March 2011

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

  • March already. This has been another very busy, fun filled  month of adventure. The beginning of March had us still at Freycinet National Park. We finally left the comfort of power and running water (we miss the water more than the power) and headed south towards Richmond. The coastline down this way is breathtaking. There are lookouts every 5 kms and you really feel you need to stop at each and every one of them or you are missing out on something. The first major town we came to was Swansea. This is yet another beautiful east coast seaside town. It has a quaint 'old' main street that overlooks the ocean. The buildings have been beautifully preserved and/or renovated. The new buildings have been designed to blend in and don't stick out like a sore thumb.

    Swansea swansea swansea swansea
                                          Swansea and Morris General Store

    There is a classic old shop in town called 'The Morris Store'. This is one of those old time stores that sells everything, and I mean everything. Groceries to camping gear, to haberdashery, pots, pans and firearms. There is stuff everywhere and they have even managed to squeeze in a little museum. This is a must visit shop if you are in the neighbourhood. It is also the cheapest shop I have ever seen. We bought what look like reasonable quality waterproof gloves for $2.35 a pair. That's a bargain. We then visited the local Vinnies store. What a treasure trove that store was. Alex walked out with two pairs of QuickSilver jeans, a great heavy duty jacket (that he liked) as well as a few things for Harry and a
    heavy duty jacket for Chris, all like new. We must have scored $400-00 worth of gear for $32-00. Swansea is a great spot and not to be missed. As it was only lunch time we again moved on, next stop Triabunna. On the way we stopped at 'The Spikey Bridge'. This most unusual old bridge was built by convicts in 1843 from field stones laid without mortar. The spikes were to prevent stock from falling over the sides.

    Spikey bridge Spikey bridge Spikey bridge Spikey bridge
                                                        Spikey bridge

    Tribunna Tribunna Tribunna Tribunna
                                                    Re-visiting Triabunna

    We had sailed into the port of Triabunna only a few weeks ago and had seen a great free camp, absolutely in town opposite the marina. What a great spot for the night. Chris and I sat outside and had a cuppa watching the boats come and go while the boys took the scooter to the skate park a few hundred metres from our campsite and put the scooter through its paces. We had excellent TV reception so we settled in to watch the semi of the NAB AFL. Unfortunately it was not the most exciting of games with Harry's team (St Kilda) playing like old grannies and bombing out. This new LCD/ LED T.V. that we got at Christmas was a great buy as on 12 volts only draws a bit over 1.5 amps. With that power usage, you can leave it on all night. As we had seen all of Triabunna when we sailed in we had nothing else to do but move onto Richmond. We arrived by mid-morning and our plan was for me to dump the van and the family and duck straight into Hobart to collect our mail from David (Chris's cousin), buy a gas heater, refill our gas bottle (that fortuitously ran out the night before) and to buy a small inverter to charge the laptop. Very frustrating as I only took our small inverter out of the van just before leaving Bundy as I didn't think we would need it. I really shouldn't try to think!!!  The epic trip into the big smoke was only 26 kms and took 15 minutes. I thought it was going to take half the day (they do say nowhere is far in Tasmania). I left the van and the family in a carpark in the middle of town and headed off with my shopping list.

    We decided we needed to look at some form of heating for the van (that did not rely on 240 volts) as it has been getting a bit chilly at night, so other than getting the mail, that was my main job. We had two choices. You can get diesel heaters for about $1,400-00 (if you shop around) which I did consider before we left. That is a lot of money for something at this stage of our lives we most likely will not get to use very often. Choice two was a Coleman  Procat, catalytic gas heater for $200-00 complete with fan. It can either run off a small 500 gram disposable bottle or connect to a standard gas bottle. As we have a spare 4 kg bottle with us, that is the most economical way to go. They say you get up to 8 hours out of a 500 gram disposable bottle so from a 4 kg it will go for ages. You really only need it for a hour or so in the evening after the stove/oven is turned off and for 30 minutes in the morning. When I re-sheeted the van I put in so much insulation that it's like a big esky. When it warms up, it stays hot, but it also takes ages to warm up in the morning, without the help of a heat source. We can also take it and use it in the camper trailer if needed so I think it is better value at the moment for us, not to mention $1200-00 cheaper.
    It was good to get all the mail (and there was plenty) as we have bought a few things on Ebay, as well as getting Alex's last schoolbooks. I did a trip to Bunnings and did a grocery shop before heading back to find the family. While I was gone Chris and the boys had been out looking for somewhere for us to camp for the night. They had two options which we looked at. We ended up in a carpark, directly behind the wall of the Richmond Gaol. What a spot. On the Coal River, a 1 minute walk into the main street complete with a brand new toilet block close by. I thought we may have been kicked out but I was talking to the old lady who lives next to this carpark and she said there are always vans here and they are very welcome. We even had free electric barbecues and tables not 50 metres from us. Funny thing was for the two nights we stayed there, we were the only campers. I had rung the local caravan park who wanted $36-00 a night for an unpowered site. Two nights in the carpark = $72-00 we can spend in town. Much better value.

