We took advantage of another extended (and what turned out to be wet weekend) to head off from Hobart to Strahan, on the west coast of Tassie about 300km away. We had decided to leave Stanley behind and stay in self-contained style accommodation. Partly because we had learned from other caravanners that their rigs had struggled on some of the roads around this area.
Also we had been stationary for a while now and all of our stuff had spread and we really didn’t fancy having to play Tetris trying to get everything back into its correct place to travel!
Another important lesson we learned (about Tasmania in general in fact) is that when looking at a map to determine distances and travel times, it is necessary to be generous when estimating travel time. The winding and hilly nature of Tasmanian roads makes most road trips take longer than expected.
About half way between Hobart and Strahan is a place called Derwent Bridge. We called in here to visit ‘The Wall in The Wilderness’. This is an ongoing piece of art by a local sculptor who expects it will take up to ten years to complete. The Wall comprises of a number of three metre high wood panels with hand carvings of scenes depicting significant eras from Tasmanian history. Once completed it will be over 100m in length.
We walked away from here with mixed feelings. There is absolutely no doubt that the carving is amazing, with the most incredible and intricate details. The wall is housed in a contemporary style building with a roaring fire, which was most welcome on such a cold day. However, the $30 entry fee for us was probably a little high, particularly since we spent less than an hour here and the general feeling of unease we experienced.
There were a few signs posted about keeping children under control and ours were frowned at as we entered. We understand why these types of notices can sometimes be necessary and alway do our best to keep the kids quiet and within arms reach but to be honest we didn’t really feel very welcome here.
Additionally, no photos can be taken of the work and the woman who entered before us was almost frisked to make sure she didn’t have a camera or even a phone with a camera!
There is yet another sign at the entrance explaining that the artist has been involved in punch ups with people who have insisted on taken photos! To soften the blow of paying to see the attraction but not being able to take photos, postcards are for sale inside. This is supposedly to assist in generating income, as the whole affair is self funded.
Looking at pictures on the website is ok though?
We saw lots of examples of wood carving throughout Tasmania and this wall would no doubt be some of the best. We are by no means saying don’t go, as it really is special but if you have kids maybe find them something else to do while you visit. Taking it in turns while the other waits outside with the children wouldn’t really make sense as it is nice to share with someone and they may point out things you havent noticed.
Next we called into Lake St Clair which is within Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. The lake is actually the deepest in Australia and the scenery is stunning. It poured with rain while we were here so we spent some time within the visitors centre.
We saw many cold looking hikers with huge back packs turning up during our time here and learned that this is the end point of The Overland Track. This track starts some 65km away at Ronny Creek, near Cradle Mountain. The walk takes around six days to complete with walkers needing to be completely self-sufficient. There are huts along the walk but by the time you get to them they may already be occupied.
Paul was shocked when I told him that I would like to come back in ten years time and the two of us tackle the track. Of course that may be because I hadn’t at that time explained that I had discovered a company operating tours with private huts, heaters, hot showers, three course meals and Tasmanian wine each evening!
Now, that’s how you do The Overland Track!
Our last stop before reaching Queenstown was at Nelson Falls. These are a short but stunning walk from the car park. It was so green with was moss covering almost every surface. It felt like we were walking through an enchanted forest.
Once we reached Gormanston we knew we weren’t far from the notorious stretch of road down into Queenstown that we had heard about. None of the stories had been exaggerations – it was pretty hairy! The descent was very steep on a narrow, winding road. We were so glad we didn’t have Stan with us (sorry Stan), particularly going down into Queenstown and driving back up would have been excruciatingly slow! Though that would have given us plenty of time to soak in the views. Unfortunately it was pouring with rain on our drive down and I was unable to take any decent photos.
A couple of days were spent exploring Strahan which is a small village resting on the edge of the Macquarie Harbour. From here there a number of options to cruise along The Gordon River or perhaps ride on The West Coast Wilderness Railway. We decided that we were trained and boated out by this stage.
There are some wonderful places in Strahan to watch woodturning and also to purchase pieces crafted from Tasmanian Huon. It was at the Visitor’s Centre that we heard about the nightly presentation of a play called The Ship That Never Was. We were keen to go but it is an outside play and although undercover still a little cold for the kids liking. There is a $17.50 fee for adults and a gold coin donation for children under 13. I would love to hear from anyone that has seen it because it sounded quite funny.
It was also at The visitors Centre that we all had the (mis)fortune of Paul discovering about Montezuma Falls, the highest falls in Tasmania. He declared loudly that we must go and see them but must have whispered the part about it being a 3-4 hour walk!
So, on our last full day we set off to see the falls. Now, the common theme throughout the weekend had been the torrential rain. The sun was doing its best to break through the clouds and so off we set! Needless to say about a third of the way to the falls the heavens opened!
Oh well, we had come this far.
If you could lift your head at just the right angle so that you weren’t blinded by the sideways falling rain and blinked really fast it wasn’t quite so hard to appreciate the beautiful surroundings! The falls themselves were roaring with water (something to do with the sideways rain) and seeing them was great. There was also a swing bridge going over the gorge. Although wet, we still had fun and would compete to see who could find the best way through or round puddles without ending up ankle deep in them.
When did the rain stop you ask?
As we reached the car park!
With one set of dry clothes each and no dry shoes we set off back to Hobart. We couldn’t believe it as we drove towards Derwent Bridge and spotted small patches of snow beside the road. This is the first time any of the kids had seen snow and they were quite excited. While we were driving it actually started to snow!
Not too much further up the road there was a decent coverage of snow on the ground with heaps of people stopping their cars to have a look and a quick snowball fight. We decided to join in the fun with the only problem being that not only was it freezing and we had no dry warm clothes but we also only had one pair of snow boots between us which Ben had packed at the last-minute. Not to worry, Paul being so tough(?) hit the snow in his thongs and the rest of us took turns sharing the boots to have a quick play.
This was such a cool (pun intended) way to finish off such a soggy weekend and I assured the kids that, “of course we’ll see snow again before we leave Tasmania”.