I have clearly been out of Tasmania for too long – I somewhat naively assumed we’d have good camping weather when we were down there. Wrong! It’s spring – of course I should have remembered it is still cold and wet at this time of the year in Tasmania!
(I should probably point out for those readers who don’t know, I was born in Tasmania and spent the first 14 years of my life living there. I moved back in my early 20s for a year to study my first year of university at UTas in Launceston, then returned a few years later once I had completed university in Brisbane and gained my first job in academia at UTas Launceston, where I stayed for almost 5 years. I returned to Brisbane at the end of 1998 to start my PhD and have lived permanently in Brisbane since then. Tassie will always hold a special place in my heart but I have very clearly blocked out all the unpleasant weather-related memories.)
My best friend, Kerrilee, lives in Devonport with her 10 year old son, William. I was super excited to drive off the boat (at 6.45am!) and go straight to Kerrilee’s house for breakfast and a catch up 🙂 We had plans to do some camping with Kerrilee and William later in our trip so after stocking up on some groceries and doing some laundry, we reluctantly left the comfort and warmth of Kerrilee’s house and made for our first Tasmanian destination. We had originally planned to head to Arthur River on the north-west coast for a night and then Strahan for another two nights. But it was raining all down the coast and we were going to need to set up the full annex in order to stay warm. Therefore we decided to head straight to Strahan and set up there for 3 nights, which would make setting up the full annex a little less bothersome.
Strahan is a quaint town on the mid-west coast of Tasmania. I remember camping there a bit as a kid with my parents so I was keen to show my own family one of my childhood places of interest. Now that I think of it, it pretty much rained the entire time we camped there when I was young as well. Not sure how I could have forgotten that!
The town sits on the edge of Macquarie Harbour and is famous for two central things – huon pine and convict prisoners. Sarah Island, in Macquarie Harbour, was a convict prison that pre-dated Port Arthur and plays a rich, albeit brutal, piece in Tasmania’s convict history. The forests around Strahan, along the Gordon and Franklin Rivers, are the only place in the world that huon pine grows so abundantly. We did a wonderful boat tour of Macquarie Harbour, Sarah Island, and part of the Gordon River heritage area where we learnt all about these fabulous places and the history of the ‘piners’ who worked deep in the forest to bring the massive huon pine logs back to Strahan for the sawmill. On board the boat we also watched a documentary called The Oldest Living Tasmanian, about the piners and the huon pine industry in Tasmania. It was a fabulous insight into the history of this area and I would recommend watching it if you ever get the chance.
(Side note: this whole area is heritage listed but was once the centre of a massive uproar between the Tasmanian government and the federal government, with the high court having to step in and stop the bitching. Tasmania wanted to log the crap out of this area and put in a whole heap of big dams that would flood the entire area and damage acres and acres of old growth forests of species that only grow in this area. But a good part of the Tasmanian population cried out in protest – yay to Bob Brown, lots of trees were hugged and people chained themselves to trees and essentially lived in the canopies of the trees for months on end, and the federal government finally stepped in and said ‘you can’t do this’. It was one of the biggest conservation protests the world had ever seen and eventually the world heritage folks heard about this and decided it was time to take a look. The area was world heritage listed and the Tasmanian government were made an offer they couldn’t refuse and the area remained as it is now. Happy ending.)
As anticipated, it rained and rained and rained while we were in Strahan. It was also incredibly windy and on our last night there we encountered 92 km/h winds! Our annex stood through it all (we’d learnt our lesson after Echuca, and we had all the walls attached and the floor down which contributed to the stability). On the morning we packed up we had a brief break from the rain long enough to pack up without our stuff getting wet but the floor and walls all had to be put away quite wet which isn’t ideal. I’m writing this some two weeks later and they are still folded up in the camper and probably won’t get an airing now until we get home!
