High Country

Sunny days, nippy nights, alpine wildflowers, high rugged mountains, button grass, secret lakes, boardwalks, lookouts, walking sticks, shuttle buses, sturdy shoes, kids with backpacks, cups of tea, hearty dinners, warm showers and warm beds.

Cradle Mountain. Of all the places we visited in Tasmania, this was my favourite. We spent 4 nights camped in our own private spot. Of the 69 days a year that are usually clear – 6.2 allocated to January –  we enjoyed 2.5 of them! A win by any standard.


We undertook 3 beautiful walks while we were there. The first was a glorious afternoon around Dove Lake. The track was 6km around the lake. It took in the Ballroom Forest and the famed Boatshed with the mountain always watching over us.

On the path, with the mountain high above us.

Ballroom Forest

Walking companions - Dove Lake

The boat shed.

With such cracking weather, we did think about offering our holiday snaps to the printers of tourist brochures here in Cradle Mountain.

Our second walk was shorter and designed for 4 kids and a fairly relaxed day. While we hung out with the gorgeous 6 yr old Bolger twins, the other intrepid Bolger walkers hiked to the summit. We ventured from Ronny Creek through to Lake Lilla and back to the Dove Lake.

Overland track, through the button grass.

We stopped to watch an echidna.

A trip to see the Tassie Devils that evening gave us a greater insight into these animals. While we were not exactly endeared to them…. solitary, competitive, scavenging carnivores….we did at least feel very sorry for them in their current fight against the facial tumor that is decimating their species.

Feeding at the sanctuary - they had the manners to match their name.

Black spotted quolls - also carnivores - but they hide to eat - thank goodness!

Our third hike began on the only rainy, freezing 5 degree day where the wind was howling up the mountain. Abandoning the shorts & T-shirts of the previous days, we unloaded every woolen, thermal and waterproof item from our bags and put them all on.

All set.

Together we hiked at 8am from Ronny Creek along the Overland Track towards Marion’s lookout. Although we couldn’t see terribly far, the mist and fog in the valleys and over the lakes was wonderful.

Crater Lake enveloped in fog.

Spike on the path.

When we stopped at the breathtaking Crater Lake and sheltered in the hut there, for morning tea, we wondered if we would dry off or warm up? Gloves on and walking sticks out, we continued on our way up the hill.

BloggiE and Kate at Marion's Lookout

BloggiE with Marion's Lookout in the background - We've been all the way up there & back!

The kids did brilliantly, BloggiE making her way easily up the steep sections supported by chains, on to Marion’s lookout, where we admired the view from 1223m above sea level. We descended via Wombat’s Pool – not nearly so picturesque, but a new adventure, and left axo1000 and Spike to continue their climb to the summit.

They took it easy, because with the weather, they were uncertain that the boulder clambering at the end would be wise. However 4 hours from the start, as we hiked into the Dove Lake car park, to catch the shuttle back to camp, the sun was shining. Wind continued to whip the mountain, but it had been dry enough to scale the cliff and axo1000 & Spike were at the top! Shrouded in mist, they were at 1545m! What an achievement!

At the top - not much of a view though...

Their whole trek was 7hours & though tired, they were jubilant and celebrated with a hot chocolate back at the bottom.

Sharing adventures at the end of the day.

The campsite was reminiscent of a National Park and equipped for cold, wet conditions, with a large indoor camp kitchen. Happily the kids found a secret ninja forest hideout, where they played each afternoon and we had a few moments for a cuppa and a chat about the day’s events.

The only disappointment of our stay in Cradle Mountain was that it had to come to an end. One day we would love to return to hike more of the many paths that we didn’t have time for, or perhaps the Overland Track itself, from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. And for me, I think that if I had to choose just one spot to visit in Tasmania, this would be it.

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Posted in Kate | 4 Comments

Wild West

Next on the agenda, the wilderness of the west coast. Mountains, forests, world heritage, famous rivers, roaring forties smashing the coast line. We were looking forward to the real rough stuff. With time quickly passing, Strahan was the only realistic option as a week long hard trek into the south west wilderness was not going to gain much support from the troops.

