FEBRUARY 2015

We moved on to Stanley on Sunday the first and set up in the camp opposite the showgrounds which is $8 per night and an easy walk into town. We joined in happy hour with fellow campers and shared heaps of advice with them on what to see and do, as they had just arrived from the mainland. One couple was from the Gold Coast and the other from Perth. We spent the next day walking up and around The Nut, which has the steepest grade of walk up a bitumen path I’ve seen anywhere. It also seems to be a lot harder than it did 6 years ago, but that’s just what getting older does to you I suppose.

The Nut - Port Stanley
The Nut – Port Stanley

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We also completed a few caches here, then moved on to Smithton free camp on Tuesday. This was just an overnight stop on a few grassy acres beside a small stream provided by the Hotel/Resort.

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Ok for one night and then we moved on to Arthur River and once again met up with Geoff & Joy Burgess & their Scottish friends. They had booked on the Arthur River cruise for the next day, so we shot down to the store and booked ourselves on as well. A great happy hour was had as usual. This is an excellent camp with fairly new flushing toilets and fire pits scattered about.  We boarded the boat and were welcomed by both the new & the previous owners. The weather Gods were shining down on us, as it was a very pleasant day and you are always pretty sheltered from the winds upstream amongst the rainforest. We cruised for a short time with some great facts and history of the area being provided by both of these characters, who obviously enjoy what they do. We soon came to a spot where they feed a couple of sea eagles with whole fish thrown up onto the bank. I was lucky enough to snap a shot of one as it grabbed the fish, although not perfectly focused. As we were getting close to the lunch destination we first had to pass over a shallow sand bar and just our luck, it bottomed out and we were stuck well and truly. We thought we would have to wait for the other cruise boat to come and give us a tow, but after many attempts at rocking the boat back & forth & side to side it finally moved forward and on to our lunch mooring in the forest. One of them gave us a guided walk through the forest describing many of the trees and plants along the way. He was once the owner of a sawmill so he had an extensive knowledge & experience on the subject. His mate prepared a fantastic BBQ’d lunch while we were gone and we even had some wine thrown in to wash it down. All in all, a fantastic and informative day on the Arthur River.

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After two nights here we headed south down the western explorer towards Corinna on the Pieman River. Geoff & Joy and friends went around by the bitumen and down to Strahan as their friends only had an on road van. We let our tyres down and took it fairly easy as the road was a little rough and loose in sections. Surprisingly the countryside was quite mountainous as I had, for some reason, pictured this section as fairly flat and scrubby. It was an enjoyable drive as we only passed a couple of other vehicles along the way. One section had warning signs advising of a short very steep climb ahead, so I put the transmission in low range and thank God I did! Pulling 3.5t of van up the section certainly put everything to the test. We later heard of one person who ignored the warning, got half way up with his Bushtracker van and couldn’t make it. The car slid back and jack-knifed into the van. He got out using his low range, but it would have been quite frightening during the slide back. Once at Corinna we found there was no suitable camp and as we had expected our rig was too long to go on the Fatman Ferry to cross the river. So we headed northeast and on to Waratah which was our planned destination.

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We stayed at the council park on the banks of a lake right in the middle of town. It’s one of the few towns built around a huge waterfall that had been used to run a large mining structure which was built right over the falls. Like many towns it is considerably downsized from what was here in the early days, but the mining is still going ahead in the hills. The next day we drove back towards Corinna about 10klms to walk down to Philosophers Falls. This was another amazing walk which followed along the edge of a stone water race which was amazingly built by hand to convey water to the nearby Magnet Mine which closed in 1940. There’s a set of 200 steel steps down to a viewing platform at the end giving you a great view of the top of the falls. It’s incredible to think that all this existing forest is actually regrowth but it looks quite natural and like most other forests in Tassie covered in green moss.

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After two nights in Waratah we went south via Zeehan, through Strahan and out to Macquarie Heads, the mouth of the massive Macquarie Harbour. The road out to the Heads was rough & stoney gravel, which is in contrast to most of the roads in Tassie that are in quite good condition. We found Laurie & Helen and set up camp beside them with the intention of doing some fishing while we were here. But it was very windy on the beach and the current was ripping through the heads with lots of weed in the water. We had a great camp behind the foreshore trees that completely blocked the wind out so the pig was lit & happy hour rolled on.

