As I finally get around to writing this blog it is 8/1/16, just over 2 weeks since we left. It’s 7pm and I’m sitting in the shade of the camper at a free camp at Swimcart Beach on the Bay of Fires, on the East coast of Tasmania. There is a wallaby hanging around our camp, I can hear the surf, the beach where we swam for an hour this afternoon is 50m away, and, although the shadows are long, it won’t get dark until about 9pm. Julie is cooking Pizza. We’ve intended to write a few times before now, but was always too busy and the standard excuse could always be “there’s no reception”. Reception in Tasmania is dodgey to say the least. All the way down the West coast there was nothing in the way of reception, not even Telstra. We now have a Telstra phone, one that had a tick for hand held rural reception, and even that hasn’t been great unless you are standing in the middle of town. Perhaps Optus… Anyway to the best of our recollection… It was wonderful to see so many people make their way to the club on the 18th for our farewell drinks. We thought we might have been there by ourselves because it is such a busy time of year. We were so grateful and it was nice to get the last minute tips, advice and well wishes from you all. Preparations continued well into the next week, some things just wouldn’t go right but we weren’t too worried as there would be time after we left if it was essential, and if it wasn’t essential we didn’t need it anyway. Many trips to Bunnings and Supercheap later we were ready to start packing Christmas Eve, after getting the camper back from the auto electrician on the 23rd. Many thanks to Julie’s dad who helped so much during this time, and Taylor, Sarah, Claire and Dan who helped until they had to leave on Christmas Day and finally thanks to Brooke, Kyra and Luke who helped (and Eli for being so good to let them) until we finally got away at 6pm – just 2 hours late. Superb effort guys! The trip to Hilltop for the evening stop with Lynne, Rob, Karen and Wayne was uneventful (OK we got lost once, but we were close) although we were both incredibly emotional after saying our goodbyes to family. We were actually going. We put the camper up in the backyard and enjoyed the evening. We were touched that Vic and Karen dropped in to say goodbye in person. So lovely of you, thank you. After not too late a night we arose and shared a cuppa with Lynne before packing the camper and heading off. Karen and Wayne were already gone as they had to leave early to see family and we would meet them and Rossco that night. We got to the roundabout to get onto the expressway when we heard a tinkle as something fell onto the road – lucky escape! it was the stay for the boat loader that was left on the front of the camper. I parked, Julie walked back to retrieve it and when she came back she found me heaving into the bushes at the side of the road. I hadn’t been feeling well from when we left the driveway that morning – nerves or hangover I’m not sure but I quickly came good. Later I woke Julie as the kayak had come loose and we had to stop in the pouring rain to tie it on again. 583 km and a day and a half into our year long adventure we camped at Tuan Campground (Mt Pilot Chiltern National Park) and were joined by Karen, Wayne and Rossco who would be with us for the majority of our Tasmanian leg. So far our latte bill was only $8.30! The next morning after a leisurely start we were actually first to be packed up!!!! Take a note of the date 27/12/15 because it was the only time we were first packing up the rest of the trip with them :( We all headed down to the boat, we got lost again but were following Karen and Wayne so I’m not counting it. After another latte (it was Melbourne and from a tram station) we surrendered the majority of our gas bottles and boarded the ship to Devonport. It was a smooth crossing and a good time was had by all except for Rossco who didn’t get a lot of sleep in the sleeping deck chair. I have to admit the cabin with the shower (single beds though..) was a great move. Latte bill so far $30.50. The boat docks at 5:50 so it was a very early start. I got my gas bottles back then we had breakfast in Devonport before heading to Burnie for supplies – on a public holiday which meant some attractions weren’t open. We travelled to Table Cape and Stanley where we had lunch and climbed “The Nut”. We dipped our toes in the water at Godfrey’s Beach a beach in our top 100 Beaches of Australia book and ticked that and later Marrawah Beach, where we stayed that night, off the list.
