Destination Tasmania – Part 6 – Hobart

15th to 18th February 2020

Saturday morning and we awoke to pools of water on the balcony and driveway. The first real rain since we had arrived in Tasmania had fallen over night. Patchy cloud in the morning cleared to a sunny day with a cold south easterly breeze.

We left New Norfolk, heading for Hobart, but we needed to fill in time to check in. So we drove down river, crossed to the east side and made our way to the Tasman Highway that passes the airport and ultimately leads to Port Arthur and the East Coast. We wanted to see what the suburbs over the river from Hobart were like and to view the city from the eastern shore.

The western end of Seven Mile Beach

We made a quick call into Seven Mile Beach. Craig and Anne Sheather and the girls spent a few days there as their Hobart base in December. The beach was bleak, as the cloud cover had intensified and the wind was coming in over the bay. We quickly made thermos coffee and returned to the car to drink it.

Hobart’s southern most west side suburbs

After retracing our steps back towards Hobart, we turned left and drove down the South Arm Peninsula to the southern end of the bay that is encompassed by the sweep of the peninsula as it turns back to the north. By this time we realised that we were too far south to see Hobart so we turned back north, keeping as close to the western shore of the Derwent as possible.

Cloud covered Mount Wellington
Port and City of Hobart from Rosney Hill Lookout

We drove past what used to be the Tasmania cricket ground, now their major sports stadium, and then turned back to the shore at Bellerieve. Then, quite by chance, because we turned left instead or going ahead, we came upon Rosney Hill Lookout near the eastern end of the Tasman Bridge. This elevated lookout gives splendid views of Hobart and it’s immediate suburbs on the west side of the Derwent, as well as of the Tasman Bridge. Mount Wellington provided a backdrop for the city. It’s summit was covered in cloud. Not the day to drive the road to the summit, we decided.

Those western shore suburbs again

It was now lunch time, so we returned to the Rosney Park Mall in search of food. When we returned to the car Mount Wellington was clear of cloud, so with an hour to go to check in time we decided to drive to Mount Wellington prior to going to Sandy Bay to check in.

Mount Wellington summit is clear. Let’s go!

Mountain weather is not to be trusted, particularly as far south as Hobart. As we approached the summit we could see cloud drifting over. By the time that we had parked at the summit only glimpses of the views were to be had through gaps in the cloud. The wind over the summit was strong and cold. Ruth sheltered in the car while I dashed around getting the photos that I could.

The trig point at the summit of Mount Wellington.
Mount Wellington viewing shelter gives good views of the city, provided that there are no clouds.
Bruny Island through the clouds
City and the Derwent River
The cloud cover is complete but below the summit

There were better photo opportunities down the mountain, but not with the same panorama as that available from the summit, but with less cloud. We stopped while I took a few more shots.

The Derwent upstream of the city
North of Hobart and the Tasman Bridge

Our Hobart accommodation was the Bay Hotel Apartments at Sandy Bay, just a short drive from the City. The units are old but have been renovated to provide comfortable accommodation. We stayed for four nights, giving us three days in Hobart.

Our first day in Hobart was Sunday. We opted for a restful morning, so stayed in doors. After lunch we set off to check out the city, particularly the waterfront area. We found a parking station in the City. Street parking was near to impossible.

Elizabeth Street, Hobart
Part of the City Mall

Our first port of call was the Information Centre where we loaded up with brochures. We then went dockside, just a short walk away.

Full size replica of the Lady Nelson. In 1800 the original was the first ship to sail west to east through Bass Strait, shortening the voyage from England to Port Jackson. During the following years Lady Nelson was closely involved with exploring and settlement of Australia, particularly in the establishing of settlements at Hobart, Launceston and Port Philip Bay.
The old Henry Jones IXL building is now a the up market Henry Jones Art Hotel

The day was cool but sunny in the afternoon. Despite car parking spaces being full there did not seem to be many people about. The dock area has many eating establishment, plus museums, boat cruises and shopping.

The Drunken Admiral Restaurant behind boats of the Hobart fishing fleet
Dock, city and mountain

The cruise ship Viking Queen was in port but any resulting increase to the pedestrian traffic was not noticeable.  We alternatively wandered and sat, snapping photos all the while.

The cruise ship Viking Queen viewed through the rigging of the sail training vessel Rhona H

Situated directly behind the Constitution Dock area is a replica of the hut built by Sir Douglas Mawson and his group of polar explorers during the voyage to Antarctica during the period 1911 to 1914. We didn’t tour it, but it is an exact replica and houses a display of artifacks relating to Antarctica and the expedition. Hobart is the port from which services to Australia’s Antarctic bases are provided.

Hobart replica of the hut that Sir Douglas Mawson built during his 1911 to 1914 expedition to Antarctica

Ruth’s sister Judy had suggested we visit the old signal station on Mount Nelson, so we decided to go home that way. The observation point provides excellent views of the maritime approaches to Hobart. Judy also mentioned Devonshire teas at the cafe at the the car park. We can recommend them as well. There are excellent views from the observation area and the cafe.

Bruny Island in the foreground and the South Arm Peninsula, in the background. The mouth of the Derwent River lies between. The d’Entrecasteaux Chanel separates Bruny Island from the main island of Tasmania

We then dropped down to the coast road at Wrest Point (literally, the road was very steep) and drove down the coast to Taroona. We didn’t realise that we were almost down to the historic shot tower, but a visit to the tower was on the list of things to do coming back through Hobart, after we had been south to the Huon Valley and Bruny Island.

We then returned to the unit for a quiet evening.

A painting of racing yachts in the Maritime Museum

We returned to the city on Monday morning, found a long term parking space and made our way to the Tasmania Maritime Museum. This interesting place is conveniently located over the street from the Information Centre. There is a huge amount of nautical material to absorb, much of it historical. Some was familiar, some new. But it took up the early part of the morning.

Models of boats in the Museum
This is part of bow and keel from an unidentified wreck in Tasmanian waters

We had a late coffee and a walk before boarding the Spirit of Hobart for a 90 minute luncheon cruise. The route took us over the Derwent estuary area, both upstream and downstream of the harbour, being informed as we dined about a huge range of historical, political and social happenings. Part of the trip crossed the finishing line of the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race, but going the opposite direction to competing yachts. The lunch was excellent. The trip was really good value.

The saloon area of the Spirit of Hobart
The judges box at the finishing line for the Sydney Hobart Yacht Race
A moored yacht with some of Hobart’s southern suburbs in the background. They would get a great view of finishing Sydney Hobart yachts from those homes.
The former Hobart Cricket ground at Bellerieve is now an all purpose stadium
Passing under the Tasman Bridge

Back on shore, we took the short walk to the Salamanca precinct where old warehouse buildings have been converted to up stairs apartments and to commercial premises down stairs. Many of the businesses are food related. One interesting place is a laundry cafe. Lunch or snacks while the washing machine and the dryer churn seemed to be popular.

Salamanca Fruit Market
Courtyard area at Salamanca Markets.
The Salamanca laundry cafe

With some time still left to the afternoon, we drove out to the convict women’s prison at Cascade. Traffic was thick on near city streets because of an accident, so by the time we arrived there was only 20 minutes till closing time. The place is heritage listed and looked interesting so we decided to return the next day. About 10,000 female convicts were sent to Hobart.

Original buildings at Cascade Brewery

Since we were in Cascade we went another 500 metres or so to take a look at Cascade Brewery. It proved to be a quite substantial establishment. Judging by the size of a tour group that we saw the tours are popular. No doubt a sample of the product is included.

Covered portion of the Hobart city mall

Tuesday was our last day in Hobart, so we started in the city centre, checking shops for a couple of things that we needed. But a city centre is a city centre and they are all similar. From those many years ago when we toured Tasmania I recalled the Cat and Fiddle arcade as a sort of quirky kind of place. We found it again but it is now quite bland. Just a mall with shops.

The main gate of the Hobart Botanical Gardens

Next stop was the Botanical Gardens. They are located a short drive from the City and parking was not an issue. We walked through sufficient of the area in a couple of hours to get a good feel for the place. Botanical gardens, particularly those in capital cities, rarely disappoint and Hobart’s effort is no exception.

Fern covered waterfall on the hill side
Water Lilly ponds and deck
The floral clock. Sorry about the gardener in the photo.
Gardens at the entrance if the conservatory in the gardens

Inside, the conservatory is spacious with seating for those who want to sit for a while.
Administration offices, gift shop and cafe
Entrance to the Japanese garden
Water wheel and water fall in the Japanese garden

A drive to the northern suburbs followed. We stopped in Glenorchy for some lunch and then came back for a second try at the female convict penitentiary. Back in the day the female convict establishment was called a factory. Placing female convicts into service with Hobart households was part of the transportation plan. To have worked in a factory did not have the stigma of having been an inmate of a prison.

This was the layout of a supervisor’s cottage
The layout of prisoner accommodation buildings with original buildings in the background.
An area of original convict workmanship

But jails they were, with sentences to be served behind stone walls. A couple of buildings still stand but in most of the area the lay outs of buildings are marked by wire crated stones. Information plaques are widely used to explain it all. It is well worth a visit. Conducted tours are lead by theatre folk, so for a added cost you can have the story told by an actress who will provide a full costumed performance.

South Arm Peninsula over the Derwent, viewed from part way up Mount Wellington

We looked up at Mount Wellington again but its summit was playing tag with cloud. So we drove about half way up to where we were well below the cloud base but there are lookout points provided at the end of a short walk. The views were worth the effort.

View beyond Hobart and the Derwent over the airport area, Seven Mile Beach and the Tasman Peninsula

We concluded our stay in Hobart by dining out in the evening at The Drunken Admiral Restaurant. Located in one of the wharf side buildings, this well known eatery has been in continuous operation for over forty years. I had dined there when in Hobart on business early in its life, so decided to take Ruth there. I chose the same dish as on the previous visit, the signature dish of seafood chowder. It was as I remembered. The waitress assured me that the recipe had not changed.

Neighbouring tables at The Drunken Admiral where we went to dinner.

Destination Tasmania – Part 5 – Mountain Roads and Highland Lakes

12th to 14th February 2020

Clouds against mountains approaching Queenstown from Strahan

There was a suspicion of drizzle as we packed the car to leave Strahan.  In several areas, as we drove to Queenstown, our way was partly obscured by cloud cover that sat atop the mountains like a blanket. The point from which we viewed the mountains behind Queenstown the previous morning was a totally clouded, with no view at all.  As we approached Queenstown, banks of cloud hung in front of the mountain range, but all of the cloud vanished as we drove up the range towards the east to give us an almost cloudless sky.

Queenstown from the Lyell Highway heading east
Queenstown in the valley and the road east clinging to the side of the mountain
A caravan making its way up the mountain from Queenstown

We paused at Queenstown for fuel and stopped again at the observation point part way up the baron slopes for that final view of the town.

Lake Burberry is one of Tasmania’s newer dams. The Lyell Highway crosses it by bridge at its narrowest point.  A National Parks camping area on the east bank provides picnic facilities, so we stopped there for morning coffee.

Lake Burberry has a good boat launching ramp

The road from the dam to Derwent Bridge runs through endless national park, and is lined with an infinite variety of vegetation as it passes over mountain ranges and through rain forest filled valleys.

