The land to the south is almost an island. The protruding section of land that links the Tasman Peninsula to the Tasmanian main land is called the Forestier Peninsula.

The lift bridge on the canal at Dunalley.
The east coast at the northern end of the Tasman Peninsula.

At Eaglehawk Neck, about 20 km further south, the same geographic phenomenon repeats, with Eaglehawk Bay, a long thin inlet from the west, almost joining the ocean at a short and narrow isthmus that leads to the Tasman Peninsula.

Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck.

The Tessellated Pavement is reached from a road that turns just before the decent to Eaglehawk Neck, at the end of a drive of about 5 km. It is in the form of a broad shelf of rock that looks like an area of cobble stones.

The natural Tessellated Pavement has the appearance of laid cobblestones.

Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen are reached by a road that turns to the east after crossing Eaglehawk Neck and follows the ocean coast for another 5 km. The tide was low and the sea flat calm so there was nothing cooking in that kitchen. Because of the calm seas we didn’t worry about the near by blow hole. There would have been nothing to see there.

Tasman Arch from near to the car park. It is only a short walk.

Tasman Arch is best viewed from the water and that was probably how it was first discovered. The view from the land is courtesy of a sink hole that is large enough to allow a reasonable view.

The road to Port Arthur turns west along the southern shore of Eaglehawk Bay for a while and then turns inland and runs across the eastern part of the peninsula to Port Arthur.

Port Arthur Visitor Centre with ruins in the background

We were last at Port Arthur about 45 years ago. The changes are significant. One of the most important is the huge visitor information centre with it’s displays, cafe, restaurant and the ability to handle large numbers of people. Port Arthur is a very popular attraction and included on most package tours to Tasmania’s south.

Our group listening to the guide.
The Penitentiary. The hospital can be seen behind at the right. The Commandant’s house is at the left with the Guard Tower between it and the Penitentiary.

Forty five years ago the portion of the convict prison open to the public was much smaller than it is today. The admission ticket ($32.00 each for seniors) allows two days to see it all. An historical enthusiast would easily spend that much time if they stopped to read all the signs and study the exhibits.  We had but one day and ageing legs. We covered the main penitentiary building and the area furthest from the water, where the separate prison and the asylum are located. We then joined a cruise on Mason Cove and the port of Port Arthur. The cruise is included in the ticketed cost.

The cruise passes the old ship construction slipways, the site of the now nonexistent boys’ prison and the Island of the Dead, the penitentiary cemetery. Visitors may land on the island and be picked up by the next tour boat. We stayed on board and completed the tour before going back to the visitor centre for lunch.

The Island of the Dead cruise boat. The short tour is included in the admission price.
The Island of the Dead, Port Arthur cemetery.

Tour guides tend to emphasise the cruelty to which inmates were subjected, but it happened over 150 years ago and was not abnormal for those times. The intention was to rehabilitate as well as punish. During the life of Port Arthur as a convict settlement, methods changed when existing practices were found not to be working. Unfortunately they were often replaced by something else that didn’t work. Rehabilitation of errant humans is not easy. Western society still has not got it right if re offending rates are any indication.

The Asylum was built in 1868 when it was found that incarceration methods were sending prisoners mad..
The cafe at the Asylum provides an alternative to the walk back to the visitor centre for refreshment.
The Government Gardens
The church at Port Arthur demonstrates the important part that religion played in the reform of prisoners.
Up to 1,100 people would attend church on a normal Sunday.

Ruth was done with walking so stayed at the visitor centre while I went back to walk through some other areas. I did the garden and the government cottages, the ruins of the church and had a closer look at the Separate Prison (where prisoners were known by a number and lived in solitary confinement), and the Asylum (needed for all the prisoners who went mad from solitary confinement).

The front of the Separate Prison faces away from the remainder of the convict area at Port Arthur.
A prison cell wing of the Separate Prison.
A typical cell for one prisoner.
Seating in the chapel was designed to keep prisoners separated during worship.

I then climbed through the ruins of the hospital, the guard tower and military accommodation areas, the commandant’s house and finally a detailed walk through the penitentiary. Quite a bit of walking.

The police station with the hospital in the background to the left.
A front view of the hospital, built in 1842. The house at the back is Smith O’Brien’s cottage. O’Brien was an Irish political prisoner who had been transported for life.

Ruins of the guard tower and the military accommodation remain sufficiently intact to give a good idea of what was there originally. The court house is in the same vicinity, straight across the street from the penitentiary, the place from which most prisoners would be brought to appear before a magistrate and the place to which they would be returned, but possibly to a different section, depending on the sentence.

The Guard Towers
The guard towers with soldier accommodation at the rear.
The Port Arthur Court House
View of Mason Cove from the court house. The ship building slipways are past the cruise boat wharf.

The commandant’s house contains furniture that is either original or represents the period. Many rooms are set up as they would have been when occupied by it’s residents. Other rooms contain displays, rather like a museum. There is a display of information signs providing details of commandants, governors and other figures of authority.

Entry to the Commandant’s house
The formal dining room
History and information displays in one of the formal rooms.
The kitchen
The house steps up the hill. This is the stair way to the second level.
Departing through the access gate from the grounds to the commandant’s house.

The penitentiary was built in 1845 as a flour mill and granary, with the flour mill powered by water wheels, or prisoner operated tread mills, when water flow was insufficient. To be assigned to the tread mill was one of the most harsh punishments available. You can just about imagine the convicts praying for rain.

Barred windows of the penitentiary cell block
Partly demolished walls.

Competing demands for resources saw the flour mill closed in 1854. The building was converted to convict accommodation, completed in 1857. It was closed in 1877 and largely destroyed by fire in 1897. The ironwork that secures the outer walls that still stand is obvious and necessary.

The fire gutted cell block showing the lay out of the cells. The walls are supported by steel reinforcing.
The prison chimney.

When you pay your entrance fee you are each given a card bearing the name and likeness of a person who was at Port Arthur. You then go downstairs to the gallery, find the likeness on a wall and pull out a panel to read the detail.

A slide out display exists for each person who was permanently at the convict prison. This is the wife of the accountant who’s name that I chose. His details are on the other side.

The character that I received was the accountant at the prison. Ruth got a character who, in England, lost his pension, threw a stone at the King, was charged with treason and transported. At Port Arthur he refused to do the King’s work or eat the King’s food so starved to death. As I walked I took particular notice of the accountant’s house.

The accountant’s house.

We were booked for the night at a place part way up the East Coast called Little Swanport. If I had realised how close we would be to Richmond on the drive we would have booked there for two nights. We wish we had done so.

