April 2011

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.
  • Map of Trip-2011.

  • For those of you who think you can see Tasmania in less than 3 months, believe me, you are dreaming. We have just began our third month here and we will have to put our skates on to see all that we want. April Fool's day saw the Patrol full of clowns heading towards Strahan.

    On the way we passed through Queenstown after traveling down one of the worst roads we had encountered yet in Tassie. It was steep, narrow and windy. It has such a bad reputation amongst the grey nomads that many just won't attempt it. I was a bit concerned after all the stories we had heard but locked into second gear and slowly, slow we made it to the bottom drama free. Queenstown is very cute and home to the well known West Coast Wilderness Railroad. This line between Queenstown and Strahan was opened in 1897 with some sections being so steep that it requires a rack and pinion gear to clunk its way up the hill. We had planned to do the trip but unfortunately the area had experienced a fair amount of rainfall in recent weeks which caused a  huge landslide that damaged part of the track and you could only do half the trip. It was a bleak old day as well so we thought we would give it a miss this time.

     Queenstown Queenstown Queenstown
           Queenstown. A scary drive and home to the West Coast Wilderness Railway

    We had a look around Queenstown in the rain and then made our way to Strahan and booked into the Strahan Village Caravan Park which is directly opposite the rather expensive Big 4. Sometimes you just get a good feeling about a place. I go into the office to book in, the lady asks how many people. I hate this bit, do you tell the truth or lie. Well sometimes I have been known to do either. This time I decided to be honest and it paid off. She said, 'Let's forget the kids' and charged the couple rate only. We ended up staying three nights, as you would when you are getting well looked after. This is a very nice park, great facilities and really nice people. The weather improved after lunch so we went for a drive around town. First stop was to the post office so we could arrange a post office box for Nhulunbuy (they have no letter box deliveries). I must say that compared to most other Govt. institutions Australia Post is amazingly organised and professional. For starters, who else hand delivers something to your house, anywhere in this huge country for 55 cents. If you ever need to ring them they actually answer their phone, and when you go into the Post Office they are generally happy and helpful. Well Strahan was no different. We told the lady we wanted to set up a post office box in Nhulunbuy. She gives us the form to fill out, gives us a choice of vacant boxes (all on her computer), takes our $30-00 for the year and then also tells us all the things we should see in Strahan. How easy was that. Good on you Australia Post. Keep it up.

    Strahan Strahan Strahan Strahan
    The boat was very comfortable. Hell's Gates not so, especially if you were in leg irons.

    We then went to book the boat trip to Macquarie Harbour and the Gordon River. We chose World Heritage Cruises as they are a small family owned and operated business, their boat is really flash and we had been given a 10% discount voucher when we visited the Wooden Boat Centre a month or so back. It was also the company that the locals we spoke to recommended. When you are traveling and talking to other tourists there are always a few things that everyone mentions. This cruise was one of those things. Even Tony (our brother-in-law) said this is a Tasmanian absolutely must do. The weather was still only average but the forecast for the next day (Saturday) was a tad better. We decided to take a risk and it paid off. It was not a blue sky sunny day but it didn't rain (well not much) and we had a great day. It is a pretty full day leaving at 0900 and returning around 3-00pm. There was a very good lunch supplied which included a mountain of smoked salmon, other cold meats and salads. The trip first headed up Macquarie Harbour and out through the bar or mouth of the river named 'Hell's Gates'. It was named by the convicts when they came in through the narrow bar opening on their' way to Sarah Island, which they considered 'hell on earth', thus Hell's gates. The boat then made its way up the Gordon River. This is a magnificent river and to think that not that many years ago they wanted to dam it. Thank goodness the high court ruled the way they did, and as they say, the rest is history.

    Sarah Island Sarah Island Sarah Island Sarah Island
                       Sarah island - So beautiful now with such an ugly past.

    We then visited Sarah Island which was one of the big three penal colonies, Sarah, Mariah and of course Port Arthur. Sarah Island was in operation before Port Arthur and is said to be the worst of the worst. It was isolated, cold, miserable and harsh, harsh, harsh. It is said conditions were so bad that even the officers refused to live there. The history of this island is fascinating. It is hard to imagine how that amount of building and infrastructure could have been built with nothing more than a bunch of convicts who didn't want to be there and who would have been very unco-operative. One of the success stories of Sarah Island was the number of ships built there, totallying over 30. There are still a reasonable number of ruins but nowhere near as many as there are on Mariah and Port Arthur. There is currently nearly a million dollars worth of Huon Pine timber underwater that was laid as a foundation for hundreds of tons of soil that was bought from across the harbour by convicts in small row boats and dumped on the pine to create a flat area for the boat building. Because of the natural oils in Huon Pine, it will never rot and even today would be as good as new. Unfortunately as Sarah Island is now protected this timber will remain untouched in its watery grave.

    Golden Guitar Tamworth Tamworth Tamworth
                           Heading up the Gordon River. Captain Alex has the ship.

    We then cruised up the Gordon River for a number of kms to view up close and personal this magnificent river before making our way back across Macquarie Island to Strahan via a small timber mill that works mainly with Huon Pine. We ended up buying a few slabs of Huon that I will eventually make into a hat rack for my emergency services cap collection as well as a number of wooden products. Great quality and even better prices. This boat cruise is well worth the $100-00 per adult and they did have a good family rate. It is always hard to know where to spend your hard earned cash and you can't do everything, but I think this one is worth considering. Another must see that everyone talks about is the nightly performance of a show "The ship that never was". It is a local production and is a dramatic and hilarious true story of the 'Great Escape
    ' from Sarah Island and fits in very well with what is learnt on the Sarah Island tour that we did as part of the boat cruise. It is semi-outdoors and they supply big blankets for your use. It is very much an audience participation type show and both the boys were picked. Harry had to play a convict and Alex a cockatoo. It was really funny and even funnier with Harry dressed in a hat 10 times too big for him. His big hat kept falling down completely covering his entire head. The audience were rolling around with laughter. A great show, a great night. Put it on your list.