Information at the highest point on the Lyell Highway between Queenstown and Derwent Bridge
A view into misty mountains at the geographic high point

At a number of places along this road there are parking areas giving access to short to medium walks to features such as lookouts and waterfalls.  One parking area is the starting point for longer walks that extend to several days in the area of the Frenchman’s Cap range.  Another stop marks the highest point in the range that divides east from west. Interestingly, we could see Frenchman’s Cap from the boat on Macquarie Harbour.  At 1,446 metres it is quite prominent.

National Park visitor centre at Lake St. Clair

We turned at the small town of Derwent Bridge for the short drive to the Lake St Clair National Park Visitor Centre.  As well as being a worthwhile place to call, it is the southern end of the Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair 6 to 7 day walk.  Many hikers, carrying back packs, were either arriving from the walk or waiting to leave to walk north.  A ferry service links the southern end of the walk with the visitor centre at Lake St Clair.

The official end of the Overland Trail from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair

We had intended to have a picnic lunch at Lake St Clair, but we were attacked by a swarm of March flies. Tasmania seems to have a March fly plague but today was the worst that we had encountered.  So the picnic went back in the car and we took refuge in the restaurant.

Arriving and departing hikers at Lake St Clair ferry

It is about 140 km from Derwent Bridge, mostly down the Derwent Valley, to New Norfolk. Most of the journey is through mountainous timbered country. The road passes a number of dams used for hydro electricity generation.  In the Tarraleah area, we saw a couple of sets of huge water supply pipes descending steeply into power stations.

Derwent Valley near New Norfolk
Hop fields, Derwent Valley

The forests finally give way to farm country with grazing cattle beside the road.  Just before New Norfolk, orchards appear along the banks of the Derwent, which is quite a substantial river at this point.

Our apartment was on a hillside overlooking the Derwent River, with views over the town on the eastern bank and the mountains beyond. We were there for three nights. New Norfolk was our first encounter with a digital reception. A sign on the door gave a phone number to call, A code was then sent, by text message. The code was our door key.

New Norfolk and the Derwent River from our balcony at New Norfolk
Lyell Highway bridge over the Derwent at New Norfolk

If someone tells you that more trees should be planted, tell them to visit Tasmania. We spent yet another day driving through trees, trees and more trees. Tasmania’s south and south west have an abundance of trees.

We started the day with some medical maintenance at a New Norfolk pharmacy and then headed for the trees and the mountains. In Tasmania trees and mountains seem to go together.

The road on the west side of the Derwent is a shorter route to Mount Field National Park. There is quite a lot to do in this extensive park but time limited us to the short walk to Russell Falls. Like many falls walks the path leads along the ravine that carry the waters of the host stream. The view of the tiered cascade is all the reward needed for the easy 30 minute walk.

Russell Falls, Mount Field National Park
Russell Falls are popular. It was hard to get photos without strangers in them.

Like Lake St Clair, the visitor centre here was busy. There are a number of walks and other attractions and it is only about 80 km from Hobart. Some walks lead to elevations that provide views back along the Derwent Valley to Hobart. Given an absence of cloud, of course.

Mount Field National Park Visitor Centre.

We then drove on a further 95 km along the Gordon River Road to reach the Gordon Dam and Lake Gordon. It is a lonely road passing through a handful of small locations, the last and most substantial of which is Maydena, followed by 70 km of sealed mountain forest road.

Misty mountain on the road to Gordon Dam

Lake Gordon and its neighbour, the better known Lake Pedder, are just over a ridge from each other at Strathgordon. There was a huge environmental fight over Lake Pedder that the Hydro Commission eventually won, which helped achieve its icon status.

The Sentinel Range near Lake Pedder

Strathgordon was only ever a dam construction town. Nothing much has changed, with administration and some worker accommodation still there. What was, I think, the single worker facility, is now a wilderness lodge that provides accommodation as well as the facilities of a pub, cafe, restaurant and coffee shop.  Fuel is available as well.

Lake Pedder Wilderness Lodge
View of Lake Pedder from the Lodge

These huge water storages look fantastic as they lie among the mountain ranges, some of which are densely forested and others massive piles of almost bare rock. A clear sky produced striking reflected blue water.

Gordon dam is 140 metres high

The dam that holds back the waters of Lake Gordon is quite a sight at 140 metres high with a pronounced curve in the wall to cope with extreme pressure. Both lakes cover more than 500 square kilometres and hold the equivalent of 37 Sydney harbours.

The bottom of the wall of Gordon Dam is accessible by these stairs. It is a long way down.
Outlet and part of the power station at Lake Gordon
Lake Pedder from the road to Gordon Dam
This channel carries water from Lake Pedder to Lake Gordon

Gordon and Pedder dams are connected by a narrow channel that carries water from Lake Pedder to Lake Gordon. Lake Pedder appears not to have its own hydro power generator. Its water is directed through the Lake Gordon.

The return journey is over the same road as we travelled outward bound. We used Maydena as an ice-cream stop, pleasantly absorbing the warmth of the afternoon sun as we enjoyed the treats. And so, back to our comfortable unit, which was easily the best accommodation that we had so far occupied in Tasmania.

The next day, Friday, dawned overcast with a chill breeze. Just the day to drive through areas where snow regularly falls during winter. We were bound for The Great Lake in the Central Highlands of Tasmania but by an indirect route.

We drove down the east bank of the Derwent River to Bridgewater and joined Highway One, heading north. Downstream from New Norfolk, the river is not as confined by its banks and sprawls into wider expenses of water, some of which are shallow and marshy. The bridge at Bridgewater is at one this wider area so the bridge is rather long with a causeway and a lift section for taller boats.

Historic houses at Bothwell are still in use

Highway One, the Midland Highway is the main road link between Launceston and Hobart. After about 50 km we turned left for Bothwell, a small rural town, full of historical buildings. A sheltered corner in the park provided a morning coffee stop and a pause while we looked at history dating back to early settlement in Tasmania. The area was settled by farmers in the 1820s.

The visitor information centre at Bothwell
Historic plaque on St Lukes church in Bothwell, The plaque dates the building at 1830.
St Lukes church was built in 1830
Part of St Lukes’ cemetery

After Bothwell, the road continues to the North West until Miena is reached. Miena is a spread out town of highland holiday houses and well housed permanent residents. A couple of small hills provide lots of water view opportunities over the southern end of the Great Lake.

The Steppes Sculptures information board

The only real point of interest along the road to Miena, about half way, is a collection of sculptures, in the bush just off the road. They are at the end of a short dirt road with a small parking area. The road is marked by a simple sign that announces the “Steppes Sculptures”.

Plinths holding animal sculptures form a circle

A short walk away a circle of twelve stone plinths each hold a bronze sculpture with a thirteenth in the centre. They are the work of Stephen Walker, a well known sculpture who has work that decorates the Hobart waterfront and who sculpted the whale memorial at Cockle Creek. More of Cockle Creek in a future post.

This appears to be a Tasmanian Devil
Sculpture of Platypus

The area is known as The Steppes, presumably because it is part of the area that “steps” up to the highlands. A historic farm house on the property can be visited either by a short walk or a short drive. We passed up on the house as it is not often open and it was not a day to be out of the car for too long without being rugged up.

Just before Miena we pulled off the road to look at the Miena Rockfill Dam the construction of which created The Great Lake by backing up the Shannon River and caused two smaller lakes to become one much larger lake. A lookout provides excellent views of the retaining wall and the lake that backs up to the north, way out of sight. On the south side of the lake is Shannon Lagoon. But more of that shortly.

Mienna Rockfil Dam holds back the waters of The Great Lake
The Great Lake viewed from the South

We drove further into this very spread out town and found the Central Highlands Lodge, a sort of guesthouse hotel of the kind that you find in these kinds of places. We were served a good hot meal suitable for the day and, of course, coffee. We then drove on through the town and along the road to the west of the lake that would have taken us to the Bass Highway, but the clouds were below the tops of the distant mountains and showers of rain were moving over the surrounding planes and across the lake. Frankly, it was quite uninviting, so we turned around and headed back into town.

Central Highlands Lodge provided a lunch suitable for a cold day
Part of the town of Miena

When I was learning about Mount Bischoff tin and Mount Lyell copper at school I was also learning about the Tasmanian hydro electric generation industry and particularly Tarraleah and Waddamana. I remembered Tarraleah because we had spent a night there 45 years ago and it had snowed. We had driven through this town two days before and noted its steeply sloping water pipes feeding the generators. But where was Waddamana? That question was answered on the drive earlier in the day when we had seen a sign pointing to Waddamana and the historic hydro electric trail. The turn was about 15 km back towards Bothwell.

The Historic Hydra Trail had information signs at regular intervals describing the project
The water supply channel as pictured on the information sign
Water supply channel as it is now

The great lake is the birthplace of serious hydro electricity generation in Australia. It all started in about 1910 when a dam was built at the bottom of The Great Lake which channelled water through pondages and canals to the top of a steep slope and shot it down the slope to Waddamana A power station. The scheme was commissioned in 1916, held up by bad weather and the start of WWI.

Penstock Lagoon was the final holding basin before the water was released into the channel and pipes that fed the turbines
Old water supply pipes protruding from the retaining wall at Penstock Lagoon
This channel leads to the point where the water enters the large pipes for the final plunge to the turbines

Shannon Lagoon was a balancing pondage which fed water into a manmade channel that carried water to Penstock Lagoon. From this temporary storage water was released into another man made channel and then down the precipitous mountain side to Waddamana A. There was a construction town named Shannon but it ceased to exist many years ago.

Entrance to Waddamana power station
Information boards for stations A and B at Waddamana

Waddamana B was commissioned 1946 so was slowed, in its turn, by WWII. This expansion of generation capacity greatly increased the output of Waddamana and helped to set the paten for future power generation.

Turbines in Station A. The water was used several times as it flowed through the line of turbines. This photo shows a turbine with its protective cover removed.

Waddamana A is now a museum with most of its turbines still in place with some cut away to show what really makes the system work. I was able to walk through among the equipment and gained a good understanding of it. Most of the pipes that fed water to the turbines are still in place although truncated and often incomplete.

A partly stripped view of the electricity generator
Truncated pipes at the bottom of the hill behind the power stations.

There was a small town at Waddamana back then which is still there but not used for power station workers any more. Some of the houses appeared to be occupied. On a hill above the town and power station a new and substantial wind farm has been built. The wind vanes were still against the afternoon sky but we heard on the news a few days later that is had been officially commissioned and was in production.

Waddamana A on the left and B on the right,.

We made our way home on an alternative road that was sealed so long ago that it was like driving on gravel but it was in surprisingly good condition. It brought us back to the Lyell Highway at the town of Ouse which is on the Ouse River, a tributary of the Derwent. The final part of our drive was again through the vinyards, orchards and hop fields of the Derwent Valley.

Destination Tasmania – Part 4 – Strahan, Queenstown and Zeehan

10th & 11th February, 2020

Heritage Tours boat “Harbour Master” at Sarah Island jetty

I suppose tours of Macquarie Harbour and The Gordon River were operating 45 years ago when we were last at Strahan, but I have no recollection of them. But that was well before the issue of the Franklin Dam and all of the disputes over Lake Pedder gave this area such prominence. We had become aware that the cruise was one of the attractions that draw tourists to Strahan. We booked in advance to make sure that we had a good seat.

