A Travellerspoint blog

Back on Mainland Australia

View Johann & Noelene's trip to Tasmania on Johannstock's travel map.

My first day back on the mainland was always going to be a Melbourne day - I specifically wanted to visit the amazing cake and tea shop in the Dr Seuss arcade, the National Gallery and then what ever else I could fit in. I did not compute that the ferry docks at 6:30am!! So while Johann went ahead to Werribee to set up the van, I walked the beachfront at dawn, watching the sunrise, moon still bright on the water, joggers, dog walkers, swimmers - as you do when you live on the beach front. Then the classic tram ride into the city and found myself walking the streets and malls at 8:30am. I followed Marie Antointette's advice and had cake for breakfast!! delicious apricot/pistachio cake with lemon, myrtle and ginger tea. Cake heaven!

The National gallery was again a delight; the Bill Henson photography exhibition is sensual, artistic and ethereal. The many other exhibits were thought provoking, especially the 'live photography' scenery. Ceramic decorations through the ages included Wedgewood, other Brittish, Japanese, Chinese, Greek vases etc and my wow moment was in the history of chair manufacturing: shaped like an orca, you would lie in the mouth of a giant whale!!

The largest shopping centre and fashion capitol of the southern hemisphere is supposed to be at Chadstone. They offered a free bus ride to the centre so I went. The centre is big, and the same designers that we find at Robina and Pacific Fair, were there. Alas, I still can't agree that marble tiles and glass ceilings = an aesthetically pleasing shopping centre. I will leave it there - enough said.

We met up with a dear friend in Ballarat and set off to the Grampians National Park, camping at Halls Gap. Once settled in, we celebrated in style with home made rusks (baked in my caravan oven) and good old South African melktert! We were impressed with the amount of wildlife around the park; no doubt humans have interfered, but it does make for a special experience when 'wild' birds eat out of your hands! Crimson rosellas, Sulphur crested cockatoos, kangaroos ate out of our hands, and on the plain were emus and everywhere galahs, choughs, ravens, wagtails and wrens. We climbed the Pinnacle which was quite steep, but the view at the end was magnificent. Once again the rock formations show clear signs of early volcanic eruptions. The forest had burnt extensively in 2006, but the surprising thing about Australian forests are their ability to regrow and looking at the view one could only marvel at mother nature.


Travelling north we headed to Echuca to tick another item off the bucket list. the paddle steamer we travelled on is the one that was used for the film 'All the rivers run ' - it was a special little trip and a walk down history's lane. Echuca once had a thriving port on the Murray river to ship tons of merino wool to Melbourne, and with the collapse of the wool trade the town went backwards pretty quickly. It was the movie that put it back on the map and today it is a large town that is actively protecting its colonial past, with countless renovated old buildings trading modern goods.
We camped right next to the Murray river - it is a huge, brown, wide, twisting and winding river making its way 1800km down to SA.


We are now at Lake Cargelligo, (approximately 600 km west of Sydney), a place recommended by to us by a fellow traveller. Must say, the vast flat and treeless plains from Halls Gap up to Echuca were uninspiring compared to this lovely area - very surprised to see so many trees and greenery. No doubt some rain had reached this area recently. The lake is large and full and once again many birds - galahs, magpie larks etc.

We are so thankful for this opportunity travel and explore small pockets of Australia - such a vast country with incredibly varied landscapes. Long service leave is definitely a huge bonus in Education - may it last a long time yet!!

Posted by Johannstock 20:54 Comments (1)

West and North West Tasmania

The west of Tasmania was the mosts scenic for us - Queenstown, Strahan, Cradle Mountains and Arthur River.
The walk around Dove lake at Cradle Mountain was definitely one of the highlights of our Tasmania trip. The pristine waters, crystal clear reflections, massive ancient trees and a sense of peace and calm that surrounds the entire area.


