Tasmania Explored – well, a little bit.

We have delivered the 4×4 to our friends’ farm outside Devonport and are now planning on spending five days exploring parts of Tasmania, not on motorbikes sadly, but in a hire car.  We do see many and talk to a few motorcyclists as we travel around and watch wistfully as they mount up and ride away.  It is a great way to travel which we both love and are still drawn to. While 2020 will not see any such activity for us, next year will come around and I am sure that Streak and Storm will get an outing to destinations unknown.

Vehicle delivered in Tassie, job done.

While we have been ambling between villages, from Sheffield to Strahan to Swansea, we have watched as I am sure everyone else has, the spread of COVID-19 and the impact it is having around the World: Travel, Businesses, Stock Markets and potentially our return to Brisbane in a week’s time.  Until something of this magnitude strikes, we cannot fully understand how complex our world is and the fragile nature of the world’s economies to such a blow.  Perhaps it would have been better to have had the entire world self isolate for 14 days at the same time to kill the virus, but this still would have left us vulnerable to one infected person who had not followed advice starting the process all over again!

Wombats, Wallabies, Pademelons, Tasmanian devils, Possums, Echidnas, Flatapus, A broad swathe of Tasmanian wildlife, we have seen them all, squashed on the Tasmanian roads. Having driven from Queensland to Victoria without seeing a single carcass in over 1500 kms it has been a shock at the amount of carnage we have seen here.  Only very occasionally have we driven past live specimens.  Anyway do not want to dwell on this but perhaps the wording on the Tasmanian number plates should change to reflect this, “Tasmania – The Roadkill State” perhaps?

Anne is in her element at Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park, part of another World Heritage site to add to the collection. Anne really enjoys the outdoors and the peace and tranquility that we do not get at home.  We are blessed with an amazing blue sky day and the pictures tell a better story than I can in words.  We only do a circuit of Dove lake but there are many other tempting walks.  We will come back here again. Lucky rain is forecast so I can avoid the tent again, I am getting good at this with the help of the weather.  I must be getting soft  because I do enjoy aspects of camping, just not the packing up wet equipment in the morning, probably too close to last year’s Icelandic trip’s camping memories.

Anne’s happy place, Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain, Tas
It’s pretty cool at Dove Lake early morning
Gondwanan species Pencil pines can reach ages over 1200 years
No wombats, just pretty Button Grass tussocks, Cradle Mountain, Tas

We overnight in Strahan on Tasmania’s west coast and enjoying a spectacular sunset and meal at the local pub. The weather the next day in Queenstown was the reverse.

Sunset near Strahan
Rainy Queenstown, Tasmania
Lake Burbury, Tasmania
Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tas
Nelson Falls, Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tas
Mushrooms and moss on a tree at Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tas

We stop at “The Wall in The Wilderness” near Derwent Bridge, which is a series of carved panels by Greg Duncan done as  a commemoration of those who helped shape the past and present of Tasmania’s central highlands. Done in marine grade Huon pine on panels 3m /10ft high this amazing structure, which is not complete and deliberately so, has to be seen, as the artist Greg Duncan intended: he does not allow photographs, which would not do the work justice and spoil the effect.  We were lucky enough to meet Greg, who can be found working behind  the counter where you can taste Tasmanian  whisky and spent an informative 15 minutes talking to him. We learnt that it took him 10 years working up to 16 hours a day to create the 100m long sculpture. A real labour of love.

The Wall brochure signed by Greg Duncan for us
Tarraleah power station – notice the leak/escape vent?!

Our artistic side’s exposure continued with a visit to The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) just outside Hobart is the brainchild of David Walsh.  David built the largest privately funded museum in the southern hemisphere. We had visited MOMA in 2009, but the full museum had not been started then and only a few pieces of David’s collection were on display.  Anne had followed the construction but as usual I knew nothing about it. As I found out it is all underground!  There is a first, it is carved into the rock which forms and amazing backdrop fo the art. A mixture of art old and new is on display, commissioned pieces and famous artists.  No signage on the artwork exists, all information on the artwork comes from an App that is sensitive to your location within the museum. If you do not have a smart phone they provide one to use.

Entrance to MONA, Hobart, Tasmania
Stairway down into MONA, Hobart, Tas
Fountain with written messages, MONA, Hobart, Tas
MONA, Hobart, Tas

A current exhibition is called MINE and it explores data mining, cleverly using large cardboard cutouts of current rock mining technology including projects that were underway during my time with Technology and Innovation at Rio Tinto. We saw only a small part of the museum and if we are back this way will definitely return.  There is even a board game called Excavator based on data mining between today’s largest internet companies for global domination.

Longwall mining shearer, MONA, Hobart, Tas
Cardboard displays and augmented reality at MONA, Hobart, Tas

Swansea on the east coast of Tasmania is home for friends Bob and Felicity who own Felicity’s Vintage and Tea Room – not to be confused with the similar sounding Felicity’s Vintage Tea Party in Leeds Yorkshire England as Google may do.  Superb home made cakes and scones with coffee from “Roberto” the barista, set to a backdrop of the stunning Great Oyster bay and Freycinet National Park make this a place to stop at if you visit Swansea.

View from Felicity’s Vintage and Tea Room

Launceston contains a number of beautiful old buildings that reminds me of Glasgow, on a much smaller scale, in the sense that is because the city has not lost its old buildings to population growth. Most of Australia’s major cities have lost their old buildings to be replaced with modern skyscrapers – still, being small has its attractions. The Customs building caught my attention as we had seen a similar combined Post Office and Customs building in Strahan. When everything came by sea each town needed a Customs office to insure correct duties were paid on goods being imported and any duties on timber and minerals being exported. I wonder since it was only built in the the early 20th century how quickly the facilities became obsolete as communication technologies improved.

Old Customs House, Launceston, Tas
Old Newspaper Building in Launceston

We notice that Launceston seems to close early on Saturday night as we finish dinner in a local pub on our last night. As the pub empties, tablecloths are removed which seems a little strange, then the tables go and we have not even finished. Err no they are clearing the floor to let the DJ setup for the night’s entertainment though to 2am. We are definitely getting a little older and slower, back to the hotel for tea and tele for us.

On our last day found the area to the NE of Launceston had both beautiful countryside and quaint towns. It seems a little less busy than to the west.  We visited Lilydale and walked thought their very personal war memorial with photos of every person from the district who gave their lives in WW1.

Lilydale poles depicting the town’s history
Lilydale church and a most exquisitely scented rose
Lilydale Anzac memorial

We meandered northwards from the lavender fields ending up in Bridport, a very pleasant town with stunning ocean views as we drove along the main road. We find a great large vacant block for sale in town over looking the ocean,  a place for us to live? Err no, comes with planning permission for a hotel and restaurant.  Ah, what might have been…

Bridestowe Lavender Estate, Nabowla, Tas
Delightful Bridport, Tas

A full plane back to Brisbane, but there is only one direct flight a day from Launceston to Brisbane, we are home, planning to stock up per government advice and like the rest of you, wait to see what happens next.  At least I have the next half of the “to do” list we made in Thailand to work through. 

Last flight for some time…

In the two weeks since our return, so much has changed globally, sometimes on a daily basis. We live in a different world today, but I am encouraged by the inventiveness and initiative people are taking to stay in touch. We will continue to stay in touch.

I started this blog after our return from Tasmania about two weeks ago.  In the time it has taken me to complete a couple of pages, so much has changed, often on a daily basis and will continue to do so for a while.   Stay safe and healthy and follow your government’s guidelines.

– Anthony