The day started overcast and cool but improved to produce sunshine by mid afternoon. We were not affected by the morning chill as we were on board the “Harbour Master” our Heritage Tours cruise boat, protected by its broad glass windows.

Departing Strahan cruise terminal
Strahan Railway Station at Regatta Point

The cruise boat headed directly to Hells Gates, the entrance through which ships had to pass to reach the convict settlement on Sarah Island. The entrance is narrow and dangerous, particularly when a sea is running. In the days of sail, ships would anchor outside of the harbour, wait for slack tide and be towed through by sailors rowing the ship’s longboat.

Old Macquarie Heads Signal Station
Coloured rocks at Hell’s Gate
Hell’s Gate passage from the ocean side

There was no sign of Hell at the gates. The sea was like a mill pond. Not only did we proceed through the heads at full speed but continued out past the Cape Sorrel lighthouse into the Indian Ocean for a look both ways along the coast. Such conditions only occur about five times per year, we were told.

A breakwater and the coast outside Macquarie Harbour heads
Cape Sorrel Lighthouse at the south of Macquarie Harbour entrance
In the open sea. View south past Cape Sorrel Light
View from inside Hell’s Gate out to sea. Ships entering and leaving port had to pass between the channel light and the point on the left.

I had read about Sarah Island as a convict prison but for some reason thought that it was located near the heads. But it is at the other end of this rather long harbour. On our way to Sarah Island from Hell’s Gates we stopped to see the salmon and trout farms where the fish are grown to eating size in large circular mesh cages that are anchored in the waters of the harbour. There is nothing to see other than the nets but the skipper of the boat gave us quite a bit of information about the husbandry practices. In short, they feed the fish and the fish grow to eating size. What else is there to known?

Fish farms in Macquarie Harbour
View to the east in Macquarie Harbour

Sarah Island had the worst reputation of any Australian convict settlement. It was established to gather Huon pine from the surrounding forests, but when the difficult harbour entrance restricted the transport of the timber, shipbuilding was established at Macquarie Harbour at the Sarah Island convict settlement. Well over one hundred boats were built with over half of them ocean going ships.

Walking ashore at Sarah Island
Sarah Island landing

A solid path has been built linking the ruins to the jetty for ease of access. Guides are on hand to tell tourists all about the settlement. You can still see remnants of the construction slipways embedded in the shoreline. There are ruins of buildings with information signage throughout. It is all very well done.

Remnants of boat building slipways in the shore line of Sarah Island
A larger ship building slipway and an alternative landing jetty
Information shelter

As we departed Sarah Island, the crew prepared a delicious buffet lunch of cold meats and salad including slices of Camembert cheese so large that you would think the stuff was made in Tasmania.

Cruise passengers with a guide at convict prison ruins
Ruins of Sarah Island Bakery
Information plaque showing layout of Sarah Island administration building

From Sarah Island we motored directly to the mouth of the Gordon River where speed was reduced to a sedate 5 knots or so. The destination in the river was Heritage Landing, where berthing facilities have been built for the boat and a board walk constructed to provide access to the rain forest that covers the steep sides of the Gordon valley. Particularly, it gives access to Huon pine in its natural setting. Huon pine is not only resistant to rot but also to the marine worm that destroys lesser timber. It is a slow growing tree. Large specimens are thousands of years old.

Excellent reflections are sometimes viewed on the Gordon but the wind had come up by the time we reached it so the surface was a series of ripples instead of a mirror.

The placid Gordon River near where it joins Macquarie Harbour
Boardwalk to Huon pine viewing area at Heritage Landing

As we cruised slowly up the river the skipper retold the story of the Franklin River protests of thirty or forty years ago when the Tasmanian Hydro Electricity Commission wanted to build a dam on the Gordon River downstream from where it is joined by the Franklin River. If you are over 60 you will no doubt remember all the fuss.

Mature Huon pine
The “Blue Boat” from the other cruise operator at Strahan

On the quayside at Strahan there remains an operating sawmill that processes Huon pine. The cruise boat completes the tour by berthing at the mill to enable passengers to see the Huon pine being worked. The mill sells completed timber products including a range to appeal to tourists with spare money. I would rather spend the money on the finished product of the fish farm.

The sawmill that works Huon pine at Strahan wharf

Our second day in the South West was set aside for a driving tour in the area. We did the triangle Strahan-Queenstown-Zeehan-Strahan, about 125 km. But before heading off on the 47 km first part of the trip to Queenstown we took a closer look at Strahan.

We first visited Regatta Point to look at the Strahan end of the Queenstown to Strahan tourist railway. This service operates on the railway built to get copper ore from the mines in Queenstown to the port, to be shipped to the world.  Because of steep inclines on the route, part of the track uses a rack and pinion system where drive cogs on the engine engage with teeth in a track that is positioned between the normal rails.

Strahan historic railway station
Cafe tables at Strahan station
Strahan waterfront area viewed from Regatta Point station

The station building in Strahan is the original, built in the late 1990s. It now contains a cafe and gift shop and normal tourist facilities.  We were a bit early for coffee, but the view from the tables on the old platform is such that you would not want to finish your coffee too quickly.

Historic buildings over the street from the wharf at Strahan
Tourist cruise base at Strahan
Strahan main street
Tourist accommodation overlooking Strahan waterfront

Queenstown occupies one of the most dramatic sites that you can imagine. It is totally surrounded by rocky mountain ranges, much without vegetation. Some naturally lack vegetation, but hills were denuded in a clearing frenzy to feed the copper smelters in the early days of mine operation.  It is a town where I would prefer not to be on a hot day.

Rocky mountains approaching Queenstown
Queenstown sign approaching from Strahan

We drove around to get a feel for the place and then walked around the main streets of the commercial area. We then located the nearest street access to the Spoin Kopf lookout which is conveniently located near the CBD, almost in the centre of town. I climbed the steep track to the summit and I am glad that I did. The view was spectacular. The lookout was built as a memorial to its namesake, a battle for a hill during the Boer War in South Africa.

Main business area of Queenstown from Spion Kopf
Queenstown suburbs to the east of the central business district
Mine workings and the corner of Queenstown where the highway passes through
Hills surrounding Queenstown were stripped of vegetation to fire refinery furnaces. The area is slowly re-vegetating.

Queenstown’s history has long been tied to the mining industry. This mountainous area was first explored in 1862. Later alluvial gold was discovered at Mount Lyell, prompting the formation of the Mount Lyell Mining Company in 1881. In 1882 the company began searching for and discovered copper. The Mount Lyell company ultimately became the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company.

Queenstown’s Empire Hotel. Completed in 1901.
View along Orr Street towards Mount Owen
Queenstown Post Office. Built in 1902.

The Queenstown end of the railway has a smartly rebuilt station that offers the same facilities as its counterpart at Strahan, but on a larger scale. We had lunch in the cafe and then waited a few minutes to watch the train come huffing in from its return trip to a point about half way to Strahan.  There was a good number of people on board who seemed to have enjoyed the experience.

Queenstown Railway Station and engine turn table
Queenstown Railway Station. New building for the West Coast Wilderness Railway
A steam engine at the end of its days work
Tourist cafe at Queenstown Railway Station. You can watch the train through the glass wall on the right

We then drove the 35 km or so to Zeehan, another mining town, but this time a producer of silver and zinc.  I am not sure of the status of mining in Zeehan but the town appears to be partly closed down. But it had its days of grandeur, demonstrated by the fine buildings that line its main street. The West Coast Heritage Centre is in Zeehan, housed in the ornate School of Mining and Metallurgy building.

Gaiety Theatre and Grand Hotel, Zeehan
Zeehan Post Office
Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy is now the West Coast Heritage Centre
The Railway Museum is part of the West Coast Heritage Centre
One of Zeehans banks

Returning to Strahan, we were on the same road as we had travelled two days before. We had noticed mining residue beside the road but we now had time to stop and take a look. Some old pieces of equipment were strewn over the area but it was not clear what kind of mining activity had been conducted there.

Mining area at Zeehan on the road to Strahan
Four wheel drive access to the beach at Henty Dunes

With time left in the day, before we returned to our cabin, we took the opportunity to drive out to Macquarie Heads, to see it from the land as well as having seen it from the boat. It is Strahan’s closest surf beech with a reasonable drive over sealed and dirt roads. There is also a caravan park and on the way out, a neat little picnic area with a boat launching ramp.

Jetty at Macquarie Heads
Swan Basin near Strahan

Destination Tasmania – Part 3 – North West Tasmania and the West Coast

8th & 9th February 2020

Leven River, Ulverstone

From Fourth we made the short drive to Ulverstone where we did morning coffee in a riverside park and had a drive around town. We then moved on to Penguin, where we again stopped to do the tourist thing. We were following the road nearest to the coast. Sometimes this was the Bass Highway and sometimes secondary coastal roads.

Sea side at Penguin
Ruth and the Big Penguin at Penguin
Penguin main street

After Penguin, Burnie is the next major town. It is a significant sea port, handling export cargo such as wood chips and it handles much of the freight to and from the mainland. This port doesn’t have a harbour or major river mouth but the wharf area gets some shelter from a bit of a bulge in the coast. Burnie is probably the major industrial centre on the Bass Strait coast of Tasmania.

Port of Burnie from the Bass Highway

Wynyard is the next town and is home to the Burnie-Wynyard airport, which services the North West area. Wynyard has a beach and some retirement homes but not much more, other that to provide the eastern approach to and view of Table Cape, a flat topped promontory that pokes out into Bass Strait. 

Table Cape from Wynyard

The cape is elevated and quite prominent. It is a rich agricultural area with crops rather that sheep and cattle. One of its crops is industrial poppies, grown under tight governmental control, for the pharmaceutical industry. At its highest point a lookout is provided near to its lighthouse. The views of the coast in both directions and to the mountainous inland are excellent. There is also a popular tulip farm but we were not there at tulip time.

Wynyard from Table Cape
Table Cape Lighthouse over harvest stubble
An industrial poppy field.
Boat Harbour and the western end of the North coast

We bypassed Stanley, our stop over place for the night, and passed through Smithton to join the road that would take us to Arthur River and the lookout known as The Edge of the World.

Arthur River is a small remote settlement in the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area, a reserve that covers a substantial proportion of the northern part of the west coast of Tasmania. One of the tourist attractions is a cruise on the river. There appeared to be two cruise boats, a red boat and a blue boat, but I think they have the same operator. Under the right conditions the reflections in the river are said to be magnificent.

Arthur River estuary
The troubled waters of the Arthur River bar, on a calm day

But for those, like Ruth and I with less time, the attraction is the Edge of the World, a lookout on an elevated dune just south of the mouth of the Arthur River. It is so named because as you look west the next land is Argentina, 40,000 km away, so you can’t quite see it. When strong westerly winds blow, the waves can be huge. The light wind was out of the north, so it was relatively calm.

South from Arthur Mouth. Coloured rocks and drift wood
The Red Cruise boat at Arthur River
The Blue Cruise Boat and the Arthur River bridge.

Apart from a great view of the Indian Ocean and the river mouth, you get to see a display of driftwood in its larger form. Logs that wash into the sea during floods, or perhaps fall off the decks of ships, end up washed ashore on this coast and into the small coves and exposed rocks of the river estuary. Some of it is said to be Huon Pine.