    The ship that never was The ship that never was The ship that never was The ship that never was
               'The ship that never was'. Tonight staring some big Hollywood names.

    Next day (Sunday 3rd) we woke to a mainly fine day and hooked up and headed towards Cradle Mountain. On the way we stopped at Zeehan and did a bit of shopping at a local second-hand shop. We love these shops and visit them whenever we can. We ended up getting a few things, mainly Tupperware that Chris will use when she first gets up to Nhulunbuy. It was then off to Cradle Mountain. There is very little choice when camping at Cradle. In fact you have no choice. It's the Big 4 or nothing. As you may be aware we are not great fans of Big 4's and very much try to avoid them. This time we had no choice and we were pleasantly surprised. Firstly, they did not ask if we had kids and I didn't offer the information so we only had to sell 3 body parts to pay the fees. The park is huge and all the sites are very private. They have a huge camp kitchen with two large open fire places and a mountain of wood that could be seen from the moon. We stoked up the fire and had it really roaring. The boys played table soccer, while we cooked dinner and chatted to the foreign tourists. Well, Chris cooked, I talked. (Typical - Ed). It was a lovely atmosphere. Good shower/ toilet block with really hot showers. These are the simple things you really miss when camping and what we are really looking forward to when we are back in a house again. We left Looma in mid October 2010 which is now just on 6 months that we have been living in the van or the camper. Time again for a stint in a house.

    Cradle Mountain Cradle Mountain A couple of Wombats They are everywhere
                                 Cradle Mountain National Park. Wombats everywhere!!

    Dove Lake Dove Lake Dove Lake Dove Lake
                            Dove Lake - Cradle Mountain National Park

    Marions Lookout Marions Lookout Marions Lookout Marions Lookout
                              Marion's Lookout - Cradle Mountain National Park

    Next morning it was across the road to the National Park's Info Centre to catch the shuttle bus to Dove Lake. While you can drive your own car around they have shuttle buses running every 10 minutes so why would you. We did the 6 km walk around Dove lake which was pretty but not at all challenging. It was then back to the Info centre for a coffee and to book a guided tour for the next morning. That night it was back to the camp kitchen to light the fire and enjoy the atmosphere. It was cold at night but not freezing. Next morning (Tuesday) we did the guided tour and found out more about the area, it's formation, the fauna and flora and why this area is now World Heritage listed and why it achieved 7 of the 10 criteria to be world heritage listed, more than anywhere else in the world. Pretty amazing. Then we did the second hardest day walk in the park which was up to Marion's lookout. It was about 5 kms return with the last section being rather steep with a chain which did not impress Chris at all. It took us about 3.5 hours and we were somewhat knackered at the end. Alex really wanted to do the summit walk but is an 8 hour walk that Chris and Harry were not fussed on doing. It would have been a perfect day for it as the sky was blue with not a cloud to be seen. The view from Marion's lookout was excellent looking over Dove Lake in one direction and Cradle Mountain in another and down the mountain a bit was Cradle lake. (Last pic.)
    Chris on top of the mountain
    Cradle Mountain
    So why is it called Cradle Mountain I hear you ask. Many years ago it was called Saddle Mountain as it looked like a saddle (and still does). Then for some reason someone thought it looked like a cradle with a baby laying in it. You need either a very good imagination, some LSD or 10 cones of MJ to see the baby or a combination of all three.

    It was then back for our third night and another fire. Harry had a pile of English backpackers up playing table soccer and they were all having a ball. The yelling, screaming and cheering could be heard all over the park. It was a funny night. Then to add to the frivolity a possum got into the room and we were unable to get it out. In the end we enticed it onto the rim of a wheely bin with a sausage, slammed the lid on it and then relocated it outside. It was very funny (but
    probably not for the possum).

      Evening fun Evening fun Evening fun Evening fun
                    Harry entertaining the backpackers, then along came the possum.

    Next morning we finished off a few short walks and then headed to Burnie. We arrived later in the afternoon and had the choice of a free camp down near the water (that frankly was not that appealing) or a caravan park at the back of a motel. We have stayed at motel caravan parks previously and have found you are usually like the poor relation jammed out the back in a carpark or a dust bowl. Well this time we could not have been happier. The Burnie Village Motel was fairly well priced and the camping area was lovely. Green grass and very hot showers (individual ensuite style as well) was the order of the day. As Chris will be up North for maybe a month before Harry and I get there we thought we needed another laptop. Off we went all over town and ended up in Harvey Norman. The young fella was very helpful and I think we ended up with a good deal. A HP laptop, 15" screen, i7processor with 4 gig ram, 640 gig hard drive and all the other stuff you get for just over $1,000-00. It's a nice unit and will be a nice addition to the family. Two late model fast i7 laptops. Now we are living. We also ended up with a pile of manchester that they were virtually giving away also at Harvey Norman. Talk about being at the right place at the right time. We bought doonas with mattress protector packs for $10-00 each, doona covers down from $70-00 to $30-00 and a Sheridan doona cover down from $420-00 (who would actually pay that) to $70-00. It is actually very nice so we splurged. All this will go to Nhulunbuy to the new house. Then we went to Target and found a pile of melamine plates, bowls and tumblers all down from $5-00 each to $1.80. We were on a roll. We now have most of the stuff we need to get us going in Nhulunbuy until our gear finally gets up there whenever. When we got back to the van I checked out the Nhulunbuy Facebook community notice board and found a Hyundai Lantra Sports Wagon for sale up there. It has done 130,000km, no rust and no dents. They emailed a pile of photos and for $3,000 we bought it. I have never bought anything sight unseen, not even a toaster but we really need a car for (possibly) up to 3 months that we will be there before our car arrives. There are always plenty of cars up there for sale but little buzz-boxes in this condition for this sort of money do not come up often and we are very happy with our purchase. This will be a very easy car to sell when we are finally finished with it. The car paid for, now just have to hope it is there when Chris arrives, I am sure it will be, but it is a lot of trust.

