Autumn

We’re now well into Autumn in Tassie. The weather’s cooled considerably and our warmer clothes are becoming ‘well worn’. The trees are a delight to see and the countryside is decked out in the most glorious autumn colours with the golden yellow poplar trees dominating the landscape. I had forgotten how beautiful a true autumn can be.

Autumn trees lining the Derwent River upstream from bridge in New Norfolk

Autumn trees lining the Derwent River upstream from bridge in New Norfolk

After leaving Mt Field we spent almost a week in Middleton opposite Bruny Island staying with an old friend from Perth, Peta and her husband Ron. Sharing their hospitality and meeting their friends was a pleasure and gave us lots of laughs.

After leaving Peta’s we took a few days to explore a couple of convict built villages towards the middle of the Island, Oatlands and Ross. We free camped at Oatlands next to an old, heritage listed windmill, and next to a children’s playground. The children’s playground had made use of an old hollow tree trunk to build a cubby complete with intricate carvings of Australian animals. I’m not sure if children could appreciate the work involved, but it’s certainly impressive to any visiting adults I’m sure.

Tasmania definitely feels like a totally different country than the rest of Australia, and especially like a different country to Perth. Perth hardly retains any heritage seeming to prefer to knock down houses and re-build rather than to preserve and maintain any building that’s not ‘the latest style’. It’s refreshing to find places such as Ross and Oatlands where most of the houses in the villages having survived since early settlement. Some still have permanent residents, but many are now leased as heritage holiday accommodation, and are much sort after. Because so many houses are so very old in these places, the whole village gets heritage listed. They’re not the Cotswalds by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re certainly heading in a similar direction (just a few more centuries to get there yet though).

View from our rear window of the flour mill

View from our rear window of the flour mill

 

The windmill at night.

The windmill at night.

After Oatlands we headed for Tarraleah, an old hydro town now converted to an ‘art deco’ resort town. The resort has adopted a Highland theme inclusive of Highland cattle.

One of the Highland Cows

One of the Highland Cows

Whilst there we visited Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in the southern hemisphere. Beautiful – with so many walking tracks that we feel at least a week is needed there to do justice to them. One day was just a taster.

One of many walking tracks at Lake St Clair

One of many walking tracks at Lake St Clair

We took a picnic with us, which a possum insisted on sharing. Advice is to never feed the wild life, but this possum obviously hadn’t read that anywhere, and quite literally wouldn’t be deterred. Not only did he pose for us whilst munching through several of our tomatoes and an apple, but I’m sure his portrait will grace many of Japanese tourists albums on their return home. He created quite a stir sitting quietly on our table and helping himself from our picnic basket. Perhaps his name was Yogi…..smarter than your average possum.

Our uninvited lunch guest - good company though all the same

Our uninvited lunch guest – good company though all the same

We’re now in Magra again with Marina and Terry and will fly from here to Sydney on Saturday, where we’ll begin our trip to Europe on Monday. So, this will be the last post for some time for ‘the Life of Riley on Wheels’.

We expect to return to take up the story of our caravan travels again sometime in June, so watch this space.

Mt Field Campground

We’ve spent the past few days in the campground at Mt Field National Park before we head to our friends, Peta and Ron in Middleton.

We’ve stayed in many national parks, but this one is undoubtedly better than any we’ve seen by a country mile. We have power and water, there’s a clean amenity block with hot showers, flush toilets and a laundry. There’s tall trees at our rear and a beautiful babbling brook with platypus at our front (about 30 metres away). That’s the camp area. It gets a bit muddy in the rain, but with all that’s on offer here, a little bit of mud is a minor inconvenience.

Stream in our campground.

Stream in our campground.

Same stream, from a different direction.

Same stream, from a different direction.

The day area – wow, wow and more wow!! Theres more barbecues and shelters than I could count. Some of the barbecues are gas, and some are wood. Some are in the open and some are in stone shelters. All have several picnic tables and bench seats near by. But that’s not all, there’s more (and believe me, the ‘more’ is better than ‘steak knives’), inside several of the shelters there’s also built in stone fireplaces with chimneys and there’s loads of chopped wood supplied.

There’s several gorgeous walks in the park. The first day we took a 2 1/2 hour walk which travelled alongside a babbling brook through a rain forest. It was raining for most of the 2 1/2 hours so the ferns looked amazing drooping under the weight of the gentle, consistent rain. We walked past two stunning water falls. There’s so many water falls in Tassie that I fear I’m going to sound like a broken record – they’re all gorgeous and are worthy of mention.