    Richmond Richmond Richmond Richmond
    Richmond Richmond Richmond Richmond
                 The magnificent Richmond, the bridge, buildings and our campsite

    Now Richmond is one of the nicest towns we have visited yet. Historic, beautifully restored with heaps to see and do. Because it is so close to Hobart it is a very popular spot for people to come for the day. Sunday 6th (the day we spent looking around) the place was humming. People everywhere, coffee shops full, tourist attractions busy. This is a happening place. The locals are concerned because the Sorrell Council (only 11 kms away) has just opened a new free camp in the middle of town and they feel it is a bit quieter here than in the past because of that.We dropped in and had a look at what is provided.
    A council provided dump point
    The camp ground is OK for a night's stop over but the dump point and water filling station is the best we have ever seen (see photo) but there are no toilets at the camping spot. Maybe they are on the drawing board.  Richmond has a huge park behind the football grounds very much in the middle of town, but well away from any houses. If they built a toilet block, even go all the way and put in coin operated showers and advertised it as a free camp, this place would go off. As it is, there is plenty of places to pull up stumps, right in the middle of town and there are No signs telling you not to, and you would be left alone. It is a town with a really nice feel about it. Richmond is without a doubt the place to stay around here.

    Our day was filled by visiting the old gaol, doing the huge maze, walking the streets looking at the beautiful old buildings, including one that was the old morgue that is now someone's house. I am not sure I could do that. We walked over and under the Richmond bridge, visited a few churches, a hundred shops, a few cemeteries  and Chris took a million photos. The sky was clear and it was bloody hot. In fact it was so hot I was complaining and had to take my jeans off and put my flowery shorts back on. I must say I do look very out of place in Tasmania with those pants on. They are just not into the tropical look down here, probably with good reason, it's not tropical.

    Tesselated paving Tesselated paving Tesselated paving The dog line
                      The tessellated paving and the dog line at Eagle Hawk Neck.

    Monday 7th we headed out of town, passed through Sorrell as I said above and then headed down the Tasman Peninsular to Fortescue Bay campground. On the way you pass through Eagle Hawk Neck and the historic dog line and officers' quarters. When Port Arthur was operational escaping was obviously high on the prisoners' minds. Many did try and because of the geographical lay of the land they could either swim out to sea (not really an option) or try to cross Eagle Hawk Neck. This isthmus is only about 300 metres wide and to try and foil any prisoner escape attempts there was a military presence as well as 14 bad tempered dogs in a line across the isthmus as well as out into the water on floating platforms. A few prisoners did manage to get past the blockade but were usually caught not long afterward. The officers' quarters are still standing and have been converted into a very interesting information centre complete with a very good recorded audio of attempted prisoner escapes. It is really well done and worth a stop. We also visited the tessellated rocks which are a geographical phenomenon that resulted in the rocks along the beach looking like pavers. Very interesting, especially as they had information boards explaining exactly how it happens. Still only early in the day so we still had time to push on to our next destination.

    Fortescue Bay Fortescue Bay Fortescue Bay Fortescue Bay
                Fortescue Bay National Park with a few kids also on the road

    We had visited Fortescue Bay a few weeks ago while on the yacht and it was on our 'must come back to' list. There is a 12 km dirt road to get into the camp area but it is in reasonable condition. The outlook from this campground is hard to beat, as are the coin operated hot showers. There are good pit toilets, water on tap and once back on the Tasman highway you are only 4 kms from Port Arthur, all for $13-00 a night. We booked in for 2 nights and extended to three. Our first day was overcast and raining so that became a school day and then Wednesday we finished off Port Arthur (along with a P&O cruise ship, 2 primary and one high school excursion - great timing) and visited the Saltwater Coal Mine that is about 20 kms away. This coal mine was connected to Port Arthur and if you were very badly behaved they sent you to do the underground mining. The prisoners lived at the mine in conditions that made Port Arthur look like a holiday camp. Even the kids from Point Puer where not spared and were sent to work in the mine. The story goes that the kids were locked in the underground mines overnight. It is impossible to imagine how a 9 year old kid would deal with that sort of treatment and abuse. Alex and Harry think the world has ended when they have to do the dishes!!! On our way back to the car Harry stops on the track for a pee and notices something, to quote him, ' sitting on my willie'. He looked a bit concerned so I thought I best be responsible and have a look. Well bugger me he had a 'tick on his dick'. So here we are in the middle of the track, Harry with his pants down, me on my knees trying to remove the offending critter. Thank god no one came past. That would have taken a bit of explaining.

    Thursday 10th we woke to a slightly drizzly day, we packed up and headed towards Hobart in the rain. On the way poor Harry was busting to do a pee and I was ignoring his pleas to stop. A while later he pipes up and says ' If you don't stop soon it will also be raining in my pants'. We laughed and laughed and pulled up straight away. He is one funny little fella. The coming weekend in Tasmania (and I think Vic) was Labour Day so we needed to find somewhere to roost until it was over. We headed to Hobart to get our mail again, groceries and a part for the generator and then move on to the far south and to Cockle Creek. This was an important destination as it is from here that you do the walk to South East Cape, the most southerly point of Tasmania and therefore Australia. This would be our extreme point number four that we have visited, now only leaving Cape York to complete the full set.

