Blog 7: Tasmania - Leven Canyon to Zeehan
You can't see it all.
Plus this is a holiday (vacation to our American friends), as well as an adventure.
Our breackneck headlong rush around, through, over and past all the things has attenuated in to a more thorough exploration of (most of) the places we go, and comfort in the fact that you can't possibly see it all - especially when you meet some travellers who are on their third visit to Tasmania and their thirteenth cumulative week of exploring the island. And they still haven't been everywhere they want to go. So, a slower, more engaged (and less expensive) experience this week. Here is where we have been:
We awoke after a couple of very peaceful and rejuvenating nights in Leven Canyon, said goodbye to our new Pademelon friends and decided to make our way to Burnie via the back roads east of the Canyon. Some winding temperate rainforest roads, mostly made of gravel gave way to eucalyptus plantations and a very (very) overgrown track that was apparently the way through the Black Creek Forest Reserve - with foliage hard up against both sides of the pair of wheel ruts and no chance of being able to turn around once committed, we weren't game enough to chance it. We followed the winding roads a bit further and came to a locked gate, warning all those who approach from the other side not to trespass. Somehow, without passing a warning or do not enter sign we ended up on the wrong side of the fence. So backtracking all the way to the canyon was in order. The rugged forest and farmland north of Leven Canyon is beautiful. We travelled through Gunns Plains up to the town of Penguin on the coast, then west to Burnie.
Burnie is a charming place. There is a lot to see and do, and we were digging the whole 'stay two nights at a place' experience, so we did that. After finding a suitable Caravan Park, we ventured up the hill in search of Hellyers Road Whisky Distillery (Whiskey for our American friends) and a dram or two of that wonderful golden elixir. We almost jagged a private tour of the distillery, but some late arrivals ended up tagging along and bringing our distillery adventure party to four. The grain, some malted, the mash, the distillations, the bourbon barrel ageing and the eventual taste (straight from the barrel - Adam says yum, Ruth says 'Here Adam have mine'). We departed in possession of a curious bottle of the special brew - finished in an old Tamar Valley Pinot Noir barrel. What a winning combination. Subtle and complementary intermingling of that tasty tasty single malt and the residual Pinot makes for a most delicious dram.
Sufficiently whiskyed up, it was time for a step our of the adventure and into mundane normality of catching a movie on tight arse Tuesday ($12 tickets!). We saw the latest Star Wars flick. Adams Review: The good bits were alright and the bits that sucked really sucked. It felt like too many ideas competing for screen time and moments of unwarranted (and frankly unnecessary) disney-fi-cation. 5/10.
Back at camp we met our very interesting neighbour and ended up talking to all hours of the morning running the gamut from political philosophy through racism in Australia to life as a semi-itinerant vagabond sometimes fruit picker. Ian, you are one interesting dude. A born and bread Balga boy with strong Scottish roots and a heart of gold.
The next day we definitely did not spend writing our last overdue blog post, catching up on laundry and doing the mundane and necessary things. No sir-ee. 100% Burnie exploring adventure time. That evening we walked the 45 minutes into town to go and see the Little Penguins (formerly Fairy Penguins). They come in at dusk and meet their very fat chicks (that are nearly ready to fledge now) to feed them. Super cute little guys and gals. We picked up a free super-sized zucchini grown by one of the Little Penguin volunteers. #foragingforvegantreats
From Burnie we journeyed eastwards in search of a quiet oasis to let Australia Day pass us by. A stop in Wynyard took us to the Wonders of Wynyard, a vintage car museum that boasts the equal oldest Ford in the world (a 1903 Model A) and a variety of 1900's, 1910's and 1920's motor cars. It was really interesting to see the evolution of the motor vehicle and the early decisions about configuration of the motor car that carry through to our modern vehicles.
North of Wynyard we visited Fossil Bluff to look at 23 million year old shells, and then drove through vast poppy fields to view epic panoramas from the top of the the dead volcano that forms Table Cape (Fun Fact: Tasmania grows 50% of the worlds legal poppy crop for production of opiates such as morphine). Westward again, we checked out the free camp at Boat Harbour Beach (recommended by a few other travellers). The beach was beautiful and turquoise, but the camping area was PACKED. We could have squeezed in next to the Swiss Nomads, but that many people on Australia Day is really not our thing.
