Tasmania 2016, Day 15

The Salamanca Markets in Hobart were on Majella’s radar from the time that she began planning this trip. They operate only on Saturday so we needed to have a large part of a Saturday available for that activity. Because Hobart was the obvious point for arrival and departure and we were planning a circuit round Tasmania the markets would need to be at the beginning or end of our trip. We arrived at 6:00 pm on our first day so the markets had to be scheduled at the end of the trip. There was the additional advantage that any purchases would not need to be carried around Tasmania for 2 weeks.

So it was that this morning we got away a little ahead of our scheduled time of 9:00 am and headed for Hobart, a bit less than 30 minutes away by van. Parking anywhere near the Hobart waterfront is at a premium most times and Saturday morning is especially difficult anywhere within easy range of Salamanca Place. We arranged an 11:30 am rendezvous by the Abel Tasman monument at Salamanca, a spot that we knew from the walking tour of Hobart that we did 2 weeks ago. Russell managed to negotiate the traffic to a point near the Salamanca Markets where we dropped Majella and the other women before driving off to look for parking. We found that some distance away on the far side of the main shopping area where there were some 2 hour limit metered spots free. By that time it was nearing 9:30 am and 2 hours suited us just fine. We agreed to meet at the van or the rendezvous point depending where we were at the time.

I had errands assigned by Majella before we parted so we attended to those as a priority. First was to check that the Hope and Anchor, Australia’s oldest continuously licensed pub (since 1807), was offering lunch today. We walked the few blocks to the pub and confirmed that it was open for lunch. I found the menu online (looks fine on this laptop but awful on my iPhone) and emailed that to Majella. It offered an interesting variety of reasonably priced meals. Second was to check the menu at Mures Upper Deck restaurant to see if that might be an option. We walked down to the waterfront and checked the menu outside the building. It offered some interesting, if expensive, seafood choices but some of us were not excited about any of the meals on offer. Again I found the menu online and emailed it to Majella. It was not until we met up later that I discovered my emailing was in vain because Majella had left her phone in our room at Richmond.

Russell also had an errand to complete along the waterfront so we tackled that next. That done, we needed coffee. The nearby coffee shops seemed full so we wandered in the direction of the markets thinking we might find something in the row of shops beyond. We walked through the rows of market stalls without becoming distracted and found the Cargo Bar coffee point on the shop front. The young woman there suggested we might be served more quickly if we went inside. We did and think we were, though the coffee appeared to come from the same place. It did take some time for all the coffees to arrive. Before we were all done Warwick wandered off to check out some wallets and I went off in the other direction to look at the variety of stalls. By the time I got back the others were gone but no matter, we had 2 rendezvous points arranged.

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I wandered the length of the market without finding anything to really distract me though toward the end I spotted a sign that I wished we had seen earlier. The markets are always well patronised, but the addition of 2500 passengers from the recently docked cruise liner certainly added to the throng. I was not very fond of trying to move through the crowds that were dawdling more slowly than I preferred and occasionally stepped to the outside of the line of stalls to make progress. Just as In arrived at the end I chanced upon Majella and a couple of the others. It was then that I found she was not receiving email because her phone was left behind. 

After that I wandered through the central city shopping area but found nothing I wanted or needed to buy. I made it back to the van a few minutes before our agreed time of 11:30 am and was waiting when the other men arrived. We found our way to the rendezvous point, narrowly averting tragedy when Jim luckily warned Russell about a woman who was stepping into his blindspot and was in danger of being run down. We were barely moving at the time but she looked as though she was aware she had a lucky escape.

Once the women were aboard we headed back toward the Hope and Anchor. Russell and Warwick went to park the van while the rest of us went in to arrange a table. The young woman behind the bar informed us that lunch would begin at midday, about 10 minutes away, and that she would arrange a table for us upstairs. We waited a while and were then taken upstairs where we found a table set for 10 in a large dining room decorated with a variety of memorabilia – mostly weaponry including old rifles, swords, and halberds but with several mounted heads of deer. We settled down to look at the menu and ordered soon after Russell and Warwick returned from parking. They had to go some distance to find a spot.

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The menu offered plenty of variety. Majella had already had her long awaited scallop pie in the markets so settled for a small meal of abalone with a Pagan cherry cider. I opted for the chicken jalapeño burger with chips and a pale ale. The burger had just enough jalapeño to give it some zip. Everybody found something to their taste – mostly the roast pork special – and the plates finished clean. The food was good and the decor historic. The service was also excellent and the ability of the young woman taking drink orders to correctly remember all 10 of them caused some amazement.

At the end of lunch we agreed to remain in town until 4:00 pm when we would meet at the top of the Elizabeth Street mall on Liverpool Street to be collected by the van. Russell and I walked back to the van to sort out parking and then back to the mall. From there Majella and I walked back to Salamanca where I had found there was a Kathmandu store. I picked up another pair of trousers with my preferred assortment of pockets. We had coffee at Salamanca before walking back to the mall where we met the others.