     Cockle Creek Cockle Creek Cockle Creek Cockle Creek
                                   Cockle Creek - Finn's Campground

    Hasting Cave Hasting Cave Hasting Cave Hasting Cave
                    Hastings Caves - some of the best we have seen in Australia

    We drove through some beautiful little seaside towns (that we will revisit on our way back up) and camped at Finn's Beach campground, only a few kms from Cockle Creek. Friday was a little overcast so the kids did some school work while I did some maintenance (see Dickhead of the Year 2011 at the end of this month's entry). The cars, vans, tents and boats just rolled on in by the hundreds. I had no idea where they would all fit but they did seem to all disappear into the bush.
    This is a very pretty and very popular fishing area for people living in and around Hobart and really not the place to be on a long weekend, but you have to be somewhere!! We had a great spot, ocean view with only 3 other tourists, all doing the same thing, staying put until the long weekend was over. In the afternoon we headed down the road and visited Hastings Caves and thermal pool. What a find this was. For $60-00 we got a fully guided tour of the cave, disposed of our rubbish and all had hot, untimed showers. It was worth the $60-00 just for the showers. The cave tour was amazing; I think they are by far the best caves we have seen so far, and we have seen a few around Australia now. The formations where not only largely intact (unlike a lot of other caves in this great country) but so plentiful it was hard to know where to look. They are wet caves and were recently voted the best tourist caves in Australia by some caving organization. Whether you are into caves or not, these are not to be missed.

    South East Cape South East Cape South East Cape South East Cape
        South East Cape - the most southern point of Australia and our 4th extremity

    Steep Point- WA Cape Bryron South Point- Victoria South East Cape-Tasmania
     Steep Point - WA, Cape Byron - NSW, South Cape - Vic, South East Cape - Tasmania
    Four of the five extremities visited so far- Cape York, the only one missing.

    The weather cleared on Saturday (as predicted by the Bureau) to be magnificent, blue skies and hot, so hot it actually reached 29oC. We set off as early as we could (1030) and did the walk to South East Cape, the most southerly point of Tasmania and Australia. This was a walk in the park compared to South Point in Wilson's Prom and only took about 5 hours return. The walk was diverse, fairly easy with plenty to see on the way. We stood at the absolute backside, rectum, anus or just plain bottom of this continent and gazed out over the Great Southern Ocean towards Antarctica. We took a thousand photos, wondered how many people had seen 4 out of the 5 extremities and headed back. We then headed back to Hastings Caves and the thermal pools for a swim in the spring fed pool (30oC) and then another hot shower, that was not as hot as yesterday's, still it was a shower. Sunday we decided to stay put as we thought the countryside may still be busy because of the long weekend. The boys did some schoolwork while I did some washing and a few more minor maintenance jobs. Then in the afternoon we did a quick drive into Cockle Creek to get some more water and check out the end of the most southern road in Australia. On the way we saw a group of people looking at something big that was up on the beach. Being a bunch of old Mrs Jessops we stopped to also have a look.
    elephant seal
    An elephant seal was having a little rest, although some of the many vets/ marine biologists/ experts on everything that were standing around said he may be sick. How did they even know it was a male?? This thing was bloody huge. So big that I thought it was a beached whale. These things can get to 3 tonne when fully grown. The rangers had a bo peep and called in a vet (a real one this time) who checked him out. We are not sure of the outcome, hope he (is he really a he) is OK. Back to camp with me heading off in search of more firewood. If there is one thing the local Tasmanians do well it is fires. Man alive they have big fires, and I mean big. The ones around us would have had their timber stacked at least 6 ft high and the things were roaring. There does seem to be endless wood so why not. I found myself down a small track in an area where they were logging plantation timber. They get in and take every single thing out, and then bulldoze what is left. Out came my little chainsaw and enough wood collected for a few sensible QLD sized fires, not bonfires. Taking the chainsaw on this trip was an excellent idea and we have used it a lot. For $160-00 from Bunnings it has been worth every cent and is worth its weight in gold. Cutting large amounts of timber with a handsaw is just plain hard work.

    The long weekend was drawing to an end so we slowly started to head north. The first little place we came to was Dover. Alex had a computer lesson for IT (which he really likes) so we found somewhere to pull up. It was the Dover Seafood Works and they had a large dirt carpark, right on the ocean with plenty of room to turn around. They were closed (public holiday) so we had the place to ourselves. We got Alex set up in the van with the computer and his headset and off we went for a walk around. We wandered straight down to the beach and under the jetty running out from the seafood works and there on the pylons were endless huge pacific black lipped oysters. As you can see from the photos they were almost as big as the palm of my hand, and as tasty as. I had about 8, was as full as, and took a few to have later. Then the owner of the business dropped in, we chatted to her for a while and she said we could stay as long as we wanted and use whatever we wanted. We filled up our water tanks and scored four excellent abalone shells, which more than made up for the one I chucked away in St. Helens. They had a pile of abalone shells outside mounded up 5 ft high and it really made me wonder why we went through that rubbish bin in St. Helens looking for the lost shell!!

     Eating oysters Plenty for all Good size Alex doing his lesson
                   Dover - oysters a-plenty for me while Alex works his guts out.

