This morning we said goodbye to Tasmania but have decided we will definitely be back. We have enjoyed everything about our 11 weeks on the Apple Isle from the places, weather, the experiences, friendly locals and the "hunting and gathering" we have done along the way.
We left the caravan park at 6.00am and were on the ferry eating breakfast at 8.00 am, much quicker than the other way around. We had our delays later though when we tried to get out of Melbourne. The plan was to clear Melbourne and drive while it was still light but we were stuck in traffic on the M80 for an hour before finally being diverted to the wrong direction due to the road being closed. Not the best of starts to our journey but I guess we were still having a better day than the poor devils who'd caused the delays.
Next stop on our Tasmanian journey, after Cockle Creek was Franklin where we based ourselves for a few days. A great spot by the river for $10 a night. While there we did the river cruise in an old sailing boat, The Yukon, lovingly restored about 12 years ago by its owner and his very understanding wife before they sailed it from Denmark with 2 small children. He tells us the story of how he found it and bought it for the price of a case of beer!
We explored the beautiful area around Cygnet, and along the coast of mostly dirt road which was being graded at the time. It was here we found and picked damsons and of course the blackberries we've eaten so many of.
Next stop Bruny Island, we took the ferry across for a reasonable price of $70 return for both of us and the car and caravan. We headed for "the neck" which is a camp belonging to Parks and Wildlife where we stayed for 4 nights. We visited the local businesses and sampled their produce from cheeses, chocolate, honey and the large creamy oysters. On the Sunday we drove around the island, it was a beautiful day and we definitely saw the island at it's best, from the lighthouse, the penguin rookery and the coastline, everything sparkled. On the Monday we did the Wilderness Cruise, a 3 hour trip around the rugged coastline, exploring the many caves, watching penguins in the water and came up close and personal with the 100s of male fur seals that call the rocks home. Later we completed a couple more of the short walks on Bruny.
When we left Bruny we headed to Cambridge where we booked into a caravan park to catch up on the washing, shopping etc. Next stop was Mayfield conservation park, just south of Swansea where we spent a few days enjoying the beach and the good weather before heading around to Wineglass bay where Chris did the walk to the lookout.
We had arranged to meet Lyn and Graham at Bicheno, friends we had met in Darwin. We spent a great evening catching up with them, remembering "Tumbling Waters" caravan park and comparing notes on Tasmania.
Staying at the Bay of Lagoons we drove up to St Helens and also over Elephant's Pass to St Mary's. We thought the road in and out of Queenstown was bad, but this was worse. We had been pre warned so didn't attempt the road with the van behind us. It's a worry when you see signs that say "Long vehicles beep horn when approaching bends"
It was about this point that we knew we were running out of time so decided to skip the rest of the nth/east coast and turn inland to Campbelltown and Ross and up to Launceston, staying at Old Mac's Farm.
Old Mac's was about 7 kms out of Launceston and a beautiful spot. The owner has a good set up there, with space for 100+ vans and charging $10 a night for unpowered with extra by donation to fill water tanks. He also leases out the restaurant at the top of the hill so he must make very good money for very little outlay. We have to say though, for us, $10 a night was money well spent.
Another highlight while here was our trip out to Ben Lomond National Park, one of Tasmania's Ski Fields. It's closed this time of year but the ride to the top is well worth doing. Driving up Jacob's Ladder to the top with the sharp bends, steep drops and spectacular views was not to be missed.
In Launceston we did the chairlift over and the walks around the Gorge and shared lunch with the peacocks at the cafe. We also visited the QVMAG, one of the better museums we've visited and we especially enjoyed the interactive section.
Our next base was at Deloraine from where we visited Chudleigh honey shop and Mole Creek, walked to Liffey and Meander Falls and enjoyed the company of the horse in the field behind us. The visitors centre in Deloraine had an exhibition on called "Yarns" 4 very large patchworks depicting the seasons and history of the town. The colours and detail were incredible and even Chris, a mere male, was impressed.
On to Sheffield, the town of murals, with many on sides of buildings around the town and also on large poster boards as part of the yearly competition. From Sheffield we went into Cradle mountain and did the walk around Dove Lake, a walk we did 9 years ago when we were here last. Apparently (says Chris) that doesn't count and we had to do it again before we could mark it off in our book of 60 short walks!
Now as we came to our last week in Tasmania, we made our base at Ulverstone. From there we did the walk to Leven Gorge, walking clockwise around to go down the 697 steps instead of up them. From here we also visited Gunn Pains, Don Heads, Penguin Markets and the Maritime Museum. We then decided to take the trip back to Beaconsfield where we had been through while at Launceston as we had missed the Heritage Mine. This again was somewhere we had visited before but we were later told how it had been extended and was worth another visit. We were not disappointed as it was much bigger and the section about the Beaconsfield mine disaster of 26th January 2006 was impressive.
Our last free camp was at Forth, only about 10 kms out of Devonport and probably where we will head straight to on our next trip over, whenever that will be.
What were the highlights? Can we say everything? Two good crossings of Bass Strait, The free camps, the weather, the friendly people, the close distances between places, picking blackberries, apples, sloes, damson and walnut from the roadside, Eating all the beautiful produce from cheeses, honey, cream teas and the seafood. The Huon salmon was the best! I think we have both packed on a couple of kilos. The scenery and the walks. Chris completed 23 and me,18 from the book plus others not mentioned. We'll do more next time!
So for now Tasmania, it's goodbye and thank you. We'll be back, we don't know when but someday!