Thursday, March 22, 2012

Day 9 St Helen's, a drunk pig and the road home

Today is the last day in Tassie and we have to be in Devonport by 1630 to catch the boat home. Its about 240 kms of reasonable road and on the way our first port of call will be Pyengena to see  Priscilla the drinking pig. 
Apparently see enjoys a beer or two. When we arrived we could only see her bum but if that's anything to go by she is one big pig. Her off spring and grand pigs, were also playfully running around. One wonders if they are the result of a big night on the town! The "Pub in Paddock" is the home Priscilla and family and is a quaint pub basically in the middle of a paddock surrounded by dairy properties. The only other building around is the cheese factory about 200 mtrs down the road. What can I say, great coffee, pretty good cheese and nice ambiance and the menu looked pretty damn good but its was too early for lunch for us. The rest of the trip was uneventful and we arrived at Devonport with time to spare. The only hiccup was we dragged the folding step for mum all the way around Tassie and left the bloody thing in the car park at Devenport. Annoying because it was a bloody good step. Ah well another journey ends for us. Until next time stay safe and see you in the road somewhere.    

The Pub in the Paddock

Priscilla's offspring

Guess who

Monday, March 19, 2012

Day 8 - Exit Hobart on to St Helen’s

Woollen Mills Coffee shop
one of the tree sculptures
The carvings 

Almost the final leg of the “holidays” this time around. We headed off from Hobart and went out through Richmond heading for St Helens on the east coast. We met up with the main Hobart – Launceston highway just south of Oatlands and followed it up to Campbell town. 
We pulled into Oatlands for a break and coffee and found the local woollen mills – with little cafe attached. Oatlands has a lot of old buildings (as do a lot of Tassie towns) and the ability of the locals to keep them in such good nick is a credit to them. Another little quirk is the shrubs trimmed in the shape of all sorts of figurines. Cows, chooks, a farmer on a quad bike with dog the list goes on. They extended for quite a few km’s up the road. There were also some neat carvings in a small park which depict various elements of the Tassie history. The carvings are done on old tree trunks and are pretty large. From here we headed up to Campbelltown then we took the Lake Leake Tourist Rd across to Bicheno for lunch. The tourist road is fully sealed and not bad to drive on. There are quite a few spots for camping and walking and we have these in mind for future trips. Lunch at Bicheno and a bit of a walk along the rocks was in order. The wind was blowing a gale and just about needed lead boots to keep me on the ground. 

Bicheno Bay
The "Blow Hole"

Own ranch at St Helens
We also went down SW side of Bicheno to have a look at the blow hole which wasn’t really performing today. Back in the car and up the coast road we headed for St Helens. It was a pleasant drive along the coast but we didn’t stop anywhere.  We found our digs in St Helens, we are booked into the Big 4 and it’s not too bad. Had a bit of a look around the town and Di and I went for a walk to get some fresh air. Tomorrow we are heading for Devonport to head home but on the way we are visiting Pyengana to visit Priscilla the pig and the cheese factory.  By the way Dave forgot to mention the fact that we went passed through a town called Colebrook (formerly known as Jerusalem) Bet that gave the Tom Tom a headache..

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Day 6 & 7 Hobart and surrounds – a couple of quiet days

Saturday and Sunday we are in Hobart and are a couple of quiet days with very little planned. We have been here a number of times so the normal routine of Port Arthur etc is not on the menu. However Saturday is also Salamanca Market day in Hobart and the one word “market” guaranteed a visit. The morning was a little over cast but undeterred we ventured in. 

Salamanca Market
Wasn’t sure what I was going to do with Shirl but figured it would come to me as we progressed. I had thoughts of getting a wheel chair while we were in Hobart but that didn’t happen. Anyway we managed to get to the market and get a reasonable park pretty close. I sent Di off on her own and I snailed (don’t think that’s a word) it behind Shirl. She managed a bit, but not far, and I had just got her seated when Di passed heading for our appointed rendezvous for coffee so I collected my charge and off we went to revitalise.  Tactics were in order as the old girl wasn’t going too much further (although I doubt she would have said anything). We found a seat in the shade and parked her there with instruction to hold on to her bag and not talk to strangers. We then set off for the rest of the market and promptly ran into a work colleague from DPI. We chatted for about 10mins then said our goodbyes and finished the market scene.  We all walked back to the car and headed back to Eastlands for a bit of lunch and some slippers (Shirl didn’t pack any). I thought later that perhaps I could have spent a bit more time at the market but not to worry when we bring Abby across I will more than make up for it!! Last night Dave cooked a BBQ which was a change and all of us ended up watching Taggart until 11.30.
Sunday we are up and on the move by about 9.15 we went up to Mt. Wellington but there was cloud overhead. 
View from Mt Wellington
Richmond Bridge

Our "charge" under shade

In period dress - Richmond
 Then we headed off to Sorrell to the fruit/berry farm where we had a lovely lunch and proceeded to pick our own strawberries.  The weather is beaut now and it is quite warm picking the berries. The staff there are pretty good and more than helpful. They also mentioned that there was a little country fair happening at Richmond. I had intended to return via there anyway but that sort of sealed the deal. We had to find somewhere to “park” Shirl which turned out to be a park bench near the historic bridge. 