They were ready a bit earlier than arranged so Russell and I walked up to get the van and collect them. We drove back to Richmond where we later met in one of the rooms to eat a simple meal from the various treats our shoppers had brought back through the day. There was some reminiscing about the past 2 weeks. All agreed they had enjoyed it and were surprised at how much we had managed to do. It’s all over now except the trip home. We fly out at 10:30 am tomorrow and will be home late in the afternoon.

Tasmania 2016, Day 14

Our plan for today was deceptively simple. We were to drive to Port Arthur to visit the historical site. We finished with a few interesting side excursions.

Our drive to Port Arthur was expected to take a bit more than an hour after allowing for coffee along the way. We had agreed to leave around 9:00 am and drove out just before that time. It was my turn to drive as we headed east and south through Sorrell and Dunalley. We recalled the latter name because of the terrible fires that had razed much of it in January 2013. The road wound about a little but was mostly smooth going.

Soon after we passed though Dunalley we saw the sign for Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed. We were not interested in stopping at that point but made a note for later in the day.

Our first target was Doo Town, a small town on the south end of Pirate Bay at Eaglehawk Neck. Its claim to fame is the inclusion of ‘Doo’ in the names of houses, a custom started by an early resident and taken up as a feature of the town. A couple of our group who had been to Port Arthur previously recalled going there and Colleen had heard about Doo-Lishus, which she recalled as being a coffee shop in Doo Town selling excellent coffee perhaps with a view of the water. That was our target for morning coffee and the group were not going to be deterred from that target.

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Along the way we had advice from Fay that we should not miss the tessellated pavement, an interesting coastal rock formation near the northern end of Eaglehawk Neck. We found the turn to the lookout at the top of the hill north of Eaglehawk Neck.

We had left Richmond wiht overcast skies and had thought that we might have rain during the day. Along the way we had driven over some wet road though we had not actually had rain. It had also been cool enough when we left that we were all wearing jackets of one sort or another. Soon after we turned off the main road we found a lookout with a view across Pirate Bay to the south with some interesting rocky headlands that were just beginning to benefit from sunlight coming through breaks in the cloud cover. We opted not to stop but to drive the 4 km to the tessellated pavement lookout. We parked there and walked down a short path for better views of the rock shelves. The formations were interestingly different from anything we had seen previously and the signs explained how the effects of sea and salt produced the effects on siltstone.

We had thought of stopping at the first lookout on the way back but the breeze had been cool on our short walk and the vote was against stopping before Doo Town and coffee. We drove on across Eaglehawk Neck.

It seemed that, although some had been to Doo Town previously and several were keen on the idea, nobody really knew were where it was. I had googled it last night and found it was at the southern end of Pirate Bay but imagined it was on our path to Port Arthur. Since nobody knew any better we rolled on toward Port Arthur expecting to find Doo Town around each corner. We didn’t and eventually arrived at Port Arthur without having had our morning coffee.

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I dropped my passengers at the entry to the visitor centre and drove back to the level 3 parking lot – 2 levels were already full. Once we had purchased our entry passes that included a walking tour and short cruise around the harbour we were able to relax and enjoy coffee and treats. We had time to visit the downstairs display and find out what happened to the convicts allocated to us on playing cards before our walking tour was to begin at 11:30 am. By that time the sky had mostly cleared and we had blue skies with sunshine and just a few scattered white clouds. It would have been difficult to imagine better weather for our tour.

Our guide on the walking tour, John, was excellent. He was assisted by a portable amplifier that made it easier for us to hear him. His routine was probably well rehearsed but delivered with a degree of spontaneity and a collection of interesting anecdotes that gave life to the history of the site. That history is mixed, with some dark episodes and some success in developing a productive settlement out of difficult circumstances.

The guided tour did not stray far from the starting point but was mostly in the clear space at the bottom of the basin in which the settlement developed so we were reasonably well oriented when it was done by about midday. Our cruise was schedule for 1:00 pm so we decided to walk around some of the buildings until then and find lunch on the cruise or afterward. We followed the road up toward the row of houses on the higher ground and spent some time in the parsonage before moving on to look at the church.

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The church was built from stone and appears to be still solid but it has been unroofed for a bit more than 100 years. It is a beautiful old building and the weather conditions made for some interesting interplay of light and shade on the creamy stone and brick construction.

From there we walked down through the formal gardens, which have been restored to a condition similar to what existed in convict times, to the bottom of the site and then to the wharf where we boarded for your cruise.

