Friday, April 15, 2022

and on the sixth day, there was fishes in the sea and animals walking the land

Pennicott do a wonderful range of tours including cruises. We took their southern cruise while on Bruny Island so we were very comfortable in booking their Freycinet Cruise to Wineglass Bay. We need to be at their Coles Bay office by 9 am for a cruise that departs at 9:15am, so we set the alarm for 6:30 am. Last night Gen re-packed the large suitcase (again) and so this morning we condense everything as we put things back in the car.

Up at 6:30 for a hot shower - it was cool again overnight, but not as cold as the night before, we quickly made our bit of breakfast and packed the car. We set off from the Pelican Sands Motel about 7:45 am for the hour and a quarter drive, re-tracing our route of yesterday to Bicheno (but thankfully, not the return journey over the passes). We drove through the area where the crash was yesterday but there was no evidence that anything amiss had occured. It always amazes me just how fully a site can be cleaned up, leaving nothing to suggest the earlier drama.

The trip down to Coles Bay was uneventful. So much earlier than most days, we travelled quietly, each in our own thoughts, enjoying the warming sun and beautiful vistas that greet us on every turn. The weather has been so good that we have not used the car air-conditioner much, preferring instead to wind down the car windows for some fresh air - today salt-touched, and at other times, fresh with mountain smells of leatherwood or eucalypt trees and occasionally with the hearty smell of fresh manure as we have travelled through fields of cattle or sheep.

We arrive at the Booking Office just after 9 a and were greeted with "I guess you have a booking in the name of Maria?! You are the only ones with crutches!" We were instructed to wait near the gangway saying that we would be boarding in time for a 9:45 am departure. Turns out, we are waiting for three parties who have not yet checked in - oh, wait, one of them is already here, just hadn't advised the office they were here. Still, the operators wait for the remaining two parties, so we are late leaving by about half an hour, Not a particularly good start! 

Robert is skipper. He has 22 years in business, and there are now 17 vessels in the couple of tours they operate here in the east. Today, the lower deck (Upper Deck was + $115 all for the sake of some oysters!) is being serviced by Noah, Josh and Euan. Nice young men who are all very personable and chatty. Euan provides the safety briefing, ending with "In the unlikely event we need to leave the vessel, jump in to life rafts and continue the tour as planned!" ha ha ha.

As we leave Coles Bay we initially pass by The Hazards, a grouping of three mountains - Graham, Amos and Dove. These pink granite peaks, comprise quartz, feldspar and mica under a dolerite cap. They were previously mined with some blocks finding their way into the Sydney Opera House. This was one lucrative actvity that no longer operates, as was the whaling that was practised commercially until the 1802 in Great Oyster Bay, 

Nowdays, more environmentally friendly tourism and managed seafood harvesting are the main operations. The extensive seagram beds are perfect for calamari and scallops grow as big as golf balls. This area provides 25% of WORLD Abalone catch and crayfish are plentiful - regularly found in areas of rockfalls as well as old wrecks - they love to play hide and seek we are tolf. 

As we motor out of Coles Bay, another tour group is also leaving. In Kayaks that the boat operators refer to as speed bumps! Seriously, they are very respectful and slow down when they come upon any sea-life or other vessels of any size. Its amazing how quickly the engines can be cut and the boat come to a complete standstill. Today'sd boat is the Spirit of the Shouten. She is 23m long and powered by 2 yangmar diesel engines 700 hp each.

On the trip out to Wineglass Bay, we pass numerous points of interest and make frequent  stops. to hear points of history and observe the teeming wildlife of this environment. This includes:
* Old Refuge Island that often shelters boats from the prevailing southerly winds. It is also home to a Fur seal colony. They grow up to 300 kg and can live up to 22 yrs.

This is a RAMSAR area with penguins, tern, shearwaters, comorants, albatross and sea eagles all often see. As are dolphins, seals and whales - the holy trifecta which we were lucky to see today - Bottle-nose dolphins, Austraian and NZ fur seals, and one young humpback whale heading north - very early in the season!

There are lots of rocky outcrops. Promise Rocks is named after the Ship that was wrecked. All souls survived and were rescued after the Captain, the only person who could swim, swam through shark infested waters to raise the alarm.

Other points include Weatherhead point made of Jurassic dolerite - known as the diamond of rocks for its very hard composition. It is home to Australia's smallest lighthouse - the only staff that it could house would be a mouse, so luckily, this is an  automatic lighthouse not requiring manning or re-fuelling.