    So back to Burnie. This is one of the nicest towns we have come across for a long long time. It is right on the beach, is big enough to have everything you could possibly want and it is so friendly. We just met nice people after nice people including the guy that owns the local sports store. We went in to buy a football and cap for Harry and we were treated like royalty. The owner, an ex Essendon AFL player Jack Mihocek gave the kids more gear than we bought. This is such a nice town and a place I could seriously live in.

    Poppies in full bloom Poppies in full bloom Poppies in full bloom Poppies in full bloom
                            Poppies in full bloom. Can only see this around October

    Friday 8th we again moved on this time to Stanley and the famous Nut. We did a bit of sightseeing on the way and visited yet another lighthouse and a tulip farm. Unfortunately the tulips are not even planted yet but around October it is a different sight. An absolute sea of magnificent colour that would have to be seen to be believed. Maybe next visit. We got to Stanley just after lunch and the sun was shining so we decided to do the chair lift up to the top of the nut and do the walk as the forecast was for rain the next day. It was a nice trip up and a pleasant walk but I am not overly sure what all the hype is about with the nut. It really is just a hill stuck in the middle of town or a town built around a hill, whichever you prefer. We then went for a trip along the coastal drive and checked out a few more convict ruins. I hate to be harsh but I am now officially over convict ruins and would be happy not to see any more this holiday.

     Tarkine Forest Adventure Tarkine Forest Adventure Tarkine Forest Adventure Tarkine Forest Adventure
                                    Tarkine Forest Adventure. I think I am going to die!!!!

    The next morning as predicted it was overcast but not raining - yet. We headed out to Dismal Swamp and the Tarkine Forest Adventure. This is a 110 metre enclosed slide almost straight down into a sinkhole that was awfully fast and took 15 seconds. I thought I was going to die, the boys thought it was sensational and Chris, well let's say she did not have her second slide. Then it started to rain. The boys wanted to do their second ride so I of course had to go as well. The only saving grace was that the rain does slow the ride down considerably. We then did the maze walk through the forest on a boardwalk which was lovely and would have been even better had we not been getting wet. By the time we had walked back up the hill to the information centre it really started to pelt down so we were relatively lucky. We then went for a walk up the main street of Stanley and checked out all six shops. It is a very cute little place, does has a free camp (no toilet) and a busy harbour with cray boats a plenty. It continued to rain, we had crap TV reception and had to go off to the camp kitchen to watch the AFL game. What is the world coming to, two different aerials, two boosters (everything wired up correctly!!!) and still no picture.

    Stanley and the Nut Stanley and the Nut Stanley and the Nut Stanley and the Nut
                                    Stanley and the Nut. Chris just loves chair lifts!! Not.

    Sunday 10th we were off again this time heading back towards Burnie and along the coastal route back to Devonport. We have at this stage completed a circumnavigation of Tassy and are back to where we started. Kind of sad really. It means to us that this trip is slowly drawing to an end, three months of travel, thousands of kms, millions of memories. We ended up at Latrobe which is one of the nicest towns around, only about 10 kms from Devonport complete with a free camp almost in the main street. It is a great spot, 20 second walk to the shopping area, toilets, water and a dump point. It really does not get much better than this, except it was raining. Monday it was still raining and the free camp now looked like an Olympic swimming pool. We went into Devonport and helped to pull Tasmania out of a recession by buying up big time. We checked out a new TV as it will be about 8 weeks before our gear gets up to Nhulunbuy, got a few housey things and visited the Dry Glo/Dickies towel factory and bought all new towels, bathmats, soap dispensers, dunny cleaning brush etc. They sell both perfects and 2nds and were very cheap, like $8-00 for a fluffy good quality bath sheet. This factory in downtown Devonport produces almost all the towels that are made in Australia, for every outlet, including Myers, DJ's, Spotlight, Target, Kmart etc etc. Hard to imagine that every towel comes out of the same small factory in downtown Tassy. We then went to a local Devonport caravan park and all had a shower for $10-00 which was very nice before heading back to our Olympic pool free camp. Oh, the simple things in life!!!

    Tuesday 12th and guess what? It was still raining. It really did not worry us as we had a hundred jobs to get done. Chris had to get a police check organised, arrange university final transcripts (who keeps these things) and arrange to send back the boys BSDE school resources. This getting a job thing in the middle of our holiday really has been a bit of a logistical nightmare. We then visited a local chocolate factory where all the chocolates are hand-made and extremely nice. They had their Easter egg display out and they were the most amazing eggs you have ever seen, not to mention a bit pricey. We went into the tasting room and pigged out until we got the evil look from the lady and then went to watch how they make the chocolate. By the time we got back to the tasting room the staff had changed so we made out we had just arrived and pigged out again. We thought it was so funny and we felt like real criminals. Tasmania must have more chocolate factories than any other state in Australia.

