Tasmania and Gordon Dam

Tasmania!

It’s been a very long time since I had time off from work. Longer still since I had a holiday. I’d booked a few weeks to myself just to be on my own to create. Matt managed to land an excellent new job however, which started around the same time. This left him with a week off to coincide with mine. We’re looking to head to Canada and the USA in a few months so we figured why not test things out with a short trip! We headed to Tasmania on Saturday morning, after Matt took me out to check out Lemurs at Australia Zoo for my birthday!

Saturday – Australia Zoo and Lemurs!

Lemurs are great. They’re an example of how independent evolution can change a species in isolation. We share a common ancestor, but they evolved independently on a tiny island with few natural predators while our primates elsewhere had to slug it out more, leading to us. Its an oversimplification but I like to think of lemurs as an example of what we might be if we were more innocent as a species.  They live in hierarchical female-dominated groups (called “conspiracies” haha), but the three we met that morning were a group of males, dominated by this one dude called Vatobe. The greedy shit is the one in all the photos I have depicting food. Very cute.

 

Matt and Vatobe

Tiny black fingers and hungry little eyes

Sunbathing Leem

Sunbathing after breakfast

We wandered the park for a bit afterwards, checking out more of the lemurs on a new enclosure that’s been set up for them, before heading back to Brisbane for afternoon tea at Yardbird and dinner with the folks. I was so full that I woke up the next day still feeling overstuffed.

Sunday –  Hobart to Cygnet via Tahune Forest

We were up at 4AM to catch an unnaturally early flight. On the upside we got to nap a bit on the way down and our window faced away from the rising sun. It was fun seeing the coast recede as we travelled over the strait. We landed in Hobart at around 9:40AM. Baggage collection was a dogs breakfast so I waited outside soaking up the aggressive cold. In time our battered luggage rolled out on the carousel and we scuttled through the rain to pack it into our hire car. Having a CVT vehicle at home, Matt was bewilderingly excited to be driving a manual for the week.

Flying in to Hobart, Tasmania

Flying in to Hobart. So gloriously cold!

We thought we’d head up Mt Wellington on the way out of town. Reading distances on maps is quite confusing, as everything is much closer than it appears compared to the dots on the continental map I’m used to. The little island makes up for it by having some of the bendiest and narrow arterial roads that prevent you getting to the speed limit even in good weather.

It was an hour or so to drive from the airport through Hobart to Mt Wellington, owing largely to stopping off along the way to pick up necessities (Coffee at Pilgrim Coffee), supplies (chocolate) and lunch (Burgers at The Standard).

Mount Wellington

The drive up the mountain was surreal, albeit shorter than we hoped. Low density housing most of the way up the hill. When you’re used to property moguls screwing up the identity of everywhere they’re allowed to go, it really is a treat to see homes in a lovely area that seem to be part of sustainable communities. Cold ones too. We were stopped about halfway up the hill due to road closures. Ice for days apparently. We snapped this photo before heading on our way.

Mount Wellington

This is as far up Mt Wellington as we were able to travel. The road to the peak was closed off for the whole week we were there due to snow and ice on the roads. Next time.

We turned around and headed back down, taking a twisty route on the way to Tahune to visit the airwalk. It started raining at around an hour or so into the wilderness and we hopped out after a bridge in the middle of what seems to be a logging area to test out raincoats and jackets. Glorious! The Huon river was flowing at an amazing pace as well, with water stained brown from tannins in the surrounding trees. Its interesting how different that looks from the sediment we’re used to with the brown snake in Brisbane.

Southwood Rd Bridge over Huon River

Crossing the Huon river on Southwood Road.

The Huon river flowing

Getting us lost in bat country

Having crossed the river and starting to love the cold remoteness and quiet of it all, we thought we’d follow the GPS down one of the many backroads that run through the area like veins. The path we were taking didn’t have any joining roads until it met back up with the road again, so we thought we’d just follow it where it took us until we were back on Southwood Road. We saw some interesting stuff. Burned out cars in a pit were not an expected sight.

Burned out cars

Naturally, within five minutes we were lost as shit, though it took us about twenty minutes to found this out. Turns out google maps doesn’t worry to tell you what roads join up with yours when you’re planning out a route unless you have reception as you pass them. Good stuff. Matt had the whole of Tasmania downloaded, so I navigated us back to the main road using his phone.

