26 NOVEMBER 2014 – Deb primed herself with sea sick meds in hope that she would have a good trip across Bass Strait on The Spirit of Tasmania. We met up with Craig & Wendy & Martin & Amanda on board and naturally had quite a few drinks to celebrate the start of our Tassie adventure. Unfortunately Deb was sick around 2am as the seas were a little rough. We left Sammy in the van overnight as we thought he would be more relaxed in there rather than a steel cage with lots of other dogs around him. 27 NOVEMBER 2014 – After disembarking around 7am and passing through the quarantine checks we headed for Mac’s Farm in Launceston about an hours drive from the boat. This is a fantastic spot for $10 per night to explore around this area and the owner is full of advice on things to see and other places to camp. We drove up to to a ski lodge at Ben Lomond climbing what they call Jacobs ladder a series of switchbacks on the road up the side of a very impressive rocky mountainside. Once at the carpark we walked to the summit, or more like climbed, taking about 45 minutes each way. We located a cache at the first peak and then went on to the highest. This is the second highest peak in Tassie at 1500 metres.
The next day Deb and I walked the eastern track in Cateract Gorge which is quite steep with large stepping stones for stairs. Needless to say we were exhausted by the time we got back to the car at the top. We couldn’t go right around this time as dogs are not allowed in most areas of the gorge.
We all headed out to Liffey Falls SW of Launceston down through Bricknell. This is very picturesque farming country and one of the most notable crops is the paddocks of white poppys grown for medicinal opium. There are large signs warning against attempting to take this crop for obvious reasons.
2 DECEMBER 2014 – After stocking up on fishing rigs, bait & advice from Gotya Tackle we headed off with Laurie & Helen to Myrtle Creek 20 odd klms NE of Launceston. This is another beaut camp on the banks of a little stream for the huge sum of $6 per night. The amenities are A1 and the office sells fish & chips & basic needs including firewood. We fished our butts off trying to catch the allusive trout. I hooked one & got it to the bank when it flicked off the line right on the edge. We saw other people catch one here & there but it was not to be. Laurie & I even went upstream in the kayak looking for untouched locations. But even though we didn’t catch any it was the most beautiful location you could imagine with crystal clear running water, moths & butterflies flitting about, moss covered logs and ground cover. Aaaagh the serenity. The water, as you can imagine was freezing, but after a while you couldn’t feel it. Funny that!
4 DECEMBER 2014 – We continued NE through Scottsdale & Bridport to meet up with the others who had set up camp at South Croppies, Waterhouse Point. It was an interesting trip in as it was raining and we were following a grader in on the dirt roads. What he did was remove the hard surface and we had to work hard to keep the vehicles on track while slipping & sliding. As you can see from the photos below the track was quite interesting & the last section was a tight squeeze through the scrub with both sides of the van touching the bushes & sand edges. We caught a few silver trevally & wrasse off the rocks on the point. The water is the clearest I’ve seen anywhere. We had a big cook up of 6 fish on the Webers that night & the taste was fantastic. This is livin’!!!
5 DECEMBER 2014 – We moved on to Village Green at the top of Waterhouse Point along pretty good dirt roads, passing a boat ramp where the water was so clear you could see the ramp going off way down into the water. Wow!!! The beaches here have the red algae on the rocks that give the Bay of Fires it’s name. It was a great free camp with a newish hybrid toilet which actually flushes with a foot pump, very flash. 🙂 I fished off the rocks at high tide and was finally rewarded with two Australian Salmon. I didn’t think I was going to get the 2nd one in as it put up one hell of a fight, jumping & flicking about. But what a great feed we had that night. There’s nothing like freshly caught fish cooked in alfoil on the Weber. Yummy!!!
7 DECEMBER 2014 – Deb & I headed back through Scottsdale towards the east coast passing through Derby. This was a favourite of ours last time we came here 6 years ago, with beautiful gardens all down the main street & a great free camp by the river. Unfortunately the town seems to have deteriorated somewhat & they don’t allow dogs in the nicer area, so we moved on towards Pyengana. We went via the town of Legerwood known for its wood carvings in the main street. Apparently the trees were dying so they had a chain saw sculpter come in & carve the trees into a memorial to our soldiers.
