(Part 2)

Day 8 Nov 19:

I woke up on my birthday to another glorious Tasmanian morning and after receiving a phone call with warm birthday wishes from my son, we drove out of Triabunna at 9.15am to get to our next destination, the Tasman Peninsula. As we reached the coastal hamlet of Orford, centred around the mouth of the Prosser River, both the MOTH and I just about choked with the stench in the air - I was convinced that all of the town folks must have had a damn good feed of curried eggs, baked beans and cabbage the previous night and simultaneously dropped their guts just as we drove past! We couldn’t get out of town fast enough.

After passing the township of Buckland, on our approach to the township of Runnymede, we passed two unusually named hills: Break-Me-Neck Hill and then a little further on, Bust-Me-Gall Hill, both with incredibly steep inclines and declines. It is believed that early settlers and travelers used these terms to describe the steep hills and the names simply stuck. Just as we got to Sorell, our mobile phone rang again, this time it was a birthday call from Nina. Soon afterwards, I received an SMS from Sharon wishing me a very happy birthday.

From Sorell, we took the Arthur Highway and made a brief stop at Dunalley to learn a little more about the Denison Canal. Dunalley is a small fishing village south-east of Hobart en route to Port Arthur, located on a narrow isthmus that joins the Forestier and Tasman Peninsulas to the island of Tasmania. The Denison Canal project of joining Frederick Henry Bay and Blackman Bay began in 1901 when it was hand-dug and finally completed in 1905. The Canal has a swing bridge for road traffic and allows boats easy access between the two bays. Local legend has it that the 'toll' to the gatekeeper used to be a bottle of beer. In 1965 a new hydraulic swing bridge replaced the original bridge. We then continued on to the Tasman National Park Lookout on the Forestier Peninsula, just before Eaglehawk Neck (a narrow isthmus about 400m (1312ft) long and under 30m (98ft) wide at its narrowest point making it a natural gateway to the Tasman Peninsula), to admire great views of Pirates Bay before proceeding to view the Tessellated Pavement.

The Tessellated Pavement is a rare sedimentary rock formation caused by erosion, so named because it fractures into blocks that appear like tiles, with 'pans' and 'loaves' features. [Away from the seashore, the pavement dries out for longer periods at low tide, allowing greater development of salt crystals. The salt that forms on the surface erodes the pavement's surface quicker than the joints, resulting in the surface of the pavement being lowered while the joints which erode more slowly become rims, giving the appearance of 'pans'. 'Loaves' features occur when the joints are eroding quicker than the surface because of abrasion by sand and other particles carried by water.]

After checking out this fascinating feature, we drove through Eaglehawk Neck into the Tasman Peninsula and onwards to the Blowhole, Tasman Arch and the 60m (197ft) deep Devil's Kitchen, all magnificent rock creations of Father Time that began some 250 million years ago. We had lunch of a cray roll each from a mobile café in the carpark of the Tasman Arch tourist attraction. From there it was onwards to Port Arthur, a settlement that started out as a timber station in 1830 but best known for being a penal colony for secondary offenders (those who re-offended after their arrival in Australia) from 1833 until 1850s. We passed a quaint little holiday village called Doo Town on the way, where the residents have given their homes cute and clever names like “Love Me Doo”, “Just Doo It”, “Doo Nix”, “Doo Drop In”, “Doo Little” and the one we liked the best, “Doo F#@k All”.

