Using the sneaky 'post date' time machine to make it look like this was posted on Sunday, here is an update on our Adventure.
Tasmania is beautiful. Steal-your-heart make-you-want-to-live-here beautiful. Mountains, rivers, forests, animals, the sky, the weather, the whisky, the produce, the people, the winding roads, the closeness of everything to everything else. Perhaps the slowing down after our breakneck speed across the Nullarbor is partly to blame. But this clean air and lush green landscape is making Adam swoon a little. We haven't even travelled very far this week, but we have explored a lot around Launceston. Here is the map and the story.
The not-quite-open ocean of Bass Straight was reasonably calm for our crossing. Loaded up with new boardgames (Thanks Kat and Tom!) we were set to pass the time, while getting our best fuel economy to date (The Melbourne Caravan Park to Railton - 478 km on just five litres of diesel - that is almost down to 1 L/100km!).
The boat is functional, expensive to buy things on board and packed full of single use consumable containers. One water bottle refilling station on one deck. Hundreds of passengers. We passed the sister ship heading the other way and in the late afternoon saw the coastline of Tasmania reach out to embrace us as we settled into port.
Gary was fine after his first ocean crossing (as our companion at least). Weary from an early start and long day, we made our way to Railton to camp for free behind the pub. Free camping has been a big theme this week (5/7 nights) and we have been enjoying bringing the budget back under control.
From Railton it was time to start exploring. Mountains, valleys, forests and rivers everywhere. Although we travelled around Tasmania nearly four years ago, it is still a shock to be reminded just how different the island state is from our flat, dry, arid (did I mention flat?) Western Australia. We found our way to a Raspberry Farm where we scored a kilogram of 'jam raspberries' (the less cosmetically perfect ones that marketers tell us we don't want to eat, even though they are just as delicious) for eleven bucks. We decanted that from their single use plastic container into our reusable one.
We would love to see more farm gates doing things like bulk foods places do. We could have easily just decanted raspberries on their scales into our container and not made another bit of plastic for the ocean. It was good to see a lot of the growers at the Harvest Market in Launceston actually let us do this - Shiitake Mushrooms, Apricots and Basil, all in our own reusable fresh produce bags.
Loaded up with raspberries we were off for some more exploring. Very excellent friend and bass guitarist Ian funded a Tasmanian National Parks Pass for the duration of our time on the island (Thanks for the awesome wedding gift Ian!). We have been and will be using it A LOT. We stopped off at the Alum Cliffs on the south side of the Gog Range for a Short Walk. We scored a book of 60 awesome bush walks in Tasmania for a couple of extra bucks with our National Parks Pass. This was the first of them for us.
A short stroll through the forest and all of a sudden two hundred metre high cliffs loom across a gorge. We hung around long enough to find our first Tasmanian geocache (number 14 total) then kept exploring the area around Mole Creek. A long and winding drive up into the Great Western Tiers saw us pass both Parangana and Rowallan Dams (and lakes) to the start of the foot track up the the vehicle-inaccessible Walls of Jerusalem National Park. It was too late in the day to hike up into the National Park itself, so we descended again, following the banks of the Mersey River, all the way to a (free!) camping spot right on the edge of the river in the Mole Creek Karst National Park. We spent two nights at this magic spot, enjoying the clean air, birdcalls and burbling serenade of the river. Relaxing. Recuperating. Man this place is magical.
Coincidentally our friends Lea and Ash happened to be campervanning around Tasmania at the same time we are here. We got going a little late in the day and missed our 10 am rendezvous at the Marakoopa Cave. We had toured the cave and seen the glow worms last time we were here so it was a good expense saver to be tardy. We made aeropress coffee outside the visitors centre and relaxed in the beautiful Tasmanian sunshine until our adventuring crew doubled from two to four.
Keen to explore Launceston we started heading east. An impromptu stop at a rose-bedecked gazebo in Deloraine before the day started to really heat up, a side road detour for some hazelnuts, and then it was down to Cataract Gorge for a wander and then a swim in the first basin. We spent the afternoon running a couple of errands, exploring the town then met up again for vegan pizza, a couple of beers (and Bananagrams) at the Royal Oak Hotel, before embarking on a ghost hunting and history immersing adventure at dusk around the town. We set up our roof tent in the dark for the first time (it actually wasn't too bad, now we are well practiced) and enjoyed our lucky free upgrade to a site in the caravan park with it's own little ensuite cubicle. Luxury.