We left here there with the now obligatory instruction “hold on to your hand bag and don’t talk to strangers” but we also left her with an umbrella for shade. It would have been nice to have a proper look but we didn’t want her out there on her own for too long. There were people wandering around in period dress as well which added to the atmosphere and would not have been too hard to take sitting on the grass near the bridge watching the world go by.  We headed back to the cabin for the rest of the afternoon. Tomorrow we head for St Helens which marks the homeward leg of our trip.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Day 5 Hobart by Land and Sea (the long way round)

Today was our last day in Strahan and it was going to be a pretty big day for us. We have booked the Gordon river cruise then we have to drive down to Hobart for the next leg of our Tassi sojourn. So an early start as we had to pack the car and be at the wharf by 8am. The weather didn’t look all that promising either. We are booked on “The Lady Jane Franklin II” for the trip and she’s not a bad looking craft I have to say and as I was to find out she would happily cruise at 28 – 30 knots. The first leg of the journey is south then NW to Macquarie Heads and Hell’s Gate. Hell’s Gate is the name given to a small stretch of water at Macquarie Heads that forms the entrance to Macquarie Harbour. It was given the name by the convicts, not because the water is VERY treacherous (which it is) but because being a convict here was a living hell. The skipper poked the nose of our craft thru the heads but not far. The 2-3 mtr swell was breaking, choppy and looking very ugly. 
Hell's Gate
He managed to turn the boat in a bit of lee shore without too much of us resembling a bobbing cork, not an easy feat but one I feel Di and many other passengers were very happy with. I didn’t mention the rain, well because there was that much of it, it wasn’t worth mentioning really. With us now turned around and heading SW back into Macquarie Harbour most people breathed a sigh of relief and rejoiced. We went past a number of fish farms heading for the Gordon River and we stopped close to one for a bit of a look. At this particular one they are farming rainbow trout (yes you heard right) in salt water. It seems that because they are a member of the salmonoid family they can survive in either fresh or salt water and in fact grow much quicker in salt water. 
Fish Pens
The only thing they can’t do is spawn which is done artificially. We entered the Gordon River and if there is ever a reason I would become a greenie this is it. We did a heritage nature walk of about 400 mtrs and it was amazing to see exactly what this wilderness area is like. It would take too long to explain what we saw but if you come here and do nothing else, do this trip. From the wilderness walk we again boarded the boat and enjoyed our a’lacarte lunch while we motored out of the Gordon River  
Gordon River

 towards Sarah Island to the convict ruins. A guided tour of the island, which ended up as a bit of a play/show with audience participation was a highlight and provided some entertainment. Then back to Strahan and into the Paj for what seemed to be the longest 265 km drive I have ever done. 
Convict ruins Sarah Island
Di on the rain forest walk

Fungi on the rain forest walk

The 4 ½ hour drive went through some beautiful country and sites we just didn’t have time to stop and see. We also saw a couple who were on the boat with us and have told us of some great camping sites which will have to wait till next time. Hobart came over the horizon about 7.30pm and everyone was pretty tired.   

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Day 4 Trip back in history. The Rack and Pinion Railway Queenstown to Dubbil Barril

Today was a trip to Queenstown and to take mum (and us) on a trip on the wilderness rail. The trip normally runs Queenstown to Strahan and return. The package is normally rail in one direction and bus the other, however, Mother Nature had stepped in and a landslide has closed part of the track so it was Queenstown to Dubbil Barril and return. As luck would have it this is actually the best part of the tour. Now to explain straight up about Dubbil Barril that is our sign for today and there is a story to it, which is too long for the blog. That is actually the spelling as accurate as the sign says.  

Queenstown Wilderness Rail station

The train runs from Queenstown to Lynchford, Rinadeena, Dubbil Barril and terminating at Strahan and is a rack and pinion rail system designed by Roman Abt . This helps the train transverse the 1:16 grades through the hills along the King and Queen rivers. This is the steepest gradients in the southern hemisphere and well above the usual 1:40 most rail systems are happy with. The history of the rail link and its life is amazing and is a testament to the developer's. The Lyell mining and rail company was formed in 1892 to put a rail or tram car from Queenstown to Strahan to service the Queenstown mines with the rail being completed in1896. To say that living and working was difficult is an understatement and the completion was a significant feat. Their motto was “we find away or make it”. We would have liked to go premium class but unfortunately we could only get “cattle class” (thanks Gavin can’t get that out of our heads) but in fact it was quite good. 
"Cattle class" accommodation
Our little loco's

The workmanship in the carriages was fantastic especially when you consider these are reproductions of the original carriages. Our orator for the journey was Tom and he was brilliant as a story teller/showman keeping us entertained. We would recommend this to anyone and is well worth the money. Queenstown itself is recovering from its early years with a lot of work being done to recover the Queen river and the hinterland. Apparently there is still about 50 years supply of copper in them thar hills. 