Instead of stopping at Port Arthur, we traveled on for a drive around the Tasman Peninsula to check out the sights, eventually deciding to stop for the night at the White Beach Tourist Park on the outskirt of the township of Nubeena. Hopeful enquiries by the MOTH at the manager’s office regarding a nice restaurant to go for dinner to celebrate my birthday revealed that the RSL Club do not serve meals on Mondays and the nearest pub is several kms away. As the MOTH hopped into the driver’s seat to get to our powered site, the manager raced out of his office to wish me a very happy birthday. How sweet of him! Meanwhile, seeing my poor MOTH in a quandary over somewhere to go for a special dinner, I suggested that we heat up the Rendang that I had brought from home and have that with rice and thought nothing more of it. We quickly hooked up to the power point and eagerly turn on the TV to catch the afternoon play of Day 4 of the cricket match. Blast it! For some unexplained reason, the Cricket match wasn’t being telecast in this neck of the woods so we had to satisfy ourselves with the ABC radio commentary which was intermittent with a lot of interference from the overhead power lines. Grrrr… Not having any grandkids with us, we took our transistor radio out instead, for a stroll along the beach of Wedge Bay, just a few short steps from the park but the air smelt pretty foul, not unlike the air of Orford so we cut the beach walk short and made our way back to Just Trip’n by road instead. We eventually deduced the bad odour must be due to the seaweed and dead marine life that had been washed ashore at high tide and then left high and dry to nicely rot away when the tide is out. My MOTH then suggested that we go for a drive as the afternoon was still young. Although somewhat puzzled, I went along with his idea. Why was I puzzled? Well, it’s most unusual for the good man to willingly run around disconnecting the power cord, wind down the TV antenna and so on once we had settled anywhere for the day. I wasn’t exactly brimming with good cheer either as I was so much looking forward to watching a bit of the cricket telecast.

As it turned out, unbeknownst to me, he had put on his thinking cap and planned on giving me a little surprise. He was a man on a mission! He drove all the way back to the Tasman Arch car park, some 36km (22 miles) away, to the mobile café where he had seen some nice crays (lobsters) for sale when he bought our lunch. He bought the biggest cray they had for sale and on the way back we stopped at the only supermarket in Nubeena (the Aboriginal word for crayfish), a sleepy little holiday/fishing village which despite its 'smallness', is the largest township on the Tasman Peninsula, to get a bottle of Cognac Seafood Cocktail sauce and a couple of individual serves Mixed Berry Cheesecake. By the time we got back to the White Beach Tourist Park, the cricket live telecast was on so we both chilled out with a nice cold drink and watched cricket till it ended for the day. While I was having my shower, my MOTH got busy with cleaning the lobster and had the table set with a glass of champagne for me and a picture of a lit candle that he had hastily drawn and propped up against the window! Indeed I was deeply touched by his sweet gesture. After dessert and coffee, he even did the dishes and refused to let me touch the tea-towel… What a guy!

Day 9 Nov 20:

We left the Tourist Park at 9am and headed straight for Port Arthur Historic Site, getting there about 9.30am. While walking to the site entrance, we spotted an unusual vehicle in the car-park - a Yamaha motorcycle with a little trailer cutely named "Minnebago", so out came our cameras to take our first photo of the day. We then proceeded to the ticket counter to purchase two tickets (1 senior, 1 adult) as well as the additional tickets necessary for a tour of the Isle of the Dead (originally called Opossum Island), bringing the total to $65. To kill some time before the scheduled 11am harbour cruise, we sauntered around the park until it was time to board the cruise boat. Those with the relevant tickets like us, were dropped off at the jetty at the Isle of The Dead with a guide leading the way for an interesting 40-minute tour of the historic cemetery where about 1100 people were buried according to their station in life - the lower half of the island was reserved for convicts, lunatics, invalids and paupers and the higher ground was reserved for civil and military burials. We were picked up by the cruise boat and brought back to the jetty at 12.15pm and at 12.30pm, visitors were divided into two groups before being led off in different directions for a short guided tour of the park. After that ended, we were left to our own devises to explore the park to our hearts’ desire. Man, did we walk! Five and a half hours after our arrival, we both had enough of walking from one site to another - from the Asylum to the gloomy solitary confinement cells, from the Commandant's House right down to the Convict Church ruins, so we decided to call it a day. By then, our legs felt like we had been dragging a ball and chain all day and we could hardly wait to get back to the Tourist Park for another night’s stay. By the time we got back to White Beach, the Cricket match was over so we missed out on watching the Aussies beat the Sri Lankans by 96 runs. After a bit of a rest, we did our laundry ($4 to use the washing machine and $3 to use the dryer) and to save some time, we took turns to have a shower while the other spent some exciting time watching our clothes tumbling around in the dryer. Good to know that we won’t have to worry about dirty clothes for another week now. Had dinner of Rendang and rice before settling in for a couple of hours of TV viewing, finally succumbing to sleep before the midnight hour. Tomorrow we will check out the Tasmanian Devil Park before heading south towards Hobart.