Matt driving

It added an hour or so to the journey, but the driving was fun and we still arrived in time for the Tahune airwalk, though barely.

Tahune Airwalk

Our muddy car

The whole car was covered in mud at this point. Matt was very proud. The wetness of the week washed everything away before we had to fret about running it through a car wash. though

Below the airwalk

Entrance to the airwalk

The entrance to the airwalk. We arrived right at the point where the park entrance was closing. Along with the weather this meant that the whole area was mostly empty. It was really serene.

Entering the Airwalk

Tahune Airwalk

A wishing tree?

Twenty percent of a wishing tree, with zero percent of contributions going to the Make a Wish Foundation without a ladder and a broom.

The Huon River from the Airwalk

The flowing Huon River as seen from the end of the airwalk

Kissies

We had a snoop around on the way out. If we’d arrived a few hours earlier we could have gone on a few of the walks around the place. Another thing for next time! We did take a brief wander along a few of the trails for a bit.

Cygnet for the night

We headed off on our way to Cygnet, driving a path around the egg islands and stopping off at a bottle shop at dark to see what local beer and cider they had on offer. I hadn’t realised that one of the effects of living in Queensland all my life is that you orient yourself to the shoreline in the east. There were shorelines in all sorts of directions wherever we went in Tasmania and hugging the coast as we did for a few days gave me the first sensation I’ve felt of being surrounded by sea.

We got in to our B&B, Elandil, just after dark, leaving us without much hope of a decent dinner in town, save perhaps the IGA we drove past on the way in. After saying hello to the owners and their two poodles we got a recommendation for a counter meal and headed in to The Commercial Hotel, which was cosy and amazing. We took a short walk up the main road of town, silent with everything closed for the night.

Swift Parrot

It seems like a lovely community and we were sad thinking we’d have to head off so early in the morning if we wanted to keep to our schedule. We should come back there and meet people for a day. We headed back to our cosy fireplace at the B&B, making an effort not to hit any pademelons on the way in or out.

Monday – Cygnet to Port Arthur via the Grandvewe

I’m surprised they had room in the fridge for all the breakfast they served us at Elandil. There had been fruit and cakes waiting for us when we arrived the night before but a three course breakfast followed that. I could post my hasty photos, but the owners let us know that people had been asking for photos of the breakfast on booking sites for a while, so they’d photographed ours! After we were done, they took us for a walk around their back yard, which contains a sizeable chunk of forest filled with ferns and trees, bisected by a creek.

I’d have more photos but we were talking with Rob and Ailsa for the whole walk and forgot. They have a gorgeous little wonderland back there. Rob built a bridge across a section of creek where we ended our wandering.

After heading back to the house so Matt could have a quick look at fixing their wifi, we were on the road and hugging the coast on the loop down and back up to Hobart, to pass through on our way to Port Arthur. We had a few spots to stop off at on the way, though our first detour wasn’t scheduled.

After a short while on the Channel Highway, I put us on a detour through Abels Bay to keep us next to the coast. From there we visited the three or four roads that constituted “Eggs and Bacon Bay” before heading back up to meet the Channel Highway once again. Before we reached there we stopped off at a little outcrop that looked interesting just before Mickys Beach and went for a short walk, following the path until it eventually eroded into the sea.

Eggs and Bacon

Cheesy lunch

We dipped down and around on the highway, eventually heading back up with the coastline to the east, and came to the Grandvewe cheese farm. It was so blustery on the drive up the road we felt as if we’d blow over, which made it odd that it seemed farmers had chosen that day in particular to do some back-burning.

grass burning on the way to Grandvewe

Grandvewe

A view of the bay from the main building. The veranda area is where we had lunch.

Grandvewe raise sheep and create cheese from their milk, as well as running a distillery. They use sheep whey in the creation of some of their alcohol, which is rather novel. They even have a liqueur for which it is the base, though the short expiry date kept me from buying any to take home. Matt picked up a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of vodka though. We stayed for lunch and had a little platter of cheeses with some amazing pinot paste as well as some of the densest macaroni cheese I’ve ever had.