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

Lady Baron Falls

Lady Baron Falls

Yesterday, our friends Marina and Terry joined us and we took a drive to Tassie’s famous Lake Pedder and the Gordon Dam. There’s very little there except stunning scenery reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands. We had lunch in the only place there, but I must say they haven’t taken advantage of having no competition. The lunch was delicious and reasonably priced, and we sat overlooking Lake Pedder with it’s stark, granite mountain surrounds.

Lake Pedder

Lake Pedder

The Gordon Dam.

The Gordon Dam.

Many years ago in New Zealand we came across one of those fairy tale red mushrooms which have fairies under them in the stories. (We looked for the fairies at the time, but they either weren’t there, or had hidden themselves well). We’d heard there are the same mushrooms here, so we’ve been searching high and low in the rain forests for them, but we hadn’t found any. Then, eating our lunch yesterday we couldn’t believe our eyes. Out in the open just outside the lodge was a big group of them. Again though, no fairies.

Fairy story mushrooms (couldn't find any fairies though).

Fairy story mushrooms (couldn’t find any fairies though).

Today, we’re leaving for Peta and Ron’s, but we have put Mt Field National Park at the top of our list for a return visit.Perhaps next time Peta and Ron will join us as I’m sure, like us, they’ll enjoy taking cheese and bread, red wine and candles to one of the huts with the fire places for an evening feast.

Stanley

We’re getting ready to move to the south of the Island, but before we go, thought we’d better take a look at Stanley which is on the west side of the north coast.

Stanley is a little holiday hamlet located on a small peninsula joined to the Island by a slim thread of land. Atop the peninsula sits a huge rock mass, an extinct volcano, know as ‘the nut’. No-one knows for sure how it came to be known as ‘the nut’, but the general consensus is that the rock mass was originally known as ‘the head’, and the slang term for head – ‘nut’, was adopted. Anyway, ‘the nut’ it is.

We headed towards Stanley on Sunday, and spent the first night in a free site camped near a town called Penguin. The next morning it was pouring down and luckily we hadn’t unhitched so were saved from a complete drenching.

We’ve stayed the last two nights at Rocky Cape Tavern and Caravan Park. At $16 a night for a large site with power, water and the use of the ablutions, and located only a short drive from Stanley, it’s perfect. There’s always complaints about Grey Nomads supposedly wanting places to stay for nothing. Speaking for ourselves this is not the case. We have no objection to paying for facilities that make our lives easier. It’s the jumping pillows and children’s playgrounds and associated high insurance costs that bump fees up, and make camping sites smaller – this we object to. If it’s a choice between a free site, and a place with a jumping pillow and playground at $40+ dollars a night, you’d have to be a mug not to park in the free spot. A reasonable place for a reasonable price is all we ask for…..

Time to stop band-standing and get on to the subject of Stanley. With a population of less than 500 Stanley is a very small place. It’s oldest houses are on the eastern side and in the shadow of ‘the nut’, with a small additional spread of slightly newer houses south of ‘the nut’.  Most of the very old houses are now being used as bed and breakfast accommodation or some other form of holiday accommodation. I imagine the population would easily swell to several thousand during the holiday season, as well as coach loads of tourists popping in for daytime visits. To cater for these tourists theres some lovely little shops in the town, including an excellent providore who supplies really good fruit, sour dough bread amongst other things. Trust us to find any supplier of excellent bread….

Apart from a small street of interesting little shops we did a visit to Highfield Historic Farm (ok – but not up to the standard of similar places in the UK), and we took the chairlift to the top of the nut and walked the 45minute circuit with views in all directions. All very nice, but for us that was virtually Stanley in a nutshell. Warmer weather could have seen us perhaps attempting to get a foot into the water, and I’m sure during a hot spell here the two beautiful beaches below ‘the nut’ would have beckoned. Coming from WA though, I doubt there will be many spells hot enough to get us dipping more than our big toe into any water that’s not in a warm bath tub.

One of the beaches dwarfing the small hamlet of Stanley.

One of the beaches dwarfing the small hamlet of Stanley.

We ventured past Stanley today to some famous Tassie gardens south of Smithton, Allendale Gardens and rainforest. They are beautiful.

They have tea rooms in which they only sell Devonshire teas (or coffee), so, of course, we couldn’t pass a good Devonshire tea by. And I’m pleased we didn’t. Tables set with pretty table clothes, pan flute music in the background, a lovely china pot of tea with dainty tea cups, and lovely light scones served with home made blackberry jam, and whipped cream. Both the Devonshire tea and the ambience were delightful.