The cruise took us out past Point Puer, where boys as young as 9 were imprisoned and made to work, and around the Isle of the Dead which had been used as a cemetery for about 1000 people who had died at Port Arthur. We thought about buying lunch on the cruise but decided against it because obtaining and eating lunch would have consumed much of the 20 minutes of the cruise. Instead we waited until we returned from the cruise and then went back to the restaurant in the visitor centre where we were able to find lunch and eat it in comfort.

After lunch we arranged to meet back near the centre and wandered off to explore in couples or smaller groups. It was 3:00 pm by the time we had all returned and were ready to head back toward our accommodation at Richmond.

Our Doo Town enthusiasts were still determined to check it out on the way back and had done some further investigations that established its location south of Pirate Bay on the east coast road we had not taken earlier. Even then there were doubts from some as we drove further around the bay than they thought we should need to without encountering any ‘Doo’ houses. Eventually we did spot some but then passed by most of those before we reached the parking lot near the blowhole and boat ramp. There was more nervousness about having missed it but then we spotted the van in the carpark that is Doo-Lishus. We were lucky to arrive just ahead of a rush. In the end nobody had coffee but we mostly had ice-cream. Majella had the Berry Doo-Light – a dish of vanilla ice-cream with cream and fresh berries. I had a soft serve ice-cream with raspberries chopped into it. It was all good if not quite what had been expected. We checked out the blowhole briefly before heading off but tide and weather conditions rendered it relatively peaceful.

Just before we reached Dunalley we stopped at Bangor Wine & Oyster Shed. It was a very upmarket ‘shed’ with great views over the bay. Warwick and Colleen bought oysters for dinner but the rest of us passed on that.

We stopped briefly at Sorell for some essential supplies, including fuel, before continuing to Hatcher’s Manor. We ate in the restaurant here again. What we had last night had been good so some ate on the basis of recommendations from that and others tried something different. Tomorrow we will be back in Hobart for the day.

Tasmania 2016, Day 13

St Helens to Richmond, where we will stay for our last 3 nights, is only 225 km by the direct route but we were planning a scenic drive down the east coast. That would increase the distance and require time for sightseeing. The final section yesterday from Scottsdale to St Helens had involved some tight twists and turns over the mountains and some needed extra sleep for recovery after that and yesterday’s early start . We set departure time for 8:30 am. Most were up and moving early in any case so we easily made our scheduled departure time.

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Our first stop along the way was at Bicheno. We arrived there shortly before 9:30 am and stayed for just a short time to stretch our legs and look at the scenery and activity around the bay. A couple of people were fishing off a wall, some others were swimming off the beach, a boat was in the bay and signalling the presence of a diver below, and a group that appeared to be a scuba class was assembled near us and preparing to enter the water. The sky was overcast and there was a cool breeze blowing so we enjoyed the scenery, including the reddish rock shelf, for a few minutes but did not stay long. We drove on toward our next destination.

We arrived at Coles Bay shortly after 10:00 am. On the way in along the shore of Moulting Lagoon we had noticed what appeared to be a number of wooden structures out on the water. There was speculation about whether they were for oysters or crayfish but it was not until after we were driving south a couple of hours later that I used Google to find that they were actually hides used by duck hunters in season. By that time we were looking for morning coffee and I had spotted Tombolo on the map on my iPhone so we navigated there. They served good coffee and a variety of bakery treats that filled some cracks.

Majella had planned the itinerary to allow time for a walk in the nearby Freycinet National Park that was the reason for our visit to Coles Bay. She had identified the Wine Glass Bay Lookout walk as one that we might fit in our schedule. It is just 1.5 km each way but described as steep in places and the time estimate was 1 to 1.5 hours. Warwick, Russell, Majella, and I indicated interest in walking that track, leaving the others to wait. We thought that we would need to drop them at the park visitor centre and drive to the car park where the walk begins but once at the park we discovered that parking might be crowded where we needed to go and that there were alternatives for the others. The dropped us at the foot of the trail and then drove 15 minutes or so to the easily accessible lookout at the Cape Tourville lighthouse. They were able to enjoy that view and a short walk off the road while we climbed and returned.

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The track up to the Wine Glass Bay lookout was steep in places but well developed with stone steps much of the way. Warwick steamed ahead, Russell followed, Majella described herself as puffing like a train, and I alternated among moving quickly, stopping for photos, and waiting for Majella to catch up for a drink from the water I was carrying. We made good time up to the lookout, paused for photos, and rolled back down the hill in about 50 minutes total. That beat the estimated time and had us there earlier than we had thought the rest of the group should come back for us. We called them and they soon arrived to collect us and continue on our way.

It was midday by then and time to begin thinking about lunch. Majella was determined to have a scallop pie from the cafe recommended by Gabrielle in Orford. That was 90 minutes or so away but we had been eating late lunches and morning tea had sustained most of us so we agreed that was a reasonable target. We made our way back to the highway and then headed south, stopping once at Swansea for fuel.