    I asked the lady if they go down and eat the oysters from under their jetty. She looked at me with a strange look and said why would you eat those when you can have abalone or crayfish?? She said she had never seen anyone eat the oysters. They are a strange bunch down here. We then headed 30 kms inland to the Tahune air walk. This is a suspended tree top walkway that is 600 metres long and 20 metres high, and at the end is a cantilevered section that is 48 metres high. This is an amazing piece of engineering and is fairly similar to the one in southern WA at the giant tingle trees. Then the walk continued to two very long suspension bridges, which crossed the Huon river and the Pickton river. Chris looked less than impressed with the way they swayed back and forth but did manage to complete the both the air walk and the bridges. She was very pleased with herself. The boys of course thought it was a hoot. There is also a very long and very high flying fox that you can ride down the hill but we were running out of time and still had to find somewhere to spend the night so that one will have to wait until next trip.

    Tahune skywalk Tahune skywalk Tahune skywalk Tahune skywalk
                         The Tahune skywalk - 48 metres above the forest floor.

    We then headed back to Port Huon and found a spot in the camp in the middle of town. These small communities have a great system. These camps are on council land with council supplied amenities but the money collection and all the money goes to a community organization. In Port Huon the money goes to the yacht club, in Franklin the money goes to restoring the 100 year old theatre. It is nice to see your $8-00 a night fee/donation going to something worthwhile. These camps have toilets, fresh water and dump points and are absolute waterfront. We had a fire, Harry fished and Alex sat inside and did a bit of school work and journal. This is a very pleasant, stress free way to live your life. Tuesday we spent most of the day in Geeveston checking out the Forest Heritage Centre where we bought a lovely framed lino cut picture of a platypus. We all loved it, the artist was just a nice bloke who is very passionate about his work and it will make a nice keepsake of our trip to south Tassie. After lunch we ventured another 10 kms to Franklin. This is another beautiful town perched on the side of the Huon River.

     The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre
    The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre The Wooden boat Centre                    
                         The Wooden Boat Centre - Franklin. This is a must visit.

    It is a well known town thanks to the 'Wooden Boat Centre'. This is a business that builds huon pine boats and conducts courses in building wooden boats. The courses vary in length from 7 weeks to build a 10ft Foster clinker dinghy to a two year certificate course in wooden boat building. It is a very interesting concept. First they find a sponsor (someone who wants a large huon pine boat built - maxium length 38 ft) and then they look for certificate students. This is the clever bit. The sponsor pays for all the materials so that the organization does not have to fork out any money, then they charge the students $1,000-00 a month to do the course. There are 12 students for each course. The students' fees pay the two full time shipwrights who teach the students, and together they build the boat. This way the students see and participate in the entire process from the start to the launching of the boat. This is also interesting. The average age of the two year certificate student is 50 years old. They retire, the kids have grown up, or are looking for a change in direction and they can now afford the cost of doing the course. On top of that the students have to find their own accommodation so it is a rather expensive but very unique experience. The current boat they are building, which will be finished in two months is a 38ft cruiser, completely huon pine, bow thrusters, 90hp John Deere diesel and plenty of electronics for $700,000-00. For a huon pine, hand crafted quality, +++ luxury boat I think it is pretty good value, if you have the cash. Remember it will take nearly two years to build.

    Southern Tasmania
    The lovely lady at the wooden boat centre did offer their carpark for us to set up camp for the night but we declined her offer and drove a few hundred metres to the $8-00 camp in town. It was right on the river, excellent toilet block (about the best we have seen in a free camp) and if you wish you can walk across the road to the local pub and have a shower for $2-00. Next day (Wednesday 16th) it was off to Bruny Island. We dropped into Huonville, went to the laundromat and did a few loads of washing while we walked the streets, visited a Vinnies and a coffee shop. It was then off to Kettering passing through a number of lovely little towns to catch the ferry across to Bruny. As you can see from the map there is a circuit you can follow through Cygnet and onto Kettering. It is in reality only a short trip in distance but a reasonably long trip in time if you stop to take in all the sights. The ferry ride over to Bruny is a short 15 minute trip that cost us $73-00 return for car, caravan and us. The ferry runs every hour and is a well organised affair. It was getting rather late by the time we actually got to the island and needed to find somewhere to set up camp. There are a few options, a couple of caravan parks and a few different national parks camps. Bruny is divided into two main sections, north and south divided by a very thin isthmus called The Neck, only about 50 metres wide. The ferry terminal is on North Bruny but not a lot else. All the action is in the southern end. The first campground is not far from the neck. I pulled into the access road and the caravan fell down a large concrete drain that I did not see as it was covered with grass and weeds. There was one hell of a clunk so we stopped and found one very flat tyre. We were totally blocking the road and I was not going to move one inch as I did not want to destroy my brand new tyre. And yes, Murphy's law, along came a campervan. Sorry, you will just have to wait a few minutes. We quickly got the rim off and the spare on and we got out of their way. The rim had a huge dent in it, about 4 inches, but the tyre and under the van looked fine. Lucky we were going very slow. I was a bit cranky with myself but as you can see from the small sketch (simply trying to justify my bad driving) the angle of the road to the campground was such that the van cut the corner and crunch. We didn't think too much of that campground so moved onto Adventure Bay, where there was an Eco Village we had been told about that does not advertise.