Lots of Cray pots in the water as we pass by Schouten island and Maria Island and pull up alongside Brian Island - an  Aboriginal learning place where we could easily see shells caught in roots of fallen she-oaks. Skipper Robert asked everyone for 30 seconds silence to pay respect to the Aboriginal peoples of Tasmania and reflect on the significance of their custodianship of these lands. Here on Brian Island there was a very steep gradient on literal dune.

We are shown a WBSEN (White Bellied Sea Eagle Nest) 4.5m deep 3.5m wide. These nests are used for up to 30 years and today, we are lucky to see a female eagle nearby the nest. They are Australia's second largest bird, and one of the world's best visioned birds.

We motor out the Shouten Passage and into the Tasman Sea where the previously very calm waters started to rock and roll in the increased swell. The tide was coming in, but it really isn't bad.

We see plenty 'Shags on a Rock' - the ever-present Black chested cormorant whose guanno (bird poop) stains the rocks white so they gleam in the sun like a beacon. And just like in the Bay of Fires, the red lichen can be see along the length of coastline we re traversing. From here, you look eastward to see nothing but the horizon. From here it is 1,500 km to NZ and 2,500 km to Antarctica 

We pull in close to Twin Caves and I kid you not,  we were no more than 3 m from the rock. The water depth here must be amazing - I guess the cliffs continue under the water. Then we pull into Waterfall Bay where, after rain, up to 30 falls can be seen.

Gen had front bow position for much of this part of the cruise - best place in the house to view Half Lemon Rock then Lemon Rock that once housed a gaslit lighthouse.
We see the remains of a Rockslide that occurred in 1983 and according to Robert provides some of the areas best crayfishing.

We first see Wineglass Bay from a distance as we pull into The Nuggets (rocks) to visit another Australian Fur Seal colony. Most are on the rocks and one is obviously injured - Robert thinks probably from a Great White encounter. As we move up and down beside them, they become more comfortable and a number jump, roll or fall into the sea playing around for us.

We are now well off shore and have perfect phone reception! Go figure! We get patchy coverage on land!!

We pass back through The Hazards into Wineglass Bay for lunch. Perfect white sand. Clear stunning aqua water two people on the beach would have had to have hiked in. This is an old whaling station. Occasionally old rib bones are washed up. Great calamari fishing spot. There were no oo other boats in the Bay when we arrived (this is unusual) but a yatch sails in not long after er arrived.
Wineglass Bay named because after a successfu whale kill the water would look like claret wine, in a glass that the bay resembles.

Lunch done, we power the motors up and head back for Coles Bay. I swear that the rocks and cliffs look like someone took the orange paintbrush and daubed random spots right across the coastline. As wwe turn from the Tasman back into the calm waters of Coles Bay, the sunlight is dancing on the tiny waves looking like flashlights or twinkling diamonds.

Back on land we head south for Hobart, passing wineries that we visited yesterday. Just passed Devil's Corner we see a house built high on Cherry tree Hill with amazing views billabong vineyards mountains bays. I would very happily live here.

We come across some very amusing signs, place names etc on the trip towards Hobart - there was the Wye River, to which someone had added 'Cos it's larger than a stream' on a very official looking sign below! Then there was Break-Me-Neck Hill followed immediately on the next rise by Bust-Me-Gall Hill! Add to these, the various names reminiscent of The Goons around the Bruny area, the links with all things English (humour) is very obvious. And today, just for Mick and Anne, we managed a photo of the road to the 'town' of Nugent - no doubt named for him (in HIS mind!!!) 😂 😂

We had made a dinner booking at the Drunken Admiral. which we had not been able to get a table at when we arrived for our first few days, but by the time we arrive at the Battery Point Manor, neither of us were very hungry and we just wanted out of the car and the chance not to sit down for a while. In the end we decided to cancel our booking and just finish off the salmon, cheese and crackers of various types that we have been carrying for the last couple of days - not problem, they have been on ice for the whole time.

So our last day of sightseeing is tomorrow. Heading home is bittersweet, but definitely does have good points! 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

What do travellers on Tasmania's East Coast eat? Oysters? Nope, for me its Lobster all the way!!