Strahan is a little town, founded as the point of access into the west coast. Convicts, logging and mining were the main reasons for it being there. It is situated at the north end of the beautiful Macquarie Harbour, into which the famous Gordon River system also flows. Macquarie Harbour is 4 times the size of Sydney’s, meeting the Southern Ocean through the tiny Hell’s Gate.

Strahan also has the distinction of having the highest wave energy of any beach in Australia. Swells of up to 23m have been recorded. Having read in Tim Baker’s recently released book Surfari, that Strahan “is almost never without thumping Southern Ocean swells sent straight from the Roaring Forties”, our plans for seeing the rough stuff looked promising.

So with all this wildness forefront of mind we were excited to be boarding a cruise that would take us the length of Macquarie Harbour, out Hell’s gate into the raging southern Ocean and then up the Gordon River into the deep dark ancient forests. However….

It was flat as a tack....

It seems we struck it lucky on the weather (not!) and Tim is lucky he used the words “almost never”. Despite the lack of raging swell, it was pretty spectacular. The Hell’s Gate passage was given its name by the convicts as they passed through on the way to the Sarah Island penal settlement.

Hell's Gate, through which Macquarie Harbour exits and convicts entered.

A cracking day on Macquarie Harbour

Towards the southern end of Macquarie Harbour, Sarah Island was a penal settlement for second offenders. Not a nice place and the setting for Marcus Clarke’s The Term of His Natural Life. We stopped for a tour, hosted by fantastic guides, actors who brought the settlement to life and recounted great stories of the convicts and history of Sarah Island.

A few convicts escaped over the years (see Kate’s blog on Port Arthur) but only one convict made it out by foot through the wilderness and mountains all the way to Hobart. The magnitude of the feat is hard to fathom but you get the picture when told that the convict, upon capture in Hobart, was immediately given a job with the Surveyor General and was responsible for charting the main inland route up from Hobart to Launceston.

Team Tasmania gearing up for tour of Sarah Island

Our dynamic guide giving life to the Sarah Is convict times.

Post convict serenity

Our brief foray into the Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, by road and by boat, certainly convinced us that it is worthy of its World Heritage status. To become World Heritage listed you need to satisfy only one of ten criteria. The South West Wilderness of Tasmania satisfies 7 out of ten criteria, the highest of any of the world heritage sites around the world.

The mountain ranges are truly rugged. May not be as high as Kosciuszko, but are definitely far more rugged. We felt we were heading into the Misty Mountains. The forest is the largest cool temperate forest in the world. It is so thick and dense, with trees thousands of years old, and using another Lord Of The Rings analogy, we felt we were walking through Mirkwood or Fangorn. We cruised up the Gordon River for a while and hopped out to walk through the forest.

Forest as ancient as Fangorn

The deep dark forest floor. 2000yr old Huon, fallen but still giving life.

On the way back to Strahan, the breeze had come up so it was time to get out on the deck and enjoy the wind on the water. A brief but stunning stay on the west coast.

Enjoying the breeze

Enjoying the breeze, Team Tasmania style

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Hard Labour

Still firm believers that Sydney Harbour is the most spectacular on the continent, we learned this week, that it is one of only 3 natural deep water harbours in Australia. The other two are right here in Tasmania – Hobart and Port Arthur. Like Sydney, they were discovered early by all those seafaring captains who settled this land. (Hobart is in fact the second oldest city of our Nation.)

Taking advantage of the Harbour, Port Arthur Prison was built in the 1830’s as a secondary penal colony for repeat offenders, and it was truly harsh. So harsh, that 10 convicts transferring from Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour near Strahan, sailed a boat out Hell’s Gate and made their way to Chile (in the most successful convict escape of the time) rather than go there.

The day of our visit was brilliant sunshine and a warm Tassie day, so the mood was perhaps not as bleak as it might be. Thus it was, that Port Arthur was an interesting learning experience for us all about how the people lived here and the attitudes of the government of the time, to punishment and reform.