At the very western tip of Tasmania is the aptly named Edge of the World beach. The Arthur river is a wild river - no boats can traverse the outlet at any time, and judging by the size of the dead trees that have been washed downstream, one can easily form a picture of the 30ft waves pounding the coastline. The cruise up the river was insightful: two breeding pairs of sea eagles, a trio of wedge tail eagles, ancient tree ferns that grow about 1 cm a year, paddy melon wallabies, spotted quoll, rainforest and waterfalls all in one trip.


At Stanley we decided to eat out at the local seafood restaurant. Fresh crayfish was on the menu (and I sooo should have ordered that!), but I decided to have baby abalone as an entree. Biggest disappointment of the entire trip! Some of the little abalone were the size of the nail of my little finger! And tasteless. Argh jissie tog!!!

We met up with Jack Hamman, a fellow South African, and his Australian wife and camped with them at Penguin. Walking along the beach in the afternoon Leah and I saw a reddish sludge drifting in the water and thought it rather unusual. It looked a lot like red tide in South Africa, but not quite as granular. Well were we in for a treat the night: the waves were awash with the bioluminescent algae! It was truly awesome; we had never seen anything like to before, and what a beautiful send off from Tasmania. We sailed back to the mainland the next Tuesday feeling very happy with all we had seen and experienced in the little island 'down under'!!


Posted by Johannstock 01:25 Comments (0)

South Western Tasmania

Richmond to Rosebury

Richmond is one of the most well preserved historic towns in Tasmania -at least to our minds. Several beautiful Georgian buildings are crammed with way too many tempting, sometimes extravagant items to purchase. The Textile Gallery was by far the most extraordinary exhibit I have seen so far. The owner travels to Kashmir and personally imports exquisite handmade coats, shawls, carpets and upholstery fabric. She knows the designers by name and has sat with the weavers as they create their masterpieces. Handwoven articles have a softness and subtlety to them that machine woven fabric lacks.


The 1/8th scale replica of 1820 Hobart city is captivating too. We were blown away by the detail the designers have included - a boy fallen out of a tree, a housewife killing a snake in her backyard, convicts trying to escape from the jail, and the inevitable drunken stupour of a few too many drinks. The buildings are all historically accurate and I could recall many that I had seen in Hobart just two days ago. A must see for tourists. As is the whiskey tasting and teddy bears on the green...


The oldest bridge in Australia is here at Richmond. Dating from 1823 it is as sturdy and durable today as it was then. Surrounded by lovely gardens and picnic lawns, it attracts a lot of visitors too.


On we went to one of the exhibits that everybody advised us about, saying it is imperative to go and see The Wall. the woodcarver set out to tell the story of Australian immigration, the toil, heartache and hardship the settlers faced. He has captured touching details in each of the gigantic Human pine panels. George Duncan is an amazing artist, capturing such realism in his carvings that it seems like real leather, real fabric in the creases of the coat; the expressions on the settlers faces are all so fine, one can feel their joy and pain. A life size carving of a receding figure of a young boy with his teddy hanging on by one arm is a haunting memory... The entire 100 m wall of carvings are held under copyright and no photography is allowed at all - a bone of contention with many. Also an undercurrent of 'what about the Aboriginal heritage that was destroyed and is not presented on the wall...'

Also in this area are some of the many world heritage listed forests. We walked through the Franklin and Gordon wild river heritage forest. It was here that Greens senator and party leader Bob Brown made his famous stand against the exploiting of the Franklin river in the 1980's (the last wild river on the west coast), focussing the world's media on the pristine environment and blocked the governments plans to dam the river.


We camped at Lake Burbury, where Noelene swam in the crystal clear, cool water filled with trout and Atlantic salmon. Wished she could snorkel and catch one!! The views across the lake there and into Queenstown are panoramic and truly breathtaking. The entire environment around Queenstown itself is barren and akin to a lunar landscape, for two reasons. The mining at the turn of the century denuded the hills of trees to fire the sheltered and furnaces, and the the sulphur fall out was so significant that the acid rain killed of thousands of trees, and indeed claimed hundreds of lives. In its starkness there are stunning colours to be seen in the rock face but one pines for the loss of vegetation. the second reason is the recent fires that swept through the area and burnt off what had sprung up in the last few decades. That's Australia for you - either flood or fire!!