Last night was very cool. And tonight parts of Tasmania are meant to get to -3 degrees. Yes, -3! Still, the days are lovely and those cold nights mean that the days are crisp and clear. We are finishing eating the last of the bits and pieces of food that we have collected over the last week or two. There was a Cheese and Chives Scone from the Pyengana dairy yesterday with some of their stunning garlic butter, pieces of raisin toast from the Rosevears Bakery again with garlic butter - don't knock it if you haven't tried it (we have finished our tub of regular butter and its not worth buying another for a couple of days). Add to that latte sachets and an apple and we are ready to hit the day.

Today we are headed to the East Coast wineries and the Bicheno area. We begin with the Devil's Corner Winery, arriving about 10:50 am. We had tried unsuccessfully to book online for a premium wine tasting experience (we reported that to them today) but once we got there, realised that the self guided tasting at only $15 was a much better deal. I suppose you might miss the banter with one of their employees, but the tasting notes that are accessed by scanning the QR Code on the tasting paddle provides plenty of information. 

You know that you are in for nice wines when you instantly recognise the winery logo from major marketing campaigns. Devil's Corner is one such winery. That and the fact that a number of people that I know have personally recommended them also.

Never one to drink on an 'empty' stomach we shared a cheese and charcuterie board. In order, we tried premium sparkling cuvee, two cool climate whites, a savingnon blanc and a pinot grigio, a pinot noir rose and their leading pinot noir. They were nice so to added a class of riesling and a syrah to round out our experience. Their Sav Blanc rivals anything coming our of Marlborough, NZ. Might have shipped a mixed case home - love that, might haha - as Gen answered a Facebook post tonight, she was my evil little devil "Mum, if you like it, buy it" - always did find it hard to not give in to that little devil! 😉  😊

After a leisurely couple of hours, we headed back toward Bicheno and made a stop at The Pondering Frog cafe. Our entry is greeted with "Hello ladies, is it lunch or an ice-cream time" by the proprietor. Clever marketing! Very clever! We had stopped because Gen's friend Tracey is made about frogs. Ice creams were the order - home made and well worth stopping for. My passionfruit ice cream was full of flavour - and seeds - while Gen had the Peanut Butter Ice Cream with dark chocolate coating. It was huge, lopsided and the choc coating was very thick. BUT neither the ice cream or the chocolate is overly sweet and she enjoys it to the end.

The other must-visit that we constantly are told about is The Farm Shed in Bicheno. There are 22 wine producers on the Tasmanian East Coast, and only ten of these have cellar doors. The others provide their wines to select outlets - predominantly restaurants in Hobart and/or Launceston. BUT, you don't need to table-hop restaurants, because The  Farm Door acts as a cellar door for all 22 vineyards. Now, I can't disappoint anyone, so we settle in! The stock Wines, Whiskies, Gins and a whole range of food providores and gift lines. We booked for 1 wine tasting and 1 whisky tasting - as Gen is driving, she will have a tiny sip only. Normally there are five wines and five whiskies. After much chatter with the ladies who operate this gem, I THINK we topped out at 7 wines and 6 whiskies plus a tasting of Australia's only Peated Rye. Not my cup of tea, but plenty of the others were.
Again, I may - bugger let's forget the jokes, I DID buy a half-dozen wines, and I signed up to their wine club. Looks like there will be plenty of time to taste Tasmanian wines over the next year or so. So, who wants to be my friend??? Hmm?  You?

The area between the Bay of Fires and Freycinet is well known for its seafood. In particular the freshest oysters you could want - for as little as $14 per dozen. Makes you wonder how some restaurants can get away with charging up to $8 each. But for me, it is the other delicacy that we are interested in - LOBSTER - locally known as Crayfish. 

The Lobster Shack is a well-known local identity. We paid $60 for half a plain medium lobster Crayfish in Stanley about 10 days ago.
Today, we pay $55 for a half medium lobster thermidor with Pyengana Cheese being used in the mornay sauce!! Winner winner! With all the troubles in the world at the moment, I do feel a little guilty. But not for long! 

Fully 'stuffed', 'glutted', 'filled' and 'bursting' we waddle back to our car - with more swagger than the seagulls that jump out of our way. we head the car for scamander and our accommodation in the gentle late afternoon light. BUT this was not to be an easy trip back. It is 58 kms from Bicheno to Scamander and we are travelling in light traffic - each lost in our own thoughts. We round a bend and start up a rise to come to a stopped line of traffic with hazard light on. This doesn't look good, we have already passed through the roadworks just to the north of Bicheno. Before long, we learn that there is a crash up ahead. Gen turns off the car and heads up to see whether it will be worth us witing, or turning atound. She reports it happened about 40 minutes earlier, the police were on site, turning back traffic, saying the road would be closed for many hours yet.

