Jane Bwye

Australian Parks

Tasmania Diary. February 2012.

 

Monday. A very long day. Jo (my daughter) and I took a shuttle to Brisbane airport at 7am. The delayed flight finally left at 10.45 – very bumpy at first – before landing in Launceston to pick up our little Micra.

Jo drove, while I sent her on lots of wrong roads until we finally found the bridge crossing Cataract Gorge. We parked in the street, and after buying some expensive eco-food to last us two days, hungrily devoured delicious wraps. I dribbled oil onto my llama wool top. Sunscreened, hatted, and armed with water bottles, we inadvertently chose the arduous hikers’ high trail up the gorge. Breathless and hot in the midday sun, we paused many times to enjoy great views over the city. Our steps dragging in the dust, we finally arrived at the head of the gorge. The car park was full, and lazy souls lounged on the lawns beside a large swimming pool while children splashed in the pools beneath a waterfall. So - I had missed the road, again. But we were proud of our labours, and looked askance at the tourists toting ice creams and cool drinks, while they gazed at our dishevelment in disbelief. The return trek along the opposite side of the river was a doddle.

We got lost again trying to find the way north up the Tamar valley, but happened on a stunning high look-out over Launceston in the process.

We stopped, and Jo set the GPS to take us to Roseveares Wine Retreat. It worked a treat. Hot, tired and dirty, we showered, watched the Australian Open Tennis on a sometimes wonky TV screen and treated ourselves to canned pumpkin soup and tinned peaches for supper. Our room was the only one with a gum tree blocking the view over the Tamar River.

 Tuesday. I drove this time – north up the Tamar river, stopping at a stunning lookout. We were aiming for Platypus and Seahorse worlds at Beauty Point, but left almost immediately. Overpriced, and there was no paper in the loos. We returned via Lavender House where we met the proprietor, Mr.Mayman, who went to the Prince of Wales School in Nairobi, and had come to Australia on a £10 ticket.

A beautiful walk through tidal swamps to Tamar Island, surprising black swans, herons and plovers. Then with the help of the GPS a scenic drive via Raspberry House (delicious iced drinks) and the Ashcroft Cheese factory to Cradle Mountain country.

 

We motored through old-fashioned farmlands with timber and tin farm houses nestling close to the road. A steep windy road to took us up the mountains, the GPS leading us completely haywire, so we obeyed the road signs instead. As we neared Cradle Mountain National Reserve, the beautiful thick forest changed into a wasteland of ghostly dead trees standing tall, or fallen in destruction. Was it a fire, a storm, or a disease?

At the Chateau we enjoyed a supper of varied cheese platter with apple jelly, wafer biscuits and pate in our bedroom, watched by a wallaby outside our window. But we were glued to the telly. Lleyton Hewett won his first round match.


Wednesday
. A leisurely rise this morning, and a full buffet breakfast (yes, you can guess we were on the B & B route).

We strolled through a “rain forest walk” in front of the Chateau, and learned that the dead trees were possibly victims of a record black frost sixty years ago. Contributing factors were very poor shallow soil, and ring-barking by cattle.

 

 We went to the Tazmanian Tiger exhibition – most interesting and very well done. They had rear-facing pouches. Then we walked through several rooms containing prints of magnificent artistic photographs.

Our three-hour board walk round Dove Lake at the foot of Cradle Mountain was a feast of beauty.

 

And the tannin in the water made for some fascinating colours.


We were blessed with perfect weather, and the mountain dominated the walk at every turn.

 

Our night drive was disappointing. I guess we’ve been spoilt over the years with African night drives. But we did spot wallabies, possums, and a boobok owl. However, the Tazmanian devil bottom-patting and feeding at the privately funded breeding project was a brilliant experience. Sleek, aggressive and vociferous, these intriguing creatures wrestled with each other over a wallaby leg. We could have watched them for hours. Unfortunately, none of my photographs came out well in the dark.

Thursday. We set the alarm for 5am for the two hour drive to Strachen, past many road kills and lingering ground mist, but few cars, and arrived in perfect time to catch the Gordon River Cruise.

First, to Hells Gate at the mouth of the MacQuarie Harbour. Then a spectacular race into the open ocean over the slight swell, and back past the fish farms, where a boat was spraying feed pellets over the water.

Down to the Gordon River where speed was killed and we meandered between banks of pristine rain forests. Thick, lush, of every shade of green and countless varieties of trees and plants.

 

We anchored at the jetty leading to a twenty-minute walk to experience it at even closer hand. A young dark grey snake curled sleeping on a rock in a patch of sunlight just four feet from the boardwalk. It is the thickest rain forest I’ve experienced: beats Zimbabwe, and even the Amazon in Ecuador.


 

We were treated to a welcome cold buffet on our return to the boat, delicious smoked salmon with generous second helpings. Absolutely perfect weather. A leisurely ride back to the river mouth, but as soon as we entered this largest harbour in the southern hemisphere, the skipper stepped on the gas. Our wake creamed as we sped to Sarah Island – a former penal colony.

Jo and I elected to wander by ourselves between the information plaques, while two large groups followed lively, theatrical guides. It was hot, and we returned early to the boat for a snooze.

After a hasty visit to a local supermarket to top up our supplies, we hit the road for Hamlet Downs near Mount Field NP. Such a varied journey. Thick dense forests, lush verges, colourful with orange gladioli and yellow flowers. Then a sudden bleak area of button grass. Queenstown was a deadly heat trap with its desert-like copper mine high in the mountains. The serpentine road twisted ever upward, and we stopped for a ten minute walk to the Nelson Falls, with its strong shadows and oppressive trees.

 

We passed the gigantic pipes of a hydro-electric scheme, bypassing several lakes, and came out onto rolling pastures dotted with cattle and sheep, and – amazingly – a reindeer farm.

What a wonderfully diverse island this is. Jo had misgivings about her choice for our last two nights. But it was an enchanting place, prepared with care and comfort. We enjoyed complementary glasses of port, bought a bottle of local cider, and settled down to watch Hewett vs Roddick on the telly.

 

Friday.  For the first time, I thought of making a bird list. We slept in, then enjoyed a three-hour walk near the Mount Field NP entrance. Their rainforest and waterfalls were all different. The sun beat down, but we were thankful for the thick canopy above us. My list for the holiday swelled:

fantail cuckoo, grey fantail, boobok owl, marsh harrier, Newholland honeyeater, kookaburra, black duck, olive whistler, sulphur crested cockatoo, white faced heron, swift parrot, bronze cuckoo, splendid fairy wren, black swan, shelduck, pelican, little pied cormorant, silver gull, galah, coot, crow, lapwing, native hen, dusky robin.

 Back to our B&B for a doze in front of the telly. The verandah was stifling hot and we put the air conditioner on. At 6.30 Peter, our host, served a delightful home-cooked meal. I had Tazmanian salmon and home grown potatoes, carrots and courgettes; Jo opted for lamb cutlets. Desert was delicious pancakes, homemade raspberry sauce and cream. The house wine was just right.

We walked it off round the grounds, dotted with little dams and weirs.

 

Saturday. Salamanca market in Hobart has changed my opinion of markets and shopping, and Jo admitted it’s the best one she’s been to. Colourful, vibrant, with some excellent stalls. We bought more than we planned.

 


 

 

 

 

 

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