On purchase of our entry, we were funneled straight into a walking tour, booked onto a ferry ride into the Harbour, issued with kids workbooks and allocated 10 playing cards which would help us to follow the story of a particular convict who had come to Port Arthur. We spent the day exploring and learning – a highlight being the play performed behind the penitentiary of “A Boy’s Life” which gave us all the story of “George Hall”? (I think!) – a bushranger who was incarcerated in Port Arthur.

Here are some snaps from our day…

Port Arthur Settlement

The Penitentiary where punishment was all about hard labour.

The hospital

Flagstones and the view out to Point Puer from the Penitentiary

The kids looked for clues for their workbooks while the actors helped it all come to life

Cast of "A Boy's Life"

Isle of the dead - cemetery for those who never got their ticket of leave...

On the cruise out to Point Puer, the boy's prison, our boy's hat took its chance for escape from the colony and plunged into the water.

The black flat cap - just about to dive in.... Thankfully, the captain of the ship was much more obliging than those of the 1830's and it was picked up with a grappling hook, just before it met it's end in the propeller.

Remains of the Chapel

The Government gardens - the only part of the site still actively maintained.

We were all horrified by "The Separate Prison" where in later years, the philosophy of punishment was total physical and emotional isolation of the prisoners. Here we are walking in the excercise yards, where they were placed alone each day for an hour.

In keeping with the Port Arthur work ethic, we put in a little more of our own hard labour to establish our campsite on the Tasman Peninsula. Thrown a curve ball when the campsite double booked the Bolger’s cabin, Team Tasmania rose to the challenge erecting tents and setting up camp together complete with roaring fire.

Work gangs in action.

Good to be back to our usual holiday setup together…

Team Tasmania Nippers, sharing a meal at Port Arthur..

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Sydney to Hobart (The Long Way Round!)

There was good and bad in the fact that we had to pack up and leave St Helen’s on Boxing Day. The traditional day of lounging on the sofa watching cricket and eating left overs was sorely missed. However we were heading to the Hobart area for a few days, coinciding with arrival of the Sydney to Hobart yachts, and hoped to soak up some of the seafaring vibe.

Our journey to our campsite at New Norfolk, just out of Hobart, was down through the midlands via the “Historic Highway” owing to the fact it was the least windy road we could find. Twisting narrow roads have become the norm in Tasmania with the glory days of the Stuart Highway and WA highways long gone. There is a string of little historic villages from convict times that we were able to check out along our route.

Historic bridge at Ross - The convicts responsible for this beauty were justly pardoned.

ye olde post office

Our foray into Hobart Town was planned to coincide with the line honours winner of the Sydney to Hobart.  We began with a stroll around Battery Point. There was a lot happening around the waterfront with the Taste of Tasmania festival at Salamanca Place and Constitution Dock buzzing in anticipation of the winner’s arrival. As we checked out the displays and the official trophies in the Race Tent, we watched the estimated time of the winners arrival slowly get later and later as the two boats were becalmed off Tasman Island.

Past S2H stories

Handicap winners trophy

By lunchtime, the winner’s forecast arrival time had blown out to 9pm, so we decided to tackle Mt Wellington. By car, not foot. The Mt Wellington summit is only a 25min drive literally from the centre of Hobart. Towering over the city with a summit of 1250m above sea level, there is a spectacular vista for miles around, when its not covered in cloud of course. Just two weeks ago it was covered in snow.

Luckily for us we had a clear bright day and with vain hopes of watching some yachts from afar come up Storm Bay and into the Derwent we checked out the views, climbed over rocks and marvelled at how far we could see. No boats though.

We could see for miles and miles

Looking south out towards Bruny Is

onlinewheatleys conquer another mount

It was back to New Norfolk for the night, vowing to return the next day to see a few of the leading boats come in. Our little campsite was a cracking spot up in the hills with a timber cottage for a camp kitchen, great gardens, only two ensuite sites and two cabins. Perfect for the 10 strong Team Tasmania party.

We built fires, enjoyed their warmth,  played around the property, fed the goats and played with the resident dog.

Our New Norfolk campsite

The Camp Kitchen !

The traditional toasting.

