Sunday, 28 December 2008

Week of Monday 22 December 2008 - Hobart Tasmania

Monday 22 December 2008 – Our delight at the penguins was marred by passing 7 little dead bodies on the road as we drove to the ferry (it seems that some people cannot follow the road signs and drive slowly and carefully after dark). The return ferry ride was just as smooth as the one over to Bruny Island.
 On the way back to Hobart, we drove to the top of Mount Wellington. This is a stunning mountain with pillars of dolerite, called the Organ Pipes. The views from the top were panoramic despite the gale-like wind and cold. 

On our drive north, Darryl suggested we call in at the Cadbury's Factory, but we were really disappointed to find that they had closed for the Xmas break. The drive out along the Derwent Valley takes you past the paper mill, as well as farms of hops and Oast Houses. Although Darryl was worried about the temperature at Mt Field National Park it being used for skiing in Winter - it was actually lovely and warm, and for the first time since arriving in Tassie I got dressed in a T-shirt and light pants. 

Russell Falls is the main attraction here, and was certainly stunning – with wide tiered rocks and cascades down. The campground is privately run, and despite being the most expensive caravan park we have stayed in, it was poorly maintained. At night we walked back along the track to see the glow-worms twinkling in the rainforest. 
Tuesday 23 December 2008 – Darryl took off early in the morning and did the circuit of Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls, Tall Trees and Lady Barron Falls, but was a little disappointed in the other falls, as Russell is the best of them. Further West, along the highway is Tyrenna, and we turned off the road just on the outskirts to try to find Marriott Falls. This 5km return track took us just over 1 ½ hours as we followed Tyrenna Creek and then another creek up to the falls. These were just lovely, being in their natural state and with huge moss-covered logs across at the base. The walk itself was lovely, with picturesque views. At Maydena we turned towards Junee Cave with a little trepidation as to what we would find, but were pleasantly surprised to find and excellent limestone cave, which was the source of the Junee River. Unlike other rivers here, the water was crystal clear (most other water is stained black with tannins from the button grass plains), and had small rainbow trout aplenty. The water gushes out of the cave mouth clear after having deposited the tannins, and also become neutralised by passing through the limestone in the karst landscape. 

We continued out to Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon, and to the Gordon Dam. We were able to walk down onto the dam wall, into the midst of an adventure company taking some people on abseiling. This is the longest abseil in Australia – 140m. While there we noticed some other activity with camera-men and a small yellow helicopter about to take off, so we hung around to see what was happening and Darryl found out that they were filming for the travel show about Tasmania - 'Discover Tasmania'. The campground was a few km back, at Ted's Beach on Lake Pedder, and we headed back. After setting up, Darryl decided to climb the quartzite-laden mountain behind us. He got great views of both lakes from that vantage point, and also found that the numerous, strange holes in the ground were the homes of a yabby-like crustacean (we later found out that this is a land shrimp, and only occurs in about 2km square right here).

Wednesday 24 December 2008 – First thing Darryl was up and walked back up the mountains behind us (to get film with the sun on Mt Pedder). This meant a leisurely start for me! When he returned, we packed up and drove down the gravel road to Edgar Dam, and Scott's Peak Dam. Just past Scott's Peak Dam, there was a wonderful lookout at the top of Red Knoll. 

There are not enough superlatives to describe the stunning views of the ragged mountain ranges ringing Lake Pedder. We sat and ate lunch while drinking in the magnificent panorama of Arthur Range and 'The Razorback' (the photo can barely do it justice - I will have to wait to do a proper panorama when I get home). The campground at Edgar Dam was more to our liking than the alternative, so we drove the 7km back. The rocks around the edge of Lake Pedder fascinated us, with layers of a shiny soft mudstone interlaced and folded with layers of quartz. There was also a strange spongy black substance at the edge which is organic, and to me almost seemed like a dryish peat. Darryl rode his bike to try and find a creek running in – he found one, but found the undergrowth almost impenetrable, and eventually got sick of pushing through and gave up. He realised that he had left his favourite hat at the lookout! The campsite here was also free, and firewood was supplied, so we cooked a delicious cardamon-flavoured stew, and Darryl also made lovely bread.

Thursday 25 December 2008 – I NEVER ever thought that I would be spending Christmas day beside Lake Pedder! Wow! We had lovely fruit pancakes, cooked over the fire for breakfast – eagerly watched by the Pied Currawong for any inattention which might afford him a chance to steal a morsel.  We chatted to another camper, and also to an elderly couple who had come up for a drive. After a leisurely lunch we headed back along the road, but made a detour into the 'Big Trees Rerserve' which was well rewarded with a delightful rainforest boardwalk to see two huge Swamp Gums, and then a short walk down to the Styx River (another one, as there is one near Marlborough in Qld, and also we found one in NSW). This as extremely peaceful and pleasant, but eventually we made our way to the new bridge, where Darryl found the remains of the old bridge along with another, discoloured creek flowing into the Styx. We decided to head back to the pine forest area near Marriott's Falls to camp for the night.