    Reliquaire. Bloody amazing
    Then back to Latrobe to walk the main street. We visited a shop called Reliquaire . This is one of the most amazing shops I have ever seen. 19 rooms absolutely jammed with so much stuff you can hardly move and so much stuff that you certainly could not take it all in. It has everything you could possibly imagine, dolls, puppets, masks, trinkets, toys, science, magic, dress up, renovation gear, coffee, condiments and more, more, more. It is classy, some of it is very expensive and some is not. The quality is of a very high standard and a lot is imported from Germany, Venice, Thailand, USA, Europe and of course some from Australia. This is one of the most amazing things I have seen in Australia and it is tucked away in downtown Latrobe. Click on the link above to have a look at their webpage. Unfortunately they do not allow you to take photos inside so I only have the one off their webpage. If you are around Devonport/ Latrobe, this is an absolute must see but allow yourself at least a few hours. Believe me the time will fly.

    Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield
    Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield Murials at Sheffield
                                                 Murals at Sheffield

    Wednesday 13th and a nice sunny morning and we headed off to Mole Creek to go through the Mole Creek Caves. On the way we stopped at Sheffield and had a walk around. (By that time it was raining - gotta love Tassie weather!!) Now here is a town that has demonstrated both resilience and team work. During the 90's this was a town that was going nowhere except backwards. The town was dying and the locals got together and came up with a rescue plan. Their idea was to do something to attract tourism, but what. Someone came up with the idea of turning Sheffield into a town of murals. The place has paintings everywhere, every wall, every bit of spare space. They also have a yearly mural competition that gets entrants from Australia and OS. Sheffield is now a vibrant happening place and a real success story of what can happen if people work together and have a common goal. It was then off to Mole Creek National Park to visit one of the two caves. We visited Marapooka Cave and did the 1 hour guided tour. This is a wet cave and while very nice I don't think it's as good as others we have seen. Our favourite in Tasmania is still Hastings Cave that we visited last month and as I said then possibly one of the best in Australia.
    While we were getting organised  in the car park prior to our tour a very old car pulled up with a family on board. It was like something out of 'The Beverly Hillbillies'. This thing was an absolute classic, complete with a dead rubber chook hanging off the side. These guys were actually on a camping holiday, I kid you not. See you can do and get away with anything in Tasmania. The tour ended, the sun was starting to set and we still had nowhere to spend the night. Decisions, decisions. Do we move down the road to Deloraine or take the easy option and stay at the local Mole Creek Caravan Park. Well that was a no brainer. The local caravan park was rather nice on the banks of Mole Creek and they didn't charge for kids. What the!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    It was a nice park, be it a bit soggy after all the rain, but nice. We did feel very sorry for a school group (private school) opposite us who were all in tents and yes it was cold, very cold. So cold in fact we had the heater going all night. We were as warm as, not so sure about them.

    Marapooka Caves Marapooka Caves Marapooka Caves Marapooka Caves
                           The Marapooka Caves - Mole Creek National Park

    The Beverly Hillbillies hit town The Beverly Hillbillies hit town The Beverly Hillbillies hit town The Beverly Hillbillies hit town
                                     The Beverly Hillbillies hit town

    Thursday 14th and the tour director decided we should head South (almost back to Hobart) to visit Ross. We dropped into Deloraine which is another lovely town, walked up and down the street, had a prawn and scallop pie, visited a few more junk shops (not sure why) and continued onto Ross, and the famous Ross Bridge. Now compared to Richmond and the even more famous Richmond bridge this place is about the size of a pimple on Richmond's backside. The town is small, the bridge small and the appeal also small, and we drove two hours to see it. (Very harsh critique of poor ol' Ross, and it wasn't two hours away! Ed.) The main street consists of about three shops, is about 18" long and not overly exciting. We were able to walk over the bridge, but not drive over it as the river was in flood due to the recent rain and the road closed. The highlight of the day was visiting another junk shop where we bought a couple of very ugly Hawks AFL clown hats to wear to the AFL Hawks versus West Coast Eagles game on Saturday to which we have tickets. There are a couple of free camps one of which we planned to stay at but unfortunately it too was a bit flooded with the river gushing by. We didn't fancy camping next to the river as we had no idea if the river level was on its way up or down. So where do we go? We drove back two hours up the road and ended up in Launceston. We checked out a couple of caravan parks and ended up just out of town in the Tamar valley. The Launceston Holiday Park, Legana is only 10 kms from the centre of town and is very comfortable. At $27-00 a night (maybe I did not mention those kids again!!!) it was also not bad value. Our next problem was that Easter was now less than a week away as was the start of the school holidays. We really had to find a place and stay put as most places would be booked out. This is the last chance for Tasmanians to go camping before the long cold winter sets in and they camp in droves. We decided we would stay here until Chris and Alex fly out on Easter Monday and do day trips from this base. Harry and I will then move back to Devonport and get ready to catch the Spirit of Tasmania on Thursday 28th.

    Ross Bridge Ross Bridge Ross Bridge Ross Bridge
                     The Ross Bridge - more like a submarine after all the rain.

    Friday 15th we were up bright and early and into town to visit Cataract Gorge. This is an amazing sight because it is very pretty and because it is smack bang in the middle of town. Normally the Esk river is a gentle flowing non-threatening body of water. There is a large grassed area leading down to an Olympic sized pool, barbecues, tables and plenty of room for day trippers to enjoy. Moving slowly overhead is a chairlift that takes you from one side of the river to the other. Well have I mentioned the rain? Launceston has also copped a fair flogging and when we arrived at the normally peaceful parkland we found a river in flood, the pool totally submerged, parkland inundated and a chair lift barely out of the water. The Esk was an absolute torrent of white water, whirlpools and waves. It was out of control. I do not think I have ever seen a river with so much force, with so much speed and so furious. Had I not seen a photo of what this area normally looks like, I would not have believed it. We did the chairlift to the other side of the river and I must say I was scared. If you were to fall into this swollen monster your chances of surviving would have been zilch. The chairlift is also the longest unsupported single span chairlift in the world at 308 metres long, which did not fill me with confidence. We transversed the boardwalk that follows the river towards town. It really is a great asset to the people of Launceston and a lovely place to recreate all within the confines of the city.

