East and North Coast

November 22, 2013

We were up early today and surprise, surprise, there was no rain. But it had rained hard last night, and we found a river running through the camp kitchen, forming a lake by the barbecues. The grassy area above us was completely sodden, and the geese were having a good time washing themselves in the very large puddles. We had our breakfast and then brought all of the gear into the camp kitchen so we could repack it for going on the ferry. It took quite a while to dry the tent, and it was a good thing that the camp kitchen had lots of paper towels.

Our boat wasn’t leaving until 11:30 am, so we went up to the old Darlington settlement to look at the displays that we hadn’t already seen. While we were in the Coffee Palace the ranger came in and asked us to leave. Apparently a Tasmanian Devil had been reported in the building! Along came the devil-catcher, and he picked it up by the tail and dropped it in his sack.

It turned out that this was a good-news story. Last year about 16 devils were released on the island, which was to be a refuge from the facial tumour disease which is killing off the species. This introduction was being intensively monitored, so each of the original devils had a microchip. This devil didn’t have a chip, so it must be one of their offspring. We got to look at it briefly as it lay in the bottom of the sack. The devil-catcher, who was one of the scientists working on the project, took the young one away to be tested, chipped, and released. We were told that the scientists were very happy that the release had been so successful.

We made our way back to the dock for our boat back to the mainland. The day was still warm and partially sunny so waiting quite pleasant. We were sharing the boat with about 35 of the marine science students who had been staying on the island, so we let them get on board with all their gear before carrying our packs on. The trip went by quickly and soon we were loading up our car in Triabunna. It was lunchtime, and the first thing we saw by the wharf was the fish-and-chip van. So fish and chips for lunch it was. We got to choose what kind of fish we wanted, and since we didn’t know anything about the fish, we chose trevalla more or less at random. This turned out to be a good choice as it was firm and slightly meaty in texture. We preferred it to flake, which was the fish we had had back in Hobart.

After replenishing our food supplies at the IGA we headed along the coast to Coles Bay, which would be our overnight stop. We had reserved a room in the YHA so at least we knew that we had a bed. The drive was quite pleasant, taking us through wine-growing regions mixed with sheep and cattle farming. All along the road we could see flooded fields and raging creeks, the result of the recent rains. It was narrow and winding until we turned off onto the “side road” to Coles Bay, which was wide and straight. By the time we got there it was close to 4 pm, too late to go over to the Freycinet National Park.

At the YHA we got our room and hung the tent out on the clothesline to dry. It turned out that they had free wi-fi so we spent some time catching up on e-mail, after which we decided to go for a walk around the town. From the docks we could see that clouds were down over the mountains of the Freycinet Peninsula, which really aren’t that high. So we were undecided about what to do next. We were hoping that the weather would improve so that tomorrow we could do the Wineglass Bay lookout trail; there would be no point in climbing to the viewpoint if it is inside a cloud!

Back at the hostel we made dinner and then relaxed until bedtime, this time in a bed and not listening to rain pouring down!

November 23, 2013

We woke up early but finally got up at 8 am to see grey skies. We were hoping for blue skies and sunshine so that our hike to Wineglass Bay would give us the picture postcard view which we had seen. Still, it wasn’t raining. We packed up the car and drove the short distance to the park’s visitor centre. We already had our National Park pass so all we needed was a map of the park.

Despite the low cloud cover we decided to hike up to the Wineglass Bay lookout. It wasn’t far along the road to the trailhead, where there were quite a lot of cars parked and a wallaby hanging around. The wallaby was so tame that it barely moved as we drove past it. It still wasn’t raining, so we put on our boots and headed up the trail. It only took about half an hour to climb to the lookout and we could see Wineglass Bay, so all was not lost. Although it certainly wasn’t the view you see in all the tourist brochures.

The weather was slightly drizzly, but we decided to hike down to the bay anyway. The trail down to the bay was a series of stone steps interspersed with an ordinary track, not as smooth and groomed as the trail up to the lookout. We had to watch our step because it was wet in sections. Down at the bay there was a beautiful white sand beach, with a wallaby who seemed to be the moocher of the area. We decided not to do the walk which continued across the isthmus to Hazard Beach, as we really didn’t have time. Heading back uphill we were surprised at how quickly we got up to the viewpoint. From there it was downhill to the parking lot where we were greeted by three wallabies on mooch duty.

