Saturday, December 17, 2011

Tasmania adventures


 Our first major view of downtown Devonport was by push-bike.  We pedalled around the western shore into town - first impressions were mixed - neat, tidy, clean, old, slow, some 'curious' people, small town, beautiful flowers in the gardens (even council roadside) and cold!  We probably looked pretty 'curious too - walking our bikes up and down town looking for a Woolies, Coles or fruit and veg shop to re-stock after having to eat (and give away to Rye campers) all our fresh stuff to meet quarantine rules.   The outstanding landmark of downtown Devonport is the Spirit of Tasmania when it’s in port  - it certainly looks a lot bigger sitting on the Mersey River  then it did sitting in dock at Melbourne.  Our overnight cruise caught up with us and we needed some zzzz's in the afternoon so that we could sally round to open our Tassie Cuvee champers against the sunset and over dinner.

Needing to find our feet in this new territory, we sought out a caravan park as base for a few days - this grew into 6 days, a good move excepting on Kym's account due to 'Jimmy' – our neighbour who would catch Kym for long exhaustive and to put it mildly ‘boring’ chats at every chance.  As chance would have it, we pulled into two more campsites over the coming weeks and who was there…..  each time we parted we would determine that we were travelling in opposite directions.   When looking back at our photos boarding the Spirit, we recognised Jimmy’s van as the old Jayco pop-top in front…. He was haunting us. 

Our first tourist outing was to the Don Railway on Devonport's outskirts.  This railway museum has the only passenger rail carriers in Tassie.  As our engine driver explained, insurance costs are exorbitant, and although possible in other Aust states as it is shared across carriers, in Tasmania a sole carrier would have to pay the entire $220,000 annual fee.  The Don passenger train varies from an old motor-rail to Sunday's steam run - on it's own line into Coles Beach and back, about 3 kms each way.  We were the only passengers on the rail motor that day, so got 'VIP' treatment.

Latrobe is a little town not far south of Devonport (as we were to find out nothing is far from anything).  As we were also to find out, every little town seems to have developed cottage industries, displays, or has a natural phenomena, or a 'claim to fame' to attract tourist interest.   In Latrobe there is a most interesting Emporium with the greatest range and number of curiosities that we had ever seen under one roof.  There were rooms and rooms of articles from floor to ceiling of what we can only describe 'harlequin' period' - doll-like characters and animals and imaginative beings such as Alice in Wonderland stuff to witches and dragons, wizardry, things being 'not what they seem’, to Disney and Star Wars -some thumb size, some overtaking the room;  but as well as this there was more rooms and rooms of general household curiosities, even food, toys - everything a little bit unusual -hard to describe, but we loved it!   Then our attention turned to stomach love – further down town, cherries and chocolate - taste tests and laden with take home goodies, we explored the coast on the east side of Devonport before heading home.  We found a great little lunch spot with the most serene view overlooking a small pier at Squeaking Point.  With long daylight savings days, we live mostly in the ‘late’ zone – lunch often being after 2pm, and heading home late in the twilight hours for dinner.

Each day took us on another tour in another direction - and most left us in awe of what we saw.  Lyn had to shake this feeling that we were in New Zealand and would even wake in the night reminding herself we were in Tasmania, not New Zealand.  The country-side, the small town and 'old world' feel - it is over 40 years since Lyn has been in NZ - the nearest thing in memory!  Forth Valley is dairy country to the southwest - never seen anything prettier!  We headed a bit further south-west to Gunn's Caves.  Our host at the caves was Trish - a character who not only 
exchanged wit for wit with Kym and kept us engaged with laughs, also kept us engaged with her absolute knowledge of the caves.  A local, born and raised close by, Trish had been exploring Gunn’s caves since childhood, now leased the caves off the Tas Govt (one of few such leases in Australia).  So in love with the caves was she, that she had her wedding there - different!  On, on to Levon Canyon where we trundled down 697 steps from the top lookout to the bottom (Lyn's calves knew about this for a few days)!  Rain had caught up with us now and it was more of a 'fog' out  than a look out; hot coffee under the picnic shelter won the day.
The rain wore off but not the chill.  With great determination and about 20 items of clothing apiece, we set off one sunset to Lillico Beach to observe the fairy penguins.  Despite the 20 items of clothing, we were somewhat 'miffed' to read a caution on the Information Sheet stating that 'young children and Queenslanders' should wear warm clothing!!!  Well, these Queenslanders out-stayed all the other 'tourists' at that freezing, wind-blown rookery that night.  We were amused that some left after about 20 minutes when the penguins didn't show at the 'advertised' time.  The penguins were a bit shy at first, but gradually they were surrounding us in droves.  Hats off to the volunteers who man this display every night throughout the spring and autumn months.

On another drive south we learnt what an Arboretum is - peaceful!  We sort of stumbled across the acclaimed Tasmanian Arboretum at Eugenana - another project developed and supported by the local community.  We had two first Tasmania sightings here - a platypus and a snake - the former far more exciting.  Not far from here, we called into Barrington Lakes Rowing Course - while we lunched here we imagined the likes of James Tomkins sculling ahead of opponents on his way to Olympic fame - no doubt he completed this course at some time in his career.  Past the course we were a bit bemused as we drove through the localities of 'Nowhere Else' and 'Promised Land' - both could have been either.  Homeward bound the town of Sheffield is known as the ‘town of murals’ - like most places we've visited, the people we met were so very friendly and welcoming - no matter we arrived there just before closing time.  

We have come to accept that overcast skies are something of a norm for Tassie – we no longer get too discouraged when we awaken to these.  The day can bring anything from here, and it mostly does. We finally moved our van from its’ Devonport home and headed for an overnight stop at the showgrounds at the town of Chudleigh – giving us a spring-board to explore the ‘Western Tiers’ – weren’t sure what these were, but we were in for it.   Most Tassie roads are country narrow, and we are always wondering if we find ourselves ‘up the wrong road’, how far will we travel to find a turning circle for our 12 metre + rig.… if at all.  Chudleigh Showgrounds proved one such challenge – having driven past the entrance, the turn-around wasn’t a problem, but entering the showgrounds from this approach was.  We headed back along the road we had just travelled – 10 kms back we were able to do an about face, and back to Chudleigh.  Lyn just about had the calculator out clocking the fuel cost, and adjusting the budget.  $10 night with power at the showground brought us back on track.  And did we need that power to get that heater going – we thought this was the coldest place, but we had seen nothing yet.  And the rain settled in, but that was OK - across the road was The Honey Farm.   A good look around, a biography lesson on ‘the bees’ and …. another taste testing.    Even had Chilli honey!   This came home with us, along with the lemon myrtle honey, apricot honey and chocolate honey.  Lots of self disciple needed to walk out with just these.

Alum Cliffs
On the road in, was an interesting sign to “41 degrees South”.  It is a trout/salmon farm.  Set in the bush, this family has developed their own farm into a self sufficient fish farm.  The walk around the property is enlightening.  The pond we were directed to had fish we could feed.  We could feed, ha, the size of these fish would feed a family of four easy.  They were huge.  Information boards around the farm told the story from its humble beginnings, through a major flood where about half a million fish ready for the market, died overnight in the flood.  The flood almost wiped out the whole operation.  Today’s farm and success is due to the determination of the family to rebuild – we were in total awe, and the smoked salmon we took home with us was superb. 

The next day started out no different to others – cloudy and wet.  By mid morning with blue skies poking through we were ready to take in some local walks.  The first - Alum Cliffs, just before township of Mole Creek, was stunning.   Unfortunately photos don't always do justice, but we took some anyway.  We had read about another walk to “Devils Gullet”.  No much info other than it is mentioned as one of the ‘great short walks of Tasmania’.  What isn’t mentioned is the fantastic drive to get there. 

The scenery on the way to the plateau is something neither of us had ever seen before.  1150 metres above sea level,  it is certainly Alpine Country.   Not much imagination needed to  picture this plateau under a cover of snow.  The viewing platform at the end of the walk overhangs a shear drop of over 400 metres.  With 180 degree views out to Cradle Mountain and about 6 other peaks, you could easily forget the wind that threatened to pick up the unwary and blow you away.  We could not get over the two views that we had witnessed on the day. 

We pointed the van towards the town of Deloraine.  Here we had another lesson – the challenges of taking a large rig into a small community without knowing where we were going, or at least making sure we had good directions.  The Info Centre, had said ‘Yes, Woolies is just down the road in the main street.   The town was narrow streets, up and down steep hills.  Our GPS guy Lee wasn’t helpful here – what was possibly our first terse words were exchanged!  We ended up parking where ever we could fit and went for walk to look for Woolies.  Yes, it was in the main street – via a laneway!    We did our ‘weights’ work-out carrying 15 parcels of groceries back downhill to the car.   Supplied up we were heading for a small park listed in CMCA (Campervan and Motorhome Assn) guide.  Just 15 minutes out of Deloraine called ‘Quamby Corner’.    Should have been 15 minutes….unbeknown to us and other unsuspecting tourists, the roads authorities have redesigned the intersection, and now it looks like the highway goes straight instead of distinct left-hand turn.  Out came the calculator again as we realised we were heading the wrong way - another 10K to the town of Meander to turn around – the road before then had narrowed to virtually one lane width.  Few more anxious exchanges – shame really because we have since been told that Meander is a lovely spot – don’t think we were ready to appreciate it. 
We did get to Quamby and conversations with the owners revealed that this is a common mistake.  They had tried their 'all' to sway the powers that be that it was very misleading for the main road to take such a turn, with insufficient warning.   These same owners had dairy farmed the property for 20 years, but with the recent deregulation of the dairy industry and seeing the writing on the wall, developed the caravan park.  Certainly had the ‘homely’ touch – everything from pegs and washing powder and washing machines and dryers included in the $20 overnight rate with power.  Just hope that they don’t get disillusioned by those that will use and abuse.    

Quomby Corner was a great jump off point for touring Liffey Falls and The Western Tiers.  The amazing sights of Tasmania just keep coming.  Liffey Falls is no different.  The walk to the falls is a setting in its own right - just the different environments it takes you through – this diversity is an  attraction in itself. 

The next day saw us climbing the Tiers.  The easiest way to describe the Tiers, is the mountain range is multi level – stepped.  The climb to the top was not easy towing 2 ½ ton, but we made it.  Again, so many different environments showing off variances in vegetation, views and rock formations.  We watched Lee take us to a high of over 1200 metres before we plateau-ed again and saw Great Lake, the first of the highland lakes.  We

passed miles of fishing and some inhabited shacks lining the lakes, passed the town of Miena, consisting of Hotel, General Store and at midday, about 7 degrees temperature.   We were heading for Pumphouse camp on the shores of Lake Arthur.  This camp has only shower and toilet so we are on our own so far as power and water goes.  Grateful for our own  generator, and amazed to find so many ‘hardy’ campers alongside this lake - one could only look at the water and just know that it would turn the toes red –not a Queenslander’s idea of lake-side at all!    Our diesel heater worked well.   It had to.  There had been snow at this camp two days before we arrived.  At 4PM, and around 5 degrees and dropping, we were trying to emulate the locals - sitting around a campfire.  Not for long though.  Inside and heater on!

Trout fishing is like a religion up here - these guys go fishing in all weather.  Off the shore, in boats and they even wade out into the freezing cold waters to fish!  This mob are crazy.  We watched them from the warmth of our van, mostly.  

 South along a dirt road is an abandoned power station.  Waddamanna power station was an early hydro electricity power station in the early 1900s.  We spent a bit of time here taking in the history.  Info-videos showed how families coped during the construction stage in the early 1900’s.  Rain, cold, snow (2 metres plus deep) isolation and for migrants, language difficulties, these were just some of the things these courageous people survived.    All the primitive equipment that then took up so much space, today, the equal would fit into our hand.   Some of the old appliances (kitchen), we even remembered from our childhood – this was not good to ponder.  Wonder if we might be considered museum pieces as well?  By the way, it got down to 0 degrees that night!! – if we had stayed there one would think we would stay well preserved anyway.

The drive down the Tiers took us 700 metres  in about 20 minutes – only Lyn could look at the views.  The van trying to get down before us was a challenge for Kym’s driving skills, but is he getting experience quick.   Most of the run down was less than 40 KPH, windy, twisty narrow roads that Tasmanians call highways.   Our main drag near home would be classified as a freeway here, if they had any freeways!

We missed our intended campsite at the township of Bracknell, and so to avoid another 10km turn-around, we continued on to Westbury instead.  Nice drive on single lane roads through farmland and poppy fields where fence-side signs warn that unauthorised entry to the fields could result in death. Opium poppies – they look pretty!    We were eager to collect our first mail drop arranged for collection at Westbury Post Office – only to be told – ‘Sorry, nothing for you!!!   Went back the next day, and a different person on the counter handed over two parcels saying they had ‘arrived earlier in the week’ - first guy didn’t have a good look.  Trial and error for our mail delivery – we generally poke a pin at the map and make an estimation about two weeks ahead and Lauren does a great job of collection and forwarding on – apart from this disinterested postal worker at Westbury, is working well.    Thanks Lauren  - your time and help is invaluable. 
In Westbury we celebrated one month since leaving the Gold Coast with a meal at the local pub.  It was also Kyle’s birthday, so we toasted his 40th birthday.   Here’s to the next 40 months for us, and years for Kyle.


Narawntapu National Park stands out as another gem for us –  it is not hi-lighted on all the tourist brochures, so  we were totally unprepared for this experience.  By the time we left we were just a bit envious of the life of the rangers here.   We learnt the lesson here of 'taking the opportunity as it presents...' - our first impulse when we emerged through the sand hills to see this long stretching arc of white sandy beach alongside serene waters of Bass Strait was to go and get our push-bikes out and ride to the end of that long arc; instead we resolved to do this tomorrow.  We did climb the highest dunes, and sat and soaked in the view with the feeling that we could have been the only people on earth here with not a soul across the miles that we could see.  When the next day came, the winds were vicious, and there was no bike riding to even think about.  Note to selves – always seize the moment, and not put off until tomorrow!   Our van-site was at Springlawn and from here a bush walk took us to a massive lagoon, and circling the lagoon on the other side was another walk across low lying open grassy 'lawns' – these we imagined would be like English 'moors' that we have only ever read about.  Both walks delighted us being alive with wild life - pademelons, wombats, wallabies - we realised that these all felt very safe and protected here and used to people, as they hung very close to the campsites as well.  There was a bird hide at the lagoon, but we had the feeling that all variety of birds on the lagoon knew about the hide, as few ventured too close to it.  We have found since that when parked in some bush camps, our van is the best bird hide of all.

After a few days enjoying Narawntapu, our planned move east along the coast came undone when the fridge decided to defrost itself unexpectedly and so we headed south, to Longford, just below Launceston while we sought out a fridge mechanic.   The caravan park at Longford is managed by ex-Mudgeeraba-ites - we thought this was a bit of a coincidence; (at this time we were still of the mind that as Queenslanders, we were a pretty rare species in these parts - as time progressed we wondered how many Queenslanders were left at home!)   On the outskirts of Longford is a much preserved farm estate dating back to 1829 named Brickendon.  Our hostess was  Louise Archer, whose husband Richard is 6th generation of the original Archer family to settle the area.  The farm was worked by convicts on assignment and the various buildings that still existed told their story, as well as that of the Archers.  When we visited the Archer's main residence we could picture the grand parties on the garden lawns, and the horse-drawn coaches entering the circular drive.

On to Launceston to see the fridge mechanic, who couldn't find anything wrong - so now we are in Launceston, we decided to hang around for a few days to test the fridge before moving on.  Everybody talks about Cataract Gorge, so this was our first 'must see'.  The chair lift at the gorge is the longest single span chair lift in the world, and in Lyn's opinion this also makes it 'the highest'???  Not to be concerned......with white clenched fists from hanging on (well for one of us this is), we made it to the other side, and with some hindsight glibness from Lyn, even back again.  In some more relaxed moments (usually when we were close to the end of each ride), there was some appreciation for the bird's eye view of this spectacular gorge and it's vicinity to the city surrounding it.  The suspension bridge - no worries after the chairlift!  
On our second day in Launceston, we received a phone call from Lyn's friend Kath Doherty.  Kath was on holidays with her friend Barbara - they had flown into Hobart and were staying at Richmond - they at the south of Tassie, and we at the north.  A lunch date was made for Campbelltown, (around about the middle), and so we headed south.  It was delightful to catch up with Kath and Barbara; we lunched in the park, caught up with each other's 'goss' after which they headed east to return via the coast to arrive back in Richmond in time for dinner.  That's the length and breadth of Tassie for you.  We stayed on and took in a little more of tiny Campbell Town, so much history again that totally fascinates us.  We spent ages in the old court-house museum, and marvelled at the original mid 1800 buildings that now housed antique and book shops.  On the southern end of town is the Red bridge built by convict labour and still in use forming part of the main highway. 
It was on our return downhill approach to our van-park at Launceston that we confirmed what we had noticed travelling down this same stretch of road a day earlier - there was a definite and worrisome shudder in the Patrol's brakes.  Given that we had been towing the van up and down the Highland mountains recently and most of Tasmania is up and down mountains, we weren't taking any chances.  Priority for our remaining time in Launceston became getting the brakes checked.  All four rotors required machining as they were burred and grooved, the wheel bearings were loose on the front - (they actually fell apart) - and the oil seals fell out!  We couldn't believe this given the heights and twists and turns on cliff-side roads that we had been travelling on with 2 1/2 ton of van following behind - and the fall of events such as the fridge playing up and the trip to meet Kath that took us, and kept us in Launceston - given that our love of seeking out the more remote places usually means we're also most often a long way from a brake repairer.  We were glad for the luck, but still keen to leave Launceston with the town pace starting to get us down.  
When we did move on, our focus was certainly on how the rig was travelling from here.    This is all we have here & if anything goes wrong, would certainly be huge impact on our lifestyle and movements for a while.  The time and cost of preventive maintenance is nothing to losing the lot or either one of us. The damage found with the bearings and oil seals could have meant 5 ton out of control in a split second.  On Tassie roads, it would have been all too easy to do.  Anyone driving here will know what we mean.   These circumstances did bring home just how vulnerable we are!
Next stop, Greens Beach -  a small old park across the road from the beach not far from the mouth of the Tamar River.  “Yeah, pull up anywhere you like.  Find a spot and let me know where”.  That was the instruction given when we arrived.  Seems to us, that this is the way quite a few parks operate, and we appreciate the ones that do.  No sooner had we set up and one of our new neighbours came over to introduce herself - Mary – very dry sense of humour, full of information and more front than Woolworths!   Nothing was sacred.  Anyone in the park could hear where Mary was.  Our few days there were enlightened by this good woman.  Mary, if you read this, have you remembered to hang Alan up for the night???? 
Greetings from Greens Beach
Greens Beach is about 12 K from Beaconsfield the site of the mining disaster.  A visit to the Mining and Heritage Centre was something that we found moving with the display set up to show the events of those weeks during which the world held its breath for two men trapped underground in a space barely arger than a coffin.  The history of mining in the area is well documented.  The highs, the lows, the characters and events.  Even the old mining equipment and interactive displays make you wonder how the miners of earlier days survived.  The other thing that blew us away gave us cause for another reality check!  Yes, some of the “historical items” on display, we both remarked that “we grew up with this stuff”.  There was so much that was familiar to us.  Cut it out you lot.  We can hear you from here.  We are not historical items.  Well, not yet anyway!
One of the things we decided when we started this journey was not to surround ourselves just with other travellers, but to make the effort to talk to the locals.  Wherever we go, we try to engage some locals to find out what the place is like for them.   In Beaconsfield, we went to a local pub for a drink – another old and largely still original building so this alone lent character to the experience as well.   We didn’t have to wait long before some local talk.  Tasmanians are a friendly lot.  In no time at all, we were in talks with one of the patrons and the bar staff.  Didn’t feel like a couple of tourists at all. 
Between Greens Beach and Beaconsfield is the historical site of Yorktown.  Not much there now, but at one stage, Yorktown, first settled in 1803, was almost the capital of Northern Tasmania.  Politics of the day, isolation and access to the river eventually deemed it unsuitable.  It was also the site of the “Government Gardens”.   In short, this was one of the gardens that supplied the colony with fresh fruit and veg and was still manned by the gardener long after the place was closed down.
During a pleasant weather break, this time we did take the first opportunity to leap on the bikes and ride the beach.  Funny to watch the ghost and soldier crabs try to bury themselves in the sand as we rode across it.  At the mouth of the Tamar River, we could see George Town and Low Head on the other side.   After reading about the area back in Beaconsfield, one could almost picture the land as it was in the very early days.  Other than some development and industry on the river front, the land has not changed much over the time of occupation.  This is one of the things that we have come to realise since looking around Tassie.  On the mainland, we have lost so much of our heritage through population concentration, development or lack of appreciation maybe.  In Tassie, the place is full of it.  No matter where you go, you are reminded of our early years and our common heritage.
To get a closer look at George Town we took the drive downstream and across the Batman Bridge – impressive in itself.    Due to the town Christmas parade, much of George Town had closed down for the festivities.  This caught us off-guard, as Christmas hadn’t caught up with us at all at this stage!    We did discover Mount George lookout just outside of town.   This was originally used as a signal station to track shipping up and down the Tamar River enroute to Launceston.  Tides, rocks, currents and weather influences made it a perilous journey either way.  The station was one of a few between the mouth of the river and Launceston.  Using semaphore type code the stations were able to transmit messages using tall towers with “arms” back and forth.   Quite a feat in those days.  The place even had its own garden to support the staff.   It would have been a hell of a climb then.  No cars or trucks like today!
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Farewell from Greens Beach