     Cataract Gorge in flood Cataract Gorge in flood Cataract Gorge in flood Cataract Gorge in flood
                                                Cataract Gorge in flood

    Cataract gorge a week later Cataract gorge a week later Cataract gorge a week later Cataract gorge a week later
                      Cataract Gorge a week later - hard to imagine the difference.

    We then went to check out Hollybank Adventure Park which is a tree to tree flying fox that has about six sections to it. It is a three hour adventure as you soar at 80 km/hr, 50 metres above the ground. The boys were really keen but they had to have an adult go with them. Of course Chris politely declined the offer and luckily they had no spare spots that day so I said we would think about it overnight. Well that night I could not sleep, I broke out in a cold sweat, got the shakes, started to tremor and thought I was having a panic attack. Well none of that is true (Is that so? Not what I was told! Ed.) but I did have second thoughts about hanging off a piece of cotton supported by a bit of wire tied between a few rotten old trees. How will I break the news to the boys that their dad is a chicken, a scaredy cat, a girl's blouse and a sook. Well I did what any proud Australian would do under these circumstances, I lied. I told them the business had gone broke overnight and had been closed down. They looked at me, shook their heads and said "You're too scared to do it aren't you?" to which I replied 'Yes'. To my surprise nothing more was said on the subject. Maybe they too were a bit apprehensive.

    It was then back to Harvey Norman to buy a small TV for Chris to take up with her. We ended up with a 22" Toshiba LCD TV which had about the best picture quality of those we looked at. It's a very nice TV and at $360-00 we again thought we got pretty good value. It would seem that the new range of TV's are about to be released which means they flog off the older models for a good price.We were actually mentioned in the Tasmanian Parliament this week for single handedly helping to pull Tasmania out of its recession. Apparently our economic stimulus has saved the state. Glad we could be of assistance. Just to make sure the state did not slip backwards we then went out and bought all new curtains for the house and a new stereo.

    Saturday 16th and football day, Hawthhorne Vs West Coast Eagles at Aurora Stadium, Launceston. As we now will not be getting to see a few games in Melbourne we jumped at the chance to see at least one game. It was a great match, a very nice venue and we all had a good time. It was a low scoring game but a bit of a nail biter as well as a bit noisy. We seemed to be perched amongst all the WCE fans, with us all dressed up in our Hawks hats. This is the first AFL game we have seen live and it certainly was an experience. The field does not look as big as it does on TV and that 50 metre line does not really look that far away from the goal posts. Seeing a few more games in the future is certainly on the agenda, just not sure how or when. The Hawks have been adopted by Tasmania and play one game a month in Launceston. Certainly great for the Tasmanians although air fares to Melbourne are as cheap as, so ducking over to watch a game every so often would not break the piggy bank.

    AFL game AFL game AFL game AFL game
       AFL game - Hawks Versus West Coast Eagles - who is that idiot with the hat??

    Sunday 17th and Alex woke with the snots. He looked miserable and felt the same, wanting to do nothing but stay in bed. We on the other hand wanted to visit Evandale, famous for the Penny Farthing Festival (that was cancelled this year due to rain) and go to the Sunday markets. The market was huge, had a good mixture of old and new and Chris bought enough gear to deck out almost the entire kitchen. Really good quality, copper based saucepans for $5-00 to $8-00 each, microwave dishes for a dollar or two. There were some great bargains to be had, and we had our fair share of them, including two brand Slazenger tennis rackets with covers for $2-00 each. How could you not buy them? Evandale itself has some lovely old buildings, a few cute shops but not much else. Back to the van to see the dying duck and start to do some packing. We had bought 6 tea-chest packing boxes for Chris and Alex as we have no suitcases with us and thought we could get more gear in the boxes. They had a baggage allowance of 23 kg each as well as 32 kg of excess baggage making 78 kg in total. It was like a Seinfeld episode. We bought some bathroom scales and we weighed each box until we got them just right, putting things in and taking them out, over and over until we got it right, or as close to it as we could.