Dubbil Barril Station sign

King River Gorge

Tomorrow it’s cruising the Gordon and off to Hobart.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Day 3 Strahan by walking track

Well today we woke to a great day with the morning a bit cool but the day ended up pretty warm. We had a couple of things we had planned to do but my luck continued to be nonexistent. The activities were to be a trip on the wilderness train and then a cruise up the Gordon River. Well the rail mob have lost our booking  and at first engagement was now fully booked so no cigar. Persistence and the great young girl (thanks Felicity) at the activity centre managed to get us on the train, in cattle class. That pushed us out a day as the only day they had bookings on the cruise was Friday. Friday we are due to head for Hobart.
View from the coffee stop

Anyway today we meandered the streets of Strahan and its a pleasant, friendly little town with coffee shops and eateries along the wharf area. Di and I had our obligatory walk and coffee this morning, took mum in for lunch and a bit of a drive then back to have a relax for the day.
 Life is hard I guess we could call it a preparation day for tomorrow. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day 2 Stanley to Strahan

Well we all slept well in our more than acceptable accommodation and dinner last night wasn’t all that shabby either. Unfortunately Di’s sleep was interrupted on a number of occasions by my snoring – must have been the wine I had with dinner. We headed off about 9ish and took mum on a bit of a tour of Stanley to show her some of the old buildings, the Nut and some of the other sites.  
Morning Tea on the Western Explorer road
From there we headed for Strahan. Now I decided that the bitumen road was too easy so I opted to go via Dismal Swamp, Arthur River, Corinna and Zeehan using the Western Explorer Road. That’s 250 km’s of dirt. Whilst it was a bit rough it was a great experience and showed a whole different landscape of Tassie. There is not much in the way of amenities including fuel along the route. We stopped at a gem called Corinna. 
Corinna Pub

There is a pub/general store with both free and normal camping on the river. You have to also take the punt across the river to continue your journey. We had lunch at the pub and I have to say (consensus of opinion) they were the best roast beef sandwiches I (us) have ever had. I would love to spend a few days here at some stage unfortunately I doubt it will be in Abby (new van) she is not an off roader.
Corinna Ferry (The Fatman Barge)
We never had a theme for this trip but it seems one has presented itself after yesterdays sign about irrigated roads. We have found a couple more today one about Warning of eagles on roads and the other, at first glance, indicated mating rites between cars and kangaroos after dark!!!!  You be the judge. I must have too much time on my hands. Di had a visual encounter with one of her nemesis’s  – a black snake about 1 ½ meters long heading across the road just before Corinna. We made Strahan about 3.30 and our digs for the next 3 days look pretty good. 
The mating sign ???

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tassie here we come. Melbourne to Stanley

Spirit of Tasmania docking
Our cabin

 Well today’s the day and we headed off Bendigo to Melbourne to catch the “Sprirt of Tasmania” to Devonport. It was with some trepidation given Di and boats normally don’t mix but ever the adventurer (and travel calm) we tested fate. I will say right up front she travelled better than the rest of us. She is now mumbling things about cruises to the islands. We arrived at our appointed time – to an empty pier. Apparently over the long weekend they have run day and night services. Once the boat had docked it took 2 hrs to actually get the car on and to our cabin. I must say the trip was pretty smooth. Another 2 hours to disembark and clear quarantine and we were on our way. Apart for a 20 km detour ( my fault) it was a pleasant trip from Devonport to Stanley. Good road and nice views. An interesting side note, the Taswegans have taken to growing roads – well at least I think that is what they are doing. We passed a couple of signs on the road side indicating "irrigated roads" . Interesting concept doomed to failure I expect. We deviated off the main A2 to Table Cape Light house.
Stanley Village in the old rail station

Table Cape Lighthouse
 It had some real nice views of the coast line and hinterland both east and west. Beautiful clear water and smooth as a table top. Stanley is a bit of a sleeper and we didn’t realize there was a bigger town till later in the afternoon. Very nice place and the caravan park looked magic. Sits right on the beach and well presented. We are staying at Stanley Village which is a mix of new accommodation and the old railway complex (Station, station masters quarters etc) we are staying in what I think is part of the old station masters quarters. I was wishing I had brought the rods the bay is beautiful.
The nut

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Well a little under a week to go and as per murphy's law if it can go wrong it will and we will be in the firing line and it will be my fault it happened anyway, has kicked in. The Paj, which I have been less than happy with since the gas conversion, dumped half the contents of the cooling system on the road yesterday and was flat topped out to Bayden's for fixing. I won't bore you with all the other crap that complicate the issue, suffice to say it all turned to shit. Anyway just under a week and we head off to Tassie. The map shows our project route so we will see what happens. The weather was supposed to be ok but it seems my friend at the weather bureau is not so sure now. Life could be interesting.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Well Janyce has gone - first couple to see her took her so we hope they get as much enjoyment from her as we did. I never finished the reno's but the couple didn't seem to mind. Week to go before our Tassie trip but we aren't talking Abby with us just Shirl (mother). We are heading over on the boat so that should be an experience. Will keep you post on our travels and "adventures"