Gabrielle had described to Majella how we should enter Orford from the north, cross a bridge, turn left, and find the cafe with the scallop pies. As we entered Orford somebody asked if we had crossed a bridge. A voice suggested that we had. Majella spotted a sign on a roadhouse advertising scallop pies and we stopped. Scallop pies were sold out – more disappointing for some than for others – but we found alternatives including toasted sandwiches, Rosie’s chicken, and fish. While we were eating Maria called Gabrielle who called back shortly after missing the call. Questions and answers were exchanged about where we were and where we should be. Gabrielle was surprised that we were eating at the roadhouse rather than the cafe she had described. We did find it later but they were also sold out of scallop pies and the muffins that Gabrielle had recommended as an addition or alternative. We checked out the place where Gabrielle had lived briefly before heading on to Richmond.

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Our accommodation at Richmond is at Hatcher’s Manor. We are staying here for the last 3 nights of our trip, four in a ground floor cottage and six in a 3 bedroom apartment on the first floor of the main building. Although the building looks old it was actually built by the owners starting in the 1990s. Majella was especially impressed to learn that the ornate cornices were all made by the woman who, with her husband, runs the place. We were greeted by a young man from Manchester via Brisbane who has started work there only this week but had been left in charge because the owners needed to run some errands in town. He sorted us out smoothly and we headed off to explore Richmond.

Richmond Village is close to Hobart and its airport so it is a convenient location for us. We plan to visit Port Arthur tomorrow and then the Salamanca markets in Hobart on Saturday before flying home on Sunday. It is an historic site, with many fine old buildings in the main street and surrounding area. We drove back into town soon after 4:00 pm and agreed to go our separate ways and meet back at the van at 5:30 pm to return to Hatcher’s where we had booked for dinner at 6:30.

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Majella and I started wandering through the village. I was keen to get photographs of the most iconic structures in Richmond, the bridge over the Coal River built by convict labour and St John’s, the oldest Catholic church in Australia. Majella did not want to walk that far, at least at my speed, and thought that the rest of the group probably would want to visit those sites by car on the way back to Hatcher’s. She suggested that I go and do my thing for a while. I managed to visit the bridge and church for photos while she explored the village at a more leisurely pace. As I did so I bumped into multiple subsets of our group who were also wanting to view the bridge and church. Having done my thing I returned to find Majella (courtesy of iPhone tracking) and we viewed the bridge and church from the top of the river bank at the marked photo sites.

We did a little shopping for breakfast before heading back to Hatcher’s via the church which was closed up by that time. We had dinner in the Manor cafe/restaurant where both the food and wine were good and reasonably priced. That was all done in time for the final load of laundry on this trip to be done before we retired.

Tasmania 2016, Day 12

Today was golf day for our three golfers, Jim, Russell, and Warwick. Barnbougle Dunes is reputedly the best links style golf course in Australia. It is near the small town of Bridport on Bass Strait, a bit more than an hour of driving from Launceston. Our itinerary had been planned to allow 5 hours or so within which time it would be possible to play an 18 hole round. The rest of us would be able to enjoy some of the other local offerings while waiting for the golfers.

There was some apprehension among the golfers on at least two counts. For one, none of them had played a links course previously and they wondered about dealing with sand, wind, and long grass in the rough. For another, the weather forecast had suggested rain was possible and the early morning sky in Launceston was grey with cloud.

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Jim had booked the round of golf for 10:00 am and the plan was to arrive there about 9:00 to allow time book in, hire clubs, and get organised to play. We left Launceston just before our scheduled departure time of 7:45 am. Despite some navigational adjustments that took us via Scottsdale, we reached Barnbougle just after 9:00 am. We all went in for a look while the golfers sorted out booking and gear. Once they were sorted we headed off, leaving them to practise while they waited to tee off. By that time the sky was mostly clear blue with a few fluffy white clouds, dissipating their second source of apprehension and leaving just their games to think about.

With Michael at the wheel we drove off to explore the area. Majella had listed Bridestowe Lavender Farm as one place to visit. We had passed the turn for it before we reached Scottsdale earlier but planned to take a different road back to avoid retracing our path too often. On the way we would look for a winery with good coffee where we could take our morning break.

Pipers Brook winery was marked on our maps about 20 minutes away and the web page described it as serving good coffee and food. We headed that way and arrived a few minutes after it opened at 10:00. We all had coffee and a variety of tasty treats. Majella and I shared a piece of pecan pie and then tasted the Pinot Grigio and Pinot Gris. They were excellent  but we were not prepared to carry any in our luggage. I was interested to find that 9th Island wines, a familiar brand, came from the same group. They blend material from the local area with some from the Tamar Valley to achieve the desired characteristics.

