On Thursday the 1st we followed Dave & Jenny into the forest down several tracks and to a lookout over a gorgeous bay from high up on the cliffs. A very special place and out of the wind as well. Most left the camp ground on the Friday morning leaving only Craig & Wendy & Laurie & Helen with us. They went hiking in the morning while Deb & I took Sammy to the vet again as he had a small infection on his face from an insect bite that needed attention. Once back at camp it was time to catch up on some blogging as the wind was once again in force making it very unpleasant outside.
On Sunday the 4th Deb & I drove to the Coal Mines on the Tasman Peninsula and did a 2 hour walk around the site. A very interesting site that has only recently received World Heritage recognition, so lots of work has been done and I imagine more is to come to ensure the site is maintained as best as possible.
The cells are in amazing condition considering they’re almost 200 years old and open to the weather. It was a long uphill walk past the police quarters to the top of the mine shaft which was 92 metres deep originally with side tunnels running out from it’s base. The prisoners were sent here as additional punishment for reoffending, so this was known as the worst place to be sent. The men were lowered down the shaft sitting facing each other on a steel cross bar at the end of a rope and winched down. They worked the mine on hands and knees pushing carts of coal along on rails. Water filled the lower chambers and had to be constantly pumped out to the surface. An old boiler tank still stands at the top of the shaft. The coal was moved on rails down a fairly steep incline with a convict applying a hand brake to maintain control and then loaded onto boats. A pulley system was employed and as one lot of carts descended full it pulled the empty ones back to the top. The coal was of poor quality as it spattered sparks as it burnt. Prisoners were kept in separate cells as it was of concern at the time that the men were getting up to immoral behaviour. We drove to the nearby Lime Beach campground and were surprised to find hundreds packed in here for the Christmas break. We then drove down to Nubeena for a couple of geocaches and a look around then back to camp.
Monday the 5th was spent drying and slowly packing up everything. We departed Sunset Beach Camp Spot after 3 weeks and said goodbye to Harvey & Marie until we meet again somewhere. We shopped in Sorell and topped up our water before heading up to Kimberley Cottages at Levendale a short drive north through farmland.
The hosts here, Lance & Cynthia Wilson are the most welcoming people you could ever find and have had the most interesting lives which they are happy to share with you. We were invited to join them for a roast lamb dinner. Amazingly everything they eat here is home grown, meat, veggies, eggs and fruit obtained on their farm or locally. Lance is a renowned writer winning author of the year in 2008. His books are fictional but based on the many experiences of their lives in Arnhem Land, the Kimberley’s and Tasmania. (See his website – Lance C Wilson) We stayed here a week enjoying their hospitality which included smoked eel, freshly caught wood duck and home grown lamb chops. Fresh veggies from the garden and eggs from the chook pen, wow, this is old fashioned farm life and shows how cheap you can live if you put your mind to it. The Wilsons have lived in some very remote places so they learnt to be self sufficient in order to survive and enjoy fresh food. Lance took us 4wding around the 7,500 acre property across the road which belongs to Cynthia’s brother. It was fairly dry and lots of good water holes were all but dried up, so fishing was limited to the dams. He is getting fisheries to deliver 30cm trout for the dams which should be good fishing in days to come. The weather has mostly been cloudy with some showers and night time temperatures down to 7 degrees. Not bad for summer.
On the 7th we had a communal fish dinner with the Wilsons & another couple from Hobart who were camping with us. We had some freshly smoked eel, which was caught in the dam and I must say it does taste a bit liked smoked chicken & not as oily as I thought it would be. Deb went with Cynthia & her grandson for a drive to check the old local school which is now closed.
Thursday was a day of rest & on Friday we went for a drive to the east coast through Buckland to Orford & then Triabunna. Buckland has an historic church with beautiful stained glass windows & some of the oldest graves we have seen. Orford is a quaint little seaside town & Triabunna is just north of here. We had lunch from a popular food van located behind the Triabunna Hotel which overlooks the marina. We also did a few geocaches along the way with a very difficult find near an old boat shed at Orford. Cynthia cooked up some chicken wings & veg for dinner which was a lovely way to end a great day.
On Sunday the 11th, we watched Lance & Cynthia dress a few ducks they had caught in a trap on the dam. We froze one for later (much to Deb’s delight…Not!!) . Deb made pizzas for dinner for us & the Wilsons, which was most enjoyable.
On Monday the 12th we packed up and said our good byes to Lance & Cynthia and thanked them for a wonderful stay. We may return here before heading back to the mainland, we’ll wait & see. We drove towards the central lakes area & spent 2 nights at Kempton free camp on the way. Like many other towns in Tassie it has lots of history relating to it’s convict era and early farming days. We walked around reading all the little information plaques on the many historical buildings and once again found a couple of geocaches. One in particular was very hard as it was a small section of a branch shoved in a pine tree with a hole drilled in one end and a plug of wood inserted to encase the cache. Sneaky!! This was a free camp but felt it worthy of a $5 donation just the same. Hopefully these camps will remain if we support them appropriately.
On Wednesday the 14th we headed up to Lake Arthur stopping at the Steppes Sculptures along the way. These were sculptures placed on stones in the bush in the middle of nowhere. Very strange place to put them. The wind & rain pounded us all night after setting up camp at Jonah Bay beside Lake Arthur. I’m sure this would be a great spot to camp in good weather but the wind shook the van all night & it was very cold. This is a real fisherman’s camp with lots of guys who look like they have all seen better days, with missing teeth, huge beards & wearing the standard camo fishing gear which seems like a uniform around here. All that aside, they were friendly & welcoming & happy to share their fishing tips. But unfortunately the fish weren’t biting and the weather was crap. Laurie had completed his 6 day hike from Cradle mountain to Lake St Clair so they joined us the next day. Laurie & I headed out to try & catch our first trout, but the wind limited where we could go and there was lots of weed tangling our prop so we returned to camp. The fact that the locals weren’t out fishing should have been an indication to us that it wasn’t the right time to go out at all. There are warning signs around the lake about sudden weather changes and the dangers to boaties and one guy copped a blast of wind that spun him around and nearly flipped him over. We tucked ourselves indoors and played cards at night to avoid freezing to death outside. Part of the reason for the extreme weather here is that the central lakes area is situated on quite a high plateau. Meanwhile back home everyone is complaining about the heat, I don’t know which is worse.