Friday 26 December 2008 – We drove down the northern side of the Derwent Valley towards Hobart (just to do something different), stopping only to view the ‘Old Beach’ fossil site. I had booked us into ‘The Old Woolstore Hotel Apartments’ and we thought we would see if we could park the car there, and check in later, but it turned out that our apartment was ready so we were able to shift in and relax. It was then off to check out the wharf area of Hobart and the historic area of Battery Point. There are some really lovely buildings in this area, but the actual history of the Battery Point made us laugh – typical bureaucratic bungling on every front!

Saturday 27 December 2008 – Every Saturday in Hobart the Salamanca Markets are held, so of course we went down for a look. All sorts of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with crafts, and delicious foods and were available. It was a very clean market and just huge…I did around, and then couldn’t find what I had seen again! The shops in the main shopping centre were also open on Saturday afternoon, so we checked them out too.

Sunday 28 December 2008 – We had heard that the winning yacht in the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race, ‘Wild Oats’ was due across the finish line about 9.30am, so we went down to the dock to wait. It was very exciting when it crossed, with lots of other boats out to greet it, including a tall ship (which it dwarfed). While the presentations were being made to the crew, the runner-up ‘Scandia’ crossed the line, and during the afternoon lots of other racers also arrived. ‘Wild Oats’ and ‘Scandia’ are just huge compared to the others. 
This day was also the start of the ‘Tasmanian Taste Festival’ – an extravaganza of local foods and wines. I tasted beautiful Rosti with Smoked Salmon, and Tempura Mushrooms (gluten-free of course) with wasabi mayonnaise. Then in the evening I had a plate of mixed local sausages. We also sampled quite a few wines…one of my favourites (although Darryl found it too sweet) was a 2008 Spring Vale Sticky Gew├╝rtraminer from Freycinet. In the afternoon, I spent a few hours at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and was lucky enough to get a free tour where I was the only attendee….so, with all my questions, the hour tour turned into two for my poor tour guide!

Monday, 22 December 2008

Eastern Spotted Quoll

Week of Monday 15 December 2008 - Bruny Island Tasmania

Monday 15 December 2008 – Our drive took us through one of the prettiest areas I have seen – along the coast of Norfolk Bay, but we were heading south to the convict settlement of Port Arthur

All day was spent at Port Arthur. Our ticket included a walking orientation tour of the 100 acre site, and harbour cruise (I added a tour of ‘Isle of the Dead’ where all the burials from the settlement were done). Some buildings have been restored, some have been ‘exposed’ to show their history at various times, and others have been preserved as ruins, such as the church, which is obviously a ruin, but is in good enough state for weddings to still be held there. The whole site is just amazing, and really shows how terrible life must have been for the convicts who were sent to it, although it was meant to be a model of reform. Many buildings were lost in what was obviously a devastating bushfire in 1897.

Tuesday 16 December 2008 – We had to get a new second car battery in Hobart, and then did some shopping in Kingston before driving down to Cockle Bay. This is the furtherest south that you can drive in Australia. There was a short walk out to the whale sculpture – a realistic bronze of a 3-month old baby blue whale, which commemorates the whaling industry that used to exist in this area.

We met two motorcycle enthusiasts, both called Andrew, who also were marine engineers, and sat on the beach drinking wine with them to watch the sunset, until rain made us adjourn to the shelter of our tarp.

Wednesday 17 December 2008 – We shifted our camp, as a group of departing schoolchildren freed up the big camping area, and Darryl found a lovely sheltered spot back from the beach and road. 

After breakfast we started out on the South Cape Bay walk, (part of the South Coast Track walk), which was a 4 hour 14km return walk through many different habitats – from tree-fern and fern-lined creeks, to plains of button-grass. The main thing I will remember is wildflowers and mud! There were lots of boardwalks, but many of the sections without were very muddy. This is the first time I have seen Christmas Bells growing in the wild, and there were many accompanying flowers. There were lovely views of the beach at South Cape Bay, along with the booming breakers coming in from The Great Southern Ocean. As with all the previous National Parks, this one has abundant Superb Blue Fairy Wrens, Pied Currawongs, and Pademelons. But I was really excited to see a Quoll, a native, carnivorous, spotted, marsupial cat. It was being chased by numerous seagulls, and a Pademelon right in front of our campsite! I got a snap of its rear end disappearing into the bush. A girl from a neighbouring campsite came over with Oysters Kilpatrick, they had made too much, and there was a huge one left over which as really delicious.

