The last bit of Tasmania

It was hard to leave Casuarina Bay (Waterhouse Conservation Area), even though we had had a day there spoiled by some young redneck yobbos who were camped some distance (thankfully) away from us on the next bay. Unfortunately (for us) their camp spot, unlike ours, had no vehicle access to the beach & so after a morning’s drinking they decided to use ‘our’ beach as a venue for their ‘circle-work’  (a nomenclature given to the practice of doing donuts … as though giving it a title somehow legitimises anti-social stupidity … pah!) in their 3 very loud & presumably hotted up 4×4’s. Not sure if we were more irritated by their lack of consideration, or the fact that they temporarily destroyed the pristine smooth untouched nature of ‘our beach. Both I guess. Next morning a ranger visited us & informed us he was already aware of their antics the day before. Others further up the coast had reported them. He had visited their camp that morning & found them each with several beers already down their necks at 9am, with a roaring fire (during a fire ban), including burning National Park signs. He had taken their registration numbers & tracked them down on Facebook. Amusingly they had incriminated themselves by uploading photos of themselves doing donuts on the beach. The ranger, with a wry grin, informed us that their fines would total almost $600 each for the various breaches they had committed.

Leaving ‘Waterhouse’ we headed southwest to Bridport, where we stopped for lunch overlooking the bay. A rather pretty little seaside town, but very different to those on the east coast. Here we had a sense of genuine welcome & care for visitors. Facilities around town were plentiful & in tip top condition. Parking was easy & folk were friendly. At one stage a chap in a fluoro vest & riding a bicycle approached us. I thought he was an official coming to tell me I couldn’t park where we were. Couldn’t have been more wrong. “Had one of those for 12 years” he said, pointing at the Tvan. “Loved it, but the wife got too old & too sick for us to use it any more”. He went on to reminisce about some of their travels together interspersed with welcoming us to his town & telling us a bit about it. It really takes so little for towns to leave a positive impression in the memories of travellers! Some understand that & some don’t.

After lunch & a little re-stocking we left Bridport & continued westward almost to Georgetown, then south to the Batman suspension bridge ( ) across the Tamar River & then up through Beaconsfied before turning off to follow another forest track, unexpectedly steep in places, to the Narawntapu (pronounced Na-ron-tapoo) National Park where we stayed for three nights. It wasn’t really quite as we had expected. A beautiful coastal park, but after all we had seen around Tassie, it felt like a busy ‘tamed wilderness’ park, a place where the name of the game was ‘easy access for all’. Nothing wrong with that, just that we had  already seen what it had to offer in other places where the experience had felt more ‘genuine’. Nevertheless we relaxed & enjoyed being there. A walk through swamp paperbarks brought back fond memories of WA’s Dampier peninsular where we collected wild honey in the paperbark forest with the Goolarabooloo people.

Folk we had met back in Branxholme had told us of the great fishing at Narawntapu. Pffft! Must’ve been in their dreams! Neither I nor anyone else were able to even get a bite, let alone catch anything! MrsTea expressed how impressed she was with my persistence in the face of the almost total lack of positive reinforcement. I reckon she was just being kind! We did however have a great walk along the beach for a couple of hours collecting cockles to use for bait. The fact that they were generally too small to use & failed to interest the local fish population (assuming there *was* a local fish population) is neither here nor there. The process of collecting was an enjoyable one, once we had learned to identify the almost imperceptible mounds in the sand they leave after burying themselves.

A visit to the bird hide allowed us to watch out across the lake,  a few birds but only about 4 or 5 species, mostly beyond the limits of my camera lenses. We left Narawntapu feeling that it would be a good place for folk on brief visits to Tassie, as it allows good/easy viewing of wildlife, (mainly Pademelons & Forester Kangaroos), but we probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone undertaking more extensive trips.

