Friday 8 March 2019
We all got our “tannoy” call at 5:15 am just as the Spirit of Tasmania was docking and were told that the first to disembark would be called to do so at 5:50 am. I had one of the fastest showers on record, something I have no liking for at all, but it did at least give me time for a cup of coffee from the Cafeteria – the Tasmanian Market Kitchen.
Knowing that once disembarked anywhere open for breakfast would be crowded with arriving passengers I decided that I’d hold off until my first stop, George Town, 100 km to the East. On disembarking driving in the dark and misty rain through the streets of Devonport – a city I have not visited before was a considerable challenge. But it would have been a bigger one without the help of my cool, calm and collected “Ingrid”‘s directions, courtesy Google Maps.
It did become easier with daylight and the cessation of rain, but after an hour and a half on the road, by the time I made it to George Town I was truly ready for a break and brekkie. As luck would have it I found a nice café where I was able to sit outside in the “sun”, which had clearly come out both to welcome and warm me. And it was a nice breakfast, if not quite up to the standard set in Sale.
Driving through the centre of town, you could be forgiven for thinking it was small, but with a population approaching 6500 it is bigger than my hometown of Gloucester.
Apart from tourism – and it is a pretty spot – it seems to be dependent on the Pacific Aluminium Smelter for employment and community support.
Next stop was Bridport, 50 km further East, which I remembered only because it was the town with the closest Medical Centre to some of the properties in the NE that were on Carolyn and Tony’s list of “possibles”.
Like many other towns in NE Tasmania, it depends heavily on summer holidaymakers but is also the departure point for travel to Flinders Island by ferry or small plane although I saw no sign of one when I drove past the airport – a plane that is.
Then to Scottsdale, 20 km South. Perhaps I was getting tired of small towns many of which looked one like another, even to the well-preserved weatherboard houses of earlier times. I almost got the feeling that I may have been driving around in a never-ending circle and viewing the same town over and over again.
I have read since passing through Scottsdale (Ingrid would not have permitted more) that it is at the heart of North-east Bible Belt mainly because a number of prominent local citizens are members of the Exclusive Brethren sect.
It must have been that vibe that put me off it.
This area is also home to the Bridestowe Lavender Estate, 15 km west of Scottsdale, but I was not sufficiently tempted to undertake the 30 km round trip to see it out of the flowering season. Well, that’s my excuse anyway.
I had been looking forward to visiting Lilydale Falls, 40 km West, and from the number of backpackers and small tents, it was clearly a popular spot. Perhaps the fact that the campsite is “free” has something to do with that popularity. Anyway, all fired up for Lilydale Falls I started on the 10-minute walk only to find that the first and lower fall had barely a trickle. I might have been tempted to try for the higher second one if a returning walker had not commented in disgusted tones that it had only a trickle too. That comment, the prospect of a steep climb, a sign advising that it was suitable for hikers only and that the track had no handrails decided me. So I took a photo or two of the”trickle” and just retired in good breath and good order.
In the absence of any further planned attractions, I headed for Launceston, 30 km South. I was delighted to find that even at 1:30 pm I could get into my tiny but quite well-equipped apartment at the Leisure Inn’s Penny Royal Complex just up the road from the Inn itself.
And, bless them, within 100 metres was the fully equipped guest laundry where I was able to get up-to-date with all my washing and ironing for a whole $12.00.
I was also able to get up-to-date with my journal some of which I sent but without the photos, because I had used all my allowable Wi-Fi hours for the day. Much muttering under breath and gnashing of teeth followed.
I dined at the unimaginatively named Penny Royal Restaurant attached to the Complex. The menu was more imaginative, however:
From this, I chose the Pork & Chorizo Croquettes and the Slow-cooked Pork Belly “Saltimbocca” (with celeriac remoulade, apple puree and black pudding bon bons). And as you might surmise, I was not in the least swayed in my choice by the “bon bons”! Both were really excellent.
And only because it was included in the cost of my three courses, my choice of the crème brûlée would surprise no one who knows me.
