Two weeks in Tassie (part 3)

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Launceston architecture here.

Images of Tassie here.

Saturday 15/12/12

The famous Salamanca Market is much longer and bigger than I remembered, but then it’s been a couple of decades since I saw it last. It’s in the historic part of town, between the 18th century port buildings and the harbour. There are loads of good fresh food and gourmet products, and locally made arts and crafts.

Salamanca Market

Salamanca Market – it is about three times this size, continuing around the corner; photo by Angela Coco

After lunch at one of the many cafes, Angela went off by ferry to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) and Lorraine and I walked around the port, then up to the Signal Station. We picked Angela up at MONA later in the day. I enjoyed an afternoon catching up with Lorraine – I hadn’t seen her since my Dad’s funeral.

Wandering around the harbour after the markets, we saw the Sea Shepherd vessel, Sam Simon

Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon in Hobart harbour

Sea Shepherd vessel Sam Simon in Hobart Harbour

and some life-size bronzes …

Bronze sea lion and penguins in Hobart harbour

Bronzes in Hobart Harbour; photo by Angela Coco

Hobart has several world-class research facilities studying Antarctica, both government- and university-run. Considering that continent is not too far away, I’d be surprised if they didn’t exist. I’d love to visit Antarctica, but the thought of those Southern Ocean swells is nauseating. I unfortunately didn’t receive my father’s immunity to seasickness.

Sunday 16/12/12

Lorraine drove us down to Huonville and Cygnet, both of which had Sunday markets – food, arts and crafts. Cygnet is a lot like Lismore in that there is an alternative community and lots of artists. Then on to Geeveston where we bought tickets to the Tahune Air Walk and looked in the Forestry Tasmania Museum there. (You can buy the tickets directly at the  Air Walk, too.) The Air Walk  is spectacular – you are walking within the canopy and looking down into the old growth forest and rivers. We took lots of photos of trees and fungi. It was very windy so the whole thing swayed a bit, but excitingly rather than dangerously.

Manferns (Dicksonia antarctica) from the airwalk

Man ferns (Dicksonia antarctica) from the Air Walk

The native Tasmanian black currawong (Strepera fuliginosa) at the Tahune Air Walk

The native Tasmanian black currawong (Strepera fuliginosa)

Monday 17/12/12

Off to the west, via Hamilton and Ouse. Be warned about the scallop pies at the Hamilton Cafe Bakehouse – although delicious and made on site, they are twice the price of anywhere else! At Tarraleah we stopped to look at the huge hydro pipes – at 12-30 pm it was 6 degrees C with a whipping wind – brrr, we’re in the highlands. The road is very twisty, and we stopped at a small car that had driven off the side into a ditch – fortunately there was no one inside. Unlike the east coast, there was no road kill – it’s tragic that there’s so much over east. Bob says the Tassie devils clean the bodies up, but there are very few devils left on the east coast, due to the facial tumour disease that’s killed something like 90% of the wild population.

The huge freshwater lakes on the way are very impressive – so much fresh water, especially astounding to an ex-South Australian. We really don’t know what fresh water is like over there.

It took us six hours to get from Hobart to Queenstown as we stopped a lot and took photos, then another hour to Strahan. Queenstown – hmm, what can I say, except it’s a relief to see some trees growing back on the barren, blasted slopes. There’s one mine still working. Such a contrast to the old growth forests further west.

Tree removal for the use of the wood in the mines and acid rain have formed this landscape in Queenstown

Tree removal for the use of the wood in the mines and acid rain have formed this landscape in Queenstown; photo by Angela Coco

We drove straight through to Strahan and our lodgings at Kitty’s Place. I would recommend this as the price was reasonable and there were lovely touches like a spa bath and a stuffy bear on each single bed in the children’s bedroom (the one I had). Directly across the road was a great cafe (the award-winning Molly’s) with excellent coffee, long hours and decent, reasonably priced food. We went for a walk on the nearest small beach and along the town waterfront before staggering off to bed.