Bakers Beach, Narawntapu NP
The lake at Narawntapu viewed from the bird hide. Crystal clear but not a lot of birds.
One of the few birds which were close enough to photograph. A cute duck between dives … but what sort?   (EDIT: It’s a Hoary Headed Grebe …. Thanks Janette).  It was interesting to be able to watch them swimming among the vegetation below.
Swamp Paperbarks

We now had an appointment to keep, having arranged to have an MRI scan on my knee at Launceston Hospital prior to returning home. We had also made an appointment with an orthopaedic surgeon for a couple of days after getting home. Although my knee had improved since injuring it in early January, allowing us to undertake bushwalks of up to 4 or 5 kms, this limitation had prevented us doing what we wanted in many places & we were keen to see if we could get it sorted before we again leave home for what will be our longest ‘trip’ to date. That we will be alone in some very remote country makes me want as much reassurance as possible that I will be able to do what is required should vehicle repairs be needed or an emergency situation arises. Since the injury I have not knelt & getting up & down on the ground has been problematic. Not what you need if, for example, having to undertake a task as simple as changing a wheel.

And so to the ‘big smoke’ of Launceston, Tasmania’s second largest city, stopping en route for fish & chips & a visit to the Seahorse farm at Beauty Point, & a bit later a wander up & down the main street of Beaconsfield.

‘Adolescent’ Seahorses
Sea Dragon

We  stayed at Old Macs Farm, a small farm in the city’s outer suburbs & just a short drive from the Launceston CBD, hospital & a few tourist attractions. Even though there were over 70 other rigs onsite, the grassy & treed setting between small lakes, in a valley made it easy to feel ‘in the country’ rather than in the city, & at $10 a night it was good value. Whilst there we spent time checking out the city centre, the National Automobile Museum, Cataract Gorge, The Timber design centre & the City park. The unexpected discovery was the colony of Japanese Macaque monkeys in an enclosure in City Park. Although seeing animals in enclosures is not our preferred way to see them, they did appear to be a contented & happy bunch & we ended up spending quite a time being entertained by them. Cataract Gorge is …… a gorge………. but right in the middle of town. Any city in the world would love to have a natural asset like this, & thankfully the past decision makers of Launceston recognised what they had, valued it & endeavoured to make it accessible to everyone. They did a fine job. Walking along the path built in many places hanging off of cliff sides, into town we were privy to an impressive but apparently unusual sight. Quite a length of the river was ‘boiling’ with thousands & thousands of fish. A huge shoal of what we think were Mullet had found their way into the river. Quite a spectacle, which we were later told made headlines in local newspapers.
The furniture in the design centre can best be described as useable art, some appealed some didn’t, but all was of exquisite workmanship. All was also only available to those with large bank balances, but the cost to look at the products of modern highly skilled artisans was minimal. MrsTea returned to the monkeys whilst I wandered around the car (& motorcycle) museum just on the far side of the park. Probably a good decision on her part, but I would have enjoyed it more if I had had someone with me to discuss what we were looking at. Not a huge museum but with high quality & mainly very glossy exhibits. The bikes interested me more than the cars, particularly as they had a model I used to own, citing it as the most ‘collectable’ of it’s marque …. a Mk 1 850cc Moto Guzzi Le Mans. The ’star’ for me however was a rare BSA Silver Star, not so much because of it’s rarity, more because of it’s history (see the photo). A large collection of Holden Monaro’s would probably make a few true blue Aussies wet themselves with excitement, the Aston Martins, Jags & Rolls Royces along with a good smattering of American muscle cars & early model vintage cars & trucks no doubt command their fair share of “Oohs & Ahhs”, but for me a single vehicle stood out as my favourite. The vehicle I probably most wish I had owned but never did. A Citroen Type H van! Others may consider the Volkswagen ‘Kombi’ as the quintessential basis for a classic camper van. Personally I’d take the Type H over one any day! 🙂

Cataract Gorge looking over the old suspension bridge to the swimming pool. This is all covered by the annual torrents of water which fill the gorge.
Looking along the Gorge to the city
Just a tiny section of the huge shoal of fish we watched from the bridge in the photo above.
Macaque monkey posing for me.
Type H Citroen would make a lovely campervan I reckon.
Perhaps I should have kept mine!
BSA Silver Star
And the story behind it.
The City Park was a pleasant ‘refuge’ just a short walk from the busy CBD.
So much I could have photographed in the city but it was the old industrial buildings which caught my eye. The old gasworks building had a certain style.