The entire west coast has been a delight for us so far. It is scenic and postcard perfect, with lakes, mountains, forests and historic towns that all tell their own tale. Every town here has a significant history of mining a specific mineral: Queenstown for fool's gold: copper, and also silver and gold, Zeehan for silver, Rosebury for tin etc. We took a 3 hour walk to the Montezuma falls, which are 104m high and one of the tallest in Australia. On the walk Noelene Ticked another item off the bucket list - to see a live snake in the wild. (The carpet python we saw at Errol's house doesn't count!) We found two tiger snakes one our walk -two!! They are the second most venomous snake in the country and fortunately they were both moving away from us. The rain forest is made up of mostly myrtle, sassafras and leatherwood trees which have rebounded magnificently since the mining days: they cut 700 tons of wood from the forester week to feed the smelters, build houses, burn fires for cooking and heating.


From here we are heading to the famous Cradle mountain national park. Will keep you posted!

Posted by Johannstock 00:52 Comments (1)

Southern Tasmania

Port Arthur to Hobart

Port Arthur is a historic site of national and international significance - part of the epic history of Australia. It is a world heritage listed site where 30 buildings and historic ruins are protected. The gardens have been restored to their original vegetation and while most buildings are museums, the ruins of the original church is in demand for weddings - yes there was one on the day we were there. The barren, crumbling outside walls form a spectacular backdrop for some awesome photo shoots.
In 19th century Britain, you were held accountable for your actions from the age of 7. Hence one of the islands at Port Arthur, Point Puer Boys' prison, catered for convicted children (boys) from age 9 - 17. In the stern environment of convict schooling (who would want to teach there?) with stern discipline and harsh punishment, the boys were taught trades as well as receiving an education. The ship building yard at Port Arthur, with its native work force, produced maritime vessels that rivalled those from Hobart, and in the interest of private enterprise the government of the day closed down the workshops there. The grounds today are beautiful and everything is serene and manicured, a beautiful site. The most interesting escape story involved two inmates who had to row the General to the courthouse on certain days; they were made to wait for the general to finish his appointments, then row him back. Needless to say on a particular day there was no rowboat to take him back to his quarters!! The two men were captured many months later in NSW, having escaped capture twice along the Victorian coastline on the ruse that they went to look for the escapees!

The memorial to the victims of the awful attack in 1996. The restaurant has been demolished, but for this outside wall.

We found the tessellated rocks fascinating. We decided the stone cutters cottage must be hidden just around the corner!! its a fascinating result of salt, water, rise and fall in temperature and the science locked up in the process. The Abel Tasman bridge was formed when the cliff above the bay collapsed, capping the entrance to form a bridge.

The tessellated rocks at Eagles Neck.

Abel Tasman bridge.

Hobart is situated on the majestic Derwent river and is really a sight to see. In the mid 1860's whales swam right up the river and so the entrepreneurial consists established a whaling station. Once the whales were hunted out of existence up the river, the whaling station was moved to Cockle Creek on the southern most point of Tasmania where we found this bronze statue of a 3 month old calf. The practise was to capture the calf first because its distress calls would keep the adult whales within striking distance.

The whale statue on a windy day!

The city of Hobart is modern, offering eclectic consumer options, all behind the facades of historic buildings. Found it really interesting to see how these old facades are being preserved. Down at the marina stands the original IXL jam factory, today home to art exhibits and design houses.

The magnificent ceiling and crystal chandelier inside the ball room in city hall.

IXL historic building at the marina.

Preserving the facade of a historic building.

The view of Hobart from the top of Mt Wellington, where the temperature dropped by 10 degrees from departing the city. Brrr...

