A Travellerspoint blog

Days 17 and 18 - Sydney to Eden

sunny 17 °C
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Having lived the high life, comparatively speaking, while in Tassie, we're now back on the mainland, in our tent and having home cooked meals.

our last view of Mt Wellington from our airport shuttle bus in Hobart

our last view of Mt Wellington from our airport shuttle bus in Hobart

We're in Eden at present. It's just after 7pm, 18' outside with an expected overnight minimum between 9 and 11' depending on which weather app / site we use.  Last night we stayed in Greenwell Point, a little place right on the water a few kms away from Nowra. The town had a population of just 1,276, ie. about half as many people as our uni made enrolment offers to in Semester 1.

Karen drove today because, when I woke this morning, I had a crook neck and back and couldn't turn my head to the right.  I think I kinked something when putting our biggest bag in the luggage hold under an airport shuttle bus in Hobart yesterday morning.  It's not a big deal but is awkward when I need to look over my shoulder while driving.  Karen's driven well but doesn't think much of NSW roads - her quote of the day, "NSW does speed zones like they play rugby league - poorly!"

I must say it's great being back in our own car.  The Hyundai i45 (blasted weather meant we didn't end up with a bike) which we hired in Tasmania was roomy, economical and well optioned but had grabby brakes and under-damped suspension so there was lots of body roll and wallowing on Tasmania's curvy and often bumpy roads.  I'll hire the Subaru next time.

As Karen drove down the NSW coast we noticed distinct differences from Tassie.  The landscape is more open and less rugged, even on the coast.  The forests are more lightly treed and we've seen very few autumnal colours.  As you can see in the photo below, even the animals that we saw today are udderly different to those we saw in Tasmania...except for an echidna which we saw meandering along the roadside.

Cows near Nowra

Cows near Nowra

We had lunch in Bateman's Bay and then continued down the coast-line to Narooma which Karen fell in love with. Even the golf course is beautiful...though that water trap is a doozy!

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We saw the Bodella Cheese factory today, which reminds me that we saw where Blundstone boots are made in Hobart too.

Posted by pkd064 05:35 Archived in Australia Tagged karen april nsw perry Comments (0)

Hints and tips no. 1

3 weeks of learnings

sunny 11 °C
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We've been out nearly 3 weeks now which is long enough for us to have come up with our first few hints and tips for fellow travellers. So here they are in no particular order.

  • If you have any organisational skills then don't use travel agents.  Karen put together our Tassie, red centre and over the top itineraries without agents.  It's not that she didn't try to use them but they were slow / unresponsive and more expensive...and boy have they missed out on some commission!
  • Bottled water is great to have when hiking and when staying in some places like Cradle Mt or Coles Bay as they only have untreated water sources.
  • If you are going to Cradle Mt in Tasmania then get a small freezer bag and buy your food beforehand.  You can keep it all cold by freezing one of your bottles of drinking water. Depending on which direction you are travelling around the isle you can do so in larger stops like Launceston or Devonport or even in smaller places like Stahan.  There is a small shop at the Mt but it's got limited stock and is very expensive.
  • To paraphrase Shrek and Donkey, campers are like onions.  I'll let them explain...

Shrek: There's a lot more to campers than people think. 
Donkey: Example? 
Shrek: Example... uh... campers are like onions! 
Donkey: They stink? 
Shrek: Yes... No! 
Donkey: Oh, they make you cry? 
Shrek: No! 
Donkey: Oh, you leave 'em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin' little white hairs... 
Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Campers have layers. Onions have layers. You get it? They both have layers. 
Donkey: Oh, they both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody likes onions. What about cake? Everybody loves cake! 
Shrek: I don't care what everyone else likes! Campers are not like cakes. 
Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, "Let's get some parfait," they say, "Hell no, I don't like no parfait"? Parfaits are delicious! 
Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Campers are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later. 
Donkey: Parfait's gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet! 