    The instructions given to me (or what I could remember) were to go past the first caravan park, past the second, continue down the dirt road to the end and through the gate. Past the first and second we went, down the dirt road to a dead end. No gate to eco village and no room to turn around. I was having a great afternoon. Only option was to back all the way out, around bends and up hills. The second caravan park we had passed was in fact the one we were looking for. It was a nice set-up, power, water and hot showers for $30-00 a night. It was going to cost us $15-00 a night in the national parks and after the afternoon I had had a hot shower sounded appealing. There were only two other vans in the place but also about thirty police. They were staying here while searching for an American tourist who was missing on one of the walks. By then it was day 14 so there was little chance of finding her alive unfortunately. We set up camp and while everyone was showering I destroyed the peace and quiet by flogging the hell out of the bent rim with a large mallet. Much to my surprise I actually got it back into a decent shape and after a few more hits got it air-tight, no leaks. We will still get the rim replaced but it was an interesting exercise. If we were out in the middle of nowhere and desperately needed it, my panel beating would have got us out of trouble.

    Bruny Island Bruny Island Bruny Island Bruny Island
                                                       Bruny Island

    There is actually very little on Bruny, a few very small shops, a school,  a health clinic, a cheese factory, a fudge factory and not a lot else. It is very pretty and great for fishing but I'm not sure why you would want to live there. On the upside it would be quiet and only about 35 kms from Hobart. The weather was a little overcast but rather pleasant. Day one we visited the Bruny Island Cheese Company, limited range of cheeses but still very nice. Then off to the fudge factory that had a very cute little sales office set amongst the bush complete with an ocean view.
    Dressing up at the Antarctic division
    These guys sell fudge all over Australia and while I am no fudge expert it was rather nice. They sell off-cuts in small bags very cheap so Alex and I spent ages working out which bags were the heaviest, as they were all the same price. Teaching him to be a shrewd buyer, or some might call it being stingy. We visited a berry farm (and attempted to pick our own strawberries), drove south to the very bottom and did the walk to the lighthouse, then visited a few other beaches in the area. Then just on sunset we sat down at the penguin viewing area at the Neck with about 15 other hopefuls, froze our bollocks off and saw zip. The problem was that by the time we left it was so dark that we would have been unable to see the lovely little critters as they made their way up the beach and home to feed their young anyway, so what was the point I thought. It was a busy day but thought we would do as much as we could while it was still sunny. You just never know what will happen in the next 10 minutes in Tassie. Next day we headed back to the mainland. Our stay on Bruny was only short but we certainly saw all that there was to see.

    On the way back to Hobart the tour director again had us stopping, this time at the 'Antarctic Division' headquarters that has a visitor's information centre. It was very interesting, plenty to see as well as an area where you could put on all the cold weather gear. Bugger the Antarctic, I could do with some of that gear here. The kids had a great time and Alex said it was so heavy he could hardly stand up. I would actually love to do a stint in Antarctica and have wanted to for years. I think it would be a hoot. Who knows, one day this might be me, but for real.

    My car Strolling along Tamworth Cadbury
                            A snapshot of our second time in Hobart in a month

    We pottered back to Hobart and set up camp in David and Claire's front yard. Plenty of room on a nice big flat sealed area with power and water very close. Very thoughtful. We are not sure how but we ended up spending a week back in Hobart. For two days the weather was less than perfect so the boys did a bit of schoolwork, but we also managed to get out and about every day. I had a number of things I had to buy and do including get some work done to the car. The engine developed a nasty squeak and an occasional other horrid sound. It turned out to be the fan belt but they also replaced the belt tensioner as it did have some wear. If we were back on the mainland with a Nissan agent on every other corner I would have left it, but in Tassie there is only one in Hobart and one in Launceston and nothing in between. I also had to buy a new caravan tyre rim from the culvert affair, which I am glad to report only cost $65-00 and my pride. I also had to take back the modified square wave inverter that I had bought in Hobart (when I ducked in from Richmond) as it was playing havoc with the laptop charger. It was buzzing and carrying on so I changed it for a pure sine wave inverter. There is about a $150-00 difference but I gave them a serve for selling the square wave one to me so they took $20-00 off. My advice: if  buying an inverter, spend the money and get a pure sine wave. You won't be sorry.

    Cascade Brewery Cascade Breweryth Cascade Brewery Cascade Brewery
                                         Cascade brewery - bloody nice drops

    We also did a tour of Cascade brewery, which was very good, and yes they still allow you into the factory and they still give you a pile of free drinks. We visited the Cadbury factory, and no you cannot enter the factory anymore. In saying that the current demonstration and video presentation is very good. We did the factory tour 13 years ago and I think this is a very good compromise. For $17-00 a family you get the demonstration, video presentation on how chocolate comes to be, 4 x family blocks of chocolate and about 35 mixed snack size chocolates. They still have their big shop with a large range of goodies at a discounted price.