The trip out to Bruny Island revealed many fascinating facts yet again. This was the furtherest southern point from where Captain Cook departed Australia in 1777 - I wonder whether it took him 7 years to come down from town of 1770 or whether it was his next journey? the beaches are brilliantly white down here, lots of silica, and Bruny is the breeding ground of the fairy penguin. The stairs lead up to a look out point from where 100's of penguin nests can be seen - alas, we were there midday, but I did capture their foot prints in the sand! The day was capped off with freshly shucked oysters, home made cheeses, champers and Tassie beer! The ferry departs every hour with approx 40 vehicles every time - gives one an idea of the popularity of the place.

Penguin rookery - tiny little footprints on the beach.

Bruny island - the narrow link between north and south islands

Finishing off in style!

The haunted Valley is the apple, pear and nectarine capital of Tasmania!! Orchards as far as the eye can see, and right up next to the road. And yes, when I decided I should take a picture of one of these road side orchards, there were no more!! We bought a 2kg bag of lovely Sensa season fresh apples for just $3 - spoilt forever!!

Posted by Johannstock 21:57 Comments (0)

North East Tasmania

Heading east we camped at York Town. This was once the capitol of Tasmania, with a thriving port an business centre. Shipbuilding and agriculture soon followed; today there are no relics of these early establishments, only photographs.
Beaconsfield is around the corner from York Town, and the colas mine here was the scene of the tragedy in 2006, where one miner died and two others were trapped underground for two weeks. I remember that quite well- we were all glued to the newscasts every night in the hope of the miners being rescued alive. On the green opposite the mine is a historic village, where the classroom from Flowery Gully tells the story of those early days in teaching - there is even a 'plastic' apple on the teachers desk - couldn't get in at all- locked up.
Greens Beach is a good example of all the beaches along here - breeding ground for terns, pied oyster catchers and other birds. Everywhere we go the roses just take our breath away - cool climate will do that for any garden!
The Tamar Valley is full of little stops for wine and cheese and local produce. All along the roads are shrubs with berries one can pick as you walk - blackberries, raspberries, blueberries. Yum. The bridge over the Tamar river is signed as the tallest 'A' bridge in the world- kind of left u wondering about that statistic...



Bay of Fires and St Helens was our next stop. Beautiful rain forest walk along the way, with ancient myrtle trees and lush ferns. The Bay itself is iconic for the red lichen the grows on the rocks up and down the beaches and they do look impressive. The sea is crystal clear down here - all the shades of blue and turquoise - only when the sun shines though!!


We did lovely walk through a forest with 90m tall white gums and then a nice (small) waterfall. Found an echidna on the road - first time for Noelene, but the little fellow hid under the logs so we could only see his backside!!
Launceston is a beautiful city with many many renovated colonial buildings all in the CBD used as shops and offices. Lovely to see that. Did a short cruise up Cataract Gorge and then up to the Central Plateau around the Great Lake. Cold, wet, windy, arctic vegetation, yet mesmerisingly scenic. Further down we found Liffey Falls - what a lovely forest walk and cascading waterfalls.

Wineglass Bay - such a romantic name for a beautiful beach - named the 2nd most beautiful beach in Australia after White Haven beach in QLD. Well, it is called that with no reference to wine!! The early whaling station there harvested southern right whales for several reasons: its oil doesn't smell like other whales' oil, there baleen was of very high quality, and they didn't sink once speared, making it easy to tow the animals in to the whaling station. And then the slaughtering would literally make the water in the bay red. Gross!!


One species of bird migrates from Siberia to come and breed here in Tasmania. The parents feed the single chick till it is twice their size, by which stage they leave to migrate back to Siberia. The chicks are left to feed on their internal fat, most, and then have to make the journey back to Siberia, on their own! Thousands of birds perish along the way, but every year they come down in their millions to breed again. Quite different to the sea eagle which lays two eggs, and the stronger chick devours the weaker one for survival of the fattest!! What a marvel nature is!!
The boat trip out there and back was a wonderful 4 hour experience - met people form USA, UK, Singapore, Japan - and then of course the countless Queenslanders that are flooding Tasmania - we counted 12 QLD caravans in the park in Launceston! We also saw lots of bottle nose dolphins, and on return some common dolphins. Just beautiful!!

Posted by Johannstock 23:07 Comments (2)

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