Week 8 (Sun Feb 29 thru Sat Mar 6)
By the way, I had a complaint that I'd not been keeping you all abreast of how Peter (Prado) has been adjusting to the trip, as apparently I'd done in the past with Max (Mercedes) and Tony (Toyota Personnel Carrier). The answer is that Pete (as he's become affectionately known) has not only been enjoying himself, and has performed beautifully, (although there were a couple of occasions where his feelings were hurt when Patty questioned whether he'd be able to handle certain 4WD situations -- of course he showed her!!) He's a proud vehicle -- a little dirty, but proud! Here's a shot of him resting just outside of Strahan before attacking the west coast of Tasmania!
Anyway, back to Strahan, and our Sunday boat trip. The Lady Jane Franklin is our yacht for the day, and is to take us out of the harbour (we're beginning to lean toward Aussie spellin' , Mate!) into Macquarie Bay, out thru Hell's Gate (every decent body of water seems to have one), out thru the Macquarie Heads for a peak at the big water, and then run for cover in the beautiful (and famous) Gordon River. Now you might have guessed from the pictures, that after almost 8 weeks of spectacular weather, we have a pretty gray and rainy day. The law of averages caught up, but it was also predictable on this coast at this time of year. As I indicated earlier, Tassie has a bit cooler summer than the mainland, and this side of Tassie REALLY has more cool and rainy days. Our targets for today are the rainforests and some of the old Huon Pines that can be found there, and the Sarah Island prison ruins.
Those of you who have studied such things will remember the tales of horror, escape, and intrigue that surrounded one of Australia's toughest old prison environments -- when the Crown devised its toughest punishments! It's worth giving you a little more background on the history of this area of Australia. Also, you'll meet a character in Richard Butler, who is our guide for the Sarah Island portion of this trip, and among other things he's written about the history of Van Diemen's Land, is a book that has become very popular entitled "The Men That God Forgot".
The last couple of these were entitled "will it ever quit?", and then "probably not!" - - but it did, just long enough for us to go ashore in the Gordon River stretch, and get a feel (a damp one) for this rain forest environment.
The last one, by the way, I call "down, but not out". It's a Huon Pine that may be 600 years old, came down in the year 2000, but still has new growth! It does not know that some old things can't go on for ever - but isn't it great to see that positive attitude -- even in an old Huon Pine Tree !!
We're moving on to Sarah Island now, but before we do I want to introduce you to one of the many bright young staff members of the Lady Jane's crew. After 7+ weeks, I could still just barely detect a Yank accent, and this one happened to belong to Jennifer, a gorgeous, peppy, bright young gal from Olde Lyme, Connecticut! A young Aussie guy was able to spirit her away, and Connecticut's loss was Tasmania's gain.
I won't try to educate you on the beginnings of Australia, and the places of detention the folks banished by England (some for nothing more than being on the wrong side of the political winds!) were sent to, but Sarah Island was one of the more interesting ones. Tasmania itself was a pretty desolate part of the world, and this piece of Tassie, even more so. Our guide, Richard Butler, made the Sarah Island experience come alive.
Let me paraphrase Richard's description of this area. Demon's Land they called it -- a bastardization of Van Diemen's Land -- a place where men rotted or starved or were flogged to death. The maximum security hard-labor camp at Macquarie Harbour was the end of the line for prisoners -- a hell on earth for convicts and jailers (gaolers) alike -- and when, in 1833, it was decided to close the settlement, ten desperate and ruthless men seized the ship that was to transport them, and made their final bid for freedom. This story is the one depicted in Richard's book, mentioned above. A fascinating guy, obviously with a real understanding of the history of this area.
Shortly after Richard finished taking us through the bakery, the "dorms", and various other ruins, while regaling us with stories, most done in the first person, and using each of us as participants, we departed Sarah Island, and headed back to Strahan. As we departed, the heavens opened up again, so we were fortunate to have had a reprieve long enough to get out and tour both sites.
In the last photo, you'll see the fresh water trout farms, raised in a salt water environment. I'll be happy to try to explain it next time we're together -- it's too much for this old website -- but interesting, and for this part of Tasmania -- a big business! Speaking of big business -- one thing is VERY clear, and that is that Federal Hotels & Resorts of Tasmania own and manage nearly every enterprise in Strahan, including The Village (lodging), the cruise boats, the railroad, the restaurants, gift shops, etc. The good news is that they have good people, well trained, and things are really well run!
We're back in Strahan, and other than our great breakfasts at the Fish Cafe, and using the time to catch up on laundry, etc., our time there is pretty much spent prowling the village, the docks, and more of the countryside, getting some Aussie kid's perspectives, a little off-road look at some of the beaches, etc.
We had stopped briefly in Queenstown on our way to Strahan, because it is one of the oldest mining towns in Tasmania, and so we returned to see what we might have missed. On the way, we see some thick stands of Tassie gum trees, but as we near Queenstown, things change rapidly. Over the years, the timber has been stripped to fire the smelters, and reforestation wasn't a priority in those days. The result was that eventually most of the topsoil was washed away, and things are pretty barren in the immediate area. While there is still mining going on there (principally copper), the town of Queenstown, and the immediate surrounding area, is pretty depressed.
On Tuesday, we once again visit Ocean Beach, then ask Pete to take us out over some corrugated road to see Macquarie Heads from land. A pretty drive, culminating with a great shot of the Strahan Harbor at dusk.
Tomorrow morning we leave Strahan, and head for Stanley, on the northern coast of Tassie.
Move on over to Week 8 Continued!