Pretty Allendale Gardens.

Pretty Allendale Gardens.

Then the walk through the gardens. I don’t know how many acres were there, but it was all tastefully divided into different types of gardens, winding backwards and forwards over bridges across a meandering stream. Their idea in creating the garden was above all to create tranquility. They achieved their desire admirably. Not only were there rose gardens, fern gardens, pretty flower beds and exotic trees everywhere, but they also had dozens of peacocks and peahens everywhere, including white peacocks. Further on from the pretty flower garden rooms a well worn track wound it’s way through rainforest, and a eucalyptus forest.

P1030949

In amongst the forest walk they had established a cute little ‘fairy garden’. Fairy ornaments aren’t usually something that appeals to me, but hidden in little nooks amongst towering trees and ferns, and moss covered fallen logs, it was very appealing, and something I may include in my own garden one day.

Tomorrow we’ll head back to Launceston for a final catch up with family before heading to the south of the Island to catch up with friends before our trip to the UK. That’s now less than four weeks away, so we’re getting excited.

Pictures from Bay of Fires, and Pub in the Paddock

After Bicheno we travelled up to the Bay of Fires and camped a night. Gorgeous, but the sand was very boggy so walking on the beach was difficult. For us, beach walks are the main purpose of being at a beach, so nice to look at, but not so great for any long time stays on this occasion. We will give it another try another time, perhaps different tides will compact the beach for better walking.

Bay of Fires.

Bay of Fires.

Next on for our night at the Pub in the Paddock. A fabulous ‘pub grub’ meal at a reasonable price. No new calves to be seen on the way there though.

'The Pub'.

‘The Pub’.

In the Paddock.

In the Paddock.

And us camped there - what a gorgeous view out the back window.

And us camped there – what a gorgeous view out the back window.

We then moved up to Beauty Point on the North West side of the Tamar River and have been here for a week. Kelv has been staying here, so we’ve spent this week with him. We’ve enjoyed his company, and I think he’s enjoyed a week of being looked after by the ‘Jiffy Van’. For those of you who aren’t aware of what a ‘Jiffy Van’ is – Jiffy vans are mobile lunch shops that visit industrial areas in Perth. He’s now had all his clothes washed, and has had a week of home cooked meals, which I’m sure he’s appreciated as he’s been working 11 – 12 hour days. Once a mother, always a mother eh!

The orchard he’s working at is now letting him move his caravan onto the farm so as they can have an older person there supposedly keeping the younger tent back- packers under control. I wish them luck with that, he’s more likely to lead them astray than keep them under control, LOL!!!! He’s moved there today.

Next for us is a visit to Stanley on the North Coast.

Land of milk & honey, and apples & blackberries

We’re currently on the East Coast staying at Bicheno. Bicheno is a lovely little coastal holiday town with the prettiest of beaches.

We’ve taken several road trips from here, North, South and East. The coast line both north and south is equal to any I’ve seen on the mainland, perhaps with the exception of Broome’s Cable Beach, and the beaches nearby to Broome. The drawback though of course is that Broomes beaches are tropical and easy to swim in. We’re yet to venture into the waters here, although today we were tempted. Tomorrow maybe if it’s as hot as it was today.

A few days ago we took a drive North to St Helens, and then East towards Bridport. Leaving the coast and heading inland was like driving into a totally different country. The road twisted and turned up and down steep hills with cool rain forest on either side. The tree ferns were huge, and lush, and green, and at least rivalled those in Northern Queensland for beauty. When the rain forest stopped, the greenest pastures took their place.

We drove in to a famous Tasmanian pub, ‘The Pub in the Paddock’, and yes it’s just that, a pub in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a huge paddock. We had a drink there whilst enquiring about camping options. It seems free camping is common in the field at the side of the pub providing one has a fully self contained vehicle. The field looks out onto beautiful hilly pasture land. So, next week we’ve promised ourselves a night there after we leave here.

On the way back to the main road we called into the Pyengana Dairy to sample some cheese and home made ice cream. The cheese was delicious so we bought two types, and we each bought a leather-wood honey flavoured ice cream. It really did have undertones of both leather and wood – and was really nice and very different. I don’t know if Leather-wood honey is available elsewhere in the world, or on the mainland. If it is I’ve never noticed it. It seems to be a bit iconic here.