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The next day we went for a drive to Montezuma Falls via Zeehan which was about a 40 minute drive to the start of the 4wd track. This is one I’ve heard about and been wanting to do since we were here last time. Don’t be fooled by the sign at the start that says 2 hrs return as it took us closer to 6 all up. It didn’t help that we had a kayak and a boat on top as there were quite a few low branches that got a nudge on the way. This track follows an old rail line that is very narrow, rough & boggy in places. We often had to pull our mirrors in as it was that narrow. Low range was the gear of choice, with great care taken not to scrape the edges or bash something in a bog hole. It was fortunate that we didn’t meet any cars coming the other way as there was simply nowhere to move over nearly all the way. We did meet a group of locals on quad bikes that managed to back up for us and reckoned we could get through to the end of the falls. There was one washout on a hairpin bend that we had to scrabble up that got the heart racing and then, fortunately we met two vehicles that had stopped for lunch. They advised the next washout was quite difficult and as it was only 3.5klms to the falls, we decided to walk rather than risk any damage or getting stuck out in the bush. If we didn’t have all the gear on top we would likely have made it unscathed but as it turned out there were several large trees hanging low across the track that would have stopped us anyway. The walk was enjoyable as being an old rail line it had only minimal incline. We stopped for a snack at the start of the walking track before walking the last 400m into the falls. Just before we got to the falls we had to cross a suspension bridge that was quite narrow and easily got a bounce up. I had to carry Sammy across as it was quite a drop to the river below. We made our way back out and re-inflated our tyres before heading back. We also now had orange mud on the cars and on our trouser legs, which a young boy spotted when we stopped at Zeehan pub for a late lunch. He said “you’ve been up to Montezuma Falls haven’t you?” Clever kid!!

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The next day we left Strahan and drove up the range to Queenstown, did a shop and headed out to the southern end of Lake Burbury near Darwin Dam. From Queenstown we had to climb up a very steep range for several kilometres and stopped at the lookout just over the crest. Wow!!! What a view. This country is spectacular and photos just don’t do it justice. We then had to descend down to the dam in first gear with gentle application of the brakes to try and avoid overheating them. It had a small camp area that used to be the construction site when they built the dam and a boat ramp was on the side. What a fantastic time we had here, the locals camped beside us made us feel very welcome and the scenery was to die for. These guys are all fly fishers and had many years of experience so we managed to get some tips off them before we left. I got to catch my first rainbow trout and Laurie caught a couple of good sized brown trout. They were fantastic eating and I’m sure it has something to do with the pristine waters they were caught in. That’s what’s so special about Tassie, the water’s crystal clear and the air is the cleanest in the world.

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We went for a drive further down the road for about 14klms and turned into another old rail track, but this one has been maintained and is in good condition. Once in the parking area we donned our backpacks and headed off on a 15klm return walk into Kelly’s Basin. There’s not a lot of maintenance done on this section of the track and requires some climbing over rocks, logs and negotiating bog holes. This track follows the river most of the way until you near the old township site. Once again we’re in thick rainforest with ferns and moss everywhere, so a constant watch for tiger snakes was required. It’s hard to believe that about 80 years ago there was a full on town here. The bush has regrown and other than a few kilns from the old brick works and a couple of boiler tanks, you wouldn’t know it. There’s also remnants of an old jetty that carried the bricks and tourists on rail carriages to the transport ships.

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After a week in this paradise we decided it was time to move on. I have to say the only drawback was the horse flies during the day that could bite and draw blood, leaving you with a painful site for several days. We had to go back through Queenstown in order to head east, so it was up and over that huge range again. I think new oil in the transmission and new brake pads will be in order when we get back to the mainland. At the top of the range I explored an old miners tunnel that went back about 150m into the hillside. At the very end someone had placed an old bathroom vanity, complete with toilet roll. Quirky!! Thankfully no-one had used it. The range heading towards Hobart out of Queenstown is feared by many people as they say it’s very steep with tight hairpin bends. On both occasions I have driven this road I have found it to be quite enjoyable as it’s not as steep as many others and the road itself is in excellent condition. The views of the ranges around you is also spectacular. Just for something different we went up and down numerous hills and valleys once again and spent the night at Bradys Lake free camp.

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The next morning we continued on to Hobart staying at the showgrounds in Glenorchy a western suburb of Hobart. We would be here for more than a week as Deb needed a tooth crown replaced, I had doctors appointments and needed a medical exam for my license renewal. Deb also had an appointment with a respiratory specialist as her chest problems were getting worse and needs further treatment.

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We then returned to Sunset Beach for another 5 nights and was able to get out fishing in the kayak two more days and caught a good feed of flathead & a squid once again.  Rod & Tony were here also and they smashed the flathead outdoing my catches each time.  They are hooked on this place, excuse the pun.  I’ve also mastered the art of filleting these beasts, which makes them much more enjoyable to eat.  We picked up a hint front some friends to coat the fillets in crushed up salt & vinegar chips.  Yum!!!  It was also great to catch up with Harvey & Marie and hopefully we will catch up with them one day.

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