After parting company with Mary and the crowd at Greens Beach we went back to George Town to visit the Bass and Flinders Centre as this exhibit has always been a “Bucket list” thing for Kym.   These two navigators were responsible for discoveries between Sydney, Port Philip Bay and Tasmania.  Replicas of “Tom Thumb” and “Norfolk” dominate the display.  The seamanship required to take these craft to the places these two guys did, was amazing when you think of how seafarers use technology today.  Kym’s respect for their achievements is now enhanced even more. 
The old Watch House also at George Town proved a bit of a tear jerker with a video produced by creative artist, Christina Henri.  Christina grew up not far from the Female factory in Hobart and started to think about the fact that the history of female convicts is given little relevance in our historical records.  She initiated a world wide campaign to have a bonnet made for every female convict sent to Tasmania - whether they survived the trip or not.  25,566 bonnets were needed to represent each of those lives.  At the time of the video, 20,000 had been submitted from all over the world – some from actual ancestors, some from people who had lovingly adopted a particular convict and re-lived their story.    Way too much to go into here, but have a look at “Roses from the heart” DVD.  An amazing journey.   Christina even discovered that she herself is a descendent of one of the female convicts.  (Not necessarily uncommon for many Tasmanians)

We left George Town and made for an overnight campsite inland at Lilydale.   We took in a walk to nearby Lilydale Falls and appreciated the fact that this little town offers the camp-site for travellers along with hot showers for a very small fee.   The next morning with mail to collect from the Post Office back in town we decided to take this opportunity to take a country road ride on the bikes – four kms round trip.  It was sunny but Tasmania crisp – a good day for a ride.  Some large trucks passing through, but they were all very courteous of us and the country-side views are a different perspective at this slower pace.

The run to Bridport took us to a lavender farm on the way to Scottsdale.  This place is huge.  They process a large part of the world’s supply of lavender products.  The town of Scottsdale will stay in our memory as one of the cleanest towns visited so far, and the Christmas Carols broadcast throughout the town streets gave us thoughts of New York Christmas ‘country Tasmania style’ – not too many degrees cooler could even have produced the snow.   After arriving at Bridport caravan park (again, pick your own site) we went to check out some of the bush camps out of town with a view to finding somewhere to stop in the quiet for a few days . The ‘scouting’ drive ahead without the van was a good move as the bush camps were closed due to previous flooding.  One camp was under a metre and a half of water.  We stopped there for lunch but, as it was glorious and we pondered what would have been if the floods hadn’t beaten us to this site – and also what could have been if we were there when the rains came! 

  Bridport was smaller than we expected – we had left a bit of shopping until we got here thinking that we would stock up at this ‘big’ centre.   We soon learnt that nearly all the places across the north, and right down the entire east coast that we thought were going to be ‘big’ centres were sleepy or tiny townships.   The diesel price was a bit of a shock but we made up for this with some fish from the harbour - “Tiger Flathead $8.00 KG”   Magic J..    Not quite so magic – XXXX at $50.00 for a brick!!  - but what amazed us was that this was still cheaper than the local brews.
  We thought Bridport was small – Tomahawk further along the coast and our next stop consisted mainly of the caravan park, and a few homes and fishing shacks.  Very casual approach again at this park – the office was unattended –‘gone to town, so pick your site and we will catch up later’.
Again we wanted to scout ahead without the van to find suitable camp site in the remoter area of the north-east to stay for a while.  We drove over 300klms in this search.  We checked out heaps of bush camps in and around the Mount William National park.  Most we loved, but all were unsuitable for our size rig for one reason or other – narrow approaches or lack of turn-around.   We lunched at Eddystone Point and ticked off the objective of having reached the most eastern point of Tasmania.  Not much there but a lighthouse and some fishermen and passing fishing boats, and the knowledge that the next piece of dirt eastward is NZ.                        

                                                 Lighthouse - eastern
                                                       most  point of

 One of the camps entailed a long detour, and early in the day we made a decision to pass us due to the distance involved as a 'last resort'.  As it turned out, this 'last resort' was the pick of the bunch for us.   It was Petal Point, situated on almost the north-eastern tip of Tasmania. Great views, open space and we were the only ones there!!!!  A short walk to a boat ramp, and another deserted beach.  What more could we ask for?   Here we enjoyed four days of total peace and quiet, plenty of space, nice walks, and some whale-spotting.   In spite of predicted rainfall, there was only an odd light shower, and for what is renowned as a very windy location (wind-farm being developed nearby at the time) there was mostly just gentle breeze.  Just after setting up camp, we were visited by a security vehicle from the wind farm.  Friendly guys, had a great chat and were reassured that in spite of our solitary location, they welcomed any call for help if we struck any problems, and even offered us daily water top ups and rubbish disposal service!  Thought we had really struck a jackpot here.  We appreciated their snake warning – saw a few of
these, but nothing to spoil the magic of this time and place.  The boat came off the Patrol, but with seas up a bit, it didn’t make it to water.  We did spend one nice morning retracing the Patrol’s tracks up and down the road in as Kym had lost the handle for the boat-topper.  He was a bit embarrassed when after about an hour of searching Lyn asked him what the ‘other’ handle was that was on top of the Patrol!!!   We did get the surf rods out and managed to drown some bait and leave some gear amongst the rocks.  The tiger flathead from Bridport were yummo but.

Lyn "pats" a blue tongue lizard

Kym checking out the fishing prospects at Petal Point

  Wanting to experience the east coast of Tassie before the local Christmas-New Year holiday-makers moved in, it was time to leave our heavenly haven at Petal Point.   We moved south to Branxholm and after setting up in the town park allocated for short-term camping, we crossed the road to the general store where they collect the overnight fees.  We also needed to ask them where we could top up our water tank.   The reply was that the water in the taps around town was not suitable for drinking without boiling.   They explained that it is brought up from the local waterway, and council were warning that due to recent conditions there was no guarantee of quality.  We had previously had an experience of putting ‘sour’ water in our tank to the extent that we had to replace the hoses due to their being tainted – a sour and expensive memory.    As we were leaving the store, a woman said to us ‘Come up to my place – it’s the last on the left as you are leaving town.  We have a large tank and you can fill up there.’   We were a bit taken back at her generosity, but exchanged phone numbers and said we would give her a call as we were leaving town the next day.   This we did, a little unprepared for the experience.   When we approached Jodie’s home we thought ‘no way’ – there was a narrow uphill lane alongside her house and the approach was on a bend on the main road.  But Jodie was insistent – ‘we could drive up the lane and turn around in the paddock behind’ she explained, ‘then facing back onto the road we could access her tank’.   This we did – a truly ‘off-road’ experience was the paddock with the Patrol and van dodging tree stumps and up and down terrain in the wide sweeping arc to do the turn around.  In the meantime, people and dogs and people restraining horses appeared from the house, the paddock and the next door neighbours.   Mum, brother, sisters-in-law, the kids – everybody offering help and instructions.  This was definitely not going to be any trouble to them, and it was a matter of ‘we will give you water’.   The end of this tale is that after about an hour and a half we drove back down that lane and headed on, waving thanks and giving chocolates in appreciation, with our tank partially topped up.   The middle of this tale is that Jodie’s tank was amazingly small (about a 300 litre capacity), and after trying all sorts of tricks with the hoses we couldn’t get a flow from her tank due to the slope of the land;   but neighbour Nicole said ‘that’s no problem’ – hook it into mine, so we patiently trickle fed water until Kym prudently thought it best to announce the tank was full.  What bemused us was that while we were making chit chat, Jodie and Nicole told us about taps available for campers just outside the town of St Helen’s where we were heading.    This along with Jodie’s obvious disappointment that we had to use Nicole’s water convinced us that this person, who, once we had seen how her family lived, had very little to give, but a heart determined to give what she had – they call them ‘bogans’ or ‘hillbillies’, Tasmanian two-heads or whatever, but it was also obvious that they live by pretty simple rules where cynicism and mistrust don’t come naturally.  
Our other memories of Branxholm include a ‘Sunday drive’ to the local townships of Legerwood, Ringarooma and Derby.   At Legerwood we marvelled at the work of a ‘chain-saw sculptor’ Eddie Freeman.   When some magnificent old trees in the centre of town were deemed unsafe, the townspeople raised funds to have them reincarnated.  Eddie’s own research and skill has shaped them into a huge display that tells the story of the town’s pioneers, in particular their fallen soldiers, the circumstances of their leaving for war and who they left behind.    Ringarooma is a town of beautiful gardens and chalet –like homes.   Down a nearby country lane we found an honesty box and a range of fresh vegetables that we swooped on, counting our savings and mouths watering savouring their fresh and flavour ness.     Just outside Ringarooma we noticed Lover’s Lane, and of course we couldn’t resist the opportunity to have a play here – with the cameras, that is. 

Derby provided us with more insight again – into history and the locals.  When Kym’s mate, Robbie,  heard that we were heading for Derby we had strict instructions to call into the ‘top pub’ and say hello to Virginia.   Our curiosity whet by tit-bits of information we had read about the tin mining history of Derby, we headed to the Tin Centre first, while we worked on building up our thirst.  What we learnt about the mining and an early 20th century disaster involving flood waters and massive loss of life graphically unfolded via voice-over and a panoramic screen that filled one long wall of the room – about 25 metres long.   The story was close to home as we couldn’t help comparing this historical flood event with the one recently experienced in Toowoomba and Lockyer Valley – just as unexpected and devastating.  The tin mining and the town did pick up the pieces again, but the effects of supply and demand has since seen the mining cease and the town slowed its’ pace.  The tin mine originally brought a mass Chinese migration to the area (not always welcomed by the anglo-saxon settlers) and the centre also honours their influence and culture in the town’s history.   We found out about a lesser talked about tunnel that is also a residue of the tin mining activity.  The tunnel was used to dispose the tailings from the mines from around 1888 and is about 610 metres in length.    You can walk its’ length if your game – it’s a bit wet and you do need a good torch.  We investigated the first 10 metres or so, but then we did need to get to the pub before closing time to catch up with Virginia!

   Virginia was a delight – with a handful of locals whiling away their Sunday afternoon, she introduced us around and we quickly gathered that she ran this bar as a tight ship.  Like a few Tasmanian towns, the bottom has fallen out of this one a bit, and most of the patrons there that day relied on this bar for their physical and social sustenance.   It appeared that Virginia ensured they towed the line in a way that also ensured that they were OK as well.  She commanded an obvious deference and respect in return.   Having been in the merchant navy in her younger years, Virginia and Kym had a commonality that gelled a quick trust and appreciation.   She gave us some insight into Tasmania’s economy from her lay-person’s point of view,  and the effects of some ‘main-landers’ attempts at profiteering on the ‘time capsuled’ property prices.   We left with hugs and well wishes for the coming Christmas like we had known her forever.   We could say something corny here like “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus’…….. we are unlikely to get back to Derby again, but we do thank Virginia for her hospitality and welcome.


 We had heard so much about the Bay of Fires and Cosy Corner campground that we were a bit excited to be heading in this direction.   When Lyn first arrived in Tasmania and saw the first coastal rocks splashed with reds and oranges and thought that the vandals had been at work,  Kym now constantly reminds her that ‘they have been at it again’.  At the Bay of Fires they have been very busy.  Lyn’s next theory was that it was called the Bay of Fires because of all the reds on oranges on the rocks.  Apparently when Captain Tobias Furneaux sailed by in 1773, he named it this because there was smoke from fires to be seen.   The far-most point on this coastal road is called ‘The Garden’ – Lyn wasn’t even game to theorise about this – lots of lichen on the rocks, masses of floating kelp and a very good place to sit and reflect.   
Day tripping from St Helen’s, we visited the Pyengana Cheese Factory.   Of course, had to taste and buy the cloth-bound cheddars, but what really entertained us here was the ‘automated milking shed’.  Totally unmanned, the cows wandered up from the paddock at will, passing through gates to be fed, milked, then a special ‘food’ treat, followed by their turn at a ‘cow back scratcher’.   As the cows lined up waiting their turn at the scratcher, we watched in amusement and near disbelief at this cow backing itself up and down under the scratcher, moving  its’ shoulders, and then it’s head along the bristles apparently in total bliss.  The staff told us that since the back scratcher had been installed, milk production was up 20% - apparently the staff put in for one themselves,
but the owner wouldn’t buy into it. 

 We have been told a trip to Tasmania isn’t complete without a beer in the “Pub in the Paddock” – so in case it meant that it would be a doubly good trip, we had two.   Another fascinating old building that used to have a town around it, but the town died and the pub stayed on.   We walked of the beers with a stroll a few kilometres on to view Columba’s Falls, the highest in Tasmania, and lunched sampling our newly acquired cheddar with some crispy fresh bread rolls.  Mmmmm….
We had heard about the Blue Tier en route back to St Helen’s and our camp, so detoured off the highway to have a look.  Again some of the sights and walks were closed due to flooding earlier in the year, so we continued on to the top of the Tier through what is probably the most ‘four wheel drive’ conditions that we had experienced to date.   Once at the top, the road opens out to an area that again was once a town.  There were some remnants of stone dwellings and early tin mining exploits.  We were back in Alpine country so it was bitterly cold.  There was one other car there - a station wagon with a Qld couple who were contemplating camping in the car for the night – brrrr…..  We did a short walk on the tier aptly named the Goblin Forest Walk - we thought we were in Lord of the Rings country. 

We loved our campsite at Cosy Corner very much.   It was a little private alcove with our own fireplace, and surrounded by shrub – a perfect bird hide from inside the van as well.  (Lyn’s beloved friend Nan has given Lyn a Field Guide to Australian Birds, opening up a whole new world of feathered vernacular.)   Not far down the road was an Oyster Farm – source of two night’s dinners.  The sales-person was an ex-Queenslander so always threw in a few more – at $8.00 a dozen they were huge and we didn’t mind shucking them ourselves.   We met some new friends during this week too which always helps to look back on a place with fonder memories.    After we realised that we had left our Eco-pot lid at the Oyster Farm, Brian and Judy (more Queenslanders – ex Mudgeeraba actually) called in to the Farm to recoup the lid.  We caught up with them a few weeks later down the road and recovered our lid and renewed conversation.
During our stay at Cosy Corner we made our ‘next camp’ strategies.   Travellers gave us lots of recommendations and one of them was Chain of Lagoons.  Just near to this is Lagoon Beach, so this was our next camp.  It was very much what we would expect of a bush camp - a few travellers mixing with the locals;  primitive facilities, but functional;  find a spot, set up and go for a walk – in this case living up to its’ name there was a large fresh water lagoon parallel to long stretch of sandy beach.  What more could we ask for?   Another piece of advice from another travelling couple was about the southern climb down from the nearby inland town of St Mary’s via what is known as 'Elephant Pass’.  Some very tight turns on the climb.  Well, tight was right!  Narrow, steep & tight turns all the way to the top.  We chose to take the ‘Pass’ upwards in just the Patrol and broke the journey with a breakfast at Elephant Pass Pancakes.   We had only heard about this place, not seen any advertising, just personal recommendations.  Well worth the wait for a feed.

At St Mary's we had a good look around, but not a lot really took our attention.  The regional map showed a small village not far out of town named Cornwall and a lookout.  These took our interest.  The village of Cornwall has a chequered history as a mining community.  Right from its early days there has been events of some sort.  Fires in one of the coal mines closed that section of the mine in the early 1900s and smoke from the burning coal seam can still be seen coming from one of the vents even today.  On our journey to the lookout, we suspect we took a wrong turn and ended on a very uphill and primitive 4WD track to a Telstra tower – the views here back across the coast towards St Helen’s were spectacular anyway.
  From Bay of Lagoons, we drove on to Bicheno.  We had strict instructions from Kath back in Brisbane to buy fish and chips here and sit on the bay.  It was breakfast-time, so we weren’t up to the fish and chips, but we did admire the coastline and took in the blow-hole down on the rocks.   From Bicheno, we rang ahead to Freycinet National Park to claim our next night’s camp spot, only to find out that there are only two sites suitable for our rig and these were booked.   There are other camp-sites on the peninsular, but the ranger must have misunderstood as when we asked about them,
 he directed us to the caravan park.  We were looking for another bush camp, but the only choices were further down the coast, so we made the decision to drive down to these, and day-trip back to Freycinet.  We did get our first glimpse of Freycinet peninsular from across the bay at Swansea – it made a very teasing  lunch view from our van – unusual for us to stay indoors, but at Swansea on this day, the wind was ‘cyclonic’. 
  The camp-site we had chosen was Mayfield, on the coast about 20kms south of Swansea.  This site   provided us with a new challenge.   The violent winds by now had turned into torrential rain.  Mayfield was a bit protected from the winds, but the rain was uncomfortable.  The site we chose was about the only one we could fit in and even then, it was just!   Getting out was a whole new ball game.  During one of the dry patches, we walked the camp to find a way out that avoided having to back the van down a short incline, round a bend and straighten the whole rig to point in the right direction.  We were also concerned that the rain affected dirt road could have seen us bogged.  Fortunately, we did find a safe route out, albeit a zig zag way back to the road.   
Our day trip back to the Freycinet Peninsula saw lunch at Coles Bay and a walk around the cliffs at Cape Tourville.   We did call into the camp-sites at Friendly Beach on the way out and found that had we arrived earlier enough to claim one of the sites suitable for big rigs, we could have had ourselves a night or two and had more time to do Freycinet more justice.  We resolved to return again when the high season has over.   On the road back between Swansea and Mayfield there is an example of convict work at Spikey Bridge, built in early 1800’s.  Story has it that a local coach driver was trying to get a bridge built over the river without success when one day he drove a local authority across this waterway non stop at the full gallop.  Within very short time, there was a team of convicts working on the “new” bridge. 
The Spring Bay Hotel Triabunna was our next host.  A gold coin donation to the local Fire services secures a spot in the Hotel grounds.   We arrived in the rain and didn’t venture out much until dinner time at the pub – a superb seafood meal – accompanied by a chance for Kym to reunite with one of his fav American sit-coms ‘Big Bang’ – ( although we carry our TV, antenna and Sat-dish everywhere, to this point in our journey, partly due to choice, and partly due to insufficient power bank,  most of our sole entertainment and information has come from radio and internet).   We were fortunate that the rain subsided, as Triabunna also provided us with the perfect jump off for a day on Maria Island, accessed by a 45 minute boat trip.
Travelling out the bay, we passed an abandoned wood chipping and shipping plant.  Modern machinery and wharfing facilities lay idol because some woman had  ‘environmental’ beefs about the industry.  Her solution - she bought it out, then sacked the staff and closed the place down.  Triabunna and surrounding towns lost the one large employer for the region, and the recently emptied shops present a sad effect.   Maria Island is all National Park – apart from Park’s vehicles there are no other on the island, and no commerce.  It was once home to a number of convicts at two separate sites in two time frames.  The main site is now the tourism and historical information area.  The island was also the base of a highly successful family business in the early 1900s with fruit, wine, sheep and other interests underway.  Very little of that time remains now, but there are some convict ruins.   We wanted to cover as much of the island as possible so our bikes travelled with us.  Riding the bikes showed how much more we should be riding them.  Some of the hills had to be taken at a walk (hence the name “push” bike”).  The ride down some of these same hills was exhilarating, reaching speeds over 40 km per hour.   
Painted Cliffs on the western side was first stop.  The different layered colours were fascinating and beautiful - the only way we can describe it.  Across to the north east end is an old limestone quarry.  The quarry is now a massive bed of fossils.   Some are plant, but most are marine fossils, and the different layers are explained on some information boards.  Just about every stone has a fossil.   From here, another hill, another push up…..and down to more ruins and history on a round trip to an old reservoir - the only water storage on the island.  The return trip back to the harbour took in the convict ruins and the Diago farm where we spent our remaining time before the return ferry arrived taking in the reading and enjoying some clever interactive displays.   The bay had whipped up a bit but the return boat ride was uneventful , but noticeably filled with bodies who were contrastingly wearied to those alert and excited ones that bobbed up and down from seats and stairs on the journey over.