Saturday 9 March 2019
A leisurely start this morning after yesterday morning’s early-call shock to the system. After a healthy breakfast of shredded wheatmeal biscuits and awful instant coffee, I headed for the National Automobile Museum where I spent an enjoyable but not a “wow” couple of hours. The range of vehicles on display was quite small but appeared to be greater by the cunning use of fully mirrored walls.
The star of the show for me was the beautifully refurbished Morris Minor of the same vintage as the one I rented within weeks of getting my first driver’s licence to take Pat to Kamo for her first meeting with my parents. She was not the only one nervous. My driving experience at that time was limited to the instructor’s teaching circuit and that of the testing officer. As a result, my “long” 150 km drive north from Auckland was tentatively slow – taking all of four hours!!
I then set off on foot to visit the Queen Victoria Museum but somehow or other mucked up my entry into the phone and ended up an hour later at the Launceston Public Library. I have a feeling Ingrid is “above” any of this walking stuff and prefers the comfort of Eksy5.
Fortunately, the Library had a small café. Here I was able to properly but, with only one “barista” on, very slowly re-caffeinate and re-enter the correct details for another 45-minute perambulation to the right address.
The Queen Victoria Museum is a small but excellent one. One exhibit of local importance is of material from the “Sydney Cove”. She was wrecked off the NE Coast of Tasmania in February 1797 on her voyage from Calcutta to Sydney. Although the story of a few of the crew that survived is tellingly told, the main part of the exhibit comprises ceramics, pottery, bottles, parts of the ship, leather hides and footwear. The bottles, 22 of which were intact and still sealed, contained what is believed to be some of the world’s oldest beer, wine and spirits recovered from a shipwreck.
With the correct address of the Automobile Museum’s Car Par in the phone, the return walk took all of 10 minutes – but would do me for the day.
I made a quick visit to Woolies at Kings Meadow to get my bananas and water lunch before returning here to complete my update and think about which way I’ll go to St Helens tomorrow.
One thing I had forgotten about Launceston, if I ever knew it, was how hilly it is. Some of the streets are really steep enough to require some heavy braking to keep within the speed limit. Not for that alone, but I’m not now sure I would be happy living here as I once thought I might. The vibe is just not me!!
Before I left Berrico I had an email from my brother Peter that one of his and Sue’s boys, David and his partner Lyndall would be in Tasmania while I was there and it would be good if we could catch up. I have just heard from David that we are not going to be able to do so. A pity as I haven’t seen him in years. They are in Cradle Mountain today, Stanley tomorrow and Devonport on Monday to get the ferry, by which time I’ll be in St Helens.
But they did get far enough south to be able to say, “we drove past Carolyn and Tony’s block at Surveyors Bay last week – a lovely area.”
I planned to return to the restaurant for tonight’s dinner, but it had been booked for a wedding. Next door, however, was “Brady’s Tavern” an unlikely name for a wood-fired pizza place but that’s what it was. My “meat-lovers” version was fine if a little too meaty even for me!! It went down well nonetheless accompanied by a cold Cascade Light Ale.
And, Pepys-wise, “…and so to bed”.
Sunday 10 March 2019
Fortified by my shredded Wheatmeal biscuit breakfast my first stop was at Woolies in the heart of Launceston, a first-floor supermarket with parking underneath. A beautiful store where I was able to get my lunch bananas and water. It wasn’t busy but nor was any of Launceston at that hour of a Sunday morning, 7:30 am. Then a quick stop at the Bendigo ATM to top up my wallet and I was on my way.
My planned destination was the Little Blue Lake 120 km NE of Launceston. Google Maps had found me a route different from yesterday’s which, thankfully passed through only one of yesterday’s towns, Scottsdale.
The early part of the drive was through farmland which although dry was not as badly so as further north. Then Eksy5 and I faced the winding hilly forest country. Plenty of arm exercise but none the worse for that.
The forests were a mix of old-growth and managed ones of more recent planting but all beautiful. The traffic was amazingly light and being a Sunday not a logging truck to be seen, which meant I could amble comfortably along at about 70 or 80 and not bother anyone. And when an interloper did appear finding a space to pull over to let him pass was not too difficult.