Westwards again, we found a great spot at the mouth of the Black River, within sight of Stanley and The Nut. An evening walk to the ocean shore, across all kinds of textures of sand (Firm, soft, very very soft up to your shins, ripples, beads, fine squeaky dust, all in a few steps), we watched the sun head for bed, still in the wrong direction.
Australia day we stayed at our camp, played Lost Cities all day, ignored social media and didn't smell a barbecue once. It was fab.
The next day we got on the road early and set out to climb The Nut, an ancient volcano plug that soars above the town of Stanley. After a short but steep ascent (so steep, there is a chairlift for the slackers I mean, less fit people) we circumnavigated the massif, found geocache number 15 and then descended for morning tea.
Our next stop was for lunch. But not just any kind of lunch. South of Smithton and just north of Edith Creek is a place called Allendale Gardens. Wow. Some kind of fairytale magical garden wonderland. Literally transported into a fairytale. Colour everywhere. Reds, blues, pinks, purples, yellows, whites, greens, everything in between. A couple of dozen resident peacocks and peahens. Wisteria and maples and roses and birch trees and sequoia and an apple orchard and a lake and bridges over creeks and some subtle piano music coming from somewhere. Thirty-seven years (and probably a lot of water) to turn a (once destined for dairy) bare grazing paddock into a vibrant floral wonderland. We made Vietnamese rice paper rolls in the shade of some thirty year old redwoods on a small table by the lake in the Mothers Garden. Wow.
On the advice of our hostess at Allendale gardens we took the Tarkine Explorer route to the south and ventured to the Trowutta Arch, a natural feature created by a sinkhole in the rainforest of the Tarkine. That was pretty cool, so we decided to abandon our plans to camp at Marrawah and drive the full Tarkine Drive driving route. The region has been pretty significantly ravaged by the 2016 bushfires and you can see the change in the landscape. Less lush forrest and more black trunks with rampant new eucalyptus growth filling every available space. Still beautiful country. We stopped for the views at the Dempster and Sumac lookouts, before making our way to Arthur River for the night.
We ventured out to the Edge of the World. Uplifted striated sedimentary rock, a merciless ocean and at the river mouth, whole trees, torn away and carried down the Arthur River lie dead on the rocks, bleached bone white by years of unrelenting sun. Here you can stare west and there is nothing but the wild oceans of the Roaring Forties - all the way to Argentina.
We camped the night just south of town and had our first, very brief encounter with Tasmanian Devils, two of them, running through our camp beneath our roof test, just after dusk.
Today we drove. Quite a bit. Gravel roads through the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Area and the southern part of the Tarkine WIlderness. Equal parts bleak and magestic, dead and alive, empty and intimidating, this is a landscape that makes Tasmania feel large, lonely, empty and isolating. You would never know the ocean is just twenty kilometres to the west. Mountains of granite outcroppings, buttongrass strewn hills, black burnt tree trunks and the occasional dip into a surprise rainforest make this drive a joy - and a challenge. Narrow gravel roads, tight switchbacks and some very steep sections made the drive just as fun for Gary.
We made it to Corinna on the banks of the Pieman River. Here the water is 30 m deep, so a two car barge is the only way to get across. Corinna is definitely a place to linger in and explore more next time we are in Tasmania. Whenever that might be. Ascending out of the river valley we drove to Zeehan, where we now sit and blog. A beer in the only pub in town that hasn't closed (there are two others) and we got to see the first ball of the cricket in the new Perth Stadium (purely by chance).
Tomorrow we hope to hike out to Montezuma falls, if it doesn't rain too early and too heavily, then start to head for the southern part of the island.
All our love,
Ruth and Adam
Days on the Road = 47
Distance Driven = 6708 km
Mean Distance per Day = 143 km
Mean Fuel Economy = 14.07 L / 100 km
Best Fuel Economy = 12.17 L / 100 km (Port Lincoln to Port Augusta)
Nights Free Camping = 11
Nights in Roof Tent = 44/46
Coffees Purchased = 16
Instagram Posts = 190
Instagram Followers = 140
Geocaches Logged = 15
Gary Breakdowns = 0
Drone Flights = 2
Videos Made = 0
French Land Rover Drivers Scared = 1
State or Territory Borders Crossed = 3
Bucks Parties Accidentally Crashed = 1
Vegan Vanilla Slices Eaten = 0
Times set up camp after dusk = 1
Chairlifts not used = 1