Day 10 Nov 21:

We drove out of White Beach at 9am and headed towards Port Arthur to check out Remarkable Cave (so called because if viewed from the correct angle, the mouth of the cave is the same shape as Tasmania), a cave with two openings located at Maingon Bay and accessible only via a steep and narrow set of stairs (someone had obviously counted the number of stairs and wrote “116” on the info sign). The crumpled concertina pattern on the outside of Remarkable Cave was created by dolerite baked on crumpled sandstone as it cooled after being forced toward the Earth's surface as molton rock. Several photos later, we left the area and drove out of the Tasman Peninsula, back into Forestier Peninsula, only stopping for a photo of a Tudor manor in the Tasmanian bush, the Fox and Hounds Inn.

I wanted to see the Tasmanian Devils up close and personal so we went to the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park situated between Eaglehawk Neck and Dunalley. Entry cost $24pp and included in the entrance fee were viewing of Tasmanian Devils being fed, Kings of the Wind Bird Show (free-flight raptor show) which included the Dive of the Falcon where a falcon flew in from out of nowhere, right between the legs of three volunteers who had been asked to stand with their legs apart, one behind another, much to the amusement of the awestruck spectators. Then there was the thieving white cockatoo who cheekily pinched coins from the hands of visitors and deposited them into his keeper's pocket. We were introduced to tawny frogmouths which I first mistook to be owls and several other interesting feathered creatures. After the bird show, visitors were free to wander around the park so off we went with our cameras to see more of our feathered friends - from beautiful budgerigars to pretty parrots, some in enclosures and others like the Cape Baron Geese roamed freely all over the place. We walked around a huge paddock that had countless kangaroos and wallabies and it wasn't long before we got tired of playig the game, "dodge the kangaroo poo", so we left the Conservation Park and headed off to Dunalley for lunch of crumbed butterfish and chips from Dunalley Fish Market, washed down with a drink of Coke. A few hundred meters up the road after leaving the Fish Market, we began discussing our dinner plan for the evening – “Mmm, a crayfish would be nice…” we mused simultaneously, so the MOTH made a slick U-turn to go back to the Fish Market to buy one.

From Dunalley, we got onto the Tasman Highway and drove through Sorell to get on the Tasman Bridge over the River Derwent into Hobart, and onto the Channel Highway to Kingston where the MOTH replenished his cash supply at an ATM. We then drove on to Margate, where, in a siding beside the road, stood the last passenger train to run in Tasmania. What a novel way of utilizing an old train! The carriages had been cleverly converted into little shops - a pancake parlour, coffee shop, souvenir stores, etc... a quaint shopping complex known as Margate Train Recreational Shopping and Tourist Development. We stopped for a bit of a sticky-beak before continuing our drive on the coastal road through Snug (named because of its quiet and snug surroundings), Kettering (noted for orchards of apples, cherries, pears and also as a regional fishing centre), Woodbridge (another coastal township noted for its orchards) and so on, finally calling it a day at Cygnet, a small town 55km south-west of Hobart, in the Huon Valley. We spent the night at the Cygnet Holiday Park, this place being the most expensive, with a powered site costing $30 a night. It was just as well the water supply in the park was potable as our supply of drinking water had just about run out. We feasted on the crayfish purchased earlier before a relaxing night in front of the TV. Tomorrow we’ll work our way down to Southport, the southernmost part of Tasmania that is accessible by bitumen road.