Air conditioners – possibly a little superfluous in Tasmania I thought.

Hospital appointment done, it was time to leave the city. We made our way back to our friends in Chudleigh, (Via Westbury where we stopped in the shade of big old oak trees surrounded by lush grass on the village green  for lunch) completing a full circle of the island.

Driving from Deloraine (having stopped for a coffee at the 1950’s cafe) to Chudleigh we were once again struck by the little town’s impressive setting, surrounded by & seemingly cradled by mountains, a place which somehow exudes comfort & safety. At least those were the sort of thoughts we shared as we crested a hill & saw the valley stretched out in front of us once again.

After having become accustomed to travelling to unknown places returning to somewhere we ‘knew’ was something we savoured. ‘We love exploring, but it also teaches us the value of the familiar.

During the few days back with our friends we were once again reminded of what a lovely little community the town provides. Tourists who pass through seeing only the Honey Farm miss out. We also managed to find some local caves which we explored. The area has many, but only a few are on the ’tourist trail’. Honeycomb Cave is less well known, but some Tvan folk we had met up with in Launceston put us on to it, having found it themselves through their geocaching endeavours.

Still doing the ’tourist thing’ we took a day trip to the towns of Sheffield & Railton. Sheffield is known for the many murals around the town, Railton for it’s topiary. The annual ’Steamfest’ was on in Sheffield & we spent several hours there – good, but very small in comparison to the huge Steam Rally we visited many times in the UK. Good to see some of the belt driven farm & quarry machinery being worked, powered by the big old traction engines. The murals have been good for the town but not really our thing. One or two of the shops were of more interest. Railton’s topiary also gives a town something to make it stand out from the rest & to keep the tourists passing through. Our favourite piece was a cow in a paddock, just outside town, looking over a fence.

‘The Emporium’ in Sheffield is quite possibly the most interesting shop I have ever entered. It sells all sorts of things you have probably never ever thought of buying. The stock presumably reflects what we imagine must be the eccentric nature of the owner.
The shop was dark & crowded with ‘everything’ making browsing an hour long adventure. It would be easy to spend far longer. The man in the doorway is my only photo of one of the town’s many murals, most much larger.

Traction engine driving a stone crusher
Clearly ‘Health & Safety’ wasn’t a consideration back when folk did this for a living!
The Western Tiers made a good background for Steamfest. The two pink ‘contraptions’ are a threshing machine & a baler. Both were working. I remember there being something similar sitting unused on my grandparents farm when I was very small. Unsure what the one in the foreground is.
Made in Ipswich UK. MrsTea’s dad used to work for Ransomes.
Re-fitting the belt drive.
Were it not for the car in the photo, this could have been taken 100 years ago!
MrsTea getting getting close to a large python. That’s what happens when you stand right at the front during the snake handlers demonstration!
Just outside Railton.

