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 Gewürtraminer 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!

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