We passed through Weldborough which has a great pub that previously had free camping out the back, but now charges $15 for unpowered site. They are trying to attract tourists in the northern areas & this will not help their cause at all. We ended up at the Pyengana Recreation Reserve which is a free camp with flushing toilets and a huge flat area to set up camp. They are soon to install showers and hopefully they won’t then feel the need to charge fees. Camped here, you are 400m from the Holy Cow cheese factory and about the same in the opposite direction to the Pub in the Paddock. Of course we supported both businesses. We had the most amazing meal at the pub in a really fantastic atmosphere with tons of history adorning the walls. We also drove up into some forestry trails to see St Columba Falls & Ralphs Falls. Unfortunately the track to the 2nd falls was washed out & we could only walk to the Cashs Gorge lookout. This was pretty special all the same and a different type of walk along a boarded walk nearly all the way. Lots of wombat poo was on the trail, but we didn’t see the responsible creatures anywhere. How do I know it was wombat poo? It’s the only creature I know of that craps in cubes. How? I haven’t got a clue.
9 DECEMBER 2014 – We left Pyengana and headed down the range to St Helens on the coast. This is a vibrant town with most shops & services available and is just south of the very popular Bay of Fires area. We had already seen this area previously so we decided to head south and go inland again. We stopped in at a free camp at The Chain of Lagoons which was rated quite well on Wikicamps, but it didn’t appeal to us as it had limited sunny areas & the area that did, didn’t have beach access. So we headed inland to Lake Leake which has almost 5 stars on Wiki, but again we were dissapointed as it had 3 powered sites for $20 per night & one unpowered site that was shaded. So we continued on to another free camp in Campbell Town beside the river. It’s a large flat grassy area with only bins supplied. There are public loos available about 400m away in the main street and a dump point not far. It’s a very interesting town with quite a history relating to convicts & the building of a spectacular bridge that took about 15 months to complete back in 1838. There are hundreds of bricks inlaid into the footpath in the main street that have details of individual convicts, such as name, crime & sentence. Amazing stuff!!! We also did a few geocaches in the town within walking distance. 11 DECEMBER 2014 – We were advised by a local that the Ross Bakery was pretty special, so we headed south & pulled off the Midland Hwy into the quaint little town of Ross, which is also known for a spectacular bridge built by the convicts of long ago. The bakery lived up to its reputation with Deb having a pastie & me a scallop pie. Again Yummy!!! We also took away a vanilla slice for afternoon tea. And you guessed it….Yummy!!!
We then continued down the highway into Oatlands with its iconic Dutch style windmill & the free camp beside Lake Dulverton across the road. Sadly the lake is just a muddy swamp full of reeds at present and is is not very attractive. We had noted on Wiki that there was a better camp beside the windmill located in what used to be the old cattle yards. You can stay here for three nights free of charge with toilets located across the road or in the info centre at the mill. This mill has been recently restored & is actually working, grinding flour. The number of old stone buildings in the town is amazing and guided (at a cost of $15) or self guided tours are available.
On Sunday the 14th December we headed down to Primrose Sands via Richmond to check out a free camp beside the community hall, but unfortunately there was a Christmas event on at the time, so we continued on to Dunally. We stopped in and unhitched the van in the free camp beside the Dunally Hotel & went a few K’s down the road to check out the camp we had booked into at Sunset Beach. The pub only had a porta loo on the block which they kept locked during their operating hours to lure people into the hotel & hopefully spend money in there. Whereas Sunset Beach had a great amenities block which was spotless & it had easy access onto the beach & awesome views for only $10 per night. The owners were very helpful & friendly, the only drawback was we were exposed to the never ending winds that blew almost every day. I launched the kayak here and caught some flathead and a stargazer, one ugly fish but it tasted great. We found a few caches around Dunally and went for walks on the beach most days.
On Sunday 21st we went for a drive to Dodges Ferry for their markets. The others (Laurie & Helen, Martin & Amanda, Craig & Wendy) re-joined us after exploring the northeast coast since we left them at the Village Green. We had met a couple who were from the Glass House Mountains area & were camped with us also.