The resident camp dog

We awoke to the news that the line honours winner, Loyal, was subject to a protest for an alleged breach of the “outside assistance” rule.  Luckily for us the hearing was scheduled to be heard that morning as we headed back down to the docks to see some boats come in.

So with the result still up for grabs and only a few of the big name front runners finished, we wandered around Constitution Dock and got up close and personal with the pure racing machines Loyal, Wild Oats XI, Lahana, Ichi Ban and others. Fortunately we saw three boats cross the line in quick succession around midday including Ragamuffin. Cheers went up and we all celebrated as the word came through to the crew still onboard Loyal, that the protest was dismissed and they were declared the winners. So, in the end, we were there when the race was won!

The highlight was being able to board Lahana, the 3rd boat over the line. The crew were decidedly happy and merry having come in at 1am, and had not yet finished unloading the boat. We all climbed aboard and chatted with the crew, discussed the race, checked out below the decks and found out all about these super maxis.

Constitution Dock

Yo ho me hearties. Bloggie skippering Lahana to 3rd place.

The winner, Loyal.

Lahana and Wild Oats XI

Calmly does it!

Lahana and Wild Oats, and many others a few days later.

So with our Sydney to Hobart completed, the long way round, it was time to move onto Port Arthur and commence the Hobart to Sydney return journey by a much shorter route.

Posted in Spike | 3 Comments

Tour of Bruny Island Seas

Hi again – BloggiE here.

Look at this queue of cars. You must be wondering why we are taking a photo of this queue. It is kind of important because we were getting on a ferry to Bruny Island and this was the line.

In a very short time of 1 hour and 45 mins, we finally got onto the ferry!

Once we arrived on Bruny Island, we took a scenic tour round the curvy roads to the cruise on South Bruny Island. When we had parked the car, we ran for our lives to the cruise because we were late. Being the last ones on, we jumped right up the back.

On the cruise, they supplied us with red spray jackets, much like the ones we wore on the Rottnest island cruise. When the boat started, it went slowly at first.

We passed the local species of black faced cormorants, rare on the mainland, but common in Tasmania.

The cliffs were like the cliffs of insanity. There, hollowed out, was a tiny little cove and in that hollowed out tiny little cove, there was a hollowed out tiny little hole.

When you look at this photo, you might think the cliffs are amazing, but also look at the small rock island. It looks like a king with a dog, doesn’t it? Our boat went through the gap between the cliffs and the king!

Now it’s time to crank up the speed. Next stop Antarctica!

Oh! Look who’s driving!  Abandon ship! It’s billichilli in charge!

Next we saw the Australian fur seals, the cousins of our dear old friends the New Zealand fur seals from Esperance.

It was so windy, rough and wet that the spray on the water flew off the rocks.

We saw some gannets – very interesting…

Albatross – massive wing span, largest of any bird.

The dolphins were just amazing. They followed us alongside the boat and one even did a series of jumps out of the water, like in the Barbie movies. He was as fast as the boat.


When we had finished the cruise, we drove back to the North island. When we arrived at the neck, that joins the two islands, we took some steep steps to the lookout (and we saw some teenagers kissing!).

The neck – a beautiful view from the lookout.

Tune in for my last blog, next time,

BloggiE©

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On the Eastern Shore

In the week before Christmas, we settled into our house in Akaroa, up the road from St Helen’s. There were 4 bedrooms, a full kitchen, 2 TV’s and a cracking verandah out the front for dinner (and plenty of other meals) each day. It was a coastal town with a beach, where we enjoyed walks, fishing and jumping off the jetty. There were sand dunes for afternoon fun.

There were enough little shops to pick up a few last minute pressies and a $2 shop from which we bought supplies to decorate our house.  We took our chance to go with a totally out there theme – beach meets winter wonderland! We found a white tree and plenty of blue beachy decorations, with an icicle on top!  –  It said “cold weather by the beach.” In a fabulous coincidence, the girls put together a Christmas Eve dance to “Winter Wonderland.”

Amongst the preparations for Christmas, we had time to fit in a little sightseeing – incredible really, considering what our life is usually like at this time of year. To the north was the Bay of Fires. The sand stretched out past orange, lichen-covered rocks to the blue sea beyond.