Driving to Port Arthur

Made a very small stop to look at the ocean and encountered a bird. Wasn’t hurt. Pretended to be. Matt foiled its plans before I could get to the car to give it food. Well played, birb.

Continuing on our way we came upon the Devil’s Brewery. I’d been hoping to visit a few breweries while we were down but it seems I chose the least impressive as my destination. Upon arrival we realised we’d actually arrived at a novelty shopfront inside a train carriage. Very tourist trap kitch. They had some mulled cider there to try though which was quite a treat and after buying a pack of their Pale Ale I found it grew on me pretty quick!

Devil's Brewery

We headed through Hobart and along the Tasman Highway and then the Arthur Highway, crossing a bridge at Dunalley. We stopped just before Port Arthur near Eaglehawk Neck and took a gander at the Tessellated Pavement.

Cold Matt

Matt getting snuggly with the less windy side of a street sign. Should have brought the gloves buddy.

Tessellated Pavement

A view of the stone formation that makes up the Tessellated Pavement

Tessellated Pavement

A photographer takes photos down on the rocks. By the time we got down there it would be dark though, and it was frigging cold.

We stayed at the Fox and Hound lodge, which was cheap, but more to the point looked cosy. It largely looked cosy because of the lodge where you could hang out and have drinks and dinner. When we got in though, our room turned out to be pretty run down and old. I had an uncomfortable time in the bathroom considering whether to deal with an unwanted guest. There was bug spray under the counter, though I think it may have predated the building of the room.

We scarpered in to Port Arthur away from the gloom seeking dinner, however this turned out to be a very poor idea. We went somewhere called Lucky Ducks, which had all the charm and character of a catering kitchen in a demountable, witht he pricetag of a restaurant in central sydney. The chicken parmy was a sad, sad, expensive time. We headed back to our room at the Inn to process some of our now oversized hoard of beer and cider collected over the last few days and went to bed.

Tuesday – Port Arthur to Strathgordon

It was raining when we woke up. I scuttled down to the edge of Stingaree Bay behind the hotel to snap a photo.

Rain at Stingaree Bay

Then we headed in to Port Arthur.

 

Inside the Penitentiary

Inside the Penitentiary

 

 

Two stacked prison cells. The two bolts in the wall held the ends of leather straps that ran the length of the room to construct a sort of hammock bed. The plaques in each cell described a prisoner held there. Very claustrophobic and dark with no windows facing out.

 

A book preserved in the central room of “The Seperate Prison”, where convicts were kept in isolation.

 

Courtyards extend radially from the central structure of the Separate Prison. Split in to three segments a piece, these paved yards were used to exercise prisoners for the one hour each day they were allowed to leave their cell. The wall between each yard is deconstructed here showing the entrance to each.

 

The Chapel of the Separate Prison. Each of the pew sections are designed to hold a single standing prisoner, blinkered left and right, top and bottom by walls. Nightmarish design.

 

Entrance to isolation cell at Port Arthur Separate Prison

One of the courtyard sections lead to this doorway to a light-proof sound-proof pitch black chamber.

We explored maybe 10% of the settlement before we had to head off. The drive to Strathgordon was the longest we had planned on the trip and it was our hope to arrive early enough to see the Dam before sunset while taking in some of the scenery on the way. We’d intended to check out more of Eaglehawk Neck on the way out but decided against it for expediency. We headed back up, stopping at Dunalley for some awesome pies and then venturing across the north of Hobart. We did stop in there at a supermarket near MONA, to pick up some bread and butter in case we arrived too late for a meal at Strathgordon. A place that remote might not have a lot on, especially midweek in the winter.

Continuing on, we realised at one stage we were passing through a huge set of hop fields, though they were all harvested before the winter.

The drive to Strathgordon

Travelling on we ended up on the only road to Strathgordon. It was built with the singular purpose of providing access to the Dam and the town of engineers that once lived there to build it. The view on the way in was spectacular, ranging from wide flat vistas of grassland scrub to dense ancient forest. There were a number of bushwalks along the way and we absolutely must go on all of them next time we’re nearby.