The track in to the winery from the road had wound quite some distance through the vineyards. We were surprised to find that signs for the exit directed us by a different route. The reason became clear when we arrived at the adjacent Jansz winery before reaching the road to continue on our way. Next stop was Bridestowe Lavender Farm.  

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It was not far but a short distance up a side road that we had noted as we came through earlier. Our plan was to visit Bridestowe and then follow that side road back toward Bridport, avoiding a repeat trip via Scottsdale. As we turned off the road to enter Bridestowe we noticed that the road onward  was gravel. The women enjoyed the shop full of lavender goods but I was inclined to think that a motorcyclist I overheard had it right. When his female companion commented about his helmet being still on he responded by asking how long they would be there.

We stayed a while before heading back to Bridport via Scottsdale rather than take the gravel alternative. Majella’s Lonely Planet guide described Scottsdale as having some interesting old buildings but we saw few of those on our drive by visit.

When we arrived in Bridport we found a parking space at the top of the town and walked across toward a cafe. The women wandered into a store where they were advised that the best place to eat was the Bunker which was in the RSL club at the bottom of town. 

We headed down the street but Michael, Maria, and I soon realised that we were a long way ahead of the others who had been distracted by bargains in a clothing store. We also realised that we would be walking further than Maria and some others would want to walk back. Michael headed back to move the van closer. I went back in a vain attempt to hurry the shoppers. Maria carried on. I caught up with Michael and Maria in the restaurant where we sat and waited until the shoppers eventually joined us. Majella and I had smashed eggs – poached with bacon and avocado on good bread – with cider for her and local dark ale for me. 

After lunch Majella, Fay, and I went for a short walk along the foreshore while the others waited on the verandah. Then we headed back to Barnbougle to find the golfers.

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As we arrived somebody noticed a group of 3 golfers on a fairway near the clubhouse. I’d noticed in the morning that the back nine went out in that direction and 3 being an unusual number of golfers agreed it might be our golfers. I bolted for the lookout near the clubhouse and got some photos of them as they approached the green and putted out. The rest of the group joined me on lookout to watch them finish.

We spent a short time in the clubhouse relaxing while they got sorted out with souvenirs. Then we hit the road for St Helens, our stop for tonight. That required our third pass for the day by Scottsdale. From there the road went through some beautiful scenery and several times through some winding stretches. Eventually we emerged from the mountains and arrived at St Helens. Our accommodation is around the bay on the eastern arm. It is a 2 storey building with 2 three bedroom apartments, one up and one down.

Once we had dropped our bags in the rooms we headed off to see a little of the Bay of Fires. We drove as far as Binalong Bay at the southern end of the Bay of Fires. After a quick walk in the beach there we drove back to St Helens where we picked up take away (mostly fish and chips or other seafood) for dinner and headed back to our apartments for the night.

Tasmania 2016, Day 11

Majella’s plan for today was to explore the Tamar Valley north from Launceston. It changed slightly yesterday when, after eating lunch at the Wursthaus, she crossed the mall and found Gourlay’s Confectionery Shop. In the course of conversation with the man there she discovered that the factory was in the Penny Royal Hotel and, with the help of some pressing by Maria, secured an invitation to see them working at 9:00 am. That had to happen before we could go anywhere.

Just before 9:00 Majella and the toffee watchers headed off. They were back, with sweets and satisfied with their viewing before 9:30. We all boarded the van and headed off to explore. 

Before leaving town we did a quick drive by of the port area. Then we headed north, up the left bank of the Tamar Valley. Along with the tutorial on sweets manufacturing the man at Gourlay’s had offered a lot of advice about what to see in the Tamar. Majella had set Grindelwald, a Swiss style village, as our first target. The advice from Gourlay’s was to visit Rosevears first, or instead of Grindelwald. Apparently he was not impressed by it but recommended the pub at Rosevears for lunch with a view of the river.

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We took a few missed turns before discovering an excellent lookout across the Tamar Valley, and then finding the northern entry to Grindelwald. We drove past some interesting houses with Swiss styling, and exited via the turn we should have taken originally. This time we found the turn to Rosevears, drove that way along the Tamar, spotted the pub with a view and carried on to Exeter where the Gourlay’s man had recommended the bakery for coffee.

The Exeter bakery lived up to expectations. We had good coffee and a variety of tasty treats before getting back on the road.

Next on the recommended list was Gravelly Beach. I don’t think we really know why it made the list. We had some nice views of the Tamar but saw no gravel to justify the name.

From there it was full steam ahead to Beaconsfield where we planned to visit the Beaconsfield Mine & Heritage Centre. We arrived there soon after 11:30. The advice from Gourlay’s had been to buy the triple pass to the Beaconsfield museum, and the platypus and seahorse attractions at Beauty Point. We thought about it for a moment and decided that we might not want the extras. That was a good decision because we managed to spend a bit more than 2 hours in the Beaconsfield museum.