So, along with the rest of the waiting cars, we turn. We ask someone who appears to be a  local what the alternate routes are. He advises that there is only one - Up over St Mary's Pass through St Marys and down Elephant Pass. He warns that there are tight bends and to just take it slowly. And that it was. I didn't envy Gen this drive with the late afternoon sun in her eyes for most of the trip up the mountain to St Marys. Normally we would have made a stop to have a look around, but the light is fading and we had made a pact that we would not drive at dusk or dawn because of the amount of wildlife that appears. We don't want to add to the road-kill. We finally reach the base, pass the junction with the coastal road that is now blocked and manned by police and in another 15 minutes find ourselves back in Scamander. 

We pass the motel and head to the service station. Although closed, they have a 24 hour card facility to purchase fuel. Thanks to good ol Costco, we know how to operate these. Gen fills up and there is another hire car, a Merc whose asian driver obviously needs help. Gen does another good deed for the day and explains how to get access to the fuel - a very relieved driver - it looked like he was settling in to wait in the car until morning!   

We have an early start, setting out for Coles Bay to join another Pennicott Cruise - this one to the Freycinet National Park and the iconic Wineglass Bay. Its another bucket list item for me, and I am no longer up to the hike in by foot!

Footnote: My sister, Donna, told us she had tested positive for Covid-19 last week and today Antony phones us to tell us that Amanda has tested positive today and feel like a truck has hit her. so the household is in quarantine for at least a week. So after some discussion, we have decided that we will head home once we land in brisbane rather than staying a few days. Can't say that either of us is too disappointed. Its been a holiday to make memories, but we will both be glad to stay put in one place!  

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

A move towards the north - for more cheese (hic)

It was significantly colder last night and as we watch the news tonight, find out that it got down to 2 degrees. Yep, a lot colder! Even Gen felt the need for the aircon to be turned to heat this morning. Before we went to bed last night we sorted out the remaining 'stuff' we are carrying. I filled on postbag with some clothes that I won't be needing for the last week, nor immediately when we arrive back in much (much) warmer Queensland! We moved clothes for the next week, souvenirs that we will want as soon as we touchdown at Upper Kedron 😉) and some breakable (liquid) items to the large suitcase. We put all the laundry needing doing in a bag for laundry on Wednesday before we head back to Hobart, and started to put aside food etc that we will leave with Nick when we go - I men, there is no point in wasting it. Meredith and Andrew have good luggage allowances and have offered to carry some things home for us (they arrive home on Monday just before we leave for home). I'm really grateful for this as it will minimise the luggage Gen needs to carry between Hobart and Brisbane.

Because we had sorted our sh*t last night, we were able to get away in good time and drove away from the Rosevears Hotel right on 8:30 am. There are three routes that we could take to reach Scamander. Gen had thought that the most northern route would allow us to have a look at the coast, but we (lol we, read me!) really want to visit the Pyengana Dairy cheese factory. And as luck would have it, it is located closest to the most southern route we could choose! Turns out the choice was made for us. Our hire car has a 'no gravel roads' clause in the rental agreement and the centre route that would have been the most appropriate is unsealed. But we don't really want to stick to the highway as it goes through the southern part of our route, and nowhere near the coast. So our second choice becomes our first!

Our route north from Exeter (near Rosevears) took us almost directly north to Pipers River and then to Bridport on the coast. We began in lush pastoral country filled with a multitude of wineries and then surprisingly encounter 'big timber' forests again as we hit a mountain range. We had not expected to find mountains this close to the coast. 

It was interesting to see the change in landscapes so abruptly. One minute Gen is traversing the dreaded hairpin bends up and down slopes at an average of less than 40 km. The next corner puts us back on the coast with the sleepy seaside town of Bridport coming in to view. Well, it looks sleepy on its outskirts, but is much larger than it first appears. Gen was happy to find a petrol station there!! From here, the soil is again sand, the dunes are not only seen, but crossed as are numerous small streams and rivulets. The birdlife is abundant and in the earlier (lol) light of the day, we startle a number of flocks of black birds, just waiting for the roadkill to commence. There are lots of sheep in the paddocks and the cattle are now more diary cows than beef cattle. Traffic is light and the travelling easy, although the road is somewhat undulating, as though the sands are shifting beneath us. 