Having an appropriate mix of items of clothing that can be layered on top of each other is both lighter and more versatile than carrying bag upon bag of clothes.  Naturally some of it needs to be wind and rain proof if you are venturing into places like Cradle Mt.  We have some excellent light weight pants that have lower legs that zip off making them double as long shorts for hiking, vests to go beneath rain jackets, ponchos to go over our knapsacks, thermal underwear for sleeping etc. A lightweight polyester liner that rolls up to about the size of your two fists together can add about 8' of warmth to a sleeping bag.  LAYERS!

  • The right selection of sites / apps on a modern smart phone can save you money, eg. there's no need to hire a GPS with your hire car.  You can use TripAdvisor or Booking.Com to get accommodation specials and reviews.  A few games can entertain you when you are stuck in an airport or when your travel companion is asleep.  Others can improve your safety, eg. Motion-X was invaluable in Tassie's forests - preloading the topographical maps and key way points and using its tracking feature meant that we always knew where we were, where we had been, could retrace our steps if necessary and share our location if we had phone signal.
  • Most smartphones support geotagging photos so that when you get home you can have a photo night with your friends...you'll still bore them witless but do it more accurately!

Posted by pkd064 21:22 Archived in Australia Tagged tips april hints Comments (0)

Day 15 - Back to Hobart

overcast 9 °C
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We fly out early on Sunday morning so we needed to get back across to Hobart.  It's only 300km, so we added a couple of detours and walks along the way to make a full day of it.

The drive from Strahan to Queenstown, and at a few other points along our route, was along a VERY winding road.  If it wasn't so damp, bumpy and busy with wild-life (as judged by all the "abstract art" on the road) you'd consider it to be a good motorcycle road.

The landscape around Queenstown is barren, rocky and cratered, a bit like a moonscape.  It's the by-product of mining and acid rain.  Apparently after they'd killed all the plants they began to use some other method...so the acid rain stopped and the plants started to recover...but this newer method used lots of water and they dumped the waste water into the Queen river which feeds into the King river.  The heavy metals in the waste water poisoned both rivers and they're still completely devoid of life.  What a stark contrast to the unspoilt wilderness of the Gordon River.

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A much more natural landscape was waiting for us at Lake St Clair where we took an easy walk along the lake itself.  Although it was a sunny day, near the lake it was so cold that my ear-drums ached!  At 167m, it's the deepest fresh water lake in Australia and was formed by glaciers.  The big rocks that Karen is standing on are "erratics" which were once carried by those same glaciers.

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We stopped to watch the local platypus.  Can you see it in the picture?  Look carefully.

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Can't find it?  Neither could we...but we did get to enjoy the sounds of the lake-side, just wind, waves and, once we started to walk, the sound of gravel under our feet.

Further down the road we stopped at the Mt Fields National Park and walked in to see the Russell Falls and Horseshoe Falls.  This forest looked more like the rain forests up home with eucalypts, trees widely spaced, high canopies and a variety of ferns. There was one BIG difference though, the height of the trees.  Apparently these Swamp Gums are the tallest hardwood trees - and the tallest flowering plants - in the world.  The one that Karen is standing in front of in the picture is 79m tall.

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Horseshoe Falls, Mt Field NP

Horseshoe Falls, Mt Field NP


Russell Falls, Mt Field NP

Russell Falls, Mt Field NP

Mt Field forest

Mt Field forest

The remaining run into Hobart, much of it beside the Derwent river, was uneventful.

Posted by pkd064 15:11 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls trees karen april perry tas Comments (0)

Day 14 - Gordon River Cruise and !

overcast 14 °C
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Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fateful trip,
That started from this tropic port,
Aboard this tiny ship.

No?  Well...would you believe you'll hear a tale
A tale of a comparatively uneventful trip,
That started from this cool temperate port,
Aboard a ruddy great ship?

Although that version is more accurate, it isn't quite as evocative of a certain old TV show is it?

Oh well, we did set sail today, albeit for a five hour tour without any sign of Gilligan or an over-weight Skipper.  Having looked around the guests who came down from the captain's deck there just might have been a millionaire and his wife on board but that's about the only similarity with the fictitious Minnow's ill fated trip.

We had a great Gordon River Cruise with a bonus.

