Everyone in Tasmania has Agapanthus in their front garden. It must be a law.
Yep. We did all that (and more!) in a week. It's been a busy one, so make sure you have a cup of tea or coffee handy before you dive into this one.
We bade farewell to Zeehan on a drizzly Monday morning. Rain was forecast for the area, but we decided to chance the long winding drive up to the Montezuma Falls trailhead anyway. By the blessings of altitude and dense rainforest foliage, the drizzle abated into a saturating (the air, not really us or our stuff) mist. This must be the phenomenon known as '100% humidity.' Quoted as an easy three hour return hike along an old tramway (narrow gauge railway track) with a very gentle grade, we set off with our usual kit (plenty of water, first aid kit, emergency stuff etc.) at a decent clip. Just over an our later, the lush greenery gave way to a narrow suspension bridge, barely a foot length wide, spanning the path of the river below the waterfall. Necks turned up.... and up... and up... and whoah! Over a hundred metres above us was the first crest of the Montezuma Falls. Two intermediate benches break up the descent of the water, but the view is awesome! The mist of the falls hangs in the air, and a sense of power and majesty pervades the forest.
We shared a late morning tea at the base of the falls with a couple from Broome WA who had been on the road for a year and a half. They shared some of their favourite experiences including the Three Capes Track, which we, unfortunately won't have the time or money to do... this time. We are planning a day hike to the last cape next week though, so stay tuned. A quick hour hike and we were back at Gary, ready to head for Hobart and the southern part of Tasmania.
A winding mountain drive saw us pass even more small roadside clearings packed with beehives and eventually descending a mountain east of Rosebery behind a small truck laden with the same. A right turn and it was south towards Queenstown - the back way. More winding mountain roads, with less traffic, low mist, and the occasional steep roadside embankment dropping away to reveal a sweeping vista of valleys, pinkish granite outcrops, a patchwork of forest and field, green and brown, interspersed with the black trunks of recent bushfires. Everywhere you look in this part of Tasmania really is a page from a National Geographic magazine.
We skipped through Queenstown and made camp (in the drizzle) next to Lake Burbury. An early wake up rewarded us with some stunning views of the surrounding mountains, rolling clouds and golden dawn light shining in the morning mist, coiling off the surface of the lake. The rain held off just long enough to pack away everything and we were on the road again.
Eastwards along the winding road through the heart of Tasmania - a road we have driven twice before, from Hobart to Strahan and back again four years ago. This time we got to stop at both Nelson Falls and Donaghy's Wilderness Lookout. The latter is at the top of a short sharp peak providing stunning 360 degree views of the surrounding landscape, accompanied by quotes from some early explorers of the area. It really does make you want to wax lyrical. Onward we drove to Lake St. Clair for a lunch that we didn't have to cook (but which sucked - shit coffee, crappy pizza and overpriced spring rolls. one star.) then we made it to Hamilton before it was time to stop for the night.
Over the past week we have decided to really focus in on going places and doing things we didn't get to do last time in Tasmania. Although we absolutely loved The Wall in the Wilderness last time, there are more things to do, places to go and stay and see that (perhaps) skipping the already seen is a better strategy. At least it is working for us right now (Sorry MONA, we love you but...).
Hamilton has a great $5/night campground (with $1/5 minute toasty hot showers) which proved to be a strange kind of crossroads for us. Camped next to us was Otto and Laura - a couple from Cairns who live just around the corner from where Ruth's mum grew up (and Otto's mate recently purchased said house of Ruths-mum-growing-up). Camped across from us, on two motorbikes, were Pugs and Alison - mutual friends of Mo - one of Ruth's work friends. We checked out the pub, finished off the Scotch Whisky supplied by Adam's D&D boys and generally had a great time.
From Hamiton we decided it was time to venture to the big(ish) smoke and check out Hobart. First stop: Lauds, the other Plant Based Cheese maker on the island (noticing a pattern here?). Differently delicious we loaded up Engelbert with a few different cheeses and set out to find some lunch. Thanks also to Danielle and Simon for some great suggestions of places and things to check out in and around Hobart.
Next up was a very special treat. We got to return to the jeweller that made all three of our marriage rings and hang out a bit with Dan Lenarcic, the artist who made our rings himself. We were stoked to see that their business has grown since we were there four years ago and their working space now takes up twice as much of their building as it did.
The afternoon saw us off to the Cascade Brewery, Australia's Oldest, for a wander around followed by a sample or five. Sadly the brewery was bought out by a multinational in 1993, so it is no longer Australian owned, but the beers made on site tasted just as good. Ruth even got to have a go at pouring her own. With a carton of Cascade Pale Ale stashed away in Gary (at brewery gate prices!), it was time (via a supermarket trip, but that's a bit mundane and boring for our blog, so they are usually left out) to find a camp for the night.
Just south of Hobart is a Scout Camp called The Lea (the lee?, the lee-ah? the lee-ay? the lay? forgot to ask the camp host how to say it!) where you can stay at the top of the (significantly smaller) mountain just across from Mount Wellington. That night was cold. Cold as in two-hot-water-bottles cold. Cold as in why-has-the-extra-blanket-ended-up-at-the-foot-of-the-bed cold. But the morning was crisp and not so bad, and the sun eventually decided to heat up the air.
Our second half day in Hobart began with a climb up Mount Wellington (one of our few repeat adventures). Gary was a dutiful little tractor and turbochargered his way to the top with composure and aplomb. The chill wind kept our visit short as we battled the cruise ship disembarked masses, but the views were again worth it. I agree with Charles Darwin (who climbed this mountain of foot) on that score.
From the Mountain we returned to almost the same place as the Brewery, this time to visit the Cascades Female Factory, for a dramatised dose of early female convict history. Super interesting and very sad at the same time. If you find yourself in Hobart you should definitely check out 'Her Story' if you are able.
From the Female Factory we cruised through town to the Queens Domain for a sort-of picnic in some parkland. Feel like we know our way around Hobart already. There aren't that many main streets. After five one nighters in a row (Arthur River, Zeehan, Lake Burbury, Hamilton, The Lea), we were craving some relaxing time. So we drove down to the relatively close southernmost road in Australia and the southernmost campground (vehicle accessible, anyways) in Australia at Cockle Creek.
We spent a day not packing up or travelling, just relaxing. We found our southernmost geocache (Number sixteen), had our southernmost cup of coffee, walked out to the excellent sculpture of a three month old Southern Right Whale calf, had our southernmost hot showers, ate our southernmost dinner (twice!) and generally did our southernmost everything, without venturing too far from camp. Whew. Lots of people were completing the South Coast Track while we were there - definitely on the bucket list as a trip to do sometime!
Mostly rejuvenated after a couple of long nights sleep, we turned northwards again (because once you go to Cockle Creek, there is no other direction to go), then inland to the Tahune Airwalk. The larger cousin of the South-wests Valley of the Giants walk, this suspended bridge passes amongst towering Swamp Gums, Stringybarks, Sassafras (Adams favourite word/name) and Celery Top Pines, with the odd Huon Pine on the riverbanks. The culmination of the walk is at the end of a cantilevered walkway projecting above the Huon River and looking towards where the Huon River and Picton River intersect. Another magical place. We got to camp for free with our tickets for the walk. Bonus.