Fossil Cliffs on Maria Island



The weather did improve for our next leg.  As Christmas was fast approaching, we decided to head to Hobart a day or two earlier than originally planned.  No real problem distance wise.  Everywhere is always close to anywhere in Tassie.  We stopped off at a couple of places to photograph and continued on.  Hobart showgrounds, parked and set up by lunch time!
With house and car keeping to be done we were wanting to settle for a time where we could access city services and have good phone and internet service to keep connected to family at home.  Hobart Show grounds, caters for self contained vans and motorhomes.  No pre-bookings, so not wanting to miss out, on the 21 December we chose our site, and spent a few hours bringing out our 'fine furniture and chattels, including Christmas decorations and lights.  This was followed by the 'turning on of the lights' ceremony.  
Although there is not that much space allocated for RV's within the grounds, time proved to us that it would not really matter when we arrived, as over the next two weeks they just kept packing them in.  Future experience may teach us that we can expect to be 'sardined' no matter where we are over Christmas-New Year; and no doubt no matter how 'merry' and 'Christmassy' we try to make it, there is no substitute for sharing the same space with family - our grandkids were very much on our mind, and with the news on Christmas Eve that Lyn's Dad had suffered a minor stroke, we certainly felt a long way from home.  Telstra and Skype helped us talk, listen, see, reassure and be reassured - and we were placed to see some of the Sydney-Hobart yachts dock in which had been one of our goals.

One thing we learned quickly was that even at holiday time, Hobart is really unpeopled and un-rushed compared to what we are accustomed to - any 'crowding' seemed to be caused by tourists such as us.  Travel and shopping in town two days before Christmas was hardly busy. 
 Salamanca Markets on Christmas Eve - well a bit more push and shove. 

We took a long walk up and down the streets of Battery Point, admiring old and beautiful buildings, some restored and some in almost original state, but plenty to get the imagination going about life in old Hobart town.   

Other highlights during this stay at Hobart included an entertaining dinner out with Pete, Karen, Scott and Cindy (the guys were junior recruits with Kym when he joined the Navy nearly 40 years ago). 
When we met up with Rob Seabrook at Knopwood Hill we enjoyed his innovative take on recycling building materials, as well as the views his newly developed bush-camp commands over central Hobart.  Rob also introduced us to his temporary lodger - round the world cyclist Armando Basile.  At 63 years old, Armando has been cycling since 1983 and clocked up over a 1,000,000 kms.  With his bike packs weighing 50-55 kgs, and he of slight height, this would be barely less than his own weight which appeared mostly muscle and sinew.  He told us in broken English that he found Australia and Australians very friendly - hosts like Rob gave him frequent respite from road side stops and his own cooking.  

A short country drive to the much talked about early settlement town of Richmond gave us another afternoon  steeped in wonder at the quantity and quality of retained historical sites and buildings, mostly constructed of local sandstone.  Old Hobart town is an interesting and precisely researched and scaled miniature replication of central Hobart in the early 1800's; it particularly gave us a good visual of the reclaiming and reshaping of the current dock front.   We also whiled a few hours away in Richmond enjoying the ambiance of the parkland and river crossing of the convict built bridge (another still in use) and looking at the remnants and reading about some of past inhabitants of the Richmond Gaol. 

We toured Australia's oldest brewery, 'Cascades' partly still housed in the original building.  On tour we heard some of the company's tales including the industrial action taken by workers when new WH & S rules prevented workers from the daily issue of product in tea, lunch and after work breaks.  No WH & S rules stopped us from sampling a range; yet to be converted from XXXX, but. 
We were entertained and informed by the performance of two convincing actors whose strolling street drama transported us back to the mid 1800's.  We wandered through the Cascade gardens and to the remains of the nearby Cascades Female Factory as we were drawn into the emotional ride following the twists and turns of the life of Louisa who was convicted and sent to Van Dieman's Land for bread stealing.  

While in Hobart it is impossible to ignore the mammoth mountain that stands over you from no matter where you are.   We had intended to drive up to the summit of Mount Wellington on several days, jut waiting for that right time when the skies were clear, and the views most advantaged.  More than once, we got to the base, when the blue skies vanished into clouds, and the top disappeared – a regular phenomena.    We did eventually make it up there.  The drive up is interesting and one that Lyn would say is not for the ‘faint-hearted’ – even after miles of steep mountain climbing all over Tasmania – this road was the mother of them all so far - narrow, steep and a very long way down over the edge.   There are no photos of our drive up as Kym was driving, and Lyn gripping the ‘grab handle’.   This landmark certainly gives Hobart its’ own individual stamp – along with the fact that almost anywhere you live in Hobart it is likely that you will have a water view!
 Atop the summit, the sun was shining and it was easy to understand why people talk about the sun being very hot in high altitudes – just that much closer to it we guess!   It was so piercing that we peeled off our jackets – a temporary wardrobe change only!  About ten minutes later the whole world changed, the sun disappeared and the air took on an ice chill.  From up here, you are looking down on mountain chains;  you can see across to the east coast, and on a really clear day it is said that you can see up to Ben Lomond, which is not far south of Launceston on the north coast.   
Of course we had to look for our Hobart residence – we identified two ovals close to one another – the larger, the racecourse, and the other the Hobart Showgrounds, where we were staying.  If you look close enough you can pick out our van!
The surface on the mountain gives you the impression that you could be walking on the moon – a bit closer to it too, when you think about it.  There are lots of walks on Mount Wellington for the adventurous  – from points all along the way up, and others from the peak.  Our biggest adventure was to walk about 200 metres to get a view from each angle followed by a 5 metre climb to the pinnacle – Yeh!!

Revisiting Hobart again later, and travelling in the surrounding areas, Mount Wellington is always just there – looming in the background.   Over time, it took on all sorts of characteristics and moods – we were amazed at its’ sheer height when we first arrived, but we must have become accustomed to this as after a while, it seemed less high, and with familiarity, became just more huge – a giant that covers an immense area of ground – from what must be a massive land area of its’ base, and up and down over its’ entire hulk.   We were more impressed. 
On the first day of 2012 we went into Constitution Dock to check out the Sydney-Hobart contestants in dock before they sailed out again.  We were warned by the locals that it would be busy in town and especially at the docks – we love Tassie for lots of reasons – one of them is we got a park in the car-park across the road from Constitution, and strolled across – crowd factor –naa!   Despite earlier intentions to be there when the winners came in, we had only really seen a couple of late-comers from atop a distant hill.  Here at the dock we had a nautical feast with a close up view of all-comers.   

Investic Loyal pictured here took line honours this year.  Just a few $$$$$’s there.

We were more interested in the legendary Wild Oats –  Kym would have loved to have swapped the van for this rig – just for a day or two.
From surf to turf, we moved on to the Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.  The Gardens are close to town and the docks, and border the grounds of Government House (which amazingly to us has cattle grazing on the slopes with great city views).  While looking for a picnic spot with a view, dark threatening clouds came over.  We were definitely becoming ‘Tasmania acclimatised’.  Back home this would send us packing up and running for cover.  Along with all the other holiday picnic-ers, we ignored the clouds, the picnic proceeded, and no rain eventuated.

Although it is a great central place for getting about the capital city, Hobart Showgrounds did wear out its’ welcome for us after a while.   During our stays there it’s been busy, with RV’s of all makes and sizes packed in tightly.  The water access for the vehicles camped at the showgrounds always leaves us a bit bemused – photo here gives you a clue.

The showgrounds is in an industrial area and the thump of shipping containers being moved around starts early in the morning, and often continues ‘til late at night.  There are other options on the other side of the oval but these are often more wind exposed.  The wind can play havoc at times across the mostly open and dirt-covered areas spreading a bit of dust around.  Hobart would have to be the most congenial and unstressed of capital cities, but for us it’s not long before we yearn for wide open spaces again.   


We headed north-west to Mt Field National Park – very pleasant campsite here, managed by Parks and Wildlife.  We recommend it for both atmosphere and proximity to walk and drive adventures.  On our first day, we opted to take a longer walk via several falls and a Giant Tree walk, arriving back close to camp via Russell Falls.  The walk is described as being a 2 ½ hour walk.  We have come to the conclusion that Tasmanians ‘run’ their walks – we rarely get anywhere near the times they suggest.  Fortunately, we are not alone.  We have met many other travellers, young and old, who agree with us on this  – makes us feel a bit less decrepit.  Mind you we do tarry a bit, sometimes dip our toes in the creeks  – regardless of the fact that they never disappoint us by being super icy.

Russell Falls is apparently the most visited falls in Tasmania. 
Many Tassie tourists don’t venture past Mt Field;   from here it is a 70 km trip west to the top end of Lake Pedder, and Gordon Dam – one road in and out.  About half way out another dirt road travels south for 30 kms to the bottom of Lake Pedder.   It did seem futile to take the van out and back.  We are organised for tent camping, and this being an area that we really wanted to take our time over, it seemed sensible to leave the van, and stay overnight in the tent.  Despite early morning rain, (which again we are now used to – it mostly turns quickly to sunshine or, if not, we just wear it) we headed west – a decision we will never regret.  The landscape on the way out to Gordon Dam is staggering.   

At the now skeletal remains of what was once the thriving town of Strathgordon, the Lake Pedder Chalet and Information Centre has some arousing displays which depict the hardship and community of residents in the 1970’s when the life-blood of the area was hydro-electric and dam construction work.   Strathgordon has a record of averaging rain on five out of every seven days.  (Just as well we didn’t wait for the rain to clear.)   When it was a populated township of over 2000, there is on record a time when the settlement did not see the sun for six weeks straight.  The school had an indoor playground to ensure that the children had some room to run, and when the sun reappeared, each child was issued with a pair of sunglasses to assist in coping with the glare.  

Gordon Dam is something to be seen to be believed.   The top of the dam wall straddles between two high cliff faces.  The wall itself is of mammoth height.   It is not intended that water flow over the wall;   it basically dams and stems the flow for the hydro system.   On one side of the wall is lake, on the other a rock crevice with its’ natural floor way, way below.


This is Lyn
(in her green rain coat)
very carefully scaling the
expanded mesh staircases
 back up from the damn wall. 
Her advice – looking up was much
easier than looking down through
each stair to what seemed like a million metres to the rock floor  below.
 We lunched alongside the northern waters of Lake Pedder.  If the original lake before man’s interference was spectacular, this is certainly not lost on the current.  It is still beautiful.

We love remote areas, and so we were just a little bit excited as we headed along the dirt road towards the southern end of this great lake.  Lake Pedder is now the largest volume of fresh water in Australia, and we were heading deeper into the Southwest wilderness. 
It was peak Christmas-New Year holiday period – when we arrived there were about 7 or 8 mainly Tasmanian locals camping in the campgrounds.  Our first (and probably last) overnight tent-stay in Tassie was a little chilly, but we were too high on our surrounds to be disconcerted.   We did hug the fire a little.

In the morning, we drove to a nearby lookout – the views were spectacular.

Driving back, we were a bit spellbound by the variations in colours in the rock formations alongside the road, offering up a rainbow of bright reds, pinks and oranges that changed every few hundred metres.  

The Creepy Crawly Walk just off the road on our return journey lived up to its’ name.   Lyn played goblin for Kym’s camera until getting caught out by some young tourists who were no doubt thinking we were another pair of typical silly and half senile oldies.   Just in our second childhood, as Kym likes to say. 

Just outside the township of Maydena, we stopped to explore the Junee Cave system.  This is where the Junee River begins, and once we understood that this water system has secreted through the caves, never seeing the light of day, nor tainted brown from tree tannin, it explained why the stream we passed by appeared to us to be the purest, crystal clear water we had ever seen. 

We loved our tenting adventure and the magnificence of the scenery we had experienced;  we were also pleased to be reacquainted with our caravan bed.  A good sleep in, on a comfy bed, and we were ready to take on another bush walk, this time high up in what is one of Tasmania’s ski slope areas of Mt Field.  There was certainly evidence of snow seasons in the fauna here; it was brisk enough for us even on this January day. 

We did the walk around Lake Dobson – this lake was exquisite;   apart from the birdlife, there was not a sound and these surroundings lent well to some quiet solitude just taking in the clean air and serenity.
It was time to move on to the little town of Hamilton, with its’ lovely campsite in the centre of town.  Hamilton has just a handful of businesses trying to eke a living from passing tourists on a popular route across from the west coast.  It has the usual charming old buildings, some convict built.    We bought some fresh vegies here from a home gardener, and browsed through a studio displaying a range of crafted goods and sculptures made from Tasmanian timbers.   The studio usually serves light meals and refreshments, but this section was undergoing renovations.  From our conversation with the host, the renovations were a long time in the process – very old building and costly exercise from what we gathered.  We were looking for a coffee, and had to live with the news that the one other possible café venue in town was currently closed due to the owner’s ill health.   

A curious old shop front took our interest, signed the ‘Emporium’ – it turned out that this is the one place in Tasmania that we really got a ‘hard sell’.   As far as an emporium goes, apart from some burl timber pieces that we felt distinctly dissuaded from browsing around, a staring-eyed man behind the counter had nothing else to offer except virtually insisting that we were there to stay in his accommodation; if staying, he would provide us meals, if eating, we could drink the local wines he had to sell.   We only wanted a coffee, and a browse.  When it was obvious we weren’t staying, eating or drinking the wine, Lyn got cornered with a long dissertation on the wonderful quality of the peppermint oils that were bottled on site.   Kym had long since absconded, but guess what Lyn came out with – the peppermint oils have been enjoyed for foot soaks. 
One thing we have learnt while driving around Tasmania is that if the road takes us in the vicinity of a  Hydro-electric power station, you can bet that there will be a long steep road down, followed by a long steep road up, the power station usually situated in the middle.  The road from Hamilton to the tiny settlement of Derwent Bridge is fraught with these power stations, so it not only provides a great roller coaster road, but also a great test for the pulling power of the Patrol, its’ braking capacity, and for the driver who is juggling between managing both of these and the van’s over-ride braking system.  Some other caravanners who had been trailing us from Hobart, arrived at Derwent Bridge to find that one set of brake pads had worn down to the metal and the rotor damaged beyond repair.  We couldn’t think of a worse road to have travelled and arrived in this situation.  They were very lucky.   This photo was taken uphill from Wayatinah Power Station.

Derwent Bridge is basically a service station / general store, and a few scattered residences as well as the gateway to Lake St Clair and the surrounding national park.   The lake precinct was very busy with park and lodge convenors and day tourists.  We couldn’t get into the camping ground area to have a look around before booking and had been forewarned that it was also very busy, with little space for large rigs.  We decided to stay at a bush camp nearby with views of Lake King William.  We were lucky to set up before the rains set in.  We weren’t to know it at this stage, but the rain didn’t let up for nearly a week – apparently not uncommon for this neck of the woods.  We were going to sit it out for the rain to stop to do some local walks.  So sit it out we did – this worked out well for our friends, Wayne and Barb who had experienced the brake problems.  They needed to leave their van and nurse their car some 160kms back for repairs, so while they did this we were able to baby-sat their Franklin van parked alongside us.  Despite the rain, we did take a longing look at Lake St Clair over coffee in the lodge, and visited the other must-see place when visiting Derwent Bridge – ‘The Wall’.  Its’ full title is ‘The Wall in the Wilderness’.  

Carved by a regular genius by the name of Greg Duncan, the wall is more than a wall, rather a collection of wide hallways, both sides lined with three metre tall wood carved friezes that depict the history of the local region.  The carvings are in relief form giving a three dimensional effect, so lifelike in detail and the re-creation of life and nature, the actions and features of both the animate and inanimate.  The works are a continuing project, anticipated to span ten years until 2015.  The fact that it is a continuing project gives you an appreciation for how the carving and scenes emerge.   No cameras are allowed in the display, but we would encourage anyone who hasn’t seen the real thing to go to the website and check it out:  - and visit when possible.
As the rain continued, we spent two days biding our time.  Our campsite at Lake King William was getting muddier, so we decided to forego planned walks around Lake St Clair, and drive  towards the west coast.  We moved to Lake Burbury campsite, which is just a little eastward of, and up mountain from Queenstown.  There were more stunning views of the wilderness forest area all along our morning drive to get there.   Surprise Valley pictured here, was a standout. 
With the weather still wild and bleak, Lake Burbury mirrored these features - waters whipped up in the wind, and looking grey and overshadowed by rugged mountains all around.  We thought that we were getting a taste of what the winter would bring to this scene, but in all sensibility, this was probably far and away from it...... no doubt this area does see plenty of snow in the thick of winter.
By stark contrast, not far up the road, and just before you start the 100 odd turns on that amazing road winding down the mountain into Queenstown is the Iron Blow.   The Iron Blow is a copper mine, and in its' depths there is the bluest of blue waters.   You can look down on these from a viewing platform that projects well out from the cliff edges above.  Maybe not uncommonly, it was 'as windy as' the day we were there, and Kym was the one who was unphased by either the height or the winds to take some amazing photos.  The copper oxide is what has given this water its' brilliant colour.

Surrounding Queenstown there are some very sobering scenes of past disregard or understanding of the effects of human industry on the environment.  The long-term and irreversible effects of need and greed have created a landscape in this area that can tear at the soul.  The legacy left is that of bare, barren mountain landscapes, void of life, and the unnatural brown of a river and its' banks - these against a backdrop of the otherwise spectacular natural forests.  The devastation is the aftermath of acids, fumes, chemicals and silt washed from years of reckless and unconsidered mining.  Everyone that we spoke to was affected by the obvious rape of parts of this countryside.   Everywhere we go, we get a further understanding that 'green' extremists seem to be underhandedly, and systematically undermining Tasmania's economy.   No-one can condone blatant disregard or anything nearing these past mistakes;   there is a need for joint problem solving, and to strike a realistic and sustainable balance.  


We have had many other travellers tell us that they were unimpressed with Queenstown.  We actually found it a bit fascinating.  Different ? - definately!    Pretty?- not at all - but unique in a wild and rugged way.  Everything about this town gave us the impression that it has been peopled by survivors - rough, some no doubt uncouth - but determined and strong.  Not much polish, but a lot of grit.  We loved its feel and regretted that heavy rains curtailed our usual detail for exploration.  We did the main street walk - and loved the originality of a lot of the buildings.  A friendly local teenage girl in town couldn't believe that we would be here, as opposed to Queensland's Gold Coast - couldn't understand that we were loving these surroundings.  It is one place on this island that we would give more time to, given another opportunity.