    Another hidden jewel in Hobart is the Old Hobart Gaol. You can only see it via a tour that takes about 1-1/2 hours. It was an extremely interesting tour although unfortunately most of the buildings had been demolished around 1960. Luckily the ones still remaining are now under the control of the National Trust. The church, isolation cells and gallows are still well preserved. Over 30 people were executed on these gallows with the last in 1946. Tasmania has an amazing history, especially convict history. There are plenty of good books that cover the subject well and I am currently reading one called "The Men that God Forgot" that is based on Sarah Island which was where the worst of the worst were sent with the conditions being the worst of all. In fact things were so tough there even the guards couldn't cope, so it was closed down and all the guests of His Majesty were sent to Port Arthur. Hard to imagine things could be worse than Port Arthur. We also visited the Maritime museum which was also well worth a visit and was great to see after we had visited the wooden boat centre in Franklin.

    Mona Gallery Mona Gallery Mona Gallery Mona Gallery
    Mona gallery - is it art? That's up to you to decide, but the building is sensational.

    Now the talk of Hobart at the moment and for the past few months is the new Mona (museum of old and new art) art gallery and museum that opened in January this year. It is situated on the banks of the Derwent River in the grounds of the Moorilla winery. It is owned by a philanthropist called David Walsh. This guy is unbelievably wealthy and made his money, and still does by gambling, as well as owning the winery that we are told is a bit of a hobby for him.  They say he now gambles on-line as he has been banned from most if not all casinos because he wins too often. Down here he is nicknamed the Gambling Wizard. The building cost $80 million and the art is valued at $100 million. Entry is free which includes an iPod thingy that knows your location within this huge underground building and tells you about the art in your vicinity. The art is a mixture of traditional, ancient, alternate, some very left field and some very X-rated. I found (as apparently many do) that the building was the most fascinating part of the whole place. There is an existing old heritage listed building that could not be demolished or changed and they wanted to go underground, four levels underground. To do this they had to underpin and support the floor of the existing building and then excavate under it, through metres and metres of beautiful sandstone to create the most amazing
    6000 square metre building I have ever seen. This really is a  masterpiece. All the walkways and stairs are solid steel sheeting, left to rust slightly, the bare rock and sandstone left uncovered, untreated and unpainted. It is absolutely unbelievable and so much worth a visit, even if you are not into art. If you don't want to drive he even has his own commercial jetty and you catch what I assume is one of his ferries from the centre of Hobart, straight to his door.

    So that was pretty much it for Hobart. It was great staying with David, Claire and Nat and as I have said many times before it is so nice to see familiar faces when you are traveling long term. We had a really good time, plenty of stories, plenty of laughs. Thanks guys. These guys are also caravanners and are well aware of the need to travel light. As a parting gift they gave us the most unlikely thing someone living in a caravan would need. An ornamental umbrella that does not pull apart. Very funny. Wait until you come up to visit us in your van! You could be leaving with a wheelbarrow. Boy did we all laugh, and no, we have not found anywhere to store the bloody thing!!

    Staying in Hobart David, Clare and Nat The umbrella in question Leaving
                       Staying in Hobart. David, Claire and Nat with the umbrella.

    Finally, Saturday 26th we headed off for a huge day's driving (54 kms) to Mount Field National Park. They have a similar set up to Freycinet where they have a campground with a limited number of powered sites. It is a very nice area with toilet block and free hot showers, and what a shower it was. Harry rates it as the best shower in Australia, hot and powerful. The bench-mark is Perth WA and ever since 2006 we have been comparing showers all around Australia to those. I have to agree with him. There is a very good information centre, cafe and gift shop. The weather was absolutely perfect, warm and sunny so we headed off and did the two and a half hour walk to Russell Falls, Horseshoe Falls and Lady Barron Falls as well as the walk through the Valley of the Giants. This is one of the nicest walks we have done for a long, long time. The rainforest is amazing, the moss, lichens, ferns and vegetation, not to mention the 80 metre high trees that are over 400 years old. If you only do one easy walk in Tasmania, do this one. Once again luck was on our side as this area has had rain recently so the falls were flowing with more gusto than normal. Along this walk is also a colony, gaggle, flock, pride or perhaps just a swarm of glow worms. It is uncommon to see them outside a cave but here at Mt. Field you can see them in the rainforest. There were thousands of them and they did make a lovely show of natural fairy lights.

    Mt Field National Park Mt Field National Park Mt Field National Park Mt Field National Park
                   Mount Field National Park - Russell Falls & Lady Barron Falls.