We had done well with our accommodation arrangements so far but bombed out that night. The place was clean, tidy and comfortable, but inadequate. Windsong described itself as a B & B, but it was 5 km off the highway. The turn is near the community hall that calls itself Little Swanport and 15 km from the nearest source of nourishment. The host, Tom, who checked us in and told us to call if we needed anything had disappeared when I went to look for him to see if we could arrange an evening meal.

The table is set for a three course dinner, including wine glasses, but no stove or microwave to cook with or sink in which to wash our dishes and no tea towel to dry them. We had bread and food to make sandwiches, even a toaster, so we didn’t go hungry. But it did seem a bit odd. A continental breakfast was in the room for next morning.

A morning visitor at Windsong at Little Swanport.

Destination Tasmania – Part 7 – Huon Valley & Bruny Island

19th & 20th February 2020

The objective that day was to travel to the furthest point south on our trip and the furthest south ever, in a lifetime of travelling. To better the day’s effort we will need to go to New Zealand, South America or to the Antarctic.

Cockle Creek flows into Recherche Bay near the southern tip of Tasmania.

Go to Google Maps or I maps and enter Cockle Creek, Tasmania. That’s where we were headed, as far south as we could drive in Tasmania. There is not much of Tasmania south of Cockle Creek, is there?

We had rain overnight, both while we were out to dinner and while we were sleeping. It was drizzling as we loaded the car and a brisk 13C. It dropped to 11C as we drove south, drove inland and climbed a bit, but the day improved and was sunny by lunch time. The mercury probably struggled to about 16C by mid afternoon, depressed by a cold breeze from the ocean.

Southport bay and jetty. It was as cold as it looks.

We left Sandy Bay and used the Southern Outlet to Kingston and then went inland on the Huon Highway. Once we reached Huonville and crossed the bridge, the Huon River was to our left and remained there until we turned inland again. We returned to the water at Southport.

Southport Hotel has a caravan park at the rear.

Southport is a short detour from the main road. It has only a tavern with a caravan park attached by way of commercial facilities. The houses in the area mostly occupy high ground with water views, so are probably mostly holiday homes. We sat in the warmth of the car for coffee, which I made on the top of a post. Picnic facilities are scarce in Tasmania.

Day visitor facilities at Cockle Creek

Southport to Cockle Creek is about 30 km, 20 km of which is fair quality gravel. The rest is sealed. There are a couple of small hamlets overlooking Recherché Bay and then a succession of free camping areas, each with at least one toilet. At the end of the road is a more substantial area with a volunteer caretaker and individual camping spaces. It is a very attractive location. Had we still been caravaning we probably would have stopped there for a day or so.

Cockle Creek visitor centre has a resident volunteer caretaker during the tourist season.

We drove as far as we reasonably could without a 4WD vehicle. In turning to find a spot to park so that we could look around, I forgot about the whale lookout and its bronze whale sculpture, produced by the sculpturer mentioned in our post of the Central Highlands. Bother! Now we will have to go back one day. We would be happy to do that, actually.

On the return journey, we paid more attention to the towns that we had passed through on our outward journey. Of these the most significant are Dover, Geeveston, Port Huon, Franklin and Huonville.

The residential coastal strip at Dover.

Dover is an oyster port. Geeveston calls itself the “Timber Town” and seemed to be a busy centre. We stopped there for lunch. There is a timber themed park not far away but it has been closed since it was damaged by bush fires last year. There are also national parks and caves in the area.

Oyster sheds and wharf at Dover.

Port Huon has a substantial wharf which is now a service area for the numerous salmon and trout farms in the Huon estuary. A salmon industry support boat that we had seen in Hobart on Monday, was at the wharf as we passed.

The vessel on the left is the Tuna support vessel berthed at Hobart. The ship on the right is a French Antarctic expedition vessel.

Franklin appears to have been the major river port in the days before road, when supplies came from Hobart by boat. The town is host to the Wooden Boat Information Centre. The Centre is just what its name suggests but also conducts a school of wooden boat building. Visitors can look through glass partitions to watch ship wrights in action.

The Wooden Boat Centre at Franklin.

Tasmania conducts a wooden boat festival every other year, based at Franklin. This was an off year. If the festival had been on this year we would have tried to fit it into our itinerary.

Day sailing sail boat at Franklin wharf. The Huon River is wide at this point.

Huonville is the major town in the Huon Valley and is by far the largest. The Huon River is a broad stream where the road crosses it south of the town and broadens further into a substantial inlet, as it nears the sea.

Apples almost ready to pick. I resisted the temptation to sample one.

The Huon Valley is still a major fruit producing area although it produces nothing like the volumes export fruit of the days before Great Briton joined the European Economic Community.  Apple production remains substantial. Pears and stone fruit, berries and of course grapes, are also grown in the area.

THe Huon River at the bridge at the south of the town.

We turned off at Huonville to pass through Cygnet, itself a town of reasonable size, before cutting across to the small town of Snug where we planned to snuggling for the next two nights. The heater supplied in the cabin was most welcome.

Kettering receding in our wake as we head for Bruny Island.

Snug is near Kettering, the small town from which the ferry sails to Bruny Island. Its proximity was why we stayed there.  A drive of about 6 km brought us to Kettering and to a ramp facility designed for its purpose. A similar facility on North Bruny only has a snack bar in addition to the ramp.

We travelled on the lower deck. More cars above.

Bruny Island is a piece of rural southern Tasmania that remained detached from the rest, so needs a 15 minute ferry journey to get there. That costs $38 return unless you catch an early ferry. That will save you about $6.

A sister ferry returning from Bruny Island.
Arrival and departure ramp at Bruny Island. There is no town there. Only a snack bay for long queue days.

North and South Bruny Island are joined by a long narrow isthmus named The Neck. It is mostly composed of sand, with beaches on both sides and a prominent hill (probably a sand dune) at the northern end. Stairs and boardwalks lead to the top of the hill for views and to the beach. Views are 360 degrees and sweeping, particularly to the south . Toilet facilities are located here. Tourist busses stop for the view.  A Penguin rookery is located on the ocean beach.

Stairs to the lookout at The Neck.
The Neck stretches south to South Bruny Island.

Like most places where mountains meet the sea there is spectacular scenery, particularly at the southern tip around the Cape Bruny Lighthouse and at Adventure Bay to the south east.

To the south east Grass Point marks the eastern land point. Adventure Bay is located to the left of Grass Point.

You get to the Lighthouse and its scenery under your own steam on a typical national park road with a very rough section inside the lighthouse grounds. Excellent scenery along the road with plenty of places to pull over and look.

Cape Bruny and the original lighthouse. The new light is on the hill to the left. If you look closely you can see it.
From the lighthouse looking north west towards Southport.