Serious drift wood at Arthur River

We found a cup of tea and a biscuit to nibble at the towns small general store, then returned to Stanley to spend the night in a very comfortable cabin in the Stanley Caravan Park. The plan was to explore Stanley and the famous Stanley Nut next morning.

Sunday 9th February dawned in Stanley with the wind trying to blow the town into Bass Strait.  Overnight, yesterday’s mild northerly became a budding south easterly gale. It started howling around our cabin in the early hours of the morning and had lost none of its enthusiasm by get up time. Rows of white capped waves were dashing across the bay and dumping themselves on the beach.

Waves on Sawyer Bay, Stanley
And waves on Perkins Bay, Stanley.

The wind strength at the summit of the Nut would require you to hold on to your hat with one hand and a stout post with the other. This being the case, we abandoned my plan to ride the chair lift to the summit. Instead we looked around town before starting on our drive for the day. On the way out of town (we had noticed it on the way in) a road turned to a lookout.

The chair lift at Stanley Nut

The lookout is located on the next hill inland from The Nut and provided an elevated viewing platform and a giant picture frame, through which to view or photograph Stanley. The view emphasised that Stanley Nut is a promontory with bays on each side. It also provided good views of the pasture land that surrounds Stanley.

Stanley Nut inside of the frame

The road to the central west coast ( you can’t drive to the southern end of the west coast) turns near Burnie, so we had to retrace our route along the Bass Highway for about 50 km. On our way to the turn we stopped to take a closer look at the shipping wharf at Port Latta. This port is a long loading conveyor that makes its way out to deep water. Iron ore and magnetite are mined at Savage River near Queenstown and pumped as slurry through a pipeline. It is then solidified and converted to pellets at Port Latta and shipped overseas.

Loading conveyor at Port Latta. The Nut in the background.
Ore processing facility at Port Latta

We diverted to Burnie for a visit to a pharmacy. While we were there we had coffee, but at a handy McCafe, not at the pharmacy.

Burnie to Strahan is 180 km. After leaving the coast we travelled through dairy, beef and sheep country followed by endless forests, always with mountains in the far or muddle distance. About half way along, just off the highway to the right, is Waratah. About 40 km to the left, as the crow flies, is Cradle Mountain. You pass its turn to the left a bit further south.

Waratah information, water fall and tow,
Old mining ruins can be seen during a walk through this gorge at Waratah

As I learned in primary school, Waratah is the home of the Mount Bischoff tin mine. The body of ore was discovered in 1871 and mining commenced, initially using water from the water fall in the middle of the town, in a sluicing process. Later the water fall was used to power one of Tasmania’s first hydro electric generators to power the tin refining process.

Bischoff Hotel, Waratah
The Bischoff Hotel seems to be a Sunday destination for bikers.
A water wheel now used for a display instead of work

Tin mining continued until 1929, but was opened again in 1942, to support the war effort. It finally closed permanently 1947, about the time that I was learning about it at school.  Displays in the town relate to those times. A walking trail leads into the gorge where those with the time can see more of the mining relics. The excavation activities created a huge gouge into the face of the mountain, although much of the mining was under ground.

The above ground part of the Mount Bischoff tin mine
This hut was the home of James “Philosopher” Smith, one of the prospectors who discovered tin at Mount Bischoff

We continued south to Tullah, after which we had a choice of road. We chose the route nearest to the west coast, through Rosebery and Zeehan. Tullah is a Tasmanian Hydro Electricity town with some tourism based on two large man made lakes. Rosebery and Zeehan were both mining towns. Zeehan was a tin, silver and zinc mining town. We returned to Zeehan a couple of days later. Rosebery was a gold, zink and copper mining area.

After Zeehan the road swings west towards the coast and crosses a winding mountain range, the road running through rain forest that is often like a tunnel. As the ocean comes into view a lookout has been provided. It gives sweeping views of the coast including the distant Cape Sorrel Lighthouse at the mouth of Macquarie Harbour, but you need a long lens or binoculars to see the lighthouse clearly.

A view of the west coast to the north of Strahan and Macquarie Harbour.

The drive to Strahan from here is along the coastal plain, mostly behind sand dunes. The road, known as the Murchison Highway, for the entire distance from Burnie is well formed and sealed throughout, although a bit on the narrow side, as are many of the secondary roads in Tasmania. Our accommodation for the next three nights was in a cabin in the Strahan Caravan Park.

Destination Tasmania – Part 2 – Devonport Area and Cradle Mountain

6th to 8th February 2020

On our first day on Tasmanian soil our first priority was breakfast and then the purchase of some supplies. The food that we were able to take into Tasmania was limited to prepackaged items. We then drove south from Devonport to Sheffield.

Mural of Cradle Mountain
Farm scene on a church
Farm Lands and Mountains
Domestic Scene
Circus Animals on the Supermarket

This farming town is famous for its murals. It is built atop a hill, providing rural views in all directions. The most arresting view is to the south west where the huge bulk of Mount Roland fills the lower sky. The mountain is a multi peaked rocky range reaching a height of 1,234 metres. It has a number of walking tracks, but they were not in our plans. Tasmania is a walkers’ paradise, but you need time. Before we went there we had not even heard of Mount Roland, let alone its walking tracks.

Mount Roland behind the town
Farm lands at the end of the street
Mount Roland again taken, later in the day when our track came back past it.
Sheffield Hotel.

Sheffield is, like so many in Tasmania, comprised predominantly of older buildings. Many provide a suitable canvass upon which artists have painted expansive scenes. The town’s first mural was unveiled in December 1986. Since then over sixty murals, depicting the area’s rich history and beautiful scenery, have been painted on walls throughout the district.

Grazing dairy cows on the way to Railton
Topiary in Railton Main Street
Could that be a hippo?
Probably a sheep. There are a lot of sheep in Tasmania.
A crocodile?
This hedge is also a train.

After coffee, we moved on to the neighbouring town of Railton, known for topiary, which I learned, is the art of shaping trees, shrubs, hedges etc., by trimming them.

We then moved on to Elisabeth Town by continuing on the same road, until it met the Bass Highway, the main road that runs along the north coast of Tasmania. We were looking for the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, the sign for which was not visible from the Railton Road, which we had just driven, or perhaps we missed it.

We turned left at the intersection, stopped and entered the name into Google maps. We were directed to drive the way we were facing until we reached a left turn 8 km further on. But the indicated road was not there so the navigator revised its instructions that included a large increase in the distance. We could see that we were well towards Latrobe, a town that we wished to visit, so we kept on going.

The sign for the Australian Axmans Hall of Fame

Latrobe is known for its antiques and I am known for not being very interested in them. Its other claim to fame is that the sport of wood chopping was developed there. As the son of a onetime timber cutter, that fact held interest for me. There is a museum there which we drove past, but did not have time to examine.

But the town supplied a lunch stop on the banks of the Mersey River and a helpful lady at the information centre who supplied a map that showed us exactly where the raspberry farm was. It was a couple of kilometers in the opposite direction at Elizabeth Town.

Protective covering for raspberry vines

The raspberry then farm became our next destination. As a tourist attraction it is more a restaurant and ice-cream shop, but a walk leads past an ornamental lake (also their water supply) to the sheltered growing area. We had not long finished lunch, but ice-cream seemed appropriate. The raspberry flavour was delicious, as was the free sample chocolate coated raspberry.

Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Restaurant
The main street of Moles Creek

The day was slipping away so we moved on. To reach Moina, where we were spending a couple of nights, we continued south to the edge of Deloraine and took Mole Creek Road. Mole creek is one of the locations where Tasmanian Devils can be seen in captivity. Just past the township we turned right, crossed a mountain range to arrive at the town of Paradise and then turned left over more mountainous roads, past more mountains before descending sharply down a steep grade and over the bridge at the foot of Cethana Dam on the Fourth River. We then climbed back up the next mountain, equally steep, to reach Moina.

Moina is situated where the road that we were on intersects with the Cradle Mountain Road. We had a comfortable unit in a bush setting. It is part of the Cradle Forest Inn, a Swiss or Bavarian themed mountain retreat that offers a café/restaurant and bar as well as accommodation. There is not much else of Moina but the road side signs suggest that there is no shortage of accommodation in the area. Logical since it is such a short drive away from the more expensive accommodation at Cradle Mountain.

Cradle Forrest Inn Reception and Dining/Bar
Our cabin was to the left. It was named “Wattle”.

During the latter part of our drive we encountered a lot of smoke haze that made mountain photography a bit difficult. Someone suggested that the cause was fires near Launceston.

The house and farm along Cradle Mountain Road.

On our second day in Tasmania we started by driving the 26 km to Cradle Mountain. The road leads through mountain farm land with a few isolated farms. The area is around 500 metres above sea level.

Part of the visitor centre at Cradle Mountain.

A new looking visitor centre has been built not too long ago, with a large parking area to handle the crowds. This is a popular place. The parking area was substantially full when we arrived at about 10.00 AM. It is possible to drive a bit further in, but our National Park pass provided free shuttle bus transport to the tourist area, so we chose that option.

After coffee in the café, I left Ruth lingering over her refreshments and caught the bus. It was quite a thrill to see Cradle Mountain for the first time. It and the picturesque Dove Lake suddenly appeared as we rounded a corner.

Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain from the bus stop
The smorgasbord of walks

After departing the bus stop I set out on the 6 km walk around Dove Lake. It is one of many walks in the area, some of them much longer, like the overland track to Lake St Clair that takes several days to complete.  Most of the Dove Lake track is an easy walk, good gravel and board walks with timber or stone steps where required. I walked clockwise as the earlier part of the walk is easier that way.

The boat shed viewed over the lake from near the start of the walk
Looking back early in the walk to the bus stop and other walkers behind me.
Cradle Mountain from about one third of the way around

The walk follows the edge of the lake for much of the distance but at about 75% of the way around there is a steep climb over a promontory that juts out into the lake, named Truginini Point. That slowed me down a bit. I was quite happy to see the old boat shed come into view as I reached the top of the ridge. The boat shed is only 10 minutes from the car park and bus terminal, so the end was in sight. Ruth had caught a later bus and was waiting at the finishing line. I achieved the 6.1 km in 1 hour 37 minutes including rests. That’s an average of about 3.8 km/hr. A few breathers were necessary on the steeper climbs.

Walking track ahead at about the half way point
The mountain from just before the start of the climb over Trunanini Point.
The much photographed boat shed on Dove Lake.

By the time we reached the visitor centre it was getting on for 2 o’clock, so we returned to the cafe for a late lunch and then returned to our unit at Moina. Then I had a nap. Totally appropriate for an 80 year old who had done all that walking.

Final view of lake and mountain from the rise near the end of the walk

We had planned Cradle Mountain at the start of our trip in the hope of getting good weather. The weather could hardly have been better. But it was now time to return to the coast and get on with our anti clockwise tour of the island.

Lake Barrington is formed by a dam on the Fourth River.

So on day three in Tasmania, breakfast done, we finished packing and headed down the mountain. At Wilmot we made a short detour to see Barrington Dam, one of three long thin dams that have been built on the Forth River. It backs up to where we had crossed the Fourth two days before. We were following the Forth River valley and rejoined the Bass Highway near the town of Forth. But now it was the 8th, the story of which will continue in the next post.,

And finally, here is a video that I made of the walk.

