The Alternative Voyage

my road less traveled

Tasmania - By North and West

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It's hard to believe that we have been in Tassie just 8 days and yet have covered over 2,000kms. And that's just in the north and west, we haven't got down towards Hobart and the east coast yet. We arrived on the 2nd January into Launceston. It's on the Tamar River in the states north. Arriving right in the middle of the Australian summer holiday period, you'd expect that every road and by way would be swamped the visitors and tourists. Sure there have been a few but generally speaking, it feels like we've had the place pretty much all to ourselves. Particularly when we started heading into the more remote NE and NW coastal areas. Then it became time to play 'spot the car' as we drove along. You could drive for 30 minutes and not come across a car heading in either direction.

Tasmania - January, 2019

After a few days exploring the Tamar Valley and the various wineries there, revisiting some favorites like Clover Hill, we packed the car and headed north west towards the coastal town of Stanley. On the way though, we had to show Nathalie's parents Cradle Mountain and made the detour south so they could get a glimpse of the surreal lake (and perhaps a wombat). It must seem like another world to Nathalie's parents who are retired farmers from Normandy. Even I find the plants and vegetation here in Tassie a bit other worldly and strange. The landscape certainly reeks of being old and ancient up around the Central Highlands. They are also amazed at how the landscape and vegetation changes continuously.
Cradle Mountain didn't disappoint except not a wombat to be seen this time. The pictures will help fill in the tale. It's hard to believe that from this point in Tasmania, you can travel south for a few hundred kilometers and just be in wilderness until you hit the southern coast. Most of it is a World Heritage Area too.
Stanley was a bit of a revelation. I didn't quite know what to expect other the it sits at the base of 'The Nut', a towering monolith that is on the coast jutting into Bass Strait. (It's what's left of an ancient volcano, the hard basalt core with the rest of the volcano eroded away with time).
Stanly is a small fishing village full of quaint homes and stores that date back to around 1830, pretty old in Australian terms! We hiked up The Nut one morning and walked the 2km circuit around the top. Some absolutely stunning ocean views and along the coast in either direction. Well worth the effort to walk up perhaps the steepest path I've ever attempted.
Leaving Stanley, we drove west towards a place I have always wanted to visit. The rugged and very isolated West coast of Tasmania. If you look at a map of Tassie and then the west coast, you'll see something pretty remarkable. There is only one coastal town on it's entire length - Strahan. That was our destination and yes, we did pass through a locality called End of The Earth. Driving down to Strahan, we hugged the coast as best we could and where the map showed a 'town' what you really saw was a collection of beach shacks for those that either (a) love isolation or (b) are involved in cray fishing. The seas were pretty moderate that day but it doesn't take much imagination to see how wild the weather can be here. One local enjoyed telling us that heading due west from where we stood on the beach, the next stop was Argentina. You don't hit South Africa as it's too far north! That's a lot of fetch for waves to build up in the incessant Roaring 40's before hitting this stretch of wild and desolate coast.
One of the main reasons we wanted to reach Strahan was to take the trip across Macquarie Harbour and up the Gordon River. This is the gateway to the wild south west wilderness and one of those iconic journeys for any Australian. It was also the scene of the epic environmental struggle back in the 80's to save the Franklin and Gordon Rivers from being dammed for hydro power. I wanted to see where it all happened.
The entrance of Macquarie Harbour is called Hells Gates and it's an incredibly narrow entrance to what is an enormous body of water, (just 80m wide). Our guide boat took us out the entrance and it's amazing to think who had passed through these very waters nearly 200 years ago to the penal colony on Sarah Island. Sarah Island must have been the most remote, cruelest prison in the world. It's in the middle of absolutely nowhere today. God knows what they must have thought transported from England to these place in 1830.

One things for sure, the west coast of Tassie is remote, isolated and sparsely populated. A good reason to visit in my book.


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Tuesday, 21 January 2020

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