By now, neither of us has mobile coverage so we are relying on road signs. We have abandoned trying to get to the Pynegana Dairy as it looks like it will need significant back-tracking. With glimpses of the clear aqua water of the Bass Strait teasing us through dunes and low-lying wind-sculpted coastal trees and shrubs, we turn toward the south after travelling as far as we can along the northern roads.
We reach Gladstone (the other one!). If wanted to continue to the northeast most point, Cape Portland, then we needed to do it another way as from here, the road is unsealed. Between the towns of Derby and Gladstone (there are lots of references to English places, reflecting the pioneers) we see a tourist sign to the Little Blue Lake

Now, I have seen plenty of blue lakes in my travels, but this was something altogether different. There is a viewing platform just off the road, with a solid chainlink fence keeping you back from the edge. And while most of the blue lakes I have seen attribute their amazing colour to glacial or summer snow melts, this one was very different. It is the result of about 100 years of mineral mining - mainly tin, and at this spot, that tin was intersperced with kaolin, that amazing white clay that is so prized by Chinese pottery makers.  The colour is truly amazing, but what is also amazing is that there is no signs of life anywhere near it - the vegetation stops about 3 metres from the water's edge and there is no sign of wildlife - not even a bird. This site is part of the mine rehabilitation area of the former South Mount Cameron mine.

A little further south, we pass through the hamlet of Moorina (there are numerous much smaller settlements - but what do you call a collection of less than ten houses?) At Moorina there is an intriguing sign pointing to the Moorina cemetery and the Chinese Monument - the Tin Dragon. Now, that sounds interesting! Turns out that this area has quite a history of mining, opportunities sought, fortunes won and lost, of Chinese immigrants and their legacy locally. The monument is more of a memorial because although it is located adjacent to the local cemetery, there are very few Chinese graves because if they perished, as many did, the bodies were returned home - predominantly to the Guandong region from where most of them came. An unexpected and interesting stop on the route. 

Gen asks me "What will we be eating in half an hour or so?"
"I don't know. Lobster?", I ask.
"Nope", she says with a grin, "Cheese!"
On this memorial there was a great regional map and despite the convoluted route we have taken, we are now a mere 29 kms from the Pyengana Dairy Factory! Yay!! 
We are skirting around the edge of the other side of the Blue Tier Forest and back into winding roads. And the dairy cattle are now everywhere. Its not long before we see the signs and take the road towards the dairy and St Columba Falls. This award-winning dairy is literally in the middle of nowhere (and still with no mobile coverage), so we are quite surprised when we get to the farm gate to see that their car-park is full, with more vehicles parked on the side of the 'highway'. 

The dairy visitor centre is housed in a former milking shed. There are lots of story-boards, under cover, along the long side of the building that leads you to a viewing platform where you can watch the cheese being made. That is what you would normally see, but today one of the farmers is there explaining that they are not making cheese this week as the milk is all needed for the Easter demand! It is just after midday and lunch is certainly on the cards. I had read in the Travelling Tasmania Facebook page that the Cheese and Chive scones were excellent. They offer a small but sufficient selection for lunch. I have already decided that I am going to have those scones which are served with their dairy butter and a smoky tomato relish (that has a bit of a kick) and Gen decides on the Tasmanian Gourmet Platter that includes homemade pumpkin sourdough, crackers, a range of their cheeses and local meats and fruits. Both were delectable and as usual we shared. Gen had asked if I wanted a glass of wine with lunch - they do offer that lovely Josef Chromy Pinot Gris, but I said that while in Rome . . .  so we had milkshakes! While Gen ordered our food, I found a table right next to the gentle warmth of the open fire. Man, this is living. AND they offer Valhalla icream that we both love.  Jersey Caramel and Strawberry Choc Chip were today's choices.
The have a great selection of cheeses and other souvenirs and again, I may, (or may not)  have sent some cheese home - the free postage if you spend $100 was very easy to reach! Remember - Saturday 23 is tasting day at home - keep it free peeps!! Pyengana is well worth a visit if you are in the north/east of Tasmania - AND they do mail order from their website.