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A substantial part of the museum was devoted to the story of the rescue of Todd Russell and Brant Webb after the earthquake triggered rock fall in 2006. The 14 day rescue was detailed in an exhibit that includes opportunity to crawl through a pipe and pop up to experience the size of the space in which they were trapped. It also included a collection of news video that could have benefited from some editing of highlights to reduce the length.

Beyond that the museum offered some interesting insights into the life of the community over the period during which the mine operated and into the technology used to work the mine over that period. I was amazed by the use of large pieces of pitch pine, so called because of its resin content that retarded decay, to form pump rods that extended to 1390 feet (425 metres) and pumped up to 13 million litres of water per day out of the mine. There were many other interesting snippets that held our attention for more than 2 hours.

Conversations earlier in the morning had considered finding a local winery for lunch. By the time we exited the museum just before 2:00 pm we were intent on eating soon and opted for the local bakery. Some of us had pies but others had sandwiches on tasty  and crusty fresh bread.

From Beaconsfield we headed south to cross the river over the Batman Bridge near Deviot. Majella, Maria and I had watched part of a documentary about the 1960s construction of the bridge while in the museum. it is an interesting structure with a high A-frame tower anchored by cables and supporting the deck with cables. The Tamar is over 30 metres deep at that point so building peers was not a desirable solution and the cantilever construction with cables solved the problem.

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Once across the river we headed north again to Low Head where our first stop was the pilot station museum. We were greeted there by Alan, a volunteer(?), who provided us with some historical background, a demonstration of the historical foghorn, and other information about the exhibits before letting us loose to explore on our own. We found an abundance of interesting exhibits including many that we were able to ‘play’ with in some way. I enjoyed the portable foghorn with which I startled the group only to hear Michael sound a loud bell in response. Fay, Warwick, and Russell revived childhood memories of telephone exchanges in the exhibit about signalling and morse code.

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We drove on to the lighthouse at the mouth of the Tamar but most members of our party had decided at the pilot station that it was too windy and cold to set foot outside the van. I was permitted a quick stop for photos and took off. Warwick braved the elements to take a look too. It wasn’t until we had rounded the lighthouse and were thinking of going back that we spotted Jim who had followed us out. We took photos and headed back.

On the way back to Launceston we took the recommendation of Alan at the pilot house museum and checked out Bell Bay. None of us wanted to work there, as Alan had intimated, so we drove on to Penny Royal. Majella and I ventured out to grab some extra provisions for a simple dinner in the apartments which we ate before retiring for the night, Tomorrow is about golf and our next destination.

Tasmania 2016, Day 10

This was our day to explore in and around Launceston so we were not needing an early start. Laundry needed doing so that was scheduled for 8:00. Michael and Maria had an appointment at 9:30 so our plan was to leave at 9:15, drop them, visit Cataract Gorge, and pick them up before lunch and some afternoon sightseeing.

Our apartment building is undergoing some major additions and renovations. That doesn’t affect our apartments but we were warned at reception last night that a crane would block the road access from 7:00 and we should park overnight in the main hotel car park. The hotel is only a couple of minutes walk from the apartments but we had a better solution. Warwick volunteered to rise at his usual early hour and move the car out onto the street where parking would be easy and more convenient. He took the opportunity to walk up Cataract Gorge which is about the same distance in the other direction from where we are staying.

I was up at 6:00, showered, and mixed breakfast with catching up on some work email that had languished while we have been without really useable WiFi since we left Hobart last Tuesday. The laundry was done on schedule and Majella had time to sit by the window and watch the crane. She has developed a fascination with cranes, especially those that are used for construction of tall buildings. This was not one of those but had her interest for as long as she could stay. We got away from the apartments a little earlier than planned, dropped Michael and Maria for their appointment, and drove to Cataract Gorge.

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The lower entrance to the Cataract Gorge reserve is just across Kings Bridge, less than 100 metres from our apartments, but the driving directions sent us a couple of extra kilometres to the parking area above the expansive First Basin area with its chair lift, cafe, and pool. We parked and meandered down the steps and tracks toward the water. I was distracted by the signs offering short walks, and some longer, to lookouts and other attractions but Majella suggested we take a look around and then decide who was going to do what, if anything. We continued down, past the chair lift that did not attract any of us as customers, and across the suspension bridge which induced mild dread in some. That turned out to be less terrifying than expected – it didn’t swing nearly as much as the one that somebody rocked on our NZ trip 2 years ago.

Once across the bridge we walked around the path and found the cafe. By that time it was definitely coffee time so we paused there to refresh and consider plans for the day. Majella revealed that a key reason for her visiting Launceston was to go to the National Trust Old Umbrella Shop she had heard about. Some of us were less than enthusiastic about that. Warwick and I opted to walk up the gorge to Duck Reach, the site of the 1890s hydroelectric power station. We suggested that we could walk up and back at least as far as the apartments. The others decided the shops were preferable to the gorge.