The museum at Queenstown is amazing.  Housed in what was originally the Imperial Hotel, dating back to 1897, it mirrors previous thoughts about 'not much polish, but a lot of grit'.  For about $4.00 entry fee you could spend all day taking in vast quantities of local memorabilia, photos, a minerals collection and much more - room after room, two stories high - to us, almost overwhelming through sheer quantity of the displays.   After our best effort to take in what we could, we settled for watching an intriguing video about some original heroes of this wild west, the so-called 'The West Coasters'.

A bit of an indication of the toughness of this town is it's local AFL ground, the 'gravel oval.  We have been led to believe that they actually play Footy here - the goal-posts are there!  With a break in the rain, Lyn did a bit of a training run to test the ground out.

While the rain resumed, we moved camp to Zeehan.  Zeehan is another town that people seem to love to hate.  Apart from supporting some continuing local mining interests, Zeehan is almost 'the town that was'.  A shadow of its former glory, there remains many old buildings still standing in Zeehan central, only a few of which have any current life or purpose.  Latest census figures a few years ago put the town's population in the 800's - but at its' peak about a century ago it vied with Hobart and Launceston for population.  No wonder it now seems like it's wearing an oversized coat - all these grand frontaged buildings and business-houses, most with very little going on behind them. 

Even the service station in town proved to be an illusion - it looks like a regular service station, but on closer look you realise that there is no person there - a self-serve 24 hour press the buttons and insert your card automaton!   It is a little sad to us on the surface, but the people we met here didn't seem phased.   Another testimony to resiliency – and/or the shrinkage of distances and services with the wonders of the 'www' perhaps. 
Zeehan has it's own large museum - less layer, upon layer, upon layer than the one at Queenstown;  maybe with the luxury of so much disused building, they just had more room to spread - whatever it was we found it much less overwhelming, but no less extensive.  It incorporated several buildings, and included a locomotive exhibition, blacksmith workshop, mining and crystals display, courthouse and police station, Masonic Lodge, and most impressive due to its uniqueness, the historic Gaeity Theatre.  We were entertained here by some old silent classics in a grand and magical atmosphere of yesteryear.  Although a little unloved and arid to look at, Zeehan does have its’ own character and many stories to tell of past trials and triumphs.

We had travelled from Queenstown to Zeehan with the intention of taking the coast road from Zeehan to Strahan, avoiding a direct road linking Queenstown to Strahan.  Other caravanners had warned that the direct link was very steep and not the preferred route for towing a van.  We have spoken to others since who travelled it without concern – just one of those things – some advice taken has no doubt saved us some angst.   We now had a target to meet with just a little over a week away to have Lyn to the airport at Launceston.    We would probably have taken the time to test the road without the van, and make a decision about doing the loop back via Queenstown, but with time restraints, we didn’t bother.  The West Coast Wilderness Railway also takes a similar route linking Strahan and Queenstown with daily return runs that is on most tourist’s ‘must do’ list - another one that is on our ‘if we return list’.

What we did spend our time with in this area we do have very fond memories of.  We chose to stay at a bush camp at Macquarie Heads – about 13 kms from Strahan via dirt road.  We camped here for four nights, and loved it.    It was still January, holiday time for the locals, and we were privileged to accompany them in their ‘favourite holiday camping spot’.   They welcomed us to the extent that we were a bit amazed by the hospitality.  On our first evening after we noticed that everyone had their own wood pile for their fireplace and none other to be had, Kym asked our neighbour where we might get some.   We had known him no less than 10 minutes when he handed us the keys to his ute, put the chainsaw on the back tray, along with a tub for collected pine cones and gave us directions to an area in the forest about 5 kms away.   We were a bit dumbfounded, but took the keys and went and collected ourselves some fire wood.

This same neighbour gave us some fishing tips – the salmon were being caught out at the point.   Off we went and sunk our boots in to the sand and tried to imitate what others were doing around us, but the salmon didn’t seem to like our lures, or perhaps were bemused by our technique.

No bites, easily distracted, and the beach looking so inviting, we took the Patrol for a run for a few km’s along this wild, deserted and beautiful coastline.   A little way along we came across dozens of whale carcasses – we later confirmed that they had been there for about two months after been beached and unable to be assisted.

The next day we went to explore the township of Strahan – what we call a ‘postcard’ township – one for the ‘fly in, fly out, grab an experience’ tourists.  It is undoubtedly beautiful with its’ modern facilities, alfresco restaurants and stores, a fresh dockside with colonial look situated alongside the clear crystal waters of the harbour.  Across the bay is a magnificent horizon lined by forested mountains that are way too dense and high to imagine anyone having ever penetrated them, and knowing that as heritage areas now, few ever will. 
We took a stroll around the bay and spent some time talking to some hardy old fishermen on their moored boat.  They were very disillusioned with the current quota system imposed on them and the 'academics' and greenies that have influenced policy decision making.  Their boat and equipment  remain idol for the next six months awaiting their next years' quota, while the costs for their licence, mooring, maintenance etc continue to accrue.  They explained that large multi national companies have also bought major percentages of the available quota.  Spreading their costs over large fleets made the returns more viable for these companies - another blow to the small operator, and local jobs and money staying in not only the local area, but also the country.  After 40 years on the sea, they loved what they do, believed that there were more fish out there than ever, and were very frustrated at the forced idleness and their financial struggles.  One told us that he was in his mid-70's, and still all he wanted to do was be out there.  It was sad and sobering listening to their story.  We don't know how realistic or necessary the quotas are, but we would have to say that the ratio of big ocean and seaports to fishing boats all around Tasmania seems much less than we are accustomed to seeing on the mainland.
Only about two or three streets behind this beautiful facade that Strahan presents to the world,  appearances do change, and what you see is another remnant of a frontier town with a history of mixed fortunes.  Our guess is that there is just a few remaining fishing families, some forestry workers employed in now minimal and controlled plantations, and the remainder employed in service and tourist industry. 
We acquainted ourselves with a couple of small business people operating from their homes.  One was a very trusting lady who had opened up the front rooms selling 2nd hand goods and exchanging books.  When we said we had been keeping our eyes open all over Tasmania looking for a book exchange, she explained that it is a dying business.  After eight years in her business, trade was now less than 20% on earlier years...... 'Kimble and those things' she said.... she was 'home anyways, and there wasn’t much else' she could do now.  At this, she returned to her movie in the adjoining room and told us to give us a call if we wanted to buy anything.  

Another was Tut's Whittle Wonders.  We met Tut’s obviously long suffering wife - a man with a hobby that had expanded into a very large shed full of displays from high ceiling to floor.  Tut has a way with wood, a plentiful supply, a great imagination, and a broad sense of humour.  The sign outside advises that this is NOT a craft shop, but it will give you a good laugh…. and an unusual  display of natural wood.  We browsed, extended our imaginations, had a few giggles and appreciated the hours that Tut has literally 'whittled' away.

We drove to the top of the town and took in the views from here.  It is really not much more than a stone’s throw from the main streets, so gives you a good idea of the extent of the town.
At the furtherest point south-west of the harbour by road is the Strahan rail station.  The Wilderness train was on its’ journey while we were there.
Back to ‘tourist street’, we bought some souvenirs, had a coffee while our excess washing paid a visit to the laundromat, and made some important stock purchases at Choo Chews Lollie Shop.

We booked to take the Gordon River World Heritage boat tour on a modern and impressive looking catamatan, The Eagle, for the next day. 
There are two companies who do the Gordon River tour.  We chose World Heritage only because it was founded, and is still operated by a local pioneering family.  The family was formerly involved in logging, and have successfully switched to tourism.  Their tour acknowledges past realities, current local industry, and combines an intimate knowledge of the river with a respect for what is so special about it and its’ conservation for the future.   We watched as that day's cruise came in and the crowds emerged to watch a vertical rip saw in action at the still active sawmill alongside the dock. 

 This mill is only one of three sawmills that retains a current licence to collect and cut Huon pine.  Huon pine can no longer be logged - the timber may be sourced from the forest floor, dams and rivers etc.   There are two retail outlets alongside the mill.  One selling local specialist timbers that have been  mill cut only, and are ready to be turned into whatever may take your fancy.  There were pieces ranging in size that could have a future life as executive board room tables to others big enough to carve out a pen casing.  If the timber displays themselves don't enthral you, the 'where I've come from and take me home and appreciate me' tags will entertain you.
The other outlet sells fine crafted and finished products, both useful and decorative.  As a lover of woodwork, Kym was thrilled to be invited into the workshop to get a glimpse of the artists at work.

Alongside the mill is a small historic photo room with an interesting collection from the logging era.   We were attracted to an interesting video featuring a local old timer relating his experiences as a young man travelling into forest camps for up to six months at a time, with nothing but the barest necessities.  Here he battled the elements as well as physically demanding long days' of work and the isolation, before floating cut logs downstream to town.  He cheekily told of reuniting with families, and getting on with the business of courting, carousing and whatever else the freedom and town life could afford them during their recess.
Back at our very social camp at Macquarie Heads we were surprised to find that our neighbours had been looking after our interests during our absence.  We had left our portable rotary washing line with a few things hanging under the annex in the morning as we were a bit unsure of the weather.  While we were out we commented that the sun had come out beautifully, and our washing was missing out on the drying weather.  Not so, our neighbours moved the line out into the sun, and back under the awning when the afternoon shade moved in.  Similarly, another neighbour had moved our portable solar panels around several times during the day to maximise exposure to the sun.  Feeling very at home, we settled around the camp fire for the night.
Before long, we had a visit from another neighbour, a local councillor.  Interested in retiring to a life of caravanning himself, he was keen to look at our set-up, as well as seek our opinions and experiences of the local area.   We have been a bit intrigued with the 'hut' culture here in Tassie.  Despite a total population of around 500,000 people, we reckon  there is at least 200,000 huts clustered in hamlets alongside every coastal and inland waterway - if not a hut, an old caravan - never seen so many loved and used old vans.   A lot of the huts are on crown land, taken up so many years ago, that ownership and permanency is more or less taken for granted, and as a result there is a lot of obvious pride in many, and a lot of trouble taken in making them an individualised holiday paradise.  Our councillor explained that in this Macquarie Heads area, a lot of huts were removed from where we were camped to a designated area just down the road, in order to maintain an area for itinerant campers.   New leases were established and this designated area (unlike many of the settled hut areas that would be a surveyor’s nightmare) was now a well planned and community minded mini-town.   We had a laugh at a relic of the former hut city at our campsite – an old electric power switch hanging from a tree – given this example, no doubt some hut areas would also be electrician’s, plumber’s and builder’s nightmares also!
The weather could not have been more perfect for our Gordon River Cruise.  The water in the harbour was like glass.  So much so that when we got out to the oft-times treacherous mouth to the  Indian Ocean, our Captain for the day, Troy Grinning, announced that given the calm conditions, we were going to motor on through Hell’s Gates, and venture a little around the corner southwards of Cape Sorell. 

Hell’s Gates was coined by early convicts who saw the entrance to the harbour as the gateway to their ‘hell’ upstream – the Sarah Island Penal Station.   A sometimes notoriously weather-exposed and unfriendly passage due to tidal rushes, it has also been considered a fitting name for this entrance by seaman navigating this channel.  Two lighthouses stand sentinel to the channel on the southern side of the bay.

Not far from the mouth on this southern reach there is the curious site of a couple of rustic homes, obviously inhabited with paths leading down to harbour-side jetties.  On cue, as we pass by, more people than be-lies the size of the dwellings appear from windows and doors, some with the traditional weekend Australian wave (a raised stubby bottle).   Meanwhile, down on the jetty, out from an esky comes the pinnacle of all show-off pieces, a few gigantic crayfish. 

The waterway between Entrance Island Lighthouse and the northern side of the harbour is much wider, but far shallower.  This is the side of the heads that we are camped on, so we had a good view back to the beach just down from our land-based home, and where we had tried our hand at salmon fishing a day or so before.
Returning back inland, the Captain points out the breakwater that was built in the early 1900’s by the then Strahan Harbour Board.  The breakwater was constructed to improve shipping access by increasing the water depth upstream and beyond the ‘Gates’.
He also explained the workings of a salmon farm in the harbour, large enclosures that are basically ‘growing fields’ for salmon spawned in inland hatcheries.  While we were passing, farmers were feeding the salmon.  We were a bit more intent on feeding ourselves, once we heard that some of this local product was on the menu for our on-board lunch.   The company involved has apparently conducted environmental impact studies with a view to increasing farm size in this area.  Environmental groups have, however, claimed that the studies are insufficient and are lobbying the Tasmanian Government to block any extension of this and other such farms around Tasmania’s coast.
A highlight of the tour is a stopover at Sarah Island.  A peaceful and scenic space today, it defies the story-teller’s lively descriptions of existence on the island when it was a settlement for repeat offending convicts in the early 1800’s. 
Richard our animated narrator and member of Strahan’s Round Earth Theatre Company, leads a walking tour around this dot of an island pointing our features and ruins, and introducing us to some of the characters of Sarah Island’s past.   We walked in the footprints of both convicts and their guards, and began to empathise with the harsh realities of this once remote prison.  Sarah Island penal settlement was intended to uphold a reputation as a place where the spirit would be ground down with hard work, hopelessness and despair.  The hard work involved lumbering and river-hauling the local Huon pine for shipbuilding.  The hopelessness and despair was undoubtedly due to some sub-human attitudes that was acceptable towards convicts of the day, but also, the unlikelihood of successful escape from this location.   
Escape attempts there were but.  Amongst the most famous is Alexander Pearce, known for having an appetite for his fellow escapees, and also another group who hi-jacked the Frederick, a boat they helped build.  They did sail as far as South America, with varying ultimate successes, some having been recaptured and returned to Australia’s convict system.   One conundrum that our narrator posed, is that in the latter years of the settlement, escape attempts ceased, and there is evidence of convict life ‘sweetening’ on Sarah Island.    The settlement had evolved into a quite an industrial village, including not only those that serviced the settlement (bakery, blacksmithing, stone-making, brick makers etc), but also a thriving ship-building industry, having produced over 120 vessels.  Our narrator leaves us wondering that all this industry and community didn’t soothe the soul of Sarah Island’s occupants, and transform it into a haven rather than a hell.   In 1833, the settlement was abandoned after the opening of Port Arthur.
From here, the landscape takes precedence as we cruised quietly up river.   The majestic forest looms in on either side as the waterway narrows.   This is the back-drop for wining and dining and small talk with other tourists at our table over lunch.   It seemed almost an intrusive distraction, but a privilege at the same time.   We passed some canoes well up river – what an amazing experience for them.
Our tour takes another stop alongside a landing in the depths of the forest.  A board-walk gives passengers the opportunity to walk through otherwise dense and impenetrable natural growth.

 Some large snakes sunning themselves in some tree stumps alongside the board-walk caused a bit of a traffic jam on the boardwalk as everyone stopped to gawk at them.   Our guide from the boat seemed to anticipate them, so we suspected that this is a common sun-baking haunt.

Homeward bound, we were very satisfied with our Gordon River cruise.   The day was still beautifully clear and views across to the mountains were magnificent.   The general mood on the boat was relaxed and chatty;   we doubt that there were any disgruntled or dissatisfied passengers on this day.

The next morning we said goodbye to Macquarie Heads, but not before taking some more memories with us.



From here, we were pretty much focussed on the journey to the airport at Launceston by the quickest route.   This took in areas that were, for us, both new territory and old.  The new was mainly across country roads through the small towns of Rosebery and Tullah, and then eastwards to Gowrie Park.  This latter stretch passed just 20 k’s within the entrance to Cradle Mountain.  For the two months that we had been in Tasmania, we have been constantly asked ‘ Have you been to Cradle?’ – no, we haven’t , but we will get there.  We could have made a quick diversion, but decided instead to return when we could give it more time.  In the meantime, we were satisfied with the distant views.

The last stop before Launceston was a return to a favourite township and campsite at Chudleigh.  Chudleigh was one of our first stops after arriving in Tasmania, and ironically, our neighbours on this visit were the same couple that we camped alongside the last time, two months’ previous.  On both occasions, there was only the two vans camped there, so as we confirmed, it is a favourite of theirs as well.   Chudleigh is a proud little hamlet looking across to the Western Tiers on one side, and rolling rural pastures on the other.  It proclaims itself

as Tasmania’s town of roses.  These were in full bloom during our first stay and although the season had changed, the second time around still provided us with some lovely views, and a place to enjoy an outdoor barbeque dinner on a balmier evening.

Parting is such sweet sorrow – we will meet again in this down under paradise!


We made a decision in mid January to have a travel interval so Lyn could make a trip back to Queensland to see her Dad and family since Dad had suffered a stroke in late December and was still recovering in hospital.   Other family members had been supporting Dad and for both he and them  the recovery process had brought some unexpected turns.  It was decided that the best thing was just to be there for a while – in retrospect definitely the right decision.    
Lyn spent a lot of time with Dad, and also spread herself around the family, getting a chance to catch up with all, including some time with Kyle and Colby before they headed back to America, and of course getting to meet new granddaughter Paysen for the first time.  Thanks to Heather and Mike, Kaye and Greg, Kelli and Moray, Lauren and Blair and Matt and Lu for putting Lyn up and helping to get her around, and especially to Dad for permission and trust in loaning his car – not that you were in much in a position to do anything about it – but rest assured, it was looked after.

While the cat’s away…..Kym’s play was accountable and under the watchful eye of travel friends including Mary and Allan whom we had met before at one of our favourite camps at Green’s Beach on the coast north of Launceston.  With a list of chores to do, Kym still managed to play with some families holidaying from Hobart, each of whom it turned out knew someone with a connection to his dastardly past.  With teams-full of kids, the play was mostly ‘back yard’ cricket with drinks intervals, so it passed scrutiny.
Kym did move on to the independent camp site at Batman’s Bridge and practised his photography taking some great shots of this landmark and the Tamar River waterway. 

At Batman’s Bridge campsite, Kym also made new friends and reunited with old, including Roscoe and Chris.  Kym was in his element in this bush setting and especially enjoyed the company during twilight evenings centred round a communal camp fire. 


With Lyn back from tropical Qld, we headed west to the coastal town of Burnie.  A pleasant  surprise – a thriving township with lots to offer and very RV friendly.   A free independent camp-site is set aside in prime position along side Bass Strait.  

With lots to see in this area and some housekeeping to catch up on we ended up enjoying this campsite for the next four nights, again meeting more new friends including Geoff, Sharyn and Sharyn’s son James in their ‘Bob La Bago’ bus.  As happens in Tasmania, we have continued to criss-cross our paths with ‘Bob’ and Co. and enjoyed Geoff and Sharyn’s telling of their stories and antics.

A couple of lookout vantage points of Burnie gave us a better understanding of the extent of this town.  With cruise liners calling in regularly and Seaport freight-ships departing for Melbourne daily, the port is a focal point. 

What we hadn't realised is that from Devonport through to Wynyard, just west of Burnie it is really almost one continual urban and commercial sprawl.  No doubt the locals probably wouldn't appreciate this description as each town along this stretch does have its' own flavour, and there is definitely a bit of parochial pride.  A letter to the editor of The Advocate, written by a Devonport resident complained about 'free-loading ' RV'ers stopping alongside this north coast strip.  It was promptly disclaimed in a response letter by a Penguin resident stating 'stay in your own backyard....we welcome our RV'ers.'  Lyn had her say in a letter to the editor that got into publication as well.
There is a whiskey distillery in Burnie which we felt inclined to check out.  This was of course because it has a great outlook over the Emu River Valley. 
The tour gave us an insight into the distilling process, a breath taking taste test of some very over-proof whiskey, and some interesting tales of the history of the company.  The whisky is branded Hellyer’s  Road.  It has a natty label 'loosely’ depicting its namesake, Henry Hellyer - a pioneering surveyor and explorer known for his resilience and tenacity in carving his way through much of the north western frontiers of Tasmania.  The label also depicts a cattle dog at the heels of this early Aussie character.  We were most disappointed to learn that the dog has no bearing to Mr Hellyer - the cameo of the two just looked good on the label!   Pity - we had all sorts of 'man and his dog' emotions happening - perhaps that was the over-proof at work. 

