Monday, 22 December 2008

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.

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