We invited them to join us for a drive down to Port Arthur to attend the carols by candlelight being held in the historic church with no roof. We thought this would be something different, and it turned out to be very different. We parked in the car park & walked through the beautiful gardens to the church which was illuminated by very effective lighting which highlighted the huge turrets above. We took our seats in this fantastic setting and were awaiting the carols to begin when a woman entered from a side door and asked if anyone had medical training. Nobody moved , so I walked out to assist, thinking someone had simply tripped over or something. As I exited the door I saw that they appeared to be attempting CPR on someone just outside. It was a 47 year old male who had a massive heart attack and had fallen face first onto the gravel. I took over CPR, defibbed the patient twice with an auto defibrillator. An ambulance arrived about 20 minutes later & we worked on him for about 45 minutes. He now had a pulse & was breathing on his own, so we then proceeded to load him onto a chopper for transport to Hobart Hospital. I returned to the church & heard the last song before heading home exhausted.
Unfortunately the life support was switched off about 6 days later & he passed away the next day. The Local cop (John) organised a free ghost tour and access to Port Arthur, as well as a boat cruise out of Hobart to Ironpot Lighthouse for Deb, Kylie & myself in appreciation for assisting with the patient.
We still managed to have awesome happy hours despite rain, winds, winds & more wind. Kylie flew into Hobart on Christmas day to spend 5 nights with us, so we headed into town to buy a tent for her to use & keep for when we want to go bush. The tent turned out to be very poor quality and definitely not designed for Tasmania’s winds. So we returned it boxing day & bought a much better one for only $40 more. While we were in town we drove up top of Mount Wellington to show Kylie the amazing view over Hobart. It was absolutely freezing (4 degrees) and winds at about 80kph so it was challenging to try and walk around and pose for photos.
Saturday 27th we drove into Hobart to go to the Salamanca Markets which was packed with people as always. We placed Sammy in doggy day care, which he always seems to enjoy as he gets to play with lots of other dogs. The variety of stalls at Salamanca was quite amazing and the smell of exotic foods was incredible. We then drove up to Mt Nelson up the zig zag road to the Semaphore, which was a signal station that relayed messages between Port Arthur & Hobart. We then drove down to The Womens Factory in Hobart near the Cascade Brewery. And no, it’s not where they make women, it was a very harsh womens prison where they weren’t allowed to speak and worked long hours in horrible conditions. After several hours of browsing we were exhausted and headed back to camp about 45 minutes drive away.
On Sunday 28th we visited The Blowhole, Devils Kitchen & The Arch before heading to Port Arthur after lunch. We did the cruise around the bay and walked around most of the buildings before going for dinner up the road a bit at the Port Arthur Lavender Farm. It was yummy & the prices were reasonable. Thanks for the shout Kylie!
We then returned to Port Arthur for the ghost tour which was quite interesting. Especially when we went down under the surgeons building into his morgue. It was like a dungeon with a stone slab in the middle of the room. We walked about with only 4 lanterns to light the way.
On Monday the 29th we headed into Hobart again to do the Ironpot cruise. This was excellent timing as many of the yachts from the Sydney to Hobart race were still to arrive, with the winners already in port. It was a blowy day for a change so the trip was quite exciting riding the big waves across the harbour and out around the lighthouse. The boat was incredible, a 34 foot rubber duckie/aluminium type hull with 3 x 225hp outboards which pushed it along quite nicely.
The skipper was the owner of the company and his commentary was very informative. We also managed to watch two maxi yachts fight it out for line honours on the way back to port. We then had a look around the docks and a snack at the Tastes of Tassie Festival, which showcases the wines and foods of Tasmania.
Kylie flew out on the 30th and I think we can say we were all quite exhausted after 5 very active days of sightseeing, but hopefully Kylie now has a taste for Tassie & may return to explore it further another time. On New Years Eve we fired up the pigs and put together a variety of foods for all to enjoy into the night. As usual the food was great & the company equally as good. Most hung in there till the clock ticked midnight and we could even hear the rumble from fireworks coming all the way across the bay from Hobart. Unfortunately we could only see a glow from them as there is a few hills in between.