    Monday back into town to do a bit more shopping. This time it was for curtains as the house has none. They will be paid for by the Dept but we only had a budget of $30-00 per drop. Apparently that is not much. Off to Spotlight and again luck was with us and there on the clearance table were enough curtains for the house, the right colour and within our budget. They should actually look OK. The car then developed an unusual noise from the front wheels. I investigated and noticed that the front wheel bearings had a little too much play in them, more than I would like for the
    2,000 km drive home, so now the challenge was to find someone who could do it a few days before Easter. There was a mechanic opposite the caravan park who said he would squeeze it in but not sure when. I dropped the car off on Tuesday and he started on it late that arvo and finally finished it late Wednesday arvo. Bloody hell he was slow. He replaced the wheel bearings (they have done 175,000kms), new brake pads (only 1/2 worn but may as well get them done while he is at it) and had the discs machined. The noise has now gone, there is no play and my wallet is a bit lighter. I would have rathered Trillo do the job back home, probably for half the price but really did not want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere on the trip home with a front wheel missing. That would have been much more expensive, not to mention a tad inconvenient.
    Mother's Day was coming up soon and it was likely that Harry and I will not be up in Nhulunbuy by then so we thought we had better get some presents now and have an early Mother's Day. We again went into town, with a few ideas on what to get. First stop was Myers and to look for a mixmaster. Chris has wanted one for a while, so now seemed like as good a time as any to get one. What we also stumbled upon was a TV sale. As I said earlier the new range of TV's is about to be released and they are trying to get rid of existing stock.
    Now we have three TV's
    We had planned to buy one in Bundaberg but we thought by then we may be paying top dollar. The salesman was a nice bloke and showed us the range. They had a full HD 42" plasma Panasonic (which we had been told many times was one of the better brands) for $775-00. That seemed cheap. Then he told us that on the weekend the clearance items are again being discounted and he would put a hold on it for us. The price was going to be $680-00. Now I know nothing about TVs but that did seem very cheap. I rang Priestley who gave me his opinion "bloody hell, buy the thing" which I did. Now we have 4 tea-chest packing boxes, 22" and 42" TVs in what seem like awfully big boxes, four doona/mattress protectors and a mountain of other stuff as well as 4 people all falling over each other in the caravan. It was becoming rather unpleasant, but it was stuff that Chris really needed while up there. We also found the mix- master we wanted on special for $130-00 which also seemed cheap but we would shop around. It was then off to Target where we found the same mix- master on an even better special, $99-00 with $10-00 cash back. A Sunbeam mixmaster for $89-00. Now that is a bargain. Now we also had that to trip over. Boy are we going to miss them when they leave, but the sooner they go and take all this crap with them, the better. So in 6 months we have gone from a no TV family to now having three. What is happening to my world!!

    Good Friday we headed to Beaconsfield (scene of the Beaconsfield mine disaster exactly 5 years ago) to visit the mine museum. Only closed two days a year and yep, today was one of them. Then we moved to Beauty Point and the 3 Peaks Race. Harry, our other tour director had read about this somewhere. He is a funny little fella. He sits in the back of the car behind me and takes everything in. He does not miss a trick. Then he collects brochures from everywhere and anywhere and reads up on what is going on around the place. He always has something that we need to visit. So somewhere he had read about the festival, as had Chris so off we went. I had no idea what it was but soon found out. There were about a million cars there and by sheer luck found a park right at the gates. There was not only a million cars there but also about a million people. This was a happening place. They had a band playing, stalls, activities and the start of the big race. This 3 peaks race is a combination of a sailing and running race. There were about ten yachts participating who had to sail to Flinders Island, go ashore and run up a mountain in Strezlecki National Park, then sail down the coast running up one of the peaks at Wine Glass Bay and then Mt Wellington in Hobart, all in the space of a few days. I found sailing and running to be an intere
    sting combination and a rather big event in Tasmania.

     The Seahorse farm The Seahorse farm The Seahorse farm The Seahorse farm The Seahorse farm
                                               The Seahorse Farm - Beauty Point Marina

    Harry also informed us that there is a seahorse farm and a platypus exhibit at Beauty Point. Well they happened to be on the same wharf as the festival so we decided to do the Seahorse Farm, as we have seen platypuses in the wild but none of us had seen a seahorse. I hassled the lady for a discount which she gave me and we did the tour. It was actually very interesting and we learnt a lot about a little creature that we knew nothing about. They are bred here to supply pet shops all over the world. The little babies where about half the size of an eye lash. They also sell direct to the public for $38-00 a seahorse. They would make a pretty unique addition to the old fish tank. On our exit I thanked the lady and told her we were glad we did the tour. She then proceeded to give the boys a dried seahorse each ($12-00 a piece) and gave Chris a bag. I should hassle people for a discount more often if this is what happens. There are loads of beautiful beaches in Tasmania, with just about every house having a view. If Tasmania was just off the Queensland coast it would be worth a squillion. As we were driving out of Beauty Point we passed a house on the waterfront with an interesting nativity scene in the front yard. I was at no stage going to bring up the Tasmanian two headed thing as we saw absolutely no sign of it or people with scars to prove the myth true. What we did see (pictured below) did make us wounder if it could in fact be true. The second picture is of Harry and I waiting to board the 'Spirit of Tasmania'. He pipes up and says "Hey Dad, lucky we are leaving - we are starting to grow another head!" It was a very funny moment.

    It must be true We are growing another head

    Saturday and back in the car and off back to Derby to see Chris's sister and collect some mail that had been sent to her place. On the way we passed through Legerwood, a tiny little town well known for its amazing carved trees. These trees were planted in 1918 in memory of those who fought and died in World War 1. In 2001 the trees were declared a danger and were to be removed. To retain the memorial in the town a great deal of fundraising and great community spirit resulted in the carved statues that are here today. They were all carved by Eddie Freeman from Ross. It is only about 1 km off the main drag to Derby and well worth dropping in to see. We had morning tea (which was at lunch time) and then drove to Bridport to have lunch (which was actually at afternoon tea time) at the golf club, before heading back to Launceston, arriving just on dark and in time to watch the football.

    Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood
    Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood Carving at Legerwood
                                                        Tree carvings at Legerwood

    Easter Sunday and a bit of a lazy start to the day. Easter eggs by the dozen as well as a few presents and also a Mother's Day breakfast just in case we don't get up to Nhulunbuy in time for the big day. We then went back to Beaconsfield and this time got to see the Mine Museum. This is an excellent display, one of the best we have seen with an amazing laser/ hologram explanation of mining and this particular mine. There is also a big section about the two guys who were trapped in their little cage for 14 days and you can actually climb in and look at the confined space they had to endure.
    Beaconsfield mine
    I remember vividly the images of the mine shaft cage and the underground ID badge board when the blokes finally were brought to the surface and how they walked straight up to the board and removed their ID's, just like it was a normal day at work. It all looks exactly the same now as it did then. There is an awful lot to see and it took us a number of hours to get through it all. This is well worth a visit, just not on Christmas Day or Good Friday. We then went back to see Cataract Gorge as all the water had subsided and it was all back to normal. What a difference a week can make. (See pictures above.) You could not have believed the difference. Green grass all mowed, an Olympic pool that was in need of a clean, but it was there and basically a large still lake that looked like butter wouldn't melt in its mouth. The chairlift now looked so high compared to when we went over on it. The water level must have dropped at least 5-6 metres.
    Back to the van for the final pack-up for Chris and Alex. We were a bit over-weight but by that stage didn't care what it cost us. I hired a trailer from the nursery next door to get all the boxes to the airport in the morning. It was like a full scale military exercise, all being conducted in an area the size of an en suite. Our family trip to Tasmania was about to end and another chapter about to start. It is all new and exciting and we are all looking forward to a new adventure. Life without adventure is just like treading water, you may stay afloat, but you don't actually get anywhere.

    Easter Monday/Anzac Day and we were out of bed at 0400 and on the road by 0500 arriving at the airport at 0530. The flight was due to leave at 0630 so we had plenty of time to book in and get them organised. The guy at the check-in was great. He asked if we were relocating (we told him we were just going for a week's holiday to an island!!!) and we told him we had been carefully weighing everything but we may be a bit over our 32 kg additional baggage allowance. No worries he said and only charged us for 24 kg, all of which we will get reimbursed for. (At this point in time it was $10 per extra kilo.) He told Chris to take the TV on as priority hand luggage (which means they take it off you as you enter the plane and give it back when leaving the plane) which means you don't have to pay extra. That sounded OK. Then the plane got delayed by an hour due to fog in Melbourne, then by another hour. Bugger that, I'm not waiting around as Harry and I are moving on to Latrobe. We said our goodbyes, Chris cried and off we went. It's a big thing to do on her own, a new town, a new house, a new job, getting Alex sorted and leaving half her family behind. Pretty tough I reckon.
    Harry and I went back to the van, dropped off the trailer and started to tidy up. All the excess stuff went on Alex's bed, all neatly packed and arranged. The big sucker of a TV slipped behind the fridge pretty much out of the way. Now there is not one thing on the floor, nothing on the lounge and only Harry and I rattling around. Now we have too much room!!! We swept, cleaned and prepared for the 65 km drive towards Devonport and in a few days time out of Tasmania. We had three nights left so thought we would free camp at Latrobe again. We were there a few weeks ago with about 15 other vans. This time it was just us for the entire day and night. They do say that by Easter, all the mainlanders leave and they are right. We could not believe the difference. We stretched out on the lounge and watched the AFL on TV. This is the life.

    Now Chris and Alex were having another experience. Their flight finally took off from Launceston at 0830 to Melbourne. On route they were told they had missed their connecting flight to Cairns and that they had to go to the book-in desk on their arrival to re-book another flight. They had just got off the flight from Launceston when they heard their names being called, as their flight was actually being held back for them. They literally had to run from one end of the Melbourne terminal to the other, lugging their heavy backpacks, pillows, laptop and the TV. When they got to the boarding gate the very cranky lady doing the checking-in gave Chris a mouthful for being late and said they could not take the TV on board. 'There is no room for that', and that it should have been checked-in luggage. Chris explained what the fella in Launceston had said but that was not important to this cranky bitch. Chris stood her ground and finally the lady took the TV and put it with all the other baggage. At the end of the day I expected a bit more than this from Qantas and none of it was Chris's fault. They then had a 4 hour wait in Cairns before getting their flight to Nhulunbuy. They were picked up by the school principal and arrived at the house at about 8-30pm, with no luggage. All the boxes were still in Melbourne, and obviously could not run as fast as Chris and Alex to catch the plane. Qantas gave them a survival pack with soap, toothbrush and paste and pj's and the principal Jill lent them sheets and towels. What a day they had, what a start to the new adventure.
    We didn't talk for long as they were both buggered. When they arrived at the house the new car was in the carport all ready and waiting for them. The car was exactly as described and Chris is very happy with her new buzz box. Hopefully it is very economical with unleaded at $1-80 a litre. More of Nhulunbuy next month.

    Tuesday we packed up and made the huge 10 km trek to Devonport and booked into the same caravan park that we stayed in on night one in Tasmania. The trip began and was about to end in not only the same park but also the exact same site. We did a bit of last minute shopping and then back to watch the Anzac Day AFL game, followed by a few hours of kicking the football. Harry again cooked another sensational dinner which unfortunately resulted in a thousand dirty dishes that I had to clean up. Our last day in Tassie and Harry was the tour director. He had us heading back to the small town of Sheffield and then on to Tazmania, home of the world's largest maze and the village of Lower Crackpot.

    We had visited Sheffield only a few weeks back and loved all the murals. As luck would have it we happened to arrive in the week that all the new murals were being painted. All the old paintings  gone (except for the two winners) and the artists busily painting away creating a new masterpiece and hopefully a new winner. It was very interesting watching how they mapped the painting out and the progress they had made in a few short days.

    New murals being painted
    New murals being painted New murals being painted New murals being painted
       New murals being painted at Sheffield. Who will be the winner this year??

