Almost back on our old stomping ground now. We spent the evening with Dayv and Debbie who are on their way South and introduced them to the camping raclette. Dayv and Jonathan worked together at the Department of Housing and Public Works in Brisbane and I think they had missed their ‘putting the world to rights’ conversations. Dayv has been one of our most dedicated blog readers so I think it’s fitting that he makes an appearance at the end of our travels.
Lovely to meet you both, safe travels and a Happy Christmas.
The ‘Landmarks’ exhibition is a tour of Australia which explores the characteristics of different towns and areas and how these places have been shaped by generations. It had much more meaning for us, having just completed our own tour and visited most of the places.
Unfortunately there was a heatwave predicted on the route across to the coast from Canberra for the next few days. It was too far to get to the coast in one drive and we stopped halfway at Richmond. The heat was tremendous and nearby Penrith reached 42 degrees. We collapsed in the van with the airconditioning on full blast.
By 9am the next morning, it was already unbearably hot again. Even driving in the van with the aircon on wasn’t keeping us cool. Winston was pleased to have a dip in the river at Bulahdelah en route and even more pleased to discover at the end of the day that we were at the beach at North Haven.
Jonathan’s eyes lit up when he saw the oyster beds but disastrously for him and the oyster farmers, there had been a sewage leak into the river and the farms wouldn’t be able to reopen until after Christmas.
If blog watchers are wondering why there’s been a bit of a gap since the last post, I’ve been recovering from a nasty bout of gastro and haven’t been able to do much. All those months travelling through the Outback and then I catch it not far from Melbourne. We found a scenic and relaxing spot by the river in Tumut to camp up (with nearby amenities) while I rested.
Jonathan thinks he didn’t catch it too because he sticks to wine for his fluids.
Our first visit to Geelong. The rain eventually stopped and we went for a walk along the Eastern Beach Reserve and through the Botanic Gardens where there are several bollards which have been turned into sculptures of people.
I don’t think the Cockatoos at Lorne could read. The two lads left soon afterwards to finish their fish and chips somewhere else.
Just to say that we did drive all of the Great Ocean Road, we did the Eastern Section from Torquay to Apollo Bay.
Well I think we saw as much of Tassie as we possibly could have done in a month. From the spectacular scenery at the edge of the world in the west to the white sands of the Eastern beaches. From the North coast and its Little Penguins to the capital Hobart and the bays of the South. I will probably remember the Englishness of the towns and villages, the convict stories and the wildlife. Jonathan will probably remember the many happy hours he spent fly fishing in the lakes and rivers of the Central Highlands and seeing the Southern Lights. The Tasmanian locals were all very friendly and there seemed to be a lot of Queenslanders there.
Winston coped very well with the 9 hour crossing again although we couldn’t help worrying about him. We watched the movie ‘Kingsman The Golden Circle’ in the onboard cinema which was very entertaining, especially the Elton John scenes.
Victoria was being hit by a deluge but luckily Melbourne had escaped the worst of it. Even so it was an unpleasant drive in the rain from the Port to Geelong. We were soon warm again and settled down to watch the Rugby League World Cup.
We weren’t entirely sure whether to explore the western side of Tasmania on this trip. We couldn’t visit the big draw card of Cradle Mountain as it’s in a National Park; the roads are mostly narrow and winding and the best way to appreciate the rugged landscape is either on a cruise, a helicopter flight or a railway journey through the rainforest. We heard that if you wanted to see the edge of the world then you should visit the West Coast so that persuaded us.
Zeehan was Tasmania’s third largest town at its height in the late 19th century after silver and lead deposits were found there and its population peaked at 10,000 around 1910 (ten times the current population). It was known as the Silver City while the boom lasted. The significance of the town can be seen on the main street. The West Coast Heritage Centre has preserved and restored some of the historic buildings and is housed in the former Zeehan School of Mines and Metallurgy. It was well worth the $25 entrance fee.
We were told by a local that Zeehan’s annual rainfall is 3 metres!
The largest coastal town is Strahan on Macquarie Harbour. Wilderness cruises take tourists out to Sarah Island which was used as a penal settlement in the early 19th century. The convicts were made to fell Huon pines for boat building and conditions were harsh. Convicts called the mouth of the harbour ‘Hell’s Gates’ as they felt they were entering Hell.
The copper smelting process at Queenstown resulted in the destruction of the surrounding vegetation which has only begun to grow back in recent years. A friend who lived in Queenstown for 12 months said he only saw the sun for three days and it was pouring with rain when we arrived.
The Horsetail Falls walking track near Queenstown has only been open a few weeks. It’s an impressive feat of engineering, clinging to the side of the cliff face and takes around 30 minutes return. It was constructed as part of the $2.47 million West Coast rescue package by the State Government after the closure of the Mt Lyell Mine in 2014.
Winston and I did try to bail out two thirds of the way up but Jonathan encouraged us on to the top. Miraculously, the sun came out for our walk.
‘The Wall’ – Derwent Bridge
Everywhere we went, people told us we must see ‘The Wall’. Over the past decade, artist Greg Duncan has carved three metre high panels out of Huon pine which tell the story of the Central Highlands region. It’s located inside his gallery and was certainly impressive. For the $15 entry fee, I would like to have seen other works displayed in the gallery though. There was no photography allowed.
The North coast of Tasmania is famous for its Little Penguins so we were quite hopeful of seeing our first penguins in the wild here. There’s even a town called Penguin which has really embraced its name.
We finally struck lucky at Burnie where there’s a penguin observation centre. The centre is looked after by the ‘Friends of Burnie Penguins’ who offer free interpretative tours for visitors from September to March. (This was very different to the highly commercialised Penguin Parade at Philip Island). The Little Penguins spend the day fishing and come back to nest in their burrows at dusk. Volunteers made hundreds of little penguin ‘igloos’ for them which means there are always plenty of penguins to observe here. Some penguins are still rearing their chicks at the moment so if you look carefully during the day, there are some in their little igloos.
I’m not sure whose idea it was to house the Burnie Brass Band next to the penguins.
Gold was first discovered in Beaconsfield in 1847 and led to a gold rush to the town. It was the mine collapse in April 2006 that brought the town to the world’s attention again. The Mine Rescue exhibition tells the story of the rescue of miners Todd Russell and Brant Webb. Visitors can experience the conditions of the underground tomb where the miners waited for two weeks to be rescued. The exhibition also tells how the town coped with the focus of the world’s media on them.
It seemed a shame though that there wasn’t equal weight given to the fact that there were three miners trapped and Larry Knight was killed in the rock fall.
The museum also houses several local collections including an impressive display of wooden knobs donated by Mr Ray Porter of Beaconsfield made from over 150 different types of timber.
Seahorse World, Beauty Point
If you like seahorses then this is the place for you. It’s advertised as Australia’s only working seahorse farm which sounds a bit strange – you imagine them pulling little tractors! There are very informative hourly tours which end at their aquarium where you can hold a seahorse in your hand. They’re very wriggly though and I couldn’t hang on to mine.
*the Latin name for the seahorse is Hippocampus.
*the males carry the young
*after being born, the babies (known as fry) are on their own.
*baby seahorses eat sea monkeys
*seahorses can change colour to match their surroundings.