I didn’t get to see the interior of the lighthouse or climb to its observation deck. It was fully booked to bus tour groups. But I was able to walk to the original and now unused lighthouse and enjoy the magnificent views of the coast. A new automatic lighthouse has been built on an adjoining headland, to the east.

The original lighthouse is reached by a short walk from the car park.
Lighthouse keeper cottages. Nearest is a museum and visitor facility. The others are available for holiday rental.
View from the car park towards the north east and the south eastern tip of South Bruny Island.

Adventure Bay is reached by a drive of 40 km, if you choose the best road. You head back to the southern end of The Neck and then turn south for about 10 km.

A smaller Tasmanian cruise boat that does tours around the south coast. It was in Adventure Bay.

Pennicott Wilderness Journeys have a base at the end of the road where they will put you into a small boat to show the wonders that are out of sight around Grass Point. On that tour you get to see Fluted Cape and Penguin Island plus wild life, including seals. That costs about $125 and you could get cold and wet. But that is adventure for you. On the day of our visit the seas were smooth and there was no rain, so the experience would have been quite pleasant. Bookings are normally necessary. The tours were fully booked several days in advance of our visit.

The deck at the Pennicott tour base at Adventure Bay. The restaurant is behind the glass doors.
A tour boat preparing to depart on the Fluted Cape tour.

We knew that the tour base has a great restaurant, so it was on our list as a lunch spot. The building is on the back of a sand dune. The restaurant overlooks a broad deck and has a view to the north east over Adventure Bay. We were not disappointing with our choices from the extensive menu. See below.

Adventure Bay lunch. Soup was good on a cool day and I love fresh smoked salmon.
The cafe/coffee shop at Adventure Bay township. Bruny Island’s main caravan aprk is just down the road.

That part of the island has historical significance in that Captain James Cook landed there during his third exploration in 1777. A monument has been erected at the landing site. Also former Captain, but by then Governor William Bligh, visited and planted some of the first fruit trees to be grown in Tasmania.

The monument to the 1777 visit of Lt (Captain) James Cook.

Antoine Raymond Joseph de Bruni, chevalier d’Entrecasteaux  (1737 – 1793) was a French mariner who explored part of the east coast of Australia in 1792, including this part of Tasmania, during his search for the missing exploration party of La Perouse. The channel between Bruny Island and the Tasmanian main land is named after him and the island clearly took its name from a misspelled portion of his name. The d’Entrecasteaux Channel is pronounced “Doncastro”, or something similar.

The previous day, near Cockle Creek, we had seen a sign marking the place where
d’Entrecasteaux came ashore for water in a sheltered cove. A fresh water stream runs nearby.

The sign marking the visit of d’Entrecasteaux . A fresh water stream is nearby.

On the drive down to Cape Bruny we had passed through Aloonah, the “capital” of Bruny Island and drove back through the town again on the way back, as the turn to Adventure Bay is about a further 5 km to the north. So, as our return drive to the ferry took is within 5 km of Aloonah, we decided to drive back to take a closer look at this small town.

The general store and cafe at Aloonah.

I walked over to the shore line to photograph the island’s only hotel. As I looked, prior to taking the photo, I saw a couple who I thought looked like neighbors from our days at Murrumba Downs, but then thought probably not! But as I walked back to the car they were walking right in front of me as they returned to their tour bus from their lunch stop. Absolutely no doubt now!

Bruny Island Hotel at Aloonah. Our former neighbours are the couple in the outdoor area.

They told us that they had seen us in the street at Geeveston the day before, as we walked past where they were having lunch. They planned to intercept us on our return but we stopped for lunch further down the street. It truly is a small world.

The honey shop without bee boxes. But we say many areas with bee boxes all over Tasmania, particularly in the National Parks.

The other tourist attractions on Bruny Island are man made and while legitimate activities for Tasmania, lack authenticity because they have so obviously been put there to be tourist attractions. Things like an oyster shop well away from the sea, a honey shop without a bee box in sight and a place selling cheese with only two types available for tasting and a clear emphasis on selling on line.

We returned from Bruny Island on the smallest of their ferries.

But the visit made for a pleasant day. The roads are narrow and winding but mostly sealed. Gravel roads, of which there are a few, are mostly well maintained and smoother often than the sealed roads. The worst were within the grounds of the lighthouse.

Most tourist activities are to the south of the ferry landing. The largest settlement is Dennes Point in the extreme north. This town is reached by a good gravel road that provides sweeping views of the ocean and bays on both sides of the island. It is well worth the effort, if you have time

Visitors with more time would find a lot more to see and do on the island. There are lots of walks to suit all levels of ability in the most scenic parts of the island.

In summary, we are glad that we visited Bruny, but much was not as I expected. And after calling at a whiskey outlet (enquiring for a friend), I will never again complain of cellar door prices for wine.

West, Centre & Flinders – Days 61 to 68 – Homeward Bound

 

We stopped for lunch near a flowering gum tree

We stopped for lunch near a flowering gum treeWe gave ourselves an easy day on Saturday with only 137 kilometres to the steam museum town of Peterborough. This reasonably substantial town is on the main Sydney to Adelaide railway line, which is also the line on which ore mined in Broken Hill makes its way to the smelter at Port Pirie. Peterborough was a major rail town during the days of steam. It now uses its heritage as a tourist attraction.

The day had improved by the time we had booked into the Peterborough Caravan Park but a chilly night followed. Sunday morning was overcast, but as we made our way to Broken Hill the clouds made way for real warmth from the sun.

The restaurant building at the Miners' Memorial.

The restaurant building at the Miners’ Memorial.

We booked two nights at Broken Hill to allow for shopping for the final days to home but also to allow us to do the tourist thing. We drove to the Miners’ Memorial at the top of the huge mullock heap that separates the town from the mining area. We were disappointed to find the memorial buildings closed. The restaurant and adjoining gift shop that was so “in” when we were last there, seemed completely closed and the actual memorial building was closed for renovations as well.

Roadside flowers on the road to Silverton

Roadside flowers on the road to Silverton

After lunch we drove the 24 kilometres to the historic silver mining town of Silverton. Not much remains of the original town but most remaining buildings have been restored and “reading desk” type information signs provide details of restored buildings and some other features. The amount of vacant space between the remaining buildings and relics

With new owners the Silverton Coffee Shop may reopen.

With new owners the Silverton Coffee Shop may reopen.

indicate that it was a substantial town. A coffee shop, still operating on our last visit, is now closed, although the building has been sold. The pub seems to do a good trade and the Mad Max Museum continues to pull in devotees. There are also two or three artists who work from galleries in the town.