In the morning we parted ways with Lea and Ash, who are (were) on much more of a whirlwind tour than us and set out to explore more of the region around Launceston. Backtracking to Carrick we visited the Tasmanian Copper and Metal Art Gallery and enjoyed trying to take in the thousands and thousands of works created by Tom Marik. A very talented man that inspired us so much we purchased our first souvenir of the adventure, a hand cut, shaped, embossed and airbrush lacquered platypus (even though we are yet to see one in the flesh).
From Carrick we drove north in search of some farm gate fresh produce. The wonderful Annette and Neville not only welcomed us onto their farm in our quest for fresh produce (so many different tomatoes and garlics!) but gave us some excellent advice on where to visit, hike, camp and explore. They even offered for us to borrow their kayaks for a paddle on the lake up the road and camp for free on their farm if we wanted to! Annette was a social worker like Ruth, but in child protection, before they went into farming full time. We wanted to get some more exploring done so didn't end up taking them up of either offer. Lunch was by the lake at Four Rivers, before turning south to Westbury for some wood fired bread.
We planned to make camp for free at (hot and windy) Bracknell that night, but realised that the spring steel poles that hold the rain fly and window shrouds on our roof tent open didn't make it into their correct storage place. Or any storage place. Luckily we were only twenty minutes from our previous nights camp and managed to return and find them. Crisis averted. As we had some new momentum we decided to go back into Launceston to find a plant based cheese (or Gary) we had heard about and ended up right at the building where it all happens! Julie is a Microbiologist who moved from Sydney to Tasmania with the goal to show people that this magical island doesn't just have dairy, seafood and meat to offer, but can also be a great foodie destination for vegans. Oh and the cheese is DELICIOUS. And we somehow ended up with some sloe gin plant based butter too.
A wander around the lovely Launceston City Park, past a very long park bench, some nice flower gardens and Jacqui Lambie giving a media interview and we were off to find a spot to camp for the night within striking distance of the aforementioned Harvest Market. We found our way to Lilydale Falls, 30 minutes out of town along a winding mountain road for a free camp and the fashioning of a new heat shield to improve the longevity of our new auxiliary battery that sits a little too close to the turbocharger in Garys engine bay.
A brisk morning wander to the two falls invigorated us to start the day, then it was back into Launceston for a third time to go to the Harvest Market. Something about this town keeps calling us back! The multi-award-winning market was marvellous. Our basket quickly filled itself up with shiitake mushrooms, coffee beans, apricots, avocados, basil, onions, zucchinis and more. We even scored some very excellent kimchi. There was one very sour note (Lenah, there is no such thing as 'ethical meat.' You can't needlessly murder cute little wallabies and claim it as ethical. Disgusting. Anyways). We also bumped into Annette the tomato grower again and she suggested a great spot in the Narawntapu National Park for us to go for a wander. So that is where we headed.
On our last Tasmanian adventure, four years ago, we stopped at a great winery in the Tamar Valley called Goaty Hill, so we decided to drop in again for a glass of Pinot Noir over lunch. There happened to be a young singer songwriter (Zoe Merrington) playing for the afternoon, performing some covers and a few of her own songs. She was very talented!
Next it was northwards to the coast, through Beaconsfield and Greens Beach to the West Head of the River Tamar in the Narawntapu National Park, a stunning view, a scramble over a rocky path and a delightful swim at Badgers Beach. We met a couple (perhaps in their late 60's) who gave us some suggestions of what else to do around the island. They had such passion for travel and exploring the world without the limits of what a conventional life 'should be.' Their parting words to us - "have a great life". Wow. Some exploring along a few unmaintained firebreak roads took us to the western part of the park and our camp for the night at Bakers Point (Springlawn Beach) with a profusion of Bennetts Wallabies (how could you eat them!?), curious Brushtail Possums after dark and lots and lots (and lots) of other campers. Our third single night camp in a row.