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The signs gave the distance up to Duck Reach as 3 kilometres with a time estimate of 90 minutes for return. Warwick and I set off at a comfortable (for us) pace, stopping occasionally for a view of the gorge and, in my case, photos. We made it to Duck Reach in a bit less than 30 minutes, crossed the suspension bridge, replaced when the original was torn away by the 1929 flood, which also wrecked the power station leaving Launceston without power. The power station was replaced within a year but it took longer for the bridge, less essential, to be replaced.

We spent some time in the Duck Reach Museum in the now decommissioned power station to watch the video and look at the old machinery before heading up the side of the gorge opposite where we had come down. When we set out we assumed we would return by the same path but discovered at Duck Reach that there was an alternate track on the other side of the gorge and decided a circuit might be more interesting. The climb began by following the pipes for the turbine up the gorge side to the tunnel which brought water through the mountain, rather than around, from Deadmans Hollow. Our path continued up the hill far past that point until we emerged on relatively level ground in the Trevallyn forest. We followed the rough path through the forest and descended to join one of the paths we had first seen when we arrived at the Gorge carpark.

Majella called as we were part way back to ask if we had arrived at Duck Reach yet and to tell us they planned to be back at the apartments a little after 1:00 pm by which time they would have had lunch. She told me that Warwick and I would need to feed ourselves lunch.

We managed a substantially quicker time than the advertised 90 minutes for the round trip and continued down the path to Kings Bridge. At that point I checked Majella’s location on my phone. It was not a precise reading because she was in a city building but near enough that we decided we could walk to where the rest of the group might be. Along the way I called Majella to confirm her location in Wursthaus at Olivers in Quadrant Mall. The rest of the group had just appeared so we headed that way and ate lunch with the rest.

After lunch we arranged to meet at the van around 1:15 pm and found our separate ways there. The plan for the afternoon was to visit historic houses at Franklin House and Clarendon Estate

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First stop was at Franklin House on the outskirts of Launceston as we headed south. We were greeted by a woman from the National Trust who recounted highlights of the history of the house which had apparently been built with the intention of renting and was later used as a school before falling into disrepair. It has now been restored and furnished appropriately for its historical period but is still in need of substantial and expensive work. We wandered through the rooms, downstairs, upstairs, and in the adjoining kitchen and schoolroom sections. From there we walked across the street to look at the small church that was part of the estate. It was built during the time when the house was used for a school with the intention of removing the need for the school boys to walk long distances to church twice on Sundays. That use has long passed but it is still in use as a church.

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The woman at Franklin House had advised us that the house at Clarendon was closed for repairs but that the gardens were open. We decided to drive the 20 kilometres or so for a look regardless and headed further out of town to the Evandale area. We were able to park in front of the house at Clarendon and walk around the grounds. It was an impressively grand house with several outbuildings.

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On the way back to our apartment in Launceston we stopped for a walk around Evandale. The main street where we stopped and walked had several well preserved and presented buildings. Another claim to fame at Evandale is that it hosts the National Penny Farthing Championship.

From Evandale we drove back to our apartments for a rest before dinner. We arrived there about 4:00 pm and agreed to meet for dinner at 6:30 pm in the nearby Kings Bridge Bar & Restaurant which is part of the Penny Royal complex. I was already meeting a colleague from University of Tasmania there at 6:00 pm for some talk over drinks so that would work in well. Majella and I walked down to see about booking for dinner but found Jim, Warwick, and Russell already there having a beer after making a booking for 10. We joined them for a quick drink before heading back to our apartment.

Dinner at the Kings Bridge was very good. The meals were well presented, tasty and generally large. Majella had ordered the smaller (entree) version of the calamari but struggled to finish that and I found my Scotch fillet with salad and chips more than sufficient. Surprisingly a few of us found room for dessert before we wandered back to our apartments a little before 9:00 pm.


Tasmania 2016, Day 9

Today was to be another big day of driving. Majella’s plan had us visiting Stanley, Burnie, Devonport, Sheffield, Deloraine, and possibly other locations before reaching Launceston where we will stay for 3 nights. It was an ambitious plan, worthy of Majella’s energy but difficult to accomplish.

At our briefing last night we agreed to give the plan our best shot by departing from Cradle Mountain at 7:30 am. We actually managed a little better than that and headed down the road with me at the wheel a little before 7:30 am. Once out of the park area we headed west past the scene of the accident that delayed us yesterday and then northward on the Murchison Highway. It had rained overnight so the roads were wet and it continued to sprinkle intermittently for about the first hour. It looked to be lighter in the sky to the north so we hoped it would eventually clear and at least the rain would have scrubbed the smoke out of the air.