 

Silverton's Mad Max Museum

Silverton’s Mad Max Museum

The approach to the Day Dream Silver Mine passes the old smelter flue on the hilltop

The approach to the Day Dream Silver Mine passes the old smelter flue on the hilltop

This visit we did the side trip to the Day Dream Silver Mine, where I did the underground tour. The mine is about 15 kilometres off the Silverton Road. In its day the mine was a rich source of silver with its own smelter sighted on a neighboring hill top to take advantage of gravity to assist the smelting process. The tour visited points of interest on the surface before we donned hard hats with miner’s lights for the underground portion of the tour.

Mining equipment under ground. Visitors can stand at the drill and gain some idea of what it was like to work in the mine.

Mining equipment under ground. Visitors can stand at the drill and gain some idea of what it was like to work in the mine.

The mine was quite deep, descending four levels. There were only a few steps, as the tour followed the sloping shaft that had itself followed the ore body into the bowls of the earth. The irregularities of the floor provided for secure footing and stout hand rails had been installed.

 

 

A display of mining tools in an area where the roof is supported by local timber.

A display of mining tools in an area where the roof is supported by local timber.

Mining tools, both manual and mechanical, were on display in appropriate locations throughout the mine. The guide was an experienced miner with a real gift for telling the mining story. To hear it all right where the underground activity occurred made it all very real. We finished the visit with a mug of tea and fresh scones, baked on the premises.

This photo was taken from the moving vehicle. There were no shoulders on the road to pull over.

This photo was taken from the moving vehicle. There were no shoulders on the road to pull over.

Tuesday was about making distance in an attempt to avoid rain and strong head winds. Cobar, yet another mining town, was our stopover destination for Tuesday evening. The only town between Broken Hill and Cobar is Wilcannia, where we stopped for fuel. After leaving Wilcannia the elevated roadway runs for several kilometres over Darling River flood plains, before entering low hills.

Massed floral displays between Bourke & Cunnamulla

Massed floral displays between Bourke & Cunnamulla

Generally the terrain is flat with only modest hills to provide some variety. Recent rain is evident from water lying beside the road and the abundance of greenery. And wild flower! The sides of the road were covered in masses of purple blooms. The purple is frequently interspersed with a variety of smaller flowers. Periodically the pastures are covered with masses of yellow and white. While watching such natural beauty, the kilometres and hours passed relatively quickly.

More roadside floral displays

More roadside floral displays

For the second day in succession we have driven past endless kilometres of road side gardens. Colours of white, blue, yellow, orange and shades of red have appeared like a planted garden against a background of the greens of grass, shrubs and trees. Periodically patches of white, yellow and red have run out of sight, between road side trees or reached in masses towards the horizon of the open fields.

The drive was between Cobar and Cunnamulla with a brief refueling stop at Bourke, a distance of around 415 kilometres. We saw the first evidence of the amount of rain that has fallen through the area. Up to now all we have seen, besides the rain, has been abundant grass and wild flowers.

Several streams had broken their banks.

Several streams had broken their banks.

The level of water in the Darling at Bourke was the highest that I have seen in several visits. North of Bourke, drainage channels beside the road were full of water. North of the Queensland /NSW border several streams had broken their banks and a few centimeters of water were running across the pavement in two places.

The remaining water over the road was shallow but had obviously been deeper.

The remaining water over the road was shallow but had obviously been deeper.

From Cobar to Burke we were on the final section of the Kidman Way. From Burke we had joined the Mitchell Highway that terminates where it joins the Landsborough Highway at Augathella. But it all seems to be part of the Matilda Way, but I’m not sure where the Matilda Way starts and finishes. But it is a busy road being a link between Southern capitals and both Northern Territory and Queensland and carries a lot of heavy traffic. We met several over dimensional loads, one requiring us to move right off the road.

The weather had been warmer, but the forecast is for rain and reduced temperatures over night and for the next few days. Fairly strong winds were forecast. When they eventuated they were behind us, pushing us along.

The swollen Warrego River at Cunnamulla. Water heading for the Darling River

The swollen Warrego River at Cunnamulla. Water heading for the Darling River

Before we booked into the caravan park at Cunnamulla we drove through town to check the water level in the Warrego River. The water level was well below the bridge but much higher than we had ever seen it before.

The forecast rain caught us at Cunnamulla but the greater part of it fell to the north of us. The rain had passed through by morning but we caught up with the last of it on the way to St George.

Water flooding over the weir on the Bolonne River at St. George

Water flooding over the weir on the Balonne River at St. George

Another 300 kilometres of flat road, some of it a bit narrow but most quite rough, due to periodic flooding, I suspect. The Weir on Wallam Creek, beside the road at Bollon, was overflowing as was the major weir on the Balonne River at St George. All of the excess water is heading for the Darling and the Murray Rivers.

The only disturbance to a peaceful night at the Pelicans Rest Caravan Park was the yapping of two dogs in the caravan next to us, whenever something disturbed them.

Flowering shrubs between St George and Dalby.

Flowering shrubs between St George and Dalby.

Dalby was our destination on Friday, which would have been another 300 kilometre day. But we were there by lunch time so decided to go on a further 100 kilometres to Yarraman. This very pleasant town sits almost at the foot of Bunya Mountains and has a caravan park atop a hill. We had been travelling in sunshine all that day, pushed along by a stiff but a cool westerly, that moderated by evening. But we still needed the heater that night.

On Saturday morning the easterly aspect of our overnight position gave us a brilliant sunrise and a promise of a day with temperatures in the mid twenties.  Saturday was the first day of a long weekend so the road was busy, particularly the lanes leading away from Brisbane. Traffic accumulating behind us made it necessary to keep the rig moving and to pull over occasionally to let our “tail” go by.

We arrived home just before lunch, to start the tasks of unpacking and cleaning and to deal with two months accumulation of dead gum leaves, blown down by winter winds while we have been away.

The promised temperature eventuated. I am back in shorts and all is right with the World.

So ends another trip, shorter in duration than originally intended but not much shorter in distance. We lost about two weeks to wet weather but the days that it did not rain were mostly sunny although sometimes kept rather cool by persistent winds. But we had a good time, saw some new places, met new friends and learned new things.

We can’t ask for much more, can we?

West, Centre & Flinders – Days 33 to 35 – Alice Springs & Rain

Our intention has been to spend just one night at Alice Springs. Now it seems that we are to be here for a week. The main issue has been the uncertainty of weather predictions. We abandoned plans to take the van into the ranges to the east and west of the town in favour of setting up in a central location and doing day trips. Saturday was to have been very windy and it was to start raining on Sunday, continuing into Monday. The strong winds did not eventuate and the rain has been deferred until Tuesday and Thursday. Patience is called for!

And to demonstrate meteorological variability we had a minimum of 3 C on Saturday and a maximum of about 32 C yesterday.