Having realised we wouldn’t arrive before the sun was setting, we opted to stop along the way on one of the hundreds of tiny roads that each stretched a short way into the wilderness from the road. We drove up a short hill and parked the car upon seeing that the path in was waterlogged. Probably best not to get bogged on a road with no reception and no traffic near sunset in 1 degree weather.

Service road on the way to Strathgordon

Service road on the way to Strathgordon

Wandering down the path towards the waterlogged area, Matt noticed a break in the trees, maybe 1x1m in size.

service road near strathgordon

The path leading further down the service road.

Clambering through we found a mossy glade with a boulder six metres high. The photo doesn’t do justice to the thing. Everything was so quiet and soft.

 

Heading back out and down the road to see where it lead, we realised that of course the paths are there to allow access to check on the many towers that carry power away from the hydroelectric dam.

It poles

We headed back to the car and drove carefully down the embankment to the road again, avoiding the log partly obscuring the path without skidding out. We resolved to stop again on the way in though. So much hidden wonder and it was a shame to have matt keeping his eyes on the road the whole way in. We stopped off a few minutes down the road when we came to the mountain vista you can see below. We also saw swift parrots! In my frantic effort to take pictures I didn’t check my camera mode and realised later that all I’d taken were selfies. Good stuff.

 

After this, we made haste to get to the Pedder Wilderness Lodge before sundown. We managed it (just!) and had a huge delicious dinner there with steak and wine, before sneaking down to the pier in pitch darkness for a few beers before bed. There were pademelons wandering all over the place wherever we went. Good stuff. We may have been sharing the lodge with one other guest, but the whole time we were there the only people we saw were those working there. Need to come back and spend a week!

Pedder Wilderness Lodge at night

Wednesday – Strathgordon Dam to Hobart

I think we got the swing of it by day four. We definitely got the most done anyway. We woke early to head out to the Dam after having breakfast at the lodge. It blows my mind the stuff they have available to tourists out this far. I’d been expecting pre-packed sandwiches and other basic faire but outside of Port Arthur things were consistently fantastic. I feel like a tool taking photos of meals so I only have a few. I should have taken a photo of the dinner the night before. Probably one of the more expensive meals we’ve purchased, though the bottle of wine may have contributed to that.

Breakfast at Pedder Wilderness Lodge

Breakfast at Pedder Wilderness Lodge

A chunk of the view from the lodge, including the little pier that we hobbled out onto the night before in the dark for super chilly beers 🙂

After breakfast we went to the lobby to check out and have a look at some of the displays they had set up there to teach people about the dam project.

A cross sectional diagram of the dam design. I desperately wish we could descend and visit the power station.

Gordon Dam

It took around half an hour to drive from the lodge to the dam at the end of the road. There is actually another smaller dam which we were told was well worth vising, however like a lot of things on this short trip there just wasn’t time to get to it all. Approaching the dam, the wet stone into which the road is carved was reflecting the light almost blindingly. We reached some parking near the end and wandered down.

the road to gordon dam

The view down the road to the Dam. The small structure to the left of the road is a lookout that overlooks the valley and the dam below.

gordon dam vista

Gordon Dam, as seen from the top of the stairs. We said a cheery g’day to an older couple as we were heading down the stairs but the bloke just stared intently ahead. I don’t think the precarious gangways make this the best spot to visit for someone with a fear of heights.

As we were crossing the dam itself, it started to snow lightly through the sleet, casting a rainbow into the valley behind us, which was pretty magical.

rainbow at gordon dam

A rainbow descending into the ravine behind Gordon Dam

A better view into the ravine below from the top of the dam wall.

 

floodgate outside gordon dam

River leading to Gordon Dam. There’s a floodgate obscured by trees to the left that controls the flow.

 

Snow!(?)

It would be an understatement to say that I was keen to see snow. The sound and texture of it is amazing and it makes any landscape look alien. Mount Field, to the north of our route back was seeing snow. We thought we’d drive part-way up to see it on the way back. It meant skipping a bushwalk on the way out but we figured it would be worth it.

Stopping at the Waterfalls Cafe at the base on Lake Dobson Rd however we realised there’s a fee for entry to the road, and a 4WD capable of making it all the way in was also a requirement for entry. So whatever. I don’t want no part of your tight-ass country club. We’ll turn around and head for Hobart. They did have Bruny Island Cheese Beers there though, which I would have tried, but for the high price tag. Figured I’d find plenty of places in Hobart that stock it and that’s where we were headed.