I did pull over for my own benefit at the Sideling Lookout. It had a well-maintained toilet, you know. Apart from providing a timely comfort stop, here I was able to get a shot of the sunny farmland in the valley ahead of me – greener than anything I’d seen thus far. It also gives an idea of how high Eksy5 and I were.
The car park for the Little Blue Lake would not have been more than 200 metres off the highway from which it was a relatively easy walk around the rim. There is a 4WD drive type road that goes in further, but it had sufficient ruts and washouts to deter me from venturing on to it.
At one point there was what looked like the protective panel from the underside of some “cowboy’s” 4WD that had been ripped off and just discarded.
The colour of the lake is blue but of different intensities depending on the light, and I suppose, the colour of the lake bottom. The blues in the photos, therefore, range from a gorgeous true blue to milky blue to green. It was well worth the drive to see it.
I arrived at St Helens at around 1:00 pm after another pleasing passage through a mix of forest and pasture. The Bayside Inn is much as described by more than a few TripAdvisor reviewers, tired but friendly. My room is on the first floor and does have a narrow balcony overlooking the waterfront and here’s a view proving it.
After lunch, I drove up to have a look at the southern portion of the Bay of Fires Conservation area. It was an easier drive than I had been led to expect but I now know where the “cowboy’s” cobbers drive, and at speed.
I was able to get a photo or two of the lichen-covered rocks and a distant one of the white sand for which the area is famed but I ran out of puff in the end and headed back to St Helens. Probably worth a more extensive exploration at another time.
I have booked for dinner tonight at a newish restaurant, “The Wharf Bar & Kitchen” recommended by the hotel’s receptionist. She said that with the “Eight-hour Day” holiday tomorrow, the bistro was likely to be very crowded and loud and may not be too relaxing after a long day’s drive. Very thoughtful of her, I thought!! Or perhaps she’s on commission. Anyway, that’s where I’m dining – and hoping there is some SH seafood on the menu.
And there was. I had six natural local oysters that would make Forster’s Graham Barclay envious. Plump, moist and beautifully flavoured. This was followed by poached and then pan-fried Blue Trevalla served on a bed of Soba Noodles with bamboo shoots and two slim carrots. The oysters were gorgeous, the trevalla was just beautiful and the service excellent. I have no difficulty at all in recommending the restaurant highly.
Monday 11 March 2019 (Tasmanian Eight-hour Day Holiday)
A proper breakfast this morning in the Bistro, on my lonesome. I guess last night’s revellers were still abed. Having said that, with my room furthest away from the bar and bistro, they hadn’t kept me awake.
My drive took me through Scamander, Bicheno, Swansea, Triabunna to Orford. None of them leapt out me as if to say, this would be a great place to live. The countryside continued dry except for some irrigated properties and vineyards. Someone must have decided that the soil, climate or both suited grape-growing because there is some serious money being invested. One property had what must have been 10 or more acres of newly erected trellises (?) waiting for the vines to be planted.
Taking Ingrid at her word, I turned off at Orford onto a C road by name Wielangta on which, although gravel, was the fastest way for me. The road itself was well formed and well graded for the first 10 km where I was tempted to deviate to visit the Three Thumbs Reserve lookout just 2km off my path. It proved to be a good decision as there were some spectacular views from Triabunna around to the south.
All on my own, I made good use of the picnic table for my banana and water lunch fix. But no sooner onto my second banana than three cars arrived, and the exclusivity of my dining area was lost. They, two couples and three young men, were all friendly enough but while they didn’t know it, they broke the spell of peaceful solitude. Nothing for it then but to escape.
The condition of the road deteriorated from then on and for the next 25 or so km, Eksy5 and I suffered as good a shake, rattle and roll outing as we have had since we first tried her out on 4WD tracks in the St Albans area North of Sydney, in 2007 or thereabouts.
Next time I’ll check the roads being recommended so that I can avoid the C roads or long stretches of them.