The original telegraph and post office in Alice Springs

The original telegraph station and post office in Alice Springs

Having passed two historic telegraph stations on the way south, we thought we should take a closer look at the restored station at Alice. The buildings were initially well built and have been carefully restored. A restoration of the original office environment, in the original office, has been well done, including sound effects of messages being transmitted by Morse code. Residential buildings have been fitted with furniture of the period and a school room is functional. School children are able to stay overnight, playing the roles of original characters.

Samples of original and replacement telegraph poles

Samples of original and replacement telegraph poles

The tour guide’s spiel covered the explorations of John McDowell Stuart, who made no less than six trips into the area. The telegraph line was built along the route of his final exploration, under the supervision of Charles Todd. The line was built with poles cut locally as they progressed, but termites proved the folly of that option, so the timber posts were soon replaced with telescopic tubular steel posts.

Where I got my warm inner glow

Where I got my warm inner glow

The spiel also included a section on the “Stolen Generation” and included several highly contestable claims. One of the buildings has been used to set up a display on the subject. I guess it gives some visitors a warm inner glow. I achieved my warm inner glow from a cup of coffee and an excellent vanilla slice at the Trail Station coffee shop that also acts as the gateway to the Telegraph Station.

The telegraph line was an important step in Australia’s development as it linked to the newly laid cable under the Timor Sea and ended our communication isolation from the world, particularly from England.

The grave of Rev John Flynn outside Alice Springs. The stone came from The Devils Marbles near Tennant Creek

The grave of Rev John Flynn outside Alice Springs. The stone came from The Devils Marbles near Tennant Creek

In the afternoon we drove out to the near west McDonnell Ranges, pausing at the grave of Rev. John Flynn, and then took another look at Simpsons Gap. There was water in the gap, as usual, and a cool breeze was blowing through.

 

 

Simpsons Gap

The performer in the Gap

We could hear an pleasant vocal sound, not words but a musical tone, from a pure clear female voice, accompanied by a slow drum beat, coming from the gap. As we walked in we could see a young woman, positioned to gain the advantage of the acoustics of the gap. It was a pleasant accompaniment to viewing such spectacular scenery

 

Simpsons Gap

Simpsons Gap

We then headed further out Larapinta Drive and drove the northern section of the Owen Springs Track that leads through historical relics and geographical features to the Stuart Highway. The first cattle station in the Northern Territory was established at Owen Springs. Ruins of station buildings remain. It was getting late in the day so we turned back sooner that we had hoped, so didn’t get to see them. The consolation was that we drove back beside the long stone capped mountain ranges, displayed to advantage in the light of the afternoon sun.

The Bluff at the foot of Trephina Gorge

The Bluff at the foot of Trephina Gorge

We returned, yesterday, to one of our favourite places on the East MacDonnell ranges. Trephina Gorge is yet another gap in the range through which a stream passes, on its way to the desert. The Ross Highway runs between red stone capped mountains and passes at least three other gaps through which streams flow when there is rain. The best known of the gaps are Emily and Jessie Gaps. The other main feature of interest is Corroboree Rock, a striking rock formation where, you guessed it, corroborees were held.

The tallest Ghost gum

The tallest Ghost gum

Trephina Gorge has been cut by the passage of water through red rock that now direct its flow. At least that is the case when it is flowing, which it was not doing yesterday. After exiting the gorge the stream passes at the foot of a huge mound of red stone named The Bluff. From there it makes its way out of the mountains to join those other streams that dissipate into the desert. The gorge also contains the largest Ghost gum in Australia.

Corroboree Rock

Corroboree Rock

There was a final touch of drama as we travelled home. While driving on the gravel road out of the gorge we noticed a continuous trail of fluid. So we were not surprised, just after rejoining the Ross Highway, to see a vehicle stopped part way off the road, with a couple of other vehicles nearby. The fluid trail on the road was transmission fluid. They had damaged something important.

The beauty of the East McDonnell Ranges

The beauty of the East McDonnell Ranges

The vehicle was an aged Ford Maverick and its occupants were a couple of French back packers whose English was inadequate, to say the least. Neither we nor the other vehicles that stopped were able to agree any assistance with them as they preferred to wait for some folk who they had met in the Gorge who were travelling a distance behind them. We can only hope that it worked out for them.

We have been into town on two or three occasions. It is unchanged from last time. Out of town locals wander the streets and seem to be the taxi companies best customers. Security is everywhere, particularly where there are liquor stores. But the commercial centre seems busy and a parking space can be hard to find.

At the caravan park there is an endless procession of arrivals and departures. One night stopovers are common, as visitors restock and head for the scenic areas to the east and west. Much as we had intended. It is hard to detect the colour of some vehicles through the coating of mud that they carry. I suspect that they have come in off the Tanami Track that has had rain in recent days.

So now we wait on the weather. I will deal with that in the next post.

West, Centre & Flinders – Days 18 to 19 – Further West

It is not easy to predict the movements of the travelling public. On our first night at the Longreach Tourist Park the place was near to full. After we arrived, about mid-afternoon, the vans flooded in and flooded out again next morning. But on the second night

Sweeping plains near Winton

Sweeping plains near Winton

occupancy would have been no more than 40%. Perhaps folk had been in to complete the census. Forms were available at the office. We opted to complete it on line and couldn’t even log in. Perhaps we will try again at Alice Springs.

We left Longreach at the start of Day 18 driving towards Winton, about 180 kilometres to the North West.

North Gregory Hotel where legend has it Waltzing Matilda was first performed

North Gregory Hotel where legend has it Waltzing Matilda was first performed

Winton has always been a prosperous place but the drought has taken its toll. There are several empty shops in the main street. But the pubs continue to thrive. The Tattersals’  hotel that occupies a corner had about 20 tables set up for lunch on the pavement and more inside. Many caravans and their towing vehicles were parked in the street. Winton must be a favored lunch stop among grey nomads.

The vacant space was once occupied by The Waltzing Matilda Centre

The vacant space was once occupied by The Waltzing Matilda Centre

As some of you will know, Winton lost its famous Waltzing Matilda Centre to fire a year or so ago. That was a serious blow to the town. But they have bounced back with a new museum called the Qantilda Museum. It is much smaller, as a great deal of history was lost in the fire, but deals with Winton’s two main claims to fame. Winton  is the birth place of Qantas Airways and Waltzing Matilda was written by Banjo Patterson at Dagworth Station to the north of Winton and was first performed in public at Winton’s North Gregory Hotel.

Self explanatory!

Self explanatory!

The “sweeping plains” continue to Winton and beyond. Green as far as the eye can see.  But in most of the pasture there are no cattle eating the lush grass. Drought plays havoc with stocking density and it takes a long time to rebuild a production herd.