The next day we travelled into the Arthur-Pieman Conservation Reserve and camped near Green Point on Sandy Cape. It’s a great concept. You pay $20 per driver and you can do all the four wheel driving you want and camp free except for a couple of places where you pay camp fees. The money goes to maintain the tracks and conserve the environment. It’s for people who want to drive not carve up tracks. They also have a restricted registration for quad bikes and you can use any registered quad bike there too. The famous Balfour Track is here as well. We stayed a couple of nights at Green Point. Day one here Julie split her head open when she bent down to pick up a peg and head butted the open spare wheel carrier on the camper. Ouch! It’s healed ok now. Didn’t stop her from making some bowls out of kelp and dental floss as the aboriginal people of the area did. Ok, they used some other form of string and considering they wiped out the aboriginal population in the area in the 1830s by putting a bounty on their heads and then the land lay unoccupied for 50 years before miners moved in I don’t know how they knew what they did. But anyway she made some bowls. 31/12/2015 The last day of the year we went for a drive on the beach to see the Sandy Cape light house and miraculously got some reception on my phone and sent Happy New Year selfies to my girls. In the afternoon we swam and snorkelled then had a spectacular west coast sunset that we watched from the beach. That night we were sitting around the campfire with lots of laughs as usual. Poor Rossco had heat stroke and a touch of the flu so he went to bed early. Our campsite was visited by a Tassie devil. It was shy at first but got gamer as time wore on. At one stage Wayne had to move back to take a photo because the devil was too close! We feel very privileged to have seen a Tassie devil in the wild. At midnight the camp about 200m from us let off fireworks. Impressive ones, not like the ones we used to get for cracker night, a pretty amazing NYE all round. 1/1/2016 The first day of 2016 we packed up and headed out of the Arthur Pieman Conservation Area and toward the Pieman River. We bypassed the big wet areas of the Balfour Track to visit the Balfour township – I used my locker and effortlessly dragged the camper up a steep hill with a small scrambly step. It’s probably the only time I’ll get to use it so I had to mention it. It took a little longer than expected so we didn’t reach the Pieman and we laid up next to the Donaldson River where we had a welcomingly cool swim after a hot and dusty day. 2/1/16 Off to ride The Fatman – the ferry over the Pieman River then camped at Strahan in a caravan park. With 20-20 hindsight we should have used the free hot showers at the dock, the free town wifi, bought dinner and done the washing at the laundry then headed to Ocean Beach (toes dipped – another crossed off the list) to free camp behind the dunes. While the caravan park was clean and tidy lots of things hadn’t been repaired and the sites were so small we couldn’t fit the car and camper on the one site. Quite pricey too. 3/1/2016 The next day we stayed around Strahan until after lunch as the others went on an historic wilderness train ride. The town has certainly improved since I was there just 6 or 7 years ago. Its now a lovely little village. We picked up some Huon pine chopping boards and some off cuts of Huon, celery top and King Billy pine – to use to level the camper. The lady wasn’t offended thankfully and told us weren’t the first and it was well suited to it. Later we moved on to Queenstown, a town that looked like it was on another planet when I first saw it 30 years ago with not even a blade of grass in sight. Now there are trees beginning to grow again. Amazing to think that so close to the Wild Rivers where the trees are so thick you can’t even walk the environmental disaster left over from mining killed all vegetation and stopped it growing for years! We had a look at the local footy oval – it is fine gravel with a bare concrete cricket pitch in the middle. Not a blade of grass. A field you’d much rather umpire on than get tackled on! We spent the night at a free camp on Lake Burbury. A beautiful spot. 4/1/2016 Beautiful weather again. Not a single day of rain in Tassie so far. Warm and dry every day, sometimes a bit cool at night. We visited Lake St Claire and The Wall at Derwent Bridge. The Wall is well worth the admission price in our opinion. Our last night with Karen, Wayne and Rossco. Lots of laughs beside Bronte Lake. Glen’s back is really sore – he’s done most of the driving so far and it seems the lumbar support is actually causing instead of preventing the problem! 