Destination Tasmania – Part 1 – Home to Devonport

29th January to 5th February, 2020.

Tasmania has been in the planning for some time. We made plans to visit, with the caravan, in 2018. We even booked the passage on the Spirit of Tasmania, but then cancelled in favour of repeating our 2009 trip around Australia. You may recall that we reached South Australia, but returned home at that point due to the poor health of my brother Winston. Win died a couple of months later, so we had certainly made the right decision.

So, with the caravan and the Mitsubishi Challenger both sold, we set off on 29th January in our new Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross. Motel and caravan park cabin accommodation from how on.

An early start got us to Ballina at about 10.30 AM for morning coffee with our long time friends Joe and Thelma. For those who don’t know, Joe and Thelma have left Melbourne to continue their retirement at Ballina. These folks have been friends for almost all of our married life and all of theirs.

Ramada Resort, Flynn’s Beach, Port Macquarie
Flynn’s Beach Lifesaving Club
Viewing Flynn’s Beach to the south east

We had chosen Port Macquarie as our overnight stop and happily pulled up at the Ramada Resort at Flynn’s Beach after a drive of just less than 600 km.

Day two brought us from Port Macquarie to West Wallsend, a suburb of Newcastle. On the way we drove through some bush fire affected areas south of Taree. The Taree fires featured prominently in press coverage on the run up to Christmas.

Morning coffee at Bulahdelah

We detoured for morning coffee at my old home town of Bulahdelah at The Detour Cafe. The cafe looked familiar. I asked the lady who made the coffee if it had always been a café. She said that it had been for most of its existence. That is why it was familiar.  I used to call there for an after school milk shake about 65 years ago.

We then called on my eldest brother Ivan and his wife Marjorie, who live just off the highway north of Newcastle, where we had lunch and generally caught up on family matters and doings.

Then off to West Wallsend where we spent the night with Ruth’s eldest sister Judy and her husband Alan. Another session of catching up on family matters and news of mutual acquaintances and travels completed and planned.

Anglers Rest Hotel at Brooklyn on the Hawksbury River
Waiting for lunch to be prepared at Brooklyn
The new office for the Riverboat Mailman. We did the mail run a couple of years ago. The new office was just being built then.
The marina restaurant and shopping complex at Brooklyn.

The run to Sydney along the Pacific Motorway was easy with no congestion. We pulled off the highway at the exit on the north bank of the Hawksbury River and drove over the old bridge to reach Brooklyn. We like Brooklyn and have frequently stopped there over the years. Many years ago we hired a boat there and spent a great week on the river and Broken Bay. That was back in family holiday days.

Briony’s view of the city.

Day three brought us to daughter Briony’s unit in Erskineville, a near Sydney city suburb. February 3rd is Briony’s birthday. Our activities included hiding in a shopping mall and the car to avoid high 30s temperatures on Saturday and her personally organised birthday, with friends in a private room at the cafe at her complex, on the following, cooler day.

Briony and Ruth waiting for guests to arrive.

On Monday, her birthday, we enjoyed a delightful birthday lunch for just the three of us at Aqua Dining. This restaurant, with excellent outdoor seating, is near the front gate of Lunar Park and overlooks the North Sydney Olympic Pool. It is in part of the buildings that adjoin the pool. So we had a great view of a local school’s swimming carnival. Of course we also had views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the cruise liner terminal, the Sydney Opera House and a broad sweep of the harbour, both east and west of the city

This hardly needs a caption.
Harbour Bridge, Sydney city and the wall of the pool. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Children waiting for the next event.

On 4th February, with family commitments finalised, it was time to deal with the main objective of the trip, Tasmania. We set off at about eight, pausing “where the dog sits on the tucker box 5 miles from Gundagai” and stopping for lunch in Gundagai before reaching our Albury motel late in the afternoon. Another 544 km completed.

The Dog on the Tucker Box near Gundagai.
The signs are self explanatory.
The Kelly Museum at Glenrowan, Victoria.

We only had a short drive to Port Melbourne to the Spirit of Tasmania terminal (334 km), so detoured into Glenrowan, of Ned Kelly fame, and spent the remainder of time until boarding having lunch and shopping. We drove aboard at about 5.30 PM and sailed for Devonport just after seven o’clock.

Part of the passenger area on the Spirit of Tasmania.
More of the passenger area on the Spirit.

Daylight saving ensured that we sailed through Port Philip Heads in daylight. We had a smooth crossing, arriving at East Devonport at about 6.00 AM on Thursday 6th.

Medium rise accommodation at Port Melbourne.
A view of Melbourne city from the deck of the Spirit of Tasmania.

Our cabin was comfortable, catering in the dining areas, although we only ate casually, was adequate and in all a pleasant experience. We were in the car ready to go by before 7.00 AM, drove off without incident and headed around to Devonport proper (on the opposite side of the river) looking for breakfast.

Sunset over Port Philip Bay. We were almost out of the heads.
The Spirit of Tasmania berthed at East Devonport in the Mersey River.

Not The Big Lap Again – Part 5: Clare to Home

It was Friday morning 20th April and crunch time!

We had to decide if we were to go on or go home. After further discussion we agreed that the only responsible course of action was to return home. So we phoned our friends in Quorn to advise them of the changed plans. We are disappointed, of course, but disappointment is part of life. We probably won’t have another opportunity do Western Australian but another attempt at the Flinders Ranges is certainly a possibility.

The Zest Cafe, where we have previously enjoyed coffee in Clare, is hidden behind the grape vines.

During our conversation, Graham told me that an on line acquaintance who we know through the ExplorOz web site and who Graham has met, works in Quorn. So before we left town Ruth and I called, met him and had a chat about matters of mutual interest. So another cyber contact has become a real person to us.

 

History is relived on this abandoned railway siding near Morgan, SA.

We departed Clare to the south, travelling through more vineyards until we turned east for Eudunda and then Morgan, on the Murray River. The run to Eudunda was mostly through more grain country with the area between Eudunda and Morgan mostly salt bush and Mallee scrub. At Morgan we crossed the Murray by ferry before following the river down stream to Blanchetown.

 

At the end of the ferry ride on the Murray at Morgan.

Crossing the river put us on the road that runs along the top of the river side cliffs. For much of its journey through South Australia, the Murray has cliffs on one side and normal river banks on the other. The cliff top provides great views of the river and surrounding agricultural areas.

 

 

The Murray at Morgan, looking up stream from the ferry.

 

Moored house boats at Morgan

Blanchetown is at the point where the Sturt Highway that leads to Mildura crosses the Murray. We turned east and followed it to another river side town, Waikerie, where we spent the night.

A view of the Murray River at Swan Reach

We plan to arrive home next Friday, so we need to travel about 300 km per day. So we set out for Euston, a small town on the Murray in NSW, travelling through the regional towns of Renmark, Barmera and Mildura.

There are areas of Mallee, fruit and grain, but grape production predominates. The facilities to process this huge harvest frequently appear by the side of the road. Some are large, with multiple storage tanks. I don’t know why, but the grape vines in this area are much greener than those even in the neighboring Riverland area of SA. It might be that the grapes here are different varieties. I believe there are more table grapes produced in the Mildura area, so that might be a reason.

Saturday night was spent in the Riverside Caravan Park in the small NSW town of Euston, just across the Murray from Robinvale.

Sunday produced another cool morning with heavy cloud cover in the west, but cleared to a brilliant sunny day with mostly light winds. The run today was from Euston to Narrandera. The Sturt Highway generally follows the Murrumbidgee River, but mostly at a distance.

Cotton growing beside the highway

We were driving through grazing country, much of which has been turned to cotton production. Hundreds of hectares of cotton were in bloom with more not yet reaching that point. Large areas of adjacent land had been prepared for planting. Sunday traffic was light, with westbound caravans outnumbering the trucks. We wondered how many of them were heading off on the clockwise trip around Australia that we had so recently abandoned.

The Open Road. No emus here!

It was a rather ordinary day’s travel but there were a few moments of excitement when we had an encounter with a suicidal emu.

We had just been passed by a small car when an emu ran across the road in front of it. The car slowed and just missed the emu. The bird lost its footing in loose gravel at the edge of the road and fell over. It quickly righted itself and started to run back in our direction, parallel to the road. But it saw one last chance at suicide and turned into our path, shied at the sight of the front of the car and ran into the side of the caravan with a loud thump. In the rear vision mirror I could see a mass of flailing legs and flying feathers.

We quickly pulled off the road and stopped to see if it had survived but when we walked back it had gone. It must gave regained its feet and run away. It gives real meaning to the expression “tough old bird”. I had to perform a minor panel beating task as a result of the impact.

Parked on the hillside at Lake Talbot near Narrandera

We finished the day at the Lake Talbot Caravan Park at Narrandera, overlooking a section of the Murrumbidgee River where ski boat owners like to play. One boat gave us a small taste of what it is like on a busy day. We have previously been in this park on a busy boating day. It is not a time during which you can take a nap.

 

 

Monday and the start of another week. The destination today was to have been Wellington, to take us off the main highway, but we changed it to Parkes at morning coffee time. At lunch time, now at Forbes, we decided to press on to Dubbo but changed that to the neighboring town of Narromine when we realised that Dubbo would be full of school holiday makers visiting the Western Plains Zoo. We noted that caravan park fees were markedly higher than normal as a result.

Our path today took us past Ardlethan and through West Wyalong, Forbes, Parkes, Peak Hill and Tomingley, a total distance of about 400 km. We will give ourselves an easier day tomorrow.

Irrigation canal at Narromine

Narromine is a grain and grazing town of around 4,000 residents. Our caravan park is located on the edge of the airport, not far from the gliding base and the flight museum. Fifty meters away from where I am sitting a levee bank marks one bank of an irrigation channel. A little further in that direction the Castlereagh River flows, having made its meandering way from Dubbo.

We have driven through grain and grazing country all day. Like so much of the country that we have driven through on this trip this area is also lacking rain. But the further north we come the more farmers are cultivating their land to plant the coming season’s crops. Tell-tale clouds of dust were a common site today.

Gold mining at Tomingley near Dubbo

At Tomingley we drove between two huge piles of dirt on either side of the highway. The Peak Hill gold mine has ceased production. Now a substantial open cut operation is under way at Tomingley.

 

Cooee Memorial and Information Centre at Gilgandra

 

 

Tuesday 24th April was Anzac Day eave. After leaving Narromine and passing through Dubbo, the first town on our journey was Gilgandra, home of the Cooee March Memorial. In 1915 a small group of men left Gilgandra to march to Sydney to sign up to fight in France. As they marched through towns along their route they shouted “Cooee! Come and join us!” About 260 men did join them by time they reached their destination. Other recruitment marches followed, in different areas, during 1915 and early 1916.

The Warrumbungle Ranges from the Observatory

We arrived at Coonabarabran at about 1.00 PM and booked into the John Oxley Caravan Park. We had decided to give ourselves time to visit the Siding Spring Observatory and the National Park. Time did not allow us to see the park, but we did make it to the observatory.