    Sunday it was up at the cracker (0930) and off towards Strathgordon. This place is famous because of the building of the Gordon Dam and the flooding of Lake Pedder back in the 70's. This was the pre-cursor for the fight to save the Gordon-below-Franklin dam project which was squashed by a high court ruling. Some of you may have been protesters back then, with your long hair, hippie beads, free love and a need to protect the environment. On that subject I shall digress on our trip out to the dam. We passed a protest camp complete with a tree sit (a very shonky platform 40 metres up a tree held together with hippie beads and spit) that has been going on at the same site for 5 years. I kid you not. We stopped and wandered in and were greeted by some very well educated slightly alternate but well-meaning protesters who spent over an hour with us showing us all around. I was actually very impressed with their conviction and continued drive to save the 'old growth trees'. Now here is the story, as much as I can get my head around. Tasmania has a very high unemployment rate (up to 1/3 of the working age population in some areas) and logging is a huge industry here. There are plenty of plantation timbers but the State Govt. in Tassie also seems to think that destroying 400 year old forests is a good idea. The problem seems to be that, other than it taking 400 years for the trees to regrow to their original size, clearing also changes the ecology of the area. What exists now is a wet rainforest with a tall canopy created by the tall trees, the stringy barks and eucalypts and then an undercover of sassafras, myrtle, celery top pines etc. and of course all the tree ferns, moss, lichens, animals and insects. When these areas are cleared the ecology changes to a plain dry eucalyptus forest, with no rainforest undergrowth. Whether it will eventually return to a rainforest in 300 years time, noboby knows, and is it worth the risk? The sad part is these forests are being destroyed for wood chip to make paper. I am not all that bright but destroying 400 year old trees and magnificent rainforests for wood chip is beyond comprehension. What I was even more surprised to find out is that some of the companies that have been awarded Govt. contracts are from Malaysia and other Asian countries who have decimated their own forests and would seem are now starting on ours. These protesters are obviously telling one side of the story,  but it is the side I am most likely to believe. Unfortunately Govt's tend to have a short term view on things (like 3 years and getting back into power at the next election) and really only care about the here and now. When these forests are gone, they are gone. The contractors don't even do selective clearing, they clear fell. Absolutely everything goes and only a small percentage is actually used. The 400 year old 'old ladies' of the forest are usually just burnt, as they are eaten out and brittle from old age.

     Protesters Camp Protesters Camp Protesters Camp Protesters Camp
        The protesters camp- It was very interesting and they were very passionate

    There is very little millable timber in them after all those years. They took us to (and we have seen plenty of other areas around Tassie) where clear felling has happened. It leaves a serious mess. Absolutely nothing left except a huge pile of rubble that they eventually fire bomb via a helicopter. Don't get me wrong, I am not a full-on green, pale green maybe, but I do tend to agree with what these people are trying to achieve. They said there have been no major incidents for 18 months now and the Florentine area is still standing, thanks to the efforts of these people. They are trying to get the entire area World Heritage listed as it meets 7 of the 7 criteria (you only need 3 to actually get it) but here is the catch. To get listed as a World Heritage area, the application has to be approved and signed off by the State Govt. first, the same people who are chopping it down. How ironic is that, and guess what, not likely to happen. So the fine line is a battle between employment and the environment. I wonder who will win!! Whether you think they are mad or not, if it was not for the protesters over the past 30 years many parts of Australia would not be like they are today, had it not been for them. For further info on their ongoing fight click here.

    After the protesters it was on to Strathgordon and the dam. Now Strathgordon is a sad turnout. It is a reasonable sized town, almost fully deserted. Chalets, buildings, housing, all empty and abandoned. All in very good condition, just no-one there. This town really only survived during the construction phase of the dam and the hydro plant and has been slowly in decay since then. There are a few homes that house the Tassie Hydro workers, but not much else. It was actually a bit eerie. It looks like everyone just walked out, leaving things just the way they were. Then out of town a few kms is the most amazing dam wall we have ever seen. Alex said it looks just like pictures of the Hoover Dam (how does he know what Hoover Dam looks like, but he is right). This is one very large concrete wall. It is a 192 metre long, double curvature arch dam and is 140 meters high.
    Water from the dam drops 183 m (600 ft) underground into its power station, where three turbines of 144 MW generate up to 432 MW of power, covering about 13% of the electricity demand of Tasmania. The first two turbines were commissioned in 1978, before the third was commissioned a decade later in 1988. There is a great area above the dam wall for viewing and if you are game you can walk down a million stairs and then walk across the dam wall which is a most unpleasant feeling. If you are completely insane you can also abseil down the wall, but because the dam itself is concave, it means that abseilers will not be touching the wall for most of the journey down the face, when making the 140 metre descent.The dam is several metres higher than the Sydney Harbour Bridge (134m), and holds back thirty times the amount of water in Sydney Harbour itself (12.4 million ML).

    Gordon River Dam Gordon River Dam Gordon River Dam Gordon River Dam
                  The Gordon River Dam - check out that roller coaster. No way!!

    Now without a doubt, the freakiest roller coaster I have ever seen is here at the dam wall. Used  by maintenance crews this tin carriage descends on tracks over the edge of the rock all the way to the bottom, pretty much vertical, hanging by a steel cable. There is no way in a pink fit you would ever see me in that thing. It freaked me out, just looking at it stationary. If you have a bit of a bent for engineering and like heights, this is the place for you. Put it on your list of places to see.

    Monday we actually ended up doing very little other than washing, coffee and dealing with a few business type issues. The sun was shining and the outlook beautiful. Tuesday 29th we were hooked up again and off to Lake St Clair NP. A lot of the national parks in this part of the world have camping grounds attached that are privately leased out. While they are not as cheap as NP run campgrounds they do have hot showers and pretty good facilities. Seeing you have no other choice, you just pay up, enjoy the power and the hot showers. We arrived late in the afternoon after visiting a few spots on the way. The weather was beautiful but the forecast was not good. Overnight temperatures would be around 1C and there was a possibility of snow on the mountains around here. Welcome to the west coast of Tasmania. Sensational. I am not really all that fussed on freezing. In saying that we have been so unbelievably lucky with the weather so far. We would not have had more than 5 rainy days in the past 2 months.