Gordon River Cruise Boat

Gordon River Cruise Boat

One of my goals while in Tasmania was to get to the Southern Ocean.  I didn't expect to do that until the end of our trip when we headed south from Hobart but, today and quite unexpectedly, the Skipper of our Gordon River cruise took us out through Hell's Gate, the entrance to Macquarie Harbour, and straight out into the Southern Ocean*.  I was stoked!

Southern Ocean

Southern Ocean

Karen got a little anxious as we went from the exceptionally sheltered and still waters of the harbour out into the open sea and the boat started to go up and down over the ocean swell.  It's not that she was scared, she just hadn't taken any sea sickness tablets and being out in the swell too long could have made for an unpleasant beginning to what was a highly anticipated day.  Fortunately the swell wasn't large and, unfortunately, we weren't out there very long.

We returned to the safer waters of Macquarie Harbour and then headed for the tannin stained often mirror like waters of the world heritage listed Gordon River and the heart land of the Huon Pine trees.

Reflections

Reflections

It was a great day.  The Skipper provided a commentary that was really interesting, mingled with humour that was a tad irreverent and earthy at times.  The views on the river were magnificent.  We walked through part of a wet temperate rainforest that is widely recognized as the most dense of any forest on the planet.  We breathed deeply in the cleanest air on earth - it's the official bench mark for all pollution measures.  We learnt about salt water trout and salmon farming and why it's so much more successful here than elsewhere.  We strolled around Sarah Island looking at the ruins of one of Australia's earliest penal stations.  We had a great feed on the boat and we even watched a reenactment of the first recorded 'streaker' in Australia.  

Trout and Salmon Farms

Trout and Salmon Farms

Sarah Island Penitentiary

Sarah Island Penitentiary

What more could you ask for in a day?

Strahan Village

Strahan Village

Strahan Village

Strahan Village

* The pedants among you who insist that the Southern Ocean's upper boundary is the 60th parallel can go jump - I'm perfectly happy with Australia's definition.  I got there and nothing you can say will make me untick that item on my bucket list!

Posted by pkd064 21:30 Archived in Australia Tagged me trees boats ocean karen april perry tas Comments (3)

Day 13 - Strahan

semi-overcast 13 °C
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We woke so early this morning that we were greeted by a clear night sky.  The prospect of seeing Cradle Mountain as the sun rose, or of seeing it at all in my case as I missed its one brief peak through yesterday's clouds, drew us back toward the lake despite the fact that we needed to get on the road.

Windscreen

Windscreen

Unfortunately, sunrise was later than we anticipated and we had to leave but we did get a couple of photos from a distance.

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain

The drive down from the mountains was wet, twisty and, at times, the road appeared icy.  We also had to be watchful for wild life who were crossing the road but the trip was uneventful and we got to see some landscape that was different to the eastern coast.  

Ironically, after surviving yesterday's steep climbs unscathed, I slid down a frosty road side embankment today while trying to get some nice photos.  I cut one hand and sprained the other so I hope you like the photos.  For the family members who are reading this, this next photo is sunrise over Vale Creek.  I guess you could say it is a vale view...

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Our destination today was Strahan, a very picturesque port town on the north west coast.  We were particularly looking forward to Strahan (say strawn) as it was / is a two night stay with a couple of activities.

Clouds

Clouds

Clouds too

Clouds too

The first of those was today's trip on a restored steam train over the steepest section of rail line in the southern hemisphere.  The track, connecting Strahan and Queenstown, originally provided a way for ore from Queenstown's mines to be taken over the mountain and dense forest to Strahan's harbour.  The mountain range, too steep for conventional trains to maintain traction, required a new fangled, for its time, rack and pinion system to be incorporated into the track and steam engine.

The train and carriages were beautifully restored with a classic green, red, black and brass steam engine (picture Thomas) and the carriages were lined with magnificent polished sassafras timber with its distinctive black veins.  Ingrid, our hostess for the trip, provided a running commentary about the construction of the rail line and history of the region.  The lunch that was provided had a nice combination of fresh and packaged Tasmanian produce and the occasional stops and bush walks were short, but pleasant.

