Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Tasmania - Westward bound

Following on from my last post (mmmm, still thinking about Cadbury chocolate!) I begin to make my way northwest.  Sticking to the A10, I pass through the townships of New Norfolk, Hamilton and Derwent Bridge.  Somewhere along the way (I wish I had paid closer attention) I passed a roadside stand selling strawberries.  You know the kind, where they still operate on the honour system?  Well, I buy a punnet of strawberries and get back on the road.  Halfway through, I realized that I should have bought 2 or 3, because they weren't going to last long!

Past Derwent Bridge (before I got to Queenstown), I stopped at Nelson Falls, more to get out and stretch my legs than for anything else.  Boy, wasn't I pleasantly surprised after a short, easy walk through the lush rainforest to find these pretty falls at the end?  The rainforest was so dense, it was at least a couple of degrees cooler inside than it was out near the road.
Nelson Falls

Continuing on to Queenstown, I was struck by the change in the landscape.  Up until then, for the most part, it had been a very pleasant drive though the countryside with farms, trees and plenty of rivers.  Areas around Queenstown, however, looked almost desolate with not much vegetation on the hills.  The scenery changed again soon after I had this place in my rear view mirror.  I was so absorbed in watching my surroundings that it took a while to notice the lack of traffic.  It got to a point where I was surprised to even see another car!  Not exactly like Dallas rush-hour traffic, that's for sure :-)

My accommodation for the night was in Strahan (pronounced Strawn), a little seaside town about mid-way down the west coast with a decent sized harbour.  The first word that came to mind when I saw it was 'quaint'.  Charming cottages on the hillside, an esplanade, lots of small boutiques and shops.  You can read more about Strahan and the West Coast on our website.
Luckily the weather was perfect, if a little cool, for the Gordon River Wilderness Cruise I had booked the following day.  The cruise starts out by crossing Macquarie Harbour to Hell's Gates (what a great name, hey?) the incredibly small gap in the rocks that provide the only access from the Southern Ocean to the only safe harbour on the west coast of Tasmania.  The here was whipping something fierce - I certainly wouldn't have wanted to be piloting a boat.  From Hell's Gate we travel the length of the harbour to enter the Gordon River.  Now we are transported into what seems like a different world...the rainforest, the glass-like river, the tranquility.  After living in a major city for many years, it was so nice to truly be able to hear the wildlife around us all without any background hum.  It's easy to see why this area is World Heritage Listed.

We had the opportunity to disembark at Heritage Landing and have a bit of a stroll on an elevated wilderness walk.  I know there were a few 'real' photographers on the tour that made the most of it with some pictures that put my little snapshots to shame.  A lovely buffet lunch was served on board and we turned back towards the harbour, with a quick stop at Sarah's Island - yet another convict settlement, this one from the 1820's (before Port Arthur was established).  With a guide leading our little group around the ruins on the island, we learned a bit more history about the place.  The boat gets back to Strahan mid-afternoon which allowed for a look about town before dinner.  You can learn more about the cruise, or make a booking, on the Gordon River Wilderness Cruise page on our website.  Seating is limited, so I highly recommend booking ahead.

I will finish up the last leg of my journey to Launceston in my next post - stay tuned!

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