 

 

The first real jump up on the way to Middleton

The first real jump up on the way to Middleton

When we came this way last year on our way to The Centre, I said that the road from Winton to Boulia was one of the most attractive outback drives in Queensland and having done it a second time I have not changed my mind. Along the first section, until just past the multiple channels of the Diamantina River, the terrain is fairly flat. Some areas are so green with lush growth that they look like a planted crop. Then  Mount  Booka Booka appears to the left of the road. From there, for the next hundred kilometres or so, the road passes through the Sword Range which is mostly a series of jump ups, or mesas, with their defining crowns of red rock and slopes clad with small bushy vegetation of brilliant green.

A main channel of the Diamantina River almost full of water

A main channel of the Diamantina River almost full of water

Last time through we did Winton to Boulia, a distance of 360 kilometres, in a day. This time, having started the day at Longreach we have broken our journey at the lonely road side pub at Middleton. There was a town of Middleton but it is long gone and only the 130 year old hotel remains. Free camping is available over the road. Most who use the area express their appreciation by patronising the hotel.

Middleton Hotel

Middleton Hotel

We went over for a drink after setting up and then later, went back for dinner. Dinner guests included a couple from Taroom in Queensland on their way to Camooweal to help run the annual drovers festival. An other couple have just travelled the Birdsville Track and were able to give us some good information on road conditions.

An old Cobb & Co coach stands outside the Middleton Hotel

An old Cobb & Co coach stands outside the Middleton Hotel

The Middleton Pub is over 130 years old. The area was first explored by John McKinley who was leading a group searching for lost explorers Bourke and Wills. W Middleton was second in command. The area when opened shortly afterwards was named Middleton in his honour.

The publican and his wife are elderly but are assisted by younger family members. They were most welcoming. The menu was surprisingly extensive but we chose the “house” meal of corned beef with potato, cabbage and white sauce. The serving was generous. The facilities were basic with outside toilets and showers constructed of corrugated iron. The plumbing for the shower looked like a plumber’s nightmare but the rusty shower head was large and hot water cascaded out.

We went to sleep to the gentle lowing of cattle in a yard behind the hotel, probably waiting for a truck to take them to market.

Approaching Cawnapore Lookout

Approaching Cawnapore Lookout

The overnight stay at Middleton produced an unexpected bonus. Soon after leaving Middleton, jump ups start to appear on the horizon. The road turned towards them and as we drew closer the morning sun illuminated the red stone caps and eroded upper reaches turning them to shades of deep red. The green vegetation that clings to the slopes takes on a brilliancy that makes it look painted on.

A path for the fitter leads to the summit if the Cawnpore jumpup

A path for the fitter leads to the summit if the Cawnpore jump up

A picnic shelter marks Cawnpore Lookout, a vantage point that stands above a cutting through the hills. To reach it you must scramble up a steep gravel path but the effort is well worth while. The views through 360 degrees are stunning. Those fitter than I can follow a path that leads to the very top of the jump up for even better views, I imagine.  Accompanying photos illustrate.

A view from the lookout

A view from the lookout

From here the dramatic hills reduce in frequency. The final 80 kilometres or so into Boulia returns to endless green planes with scattered trees. The only dense vegetation lines the many water ways, most of which retain some of the recent rain.

 

Car and van from the lookout and hills to the west

Car and van from the lookout and hills to the west

The Min Min Centre in Boulia

The Min Min Centre in Boulia

We have reached Boulia and are in the caravan park, with the Bourke River only a few metres from the back of our van. Boulia is a small service town at the junction of Kennedy and Diamantina Developmental Roads. The Donohue Highway that leads to Alice Springs via the Plenty Highway branches off just out of town. The town has museum displays of dinosaur fossils and other items relating to the past when where Boulia stands was part of an inland sea. It also has the Min Min Experience, an animated show that tells of the mysterious Min Min Lights.

A full Bourke River at Boulia.

A full Bourke River at Boulia.

Weather has been brilliant. Morning temperatures have been around 10 C with day temperatures in the mid twenties. We experienced some cloud and a few spots of rain on the windscreen as we approached Middleton, but by evening the stars shone from a cloudless sky. But we have had some chilly breezes from east to south west, but they are easy to avoid or you put on something warmer.

Tomorrow we head south for Bedourie and Birdsville.

 

West, Centre and Flinders – Days 5 to 8 – Filling In Time

Keith and Linda. Van packed and hitched and ready to go

Keith and Linda. Van packed and hitched and ready to go

Our original plan, on which we set our departure date, had us meeting Keith and Linda (see previous post) further north, possibly as far north as Airlie Beach. But their progress down the coast was a bit faster than we had anticipated so we met them at Bundaberg, as most readers will already be aware.

 

Near the mouth of the Burnett River at Burnett Heads

Near the mouth of the Burnett River at Burnett Heads

When we parted with them at Burnett Heads we had five days in hand for which we had no predetermined plans. Not a problem! There are always things to look at and places to go.

Beached flood debris on Rules Beach near Baffle Creek

Beached flood debris on Rules Beach near Baffle Creek

We decided to spend a couple of days at Agnes Water/Seventeen Seventy, but a lot of other people had made the same decision. All caravan parks were fully booked. As an alternative we chose Baffle Creek Caravan Park, located about equidistant from Bundaberg and Seventeen Seventy.

If you want other residents to talk to you at Baffle Creek Caravan Park it is best to arrive with a boat on top of your car, or at least have a conspicuous fishing rod on board. This is a fishing area and people go there to fish. We used it as a base for a day trip to Agnes Water and Seventeen Seventy.

Sand banks in Round Head Creek at Seventeen Seventy

Sand banks in Round Head Creek at Seventeen Seventy

We have visited this area before and I have blogged about it. The day was near perfect. Clear skies and a gentle breeze, although up on Round Hill Head, the headland that stands above the town of Seventeen Seventy, the wind was stronger. We did a couple of walks to take in the rugged scenery and the panoramic views of the ocean provided by this vantage point, before returning to the water side park, near the Seventeen Seventy hotel, where we settled ourselves in a picnic shelter for a leisurely lunch.

A small bay on the ocean side of Round Hill Head

A small bay on the ocean side of Round Hill Head

Boats at anchor in Round Hill Creek

Boats at anchor in Round Hill Creek

The sun sets over the agricultural fields at Biloela

The sun sets over the agricultural fields at Biloela

That took care of the first two days. For the remaining three days we decided to go inland to Biloela via Calliope and the Dawson Highway. We wanted to cross from Miriam Vale to the Boyne Valley, as an alternative road to Calliope, but tales of horrendous road conditions on the first part of that road put us off, so we stayed on the Bruce Highway.