It was fairly spectacular and we enjoyed rock hopping, beach walking and even a little wading.

The kids loved just playing with their old friends at last.

After our first off road track for a while, Eddystone Point boasted a great lighthouse.

The wind was high…and the kids were crazy.

A second excursion during the week took us to the Freycinet Peninsula. Optimistically we selected the Wineglass Bay – Hazards Beach Circuit walk. 11kms, 6 kids, packed lunch.

A steep track to Wineglass Bay at the beginning gave us a stiff dose of reality, but the view was lovely.

Although it is possible to make out a kind of wine glass shape to explain the name of the bay, it turns out that Wineglass Bay has a much more sinister moniker. Once a place where whales were dragged into the bay and slaughtered, it ran with blood giving the water the appearance of wine. On the beach itself, we saw bluebottles. We had high hopes for a swim, but decided (foolishly as we later repented) to wait for Hazards Beach for a dip. We also followed up our research from WA and decided that no – the sand was not as white as that at Lucky Bay.

Hazards Beach

The weather cheered up as we walked and we made it to Hazard’s Beach. Unfortunately the bluebottles were in plague preportions on this side of the isthmus. No swim. High whingeometer reading.

But blue blue blue..

The last part of the walk was long and undulating. Hot and tired, the adults did make it to the end with a real sense of satisfaction. We followed up with a swim in the Southern Ocean (minus bluebottles) and fish and chips in the car on the way home and suddenly the kids felt a real sense of satisfaction too!

The view across Wineglass Bay put us in mind of the Bay of Fires from earlier in the week...

A seaside week was over all too soon and we found our time in the East drawing to a close.

Posted in Kate | 10 Comments

Crossing the Strait and Flying Fox Fiesta

Tasmania. Our last state. Also ours to enjoy with friends! It all started when we, after a dinner with our friends, departed on the words; “See you in Tazzy!” None of us believed it was actually going to happen until at Coral Bay we got a call from the Bolgers saying, “Do you want to meet in Tasmania?” And in Perth, I was Skyping my friend Zac and all of a sudden we were seeing him too!

There was a massive queue to the ferry and we had to wait, like, 45 mins to get on.

We were thrilled to discover that the Loofs, Zac, Oscar, Jean-Jacques and Hermione, were only 2 cabins away, but the Bolgers were virtually on the other side of the ferry. It was fun sharing our excitement  with our best friends and looking in each other’s cabins.

We had dinner with each other at the “Captains Table”, which had a very shippy-at sea- aarrgggghh me’hearties! kind of taste. It was steak, potatoes and vegies. Xav and I had some ginger beer that tasted suspiciously alcoholic…… which made it a whole lot better anyway. Kung-Fu Panda 2 was on, which I, unfortunately, had never got the chance to see. We sat down and turned our eyes square for a bit in front of a small-big screen (with a bonus 2 tv’s – 1 on each side). After the movie finished, we went to have a look at the outside deck. It was wet and spraying but we had a lot of fun staring out into the black, rainy night.

Out on the deck. From right to left; Zac, Oscar, Xav and behind him, Me

At last it was time to get some rest and so we all parted and went into our various cabins.

Our quarters were very cosy and snug and I possibly had the best sleep of my life.

I woke the next morning and looked out the porthole to see, settled there in the misty fog, Devonport, Tasmania.

We now had to go through the Quarantine and get checked for fruit and all that stuff. We now were to go to the “Treetop Adventures” where you soared down a massive flying-fox. It was so so so sooooooooooo FUN!!!!!

High above the trees in a cloud station

We weighed ourselves first. People over 40 kilograms were solo flyers…HOORAY! But under 40 you had to go with a Parent.

Solo Flyers

We practised first on a mini cable outside and then walked out to the big set.

me.

Mum and SiSi

Dad and BloggiE

The 3 biggest runs were called Papa bear, Mama Bear,and baby bear. The last run was called Goldilocks. Jean-Jacques went so fast on the biggest run that we figured he got up to 90 kmph. He was the ultimate cannonball!

We then went our own ways as the Bolgers and us set of for Akaroa.

axo1000™

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