One of the facts that stayed with us from our tour was the value of taxation payable on the whiskey sitting maturing in the store room - some $8000 per cask!

For something different we visited an Alpaca farm just out of town.  No real surprise to learn that these guys are related to the camel - the Alpacas, that is.  Our host was very tall also, and gave us a friendly and personal demonstration and talk.  Alpaca wool does not have the oily lanolin content of sheep's wool, so preparing the alpaca wool for yarning is a one-step process.
Not far from the Alpaca farm (in fact, just over a hill or two), is Guide Falls.  Interestingly the Alpaca man told us that the Falls should be flowing well today, as his neighbour, Matt wasn't irrigating at the moment.  They were flowing well, and we enjoyed lunch downstream keeping our eye out for the ever elusive platypus – so many habitats, but rarely see. 
From our perspective Burnie is quite progressive compared to many other Tasmanian towns;   there was quite a bit of building either under construction or recently completed.  We were impressed by a new sports complex and the Makers Museum which showcased a range of fine arts and crafts - some artisans at work as we strolled through.  The town was host to the MacDonald’s International Tennis Tournament during our stay.  The pioneer museum was different to any other that we had seen in Tassie as here you experience an indoor life-like historic streetscape of Burnie in the late 1800’s.  Various display fronts depicting shops and homes and incorporating original or authentically reproduced materials using colours and architecture of the area and period.

In fact the effect of this Burnie place had us making comments like, 'maybe this is one Tasmanian town that we could live in......'  We confirmed that statistically it has the mildest winters and longest summers of anywhere in Tassie - and we were swayed no doubt by the beautiful views we had ocean side at our camp.  And then, the winds moved in.

  Qld had just experienced a cyclone and apparently the edge of this travelled south and into our paradise.  Night one saw us up in the wee hours battening down, but not beaten.  Night two saw us up in the wee hours with Lyn holding all her weight on one end of the awning to stop it sailing into Bass Strait while Kym was winding it back in.  The next day brought the rains as well, and a prudent decision was made to move to the next independent campsite at Wynyard show grounds.  Despite our relatively protected location in downtown Wynyard that night we got a battering.  There was little sleep as our van was at this elements' mercy -it was rockin', but there were no romantic goings on... more bordering on a quiet ‘disquiet’.  This was not totally unfounded as further along the coast at the town of Stanley, an A-van had collapsed that night amongst other pandemonium throughout the camp.  The Stanley campsite is also waterside and sits underneath the famous Nut.  When we did arrive there a couple of days later there were tales of lost property caught in the updraught and blown to who knows where.   We were now a like more reserved about our love affair with this area in terms of potential residency.  This ‘temporary delusion’ was sure to end somewhere, especially when in reality, although we have found our Tasmanian feet, we are still sun lovers.

Regardless of the A van blow-out, we loved the campsite at Stanley.    Situated alongside the original wharves which beckoned visiting and local fisher-persons to drop a line over, and with fishing boats coming and going, it was always an interesting vista.  

 A nearby wooden boat builder welcomed visitors at any time his doors were open, and seemed to enjoy his itinerant neighbours.

In the Stanley town-ship, Hursey Seafoods is a prominent establishment and the 'seafood' thought allured us through it's doors – we were thinking of our stomachs of course, and really didn’t anticipate the entertainment and laughs we got. 

Who would have thought we could be so entertained watching the variety of live seafood in Hursey’s massive glass tanks.   Gummy sharks paroled the surface,  and when the staff mentioned that it was nearly time for them to feed them, we checked to see that all their fingers were in tact. 
 One of the locals in the shop having taken in Lyn's mixture of fascination and trepidation, couldn't help but tease the parrot fish, proving beyond doubt that this was one fish that wasn't about to muck about in the finger feeding stakes.

We had heard stories about the massive crabs in this region – up to 15 kgs in weight.  Seeing is believing - right there in this same tank lurking in the corner was 'big crab'.  Definitely overshadows our Qld muddies.
We used Stanley as a base to do some exploring in nearby countryside - some of it Forestry, some very fertile cultivated areas where onion growing seemed most prevalent, as well as rolling hill pastures with both sheep and cattle. 
 As is our want, we try to find 'the roads less travelled.  Over the next couple of days, travelling a few of these, we unearthed some surprises, not to mention some mildly unsure moments of not being sure if it was 'less' travelled or 'lost' travelled.  Among the surprises we uncovered magnificent views, and some interesting conversations and revelations, and a bit of adventure and mischief. 

Tasmania has just a few trees – and amongst them a few 'Big’ ones.  This one we found in the Dip River Forest Reserve.
Down the road is the Dip Falls - not satisfied to do the look-down from the road above, and satisfied at the prospect of walking off some 'happy hour kilojoules, we took the 150 steps down to get the close up view of the almost symmetrical rock formation behind the falls and 'Dip' our toes in the water.

150 steps back up! - Energy restoration required, and voila! - up the road is Blue Hills Honey Farm - taste testing time.   Nicola and  Dorothy were our entertaining hosts.  Curious to know what conditions are required to make a good year for honey yields, back came the quick retort from Nicola - 'more honey than bills to

pay' - same, same for most of us I guess.  Nicola did say that they were yet to discover the full extent of loss from the effect of the big winds over the past few days through destruction of flowers.  We bought ourselves jars of Leatherwood and Fennel varieties to assist in their honey over bills equation;   we’re still trying to do the sums in relation to our own equations, let alone the happy hour, steps, fructose/glucose kilos - mmmm, maybe we need to sleep on it.

Everywhere we drove there was evidence of the recent wind destruction.   When we arrived at Rocky Cape it was like looking at nature mocking us with a ‘butter wouldn’t melt in my mouth’ look.  The strait was calm and the bluest blue, and these craggy but pink hued rock formations stretched out into the water like pointers.   We often comment that the camera just doesn’t do justice to what we see before us.   Look at these views from Rocky Cape and imagine it even more awesome.    

In Tassie our English forebears in their ignorance and arrogance deliberately set about the deprivation and destruction of the livelihood and lives of the aboriginals during their first 70 years of settlement.    At Rocky Cape, there are several sea caves that were once seasonal homes to Aboriginal people.   Along with the incredible ‘beauty and beast’ nature of this wild coastal scenery,  we couldn’t help but feel a sense of reverence and respect for these lost people as we walked the silent track to the face of one of these caves.

A bit further south of Stanley is what is known as the Tarkine – a mixture of wild and rugged landscape and rivers, and conservation and Forestry Tasmania managed areas.   Later we toured right around this amazing area, and back north via the Western Explorer – an experience that will remain with us forever.  For the moment, while based in Stanley we explored some of the northern edges in the Patrol, again taking in some isolated forestry roads.   We never tire of these roads, and enjoy to just stop, get out of the car, and listen and feel…… and sometimes just be big kids.

We have found that Forestry workers love a yarn and John shown here in the photo below was no exception.  We lost track of time talking to John and so we had a very late lunch – probably about the time John was knocking off.   The word ‘green’ is enough to get many Tasmanians going, but when talking to Forestry workers be prepared for a particularly long and impassioned response.   John was very sincere in assuring us of his commitment to the environment, and also of Forestry Tasmania’s in preserving old forest growth.   He spoke at length about the extensive environmental impact studies that are undertaken by forestry to ensure that eco-balance is maintained, citing studies on impacts on such things as eagles, butterflies and natural flora.   He was adamant that their re-generation activities which include preserving and replanting the exact same species endemic to each area for later replanting, results in more dense and healthy forest growth than before forestation.    For not the first time, we were told that there had been deliberate misrepresentation and market sabotage by environmentalists that had seen cancelled contracts for sales of Tasmanian timber to the English for use in construction for the Olympic Games, and also for sales to Japan.   The idea that misrepresentation of this scale may have occurred and the repercussions on a State that to us is so rich, yet clearly struggling, certainly had us thinking.   We did get on to other topics and we were a bit bemused when John told us he had lived in Wynyard for 12 years now, and just the other Sunday took his first trip to Cradle Mountain - about 120kms from his home.
When we did move on to our lunch destination, we were enchanted by the views at Sumac Lookout and Kannunah Bridge.
Back at our Stanley camp-site, Happy Hour awaited where Queenslanders seemed to gravitate together, among them Avril and Ken, Sue and Dion (travelling with their 3 young daughters) and Les and Yvonne.   
That night, the winds stirred up again and with very fresh memories, we decided to move on from this idyllic calm weather campsite that could become a Mr Hyde in a few short hours.   During our stay in Stanley, the wind had never really dissipated enough to entice us to do the climb to the top of the Nut, but this may be a return destination before leaving Tas.  We slept under the Nut, and we looked at it from all angles and distances, but are yet to look down from it.

Our intent had been to travel in an anti-clockwise direction around the north-east corner of Tasmania.  The forecast had us thinking it would be more prudent to travel in reverse, and as it turned out it was a good decision – we enjoyed warm and mild days, undisturbed by any wild winds.
 Waratah, our first stop on this circle, met all expectations from descriptions given by other travellers.  The caravan park, council run in the centre of town, was friendly, grassy, reasonably level, and offered a free laundry!  - the latter a real rarity.   Waratah is an old mining town that has numerous old preserved buildings.   Adding to its’ appeal right in the centre of town is a spectacular waterfall, a small lake, and walks and views to the current mine workings. 

Beside the caravan park is an interactive “Stamping & Washing” shed.  Push the button, and an original four stamp ‘stamping machine’ starts up.  You can watch it crush ore bearing rock.  It is a very noisy machine – must have had a bit of a profound effect on its’ operator’s hearing over time.   Around most of the old mining sites in Tassie, you can often see old abandoned machinery and relics of stampers such as this can be found at many of them.  The local community had dismantled this one from its’ original site nearby, and rebuilt it for this display.
Likewise in the park, the playground equipment consists of old mining equipment.   Is this a trummel or a tunnel – doesn’t matter had fun anyway.
Further down town are original old halls and stores, (most long unused for their original purpose, and  many now used for residential accommodation) the century old Bischoff hotel, and the original post office. 

Lake Waratah proved particularly exciting.  During our evening walk Kym spotted movement in the water -platypus!!.... then another……and another!  Following their ripples and emerging for air, we counted at least 12.  Fascinated, we were absorbed in their graceful agility.  Since arriving in Tasmania, we had each individually had just quick glimpses, despite lots of seeking to sight some platypus – this by comparison was a feast.

 Next morning, we had a drive through some unsure territory – very isolated areas and dirt road. We wanted an early start, so the alarm was set to get us up and going.  We were heading for Corinna – only about 80kms away, but we weren’t sure of the territory towing the van and also wanted to have as much as the day as possible to explore Corinna – the brochures made it look unusual to say the least. 
 It was good bitumen road as far as the mining community of Savage River, but from there it is “white gravel” - about 30kkms of it, narrow in some places, and winding through mountainous country. 

One thing standard about most Tassie roads – look at a map for the distance, then triple its’ estimated time as the roads wind their way up and down mountains  and valleys.  On mountain road and forestry tracks, we found that a good average speed is about 45 kph.  That’s average speed!   Towing the caravan only adds to the concentration -  plenty of scope for improving driving skills  (not to mention listening skills whilst listening to the narration from the navigator). 
The isolation of this region is its’ main attraction.  It does evoke a seesaw of thoughts and emotions.  The tension that comes from the driving concentration, is outweighed by the calming effects of the surroundings – absolute sheer peace and solitude.  There is also the knowledge that any assistance, if needed, could be days away as very little traffic passes this way.  In some areas phone communication is zero.  Overriding all, is the beauty of the forest -  amazing!   We are more convinced that Forestry Tasmania deserves a good pat on the back for their part in managing and maintaining this environment. 
Corinna is a small village on the banks of the Pieman River.  Its’ history dates back to the 1870’s, with a gold rush and at one time a population of 2,500 at its’ peak after a 7.5kg gold nugget was found in the area.  By 1900, the town was abandoned, and the one permanent resident for nearly 40 years after was a ferryman overseeing activities at the Pieman River crossing.   A punt has been in operation at the same site since, and today still operates as a road to and/or from Corinna to Zeehan in the south. 

What we discovered when we got to Corinna was that it consists of this punt, a boat ramp, a tourist boat, a pub, camp ground, small cottages for staff, other cottages for guests, (most of these being surviving huts in situ or relocated from early times - that’s about it – miles of forest as far as the eye can see and the feet can take you, a river, and all the isolation anyone could want.

When we checked in for a van site, it became evident that we should have booked first.  The sites for our size rig were very limited, and the two offered to us were difficult to get in to.  We weren’t prepared not to stay and take in this unique destination further;   it was also a long and arduous drive to the next campsite on the far north west coast – that was definitely a drive best left for a fresh start tomorrow.  So we sought permission from the office (National Parks and Wildlife) to park overnight in the boat ramp car park.  We were sanctioned to stay with the provision that we weren’t settling in for the duration – just one night (normal unpowered site fee of $20.00 applied) – we loved the spot, and our view of river. 

Once settled, we took in the village and some short walks.  History boards brought images of old times and rugged existence and hardship.

The Pieman River and its’ surrounding pristine forests are certainly the focus of this settlement and there is a commercial river cruise available to tourists.   We had only had our boat off on one other occasion in Tasmania, and this opportunity just looked too good to miss.  Although we had limited fuel in the outboard tank (Kym’s bad) we took a tentative ‘tinny’ cruise of our own – both up & down stream. 

For want of better words - absolutely fantastic!  We struggle to describe what it was like.  We shut the outboard down so we could drift for a while and just take it in.  Wide calm waters, dark with tannin, flowing to the ocean – we were awestruck by the birdlife, the trees, the wilderness, the isolation – we felt as though we were the only people within hundreds of miles. 
 Overwhelmed and humbled by the boat trip experience, we plunged ourselves back into reality with Happy Hour at the pub.   As we arrived at the hotel,  a group of motorbike riders arrived in town.  In this town the pub ‘was the town’.  The first biker we spoke to had eyes like we’ve never seen before.  The group consisted of a dozen or so riders who had arrived in Devonport that morning.  They were trekking around Tassie for the weekend!  They had not been aware that the road from Savage River  was gravel, and were reeling from that part of the ride.  They were all on either touring bikes or sports bikes.  None were on bikes designed for the gravel road they had just traversed.  A coffee hit, and repairs for one that scored a puncture, and they were on their way across the punt – heading for Strahan that night, a bit over a 100 kms away.  Hope they all made it in one piece. 
During Happy Hour two large tinnies turned up, obviously out for a good time.  One launched, loaded and departed.  Both were about 18’ – 20’ long - each with two big outboards of about 175hp on the back!  The second launched & waited.  When his team arrived, the loading began -  numerous large eskies, a quad bike, a trail bike, a car motor, a lawn mower, a hedge trimmer and various other items.  Five guys, heaps of machinery, fishing gear and a big boat - what a weekend! – as one Tasmanian once told us, ‘they think big down here’.
 There are a few bush-walks to do at Corinna, but we wanted to do one in particular - the Huon Pine walk.  Not long, about 20 minutes, but one that looked interesting.  Hungry for dinner after Happy Hour, we flagged it to do before we departed in the morning – as turned out, we couldn’t have picked a better time.  It was a slightly overcast greeting, but that only added to the views we enjoyed - a mirror clam river with reflections to die for.  The walk was everything we had hoped, and then some.

 By 8 o’clock we were on our way on the Western Explorer - about 66 kms of gravel road through more isolated wilderness.  This tour is described in the brochure as ‘narrow, with tight bends and steep climbs that are rough and rocky in sections; instability can occur on some road edges – allow extra time, slow down and drive with extra care’ – it was all of the above, and with the van, what an adventure we put ourselves in for!    About an hour in (and about 25 - 30 k’s), we came across a spot where we could pull off to the side.  Here we decided that the best thing to do to prolong this experience was to take out the chairs, cook a hot breakfast, and enjoy.    

Ah the views! – from this small rise where we parked we had a 360° views – we were able to see where we had driven, and where we were heading.  The ambience of this wilderness isolation was spine tingling.   

Or was that phone tingling???  -  We couldn’t believe that we actually got a phone call in this area.  Lyn’s sister Heather managed to get through to us – Lyn attempted to describe what we were experiencing to her on the phone - we just keep running out of appropriate adjectives.

Continuing on, the country changed the further north we headed, from heavily tree-ed to low scrub with hardly any trees, and finally coastal vegetation.  Only after our breakfast stop and closer to the coastal strip did we pass two cars.  The 66 kms including breakfast stop took us about four hours, but  this time passed unnoticed. 
Sundown Point is the first of a few beachside camps that we drove into on the north west coast.  A camp highly recommended to us.   After a refreshing walk on the beach, we decided to move further north.

There are several inroads to small beach destinations, some with camp sites, dotted all along this coastal strip.  Signs to the ‘Edge Of The World’ caught our imagination, as it did many others – it was a busy spot with vans and motorhomes trying to manoeuvre in and out of a small turning circle.  

This ‘Edge of the World’ is on the outskirts of the township of Arthur River - a tourist destination more frequently travelled to via a smaller north-west loop than the one we had taken.  Brian Inder, known as a Tasmanian tourism pioneer, coined the ‘Edge of the World’ for this site, and also wrote a poem on this theme.  The poem is set in stone on a plaque overlooking the sea - and it is not too difficult to imagine that this indeed could be the edge. 

Our travelling day ended at Green Point camp, just on the coast near the township of Marrawah.  A small campsite which, when we arrived, already had about ten caravans and motorhomes crammed in.   After careful consideration and a bit of consulting with those camped, we squeezed in as well.   

Not satisfied with reaching the ‘Edge of the World’, not far down the road from our Green Point camp was the western most point of Tasmania, aptly named West Point.  As our aim is to go to each extremity of the island, just ‘cause we can', this was not to be missed!  We did our utmost to stand at the most western point at West Point. 

Not much different to the rest of the west coast - wind blown, storm ravaged and mostly isolated. 

There were some keen board surfers nearby, and we also ran into some like travellers out to achieve the same triumph.  

This area's rugged beauty is what sets this part of the coastline apart from the north & east coast.  Hopefully our pictures can do more justice to any description we can give.

A lone Pacific Gull standing sentinel stimulated Kym’s quirky sense of humour – with recent cut-back in Australia’s defence budget, this may be our sole coastal defence keeping watch. 

 Back at Green Point we prepared to settle in for the night when an invitation was received to come over to share Happy Hour with our close neighboured campers – as a group, they had the previous night up on us, and had established a familiarity that meant we walked into lots of unrestrained banter.  We took a little time to get into their rhythm, but before long Kym fell into form, participating in taking the 'piss out of one another', as well as sharing information and experiences.  Happy ‘Hour’ is a lie – it was after ten that evening before we returned to the van!!!
Next morning we moved off the west, and on to the north coast, to Montagu campsite – apparently a former caravan park that is no longer.  It’s now council managed with an on-site caretaker.  The camp has a casual approach, and bush camp feel - just how we like it.  While setting up, we were however warned by another camper to look out for scorpions! – fortunately we didn’t see any.

We spent some time doing clean up and house chores.  Although there was lots of dust from our dirt road travels on the exterior of the van, the inside was totally unscathed, which pleased us immensely, and Lyn even more cause she could have a cuppa while Kym cleaned up ‘that mess outside’. 

Montagu was a very appealing place and the peaceful feel, had us making sure there was time left over after cleaning for reading, testing the hammocks, and just taking life easy for a while.