Now absolutely rolling with all the food we have consumed (well, that is a bit of an exaggeration, we brought some of it with us for tonight!) we left and turned for the East Coast and St Helens (again, not the local one). St Helens is the gateway to the Bay of Fires where those amazing seascapes of lichen and algae covered rocks in crystal clear waters are known world-wide. There are opportunities to see them right along the roadside, with plenty of parking areas for a car or two, but the formal viewing area is at the very end of the road. We arrive about 3 pm and spend about an hour with me taking telephoto shots and Gen walking down slippery ramps and across very soft sand to clambour over the rocks. 

This is truly a beautiful landscape and it is easy to see the inspiration for many professional photographers and artists whose works grace glossy books and galleries right across the state! As we leave there is a steady stream of traffic coming out - heavens knows where they will park, as the carpark is already full. The rocks are best seen as the sun is setting, but it has been close enough for us! There is an on-shore wind and our views are softened by a fine powder of both sea-mist and that fine sand as it is blown across the roadway. The whitecaps dance along the crystal clear water in lines as they meet with rock obstacles. From time to time, there is a whoosh as water encounters a rocky outcrop and I am rewarded with some lovely photographs of shooting waters.  

In total, driving directly it should have been 4.5 hours travelling to cover the 304 kms trip - seems like a cinch, but in reality it took us all day - with us arriving at Pelican Sands at Scamander right on 4:30 this afternoon. Turns out that Terese and Tony from home are here in town tonight also. They have been here for a short trip of about 9 days - and depart on the Spirit of Tasmania on Saturday. They have travelled the opposite direction to us. We will need to catch up when we get home and trade stories! We have some of the cheese we left at lunch for a light dinner, with one of our last apples (purchased at Willy smiths in Huonville what feels like weeks ago). along with the cheese, I am enjoying a can of Crafty Cuts Lemon+Lime Gin Cucumber Cooler - very quaffable! Will have to see if we can get it at home/online!

We are here for two nights (accommodation is very hard to find, with the local news tonight reporting that there is NO accommodation left for the Easter break in either Hobart or Launceston!). Tomorrow we are headed to Bicheno, 45 minutes away for lobster rolls and a visit to the Devil's Corner winery (as the Farmshed East Coast wineries that stock wines from all the east coast wineries).

Off for an earlier night - biggie coming tomorrow. Later . . .

Monday, April 11, 2022

The Tamar River and Cataract Gorge - two of Tasmania's natural beauties

True to form, after an overcast weekend, the Monday start to the working week has dawned bright and clear. This bides well for our Tamar River Cruise this morning! Think though that I need to pace myself a bit better - following the wine tasitng yesterday and a glass of wine with dinner, I need an extra Ondansetron this morning.

Now that we are getting close to the end of this adventure, we are planning a little strategically just what we are posting home versus what we are carrying, knowing that we have a few days in Brisbane before actually heading home. Gen has begun looking at the weather at home, as well as the daily weather here. She's not liking what she is seeing! The first couple of days when we get back are hot, humid and even raining. Won't worry me, I plan on catching up on some sleep for the first day or two!!

You have to love the new technologies that we have at our fingertips these days. We plug into Google Maps the departure address for our cruise this morning to be informed that at this time of the day, on a weekday, our trip should take us 27 minutes - that means we can spend a quarter of an hour or so planning what to send home wit Meredith when we leave Hobart.

Into the Launceston Sea Port we drive to join our extended tour on the Tamar River Cruises. There are quite a number of people milling about - including as the captain later introduces, a couple celebrating their 53rd anniversary. Wow, now that is an achievement! We set off right on the dot of 10, with more people than I thought would be cruising on Monday, but when we consider the number of people who appear to be touring in Tasmania at the moment, I guess it makes sense.

Anyway, our captain Lynn (a male) is another dry wit, with lots of little quips!
The morning cruise that only does the Cataract Gorge left 15 minutes earlier and as we enter under the Kings Bridge, it passes us on its return to the wharf. We continue to where the Gorge is ponded at Basin 1, to provide controlled water flow to the city's first hydro-electric power system.