 

 

 

Another telescope at Siding Spring

Siding Spring is part of the Australian National University and associated with the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra. The main telescope at Siding Spring is the Angelo-Australian Astronomical Telescope. There are 17 telescopes on the mountain, all with a special purpose. Many nations are involved, operating with a great deal of cooperation.

 

Looking up at the telescope dome from ground level

The first point of contact when you arrive at the top of the mountain is a visitor centre and a visitor car park. The visitor centre contains a series of displays that provide information to help visitors to understand what happens at the observatory and a shop that sells souvenirs and refreshments.

Behind the information centre, a path leads to the Angelo-Australian telescope, which is located at the very summit of the mountain. The dome covering the telescope can be seen from the Newell Highway south of Coonabarabran.

The Angelo-Australian Telescope

At the telescope, several flights of stairs, or an elevator, takes you to a viewing gallery where you can see and photograph the huge instrument. As it was day time it was not operating and the roof was closed. All observing is carried out at night. Daylight and artificial light are the enemies of the work that is done here and is a major reason that the Siding Spring location was chosen.

We returned to town to top up our food supplies and treat ourselves to fish and chips for dinner.

We spent ANZAC Day on the highway between Coonabarabran and Goondiwindi. There were more trucks sharing the road with us than the earlier days of the week, but most of the road today was over the plains of North Central NSW with much of it quite wide and easier to let faster traffic pass.

Pulled off the road for a wide load taking advantage of lighter Anzac Day traffic

We didn’t see any signs of ANZAC services as we came along, but Narrabri and Moree were very quiet, as you would expect on a public holiday. The day was a complete contrast to what we had originally planned. We had intended to be at the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneau in France until our plans were wrecked by my encounter with cancer. April 24th was the 100th anniversary of the taking of that town by Australian forces supported by the Americans. My father participated in that attack as a Lewis machine gunner.

We spent the night at the Showgrounds camping area in Goondiwindi. Warwick tomorrow night and home on Friday!

Coolmunda Dam

Thursday dawned sunny with a following wind for a change. This was the first morning for most of this trip where we didn’t need to use the heater in the van. Of course! We are back in Queensland!

The drive was unremarkable but we did leave the highway briefly to take our coffee break by the shores of Lake Coolmunda near Inglewood. We arrived at our Warwick caravan park at about 12.30 PM.

We had stopped for the night to visit Ruth’s eldest sibling, her Brother David and his wife Ann. We spent a pleasant afternoon and evening with them.

The last day was an easy drive. We arrived home at about 1.30 PM and set about the task of unloading the van and doing all of the other things that coming home entails.

We have arrived home about three months early with a sense of disappointment but also a feeling that we have definitely made the correct decision. We will do some other trips in Queensland during the winter months, probably to the north but not so far away that we can’t get to Victoria quickly. We won’t go anywhere, other than south, if Winston’s condition is seriously deteriorating.

Circumstances permitting, we will attend a gathering of members of the ExplorOz web site to be held at Kilcowera Station near Thargomindah in SW Queensland early in October. We may be able to combine another attempt at Flinders Ranges with that dstination. Blog readers will be kept informed.

The latest batch of comfort teddies resulting from Ruth’s knitting on this trip

As is usual, Ruth has knitted as I have driven. The result is as pictured, twelve new comfort teddies, soon to be on their way to HIV positive children in Papua New Guinea.

 

 

The Big Lap Again – Part 4: Adelaide to Clare

Sailing ship at Port Adelaide

Our first day in the Adelaide area started fine and calm but didn’t stay that way. We spent the morning in camp. The first job was to take in the awning in preparation for the wind. The blow started mid morning and continued until late. We went out to do some shopping after lunch. Heavy rain arrived soon after our return, but passed through in about an hour. Then it was wind and occasional showers until around dark when the rain ceased and the wind moderated. By 9.00 PM we had stars over the visible sky.

Lift bridge for access to boat harbour

On our second day in Adelaide, the morning was wet and windy. The rain abated at lunch time but the high winds continued. We took a drive.

We went west to Virginia, a route that took us past the Edinburgh Air Force base. This is very flat country, formally an area of small crop farming. Green houses abound but most look disused. Property developer signs are starting to appear at the roadside. At least one new housing development has sprouted in the middle of formally productive agricultural land.

Reg Spriggs’ petroleum exploration submersible module

We continued south to Port Adelaide. There has been considerable development since we last visited, some of it industrial, but some related to residential and leisure activities.

Glenelg has always been one of my favorite parts of Adelaide, so that was the next point on the drive. Glenelg is near to both Adelaide Airport and the mouth of the Torrens River. It has its own inlet from the sea, around which there has been a great deal of high value residential development, a marina and hotels. Of particular interest to me is the diving chamber used by scientist and petroleum explorer Reg Sprigg during his search for off shore oil deposits. Reg Sprigg developed the ecological resort at Arkaroola in the northern Flinders Ranges and was heavily involved in the launching of petroleum companies Santos and Beach Petroleum. He was also a close associate of South Pole explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

The statue of Colonel Light, designer of Adelaide City. Colonel Light is said to have used this point to lay out the design for his city.

From Glenelg we drove into the City via the Anzac Highway. Even on a windy Saturday parking spaces in the city were hard to find, so we drove through, west to east, then turned north to find the Colonel Light statue and viewing point. There used to be good city views from this point but they are now partly obscured by the huge white canopies of the football stadium.

One of the joys of driving through Adelaide is the superb homes and public buildings built from local stone. They are best viewed on foot, but on a day like we were experiencing, we settled for viewing them from the car.

View of Adelaide City from the statue in North Adelaide

It was approaching 4.00 PM, so we sought coffee and found it with scones, jam and cream. Satisfied that we had made the best possible use of a bad afternoon, we returned to the caravan for the evening.

 

 

 

The roof on the football stadium now obscure some of the city views

New planting of grape vines

A wet morning greeted us on Sunday, so we stayed in for the morning, but ventured out after lunch to top up food supplies before we moved on from Adelaide. While out, we decided to have a bit of a run through the Barossa Valley between the rain showers. We drove through Gawler, Lyndoch, Tanunda and Nuriootpa before returning to base.

We called at a winery suggested by Briony, but it had closed by the time we arrived.

Post harvest grape vines

We did manage to stumble across Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. The weather had kept most people away from the area, so the normal popular spots were quite. But Maggie had pulled a crowd. There was hardly a spare table in the coffee shop area. It just shows what a TV profile will do for your business.

On our way back we passed the huge Seppelt winery at

A Lutheran church among the vivyards

Seppeltsfield and saw the Seppelt family mausoleum, a large columned building on the side of a hill, at the end of an avenue of large palm trees. Most of the roads in the area are similarly lined with palm trees.

Regular rain showers swept over the area, one of them seemingly appearing each time that I wanted to take a photo. But there were some opportunities for photos, as the illustrations to this blog post attest.

The Seppelt mausoleum

Come Monday morning, we packed up amid periods of drizzle, but not too much wind. The wind returned later to blow frequent rain showers across the flat landscape through which we drove, the dark grey cloud appearing to brush the ground.

Ardrossan jetty

The area north of Adelaide and the top of the York Peninsula are quite flat. We stared out over the same flat coastal agricultural plain that we had driven through on Saturday, past areas of swampy salt bush country and finally into the grain production areas of the York Peninsula. We detoured to visit the town of Ardrossan on the upper east coast, before turning west to cross the Peninsula to our destination at Port Victoria.

Red cliffs along the shore at Ardrossan

We had camped at Ardrossan about 45 years ago. I remembered a long jetty that is still there, although it doesn’t seem to be as long as I remember it. A second jetty at the grain silos, which I don’t remember, reaches much further to sea to provide deep water access for bulk carriers.

The rain moved on to the east about lunch time. We arrived at Port Victoria to a cool wind from the sea and grey skies, but things looked up later in the afternoon with the sun trying to break through. Expectations for tomorrow are much brighter.

Hotel and general store at Port Victoria

Tuesday started overcast but improved as the day progressed. We didn’t set out on the day’s activities until after morning coffee. Some days require a slow start.

 

 

 

Port Victoria jetty

We took a gravel road nearer to the coast to reach Balgowan. This small town has been discovered by retirees, but in a limited way, as new land seems to be released sparingly, ensuring that it brings a good price and limiting growth in a small town with

Houses overlooking the sea at Balgowan

limited services. Like many towns on this peninsular it has a jetty, launching ramp, pub, general store and a caravan park. Largish quality houses occupy any high ground with sea views. The main leisure activity seems to be fishing. Some towns on the Peninsula have golf courses and bowling greens and, of course, an Australian Rules football ground.

 

The excursion train at Moonta mining site

We continued on the gravel road until almost to Moonta, our main destination for the day. Moonta is a historic copper town, the heritage of which has been retained in its buildings and a museum. Copper was mined there between 1861 and 1923 during a period when prices for the commodity were high. Wealth and growth quickly followed. Copper development in South Australia closely followed gold discoveries in NSW and Victoria, to where many local men had departed to make their fortune. A shortage of labour resulted.

The excursion train passes under an old mullock pile

The need for a work force in South Australia coincided with the closure of copper mines in Cornwall so almost an entire workforce immigrated to the South Australian mining area. Claims are made that as much as 95% of the Moonta workforce were Cornish men and boys. To Cornish people that area was known as Little Cornwall. The traditional Cornish pasty, a staple of the diet of the day, may still be enjoyed in eating establishments in the town, as we proved.

Part of the copper refining plant

It would not be difficult to spend a couple of days examining this town, but we had less than a day. So we decided on a tour on the narrow gauge railway that utilises the original railway station as its starting point. In the same area the original School of Mining has become an extensive mining museum, which time did not allow us to visit.

Copper was initially shipped from the area through the neighbouring port of Wallaroo, but later the area was connected to Adelaide by rail.

The old Town Hall in Moonta is now partly used as a picture theater

For almost an hour the train meanders through the mining area. It is a one man operation. Driver Ian not only drives but changes the points, collects the money and talks. During the entire tour he hardly stopped for a breath. But it was all interesting. He recited facts and figures, most of which we don’t remember, without hesitation.

The train stops at one point at the remains of the main processing plant where details of the very labour intensive process of extracting copper from the mined ore are set out on a wall in storyboard fashion. Stories included that of the discovery of commercial copper in the area being made by an alcoholic Irishman who drank himself to death on the proceeds. That seems to have happened in other places.

An old Methodist (now Uniting) church. Most Cornish miners were Methodists.

A partly eaten Cornish pasty with tomato sauce and cream

The tour completed, we drove back to town to lunch on the traditional Cornish pasty. Part of the ordering process was an explanation of this imported delicacy. We discovered that the traditional Cornish pasty is partly filled with meat and vegetables and partly with stewed apple, in about two thirds one third proportions. Ours were served with salad, tomato sauce and cream. I doubt that those served to the miners included these embellishments.

Houses overlooking the sea at Moonta Bay

With the day quickly ending, we visited the adjacent coastal towns of Moonta Bay and Port Hughes and found another coastal community that has been discovered by well healed retirees, with many modern houses lining the top of a miniature red cliff that seems to be a common feature of the York Peninsula coast.

We returned to Port Victoria on the sealed road, via Maitland.