Thursday 18 December 2008 – It was a lovely day for us to go on the easy 2-hour return walk to Fishers Point. This walk is along the beaches of Recherche Bay for much of it. We passed Snake Point, where we saw middens, and cockle shells. Then on to Planters Beach, formerly known as Cemetery Beach as this was a whaler’s cemetery in the 1800s, and we searched in vain for the single surviving gravestone. At Fishers Point there is a light, as well as the ruins of the Pilot Station (which later became a hotel called the Sawyers Arms. Out on the point people have constructed a rough cairn topped with flotsam like an old cray pot and the skeleton of a seal. We headed back, still looking for the gravestone, and found a hidden track which was then marked with orange tape. Thinking that this may lead to what we were searching for, we followed it and came across the remains of very old inhabitation – very old glass and pottery bottles (unfortunately all smashed), a smashed pottery jar with lid, a rusting iron cooking pot, various bits of other rusting metal, and a very fine china chamber pot (also broken). Eventually this track led out onto the beach, but we did not recognise it, as we had come out on Pancake Bay, much further west than Fishers Point, which we eventually came back on. At one point Darryl headed off-track and came upon a huge Tiger Snake. This time, while walking along the high tide mark at Cemetery Beach, I glanced up and saw something in the bushes, and investigation proved it to be the wooden rails around the gravestone of Samuel Thomas Pryat from the 1850s. He died on board the Aladdin off the SW Cape. None of the other graves are visible, even in 1869 a visitor described the cemetery with all the monuments made of wood and some of the grave already covered by sand. Now the whole area is covered with thick vegetation. We arrived back at the campsite to have lunch, and a bath, and had only just finished when it started to rain, which signalled a very good time to head to bed for a warm nap. We also discovered, on our walk, why we have been feeling so cold, when we looked across the bay to see a mountain with snow on it! 
While having happy hour the quoll came back to our campsite briefly – just long enough for Darryl to see it. He then went for a walk, and while he was gone the quoll returned and I got some wonderful photos and even video footage of it!!!! (I will post some of this on the Multiply web page - when I get a chance, but will not send it out as it could be a problem for those with a slow internet connection).

Friday 19 December 2008 – We arrived at Hastings Hot Springs half an hour before they opened, but it gave us an opportunity to dry out some of our wet gear. Unfortunately, we were VERY disappointed by Hastings Hot Springs – although the surroundings were very pretty, and clean, the pool could only be called tepid at best, I still had goosebumps while in the water, and even though it only cost $5 each we felt severely ripped off – we were imagining the beautiful hotness thoroughly warming us through as had happened in the Northern Territory. We had decided not to go to Hastings Caves, as we are going to others later in our trip. We took a backroad north and found a great lookout at Coal Hill, and went on further to Duckhole Lake Walk. This was a very pleasant walk, (despite the name), alongside a little creek through the rainforest to a natural lake caused by a collapse in the karst landscape. Further north was a short walk to a historic tramway was used by the loggers. 
Back on our track again and we headed to Arve Falls This drive gave us our first views of the Tasmanian Waratah, a lovely red flower, similar, but smaller that the NSW variety. 

We then headed for Hartz Mountains National Park where there was a nice lookout, and a walk across the alpine heathland, first to a nice waterfall, and then another walk to Lake Constance, a lake created by the glacier dumping rocks when it melted. We went back to the lovely little Arve Picnic area and set up for the night. As there was a fireplace and plenty of wood Darryl made bread again.

Saturday 20 December 2008 – We did the forest walk, and then drove up to the Tahune Airwalk. Initially we were the only ones there, and so had the massive steel structure, up amongst the treetops, to ourselves, which was nice. The following walk took us over 2 suspension bridges, one over the Huon and Picton rivers. A guided tour of the Huon Walk was included, and as, once again, we were the only ones on it, it was very personal, and the guide answered all our additional questions. 

There were a few other walks which we didn't do, but we were really impressed by 'The Big Tree' a huge Swamp Gum of 405 tonnes the biggest tree in Australia – it was really massive. 

It was then off to Kettering to catch the vehicle ferry to Bruny Island. This was a very calm crossing of 15 minutes. We drove north, and I took Darryl on a side road along the coast. He got out for an investigation of the rock shelf and found the biggest oysters I have ever seen! On the way to South Bruny we stopped at 'The Bruny Island Cheese Company' and had a platter of their lovely handmade cheeses, accompanied by their homemade sourdough bread (I provided my own crackers), along with Bruny Island Chardonnay, Tasmanian Ginger Beer, and Tasmanian Elderflower Sparkle – Darryl also sampled the homemade rhubarb ice-cream.

Sunday 21 December 2008 – Being Sunday we had a leisurely start and did a bit of a tour of South Bruny. A 1 ½ hour return walk up Mt Mangana, Bruny’s highest mountain only offered marginal views from the supposed lookout at the top (an earlier lookout which we drove to was just as good). I disturbed a small Tiger Snake, and we saw plenty of wildflowers and a lovely butterfly. Adventure Bay boasts a landing place for Captain Cook along with a monument, and we bought the Sunday paper, and ice-cream and sarsaparilla from the local shop before having a nap in the warm car – just a nice lazy Sunday afternoon. It was about 4km back along 'The Neck' (an isthmus joining North and South Bruny), to the penguin rookery, so of course we had to go! At dusk lots of Mutton Birds came in, and then the little Fairy Penguins started coming in to feed their young. The young ones came to the entrance of the burrows and called for their parent.