Our first disagreement with the GPS came at the junction of the Murchison Highway with the Ridgley Highway. It looked like a left turn and the GPS called it as so. A chorus of voices from behind me objected and, obediently, I drove straight ahead onto the Ridgley Highway. Those who were looking at maps had interpreted the left turn as going onto Waratah Road which terminates in the Savage River wilderness area. It does, but not before the Murchison Highway turns off to the right about 200 metres around a bend. The small scale maps did not show that level of detail.

The error with the GPS was not catastrophic. We drove north as far as Ridgley and then went cross country through some scenic farming country and reached the coast at Camdale where we turned and headed west toward Stanley. We paused at Wynyard for coffee at Rumour Has It and also picked up some bread rolls and other provisions for lunch before driving on to Stanley.

At Stanley we drove around the streets to look at the historic houses, including the one where Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was born. We looked at the track up The Nut and the chair lift. Nobody wanted to try the track and most were not interested in the chair lift. Having come that far I could not see any point in leaving without getting to the top. By that time the smoke had been blown away from that area and there would be wonderful views up and down the coast. I really wanted to be up there with my camera.

DSC_2349Majella, Warwick, and I headed for the chair lift. As we lined up to enter, Majella intimated that she was planning to go up, walk as far as the lookout, and return. I had assumed we could walk the 2 km circuit and enjoy the views all round. Ultimately, Warwick and I did the circuit and Majella came as far as the lookout before waiting for us to return. On the ride up on the chair lift the wind caught our backs on the final section and pushed us toward our destination. I had to hold my hat and took it off and put it in my backpack as soon as we arrived. Warwick and I made it round the circuit with photo stops for views and wallabies in about 20 minutes. As Majella and I boarded the chair lift to descend the operator  asked us to think about our ride down and rate it out of 10. They were thinking of limiting operation to one way, up, if the ride down was too boisterous. We had no problem with it except that the wind seemed determined for a while to keep us on top and it rocked a bit on the way down.

Overall, with driving around and doing The Nut, we spent about an hour in Stanley but that was probably enough to wreck Majella’s itinerary. We headed off from Stanley with Russell at the wheel. In the confusion of driving around the streets of Stanley and debating the merits of mounting The Nut, I had neglected to mention that we were running low on fuel and Russell did not pick up on that until we had left Stanley after some more local touring. There was an air of mild desperation until we found a service station at Rocky Cape and filled up.

DSC_2358From there it was plain sailing to Burnie where we had planned to have a picnic with the bread rolls and other makings we had picked up in Wynyard. When we reached Burnie it was still blowing a gale and the smoke had returned. We abandoned plans for a picnic in favour of buying lunch in the Makers’ Workshop which was our target in Burnie. We enjoyed excellent food for lunch – chicken and camembert baguettes for us with local ginger beer in a numbered bottle – and some fascinating exhibits. Majella spent time talking with a hat maker and had to be dragged away to meet her own scheduled departure time.

We drove on to Penguin where we stopped at the Surf Lifesaving Club walked down toward the beach to catch up with Tim Powell, former Toowoomba resident and St Joseph’s student, who was well known to Jim and Fay and Warwick and Colleen as a friend of their respective sons, Paul and Luke.

Majella had intended going via Devonport to Sheffield but decided there was really nothing that she needed to see there. Instead we plotted a course south from Leith via Melrose. That went well until we came to a turn we needed to take that presented a sign about an essential bridge being out of service for upgrading. We had to turn around and go back almost to Forth before heading off to the outskirts of Devonport and then south toward Barrington and Sheffield. These diversions were no real problem as the countryside we drove through was beautiful and we enjoyed seeing more of this region. We also had the added advantage of getting to see some of the fine houses in the outer suburbs of Devonport.

DSC_2360The attraction in Sheffield was the collection of murals on walls around the town. Majella allowed us 30 minutes to wander the streets and view the 50 murals that are part of the Kentish regional outdoor gallery project. The murals were impressive but we were much more impressed by the real fruit ice cream offered by the little store we found down a side alley. It was announced by an inconspicuous sign on the main street but somehow we all found our way there. As a final treat in Sheffield we had an up close encounter with one of the flowering gums that we all had been admiring all over Tasmania.

From Sheffield we drove east to Launceston. Not far on we passed through Railton where the contribution to the outdoor gallery is topiary. We stopped briefly at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm just before it closed at 5:00 pm to add some fresh raspberries to our dinner collection.

Our accommodation in Launceston is just out of the CBD in Penny Royal Apartments. Some of the buildings here are genuinely historic but the apartments have been built to give them impression that they are old and the military names on the apartment doors are apparently completely fictitious. We settled in, did some essential shopping, and ate our planned picnic lunch for dinner with the addition of some cheese from Burnie and the fresh raspberries.

We are here for three nights and will have time tomorrow to explore Launceston.