Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Our journey down the north west coast took us along the Western Explorer - a gravel road only put through in 1995 which took us through remote wilderness scenery south of Arthur River and provided a chance to walk up Mt Donaldson for excellent views.
Corinna provided a relaxed base to enjoy a couple of walks and an afternoon kayaking on the Pieman River. The sunny pub verandah was the perfect spot to end the day.
Zeehan seemed a bit lost despite its excellent museum and the strangely moving Gaiety Theatre alongside which seemed to echo with the memories of more prosperous times. Strahan was more upbeat with its Gordon River cruises and the spectacular expanse of Ocean Beach. We had walked in the vast dune system north of there prior to camping nearby.
Queenstown bears the scars of its long mining history but was the gateway to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers NP that protects a huge swathe of west central Tasmania. Lake King William provided a couple of nights of idyllic bush camping before we headed round to Mt Field NP.
This is the oldest in Tasmania and gave us the chance to walk high up in alpine scenery once more. A long and tiring walk took us above the tarns and round to K Col before a descent to other picturesque lakes and a fascinating old ski hut at Lake Twilight that contained relics from the early days of skiing in the area around the 1920's and 30's.
We are now in the Mt Field campsite on the eve of Australia Day so of course there is quite a buzz.
Dashboard lights blink occasionally but otherwise all is well at a practical level - the fresher conditions are very welcome and we have heard recently from a couple of people we have met during the course of our travels and kept up to date with their news.
Sunday, 16 January 2011
The day after the last post we decided to head to Melbourne early and try to get the alternator looked at. Thus we hopped over the Yarra Ranges which were discharging water to the plains at an alarming rate and arrived at a non main dealer VW garage. They referred us to an auto electrician down the road and they suggested we left the van with them for the day on Friday.
Thus we needed a pitch for the night so headed down the Mornington Peninsula to look for a space. For the first time on this trip we were faced with a long strip of municipal campsites jammed between the road and the beach which encircled this eastern side of Port Phillip Bay. Despite the heavy rain few people had left and we were unable to get a pitch so instead took a modest but comfy motel room.
On the Friday we dropped the van off, waited out the rain over lunch in an Italian restaurant and then hopped on the train in to Melbourne as the sun emerged to plan our full day on the Saturday. Finally back at the garage all was well apparently until we took a test drive where in fact we had lost all gauges and the speedo. Fortunately a quick fix saw us on the road again - the proprietor assuring us that all would be well. We drove down towards Brighton on the coast, took another morel room for the night and wandered round to a bar for a few beers in the evening sun.
On Saturday, the day of sailing, we parked near the ferry terminal noting with some annoyance that we still had a minor electrical glitch and then walked in to Melbourne centre to enjoy the Immigration Museum, the old trams and a walk along the swollen river admiring the soaring city architecture and older colonial buildings squeezed in between.
Early evening saw us lining up to drive on board where our cabin was situated right beneath the bridge with a wonderful view of all the action. The two hour sail out of the bay gave the sun time to set as we sat outside with a cold beer before retiring to enjoy a bit of telly and sleep soundly for a 5am wake up call.
This came on time and gave us time to enjoy the approach to Devonport as the sun rose. We disembarked and turned west stopping shortly to make calls home as it was a reasonable hour back home before we stocked up in Burnie as strict Tassie quarantine rules prevent the importation of fruit and veg.
We then meandered along the coast enjoying the lofty views from old volcanic outcrops at Table Cape with its lighthouse and Rocky Cape before staying the night at Black River.
Today we have continued west stopping to climb the Nut at pretty Stanley, pass Cape Grim ( inaccurately named ) with its 62 wind turbines and stop for the night at Green Point in Anne Bay, Marrawah where a trio of windsurfers were enjoying the terrific conditions.
Wednesday, 12 January 2011
Our first few weeks of 2011 have been spent enjoying more of the Australian Alps with good walks to remote cattle musterers huts, a hot but memorable day up to Mt Hotham and a remarkable variety of Parks camp sites - each uniquely different but all providing a chance for a fire, often a solar shower and occasionally a swim. The earlier rains have promoted greenery and flowers helping to erase the scars of devastating fires in 2003 which covered vast areas of these high and inaccessible tops.
The rough tracks in to the remoter areas filled the van with dust but were otherwise adequate and took us to some very special places in which to spend the night - abandoned gold towns, musterers huts and high plains, deep valleys and dense woodlands. Occasional forays in to the towns for food, gas and fuel gave us the chance to meet friendly ordinary Australians and share their concerns for the people of flooded Queensland.
We head to Melbourne later this week - a minor alternator fault may hasten our progress - before we catch the overnight ferry to Tasmania for 4-6 weeks.
The scenery and wildlife continue to absorb us and we have enjoyed a prolonged dry spell which broke over the last day or two with spectacular storms in Howqua and heavy rain here at Lake Eildon.