We had planned to stop for a night at Derwent Bridge which is approximately half way between Strahan and Hobart. It is also essentially on top of a mountain range and very close to Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. Anyone familiar with Tasmania will know these places are typically frigidly cold and I wasn’t surprised when I saw the forecast for Derwent Bridge involved snow to 300 metres! That’s it – we were driving straight on through and direct to Hobart! (But not before the ‘kids’ had some snow fun first.)
We pushed on to Hobart where we had been offered a place to stay with a primary school friend of mine, Andrea, and her family. The promise of a warm building to sleep in rather than a camper was pretty enticing. The main purpose of visiting Hobart was to spend time with my beloved cousin, Anica, and her partner, Phillippa, the closest thing Charlotte has to ‘aunts’ and very important people to us (not forgetting her real great-aunts, of course!). So we spent as much time as we could with them while in Hobart and didn’t do a huge amount of site-seeing. We’ve been to Hobart quite a few times before so this visit was all about family. That being said, we did go to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) because Brandon hadn’t been there yet; Brandon and I also did a Cascade Brewery tour while Pip babysat Charlotte for us. Brandon spent a lot of time building Lego – our host family are avid members of the Tasmanian ‘brick’ enthusiasts scene and had a ‘brixhibition’ coming up the following weekend. Brandon was more than happy to help out by building one of the displays that Andrea planned to exhibit that weekend.
Andrea’s ferret was also a big hit with Charlotte. I’m not convinced – a little too much like a rodent for my liking and I suspect Dobby would probably dispense of it pretty quickly. Still, she was good for some laughs.
Leaving Hobart our plan was originally to then travel to the east coast of Tasmania and spend 3 nights camping at the Bay of Fires with Kerrilee and William, then head to Devonport and spend 3 nights at Kerrilee’s house before boarding the boat back to the mainland. Kerrilee and I had already agreed that if the forecast was for rain, we’d just head straight to Devonport and stay with her for 6 nights and do day trips from her place. I shouldn’t have been surprised that this was what happened!
We had a lovely extended stay in a warm, dry house (I’d almost forgotten how to set up the camper by now!) and we visited a number of the local attractions that we hadn’t seen on any of our previous trips to Tasmania. First up was a day trip to ‘the nut’, a landmark in Stanley on the western end of the north coast of Tasmania. When I was first there as a kid, you had to walk up and down the nut if you wanted to check out the view. These days they have a chairlift which made the trip far more pleasant for these old bones!
We also visited 41 Degrees South, a salmon farm just outside of Deloraine. I don’t like salmon so the free tasting didn’t do much for me, but I came away with a great jar of what I’m going to call ginseng dukkah (they call it ginseng spice but it seems exactly like dukkah to me!). Can’t wait to try that on some chicken when we get home 🙂 After a visit to the salmon farm, we met a former UTas colleague of mine for lunch in Deloraine, then stopped on the way home at the Ashgrove Cheese Farm, for a tasting of the local produce. Cheese – mmmm – my weak spot 😉
Another trip involved a visit to the Mole Creek Caves. This was a great chance to see a wet cave up close and to see the glow worms they have in the cave. Once privately owner, this cave system is now managed by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in Tasmania and it was a great day out. Unlike Tunnel Creek in WA, we didn’t need head lights or anything here – the caves are all lit electrically. You have to go through the cave with a guide and he turns on and off the lights as you reach various stages of the walking track. It’s very well done and quite enjoyable. It also remains a steady 9 degrees inside the cave all year round, so I was a bit chilled and actually felt warm as we came to the surface again!
It was lovely to spend some time chilling with Kerrilee and William and not having the stresses and strains of camper life.
But all good things come to an end and pretty soon it was time to board the boat again and head back to the mainland.
The end of our trip is drawing near – I can’t believe that, at the point we got on the boat, we only had 2 weeks left on our adventure! Yikes! I’m not ready to face going back to work just yet. I suspect it will be a bit of a culture shock. But we still have a few things to cross off our ‘to do’ list before we drive back up our driveway, so you can expect to hear about a few more adventures over the coming 2 weeks 😉
Weeks/nights on the road to this point: 14 weeks, 1 day.