Chudleigh was our penultimate stopping place prior to taking the ferry back to mainland Australia. We said our goodbyes & went forth to Forth. Not a lot in Forth, a small town on the banks of the River Forth. It was the annual Forth Valley Blues Festival which attracted us. The thought of sitting around listening to some good music struck us as a good way to finish off our Tassie visit, & being only a short drive to the ferry the day after the festival it was convenient too. And so it was. Highlights were the only two performers we had previously heard of …. Juzzie Smith – a blues one man band come juggler (yep really!), who a Queensland based old friend (thanks Val) had put me on to many years ago after seeing him busking in Brisbane. The other was the Lachy Doley Group, a Youtube discovery on my part. Dubbed the Jimi Hendrix of the Hammond organ, Lachy proved to be a phenomenally accomplished musician & his playing of a specially adapted Clavinet fitted with a lever (whammy arm) like on an electric guitar. ‘Whammy Clavinets’ as they are called are rare & Lachy is a master. A regular feature of the annual festival is the coming together of different musicians & bands on stage to play unrehearsed with each other. When Lachy joined others it was clear to see how others looked to him – he was like a conductor as well as a player. Unrehearsed duets between musos of differing abilities which could have fallen flat were encouraged & enhanced by him. Someone special & very talented I think.

Steampunk styling was in evidence at the Blues festival
Sounded ok! Every so often flames would shoot out of the two chromed ‘chimneys’ when being played.

The rain which had held off all day for the festival came down during the night & we packed up for the last time in Tassie in the wet. The forecast for the crossing was not too good, confirmed by the ship’s captain shortly before leaving port. Heavy seas with a 4 to 5 metre swell. MrsTea took her ginger tablets & seasickness pills, & I thought it prudent to follow suit ‘just in case’ even though I’m not generally someone who suffers seasickness. Well we rocked & we rolled, but neither of us spewed! Instead we both spent a good proportion of the night crossing unable to sleep, courtesy of severe ‘restless legs’…….. a side effect of the seasickness pills we assume?

We are now back home. Arriving to find all just as we left it & our mail, collected by friends, on our kitchen bench. Thanks guys. It’s good to be home even if the list of fixes, modifications & preparations for the next trip feels a little overwhelming at present.

We drove a bit over 6500kms around Tasmania, & averaged around 16 litres per 100 kms fuel consumption. I may be mistaken but I think we found just one significant stretch of straight road!

Tasmania was like no other part of Australia, but we loved it, albeit wishing the weather had been a little kinder at times. When in a camper trailer, with canvas, & cooking outside the weather has a far greater impact than when travelling with an indoor kitchen. Obvious, but made far more obvious when doing it! Nevertheless we’d do it all over again, & expect that some day we will. The island is a place of contrasts & natural beauty. Our overwhelming impressions are of a place far more mountainous than we had imagined populated by particularly friendly folk who love where they live. A place which contains far more beauty & natural attributes in a relatively small area than anywhere we have previously visited, which somehow makes it feel much bigger than it is. It is, unfortunately in our view, a place which has for decades been valued & kept as the locals like it, but is now showing signs of rapid change. The influx of folk from the mainland to live, attracted by the ‘natural & people values’ are changing things. Unstoppable progress perhaps, but I fear that we may look back in 10 or 20 years time & think we were lucky to experience Tasmania ‘back in the good old days’.

The ‘orthopod’ has recommended minor surgery to ‘clean up’ my dicky knee, not really urgent, but “wise given your forthcoming travel plans” is how he put it. Consequently our next departure will be delayed by about 4 weeks, which if nothing else gives us a bit of extra breathing space to get all done which needs doing.

Thanks again to all who have been reading the blog, especially those of you who have taken the time to post comments or send emails. At present we are expecting to head off into the central & western deserts around the end of May. After crossing to the West Australia coast we plan to head north. This time we will have no time limit & could well be away for a year or three but will ‘play it by ear’. If you have subscribed to the blog keep an eye out for email notification of my next post after this home based hiatus. If you haven’t subscribed please consider doing so, or failing this check in to the blog from time to time to see if there is anything new yet. You are all the audience which keeps me motivated to blog & again I thank you for doing so.

See you soon.
Cuppa & MrsTea.

ps. If any of you know of someone who might require house sitters/ station sitters/ caretakers anywhere in the Kimberley for the 2018/19 Wet season please let us know. We have a couple of possible leads but the more possibilities the better our chances of finding something – it’s a bucket list thing!