Rather that eat our lunch in the parking lot we drove a short distance to the Honeymoon Bay picnic site to eat. It was quite windy there so we ate quickly and headed back to the car. Our plan was to possibly drive to Bridport, on the north coast, stopping along the way at various points of interest. Not far up the coast was Douglas Apsley National Park, which was several kilometers along an unsealed road. There was some damage done to the road by the recent rains, but nothing serious. Our booklet “Tasmania’s 60 Great Short Walks” told us that there was a short walk to a beautiful blue-green waterhole, but when we got there we discovered that the recent rains had turned the waterhole into a muddy brown lake. Not really worth the drive.

Back on the A3 we followed the coast to St. Helen’s and then turned inland. It was here that an ugly black rain cloud rolled in and started to dump rain on us. The road between St. Helen’s and Scottsdale was very narrow and twisty, so our progress was slowed considerably. It also went up and down over various mountain ranges. There were some spectacular tree ferns beside the road as it went higher, and as we passed over the highest of the passes there were a few patches of snow at the side of the road. Finally the road straightened out and the rain let up as we arrived in Scottsdale. From here it was only 19 km to Bridport along a mercifully straight road.

We pulled into the YHA car park just after 6 pm and of course they had a room for us to sleep in. The first order of business was to make dinner, and after that we were a bit less cross-eyed. We chatted with the other couple staying there, he was Australian and she was American. The man was really into genealogy and before we knew it he was researching Rosemary’s relatives on his computer.

November 24, 2013

Just as we got up this morning, it started to rain hard with very strong winds, so we stalled around before going out for the day. After a couple of hours the storm abated, so we headed out. Our plan was to go to Narawntapu National Park to look around and then go to the Tamar River wetlands near Launceston.

After we spent a bit of time finding the right way out of town, off we went westward. The roads were pretty good and there wasn’t much traffic. When we reached the Tamar River we crossed it via the Batman Bridge. Batman? Well, it was named after an early settler named John Batman. It wasn’t far from there to the park. Once we got there we looked through the visitor centre and then had a picnic lunch. There was nothing much at the park but sand dunes and scrubby hills, but there was a wombat by the visitor center and pademelons by the toilets. It was a great place for wildlife. There was a campground there as well, and it looked it would be a good place to camp.

We decided to walk along the boardwalk and trail around the lagoon, hoping to see more of the park’s wildlife. The boardwalk took us through a swamped forest of paperbark trees. The water level was very high, almost up to the bottom of the boardwalk, so the forest was standing in water all covered by green algae. The effect was quite marvellous. Once we were off the boardwalk we continued along the tail, keeping our eyes peeled for snakes. The lake had almost no ducks in it, and the trail through the scrub next to the lagoon had very few birds. We did see some more pademelons, but on the whole there wasn’t much wildlife to be seen.

Our route paralleled the shore of the lagoon for a long way. Both of us thought our route should eventually turn right and go around the end of the lagoon, but it never did that. Instead it carried on through the scrub, apparently heading for a nearby hill named Archer’s Knob. So we turned around and when we came to a trail junction with a sign pointing to Baker’s Beach, we followed that sign. This trail had us walking in the gullies between really high sand dunes, and eventually it dumped us at the end of a gravel road which took us back to the visitor centre. We stopped in there and Rosemary bought a soft-shell jacket with the park’s symbol (a wombat) on it. The price was pretty good too. The park lady also told us that the wombats were suffering from mange, which can be a serious disease for a wombat.

It was now too late to go to the Tamar wetlands, so we headed back towards Bridport. Looking at the map, we noticed that taking the C741 road would be much shorter. It was unsealed, so maybe it wouldn’t result in a faster trip, but we decided to try it anyway—this time our rental car’s insurance would cover us. The C741 was very easy to drive on, with no potholes and hardly any washboard. We drove through the forest for quite a while seeing nobody else, and there weren’t even any other roads going off to the side. We got to the top of the Dazzler Range and suddenly there was a parked truck with a group of mountain bikers. And then, nobody again. Going down the other side was something else—no twists and turns, just a ski run straight down. We even put the car into low gear to slow us down. From there we were back in populated territory, and we had to dodge one of the locals coming towards us at 80 km/h.