Day 11 Nov 22:

We pulled out of Cygnet at 9am after ‘selling’ the amenities key back to the caretaker for $30 to recoup the deposit we handed him the evening before. We drove up the road a little way to one of the two petrol stations in town to top up on diesel then it was off to Hounville (a town on the Huon River in the Huon Valley best known as one of Tasmania’s primary apple growing areas) to get on the Huon Highway. A stop was made at Geeveston Forest and Heritage Centre for a little tour of the Centre with its interesting display of furniture and various works of art carved from Tasmanian timber. (Geeveston is a small timber and apple growing town in the Huon Valley.) My MOTH bought me a ruler - no, not to measure the distance we’ll be travelling, but a souvenir ruler made with sample bits of various Tasmanian timber. We also purchased tickets ($22pp) to enter the Tahune Forest AirWalk and with the 10% discount coupon attached, we stocked up on groceries from the local IGA supermarket across the road. From there, we had a half-hour 28km (17.4 miles) drive on yet another winding road to get to the Tahune Forest AirWalk. [Tahune is an aboriginal word meaning, "peaceful place by running water", the running water being the Huon River.]

It was an awesome experience tackling the super high 597m (1959ft) AirWalk, the highlight being the walk on the 24m (almost 79ft) long cantilever, 48m (157.5ft) above the Huon River. It swayed like a springboard as I nervously walked on it but I was rewarded with fantastic views of the forest canopy and the confluence of the Huon and Picton Rivers with what I believe to be Mt Picton in the background. My MOTH refused to walk on this cantilever and satisfied himself with a photo of me when I got to the very end. With adrenalin still pumping, I readily agreed to go on the 3km Swinging Bridges Circuit one hour walk to cross two swinging bridges, the first one over the Huon River and the second over the Picton River. I found crossing the swinging bridges to be rather daunting but refused to succumb to my trepidation and battled on. I felt a great sense of achievement after my successful swinging bridges crossings and was quite proud of myself. I celebrated with a drink of Coke Zero that I had with me when we reached the last leg of the walk. One minute I was striding along, happy to see the roof of the entrance from the last little hill and next thing I knew, I slipped on the loose gravel, took a downhill dive and landed on my right knee. Man! That was so not fun! Luckily, my camera didn’t hit the ground and I didn’t spill a single drop of my can of drink… lucky too, that I didn’t tear the right knee of my jeans. With my MOTH’s assistance, I hobbled gingerly over to a nearby bench and surveyed my bloodied knee. I mopped up the blood with some tissues and continued on to the entrance, being careful not to get too much blood on my jeans. We decided against the 30-minute return Huon Trail walk and made our way back to Just Trip’n instead. Some Neosporin™ on my injured knee, a Band-Aid™ over it and I was almost good to go.

On the way back to Geeveston, on the Arve River Forest Drive, we stopped at the West Creek Lookout for a couple of photos of more trees and treetops and further along, at the Big Tree Lookout, to admire a humongous tree which according to scientific calculations is the biggest, i.e. heaviest tree in Australia, 87m (285.5ft) high and weighing 405 tonnes (446.5 tons). The Big Tree is a Eucalyptus regnans (Regnans means regal) also called a Swamp Gum, the sole survivor of the fires of 1914, 1934 and 1967 and others that had burnt off all the original limbs. Even though the top had blown out and it is dying, it is still regal and magnificent and given the title of “Queen without a crown” by Steve Davis, a forester with 32 years experience in Forestry.

