Time out in Strahan

We came back yesterday from a four day break in Strahan on Tassies west coast.

Accommodation - lovely restored Victorian B & B
Accommodation – lovely restored Victorian B & B

Strahan is often listed as the highlight of tourist’s visits, so our expectations were high. As often is the case, high expectations leave one open for disappointment. Although that’s probably being a little harsh, as it is a lovely place. We just expected more.

We did the six hour cruise on the Gordon River the day after we arrived, and followed the cruise with the must see local comedy play, ‘The Ship that never was’. We enjoyed both.

Cruising on the Gordon River
Cruising on the Gordon River

The following day we visited two local nearby towns, Zeehan and Queenstown. Both towns are only ever talked about, quite correctly, as places of ‘no interest’. And on our last day we did a short walk into a water fall near the town.

Hogarth Falls
Hogarth Falls

We did enjoy the break away, but really, two days would have been plenty. If anyone asks me how long is needed to see the West Coast of Tassie, I’d suggest two nights. One to see the waterfall (by no means one of Tassies best), and the second day to do the cruise and the play.

Strahan is famous as a location of the famous Huon Pine tree, and sawmill. The Huon Pine grows one millimetre a year in diameter, so a tree needs to be about 1000 years old to be of much use – not a tree for sustainable foresting. Its a unique wood that gained fame as a boat building material, but of course it’s now protected. It also makes beautiful, unique furniture which now owing to the rarity of the timber is super expensive.

When it was been forested, the foresters had to go deep into dense forest, and the trees had to be taken out on the river. The foresters only took out the most useful of the trees, but often less useful trees were chopped down to access the best trees. These less than perfect trees already chopped down and left behind, form todays supply of useable Huon Pine wood. It is the most beautiful wood – creamy yellow in colour with small pitting called birdseye, and the most beautiful perfume. I can’t describe the smell, but once you’ve had the pleasure of smelling it, you’ll be hooked. I know we are. Varnishing seals the beautiful perfume in, so most people oil the wood to allow the perfume through.

And that brings us to the highlight of our trip to Strahan, but I’ll have to back track a few months. Before we went to the UK in April of this year we were buying up second hand furniture on Gum Tree. One of our bargains was our bed, a latex queen bed hardly used (the marriage had broken up). It was on the market for the bargain price of $500. There was a big chunky bed head in the house which I cheekily asked if was also for sale. Yes, we could have it for $50 if we wanted it. I bartered him down and we ended up getting both the bed and bedhead for $500. The bedhead had been made for them as a wedding present by a friend. I think he was pleased to be rid of it.

We’ve since harboured a hope that the badly varnished bed head could perhaps be made of Huon Pine. However, everyone who’s seen it has discounted that, mainly because of the size and thickness of the wood, and the fact that we got it virtually for nothing, but no-one has been able to identify the wood.

While in Strahan we asked a 5th generation Huon Pine Saw Miller to look at a photo we had of the bed head. Prior to looking he said it would be Baltic Pine, but his interest was definitely tweaked when he saw the photos. He identified many characteristics in the wood that suggested it could very well be Huon Pine. He gave us a sample piece of wood and suggested we sand back some of the varnish from the bed head to expose the perfume of the wood, and compare the scent with that of the sample.

Having now done that, we have little doubt that we have scored a Huon Pine bed head. The smell is unmistakable. We can’t wait till we get time to remove all the varnish and oil it up to its full beauty. We’re over the moon.

When we returned home yesterday, Kelv, who has been staying with us for the past few weeks had received news that his work in Darwin is about to start. So, sadly today he left for the ferry to take him across Bass Straight, and tomorrow he’ll commence his return road trip up to Darwin. We had been hoping he’d find work here and would settle in Tasmania. Unfortunately, not to be at this point in time. He did love Tassie though, so perhaps one day in the future…..

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