Tasmania Take 2 Tour: Week 1

Friday January 4 – Saturday January 12, 2019

Days 1-9: Sydney – Hobart

In 2016 Hammer and I visited Tasmania to do some hiking in preparation for our through hike on the Pacific Coast Trail. Unfortunately horrendous bushfires put an end to our plans midway through our second hike of that trip. And since we have another long distance through hike plannned for this year, we thought it a good idea to do Tassie Take 2 road trip in order to complete the hikes we couldn’t do in 2016. And while in Tasmania Hammer was going to run the Cadbury Marathon in Hobart in order to try and qualify for 2020 Boston Marathon.

We left Sydney on Friday January 4th, 2019 and had to get to Melbourne by Sunday night to catch the island ferry on Monday morning. It was nice to get going and feel the freedom of the open road, full of promise of adventure ahead.

We were avoiding the coast during the busy summer holiday period and headed inland through the Snowy Mountains. We made it to the Geehi Campground on the Geehi River just before its junction with the Murrumbidgee River. A favourite spot of ours and very popular with trout fishers. Our first night under the stars in 2019. What a great way to start this new chapter of our lives.

Saturday January 5th, 2019 we woke to overcast skies with a sprinkling of rain. We drove on towards the Victorian Alps stopping at Bright, Mt Bogong and Mt Buffalo. We have so many happy memories of hiking and trail runnning in this area. Today we were just passing through and hoping to return at a less busy time.

By late afternoon we made it to the Victorian town of Wangaratta. One of the wonderful things of travelling, whether it be in your own backyard or further afield is to get a sense of how other people live, even though it may only be a snapshot. Wangaratta has its origins in the Victorian gold rush of 1800s. So the streetscape is shaped by its more prosperous times with a pub on every corner. These magnificent buildings are now home to cafes, hairdressers and clothing stores.

Sunday January 6 and Wangaratta is very quite. Not even the grand Anglican church had any visitors. May have been too early for Sunday service.

This area of Victoria has such an interesting history. We made a brief stop at Glenrowan – a country town where Australias most infamous bushranger Ned Kelly was shot. Photos of him without his even more infamous armour show a picture of a good looking young man who could easily pass for an inner city hipster now.

From Glenrowan we hit the freeway until we reached Melbourne. The countryside looked dry and not very inspiring. We stayed at the quirky Tolano Hotel in St Kilda. The hotel was previously home to the artist Mirka Mora….her artworks and those of other Melbourne artist grace the walls of the hotel.

Monday January 7, 2019

Finally time to get on the car ferry for the 9 hour crossing of the often wild and windy Bass Strait. It’s quite a long and tortuous process to get on board in Melbourne. Slowly inching our way along the St Kilda promenade with the Tasman Ferry in sight. Local commuters were passing by walking or cycling on their way to work while we don’t appear to moving much at all. The queuing process to get on board took two and a half hours. I realise that we could have flown from Sydney to Hobart in less time. Slowly all we were eventually onboard, cars were stowed and we found a comfortable spot to spend the rest of the day.

It ended up being another very smooth and uneventful crossing and we were disembarking in Devonport in what felt no time. It was well after 7pm by the time we disembarked. We learnt from our last trip that its not wise to drive on Tasmanian country roads at dusk, so we stayed in Devonport overnight.

Tuesday January 5, 2019

It felt so exciting to be back in Tasmania. It was beautiful sunny morning in this quite coastal town. We have so many adventures planned and we kicked it off by going for a run around the Devonport shores.

On the road, our first stop today was the west coast town of Corinna to cruise the Pieman River. As we passed through the countryside, the yellowing pastures contrasted beautifully against the clear blue sky.

Pastures soon gave way to impenetrable forests of the Tarkine Wilderness. However the forests seem to be punctuated by access roads leading to mines particularly around Savage River and Waratah. We had hoped to find camping options once we arrived in Corinna as we couldn’t find any advertised online.

We reached Corinna and to our surprise there was not much to the town: a pub and a lodge – which did have a beautiful forested campground associated with it although they do not advertise this. Corinna was fully booked out so our only option was to cross the river on the barge and find accomodation in the next town, Zeehan and then come back on the barge the next day to do the Pieman River cruise. The Pieman River looked very black and foreboding when we crossed. It made me think of the harrowing history of the penal settlement of the west coast of Tasmania. Maybe it was the cool, overcast weather that also added to a sense of foreboding.

We found very little in Zeehan and decided to forgo our Pieman River cruise until the end of this trip. So we made our way to Queenstown where we got the last room at the Queenstown hotel. Not a good start to our Tassie Take 2 tour.

Wednesday January 6, 2019

A cold wind was blowing through Queenstown as we made our way over the mountains and southeast towards Hobart. It was interesting to see how much greener the surrounding mountains were compared to even 3 years ago. In it’s hayday Queenstown was the worlds richest mining town. Hard to believe that some locals want to return to the days of the moonscape when the hills were denuded of any vegetation by the emissions from the local copper mining and refinering operations.

As we were on our way to Hobart earlier then we planned we detoured to Mt Field National Park to do some hikes before the marathon on Sunday. Arriving in late afternoon it was too late to hike but we had plenty of time to drive out to Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon. Set in Tasmania’s wild south-west wilderness the lakes are Australias largest water impoundments.

But more importantly their creation was so controversial that both names are synonymous in Australia with an awakening of an environmental consciousness. It was a 150km from Mt Field NP on a road that dead-ened at the Gordon River Dam. In the late afternoon light the rugged mountain ranges were silluetted against a darkening sky. There is something admirable about the engineering skills that created this hydro electric scheme in such a challenging environment. But the loss of species and habitat that resulted, no amount of human skill will ever repair or replace.

We made it back to our campsite at Mt Field just on dusk. The silence of our campsite was occassionaly broken by low-flying helicopters passing over, carrying water buckets. We later found there was an active bushfire not far from Maydena, a town we passed on our way out to the dam.

Thursday 10th January, 2019

It wasn’t long after waking this morning that we realised that our plan to hike the Tarn Shelf trail had to be put on hold. A peak outside the tent showed we were enveloped in low hanging mist with morning temperature in low single digits. Ever hopeful, we broke camp and drove out to Lake Dobson near the trail head. It was a really nice drive through a misty forest to arrive at a shrouded windswept lake. And it was freezing cold outside. Our hike was put on hold and we decided to head to Hobart a day earlier then planned.

We spent a very relaxed couple of days in Hobart before Hammers marathon on Sunday. The weather was incredible, warm days under crystal clear blue skies. We revisited MONA and also the Mt Wellington summit. The weather was so beautiful we didn’t want the day to end.