From there it was back on the Huon Highway, heading south to Southport, the southernmost town accessible by bitumen road. Originally named Bay of Moules by French explorers and Mussel Bay by the English, Southport was founded on Feb 16, 1864 and was the first convict settlement in the Huon region. The region’s local industries are mainly apple-growing, timber and fishing. We spent the night at the Southport Settlement Caravan Park at the CMCA discounted fee of $18 a night for a powered site. I cooked fried rice with leftover roast lamb for our dinner. There had been no contact with our kids all day as there was no mobile phone signal and TV reception was pretty woeful - only one channel with cartoon shows for kids, so we ended up watching a couple of movies on DVDs instead.

Day 12 Nov 23:

A few minutes after 8am, we left the Southport Settlement Caravan Park (the southernmost Caravan Park in Tasmania) and drove to the very end of Kingfisher Beach Road (the end of the bitumen road), the site of the prison governor’s house and cell blocks and also the site of the first hotel. I took a photo of Pelican Island (at one time used as a burial ground for the victims of a local diphtheria epidemic) before we left Southport to drive to Hastings.

Eventually we found our way to Hastings Visitor Centre where we purchased tickets to the Hastings Caves State Reserve. Entry cost $22 per person and included a guided tour of Newdegate Cave and full use of the amenities at Hastings Thermal Springs. I nudged my MOTH to fish out his Seniors Card and as a result, he only paid the Senior discounted fee of $17.60. I must have looked older than my years that day as I was also given the Senior’s discount! No complaints from this old chook though, that’s for sure…

Never having had the experience of a cave tour before, my excitement mounted as we drove along 5km (3 miles) of gravel road to the cave site and as we were way too early for the scheduled 10.15am tour, we decided to enjoy a brunch of sweet chili tuna spread sandwiches in the car-park before the 5 minute downhill walk to the tour rendezvous point at the entrance of Newdegate Cave. The Hastings Caves started forming some 40 million years ago and remained undiscovered until a group of timber workers stumbled upon the entrance in 1917. Newdegate Cave is one of only two dolomite caves in Australia and is the largest tourist cave in the country. [The other is on mainland Australia, the Tantanoola Cave near Millicent in South Australia.] It is named after the governor of the time, Sir Francis Newdegate and was officially opened on January 19th, 1939. We enjoyed a 45-minute guided tour of the massive cave filled with spectacular formations of flowstone, stalactites, columns, shawls, straws, stalagmites and rare helictites with the underground temperature naturally maintained at 9o Celsius. The last part of the tour was awesome - we were shown Titania's Palace - a spectacular wonderland of stalagmites and stalactites which has earned Newdegate Cave a reputation as one of the most beautiful caves in the country. Altogether, we negotiated 245 stairs before we saw daylight again.

After the cave tour, it was back to the Hastings Visitor Centre for the 100mtrs (110yds) forest walk along the Hot Springs Track. When we got to the "Hot Meets Cold" information archway marking the convergence of two streams, we put our hands in the water to feel the warm current from one stream meeting with the cold current from the other. The warm spring water is alkaline, clear, with a bluish tinge and only slightly mineralised whilst the cold water is acidic and "tea" coloured from natural tannins. Both streams are pollution-free. We continued strolling along the designated walkway through the forest, stopping now and again to read the various informative plaques, some cleverly etched into timber. At the end of our walk, we admired the surrounds of the Thermal Springs Pool (constant temperature of 27o Celsius) which is set in bushland with modern picnic facilities in a picturesque BBQ area. What a pity we didn't have our swimming gear with us... It is believed that the Hastings Thermal Springs is a karst water system that may be linked to that at Newdegate Cave. From Hastings, it was another winding road drive over hills and vales on the Huon Highway through Dover, Glendevie, Geeveston and various townships stopping at Franklin to utilize the grey water dumping station. Then it was on to Huonville to check out the Wood Cutter sculpture on the bank of the Huon River as mentioned in the sheet of visitor guide I was clutching. Only problem being the absence of a town map of Huonville to guide us...