    The month has again drawn to an end. Car and van going great. I think those that choose to visit Tasmania in tents or camper trailers are braver than we are. This really is a place to visit in a caravan. Fuel is expensive at $1.50 average a litre for diesel and although we are not traveling huge distances we are using a lot of fuel. The roads are extremely hilly, slow and windy. The amount of free camps is hard to believe. To date in 2 months of traveling we have spent less than $300-00 on camping fees. That averages out to be $5-00 per day for the time we have been in Tassie.

    Cost of living is much the same as elsewhere but there are fruit and veg stalls everywhere and cheap as.

    So that is two months down, one to go. If you are planning on visiting Tassie make sure you allow yourself as much time as you can. It is only a small place but it is jam packed with stuff to see. You cannot see it in four weeks, not even six. Eight weeks you would be running, twelve is a good length of time as you can do it at a reasonable pace. The Spirit of Tasmania cost us nearly $1600-00 return so you might as well get the best value for your money and see as much as you can. January, February, March and April are the best times to visit if you are hoping for half decent weather. This is a place where you really can get four seasons in one day.

    Newsflash- Newsflash

    Map of Nhulunbuy
    Now for another little Parfitt newsflash. As some of you know, our life is a work in progress. Things just seem to happen and we go with the flow. If an opportunity knocks, we open the door. Well last Friday an opportunity knocked. We were in Hobart and I checked teaching jobs in NT on the internet. There looking at me was a 'Special Needs' job at Nhulunbuy (Gove in East Arnhem Land) at the high school. This is exactly what Chris (and the rest of us) has been looking for at the location we wanted. Chris quickly put in an 'online application', got an email from the principal on Saturday, spoke to her Monday and was offered the job Tuesday, which she happily accepted. Now that is an efficient Govt. department.
    The timing is 99.95% perfect. Chris had put feelers out for a job there at the end of last year but there were no jobs going. That was when we decided to do Tassie. This way we have had the opportunity to spend three months down here, and we can still do Cape York as planned in July as in the Northern Territory they have 4 weeks off for their June/July holidays. That will give us plenty of time to see what we want.

    Why is the timing not 100%? Well they wanted her tomorrow but Chris negotiated to start on or around the 27th April, just after Easter. We were due on the Spirit of Tasmania four days after that so we have lost almost nothing of our time here. The only slight negative is that Harry and I will have to drive back to Bundaberg with the van without my co-pilot, and then drive up to Cairns where I will leave the car and camper and fly to Nhulunbuy. That way in the June holidays, we all fly to Cairns, pick up the car and camper and head north to the gulf country.

    Chris and Alex will fly out from Launceston on the 25th April to Nhulunbuy. Harry and I will drive up, pack up all the gear we need from Bundaberg and get it shipped up and then take the car and camper to Cairns. Not perfect, but close enough. So why is Chris getting the job and not me? Simply a lifestyle decision. She will get 12 weeks holidays a year, I won't. I can get as much casual work as I want, but just won't work in the school holidays or weekends. We are planning on buying a boat for fishing and am already checking them out on the internet. There are a few logistical issues for us to work out but we are excited. The boys will go to school and are happy about that. We will have a more normal life (I think that's what you lot call it), but still with new surroundings and new places to explore. Yet another chapter about to unfold.

    So that is it. A big month behind us and a big one ahead.

    Until next month.

    Dickhead of the Year 2011

    Now I must tell you that I have made a decision on whom will be 'Dickhead of the Year' for 2011. This year it has been awarded to me. Now for those who know me you will know I love gadgets, wires and gauges. Nearly 10 years ago when we bought the Grand Tourer one of the first things I did was put in batteries and ran heavy duty cables to the car via an Anderson plug, the purpose of which was to keep the van batteries always fully charged. Every time for the past 10 years that we have hitched up (and that has been hundreds) I plugged in the Anderson plug and had a smirk on my face, knowing that those batteries would be nicely charged when we arrived at our destination. Then a few years ago I went even further and bought an expensive battery charger, a pure sine wave inverter, a marine selector switch and wired it all up so that while we are driving I could now charge the batteries via a 3 stage 20 amp charger. How lucky are those batteries. How proud I was of the set up.

    During the past few weeks in Tasmania where solar power has not been so plentiful I have been wondering why the batteries have not been as charged as I thought they should be when pulling in after a few hours driving and charging.

    Well after an hour of detective work I discovered something terrible. Something so terrible that that smirk was completely wiped from my face. Back 10 years ago when I wired it all up I forgot to connect one very important wire, the wire that would  have made the entire thing work. Yes, for 10 years I have been plugging that Anderson plug in and it has been doing jack s*@#t. The look on my face must have been priceless.

    Alex thinks I should be awarding myself dickhead of the decade because that's how long I have been plugging and unplugging, all for nothing.
    I accept this title with pride and can get some comfort from the fact that I discovered it now and not in another 10 years time.