046. Where we leave the island continent of Oz and reach the land of Abel Tasman…
Day 15. Saturday 28th March 2009.
We woke to a chilly morning at Merinda – near Paynesville, Vic. Actually, I woke to a chilly morning. The co-pilot continued to sleep until the sun was well up past the yardarm. Today we planned a three-hour trip to stay with Merrilyn Bilston at Heathmont, a suburb of Melbourne and about an hour from the docks. The trip started innocently enough. We stopped for a pie and vanilla slice at a huge bakery at Rosedale and we followed the GPS directions to Taralgon when everything changed on the GPS. I thought I was following the Princess Highway when the GPS voice became more insistent about doing a U turn. As I could no longer see highway direction signs I followed the GPS. It took us through back roads and away from where I thought we should be. Somewhere along the way we found ourselves driving past a huge power station, which, I presume was the Taralgon Power Station. Awesome. If we had not been re-routed by the GPS this was something we may not have seen. Eventually after a lot of narrow country roads, with little traffic we found ourselves on the Princess Freeway called M1. We followed the GPS faithfully even on the tollway where the E-Toll transponder beeped several times. We arrived at Heathmont at roughly the time I originally planned.
We might celebrate tonight by going to a noodle bar!
Day 16. Sunday 29th March 2009.
Merrilyn put on a huge baked lamb for lunch and invited her son Scott to join us. Then at 3pm we left, after putting the address for the docks into our GPS. The GPS took us along a toll road then through the middle of the city heart in Melbourne. Fascinating! We followed the directions faithfully and ended up at our destination in an hour and got to see the hustle and bustle of Melbourne on a Grand Prix Weekend. In fact the race was being held at Brighton about a Klm from where we were parked. The racecars sounded like a mob of very loud very angry bees. However their sound paled when the Air Force F118 buzzed the city and beaches. It sounded like a continuous sonic boom!
The BMW off road motorcycle club had arranged for 180 riders from all over the world to travel to Tassie
to ride fire trails and such. They were loaded aboard first and what an incredible sight that was.
We joined the queue about 6.30 and went through inspections and ticket allocation and were in our cabin
by 8pm after having booked a table at the restaurant. The cabin was small but very well appointed and comfortable.
I will share a bit of a reflective indulgence with you. Since leaving home we have noticed a large number of passengers in cars with their feet up on the dashboard. Of course our very own co-pilot was one of them.
The other indulgence is the number of topless cars being driven around Vic. More than in any other state.
Dinner was very good if a bit pricey. I asked if Eftpos was available. No. Cash or credit card only. I was directed to an ATM and stood in a long line and when it was my turn realised why all those in front of me took so much time to transact. The ATM owners restrict all transactions to $50 and charge a fee of $2. So… if you want $200 that is 4 transactions and an $8 fee on top of whatever your bank charges!
Day 17. Monday 30th March 2009
There was a 1.5m swell running and 10-15 knot breeze blowing. I had a less than perfect sleep although I did sleep. The boat rocked, hummed and vibrated all night. Suddenly a voice came over the intercom to say 45 minutes to docking and to prepare to leave. We went down to the bistro to buy coffee. We only took my electronic key. Wouldn’t you know? It did not work and Donnis had left her working key in the cabin. Down to the next level, walk half the length of the ship to find the purser. Convince her of our identity, get a new key, walk back to the cabin and find this key does not work either. Repeat the process. After we finally got back in our cabin it was time to leave for level 3 where the bus is parked. We were one of the first off the ship!
Local radio weather forecast was for rain and a strong wind warning. Uh Oh!
After quickly leaving Devonport, (exploration of this city will be carried out closer to departure day) we had breakfast parked at a beach near Burnie. We bought groceries at Burnie then arrived at Stanley
on the North West Coast to begin our exploration.
Day 18. Tuesday 31st March 2009.
“Oh What a Night”. The strong wind warning seems to have grown into a full sized gale! All night the bus was rocked from side to side in the wind. Sometimes the wind was so strong we could not open the door. If anything, the wind is stronger this morning. It felt like another boat trip. Time to go and find a sheltered spot away from the coast. Yesterday we explored some of Stanley, which has the oldest port in Tas. First settled about 1827. Some parts of the port are a bit run down but I would prefer to have been parked up in the lee of the harbour last night. The town is quite old and the buildings are mostly original. The huge rock formation known as THE NUT
has a looming presence everywhere in town. In fact it can be seen from at least 42 klms away. That is when I first saw it as we drove along. Stanley is on a peninsular and the waters of the southern ocean meet the waters of Bass Strait. Turbulence is created when wind and swell of one meets the other. There is a chair lift operating as well as a walking track. We opted out of both. The wind was too strong to go on the chair lift and we were already walked out on flat ground and were not up to the steep walk involved.