Then, almost one of the best ‘almost experiences’. Across the road from the dairy a few people had gathered to watch the cows in a field, so we wandered across with our ice creams to see what was so special about a field of cows. It turned out to be a small paddock which seemed to be set aside for calving, and a calf had just arrived. The cow was cleaning it as it tried to find it’s feet. We watched it for nearly an hour as it struggled to it’s feet, only to give a bit of a drunken stagger towards the teats and topple down again. And then, another cow came up to within a couple of metres of the fence and went into a very zoned out state. It was clear another calf was about to make it’s entrance to the world.

We watched as each contraction hit the cow and rippled from her front legs, across her belly and she haunched her back legs in giving a bit of a push. Myself and another lady laughed when we realised we both tensing up and pushing along with her. We watched for around an hour, but we had such a long drive ahead of us and there was no way of knowing how close the birth was going to be, so sadly we had to leave. The new born had found it’s feet, but hadn’t quite found the teat yet, so seeing a calf have it’s first meal, and witnessing an unborn calf be born wasn’t to be for us that day. Paul had to almost leave without me…. I so wanted to stay.

Anyway, we’re going back that way again next week, and if any new calves are as obviously on their way into the world, maybe we’ll be lucky enough to witness the whole thing.

I’ve spoken about the milk and honey. Now about those apples and blackberries. We went for a walk along a beach walking track yesterday. Growing on public land next to the track was an apple tree full of ripe apples, just hanging there waiting to be picked. So, we took just one each to munch on as we walked along. It was sweet, crisp and juicy. We had no sooner finished that when we came across heaps of blackberry brambles choc-a-bloc full of plum, ripe blackberries. We picked a hand full each to nibble as we walked along.

Things like blackberries and apples on public land aren’t unusual here. It’s amazing. Tomorrow I’m heading back to the apple tree and will pick enough for a few days.

Tassie is getting a reputation for being a ‘foodies Island’. It doesn’t disappoint.

Wineglass Bay work-out

Kelvin joined us at Deloraine caravan park and we spent almost a week there together. We did a little bit of touring in between his job hunting. On one of the days we took a trip up to Cradle Mountain and did the 2 – 3 hour hike around Dove Lake, a pleasant walk, but unpleasant reminder of how unfit I’ve become.

Kelvin has now found work driving a tractor in an apple orchard in the Tamar Valley, so has settled himself in at the Beauty Point Caravan Park. Having spent the past month or so catching up with friends and family, we’re now ready for some ‘us time’, time to do some touring, hiking and exploring this lovely little Island.

We left Deloraine for the East Coast yesterday and have booked into a caravan park in Bicheno. Bicheno is well situated for us to explore the full East Coast, so we’ll spend the next eight nights here.

The Hazards  at Freycinet National Park (rocky hills)

The Hazards at Freycinet National Park (rocky hills)

We started our exploring today with a repeat of a hike that we did 20 years ago, over the Hazards at Coles Bay to the look out onto Wineglass Bay. My heart and lungs certainly had a good work out, and perhaps my muscles will groan a bit tomorrow. It was worth it. The day was a glorious 20º, and I’m pleased to say we managed the walk in the recommended time of 1 1/2 hours. I’m also pleased to say even though it was tough, it wasn’t as tough as Dove Lake at Cradle Mountain was, even though it was supposed to be a harder walk. We have been walking a bit since then, so I guess it’s paying off. The ambience and the view from the look-out was superb.

View of Wine Glass Bay

View of Wine Glass Bay

 

The most comfortable seat in the middle of nowhere.

The most comfortable seat in the middle of nowhere.

Next was a short walk over the rocks at Honeymoon Bay.

 

Pretty Honeymoon Bay

Pretty Honeymoon Bay

Then a third walk which although short was quite challenging to a little place called Sleepy Bay. Had to call it quits for the day though after this one – I was knackered!

Lichen covered granite at Sleepy Bay

Lichen covered granite at Sleepy Bay

It was a lovely day.

Catching up with friends

It’s been sometime since I’ve written here. We’ve been busy catching up with friends, and I hadn’t realised how long it’s been since I last wrote until a good friend from England let me know yesterday. Apologies to anyone who has been wondering where we are, and what we’re doing.

We spent close to two weeks down at Magra. Our friends from Perth, Marina and Terry’s son, Iain, has a few acres in Magra with their house, and a chalet on it. Marina and Terry are currently staying in the chalet, so we plugged our van in next door to them. We had a great time, eating too much and drinking more than we usually drink – but hey, that’s what happens when you’re catching up with friends.