West Coast Wilderness Rail

West Coast Wilderness Rail

King River Gorge

King River Gorge

West Coast Wilderness Rail

West Coast Wilderness Rail

As nice as the trip was, it was all just a little too slow for our liking.  That said, it was a good way to let our legs recover from yesterday's hike and we got to chat with two couples who gave us some insights into Adelaide and WA.

Tonight we're off to Hamer's, the local pub, for a 2 course dinner that was included with our room.  Meat and 3 veg?  

Posted by pkd064 21:06 Archived in Australia Tagged me landscapes trains karen april tas Comments (0)

Day 12 - Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain

Let's climb....

rain 6 °C
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We woke to the sound of rain but the weather radar, at that time, suggested that we'd get a break, perhaps an hour long, mid-morning so we donned our hiking gear and headed to Dove Lake in the shadow of Cradle Mountain.

The Dove Lake circuit is about 6km long but only takes 2 hours because it's a mix of flat gravel and boardwalk with only a little rise and fall.  It's a beautiful walk with many photo opportunities, even in the overcast conditions, so Karen and I took our time and stopped often. There are many varieties of trees, waterfalls, rivulets, the lake itself and, of course, the mountains which, for most of our walk, we're hiding in the clouds.

Dove Lake

Dove Lake

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Dove Lake

Dove Lake

Inside the Ballroom Forest

Inside the Ballroom Forest

About two thirds of the way around the lake we decided we wanted to do something a little more challenging and get a closer look at the mountains so we branched off the Dove Lake circuit and headed up the slope toward Marion's Lookout and the Overland track.

The sign at the bottom warned us of what was to come...

THE sign!

THE sign!

...what it didn't tell us was how far it was.

The climb was certainly as challenging as we'd hoped.  At times the gradient was almost 1 in 2 and we made great use of our hiking poles and the chains that were installed on the steepest parts of the slope.  Those familiar with contour maps will recognise just how steep the climb is.  For those less familiar, each contour line represents an additional 10m of height and each dark contour line represents 50m of height.  

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We climbed roughly 210m, about 60 building stories, in just 560m of horizontal distance and an hour of concentration and effort.  The pictures don't do a good job of showing how steep it is or how cold and wet it got.  Fortunately our hiking gear kept everything except our hands, and the contents of our backpacks, warm and dry. Click here to see how we felt after we got to the top.

The climb statistics

The climb statistics


The Overland Track

The Overland Track

Coming off the slopes

Coming off the slopes

The hour and a quarter walk down from the summit, on the Overland track, was easy by comparison and took us past Crater Lake, Lake Lilla and the Wombat Pool.  In the end we walked 8.85km in 4 and a quarter hours and saw some amazing views.

The hike statistics

The hike statistics

No point for guessing where on the radar map we are!  It's been like this since we got back.

Where's Wally?

Where's Wally?

Tomorrow we're off to Strahan.

Posted by pkd064 20:41 Archived in Australia Tagged hiking april tas Comments (0)

Near real time tracking

rain 3 °C
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I neglected to mention that during the day we are using MotionX-GPS to periodically capture our location.

That same app is also publishing the last 12 hrs to a personalised channel on a map.

Our channel number is: 11086

View in a web browser

Posted by pkd064 08:07 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Day 10 and 11 - Autumn leaves

overcast 16 °C
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It's been a couple of days of contrasts.  The bays of the east coast vs the mountains of the central plateau; the streets of Launceston v the lanes of historic Ross; a quiet Sunday afternoon vs a thrilling Monday morning.

We left Freycinet on the east coast early on Sunday morning so that we could make it to church in Launceston on Sunday afternoon.  On the way we went to Ross village.  Apparently it was settled in 1812 and has Australia's third oldest bridge.  I'll send a postcard to anyone who can tell me where the older two bridges are - post your answers, and source, in the comments below.

The first thing we noticed though were the magnificent old elm trees that lined the main street.  Their leaves had turned their distinctive yellow and had obviously been falling for days as the streets were lined with gold.  It was a windy day and each fresh gust sent more leaves falling.