Having been to the eastern and western most points of Tasmania, we had two extremities to go.    From Montagu, we were able to achieve our third when we toured the property of Woolnorth, touring a wind farm at the same time.  Woolnorth started life in 1825  as a land grant with the proviso that the land was used to farm beef cattle.  After initial success, more land was granted to the then Van Dieman’s Land Company.  This company still exists, but over the years has changed hands a few times and is now owned by a NZ organisation.  Although the size of the property is now a lot smaller than in its heyday, it’s still a vast property.

 The demand for electricity has seen some changes in the use of the land.  Tassie’s west coast is in the line of the “Roaring 40s”, noted for wild wind storms, and Woolnorth on this north-east tip of the island is no stranger to these winds.  The next bit of land westwards  is South America, so the wind has plenty of time to build up its potence - a prime place for a wind farm.  Tas-hydro purchased 32 hectares of the Woolnorth property and has developed the farm.  We spent a morning touring this and overlooking the wild cliffs towards both the west and northern most point. 
The wind farm currently consists of 62 towers that provide electricity to Tasmania’s main grid.  These towers are ominous overhead, at 60 metres tall.  Each has three blades, 32 metres long, that turn a turbine on top of each tower.  These turbines are each equal in size to a 50 seater bus.  Fully computerised, they follow the wind and operate in the slightest breeze to up to 90 kms per hour.  At this high end of the scale, they automatically feather and shut down.  We had anticipated that there would be a lot of noise.  While we were there – it was a very mild wind day - these machines were so quiet – a faint whisp of the blade through the air and the quiet hum of the turbine working.

Cows graizing nearby were unperturbed and according to our guide who was ‘farm bred’ this was the norm -  in her experience the cows would not be there if it perturbed them.

Our bus tour took us close to the towers.  It was amazing to be able to stand right under one of these things while it was operating. 

A visit to an information centre provided great views over the ocean with the added bonus of knowing we were breathing some of the purest air in the world.  The air in the part of the world has not been contaminated in any way as it has not touched land since South America!  

Next on the tour was Suicide Bay.  History has it that at the time of the Tasmanian round up of Aboriginals back about 1870, the locals  knew the Aboriginals would gather in this vicinity land for ceremonial purposes.  One night during a ceremony, it is said that the local whites chased them onto this piece of land, giving them no-where to go.  The Aboriginals where either slaughtered ,  or captured and taken away - another dark piece of our history.  The place is hauntingly beautiful.

For morning tea the tour takes you to a grand house where the Managing Director of Van Dieman’s Land Company lives when he is at Woolnorth.  All the timber to build the house was brought out from the USA by a previous owner and the home is very much a museum of both the company and local history.  It also has prime views overlooking the property.  

After leaving the tour and on our way back to our campsite at Montagu we called into Robbins Island.  We had heard about this place where the local cattleman drove the cattle from the mainland to the Island at low tide.  Something worth a look at.
 At Burnie the campsite at Cooee Point at Burnie called.  It was a long drive across dropping into Smithton looking for lunch on what turned out, unbeknown to us to be a public holiday, was no joy.  On the highway at Rocky Cape while reviewing a new camp site which happened to be at Rocky Cape Tavern we ended up lingering on over a lunch that was especially prepared for us -prawn cutlets.  Mmmm.   When we did make Burnie we fell into a ‘Queenslander’s’ Happy Hour.  Another hour that extended into two, or was it three.   We were conscious of the want for an early start as finally tomorrow after three months on the island, we were heading to Tasmania’s best known destination.


Since arriving, we have been constantly asked, “have you done Cradle yet?”   “No, not yet, but we will get there soon”.   We had seen Cradle Mountain from various distances and angles, but we hadn’t been ‘there’.  Now we were about to see what all the fuss was about.  We had previous advice to park the car in the first car-park and from there take the free shuttle to where ever we needed to go.   Given that there is only one road in, with stops all along the way, the shuttle will drop you off or pick you up from any number of pick up points between the entrance and Dove Lake.
There are such a lot of choices of walks of various distances  - we decided to walk around Dove Lake.  It was described as an easy 2-3 hour walk around a the picturesque lake situated at the base of Cradle Mount.  Our bus driver, (another Queenslander who came down for a 3 week holiday and forgot to go back), entertained us with quips from the local history and from his own experiences, educating us all about the environment we were about to experience. 

The first thing that struck ,us apart from the mountain, was the clarity of the lake water.  We are so used to seeing dirty lake water on the mainland.  Tassie seems to have that problem fixed. The only discolouration of the water is due to the tannin from the local vegetation which leaves  the water a clear brown colour. 

The walk itself was relatively easy as described and is probably the most popular of a half dozen walks in the Cradle end of the park.  The park does extend down to Lake Saint Clair approximately 50kms south east as the crow flies.   As we circled Dove Lake there is a couple of side walks off that take you down to the lake shore where small isolated beaches converge with the lake's edge - these quite lovely. 
The walk surface varied - concrete to expanded mesh pathways - most were timber boardwalk, easier on the feet and ankles – something we’re both mindful of.   Throughout the time we were rather enthralled, particularly by the majesty of this one mountain – we captured it a million times from every angle.  We did love it, but at the same time we have been fortunate to have the time to explore so many beautiful areas of Tasmania that we counted this as amongst them, not necessarily the 'top' of them.
Lyn’s sister Kaye had told us about the Cradle Tasmanian Devil display that should not be missed.  Well, apart from encountering the little ‘devil-like man who presented’ it was all we expected and more (our presenter was a very personable, attractive and informative young lady – the only devil-like that may have arisen was from the men in the audience).   She gave explanations about the life, times and history of the Devil, as well as some myths discredited.  Her session was not just informative and educational, but given the projected outcomes for the Devils in their combat against the facial tumour disease, was also emotive.   A problem mainly on the eastern side of the state, the condition, once contracted, (and easily passed on from one to the other) it is 100% terminal.  

Devil feeding time was fun to watch.  Everything about the habits that had just been explained to us, we were able to witness first hand.  Our host, Nicky,  explained that the bucket full of Wallaby parts is supplied by a professional hunter under government licence. 

As we all gathered around one of the enclosures Nicky picked up a devil, and showed that despite their appearance and "reputation",  these are really very  gentle creatures. We even had the opportunity to have a pat of the devil she held.

 They sound ferocious, look fierce but like many of us, only when food is involved.  Nicky described them as being "noses on legs".  They can smell a feed from a great distance.  Their antics when there is two or more around a kills is quite comical.  All noise and the tug of war that appears to be motivated only by greed, is actually the use of each other to pull the body apart to make it more manageable.  Although, if one can steal a whole or large part of the kill, it will!!! 
 It was a truly amazing experience to view these animals.  In the same compound, there is a collection of quolls that were up for feeding as well.  To look at these animals, one would think that butter wouldn't melt in their mouths. 

Wrong!  Quolls would have to be one of the most ferocious feeders we have ever seen.  Don't put your fingers too close, a quoll will not hesitate to eat it still on your hand!   After this exhibit, it will be difficult for us to find a better Tasmanian devil display, and there are several scattered over the island.  Our experience here added to our Cradle day immensely. 


                                     Hobart bound!
With Matt and Larissa and family flying into Hobart for four days, we left Burnie taking the quickest and easiest way from top to bottom of the island via the Bass Highway and then down the Midland Highway.   We set up camp about 70 kms north of Hobart at Oatlands - a very serene setting alongside a lagoon, also home to a wide variety of bird life.
At Hobart we returned to the RV camp at the Show grounds - familiar territory as we had spent nearly 2 weeks here over Christmas-New Year.   We thought it had been busy over the silly season, over the week or so we stayed here again we couldn't believe again how many vans and Motorhomes they could cram in.  Once the family arrived we didn't spend much time on site anyway, and it proved again a convenient and central location to get around from.  We had intended to stay a couple of nights in the same park where Matt and Larissa had booked a cabin, but the sites there turned out to be too small to manoevre our van in and out - disappointed at first, but as it turned out, it was no biggy.  The cabins were a good deal for Matt and Lu, and not far away.
Big excitement to greet family coming in at Hobart Airport.  It was Lyn's birthday - made it very special - thanks guys.  Cooper kept telling us he was going to 'Tasmanya', and we kept telling him he was in 'Tasmanya'.  Kym got to meet our grandaughter Paysen Daphne for the first time - now just over 3 months old, and gorgeous.
The weather had been pretty good to us for the past week or so, but as luck would have it, it turned rainy, overcast and one of the coldest February birthdays Lyn has seen in....  just a few years.  It didn't bother us too much, and in fact seemed to be favouring our sightseeing the whole time Matt and Larissa were here.  Much awaited highlight was the Broncos-Storm game at North Hobart Football Club. 
Matt was blown away by the 'old time' stadium - as we keep saying, being in Tasmania is like stepping back in time.   They were hoping to get about 5,000 people attend, but as the afternoon rolled on it was announced that the attendance was 11,700 - great support for a Rugby League game in AFL territory. 

As we have discovered since we have been here, Rugby league is played here in the summer months.  The local grand final was the preliminary game, as well as a women's touch Footy game. 

We had a ball, and as could only happen in Hobart, mid second half saw a streaker on the field for quite some time, doing somersaults before running around and back over the fence into the crowd.  Obviously a Storm supporter as Storm had just scored - as they did a couple too many, just beating the Broncos home, just!

The next day we went to Richmond just to the north east of Hobart - a historical town, particularly noted for its convict built bridge - the oldest still in use in Australia - and much to Larissa's interest, where ghostly figures are said to haunt.  We checked out the bridge (no ghostly figures today) and lunched in the park nearby, but not before visiting Zoodoo, just out of town.
Zoodoo was a great hands-on experience, and it was especially great for all us adults, to see Cooper, who is usually reluctant to get too close, enjoy the hands-on as well.  He enjoyed the animal nursery, kangaroos and deer especially - not quite so much the foracity of the emus or llamas - and those camels - they're just a bit too curious!

That night we enjoyed dinner together at Hog's Breath -good choice after a day at the Zoo!  Lyn got a bit carried away with the birthday dessert. 

Matt and Larissa will tell you that we have gotten into the habit of sleeping in since leaving home, but this is simply not true!  Just because they arrived at our van once at 10am and we were still PJ'd - we have a habit of turning our hot water off overnight to save gas, and in that occasion had forgot to turn it back on (when we got up early that was).  Anyway on day 3 of their visit we were at their cabin at 8 am - as arranged!  We were all off to Port Arthur that day and with about 80 kms each way, we wanted to get as much as possible out of our day. 
Port Arthur left none of us disappointed.   At the entrance building are a variety of interactive displays that introduce you to convict life and times.  Each of us were allotted a playing card that represented the identity of a specific convict.  As we went through the displays, we learnt more about that person, their crime and their fate.  Uncannily, Kym's was a sailor, and mine worked in the printing trade - as my father did. 

 A guide gave us a walking tour of some of the grounds, pointing out the various buildings and remains and telling some of their history - he had obvious pride in his role and the place, was entertaining and informative, and it gave us a good intro to what on first sight is a massive area, also proudly manicured and presented.  We took a short boat tour around the port and then spent the remainder of the day taking in the various buildings and ruins - all in awe and totally fascinated. 

On the way back to Hobart, we stopped at Eaglehawk Neck to peer through some of the old guardhouse buildings, and to ponder on what it was like when the dogline kept a vigil guard against escapees.
Day four was on us too quickly, but Matt wasn't going anywhere without a visit to Cadbury's.  The tours are not what they apparently used to be, and we were soon to find out that there is little of the process now carried out in Australia.  We strolled through a small museum of yester-year exhibits of chocolate packets, moulds, machinery, Cadbury ads and mascots, and watched a bit of a stiff presentation showing the Choc making process - Larissa summed the presentation up pretty well when she said she felt like we were doing a job orientation.  We did get a free choc block and Freddo - and were then ushred into a chocolate 'seconds' store - where one could go beserk, but we were all very good.
Farewells are sad.  Matt and Larissa had taken to Hobart so much - they vowed to come back to take in more.  Together we'd had some great times and made some new memories.  We really enjoyed sharing a bit about our new lifestyle with them.   Cooper handled it all so well, and undoubtedly will retain some memory of his time in 'Tasmanya', and have more of a mental picture of what Nan and Pa's travel is like.  It was a beautiful stage to spend so much time with Paysen, and as parents, Matt and Larissa proved that with so much to squeeze in a short time, the kids in a strange place and routines out of whack - they did, and do a more than admirable job - good on you guys - so glad you got to Hobart.





After Matt and Lu left we were ready to go into new territory to the south of Hobart.  Today was an unusual day - we didn't leave camp until after noon.  Kym spent the morning picking up stuff from Bummings, while Lyn continued with a heap of admin – handyman jobs and bills still need doing on the road.  Regardless of where you are in life, some things still need attention.   It is also a standout day in our memories of Tas for the single reason that the temperatures reached 38 degrees; moving camp at midday was not necessarily a good decision.  We’re sure that 38 degrees in Queensland doesn’t cause the same sweat up and flushed faces. 

The run from Hobart to Franklin was not much different to any other in Tassie.  Winding roads weave   up and down as we skirt around ranges surrounding Mount Wellington.  We hadn't even got out of the metro area before the A6 exercises the Patrol and van with a prolonged steep uphill climb, followed by the inevitable downward run.  Franklin is a small riverside town that has mostly seen better days.  In fact the whole region has suffered setback for some years, initially due to the government allowing the importation of cheaper foreign apples, and more recently as a result of greenies successfully forcing closure of timber trading.   As both industries have declined, much of the population has moved to other places to find work.  We wonder if the decision makers of the two parties really think, or care about the repercussions of their actions.
Our Franklin camp-site was on the shores of the Huon River – a wide, deep waterway that once saw shipping of all sorts plying its’ waters.   To get a feel for the area, we checked out the Information Centre at nearby Huonville.  Since we had been in Tassie we had been checking out the variety of local timber cheese boards,  there are trillions on the tourist market - we are obviously hard to please.  (Not too heavy or big for van storage, looks appeal, and costs right).   We are both rather in love with the look of Sassafras – so here at Huonville, a small, rough edged piece of Sassafras found itself a new home in our van.   Armed with the usual fistful of leaflets provided from the friendly info centre staff, we had all the tools we needed to speculate about plans for getting the best out of the region over a wine and Tassie cheese - served on our new board, no less.  On dusk, we took a stroll around town and along the foreshore.    The temperatures were still around 38 degrees – much to the chagrin of the locals – they’re all talking about the heat wave!!!   We called it heaven, until late that night when we found it difficult to sleep!  The only night in Tassie that we have sat out under the stars until very late, and then went to bed with windows open! 

Day two of the "heat wave" and the local markets were on at the old Palis Theatre.  The markets were small with just a few stalls selling locally grown fruit and veg, but for a good cause as profits go towards the grand old theatre’s restoration.   
The fresh vegies were the go.  Everything appeared to be just picked.  For something different we tried an unusual type of potato (and we have seen more versions of the potato, and heard more discussions about the virtues of this type or that in Tas then ever before).  This one was small and purple skinned - tasted great roasted.  If we ever find them again, they’ll find their way onto our menu. 

Further down town we were amused by a sign in the local pizza shop window – when it’s too hot to cook pizzas in Franklin, you just shut up shop.  An example of the casualness in Tas that we loved.
First on our ‘look at’ list for this region was the Apple Museum. 
What a laugh we got from a demonstration given by a woman who obviously loved her job, and was also very knowledgeable about the industry and region.  She related a number of stories about her experiences in the area and the industry, but the one that we remember was to do with her own family.  Every year, her parents would attend where-ever any of their nine children were (even as adults) on each of

their birthdays, to deliver a birthday cake – a marvellous demonstration of parental dedication in itself.   On one birthday while she was working at the Museum and conducting her first ever ‘apple’ presentation, she was mindful of her parents watching from the back of the audience.   As they were doing some quiet sniggering and digging of ribs during her talk, she found herself wondering what she’d said wrong or out of turn.  Both her parents also knew the local apple industry and history inside

out.  She was demonstrating a particular old apple peeling machine, the use of which had apparently been a male domain.  Conveyed from the machine, the apples were picked up by the next in line, whose job it was to trim any remaining peel – this job was usually mastered by a woman.  She made the comment that in this process and given quotas attached to  time and pay, the woman peeler would have held a bit of power of the guy operating the machine if his job wasn’t up to scratch.  Unbeknown to her, these were the jobs that her mother and father held at the time their relationship began.   Nine children later, who could say who ultimately held the balance of power.  The way she told this story and others was very entertaining.   The museum itself is a credit to the region and the industry.
We had heard a bit about the Tahune Air Walk west of the town of Geeveston, so our next excursion was to see it for ourselves.   Tahune is an area of regenerated forest along the Tahune River which is being managed as an educational and tourism asset.  The air walk itself is part of a network of walks which includes two swing bridges.   
Kym took the walk alone.  While climbing into the forest canopy, he was able to have a birds-eye view of the surrounding forest and river below.   Lots of superfluous words could be used describing the experience and this view.   Suffice to say that both the air walk and the return to the cafe via the suspension bridges is something everyone should check out.  These photos will give you some idea.

Back at Franklin, the warm weather gave us another opportunity to just sit outside and enjoy, until during the night, the temperatures dropped dramatically.  So much for us thinking we were in for warm barmy days, and gradually lowering temperatures.  Instead, it switched from very hot to very cool, and the pizza shop re-opened.
The following day, we returned to Geeveston to investigate a new independent camp, and take a better look at this town.  Geeveston is an old timber town that is currently under pressure - another town being forced to close to keep the green factions happy.   Geeveston is trying to fight back to maintain their community by looking at alternative methods of attracting money and people into the town.  The development of an RV stop is one way that they are trying to achieve this.  The town is easily by-passed en route to either Tahune to the west, or those travelling to the bottom tip of Tassie just a little to the south.  Big shame to miss it, as it was full of pleasant surprises.  
This very clean looking place has a Heritage Trail, a magnificent Forest & Heritage Centre, is traveller friendly, and there is obvious evidence of pride in its’ origins and spirit.   The Trail includes carved timber statues of past town founders and significant characters with info panels telling their story, the most common thread being determination and resilience.   The Southern Design Centre is the southern-most furniture design and manufacturing centre in Australia.  It also houses local craft artisans – a great way of bringing the community together and fostering creativity.   

We had a chat to some lovely ladies who were obviously enjoying each others’ company, and sketching and daubing with a variety of mediums;   we also enjoyed the home-baked pies and one of the best hot coffees we’d had for a while in the Centre’s cafe.
 As it turned out Geeveston central also has a range of eateries and interesting shops, hosted by friendly and welcoming people.  Since we had already lunched, we passed by most, except for the lolly shop.   Couldn’t resist, and got supplies for, mmmmm, must be a few months.
On a healthier note, the Huon valley area is rich with opportunities to pick up fresh fruit and veggies from local farm vendors.  We took every opportunity to refresh our produce supplies before heading south to Cockle Creek.  We planned an "early" start and set the alarm for 7:30.  We still haven’t agreed who got it wrong, but it woke us at 6:00!  We did agree to use the time usefully - a cuppa in bed, and we were still ready to leave on time.  It also gave us the vantage of views across the Huon river early morning, they were something else. 
We had an appointment to meet with Samara and James who are active members of the Geeveston Community group and we were interested to hear what they had to say.  Talking to this local couple reinforced an understanding of the genuine fears they have for the future of their own young family and others like them.   Eight family men had been laid off from the local timber operations in recent weeks after the loss of a contract to supply to Japan.   It is said that the greens misrepresented facts to the Japanese company.  Samara and James have a small and struggling business, but their energy and determination mirrors what we had read yesterday in the town’s history pages.  At the time we were talking to them, the local Council preferred the proposed campsite be utilised for the construction of a Motel.  Undeterred, Samara and other members of the committee are pressing ahead as they firmly believe that an RV campsite will be more successful and beneficial than a Motel - we will do what we can to support them. 
Cockle Creek is only about 90 odd kms drive south of our Franklin campsite.  But as with most Tassie short touring drives, there are always places worth stopping to look at along the way.   Today it was the town of Dover for morning tea, overlooking the bay and some quiet, serene and beautiful views.
A bit further south is Tasmania’s Southport – a bit quieter than the Qld one we are familiar with - more a locality than a town – lots of houses and huts straddling the coastline, and a pub.  This pub boasts the rightful claim of being the most southern pub in Australia.   We did stop here on our way back at a more ‘beer friendly’ hour and enjoyed a chat with the very welcoming host, an ex-Queenslander who determinedly ducked out of view when our camera came out.
From Southport, we travelled to the Ida Bay Train Station.  Here the locals have ensured the preservation of an original narrow gauge tramway that was used to carry limestone in the late 1800’s.  Volunteers coordinate a 7 km tourist train journey to the bay.   We did out bit to support their effort by lunching here on the way back up, but for today we were on a mission to get to Cockle Creek another 20kms of dirt road southwards.    We found the ‘Creek’ campsite a bit congested, and back-tracked a few kms, to another site beside a boat ramp at Catamaran.  The ground was a bit rough, but there was plenty of sun exposure for the solar system, we could use the genny if needed, and enjoy a camp fire, not to mention unimpeded water views; there was phone reception, and it was quiet.  Then along came Brendan.