The Red Devil with a replica model at the Captain Harry Butler memorial

The days were improving. Early Wednesday was a bit cold but developed into a great day for our trip to the southern end of the York Peninsula. Innes National Park was our ultimate destination, but first we travelled through Minlaton where we stopped to buy a National Parks pass and to view the memorial to Captain Harry Butler AFC. Butler was another flying pioneer who got his start in England during WWI as an Air Force pilot. Back in Australia and his home town of Minlaton, he was famous for his small aircraft called “The Red Devil” in which he performed aerobatics and provided joy flights. His memorial is at the northern entrance to the town.

A scene from the road in Innes National Park

The small town of Warooka is the only settlement during the 90 km between Minlaton and Marion Bay, the small coastal town near the National Park entrance. Initially the road runs through fields that produce wheat, barley, canola, legumes and other grains, but as you travel further south the terrain becomes rougher and scrub covered. Sheep and cattle appear at the roadside. The grain fields contain only stubble, as the time for planting has not yet arrived.

Another view of Innes National Park

Innes National Park is truly a beautiful place. The southern extremity of the peninsula is rugged with promontories, bays, islands and off lying reefs. Over every hill top and around every corner a new view of headlands, bays, beaches and blue ocean appear, while the hills are blanketed in a hundred shades of green. One day is not enough to see it properly. Just to complete the walks would take several days.

The remains of the sailing ship “Ethel” wrecked on this beach over 100 years ago

Cape Vincent lighthouse. There are about half a dozen lighthouses in the area

We drove as far as the fishing village at Pondalowie Bay before working our way back to the start via all of the points of interest along the way. It is an area well worth a visit.

Sunset at Port Victoria

For a partly different route home we detoured at Warooka to drive through Yorktown, finding there a substantial but spread out town and a couple of really pink salt lakes. At this point we turned for home, travelling via Maitland. We arrived back in time to see a rather magnificent sunset.

Overnight, Ruth and I had a serious discussion about the future of our trip. We are aware that if we continue to Western Australia we will be placing ourselves in a position where we would not be available should something happen to brother Winston before the end of July, the time that we plan to

Sunset at Port Victoria

return home. Additionally, I have developed some health issues that  need to be addressed by medical professionals. We have plans in place to fly back home for a few days for my quarterly endoscopy but we are now asking ourselves if it might not better to return home and see how things work out.

 

 

Later in the same sunset

Thursday dawned the best day for some time. We first drove north to look at the Port town of Wallaroo and the neighbouring town of Kadina. Copper ore from Moonta was originally shipped from Wallaroo before the railway line was built. The port facilities now handle export of much of the grain grown in the area.

 

 

Grain silos at Wallaroo

From Kadina we travelled east towards Clare. The road that we were on, called the Alt 1, runs through endless grain production country, countless hectares of stubble. We did see one farmer ploughing, a huge array of earth tilling equipment and a seed or fertiliser bin behind a huge farm tractor, with a trail of brown dust rising into the sky.

 

The pink lake at Lochiel

At the tiny town of Lochiel the road that we were on crosses the main Adelaide to Port Augusta Highway. The town is on Lake Bumbunga, one of South Australia’s pink lakes. Pink lakes are salt pans that have a marked shade of pink when the sun shines on them. As we had lunch we watched a succession of tourists walk onto the solid salty surface to take selfies with the pink salt in the background.

 

A vine covered arcade in Clare contains a rather good bakery and coffee shop

The vineyards start as soon as you top the hill driving into the Clare Valley. The town and its surrounds are most attractive. Many of the vine areas have achieved the russet colour of post harvest autumn and the deciduous trees are wearing their autumn outfits. We spent the night at the Clare caravan park.

The Big Lap Again -Part 3: Drouin to Adelaide

There was something to blog about in our family visit at Drouin. On reflection, I think our visit there should be recorded, as it is part of the experience of our trip.

Family group. Lest to right: Colin, Aileen, Ruth and Bernard

Our reason for coming so far south on a trip to South and Western Australia is the medical condition of my brother Winston. He has been assessed as terminally ill, with probably only months to live. We visited him in his nursing home and on the following day he was able to attend a family lunch at his old home. He is wheelchair bound and can only move to other seating with a great deal of help. But it was a happy occasion. He was able to spend time with his only grandchild, an eight month old girl, and other members of his immediate family.

We parted after we had delivered Winston back to his nursing home. As we shook hands we were both very aware that this might be the last time that we would see each other. We can only hope for a miracle.

The Noojee trestle bridge at deck level

The following day, in company with my sister Aileen, her husband Colin and my youngest brother Bernard, we drove into the hills to the north of Drouin in search of the restored Noojee trestle bridge. The bridge was part of the now long closed Warragul to Noojee railway line, built mainly for the transport of timber. The bridge was partially destroyed by fire many years ago. It has been restored as a tourist attraction. If success is to be judged by the number of people visiting it then the strategy has worked.

Trestles supporting the Noojee bridge

We had stopped for coffee at the Neerim South Bakery, another place enjoying a brisk tourist trade, visited the bridge and then drove into Noojee for lunch. We enjoyed a pasty at the general store, and then drove out to the parking area for the water falls on the Tooronga River. The walk takes in the Tooronga and Amphitheatre Falls during a brisk walk of a bit more than two kilometres. There are some steep parts and steps, but generally an easy walk.

Family group minus Ruth at Amphitheater Falls

Tooronga Falls

The river runs beneath rock falls in some places

Next morning we moved on to Melbourne, to a caravan park at East Doncaster, to visit long time friends Thelma and Joe. Our caravan won’t fit on their property because of narrow streets, so we commute from the caravan park. Short visits like this are mostly spent talking, catching up with news and the doings of family and friends. We did a very pleasant lunch with them at the Ringwood Club, near their home.

A street in Maldon

Planning the next move forward always includes keeping an eye on the weather. We were a bit shocked, after the cold weather we had experienced, to find our planned route would lead us back into southern summer like extremes. We planned to go to Castlemaine and then to Mildura, before following the Murray River to South Australia. But temperatures were forecast to be in the high thirties. Clearly it was advisable to stay in the south for a few days.

View from the mountain top. The water is Cairn Curran Dam

Keith and Lynda have a great spot for a caravan at the front of their house in Castlemaine. We had planned a one night stop over but, at their invitation, extended it to two. Again much chatting, but we did fit in a tour to the nearby gold town of Maldon, for lunch and a stroll along the historical streets. There are many fine restored buildings in streetscapes which preserve their heritage. There was no time to research gold rush history, but we did return home via the panoramic views from Mount Tarrengower and a park by the waters of the Cairn Curran Dam.

Parked in the guest space at Halls Gap

It’s Saturday 7th April and time to move on again. The plan is to do a short leg to Ararat for perhaps two nights, but we want to catch up with an old friend at Dunkeld, so we called ahead to her mobile. She answers it from her hospital bed in Geelong. She had a mild heart attack on Easter Friday. She awaits news of future treatment but meanwhile is bored. Know the feeling? After hearing our proposed schedule she suggests that we overnight at Halls Gap, where her daughter and son-in-law manage the Big 4 caravan park. I suggest that it will be booked out with school holidays and we say our goodbyes. Five minutes later, she calls back to say that she has talked to her daughter and they have a site for us. So here we are!

Update: Do has had two stents inserted into the troublesome artery. She is fine and will soon be back to normal. In her early eighties, she is planning another tag-along tour in a desert somewhere in Western Australia.

The park at Halls Gap was busy

To reach Halls Gap we passed through the larger towns of Maryborough and Ararat and some smaller settlements. We crossed the sheep country of the Moolort Plains and through some of the hills of the Pyrenees Ranges. Finally we drove the Great Western Highway from Ararat to Stawell before turning off to Halls Gap. The entire area through which we drove needs rain.

 

The Grampians on the way to Dunkeld

We left Halls Gap at about 9.00 AM, bound for Dunkeld, then Hamilton and on through the small towns of Marino and Sanford to Casterton. After lunch we continued to Penola and turned south west to our final destination. The quiet caravan park at Millicent, near Mt. Gambier, should be ideal to catch up on washing, blogging and general record keeping.

Brown farm land near Casterton in Western Victoria

The Autumn colours were appearing in Casterton

A lighthouse stands above Beachport

Sunday 8th was Ruth’s birthday and we had travelled all day. Ruth spent part of the day fielding telephone calls and Facebook posts. By way of celebration, we went to a local hotel recommended by the caravan park management and enjoyed a pleasant relaxing meal.

 

 

After lunch next day, with chores substantially complete, we drove the 35 km west to the beach side town of Beachport, located at the south eastern end of a chain of lakes that run just inside the coast to the north west to the better known holiday and lobster town of Robe. Beachport is an attractive town with a great deal of tourist accommodation. I suspect that many Adelaide residents find it to be something of a refuge during the summer heat of holiday time.

Beaches along the scenic drive

A scenic drive follows the rugged coast to the north west, with observation points that provide views of the rocky promontories and small sheltered beaches that reach up the coast and views back over the town and along the sweep of the beach to Southend in the far distance.

 

 

The barrier at the mouth of the drainage chanel

At the entrance to Beachport a drain reaches the sea, but its entrance is protected by a barrier to stop the entry of salt water. We noticed a number of such drains the next day. The area is very flat and near to sea level. It was drained to make it suitable for farming activities, many long years ago.

Weathered rocks at Southport

On the way back to Millicent, we did a detour to Southend. It is a typical seaside village with almost no commercial centre. But a does have a headland with interesting erosion patterns in the rocks, which seem to be of a material that selectively weathers. From the headland you can see back to Beachport.

With forecasts suggesting Adelaide weather returning to sanity, we left Millicent on Tuesday 10th, bound for Port Elliot and Victor Harbour. It was a 400 km drive into a strong head wind. Unpleasant conditions made worse when the caravan tyre that had been repaired in Orbost again went flat. So out with the compressor to add some air! We made the 15 km into Meningie before it went flat again. But this time it has suffered mortal damage, probably from a sharp edge to the pavement. Fitting a tube got us back on the road, but the tyre will have to be replaced before we go too far.

Views over The Coorong

The drive from Millicent is over very flat terrain for most of the way. It is mostly dairying and grazing country with both cattle and sheep. Pine forests can be seen in the distance to the right. The road was rather bumpy. The views are of brown land in need of rain. The highway joins the coast at Kingston SE. Soon after that a long strip of water enclosed within its own National Park, known as the Coorong, appears to the left and stays there for most of the 130 Km to the next town of Meningie.

The Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam train runs through Port Elliot

We turned left and took the ferry over the Murray at Wellington, travelling through the vineyards of Langhorne Creek and via Strathalbyn to reach Port Elliot. We set up at the showgrounds where a basic caravan park operates. You have to save money when you can. The tyres on an off road caravan are expensive.

 

 

A walking track follows the coast as Port Elliot

As we approached Port Elliot, Ruth phoned her long time friend Margaret who is retired, with her husband Brian, in the town. We found that her retirement village backs on to the Showgrounds. Brian was in hospital in Adelaide having a new knee fitted. Margaret was not visiting him the next day so we arranged to meet for coffee. We met in the street and did a short foot tour, walking up to the headland that provides views to Victor Harbour to the west and

Protected stone buildings in Port Elliot

Goolwa to the east. Brian’s forebears were among the earliest settlers in the area, so we heard some interesting stories before returning to the coffee shop/post office for coffee and a long chat, as Margaret and Ruth covered many years of not seeing each other very often.