Iain and Barbara’s place is amazing (but what isn’t amazing on this little Island). Magra is in a valley and is completely surrounded by hills. Although it’s summer, the nights were often cold with mist shrouding the hills in the morning, very, very pretty. Iains property has a vege garden, chooks and abundant fruit trees laden with fruit. We had the sweetest plums picked fresh from the trees each morning on our cereal, feasted on apricots during the day, ate eggs with the most orange yolks I’ve ever seen in eggs, and herbs, squash and zucchini from the garden were frequent additions to our meals.

I hate to prattle on about food, but it seems every where you go on this little island you see fruit trees with branches almost weighed down to the ground  with more fruit than any one family could possibly eat , and lots of people have veges growing in their gardens. We don’t know many people here, but frequently we’re being given fresh produce from someones garden. Even the owners of the caravan park we’re currently staying in invited us to their house for morning tea last week-end and we came home with a big bag of fresh nectarines from their garden. But I digress…. What did we do, and where did we go while we down in Magra.

In the first few days we visited Peta, an old friend from Perth who now lives here in Tassie. Peta re-married a few years ago, and this was the first time we’ve had an opportunity to meet her husband Ron. Peta and Ron left Perth a few years ago in a yacht to sail the seas, which they did for a little over a year. They sailed into a little place at the south of Tassie, loved it, and decided to make a new home for themselves there – not an unusual occurrence here – we hear similar stories from people where ever we go. It seems this place understandably captures many people’s hearts.

Anyway, we had a lovely lunch with Peta and Ron, and enjoyed catching up immensely at their property down in Middleton. Their house is amazing, also on a small acreage. They overlook Middleton Beach, although their view is a little obscured by a few too many trees lining the beach. Peta tells me every time there’s a strong wind she hopes it will take out a couple of the trees.

Marina and Terry took us to Richmond which is one of the many heritage listed villages in Tassie. It’s a lovely place, and we can’t wait to visit it again. It’s sometimes hard to do justice to a new place when you’re visiting with people who have been there before. It’s not easy to get the balance between doing justice to our own visit without it all becoming a total bore for the people with you that have seen it all before. We found the best way was to have a quick look with a mental note to re-visit at another time.

Marina had her birthday while we down there, so we shared the costs of a unit in a little place called Eagle Hawks Neck to celebrate her birthday in style. Eagle Hawks Neck is the narrow strip of land between most of Tasmania and Port Arthur. Port Arthur was a penal colony when Australia was first settled, and is now probably one of the most visited tourist destination in Tassie. As the neck is such a narrow area, they confined the prisoners in Port Arthur with a row of guard dogs across the neck.

Sitting on the balcony of our unit at Eagle Hawks Neck.

Sitting on the balcony of our unit at Eagle Hawks Neck.


We spent a few hours there, and purchased a two year pass to enable further visits. There’s far to much to see on just one visit.

Sadly though, Port Arthur is also the place of the infamous Port Arthur massacre which took place less than two decades ago and made news all over the world. The site of the massacre was a sobering place for silent reflection on the senselessness of it all. There are no words to describe what it felt like to realise we were in the same place dozens of people had been such a short time ago, doing the same things they were doing only to have their lives mercilessly cut short by some crazy gun man. No words at all….

I’m sure Marina and Terry had probably had enough of us by the time we left.We’re now back up in the north of the state staying at a little place called Longford.

Today we picked up my sister Wendy and we went up the Tamar river to a place called Beauty Point and again had lunch with Peta and Ron, who are moored there for a few nights in their yacht. They’re currently on a six week sail around the Island. How celubrious that was, sitting on the deck of their yacht, Finesse, sipping wine and eating lunch moored on the picturesque Tamar River. We’re hoping to catch up with Peta and Ron again in a few weeks when they reach Strahan. Strahan is another favourite place in Tassie for locals and tourists alike, so having a reason to get there soon is something we’re really looking forward to.

More news. Our son Kelv is currently on his way to Tassie. He’s booked onto the ferry to come across on Sunday night, so Monday we’ll be catching up again. How exciting is that!!!  It’s hard to imagine that life could get any better.

Apologies for the lack of photos – we’re having a little trouble dropping photos into the blog. Where is our grand son, Tim when we need him! He’d have it sorted for us in no time at all, and I’m sure he’d also show us how to enlarge the photos we do manage to drop in so as to show them full sized. One day…..