By the time we got back to Bridport it was dinner time, so we made our meal and then sat in the lounge area talking to the other guests. A new couple had arrived who turned out to be from Vernon, BC. They had driven up from Coles Bay this afternoon and said the weather had been really cold and rainy down there. We ended up going to bed quite late because we chatted to a man from Melbourne who had come across to Tasmania on the ferry last night.

November 25, 2013

Last night was cold, but we had an extra blanket so we slept comfortably enough. Actually our room had a little electric heater, but we couldn’t be bothered to plug it in. It was moving-on day again today, so we packed up our gear, said goodbye, and were on our way. We didn’t quite know where we would end up, but we knew it would be somewhere on the north coast of Tasmania. We drove up to Scottsdale and then followed the A3 towards Launceston. The B roads we had driven on yesterday were well-engineered and reasonably straight, whereas the A3 was narrow and twisting with nasty hidden curves. It took a bit longer than we had expected, but eventually we got into Launceston, only to head immediately out the other side up the A7.

We stopped at the Tamar Island Wetlands, just outside the town. This was a large area of grasses and phragmites reeds which had been preserved for wildlife after its previous life as agricultural land. Because the Tamar estuary is tidal, there is a mixture of fresh and salty water. We paid our admission and started our walk along the boardwalk. There were signs warning that snakes had been seen in the area, in particular the copperhead snake which is highly venomous, so we had to keep an eye open. The trail for the most part is on a raised boardwalk, but apparently the snakes like to lie in the sun beside the boardwalk. Luckily for us we didn’t see any snakes, although it would have been interesting to see one.

We followed the boardwalk across two arms of the Tamar River, and we were passed by a couple wearing business attire. They were taking a break from work, they said. Not a bad place to go on your break! They pointed out three Black Swan families, which each had cygnets in different stages of development and size. They also spotted a Cuckoo-shrike, which must be unusual because it wasn’t on the area’s bird checklist. At this time of day the bridges went over mudflats rather than water, and we saw some pelicans flying over and some cormorants here.

It was after noon, but we decided to carry on to the north coast for lunch. As we got into Devonport we found ourselves on Highway 1, which is new and fast, so we found ourselves whizzing along. We finally decided to stop at Penguin for lunch, because who can resist a 3-meter-high fibreglass penguin? We sat at a picnic table on the waterfront to eat. By now the day was lovely and sunny even though the wind was a bit chilly. Noticing a bakery nearby we went in and bought a dessert each plus some raisin buns for breakfast or lunch tomorrow. We also decided to stock up on groceries as there was an IGA in town.

Now that we were done with our chores we got back in the car with the intention of driving to Burnie to stay the night. It didn’t take us that long to get there, so we continued on to Stanley, which had been our other potential destination. We finally arrived there at 4:30 pm, and we were glad we had carried on. Burney was a large industrial town with several traffic lights, and Stanley was a small picturesque town which sits at the base of the Nut, an old volcanic plug about 100 meters high. The weather was still lovely and sunny so rather than spend money on accommodations we opted to tent. At first we paid for an unpowered site, but that turned out to be in a lumpy weedy area. The powered sites looked a lot nicer, so we paid another $5 and took one of them instead.

It was after 5 pm but we weren’t hungry because we had had a late (and large) lunch. So we went for a walk up the Nut. The path was less than 500 meters long, but it was very steep, so a lot of people would pay $14 to take the chairlift which was right next to the path. This wasn’t an option for us because the chairlift wasn’t running. But even after five sedentary weeks of travelling we were still in good enough shape to make it up the path to the top. A leisurely walk around the top took about an hour, with really great views in all directions. We basically had the whole place to ourselves with the exception of one runner. Just as we were returning to the beginning of the trail we came across a large gathering of pademelons, who were munching on what looked like wild garlic. They had trampled down the area and were busy eating the green leaves. The aroma was quite lovely and reminded us of walking in England and Scotland.

Descending from the Nut was actually harder on the legs than going up, but soon we were back in the town. It was 8 pm and we hadn’t had any dinner, so we made up a veggie stir-fry and cooked up the last of the pasta. We shared a raisin bun for dessert, and our treat was the Bundaberg ginger beer we had bought in Penguin. After cleaning up our dishes we sat in the very nice camp kitchen and wrote up our journal entries.

Next: Cradle Mountain

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