The Granite Island horse drawn tram

The granite pile in the centre of the island

 

 

 

With coffee long finished, we took our leave and drove to Victor Harbour. One of the features of that fine resort town is the off lying Granite Island, which is linked to the mainland by a timber causeway. There is a regular and popular horse drawn tram service to transport tourists to the island. The alternative is to walk. And a pleasant walk it would be.

The Hindmarsh Island or “Secret Women’s Business” bridge

But we caught the tram. I ascended the wooden stairway to the top of the granite pile for the view and photos. Then we caught the tram back to the mainland. The island also hosts an under water observatory and, just off the island, a circular enclosure where you may swim with tuna, if that activity takes your fancy.

After lunch we drove back east to the old river port town of Goolwa, to visit the restored wharf area which includes the Goolwa station of the Victor Harbour to Goolwa steam railway. The train normally operates on Wednesdays but was dormant for our visit, probably undergoing maintenance in preparation for a coming busy school holiday schedule. As we stood on the wharf, towering above us was what I call the Secret Women’s Business Bridge.

Houses at the Hindmarsh Island Marina

Do you remember the kerfuffle when activists used the secret women’s business ploy in an attempt to stop the building of the bridge and a marina on Hindmarsh Island? The protest failed, as the completed bridge demonstrates. Accompanying photo illustrates that the marina, which was being protested at the same time, was also built. Where do the people come from with the money to buy all of the houses and units this far from Adelaide, I wonder?

The bridge and the old wharf

During our drive, Margaret called to invite us to dinner. So a pleasant evening was spent with old times getting a thorough going over. Margaret is a retired nursing sister, with most of her working life spent in the Northern Territory, but she has also worked in the United Kingdom and Zambia. There were some interesting stories. Oh, yes! Brian’s knee operation went well.

 

Thursday gave us a leisurely start. The appointment to get the new caravan tyre fitted was at 11.30 with check out time at the caravan park at 10.00, so we found a high spot with good views to spend the intervening hour or so. I had ground some coffee beans that morning, while we had power, so we enjoyed homemade cappuccino while we admired the view.

New tyre fitted, we set out for the northern suburbs of Adelaide, where we are set up in the Gawler Gateway Tourist Park for four nights. The forecast for our stay is for cool weather, with winds to 45 kph and some rain. That will be horizontal rain, no doubt. I will let you know in the next post.

The Big Lap Again – Part 2: Marlo to Drouin

Marlo Caravan Park

Monday 26th March. We are coming up to our second windy night in Marlo. Last night was rather wild. We had our awning out. That proved to be a mistake. The rafters that reinforce the awning fell out at about 12.30 AM with a loud crash. That got me out of bed in a hurry. I then had to wait for the wind to ease at about 4.00 AM to take the awning in. Not much sleep until then.

Marlo jetty in the Snowy River

We have spent a quiet day. Ruth did some washing and I completed my first blog for this trip. There is not much to see in Marlo. The town boasts a general store, pub, fishing tackle and coffee shop, a couple of caravan parks and a small motel.

The park that we are in is substantially empty. The tourist season is over. There will be a burst of activity for Easter and school holidays but that’s about it until next summer. Local businesses will be reliant on local people until tourist season comes again.

We have neighbors in the park. They are a young Swiss family. While we are rugged up and staying inside they are getting about in shorts, having their meals outside and playing with their children in the full blast of the cold wind. They don’t think that it is cold at all.

On Tuesday morning the first order of the day, as we moved on, was a call at Orbost Tyre Service to have a slow leak in one of the caravan tyres fixed. That, and a bit of grocery shopping done, we set course for Omeo. So we travelled west to Nowa Nowa, then to Bruthen for the start of the Great Alpine Road.

Tambo River near Tambo Crossing

Bruthen is on the Tambo River. The Great Alpine Road follows the Tambo Valley for much of the first 80 km, although the first 10 km of the drive is over a forested mountain range. The road re-joins the river after crossing the range.

Poplars by the stream

 

As the trip progresses the scenery becomes more alpine. Farm land occupies the valley floor and the lower slopes, the upper slopes covered in forest. Clumps of Poplars start to appear along driveways and the banks of the streams. The grass is green but there is no sign of any recent heavy rainfall.

There are a few named localities along the road and a couple of towns, the largest of which is Swifts Creek, situated on a creek of that name that joins the Tambo at that point. Road side signs advise that Easter Picnic Races will be held on Easter Saturday.

Omeo’s main street

Swifts Creek is at an altitude of about 350 metres. Just past the town the road turned out of the valley and over the next 10 km we climbed a further 400 meters to reach the tableland on which Omeo stands.

Autumn colours in the mist

 

The Omeo Caravan Park is located in a narrow valley with the park facilities built beside the stream, which runs along the foothills on one side. Steep hills rise from each side of the parking area. Well established deciduous trees provide summer shade and let the sun through in winter. It was quiet when we arrived but getting crowded when we left. The High Country is popular at Easter. Numbers also increase because of the Easter Saturday rodeo in Omeo.

 

A busy caravan park

We used Omeo as a base for two mountain tours.

The Blue Duck Inn at Anglers Rest is near to the turn into Bogong High Plains Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Wednesday we headed along the southern end of the Omeo Highway and turned into the Bogong High Plains Road, where a serious climb commenced. The winding road was lined in bright yellow paint with yellow snow posts marking the outside edge. The altimeter on our navigator showed 1,740 metres at the highest point.

 

Typical Bogong High Plains scenery

One of the features of alpine areas is dead trees standing above the green vegetation, looking at a distance something grey stubble on a green face. The impact of bush fires lasts for decades. Strangely, the dead standing above the living adds to the grandeur of the scenery.

At that altitude the weather was crisp and clear with some cloud cover. The wind was strong and cold and quite invigorating. Pity there was not time for a walk.

Caravans on the Bogong High Plains Road

The ski runs of Falls Creek were soon in view at a distance, becoming clearer as we approached. At one point four large caravans stood by the roadside. This is not easy caravan country. I’m glad it was them and not us.

 

 

Rocky Creek Dam and Falls Creek ski runs

An idle chair lift at Falls Creek

Visitor accommodation at Falls Creek. There is much more than this.

Mount Bogong from the Mount Beauty to Bright road

We had intended to have lunch at Falls Creek, but there was nothing open that we could see. Work was under way in preparation for the ski season. We continued down the mountain to Mount Beauty where we found a cafe attached to a bicycle shop.  Many businesses in that town seemed to still be closed from the summer season.

From Mount Beauty we crossed the range to Bright, famous for its

A tree lined street in Bright

autumn colours. We knew that we were too early in the season for the full Autumnal glory of the trees, but it is an attractive town at any time. We have not spent much time there. It is worth a longer visit.

 

 

 

A mountain view on the climb to Hotham Heights

With daylight hours reducing, we pressed on. The climb starts just past Harrietville and is steep, winding, narrow and about 30 km. Travelling east, as we were, we were on the outside of the road. I must confess, when safe to do so, I drove straddling the bright yellow centre line, staying left on approach to right and bends, of which there are many. I had much time to ponder the placement and scarcity of Armco protective barrier.

 

More mountain scenery

As you approach the 1,830 metre summit, the last few kilometres of road stretches above you, clinging to the scrub covered mountain side like a sloping shelf. Pre-winter road works added to the entertainment.

 

 

 

The western approach to Hotham Heights

But the mountain scenery makes it all worthwhile. As you round the final turn at the top, the first buildings of the Hotham resort comes into view, the remainder unfolding as you proceed along its main street. It has, unsurprisingly, substantially increased in size since we drive through many years ago.

 

 

Kosciuszko View near Omeo. Mount Kosciuzzko is the peak second from the left.

Another 100 km brought us back down the mountain to our caravan at Omeo.

 

 

 

 

Omeo from Kosciuszko View

A farm on the way to Hotham

The second tour, on Easter eave, fulfilled a long standing desire to drive over the Dargo Hugh Plains, from Hotham to Dargo. To do this, we returned up the mountain to Hotham Heights, making a short detour into the alpine village of Dinner Plain. This quintessential ski village is 11 km from Hotham, so provides access to the ski fields there as well as its own skiing areas. A number of businesses were open with signs of activity.

An idle ski lift at Hotham Heights.

We paused at Hotham, in a partially protected spot right under the summit, for the most elevated coffee ever, except for coffee in an aircraft. But airline coffee is not really coffee, is it, so it doesn’t count.

 

A view from our morning coffee stop

Part of the Hotham ski runs

Mount Feathertop viewed from Hotham Heights

View towards Hotham from the Dargo High Plains Road

The turn into the Dargo High Plains Road is 4 km past the summit on the western side. It commences with a short sharp and narrow sealed decline but soon becomes a gravel road, narrow on mountainous sections but quite wide in flatter areas. We stopped at the appropriately named Mount Freezout rest stop to reduce tyre pressures.

 

Dargo High Plains pasture land

The Dargo High Plains are more timbered than their Bogong counterpart. I have the feeling that driving over them does not reveal their extent. We initially wondered as we drove when we would find them, but suddenly we were driving through undulating pasture lands that reached to the fringing forest. There is evidence that grazing activity continues but it may be on privately owned land. Grazing in National Parks is a live political issue and tends to change with governments.

The road was in good condition generally, with speeds of 60 to 70 kph easily achievable, but some sections were pot holed and there were areas of exposed stone, particularly at the crowns of rises. The sealed road reaches 20 km north of Dargo, so the descent into the valley is on good sealed, if somewhat steep, winding road.

Historic Dargo Pub

Because of the number of people coming into the area for Easter the Dargo pub was doing a roaring trade. We satisfied ourselves with a picnic lunch in the park and an ice-cream from the general store, before starting our return journey to Omeo.

The plan was to take the Upper Dargo, Jones and Berrigan Roads directly back to base. We were about 16 km into the trip, on Jones Road, when we decided that we had not chosen well. The Parks Victoria officer has assured us that the road was good. Two wheel drive road, he said. The reality was a narrow ever ascending track, badly washed out and comfortable at no more than about 20 kph. That meant that we would still be on the track late in the day.

Dargo General Store – ice cream time

We continued until we found a piece of track wide enough to turn and made our way back to Dargo. We had two choices. Either to return over the High Plains to Hotham or go south via Bairnsdale and the Great Alpine Road. The latter is sealed all the way, so much the quicker route, and only about 20 km longer. It was no contest. Via Bairnsdale it was. We arrived back at the van at about 7.30.

Good Friday dawned cool and foggy. A heavy mist hung over the valley and lay in dense banks along the face of the mountains. We met many vehicles making their way into the high country for Easter and school holidays. There were a good number of caravans, more camper trailers and hosts of four wheel drives, pack racks piled high with camping gear. By the time they all arrived there would scarcely be a vacant camp site to be had.

But it was back at Bruthen, on the Princes Highway, that we really met traffic. You could almost have believed that Melbourne was being evacuated. The combination of Easter and school holidays sure had Victorians on the move. The continual strings of traffic, moving at near the speed limit, did not abate until we were approaching our destination at Drouin, quite late in the day.

We are taking a four day break here for some family visiting. Then two days in Melbourne with friends, so activities will not become bloggable again until we head out of Melbourne.