We decided to head to the most westerly point of Tasmania accessible to us. Marrawah is a small settlement on the coast with little or no facilities. However there is a freedom camp site and surprise surprise, a leg of the World Cold Water Surfing Championships was held here over the weekend. It was still blowing a gale here and uncomfortable so we did not stay. Travelling along the coast towards Burnie there was no escaping the wind so we headed inland towards Cradle Mountain and stopped the night at a freedom site called Hellyer Gorge. Hurrah! No wind. We met a couple also camped for the night. They told us they had picked a bag of mushrooms during the day and were about to cook them. Well! Mushrooms indeed. The majority was as large as an open hand; a dreadful brown colour on top and underneath it was a sickly yellow colour and resembled a sponge. They called them butter mushrooms and are a delicacy. The other was mushroom size, an orange colour on top but bright orange underneath with green spots. I kid you not! They are also a delicacy and expensive. I still said “toadstools”. So they cooked them up on the barby with onions and offered us a plate. We watched them eat first then tried the offering. The butter mushrooms had a nice taste and the texture was a bit like oysters. The orange specimen tasted good and had a mushroom texture. So far no ill effects or hallucinations.
Day 19. Wednesday 1st April 2009.
Today we drove to Cradle Mountain. Because we purchased a Parks Pass on board the ship we had free access to all Tas Parks and free shuttle where provided. The drive to Dove Lake was enjoyable.
On arrival the number of short walks or day walks became a bit confusing. However after a few happy snaps of Dove Lake we took the walk to the old boatshed. After more happy snaps we walked to a smaller lake then decided to do the boardwalk trail to Ronney’s Creek. Along the way we stepped off the track onto a large rock to settle down for lunch. We could not see the track nor be seen by people on the track. A short while after eating we heard voices coming toward us. Lo & behold! It was another couple who camped near us the night before. They stepped off the track so she could tighten her shoelaces. How about that for a bit of coincidence?
On arrival at Ronney’s we decided on another boardwalk trek to Snake Hill where the shuttle bus would pick us up. This section, although on a boardwalk, was mostly uphill and got steeper and steeper. The steepness slowed the co-pilots pace to a crawl! Finally we reached the bus stop and that was the end of our trekking for the day. We then travelled to Waratah for the night, staying at a small council controlled caravan park. The park would only accommodate about 25 rigs if parked sensibly. The toilets/showers and laundry are built inside old concrete water tanks. Nice hot showers inside a glass shower cubicle, just like home, a heater on the wall, a chair, a bath mat, vanity basin & mirror and key accessed. Very clean. The best we have encountered. The town boasts a waterfall and waterwheel in the centre of town. The waterfall is impressive but alas no photos. It rained.
Day 20. Thursday 2nd April 2009.
Today we woke to rain and decided not to go back to Cradle Mountain as the mist/clouds/fog obscured the view yesterday when it was fine, so today with limited visibility we saw no point going back. Today we did a trip, which included towns such as Tullah, Rosebery, Queenstown and finally Strahan. Along the way we took a look at Lake Macintosh. At Rosebery we tried a Chicken and Camembert Cheese pie. Decadent!
We bought groceries at Queenstown, which seemed like a ghostown. Very few people on the streets and although the shops looked deserted they all had “OPEN” signs on the door. We walked around a corner and there was the couple we met Tuesday night and again on the boardwalk track to Ronney’s. Small world and getting smaller. We decided against looking around town. Queenstown extracts copper ore from the surrounding hills and the mess of bare hills detracts from the town. It appears as an unsightly blight on the scene. By now the sun had come out, it was warm and we wanted to settle down for the night. Strahan is claimed to be only an hour away. Oh yeah! Bet they did not do the time test driving a fully loaded Coaster! We drove along a dirt road to Ocean Beach, backed into a spectacular site with incredible views. From here across the Indian Ocean the sea is empty of land until you hit Venezuala 18,000 klms to the west!
Ocean Beach at Strahan is a popular place for people to come and watch or photograph the sunset. Of course after the sunset they leave and three motorhomes stayed for the night.
We cooked fresh Flathead fillets and stir-fry for dinner. The fish was cooked perfectly even if I say so myself.
Day 21 Friday 3rd April 2009.
A thunder and lightning display woke me at six am followed by a brilliant sunrise
before the rain returned. We headed along the coast to the little town of Zeehan. Before we reached the town we came across the Henty Sand Dunes.
These dunes track at least 2Klms inland and run along the coast for a further 20 Klms. We decided to climb the dunes, which are 30m high in places and make for a good workout as you climb them. After a look around the top and a few photos
the wind and rain returned and drove us back to the bus. Zeehan was worth a quick look around, a bit of lunch at a pub and back on the road to Strahan.
We both like this town. Lots of character and lovely restored houses and multi coloured old fishing village
tucked into a corner.
We camped for the night behind the railway carpark behind what appears to be a run down cold store. Several other motorhomes camped in the carpark but we had shelter from the wind but not the rain. The sound of lapping water, wind and rain lulled us to sleep.
Aaah, Tasmania. Aboriginal for “land of miserable cold overcast rainy days.”
Bye for now.