On Friday the 16th we decided the weather wasn’t going to let up, so we headed north down into Deloraine and stayed at a free camp in town for a couple of days. We went for walks around the riverside, did some shopping, baking and played yahtzee at night. On Sunday we visited Ashgrove cheese, Christmas Hills Raspberry farm Elizabeth Town. We drove to Meander Forest Reserve, Mother Cummings Peak, Warners Sugerloaf and ended the day with an excellent meal at the Deloraine pub.
On Monday the 19th we headed to Mole Creek caravan park & Laurie & Helen went to Launceston to take care of some business for a couple of days. It was a small caravan park beside a pretty little stream. Unfortunately they packed everyone in and didn’t have enough facilities for the number of people staying there at the time. On Tuesday Deb & I went for a drive into the nearby mountains to see Devils Gullet & Lake MacKenzie. Once again the weather played havoc with our plans. It was over 1450 metres elevation and the wind, rain and thick clouds were all around us at the lake. We drove out onto the lake with limited visibility and it was like driving on a moonscape, with rocks everywhere until we reached the waters edge. The waves were braking, wind was roaring, rain stinging your face and we only caught glimpses of the dam wall. On the way back we decided to stop at the Devils Gullet and do the 500m walk to the lookout in the hope that the clouds would break if only momentarily. But no, the walk was beautiful, but the view was a total whiteout even though we waited for a while hoping for a break. We checked out the camping at Lake Paragana and Lake Rowallan before returning to camp.
The next day we moved to the free camp at the back of the Mole Creek Hotel. Again, nice green lawns on the banks of a small stream, with small trout & even a few platypus. For some strange reason everyone was packed into the caravan park when nobody was camping here. Laurie & Helen rejoined us here and we decided to support the pub for dinner that night.
On Wednesday the 21st we went for a drive & walked to a lookout at the allum cliffs, high above the MacKenzie River. Of course we couldn’t resist finding a cache there as well. We then went to the Chudleigh Honey shop for icecreams & honey tastings. Then onto the silk & fudge shop for some more tastings. Mmmm good diabetic food.
On Thurday 22nd we moved on to Lake Paragana to try our luck at some trout fishing. Craig & Wendy had been down south & came to join up with us also. On Friday I caught my first ever brown trout. It was only 250mm but still 30mm bigger than the minimum allowed. We cooked it on the pig with some butter & garlic wrapped in alfoil and it was beautiful. They seem to be a difficult fish to catch as we spent many hours trying to get more but without success. It was the Australia Day weekend so lots of people arrived for the celebrations, but most were pretty quiet. We had a couple of good days of weather and it turned crappy again on the Sunday. I walked up to the Gadds Falls across from the camp ground. The rainforest was beautiful like most places in Tassie, covered in green moss and dripping with moisture. It was a little spooky also as many have spotted tiger snakes and they are very aggressive when disturbed. Thankfully I saw none. We spent the next few days relaxing with a few bouts of fishing which only resulted in one more trout for me. Craig managed to catch 3, but poor Laurie dipped out. He reckons he’s going to stick to salt water fishing where he seems to have more luck recently.
We left Lake Paragana on Tuesday 27th and drove to Sheffield passing through some magnificent mountainous country. Sheffield is known for the murals on many of it’s buildings which are quite impressive. We spent the night at the Sheffield recreation grounds free camp and headed back into Leven Canyon the next day.
We had to go down a very steep 2klm descent to cross the river at Lake Barrington. The brakes were rather smelly on the van at the bottom & the engine was quite hot after climbing up the other side. Really not suitable for anyone with an underpowered vehicle, that’s for sure. We found a nice camp spot amongst the huge tree ferns and set out to do the circuit walk to Leven Canyon. It was a steady climb for about 500m to the lookout and the view down into the canyon was spectacular to say the least. After absorbing the views for a while, we took the 697 stairs down to the lower lookout. After that it was a fairly steep graded 600m back to camp. There was some firewood supplied, so we enjoyed the evening around an open fire over a couple of ales.
The next day we went north to the coast stopping at Blue Wren Tea Gardens at Ulverstone. The hosts here were fantastic and very welcoming like so many of the places we’ve stayed in Tassie. They sure are a friendly bunch down here. The trend seems to be going towards more low cost camps than just free camps. We’ve found these places clean with good amenities and great hosts, well worth the 10 or less dollars per night. This spot looks out over a bay and Goat Island and set amongst some beautiful gardens. They even had a wedding here on the weekend which didn’t effect our serenity at all. We had a couple of very reasonably priced meals in the cafe and they were delicious. The hosts (Trevor & Vicki) joined us for happy hour each night, which was wonderful getting to know them. he next day we went for a drive up to Gunn Plains soaking up more of the beautiful scenery Tassie seems to have in abundance. We stopped off at Preston Falls which was only a short easy walk from the roadside. I spotted a large tiger snake sunning itself on the rocks just below the viewing platform. We also did a few geocaches around Ulverstone and one out on Goat Island which can be reached at low tide. We climbed up a small rock face and crawled through a small cave to reach the location of the cache on the other side. One of the most interesting cache locations we’ve been to so far.