Bren turned up with his Hilux ute, swag and a few other minimal bits n pieces for a quiet couple of days in the bush.   All he was missing was his mate, a boat and someone else to talk to, and talk he could.  Tasmania being a particularly small world, his mate turned out to be James.  James we had befriended back at Franklin where he acts as caretaker doing nightly rounds collecting camp fees.  Some common language shared between Kym and Bren, and it wasn’t long before they realised that they were both ex navy.   What's more, Bren was also an ex Junior Recruit from HMAS Leeuwin.  Kym and Bren’s time there back in the early 70’s overlapped.   From there, the rapport was cemented.    A couple of days of laughs, boat trips, fishing, and finding further common interests ensued.   Bren and James - if you read this, thanks for the company and hospitality – it always adds another dimension when we gain from the experience and perspectives of locals, even more so in an atmosphere of fun and good humour.  The flat head were well enjoyed, and we have some great Cockle Creek / Franklin memories. 

While at Catamaran, we used the camp as a base to take on some walks.  Tas Tourism produces a popular brochure listing 60 ‘Great Short Walks’ – we eventually managed to complete 26 on this list, and several others that weren’t. 

Today we were taking the South Cape Bay walk which forms the southern end of the 80km Overland Track; we were content to get to South Cape, the southern-most accessible point of Tassie.  This was the last of our ‘extreme point’ goals, having already done east, west and north.   The walk is graded ‘easy’, with estimated time of four hours return.  Easy, yes - lots of nice long flat stretches of boardwalk through marshland as well as interesting climbs both rock and sand. 

But, we couldn’t have done it any quicker than the 5 ½ hours, including ½ hour just languishing in the shade in a protected lea at the cape. 

As happens in Tas, when we got to the cape the weather suddenly changed dramatically.  It had been fine and sunny to that point.  As we were looking out across this great southern ocean storm clouds were rolling in; there was some wild and angry looking swells, and a gale building up that made standing on the cliff faces a bit of a challenge.

We congratulated ourselves on having made the most difficult and no doubt the most isolated ‘extreme point’ to reach, took the photos and donned raincoats for the long walk back.   At the end of the day, we were buggered – back to camp, easy dinner and relax by the fire. 

Gluttons for punishment, the next day we headed back to Cockle Creek to complete another, but shorter walk.   With the intention of heading back north after this walk, we packed and towed the van to the ‘Creek’, partly just so that the rig would travel Australia’s southern-most road. 

This walk was much gentler – just off the road to a memorial to the Southern Right Whale (these used to venture into the bay in large numbers) and on, mostly via the beach, to Fisher Point where navigation lights still guide sea travellers.  From the undergrowth and re-shaped shoreline emerges evidence of previous busy and peopled whaling stations, timber mills and the townships that supported these industries over various eras.

 At Fishers Point there are ruins of what was originally convict built accommodation for the pilot, which later housed one of the two pubs that were trading at the same time in town; ironically both pubs apparently had the same name, which we believe was the Sawyer’s Arms!  - A good cover perhaps when one doesn’t want to be quickly found – just going down to the ‘Arms’.

The road north terminated for us at a camp site behind the Dover Hotel.  This pub provides a huge grassed area surrounded by apple orchard and mountain views freely available to self contained travellers.  The publican was only too happy to meet with us as he had only recently opened up this camping area.  He was keen to learn we are doing research for the Camps Australia Wide book. 
We enjoyed a fresh seafood meal here from a private bay window booth with a gorgeous sunset view overlooking the bay.  It was Friday night and later that night, around 1pm while we were tucked up in our bed, the entertainment started.   The live music had stopped, but the live screaming, fighting, yelling, arguments, you know, all that usual crap that takes over the mind and vocals of someone who has an intake greater that their capabilities carried on.   Fortunately our sense of humour was with us and we actually had a bit of a laugh at the early morning entertainment.   The next day, we had just the recovery experience needed – a soak in the nearby Hastings Thermal Springs.  Refreshing!!
Late in the afternoon back at the van, with all our gear spread out and settled for a second night, there was a realisation that we needed a dump point, and there is no such public facility at Dover.  The nearest one is over 30kms away at Shipwright Point, the next about 55kms on, back at our familiar Franklin campsite.   We had missed out on visiting the Wooden Boat display at Franklin, so a quick decision was made to move back there and visit the boat display first up next morning.   We packed up, hooked up and were gone within 30 mins – safely - probably our best time yet.
Such is the size of Franklin, it wasn’t long before we were reacquainted with James (collecting the camping $’ss) and Bren (enjoying one of his regular bachelor fish and chips dinners alongside the river).   Bren has a many years long hobby of doing practical and creative knots.  He’d told us about it at Cockle Creek and reuniting with us close to his home, he was keen to have us visit and see his collection.  Not necessarily an interesting topic for many

people, but once seen and a bit of history explained, this collection is well worth tracking down.   We did visit Bren’s shed and were a bit amazed at the floor to ceiling collection that also included lots of other naval and nautical memorabilia – a true labour of love.  Every knot exhibit was created by Bren, and there are easily a few hundred of them.  As a former seaman, Kym considers himself to have good ‘knot’ knowledge, but here Bren had many that he had never heard of or seen before.  These and the naval memorabilia should be on public display.  They are a true credit to Brendan and we thank him for the privilege of this private viewing. We certainly encourage you to take it to the public, mate.
Continuing to satisfy Kym’s interest in maritime things, we took in the history and growth of the wooden boat industry.   A guided tour of the Wooden Boat Centre explained the culture, and the processes of wooden boat construction.   Accompanied by a few other travellers, our tour around the centre, presented very professionally by Ea, began with a history of wooden boat building, and the sourcing of timbers used in construction.   All timbers used at this centre are sourced from within

Tasmania.  Ea explained that different timbers are used for specific purposes. One piece is actually naturally shaped; another has natural oils which make it almost impervious to water.  Others are chosen for their strength or weight.  The planning, drawing and costing is all done within the centre and, if so inclined, a new owner can also be part of the building process for the cost of tuition fees.   For anyone with an interest in learning the trade, whether building, or the drawing and planning process, or both, courses are held regularly.  From what Ea told us there is no shortage of students.    Once drawings are complete, costed and timber sourced, depending on the size and type of boat, an owner could have a new boat in as little as a month, with some large and complex models taking over a year.

Highlighting the importance of keeping this old trade alive, the tour was both entertaining and informing.  This is definitely a tour that is worth the few dollars entry, and the time to look.
As we spend more time travelling and learning how to make the best use of time, job share arrangements are found.   Our trip to out next camp was interrupted by the need for shopping & laundry.   At Huonville we were able to satisfy both in one hit.  With the van dropped off at the shopping centre car-park, Lyn did the gathering of groceries, and Kym took off up the road to hunt for fuel and machines that do bulk clothes washing.   By the time Kym returned to the van, Lyn has done her gathering, (and had time to solo gather in other shops, thereby satisfying other female primal needs).    While Kym supervises the washing machines, he has liberal time for internet games and face-book.  Works for us, and saves time towing the van all around town to different venues. 
Our next stop was Gordon, on the southern end of the Channel Peninsula and a virtual ‘holding lot’ for RV’s before taking the ferry across to Bruny Island.   We were surprised to see how many other rigs were there – we thought we had just squeezed in, but many more squeezed in after us.  There is not much at Gordon apart from local farms and our campsite with great foreshore views across to the island.  We decided to explore the peninsula a bit more before doing the crossing to Bruny . 
Up the eastern coast of the peninsula and almost back to Hobart, we drove as far as Taroona to see Australia’s first Shot Tower.  This purpose built tower was for the making of shot for the black powder muskets and rifles of the day.  The lead material was taken to the top of the tower where it was heated to molten form, then strained through sieve like metal plates to produce specific size shot.  The lead passed through the sieve and then dropped many metres down to a cooling pool at the bottom of the tower.  As the molten lead fell, it naturally cooled in a sphere and finished off cooling in the pool.  It was then collected, checked for size and shape and packaged off to complete the order.  The tower has a fascinating history even though it only operated for about 35 years after its’ 1870 beginnings.
This was the opportunity Kym was looking for to take in a fascinating afternoon at the headquarters of the Australian Antarctic Division at Kingston.  From this building, everything that Australia does in Antarctica is scheduled, monitored & recorded.  Tourists are well catered for in a large area set aside with interactive displays, video, holograms and historical artefacts.   Not sure if Lyn was an artefact when she tried on some of the clothing used down there. :-) 

 Kym would love to experience life in the Antarctic, but for this day, he was content to have this experience and rapt with the hours spent engaged in this display.

On our way up to Kingston, we had passed a sign "Grandevewe Sheep Cheese Centre".   Curiosity got the better of us and on our way back to camp we drove the km or so off the main road to the centre.  What an amazing view they have from here.  We had to try this sheep milk cheese.   The host explained the process, and gave us the opportunity to try the range.  It was absolutely beautiful, makes shop bought cheese seem insignificant, but not so much the price.  We bought a ‘take home’ slice of cheese, as well as some pate that Lyn took a liking to.  We will savour these slowly.


With plans to catch the 6:30 am ferry to Bruny Island from Kettering, we decided to pack that evening.  Not something we are used to doing in the dark, but never-the-less we worked through our usual routine.  Awning, table, bbq, etc all put away, hook the van up;  not so usual, also took some phone calls as we worked.   Sidetracking!!!!  As turned out, not such a good combination.
Looking forward to a coffee at the ferry terminus, we left the Gordon campsite next morning at 5:00 am.   As you depart Gordon there is a long upward incline, we travelled up this and maybe another ½ km on winding hilly road when there was a god almighty bang, followed by loud scraping noise from the rear of the car.  Our immediate reaction was what the hell….   On a narrow road with ditches either side, we had no option but to stop on the road. 
On inspection, the van had dropped off the hitch, still just attached by safety chains that were worn through – amazing given the incline of the road.  It was pitch black, apart from the incline, there was a bend in the road just back a bit, and no sign of life around us.   There was a very real threat of other traffic coming up behind us with little warning that we were there.   The draw bar was sitting on the road.  It was too low to get the hydraulic jack under to lift it to the height of the car.  In hindsight, given our circumstances, Kym kept his calm really well, and we worked together.  We chocked the van, and Kym dragged the car jack out to lift the van to the required height.  That achieved, we were able to get the hydraulic jack into position to re-hitch it all back together.  The whole time we were mindful of the possible approach of other traffic slamming in to us from behind – the van lights could not be re-connected until we were hitched up again.  Lyn was switching the torch between the draw bar and the road behind.   It seemed forever, but it took about half an hour to re-hitch.   Thank God for quiet Tassie roads – we were about to hook up the electrics when the first car same along, followed closely by another.  Both offered assistance, but by now we were confident we were almost on our way.    
Our next task was to find a welder who could also supply and fit new safety chains.  Thanks to smart phones and 4G, we located one at Electrona, a small town about 15kms north of the ferry terminal.  It was just after the twilight of the day when we arrived there.  Amazingly there was a light on in the office, and when we enquired, the response was "yeah we can do it now if you like".  The van was hoisted up, the welding began, and about an hour later, with some added assistance in straightening out some dents in the checker plate on the box on the draw-bar, we were on our way again.  We owe a big thank you to the team at Cawthorn welding.   Our lesson learnt is ‘don’t get side-tracked when packing up the van’.   We believe that the hitch had not been locked on properly – even a tiny lapse of concentration and focus can result in horrendous consequences.


Who could believe that given the circumstances of the morning, we made it back to Kettering in time for a coffee before leaving on the 9:30am ferry to Bruny Island. 

Bruny Island is essentially two islands joined by an isthmus called "The Neck".  Our destination was Captain Cook Caravan Park at Adventure Bay on the southern "island".  A pleasant park on the beach, the only caravan park on Bruny apart from National Park managed camping areas, some of which did not have sites or access to accommodate our rig.  We wanted to see as much as possible of this island that we had heard so much about, not to mention the much talked about "Yellow Boat" adventure.

The southern end of Bruny is dominated by National Park areas and tales of past history.  There are some isolated camp sites, and most visited, the Cape Bruny Lighthouse.  Now obsolete, the light is open for tourism, and displays show a history of families and events.
The following day was just a little cloudy, with a slight sea swell.  Not quite ideal for a boat tour, but unless you go, you'll never know.  And go we did.  Arriving at the reception, we thought only a few of us were going.  Like hell, people kept on turning up, and more.   It eventuated that there are four yellow boats, each capable of carrying forty passengers.  They used all four boats today – and the high tourist season was finished – apparently they do two tours a day at peak time, so that’s over 300 passengers a day at full capacity.  We were lucky enough to score the first boat to board, and first out.  After the talk by the crew regarding safety and the features of the boat and tour, we were taken out to the middle of Adventure Bay where we turned south. 
If there are any tours recommended, this is definitely one of them.  There is a lot to say about it, but we’ll start with the crew.  The two man crew look after the boat equally as well as the passengers.  They definitely drive to conditions, and you can’t help but feel confident with their skills.  As the seas were up this day, the boat was driven to maximise everyone’s comfort.   There is no unnecessary hull slamming.  Everyone was consistently asked if they are OK.  Let’s not have anyone seasick, so as to avoid a domino effect.  The skipper and his mate looked after the needs of everyone – balancing the fact that we all anticipate seeing the "not normally seen", of having an adventure, but also ensuring both comfort and safety.  Their passion for the environment was obvious.  As the boat motors very close to rocks and cliff faces, they give descriptions about the geological formations, the layers and types of rock, and the action of the ocean over eons in time. 
These guys really do know their stuff, fielding questions about anything and everything with knowledge and good humour.  We spent about 3 hours on the water.  The trip took us to the most southern point of Bruny to a seal colony of male Australian Fur seals.  These bachelor colonies are a "time out" for both male & female.  By the way, the females have their own space up in Bass Strait.  When the ladies are ready to breed, they come down to the guys! 
On the leg southwards, the yellow boat hugged the coast mostly exploring coastal caves and rugged rock formations.  The return journey took us further out to sea, and the highlight here was the bird life.  It is amazing to think that there is life this far out from land, but there it was, we identified at least six different bird species living, and very at home with the sea.  One species comes ashore only to breed.  Other than that, they remain at sea – even to sleep.  Quite a feat!
As the remainder of our stay on Bruny took in part of a long weekend, and the caravan park had prior bookings, we moved to a bush camp.  The camp at “The Neck” was the only bush camping area that could cater for a rig our size.  Ironically, as we approached the camp, we passed another couple that we had encountered several times during our travels.  We had a quick ‘middle of the road’ catch up, and got advice from them to grab the ‘best site in the camp’, which they had just vacated.   We were anticipating lots of long-weekenders turning up before the day was out.  They were right, it was the best site; and we were right – lots of weekenders did turn up after us, and we fortunately were well settled, but willing to share some of the space around us with the locals. 
We had been told about oysters a-plenty at Barnes Bay on North Bruny.  So we were off to play tourist again, this time with a food purpose in mind.   The boat ramp at Barnes Bay is alive with oysters, and not small ones.  The shell of these things is larger than Kym’s hand.  Imagine the meat inside.  In about half an hour we picked two buckets full and considered that was well enough.  Back at camp we set up with leather gloves, flat blade screw driver and our large fresh oysters appetite.  We managed to get through most of one bucket before we called "game", and gave the rest to another group of grateful caravanners nearby.    Julia, eat your heart out.  Here's a "gloat-a-graph".
Cape Queen Elizabeth juts out at the northern end of the bay that forms part of the neck isthmus.  We conquered the cape in a four hour walk on a warm day trekking over wetlands, sand dunes, beachside cliffs and along the ocean edge.   On the cape, the last bit of track is less used and although we knew where we were heading on the way to the top, on our way down we spent some time totally confused and walking in circles.  Everything looked the same but different, there were cliff edges to avoid.  How easy it can be to get disorientated.   Our solution was to stop, rest, re-hydrate and calm, and everything became much clearer.

Early next morning we were ready to farewell Bruny Island, but not before taking some glorious early morning shots from the lookout on the Neck. 

Yum breakfast of the best home-made spinach and fetta cheese pastries we have ever tasted from the shop beside the ferry terminal on the island…..and we only discovered this as we were leaving! 
At Sorrell, we did our usual hunter-gatherer duties to ensure we had necessary supplies, clean clothes and fuel.  This was in prep for a trip down the Tasman Peninsula for a longer look after the day trip we had taken to this area when Matt, Lu and the kids were here.  We selected our first campsite at a small coastal village with the romantic name of Primrose Sands.  The RSLA has an area behind their clubhouse that they provide for camping, and for a small extra fee, power is available.
At these venues, especially clubs that offer a camp space to travellers, we usually spend some money on a meal or drink to reciprocate for the convenience that they have given us.   As no meals were served today, a drink or two was in order.  Well, what entertainment.   It was the middle of a long weekend, and a holiday mood was definitely in force.    About a dozen locals were full of merry banter at this, the only watering hole in town.  We came in mid the misadventure, but we soon caught on that one ‘bit topped up’ character who had spent time in Antarctica was boasting that he still had the clothing.  Some other joker was taking the micky out of him, and all the ‘colder than….’ embellishments followed.  With that, the Antarctic veteran disappeared and reappeared ten minutes later with Antarctica survival gear.  Then the challenge went up – a carton was offered to anyone in the bar that could wear the outfit for one hour.  Another old guy took up the challenge.  It was a laugh just watching him dress.  We didn't stay for the whole hour but the way things were going, the older guy was in it to win that slab.  We did take a drive around Primrose Sands.  It wasn’t that romantic really, a mixture of weekend huts and permanent homes, with the RSL being one of two or three retail outlets.   Good spot for an IGA maybe.
Our thinking was to move around several different campsites during our 4 or 5 night visit to the peninsula, but once we arrived at Nubeena RSL, all that changed.  For $10.00, a couple of drinks and a meal, we had a central, convenient and congenial site that offered all-hour access to showers and toilets and camp kitchen with power.  It seemed logical to make this a home base.
Fortescue Bay is one of the eastern most points to the south of Tasman Peninsula accessible via 20 odd kms of dirt road.  It is part of the Tasman National Park and although we didn’t allow ourselves enough time in the day to do any walks in the park, we were keen to see what the bay looked like.  This deep bay and its’ deep blue waters looking across to a narrow ocean opening was quite a view to take in over an afternoon cuppa. 
Port Arthur Historic Site has a ‘Ticket of Leave’ offer.  A few extra dollars entitles you to a two year pass to the venue.  On this visit we chose to do the audio tour.  It did provide a whole different experience.  We wouldn’t recommend it if you are visiting in a group as we had done recently with Matt, Lu and the kids. It wouldn’t have worked, and it leaves less space to be spontaneous in both thoughts and direction.  Listening to virtual mini audio character plays did bring another dimension to the ruins, but in our opinion you also lose some.   For whatever reason, this second day’s visit to Port Arthur wasn’t as evocative.  The scenes are just as beautiful, the listening to the tapes meant Kym and I were less interactive between ourselves, and with the environment.  As a supplement to our first day’s visit, it was OK;   but we were glad the audio tour wasn’t part of our first introduction to Port Arthur.
From Port Arthur, looking across the cove and around into Carnarvon Bay, occupied homes dot along the shoreline.  We were curious to step behind the historic site, and the next day drove around to have a look.   From the land entry to Point Puer, the crystal clear and mirror calm waters looking across to Port Arthur defy the historical events of the area.
The road takes you further south past the Port to Maingon Bay where a short walk down from the road takes you to another geological feature called the Remarkable Cave.   
Rarely ones to miss out on a chocolate tasting opportunity, when we returned back to the Arthur Highway we were on the lookout for Federation Chocolate Factory.  We’d been told not to miss this one by fellow travellers, and they were right.  This factory began when the lady of the house had great success at school fetes a number of years ago.  Now her grandchildren run in and out of this small and homely enterprise that has another face to it as well.  Alongside the factory is a Heritage museum put together by the man of the house as a tribute to the early pioneers of the peninsula, particularly those engaged in the timber industry.   A credit to them both.