The 70 metre chimney at Mount Morgan gold mine

The 70 metre chimney at Mount Morgan gold mine

We returned to the Queensland Heritage Park at Biloela for the night. In our short trip north in June we had spent a night here so were on familiar tertiary.

The logical path to the Yepoon area from Biloela took us through Mount Morgan. I think we had only driven through this historic gold town previously but our plans for a closer look were made a bit more difficult when we found that the only decent caravan park in Mount Morgan was booked out.

Mount Morgan museum display

Mount Morgan museum display

Mount Morgan museum display

Mount Morgan museum display

Mount Morgan museum display

Mount Morgan museum display

A rear view of Mount Morgan's first motor hurse

A rear view of Mount Morgan’s first motor hurse

The old gold mine, viewed from a vantage point in the town

The old gold mine, viewed from a vantage point in the town

So we booked two nights at Gracemere, a town that is now almost a suburb of Rockhampton, but still close enough to Mount Morgan to make a day trip back. On our way through the town we drove around to get our bearings and to find mine viewing vantage points. We then visited the superb museum in the town. The vast collection of historical memorabilia is divided into categories and themes, with the mine dominating. But other sections contained material related to the hospital, armed forces, scouts and guides, religions, local aboriginal history and more.

We found that a tour of the mine was available on a daily basis so when we reached Gracemere we phoned to make a reservation for the next day.

The head equipment of the shaft that took miners to their work

The head equipment of the shaft that took miners to their work

Gold mining was commenced by two Morgan brothers in 1882 but the scale of operations increased in 1888 when a company was formed and more finance became available. Mining finally ceased in 1990 but there was a period in the late 1920s when the mine was closed for five years, due to flooding to extinguish a fire in the mine shafts.

The pit, one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, is now almost full of water

The pit, one of the largest in the Southern Hemisphere, is now almost full of water

But it was a very successful mine for most of its one hundred year life and many fortunes were made. One example of this was Walter Hall who was an early shareholder and director. Some of his fortune was later used to found the Walter and Elisa Hall medical research foundation.  This is just another example of the extent to which gold played such a dominant role in the foundations of Australia.

A model of the Mount Morgan pit displayed in the museum section of the company office

A model of the Mount Morgan pit displayed in the museum section of the company office

Our return to the caravan at Gracemere brought to a conclusion the brief period of filling in days. The next day we travelled to Kinka Beach, south of Yepoon, for our few days with sister Aileen and brother-in-law Colin, before we head west for the main part of this trip.

Preparing for the Cape

All set up for last year's trip to the Centre

All set up for last years trip to the Center

The car went in for a pre- trip service on Monday so I walked down to a local McDonald’s to spend the waiting time reading and drinking their coffee. But I found myself in a construction zone. They are rebuilding the place around the customers. I hid in an outside corner. Thankfully it was a bit warmer than previous days.

To get us started, here is a rough outline of our itinerary as it currently stands.
Days 1 to 3 – Along the road on the way to Airlie Beach. 1000 km in 3 days. Why hurry?
Days 4 to 6 –  Airlie Beach including a half day trip to Whitehaven Beach. We are spending my 75th birthday present Red Balloon voucher. Thanks family.
Days 7 to 10 – Various stops along the way to Weipa
Days 11 to 14 – at Weipa
Days 15 to 16 – Merluna cattle station
Day 17 –  Bramwell Station Stay – an over night stop to break the final run to the top into two days.
Days 18 to 21 –  Punsand Bay. This is as for north as you will find a caravan park with all facilities. The Cape is just a few km away to the east. While here we will do a day trip to Thursday Island and Horne Island.
Day 22 – Bramwell Station again
Days 23 to 25 – Traveling back to the southern Cape area
Days 26 to 40 marking our way home by a still to be finalised route. But we may extended our time on the Cape.

So that is the initial plan. We will keep you updated as we travel.

Sydney 2014 – Day 11 – 27th January – Beyond Katoomba

Another cold night bur no fog this morning – only cloud cover but higher cloud than yesterday. By mid-morning the cloud burned off leaving us with a clear sunny day.

The Court House at the Hartley Historic Village

The Court House at the Hartley Historic Village

The long since unlicensed Newnes Hotel, now a museum and kiosk.

The long since unlicensed Newnes Hotel, now a museum and kiosk.

We went further afield today. Travelling west we passed through the remaining Blue Mountain towns, down the steep Victoria Pass, made a brief stop at the Hartley Historic Village, passed through Lithgow and on to a small place called Newnes. Newnes is at the southern border of Wollemi National Park. It is a very popular camping place, particularly with 4WD owners as a river crossing is necessary to reach the main camping area.

The camping area is surrounded by sandstone topped mountains.

The camping area is surrounded by sandstone topped mountains.

Layout of the processing plant is shown on the information board.

Layout of the processing plant is shown on the information board.

But Newnes has historical significance. In 1906 the Commonwealth Oil Company commenced building a shale oil mine and refinery just down the Wolgan River from the site of the town which was built by the company and named after its Chairman. The product was transported to Sydney by rail over a purpose built railway that joined

Old photograph of the processing plant.

Old photograph of the processing plant.

the Government rail system between Lithgow and Bell. The line ran through difficult country and included two tunnels. The line has been out of commission for many years and the rails removed but one tunnel can be driven through on the way to the second that has become home to a glow worm colony.

Old rolling stock waits for restoring to its original condition.

Old rolling stock waits for restoring to its original condition.

The refinery was apparently quite sturdily built as substantial relics remain. To tour them requires about 2 hours walking over a path not designed for new knees. We started out but it soon became obvious that we would run out of time, so turned back to the car.

 

 

Gates by the road side announce the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.

Gates by the road side announce the Wolgan Valley Resort & Spa.

The Wolgan Valley was the centre of a controversy not long ago when a hospitality company from the Middle East was granted approval to build a rather lavish resort and spa primarily, it seemed, for their own nationals. Some locals and others were not happy with the arrangement and the matter raged on Sydney radio for a while. The resort was built and is operating but it can’t be seen from the road, which incidentally, is now sealed to about 200 metres past the front gate of the resort.

Looking north along the valley from the top of the cutting that descends into the southern end.

Looking north along the valley from the top of the cutting that descends into the southern end.

The valley is beautiful. It is narrow and follows the stream that flows through its centre. The mountains that form the valley rise steeply and are capped with sandstone cliffs that display most attractive colours. Apart from the national park at the lower end of the valley the remainder is farm country with cattle and sheep. Maybe a return visit with the caravan one day so there will be time to do the walk and soak up the history.

 

Wallerang Power Station is powered by local coal.

Wallerawang Power Station is powered by local coal.