5/1/2016 Our first day on our own today after saying goodbye to Karen, Wayne and Rossco this morning we headed towards Dunalley, to get seafood, but with all our stops on the way we didn’t get there until after 6pm. Everything closed. Highlights would be picking raspberries and blackberries at Westaway, visiting Mt Field National Park and walking to Russell and Horseshoe Falls. There was a mushroom as big as a dinner plate growing out of the trunk of a tree! Then it was off in search of big trees in the Styx Valley and saw “The Big Tree” at 86m and “The Bigger Tree” at 87m some of the tallest trees in the Southern Hemisphere. We were really packing it in but realise that we are going to have to come back to this part of the world to do it justice. We ended up at the Dunalley Hotel free camp (leave a donation in the box at the pub) and Julie had a local ale (mine was low carb..) and we had dinner at the pub. Blue eye fish for me and chicken parm for Julie – both beautiful! We tried to have a local wine but they didn’t have much as the new stock was coming tomorrow, although the manager had no idea what a Verdelho was. Dunalley was devastated by bushfires just two years earlier but is worth a visit. Do yourself a favour and eat at the pub. 6/1/15 My back is giving me grief so we went back to Hobart early so I could get a massage. We also picked up a new Telstra phone, since the old one had died, and recharged the iPad. It rained while we were in the shops but it fined up soon after to another glorious day. We headed to Raspins Beach for lunch, checked out the Spikey Bridge, Devil's Corner Winery then on to Freycinet National Park. No room there so we checked out Rivers and Rocks free camp, also no space. There may have been room at Friendly Beaches but it was getting late so we opted for $10 a night at Freycinet Golf Club, no facilities. 7/1/15 We tried to get up early, almost succeeded. Decided to spend a second night here as Michelle, a fellow Lapper we met at Lake Burbury told us the penguin tour was worth it. Booked a penguin tour at Bicheno as the first stop, second stop the fish market - no, I didn't pay $145/kg for the lobster… then headed to check out Friendly Beach - looked lovely. Headed into the National Park office and got the good oil. We would visit Cape Tourville Lighthouse - a must see that wasn't even on our radar, Sleepy Bay, good walk, can't swim there, Honeymoon Bay, nice but I prefer the one in Jervis Bay, had a nice swim there, and finally went on a 90min return walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout where all the good photos of the bay are taken. Half the walk is up hill, no flat sections then you look and the other half is all downhill :) Well worth the effort. That night we had our fish, octopus, oyster and prawn feed then headed to Redbill Beach to have coffee and dessert and tick off another top 100 beach. Julie wasn't feeling well but still thoroughly enjoyed the penguin tour. They get so close to you. One actually nibbled on the back of Julie's pants leg. Very special. 8/1/15 Headed to Bay of Fires. Took Elephant Pass and had morning tea at the Purple Possum Cafe - a place where you could buy dry goods by the kg. Just want a little rice or quinoa? Just open the bucket and scoop out what you want. The have rhubarb cake… Latte total now $69.90 Ended up at Swimcart Beach to camp but there are lots of free camps all along the bay. Had a beautiful swim and Julie cooked pizza for dinner. 9/1/15 It was hot early today and a total fire ban was declared. After a swim we decided to check out Bridpoint - another top 100 beach. We went via Binalong Bay, the markets at St Helens, cheese tasting at Pyengana, the Pub in the Paddock with the beer drinking pig, St Columbia Falls, Ralph Falls and Ledgerwood to see the carvings. No wonder it was 8 hours for that trip we thought would take 3! Finished off with a walk along the beach before a lovely dinner. 10/1/15 Our last full day in Tassie :( We got packed up early and headed to Launceston and the National Automobile Museum to pay homage to the great man, Peter (perfect, King of the Mountain) Brock as there was an exhibition there marking 10 years since his death. Of course we had to cross the road and see the monkeys and on our way here to our final Tasmanian campsite we stopped at Anvers Chocolate Factory. We had Belgian waffles - they were huge, I only just finished them, of course I had a real hot chocolate too. Julie ordered berry and chocolate with her waffles and couldn't finish it. Check in for the boat tomorrow is 6am. Leave here 5:30am. Total accommodation bill so far: $45