Back to the chocolates – best we have tried.  Flavours are the real deal and the chocolate superb.  Is Lyn really buying all these blocks of chocolate?
Further on we crossed over Eaglehawk Neck again and where the infamous Dog Line is. 
We had seen part of the Dog Line when Lu and Matt visited, but at that time the nearby Officer’s Quarters was closed.   This time we found the Quarters open.  It was like walking through time - the full history of the building as well as the story of the Dog Line.  In short, the Dog Line was a line of about nine dogs chained at intervals across Eaglehawk – the narrowest point of the Tasman Peninsula.  The vicious dogs formed a line of defence against convict escapes from Port Arthur.    As a few escapees successfully made it across the Dog Line by swimming around out from the neck, the dogs were then placed on platforms across part of the inlet. This extended line out into the water seemed to do the trick.  The Officer’s Quarters is an original building near the line, having gone through various extensions and refurbishments over the years and ownership and occupancy by both authorities and later private families.  The display very cleverly strips back the layers of the building (wall and roofing structure, flooring and wall covering) providing evidence of all its’ building periods.
The Tessellated Pavement is a natural rock formation showing the power of salt!  To much to go into here but suffice to say it is a very interesting formation created by tides, drying salt & sediment layering. The Pavement is a great example of the results of this phenomenon on the coastline just north of Eaglehawk Neck.
To complete the round trip of Tasman Peninsula we headed across to Premaydena, and then along a few more kms of dirt road to Limestone Bay National Park.  This park, also a camping area, is home to a former coal mine from the darker days of Port Arthur.  It was getting towards twilight, and although we had a quick walk around, when we found that there were several tracks leading to different facets of the original mine workings we called it a day.  Apart from the chocolate tasting, we hadn’t lunched, so we settled for a revitalising cuppa in the camp area.  The surrounding shoreline which takes your gaze across to, for want of better words, ‘Tasmania’s mainland’, had the usual serene feel with gently rippling waters lapping the edge. 
One of the local magpie families entertained us during our sojourn by singing for a feed.  Lyn was amazed at the sweetness of its’ warbling.  He sat so close to her, she could have patted it while singing.   Obviously used to human interaction.  Try as it might, he had to be content with the crumbs that we left. 


With Tasman Peninsula behind us we were on the road again – this time, back to Hobart. We had some ‘big city’ chores to do and a couple of Hobart ‘must do’s’ in mind before our final farewell as we turned northwards and closer to crossing back across the strait.   The chores included repairs to Lyn’s recently bought smart phone which we had been unable to connect to internet since we had bought it in Hobart the last time around.  Lyn loves telling her Hobart ‘old style’ service stories, and the phone thing is one of them.  Although we’d been patient over the lack of internet connection, the point was that when we rang the Telstra Business Centre, we spoke to the same salesman who had sold us the phone, and when we got back to Hobart this time around, Jason was on hand again to sort the problem ‘post haste’. 
Our other chore was to do something about our very poor performing 12 volt power situation, more precisely, the batteries.  Friends had told us of a couple of suppliers in QLD that could provide good quality deep cycle batteries at a good price.  The situation had gotten to exasperation point - time to bite the bullet by checking local Hobart availability and prices.  We were expecting easily in excess of $300.00 per unit.  One phone call to a Hobart supplier, and we had a better than expected price with larger capacity.  We ordered three batteries, and installation was arranged for the following day.  Again, we loved the service we experienced.   Mainland businesses can learn a lot from Tasmania.  A huge thank you to Matt at Eastern Shore Batteries and Solar.  Took a couple of hours to fit, but Matt was happy to guide and assist between serving his Saturday morning clientele.
With the necessities of life fixed, it was time for a bit of recreation and to tick the other boxes.  Hobart has lots of cycle paths.   Our pushbikes had only touched the ground twice in Tasmania, and there were some lovely paths meandering alongside the Derwent River.    We took a connecting path close to our campsite towards the river.   For Kym, a couple of hours on the bikes was quite relaxing in its’ simplicity after the driving concentration on Tassie roads with Patrol and van.  Riding the riverside was a good experience, and the day could not have been better for this activity.  Hobart turned on the sun for us. 
The following day was pegged for cruising the boat along the Derwent River.  What a day out.  Fuelled up, plenty of time, heaps of sunshine, glass smooth water and unique perspectives of this water flanked city . 

 Our run down-river and into the city took us around various sides to Mount Wellington past residences, industry, parklands, marinas and under the Tasman Bridge.   A practical, but still imposing monument to those who lost their lives in the fatal incident back in 1975 when a ship hit a pylon and collapsed the central part of the bridge, causing total destruction and rebuild. 

After passing under the bridge, we ventured into Constitution Dock where the Sea Shepherd was birthed. 
We continued further on past Battery Point and onto the Wrest Point Casino where our memories have captured the view as we drifted and ate lunch.

Heading back upstream, we crossed to the other side of the harbour into Lindesfarne – just to be nosey, and because we could. 
We were surprised to find that the eastern shore has numerous smaller uninhabited bays and headlands some of which show signs of early industry and settlement.  We investigated one bay where the remains of an old quarry and a riveted boiler stand as monuments to the early days. 
We couldn’t have been more satisfied with both the cycling and boating Hobart experiences; they had both lived up to our expectations.  Next day we turn our rig away from Hobart for the last time on this trip to Tasmania.  Next stop – Oatlands. 


On the Midland Highway leading out of Hobart some very large and clever steel plate caricatures of the local pioneering times form effective silhouettes set against the backdrop of bald hills and big sky.   We didn’t see any mention of them in any brochures, and when you’re focussed on highway driving along what is one of the only stretches of straight flat road in Tassie you can easily miss them.   Once recognised, it becomes a bit of a game to spot the next.  They included bushrangers, foot soldiers, convicts, and miners to name a few.  Thinking of our friends Ken and Nan, we stopped to take a photo of the surveyor and chainman at work.

This stretch of road does have its’ own unique beauty.  We captured it a million times, and looking back on the images still brings an appreciative sigh.  Just something about it.

we had had an overnight camp at Oakland’s beautiful lakeside RV camp area before, but not done the town or area justice with time to look around.  Oatlands is another early settlement town, but has a difference.   You can’t miss the windmill on the skyline.  It is part of the third oldest flour mill in Australia, Callington Mill and the windmill tower has been restored to full working order.  The result is a now fully functional windmill producing product for local bakeries.  The regions information centre is part of the complex and organises tours inside the mill.  The rock for the original mill construction along with many other sandstone colonial buildings in Oatlands were quarried from nearby Lake Dulverton.   A beautification project of the lake has created the wildlife sanctuary alongside our campsite on the edges of town.   The lake is now home to a myriad of bird life including ducks and swans which like to invite themselves to "happy hour"!
The township of Ross, just a short drive north of Oatlands, is another early settlement village that is fascinating for its buildings from the colonial era.  The town was once the site of a convict Female Factory and we wandered via the town common to have a look.  Unfortunately there are no remains other than the grounds, cemetery and a building that housed various authorities.
 The Ross Bridge is another monument to the engineering and design efforts of the convict builders.  Still being used as a major roadway into town, this bridge is characteristic of others of this vintage, still used, still strong and ahead of their time.
Like many small towns, Ross with its’ population of around 300 has to find some way of staying alive. Although by-passed by the highway, it has a prominent tourism profile which we can only imagine is partly due to the hard work and resolve of the locals, and partly because of its’ natural appeal. 
We have often commented on the extent that the early settlers tried to reproduce their homeland through their architecture and pastimes – this attempt at duplication is probably also a statement about human nature.  Ross with its’ elm tree lined streets retains a very English style façade, despite being surrounded by very dry Australian looking plainlands.   These plainlands are Tasmania’s premier wool-growing region, and we enjoyed learning a little more about this at the town’s Wool Centre.
Every little town in Tasmania has a bakery that has also diversified into a café.  Ross has a couple, the one that caught our eye was one that advertised ‘wood-fired’.  The building was one of the ‘originals’ with a varied history, and now had also diversified further with a B&B.  Boasting the best custard slices around, we had to test this out with a coffee and found the staff in their period costumes very friendly and helpful.  We also bought what they justifiably explained as ‘real’ sourdough bread – not flavoured, and we thoroughly enjoyed its’ stay-freshness for the next couple of days. 
Our visit to Ross ended with a walk round the town taking in some of the atmosphere and talking with locals.  We walked into an old church at the top end of town that remained standing even after we left!  The photos can do more justice to the church than any words we might use to describe it.
The next morning we left our campsite at Oatlands and set out sights to travel across a lesser used B road that traverses across from Campbelltown towards Swansea on the east coast. 


We wanted to revisit Freycinet Peninsula and this time take the walk to Wine Glass Bay which we’d missed last time due to heavy rains.  It also gave us a chance to experience the campsite at Lake Leake. 
Lake Leake has a very small permanent population that could be counted on both hands and feet.  However, this population does change as the holidays and seasons revolve.  The place is full of shacks.  Some appear to have not changed other than minor maintenance; others have grown into quite grand establishments.  We found out that one is for sale at $40,000 - something not much larger than a large caravan.   They’re all on crown land, so there is no real security in how long they would be allowed to stay, but then again, they have been there a long time now so.? ....?......  We were amused at what looked like ‘cardboard cylinder’ stumps that supported some of the foundations – they actually were cardboard cylinder, but assumedly they were also the caste for something stronger, like concrete.
Once set up at the lake, we met another couple lodging in the next caravan.  In passing conversation, Marg and Peter mentioned family members also currently touring the island.  This was lost on us, until something clicked about our Bob Le Bago bus friends Sharyn and Geoff warning us off going to Lake Leake cause ‘the oldies are there’.    Later in the day, the penny dropped!   Kym checked in with Marg and Peter and asked the question.   Yeah, we were caravanning along side Sharyn's mother!  Sometimes the world is too small.
Ignoring predicted forecasts of rain, the next day we drove to Freycinet National Park determined to visit Wineglass Bay.  This walk, rated as a three hour return, starts off "user friendly" and becomes a bit of a challenge as the climb over the range to the lookout gets steeper.  Once at the lookout, the views are magnificent, undoubtedly it would be even better on a nice bright sunny day.                   
We decided to take a chance on the weather (whether we would do it or not!) and continued on the walk down to Wineglass Bay beach.  A long down-ward path, in parts not well maintained, and definitely well trodden, is quite ankle unfriendly.   When it finally leads on to beach, the view is a bit breath-taking.   Here, we were welcomed by a couple of the local wallabies.  They enjoyed the interaction with those venturing down the beach, and today we were it.  They followed us around like pet dogs.  Enjoying a good pat and scratch obviously waiting for a scrap of food.  Not from us – Lyn’s rule – decidedly against being responsible for upsetting their digestive systems and capacity to care for themselves.  
Just to top off our experience, on the incoming ocean swell we noticed a small pod of dolphin coming in toward the beach.  They spent a bit of time playing in the breakers, and were a joy to watch.  What with the views, the wallabies and the dolphins, our wine glass had filled over. 
So far, the rain had even held off.   Big dark clouds were starting to close in but, and so we departed for the long, steep climb back up to the lookout and on to the car.  We were amazed that we had actually achieved a "3 hour" walk in three hours time.  Our last Tassie walk and we were just finding our feet.


From Lake Leake we went back via Campbelltown and diverted east again along the Esk Highway to an overnight stop at the small village of Fingal.  This village has set aside a small area for overnight camping right in the middle of town with access to toilets and power.   Apart from offering RV’s this great convenience there is not a lot to Fingal, but from here, we planned to visit Ben Lomond.  The plateau of Ben Lomond is the highest drivable point in Tassie.  With its’ summit often shrouded in cloud, looking across towards it today, it looked crisp and clear.  As we travelled via some interesting back forestry roads up and down surrounding ranges, we were little aware that nature was plotting against us.  As the locals frequently remind us "if you don't like the weather, wait ten minutes".   On this day, the weather certainly did a quick back-flip.  Kym was looking longingly towards Jacobs Ladder – the name given to the zig zag road up the mountain side to the top.   We climbed about 900 metres up to a picnic spot where we stopped over lunch.   At this altitude, and with the change in weather, it was as colder than any time we had experienced during our entire time in Tassie.  We were dressed in shorts and summer tops, and we now looked longingly at the empty fireplace in the shelter.   The top of the mountain was lost in cloud cover, and between the cold and the cloud, Lyn lost her nerve for the high climb.  Encouraging Kym to go up on his own, he decided to call it a day also.  We actually descended in silence, this time in a shroud of disappointment.   Kym has rationalised since that in spite of his ambition, the risk and the thought of not sharing the experience was not worth it.   During our five months Tassie tour, there is not much that we have missed.  We can count on one hand the places that we would make a bee-line for if we return.  The summit of Ben Lomond for now, remains one of them.  That night it did snow on the summit.


 Being creatures of culture (?) we wanted to see John Waters’ portrayal of ‘Looking Through a Glass Onion’ which by happen-chance was showing at the County Club Casino near Launceston – our next stop.   To access Launceston, many RV’ers use the community ground at nearby Evandale as a one or two night stop-over, and we are not exception.  The cool weather we’d experienced at Ben Lomond seemed here to stay, so when we settled in at Evandale and found the hot water heater wasn’t working we thought we had a bit of a dilemma.  The kettle and a sponge bath prepared us for our big night out at the Casino – along with the spray-ons.  Maybe that’s why our allocated seat was up the back of the theatre.  Never mind, we enjoyed the show immensely.   John Waters gave his interpretation and insight into the world of John Lennon from the start of his career through to his death, including how others around him and his circumstances influenced his thinking.   We were surprised at John Waters’ own singing voice and capacity to imitate John’s voice.   Used to thinking of him in as a good character actor, he proved he is also a good singer and versatile entertainer.
As a matter of coincidence, when we arrived at the Casino, we noticed a car sign-written with ‘Mobile Caravan Repairs’ in the car park.   With the broken hot water system in mind, and not ones to miss an opportunity, we wrote a note and slipped it under his windscreen wiper.  After a phone call during our pre-show dinner and a hastily arranged meeting in the car park, it was agreed to take the van to his home conveniently located at Westbury on our next day’s travel route.    There was more irony the next morning when at Westbury, repairer Peter pulled the vent off and could find nothing wrong - the bloody heater decided to work correctly!   This is not the first time we’d had this experience – last time around in Launceston, the fridge had pulled the same prank on us.   The prospect of being interfered with by a repairer seems to change everything.  Does make you wonder if just a little journey down the road might be enough to shake things back into place again – maybe like the weather, ‘give it ten kms, and it’ll change’.    Whatever the reason, we thank Peter at Westbury for his intention and prompt service.   We will be recommending him to anyone who asks.


With just over one week before boarding the Spirit home, we had a range of goals to complete that included people, places and maintenance.   We had some fellow travellers camped at Deloraine, and we were keen to spend some more time with them.  It is a favoured Tasmania campsite that we hadn’t actually experienced.  We caught up with Wayne and Barb here and also camped alongside Bob Le Bago with Geoff and Sharyn.  One of Kym’s favourite Tasmania camps is Cooee on the foreshore at Burnie, and we could complete a few more goals from here.   These included having the 80,000 km service on the Patrol  (as well as having a warranty repair done on the bubbling dashboard), taking our sick generator back to North West Mowers for them to have another look at, investigate a recommended supplier and fitter of solar panels in town, take a visit to Yvonne, an old YMCA work-mate of Lyn’s now living at nearby Wynyard, and maybe if time allowed, head back to Stanley to climb the Nut – all in a three and a half day time frame.   We were a bit ambitious, especially as the Nissan agents had not forewarned us that the dash repair and service warranted two days in their workshop. 
Something had to go, but we did very well all things considered, given that we were both car and homeless for one day as we did have a new solar panel fitted to the van.  This along with the new batteries we bought in Hobart has made a huge difference to the comfort and convenience of our lifestyle.  We just need now to move out of holiday mode to supplement our continuing travels.  Once again, the efforts and service we experienced from these businesses in Burnie is to be commended.  The generator couldn’t be repaired in the time, but with out extended solar power as long as the sunshine doesn’t expire for an extended time, we will manage for the time being.   The Nut will have to remain on our return to Tasmania list.
We did arrange an evening to meet at Yvonne’s home, and a very pleasant evening it was.  Many a good laugh with them and it appeared Terry and Kym were very much of a similar mind and sense of humour.  Life for Yvonne post YMCA days has been very generous, she looks very happy and alongside Terry, they are the epitome of the old English show ‘The Good Life’.  Thanks to you both also for the home grown produce, it was delicious.
Party time awaited us at Latrobe.  We hadn’t stayed here before either – a busy and obvious ‘holding bay’ for RV’s coming and going to the Spirit.  We were counting down – four more nights in Tasmania to go.  For Geoff and Sharyn who overshadowed us next door in Bob Le Bago, there were three - a few last happy hours to grab.   We joined in with some other neighbouring couples and to stretch the ‘happy’  Sharyn’s son James proved a handy photographer, and snapped some great shots of us during these count-down evenings.  
On Saturday night there was an extra reason to celebrate – Sharyn’s ??th birthday.   She keeps claiming that she gave her birthday to her grand-daughter when she was born on the same date five years ago, so from that day she actually remains the same age?????   Sorry Shaz, it does not work like that :-)   A better try than what we’ve come up with but, but then again we’re all older and …….. mmmmm don’t remember what we were trying to say.   We do like Geoff’s version of being 50 with ten year’s experience!   We had a great birthday dinner together and look forward to catching up with Shaz, Geoff, James and Bob La Bago again some time on the mainland.
With our neighbours off early to catch a boat, we went through the motions of packing up again and waiting our turn for the boat the next morning.  We moved to Devonport and planned to park just outside the ferry terminal for the night ready for the morning departure.  Thanks to Geoff, we were forewarned that the night ferry from Melbourne to Devonport was delayed by over five hours due to a mechanical malfunction with the ramps in Melbourne.  We had no doubt that its’ late arrival in Devonport would see some chaos in traffic around the terminal that night, and also more than likely have a domino effect in delaying the scheduled time of departure for our ferry the next morning.
 Our last night we spent at the East Devonport Recreation Ground, along with most of the other surrounding vans and motorhomes who were up early the next day to wait in the boarding queue.  We were right, our 9:00am departure was delayed to 10:30am, but other than that all was well.  Our Tasmanian adventure closed.  We have many, many good memories, fantastic experiences and some great new friends.
       Goodbye Tassie!

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