Streets lined with autumn leaves

Streets lined with autumn leaves

Then we noticed the buildings, fences and streets that looked just how we expected an early 19th century town to look; sandstone buildings, stone fences and cobbled lanes.  The bridge, finished in 1836, is covered in 186 carvings of Celtic symbols, flora, fauna and (apparently) personalities of the day.  As we returned to the car we couldn't resist the impulse to play in the leaves...

A church in Ross

A church in Ross

Ross bridge

Ross bridge


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A little later we arrived In Launceston and went straight to the chapel.  We were a little early so we waited in the foyer and chatted to others who were either finishing morning church or who had, like us, arrived early for the afternoon meetings.  We met the Prebbles, related to friends of ours from up home, the Barnards who we had last seen in one of our trips to Kingaroy, and Elder Jeremy Atkinson who is a Sunshine Coast boy serving in the Melbourne mission which also covers Tasmania.  He was surprised to see faces from home, looked well and was every bit a missionary.

Our accommodation in Launceston, the Colonial Hotel, was a repurposed old (boarding?) school with rich polished timber reception area and adjoining dining room.  The guest rooms had been recently refurbished and were, in some ways, a bit of an odd mix of old and new but clean and comfortable. 

Colonial Hotel dining room

Colonial Hotel dining room

After checking into our room we went for a short afternoon walk but, rather than strolling the streets, we went to the Gorge.  Yes, Launceston is the first city that we've been to that has a nature reserve with a massive gorge in the city bounds.  We only saw a small part of it but enjoyed a chair lift ride and a short walk among the gardens before, surprise, surprise, it began to lightly rain.

Chairlift view

Chairlift view


Cataract Gorge Suspension Bridge

Cataract Gorge Suspension Bridge

Today, Monday, we checked out early to drop some small treats off to Elder Atkinson, and then headed out to Hollybank forest reserve northwest of town.  With its spectacular trees, grassed lawns, cricket pitches and BBQs it's a popular picnic spot for the folks from Launceston...but we had a less leisurely pursuit in mind.

As we reached our destination we were again greeted by beautiful autumn leaves spiraling gracefully to the ground...but a short while later we were whizzing overhead through the forest canopy like a (fluorescent) SWAT team.  Karen, who's scared of heights, bravely overcame her fear to harness up and join me in a succession of zip line runs among the trees.  At times we were 50m off the ground, doing speeds up to 80kph along zip lines that were as much as 400m long.  Such a rush!  

Holleybrook autumn leaves

Holleybrook autumn leaves

Holleybrook autumn leaves

Holleybrook autumn leaves

Sorry but we can't post any pictures yet as, like most eco-tourism activities, you leave all your earthly possessions behind when you set out and have to buy their photos later.  We don't have anything with us with which we can read the CD. (Update - the photos are now here and have been added to this entry)

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Then we drove across to the central plateau, stopping briefly to sample some chocolate coated raspberries, before we drove the wet and winding road up to Cradle Mountain.  It's currently 4.6' outside but feels like 1 because of the wind chill.

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Posted by pkd064 21:02 Archived in Australia Tagged me landscapes bridges churches buildings trees karen april tas Comments (6)

Day 9 - Hobart to Freycinet

Not a drop!

overcast 15 °C
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What a fantastic day!  Here's the Top 10 reasons why.

1. I'm with Goob
2. We're tripping around Oz

Those two, in and of themselves, are enough...but wait, there's more.

3. We woke up in a motel bed for the 3rd consecutive day (bliss)
4. We had a nice breakfast with really friendly service at Banjo's Bakehouse in Hobart
5. We travelled, under our own steam again, from Hobart to Freycinet (say it as if you are French), via some picturesque roads through Richmond and Swansea
6. Had a lovely lunch in Swansea
7. Went for a taxing but beautiful hike to Wine Glass Bay in Freycinet National Park
8. Had a great dinner
9. Am all snugged up in a nice little cabin

...and...

10. It hasn't rained at all today. That's the first time that we can say that on our trip.

I'm a "give me all the details" kind of fellow, but I know that there are lots of people who aren't so inclined.  I'll tell you a bit more about just a couple of those.