We carried on for a while, stopping in at a small town on the way to snack on the bread we’d purchased. Having parked ourselves squarely between a camp of ducks and a camp of seagulls by the river, we tried to encourage a race war with breadcrumbs as we later departed, sprinkling some out either side of the car.

driving away from ducks

Bye bye duckos

We did intend to go to MONA on the way in. Having stopped in there, we just felt too weary to be doing any higher thinking, so we headed down too the city. Our mission statement was to wander aimlessly for the afternoon.

Exploring Battery Point

Arriving back in Hobart, we sought out a park to unload the car and check in at the Custom House Hotel. I checked in while Matt parked in the rather novel allocated spot you see below.

Our little red car in its designated parking space near the hotel

There was no parking at the hotel itself. Instead there was designated parking out by the docks. Here’s our little red car parked in front of a bloody great icebreaker.

We plonked down our luggage and headed in the most interesting looking direction, which turned out to be Salamanca Market and Battery Point.

Gillie and Marc at Salamanca Market

Gillie and Marc at Salamanca Market

Having no idea the significance of any of the area we were moving through, we explored the Salamanca Arts Centre a bit.

Salamanca Market entrance

Salamanca Market entrance

I actually found a Bruny Island Cheese Co cellar door down this hallway, but didnt go in because A) It looked expensive and I felt like I wouldnt fit in and B) I like to deny myself things I would enjoy. They had the beer there I was looking for, but by the time I realised it was the only place I was going to find it, the stores were all closed. Another thing for next time! Check out the little phone box gallery, full of currawong illustrations. I could definitely live around here. Seems all I’d need is around two million dollars to do so.

An alley at Salamanca Market

An alley at Salamanca Market

A little courtyard at Salamanca Market

A little courtyard at Salamanca Market. I think this is near the entrance to a theatre. Off to the right was a little cafe, and through the hallway in front was the alleyway with the phone booth gallery.

Up the road a little further was Kelly’s Steps, which lead to Kelly Street around the back. We wandered up and explored the backstreets a bit before rejoining the main road and wandering up to Princes Park.

Entrance to Kelly's Steps at Salamanca Market

Entrance to Kelly’s Steps at Salamanca Market

Kelly's Steps at Salamanca Market

Kelly’s Steps at Salamanca Market

Kelly St

The view from the end of Kelly Street above Salamanca Market

McGregor St

A lovely old house on McGregor St

There were some choice words to read on a plaque in Princes Park, regarding a series of shitty batteries that were built there to defend the locals from absolutely nobody.

plaque describing the history of battery point

A proud tradition

Wandering below where this plaque sat, Matt noticed this tunnel running beneath the park.

Subterranean magazine below Princes Park

Subterranean magazine below Princes Park

We walked up through the suburb to look at some of the old houses. With the exception of one violently ugly apartment block, the whole area seemed to be meticulously maintained to the standard of heritage buildings.

Sunset at Battery Point

As the sun went down we headed back to look for dinner. We ate a lot earlier than usual in Tasmania. I think this owed to the sun going down to early and there being so little by way of a nightlife. First we headed down to the docks near the hotel so I could try some oysters (none for Matt. His loss!) and then walked in to town looking for somewhere novel. The places we found turned out to be a little too novel for ones so weary though. Back we walked to eat at The Brick Factory. Beer, cider, pizza, burgers and wings for unadventurous mainlanders. God it was good though.

Dinner at The Brick Factory

Dinner at The Brick Factory. The place didn’t seem popular on the way in. We realised quickly however that this was simply because we were eating so damn early.

With that done we headed back to the hotel room. I tried unsuccessfully to play Zelda on the switch for a bit and Matt went through most of what cider we had to clear out space for the flight back!

Thursday – Heading home.

Our flight was at around ten. Adding in steps of preparation meant we needed to get up at around 6 to have everything ready. It did mean we got to enjoy breakfast while watching the sun come up though, which was a treat.

We piled ourselves into the car with a suitcase packed loosely with clothes and grog. After driving our freshly rain-washed car back to its spot we boarded our flight home!