 

Ruth on Clarence Station platform. This is part of the currently suspended tourist rail operation.

Ruth on Clarence Station platform. This is part of the currently suspended tourist rail operation.

We returned to Lithgow, pausing to photograph the Wallerawang power station. Lithgow is a coal town and is surrounded by coal mines. Instead of returning via the Victoria Pass we took the Chifley Road to Bell, stopping in to the currently dormant Zig Zag Railway. It is out of commission due to damage sustained during the Blue Mountains bush fires last October. We deviated from the

Hartley Vale from Mt York Lookout.

Hartley Vale from Mt York Lookout.

Darling Causeway that follows the railway between Bell and Mount Victoria to drop down into Hartley Vale, returning to the Great Western Highway at Little Hartley.

We spent the afternoon looking at the iconic lookouts and waterfalls of the western Blue Mountain Plateau. These included Mount York, Mount Piddington, Govett’s Leap and Govett’s Falls and Evans Lookout and drove out onto the Narrow Neck Plateau that divides the Jamison

Govetts Leap Falls and cliff face.

Govett’s Leap Falls and cliff face.

and Megalong Valleys. This last feature was a bit of a dead loss as, after experiencing easily the worst road on this trip we discovered that there is not much to see without embarking on long walks. Walks of various lengths were required to reach the lookout point from the various car parks.

View from Govetts Leap Lookout

View from Govett’s Leap Lookout

 

Another view from Govetts Leap Lookout.

Another view from Govett’s Leap Lookout.

 

So that was our day driving. After a bit of a rest in the sunshine by the van I went for a walk to look for the Katoomba Falls. We had tried to find them yesterday but had turned

The main fall at Katoomba Falls.

The main fall at Katoomba Falls.

back because of steep stairs. They are indeed at the bottom of steep and rather rough steps. The main falls are near the road, only about 300 metres from the caravan park. The Katoomba Creek then runs through a very pretty gorge and over a series of smaller falls and rapids until it plunges over a cliff into the Jamison Valley.

 

The final run of Katoomba Creek before it drops into the Jameson Valley.

The final run of Katoomba Creek before it drops into the Jameson Valley.

 

A Short Northern Safari – Watching the Whales

The Sheathers are mobile again. Ruth’s knee has responded to physiotherapy and the orthopaedic surgeon has given approval, so we have grasped a brief window of opportunity to get away before commercial responsibilities demand my presence in Brisbane. Then, of course, someone decided to call an election for 7th September thus reducing the size of the window by a few days.

This trip takes us up the coast, almost to Townsville and then to Charters Towers and around two sides of the Dinosaur Triangle, including Hughenden, Richmond and Winton. Then we plan to move through to Longreach, the gem areas of Sapphire and Rubyvale and finally home.

Because much of the area is very familiar to us we will be driving straight through much of it to reach the areas of interest. It is mainly about these areas that I will blog.

For years we have promised ourselves a whale watching cruise and although we had encountered a couple of whales while sailing in The Whitsunday Islands a few years ago we had never been up “close and personal” with them. So the first two nights of our trip were booked at Hervey Bay with a whale cruise booked on the intervening day.

There they are. ust under the water.

There they are. just under the water.

It is easy to feel at home in Hervey Bay. God has several waiting rooms in Queensland and Hervey Bay is one of them. But this weekend it was all “Go” as the Whale festival was on. But we didn’t see much of it because while others were parading the streets we were out on the water actually looking at what the shore based folk were celebrating.

Just cruising along

Just cruising along.

We sailed on the “Tasman Venture” and are pleased to report that it ventured nowhere near the Tasman. But it did venture to Platypus Bay which is the long sweeping expanse of sheltered water off the west coast at the northern end of Fraser Island. Whales come in to Hervey Bay as part of their breeding pilgrimage from cold Antarctic waters to the warmer waters of the Coral Sea.

Waving a fin.

Waving a fin.

A strong southerly current runs down the east coast of Australia, often reaching speeds 4 knots and more. The whales have to swim against it as they travel north. I have sailed into that current from Sydney to Brisbane and you certainly know it is there. So it makes sense to me that the whales would turn into Hervey Bay for some respite from the persistent current.

Here is a better view!

Here is a better view!

There were sufficient of them in the bay for us to find and spend time with three pods, two of two and one pod of three. Once you have two whales you have a pod. There can be more than two in a pod, of course.

They are being cooperative today!

They are being cooperative today!

From the first sighting excitement on the boat was obvious. There were around 60 passengers and as soon as the sighting was announced there was a rush to the bow. The Tasman Venture is a substantial catamaran but the shift in human weight caused the bow to drop and the stern to rise but we did not join the whales below the water. But the whales certainly joined us on the surface and gave every indication that we were welcome in their domain.

Another close view.

Another close view.

Pods one and two behaved a little differently at first but then settled into common behaviour patterns. There was much surfacing, venting, rolling and diving and heads popping up to take a look around. The skipper kept moving the boat so that everyone could see but the whales swam from side and from front to back, often swimming right under the boat.

And then there were two!

Swimming away from the boat.

Show business folk say that you should always leave your audience wanting more. Well this audience certainly wanted more and wanted it all afternoon. And we got it.

What ever is going on? Whales often take a look like this.

What ever is going on? Whales often take a look like this.

The third pod contained a seasoned showman. He was the largest whale we had seen, probably full grown, and must have been there before as he knew how to please the crowd. Whales have large fins on their sides called pectoral fins. On a large whale they weigh about a tonne. The showman whale repeatedly struck the surface of the water, sending up showers of spray and continued to do it time after time – almost like a child splashing in the bath.

The under side of a whale's tail.

The under side of a whale’s tail.

Top view of the tail.

Top view of the tail.

Then, with sunset approaching, he appeared to lose interest and started swimming away. The skipper, thinking that the show was over, started to open the throttles on the boat. The increased vibration seemed to warn the whale that he was losing his audience because he dived and breached. A breach is when the whale throws their body almost right out of the water. But he continued with his performance completing about ten breaches in succession. It truly was awesome!

The flapping pectoral fin.

The flapping pectoral fin.

Even the crew were impressed. We heard later that other boats had seen more whales than we did but none that we heard of were presented with the show that we had enjoyed.

It was about an hour’s run back to port through the deepening twilight. We watched the sun set over the land and the lights of Hervey Bay become brighter. The crew served

The start of the breach action

The start of the breach action

drinks and nibblies to help pass the time but there was lots of conversation as passengers discussed what we had witnessed on a rather unique day.

Later, back at the caravan park, we could hear rather loud music and then the even louder explosions of fireworks as the celebrations of the Whale Festival reached their climax.

I took quite a lot of video. AS soon as I have a chance I will put together some material and post it on You Tube.