We found Banjo's Bakehouse in Elizabeth Street Hobart when we went looking for breakfast yesterday and enjoyed the food and friendly service so much that we went back this morning.  The same young woman served us so we jokingly said "Hi, we'll have our usual" and she promptly replied ok, rattled off what we'd had yesterday and then asked how our trip to Port Arthur had gone yesterday. She obviously excelled in her "Customer Service 101" class.  We wouldn't hesitate to go back...and may get a chance to next Saturday.

Freycinet National Park is just incredible.  It's effectively two eroded but massive knuckles of pink granite joined by a sand isthmus to make a peninsula that sits in the middle of the eastern coast of Tasmania.  The blue dot marks the spot on the map.  

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Perhaps it's best known feature is Wineglass Bay.  This bay, facing into the Tasman sea and blessed with glorious white squeaky sand, is only accessible by boat from the open sea or by a fairly taxing walk.  Because of that limited access it's in pristine condition.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

The park has lots of bird life and marsupials.  We happened upon a kangeroo who quickly tired of being photographed and bounded off down the track and we also met a couple of pademelons (think of a shorter, thicker wallaby with less hair on its tail), one down at Wineglass Bay and the other almost at the end of our walk. This last was very tame and let himself be patted while he nibbled away on what appeared to be the stone from an apricot...probably a rare treat on the peninsula.

Pademelon

Pademelon

The walk was great.  We set out at 2:15pm with the air temperature about 15' and the sky overcast.  We started at a parking lot, 70m above sea level, and climbed to the lookout above Wine Glass Bay @ 207m above sea level which is about the same final height as Mt. Coolum.  It's a longer walk than the Mt Coolum track but a shallower incline and and took us about half an hour.  After admiring the view and taking a few photos we decided to go down to the bay.  That's a shorter distance but, of course, it goes all the way down to sea level so it's a much steeper hike.  Then, having taken a few photos and checked the water temperature (brrrr) we turned around and went straight back up!

Wineglass Bay Hike

Wineglass Bay Hike

We walked almost right across the peninsular, 6km in total in just under 2 1/2 hours including all our stops, climbed a total height of 412m, descended 448m (we took a different path on the return leg) and, at the worst parts, we were hiking up an incline of 1 in 4.

Resting

Resting


Tasman sea

Tasman sea

Not content with that, we drove up the road to Cape Tourville and did a quick 570m out to the lighthouse and back before the sun went down.

Wineglass Bay from Cape Tourville

Wineglass Bay from Cape Tourville

Oh, and can I say it again?  It didn't rain on us today.

What a fantastic day!

Posted by pkd064 07:22 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes beaches animals ocean mountain karen april tas Comments (2)

Day 8 - Port Arthur

A belated blog post

rain 18 °C
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We've finally gotten a chance to reflect on those days that we hadn't blogged about. First off the rank is day 8 of our trip, in Hobart, where we joined a bus tour.  It picked us up from our motel door and went to Port Arthur via a couple of little towns and geological oddities on the south east coast.

While the towns and rock formations were interesting, Port Arthur itself was the absolute highlight of the trip.

Yes it rained again, particularly when we were on the Isle of the Dead, but that really just added to the atmosphere.  It was such a somber and sobering experience. I won't attempt to describe it any more than that as I really couldn't do it justice but will say that if ever you go, devote a full day to it and the self paced tour with the portable audio guides is worth every cent.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Port Arthur looking toward the guard tower

Port Arthur looking toward the guard tower

Port Arthur Chapel

Port Arthur Chapel

Port Arthur Chapel interior

Port Arthur Chapel interior


Port Arthur Chapel interior

Port Arthur Chapel interior


Port Arthur Penitentiary interior

Port Arthur Penitentiary interior


Port Arthur Solitary Gaol Chapel

Port Arthur Solitary Gaol Chapel

Port Arthur Solitary Gaol

Port Arthur Solitary Gaol

Oh, and on the way to Port Arthur we followed a truck loaded with $2,000,000 of trout and salmon fingerlings that were destined for the farms that we would see later in our trip in Macquarie Harbour near Strahan.

Posted by pkd064 23:25 Archived in Australia Tagged buildings history april tas Comments (0)

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