    Next it was off to Tazmania. Harry had been dying to get to this place and desperately wanted to go there when we were in Sheffield last time. Unfortunately then it was raining so it was a no go. I personally had no interest and thought it was going to be very ordinary. This place is a long way from nowhere. It's out in the sticks, but their carpark was jammed packed. It's interesting, if you have a good product, distance is no barrier and people will travel a long way to see it. Tazmania was excellent, great value and loads of fun for all ages. It has eight mazes, making it the largest maze complex in the world (I am starting to sound like Jeremy Clarkson) as well as the miniature village of Lower Crackpot. The first maze is huge, goes forever and has dead ends and themes all the way through it. The other mazes are smaller but extremely hard to navigate and we were lost in there for ages, going round and round. At one stage I thought we would be in there forever. This place consumed many hours of our time and then we went to their Pancake Cafe and had the biggest berry, ice-cream and cream pancake you have ever seen. We both shared the one and we were flat out getting through it. It was a great day and Harry had an absolute ball while I was feeling a bit sad and lonely with our family divided. We have all been together for so long, I was starting to wonder if I was going to be able to pull off the next few weeks. Thank god I had my little offsider with me because without him I would never had done it, both physically and emotionally.

    It was then back to the van, hook up to the car, dinner and an early night as the next day (Thursday 28th) was back to the mainland day. We only had a 2 minute drive to the boat (which is the only reason we chose this park) and we got to the ferry terminal around 0700. We had to wait about an hour before we were able to board, but at least we didn't miss it. This was just one more step closer to the family being re-united. Harry was very pleased that this time we went on the 'Spirit of Tasmania 1', having come over on Spirit 2 last trip. We again had Ocean recliners and we had requested front row seats that we got. It is a great view of not much except for water, but still a view. The ocean was as flat as, hardly a ripple. That is perfect sailing conditions, both trips 3 months apart. Talk about arsey. The day was long and rather unexciting, but a good opportunity to rest before the next leg of this trip, the long drive and the packing process.

    Leaving Tassy Leaving Tassy Leaving Tassy Leaving Tassy
                             Leaving Tasmania - another perfect day to go sailing.

    So Tassie. The smallest state in this great country and the most difficult to access by road. To drive from the top to the bottom is just over 400 kms. From East to West, around 300 kms. This place is tiny, but while it may be tiny in size, it is overwhelming in natural beauty, scenery and the sheer number of things to see and do. In our opinion, this is the most beautiful state in Australia, winner hands down. The other states all have their magic spots but nowhere near the quantity that Tasmania offers. We found the people friendly and inviting, the towns welcoming of tourists and really no more expensive than the mainland. There were endless stalls to grab fruit and veges or outlets selling factory cheese to chocolate. Due to the free camping and small distances traveled we believe it was a fairly cheap state to visit compared to the others. I even thought the ferry over was reasonable costing the four of us, car and caravan (14 metres in length) just over $1,500.00 return (day trips, no cabin but with a booked ocean recliner seat). There is a mountain of stuff to see in Tassie and would not suggest less than 10 weeks, but we thought our 12 weeks was a perfect length of time, and still we did not see it all. The weather was very kind to us with only the occasional wet day. December to early May is the best time, but of course like traveling any area at the best time, it can be a bit busy, but never so busy that we could not get a campsite or visit an attraction. Driving can be challenging. There is not one bit of straight road longer than your arm (except straight down the middle) and it is so bloody hilly. You crawl up one side and then down the other. Fuel usage was higher than normal due to the hills. I don't think we ever went over 80 kms/hr for the entire trip. I was a bit nervous on a few roads, but you just take your time. You will not need many summer clothes and the weather can change in a flash. If you don't like the weather, just wait an hour and it will change. That you can guarantee. We truly experienced four seasons in one day, on many occasions.

    This three months in Tassie has really finished off what we wanted to see during these past few years of travel. There is still a huge amount still on the list to be ticked off, but we are happy we got this one under our belt.

    The boat arrived in Melbourne just on dark and we made our way to the caravan park arriving around 7-00pm. Luckily the traffic had died down so the 45 minute trip was not too bad. We had a drive-through site so we stayed hooked up as we wanted an early get-away the next morning to get out of the city before it got too busy. The lady in the caravan park office gave me great instructions to get onto the ring road and our way north. Harry again cooked dinner, filled the van with smoke and created a mountain of washing up (he has clearly been watching his mother cook - she also leaves a mountain of dirty dishes). The weather was noticeably warmer than in Tassie which was pleasant and we hit the sack for a 0600 getaway the next day.

    Friday 29th. On the road by 0600 as planned. I had estimated a 4 day trip back to Bundy only wanting to get to West Wyalong on day 1. We ended up making it to Dubbo (an extra 257 kms more than planned) arriving around 5-00pm having done 830 kms. What a day. The trip was great, excellent roads and little traffic. It was effortless driving so we just kept going. The next day we did not head off until about 0700 as I did not want to be on the open roads at sunrise because of the roos. Again the drive was easy and we made it into Brisbane (860 kms) just on dark. By now I did have a sore backside but we were glad to be there. As soon as we crossed the border into Qld the road instantly changed from excellent to more than embarrassing. Honestly, regardless of which way you enter Qld (except the Pacific Highway) the roads are crap. Why is this and why do we let it continue to be so bad?? If I was a tourist from interstate I would turn around and go home. The drive from Goondiwindi to Brisbane was just plain terrible and not at all enjoyable.  We stayed in a caravan park near Chris's mother (Jan) on the northside and after we were set up we went over to her place to say hi and have a bite to eat. 1,690 kms towing a van in two days. What an achievement, or perhaps what madness.

    Next leg is back to Bundy and let the packing begin. Harry and I were starting to feel the worst was behind us now, but was it really? For that you will have to wait until next month.

    Until then.

    I live in my own little world. But that's OK, they know me here.