Tuesday 18/12/12

Up early for the West Coast Wilderness Railway tour. Angela wanted to go premium class, and I agreed. It’s not something I would do normally, but what the heck – sometimes it’s nice to experience a little luxury. We were plied from beginning to end with great Tassie cheeses, gourmet snacks, wine and beer (except for the bread roll for lunch – that was a bit ordinary, but why am I complaining?). We had to stop several times to fill up the boilers with water for the steam; standing in the rainforest and looking around,  I felt it was a marvel how they built this thing in the first place, under tough conditions. The line originally took copper from mines deep in the forest, but the copper ran out and the line fell into disrepair. Then some bright spark got the idea to turn it into a tourist trip from Strahan to Queenstown, and it’s been doing well every since. Recommended for an insight into the pioneer history of the area.

The engineer filling the water tanks so that we have steam to continue the steep journey

The engineer fills the water tanks so that we have steam to continue the steep journey; photo by Angela Coco

View from railway over the water, still brown from pollution from the mines all those years ago

View from the railway over the river, still brown and suffering from pollution from the mines many years after they closed; photo by Angela Coco

Wednesday 19/12/12

We’d scheduled this as an “off” day, but when does this slow anyone down? After a morning walking around the town looking in all the shops, we went to Hogarth Falls in the People’s Park. It’s a pleasant walk along a stream with lots of lovely rainforest and fungi, but we didn’t see the resident platypus.

Hogarth Falls, Strahan - the water here was the "right" type of brown,from tannin from plants and trees

Hogarth Falls, Strahan – the water here was the “right” type of brown,from tannin from plants and trees

Thursday 20/12/12

A long day – first on the Gordon River Cruise, premium class again on the Lady Jane Franklin II. We had a slightly showery and misty day, but that made it all the more atmospheric. It was amazing to look out Hell’s Gates and imagine 2000 km away – Antarctica! I was super impressed by the landing boardwalk views – the rainforest is just incredible there, and we saw a Tasmanian tiger snake snoozing in what could not be called the warmth of the sun way off the boardwalk where people could not get at it (posted about here), and mud towers built by the Tasmanian freshwater burrowing crayfish.

Hells Gates - Antarctica 2000 km thataway!

Hell’s Gates – Antarctica 2000 km thataway!

Here is where your Tasmanian (or Atlantic) salmon comes from. While this method of farming may seem ‘clean and green’, the boat is feeding the salmon packed in their cages with fish meal, antibiotics and other chemicals, and therein lies the unsustainability. Read about the controversy here. I’m not advocating one thing or another – just that it’s important to know what’s going on with your food and choose according to your conscience.

Salmon farm, Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania

Salmon farm, Macquarie Harbour, Tasmania

I posted about the wonderful rainforest here.

On the way back we stopped at Sarah Island, which I found much more atmospheric than Port Arthur. I recommend a book called “Closing Hell’s Gates”, which tells the history of the people and the place. It was very possible, when standing on the 6 hectare (11 acre) island, to imagine the hell that it was. Some convicts even murdered so that they would be executed, rather than endure Sarah Island.

Tiny Sarah Island

Sarah Island – it’s as small as it looks, and was a punishment site for humdreds of convicts over 11 years.

After the cruise, we had to hot-foot it back to Hobart, taking only four and a half hours this time, but it was still a long day. We hadn’t intended going to stop but we just had to when we saw a wombat running towards us and then SIX (!) live Tasmanian short-beaked echidnas within 30 minutes. I wrote about them here – what a privilege it was to see them!

1000 photos, 1900 km in two weeks – can’t wait to go back! Next time I’ll take Andrew and we’ll do more natural history, especially Bruny Island, Maria Island and the north.  I recommend “Tasmania: A Natural History” by William E. Davis for an in-depth read about the subject.

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