Originally, the land on which Huonville is now located was privately owned and it wasn't until 1889 that the town became known as Huonville. The town is situated on fairly flat land a couple of metres above the mean level of the Huon River. Every decade or two the river rises and floods part of the town. The locals then cover up the road signs declaring the place to be "Huonville" and replace them with the word "Venice" until the water subsides again. The construction of the first timber bridge over the Huon River in 1876 cost £4400 - it was a toll bridge charging 2 pence for walkers and 6 pence for horses. The original timber bridge was replaced in 1926 and the present steel and concrete structure was completed in 1959. In the old days, the town was nothing more than the Picnic Hotel and a couple of shops along the river. The Picnic Hotel burnt down and was subsequently rebuilt as the Grand Hotel which still stands near the bridge. [It is in the background of the photo of the soldier wood sculpture.]

While my MOTH drove as slowly as he could, traffic permitting, my eyes darted all over the place desperately looking for the wood sculpture. I eventually spotted it, along with a couple of other sculptures, just as we were on the verge of giving up. There they stood in Short Street, just over the Huon Highway bridge! I gleefully leapt out of Just Trip'n to take a few photos while my MOTH waited patiently behind the wheel. The Short Family had planted trees in 1902 to commemorate the local volunteers and one hundred years later, at the end of the safe life of the trees, the figures were sculptured from the stumps of the trees to maintain the historic links. Sculpture of "The Wood Cutter" depicts a typical Huon pioneer of the 1800s, "The Apple Picker" is dedicated to the women pioneers of the Huon Valley and the sculpture of a soldier commemorates the local men who volunteered for service in the Boer War.

From Huonville, we went on the Channel Highway to drive through Cygnet and Oyster Cove before stopping at the seaside town of Snug to indulge in possibly the last feed of fresh Tasmanian Crays as we would be leaving the coastline tomorrow and heading inland, through the centre of the island. We decided to really pig out by getting a full cray each. Our next stop was Meredith Fruit Barn in Margate to get a couple of avocados, a few pears and several mandarins before driving through Hobart on the Brooker Highway to get to New Norfolk to spend the night at the New Norfolk Esplanade Caravan Park, situated close to the Derwent River (Celtic meaning 'Clear Water') at $20 a night.

New Norfolk is one of the oldest towns in Australia, originally called Elizabeth Town and re-named by the settlers from Norfolk Island in 1807 when the island's prison was closed down. It is the centre of the hop-growing area which has produced hops for over a century and supplies the majority of the hops used in the production of Tasmanian beer. By this stage of our trip, we had developed a taste for Maille™ Cognac Seafood Cocktail Sauce which enhanced the flavour of the crays we had eaten recently and with very little left to enjoy with the crays we had bought, we decided to go for a “short” walk UPHILL to get to the town centre in search of a supermarket to get another jar of the sauce. We walked for what seemed like hours as we had misread the visitors' town map and overshot the street leading to the town centre, so we had to back-pedal a block and a half. Found the only supermarket in the town centre but alas, we came out empty-handed… At least the walk back was much more pleasant as it was all downhill, passing the Bush Inn, St Peters Catholic Church and the Old Colony Inn.

The Bush Inn was built by one of the area's early enterprising women, Ann Bridger and mentioned in the 1985 Guiness Book of Records as the oldest continuously licensed hotel in Australia. St. Peter's Catholic Church is an old stone building boasting a magnificent spire against the backdrop of the Derwent hills. Then we came to the historic Old Colony Inn which started out as a hop shed in 1815 and later extended with a mud and stone lower floor and a convict brick upper floor to become a private dwelling. Over the years, the building has served as a school, gymnasium and barracks, until 1940 when William Rees, an antique dealer and artist, bought the property and developed it into The Old Colony Inn of today. By the time we got back to Just Trip'n, we were more than ready for a refreshing shower before sitting down to feast on our crays with half an avocado apiece and a side of tossed salad. We were both too full for dessert and today’s activities had tired us both out to the point where we actually looked forward to an early night…



Border: BoogieJack

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