The bridge was needed to allow the population easy passage over the Esk River (which flows into the Tamar Basin.) Local manufacturers did not yet have the capability to cast the steel needed for the bridge, so the contract was awarded to a firm in  Manchester, England, transported in pieces to Launceston and assembled on a pontoon and floated into position and then lowered on to its abutments on the receding tide. Despite the challenges, it worked perfectly, first time! But in no time, the local uproar about the short-sightedness of building a single lane bridge soon won out and a local firm was contracted to replicate the first span and a second span was installed to make it a two lane bridge. Nowadays, the Kings Bridge shares the traffic load with the newer Paterson Bridge constructed in the early 1970's and opened in 1973. Together they connect Launceston city with the north-west.

Lynn's commentary was very proud of Launceston's achievements. If ever there was a worthy ambassador for this City, he was leading us on our tour today. He kept apologising for the weather "beautiful one day, better the next!" Think that slogan is already taken Lynn!! But I have to admit, today it suited well to this Tasmanian idyll.
The sun is high, without a single cloud. The water, on a waning tide, is as smooth as a piece of glass. Motoring out of the harbour under speed restrictions there was barely enough wash from the boat to raise a ripple. We pass not only suburbs that have examples of every style of architecture from the Victorian and Federation through to the modern day - all in one view; but examples of Launceston's prowess in industry. For example, all the tugboats in Tasmania and many from Victoria and South Australia are serviced here. They can turnaround a full inspection and water worthiness certification in a week.

Lynn tells of the founding fathers of the city and this part of Tasmania. It is very like the settlement of our own Maryborough in Queensland. There are rags to riches reports, stories of gentlemen convicts and of enterprising entrepreneurs who right to the modern day have shaped the skyline and successes of the City. The Velo Winery has been established by Michael Wilson as a tribute to his career as a former Olympic cyclist. We pass by the Rosevears area and see the Rosevears Hotel where we are staying. Turns out the accommodation developed here cost in the order of $5.3M and the developer has approval to develop a $15M marina that is yet to be commenced.

We are now travelling at cruising speed and the wash from the boat creates significant waves that we see slam into the banks that have been planted with a rice-plant in an effort to stabilise the banks and minimise the continual siltation of the river. When boats such as this can create the impact that it does, this is always going to be a lost battle. Yet, despite our speed, we are still travelling slow enough to see a Sea Eagle resting atop one of the channel markers and Gen was in the right place at the right time when he decided to take flight and she manages to photograph him on the wing!

And not only do we see the sea eagle, we also see a wedge Tailed Eagle, lots of water fowl, black swans and on the return journey Lynn tells us there is a seal off the aft bow, but we can't see it. The siltation of the river has threatened the commercial port status of the city of Launceston. And despite all efforts, all mitigation efforts have not made an iota of difference to the efforts of mother nature!

Turns out, that sitting on a tidal river also makes Launceston vulnerable to 1:100 year floods when the city is in receipt of severe storms! Just like home again!! In the 1990s, the city installed a levee that has very successfully protected the infrastructure in later events and when the next 1:100 year event hit in 2016 the city stood dry thanks to that levee. Now, I wonder how the Tamar River and Basin compare to the Mary River? Actually, I don't (wonder that is). The two river geomorphology of the two systems could not be more different!

On board we were served morning tea once we had cleared Kings Bridge - brewed coffee or tea with muffins, biscuits and Lions Club christmas cake ("who doesn't love a good fruit cake," asked Lynn, "and the Lions make the best"). We then travelled toward the mouth to the Batman Bridge - not the nana nana nana nana type, but the cantilevered bridge, and Australia's first cable-stayed bridge, named for the John Batman, a Launceston businessman and the co-founder of Melbourne. We turned around, on the length of the boat! here and were then given a wine and beer tasting - Velo Pinot Grigio, Ninth Island Chardonnay, Velo Pinot Noir plus a Boags beer that neither of us sampled. Lunch was served - a good selection of rolls and focaccia with a variety of filligs, generous slabs of local cheeses and plenty of fruits. Surprisingly the fruit - predominantly tropical was very sweet and refreshing! The trip back to the wharf was quieter with passengers seated and happy to watch the passing birdlife.

We are coming in on a dead low tide, and at one point the two staff members alarmingly send worried looks to each other as there is a sickening grinding sound. The boat stops momentarily and then Lynn does a little jig with the boat and we are off again. Gemma tells us that this very boat was 'put on the mud', 'fast' only a few months ago! Not sure if that was meant to reassure us or not?! 
Finally we dock at the wharf and the boat disgorges us all, with the next cruise load of passengers waiting on the dock.

After a relatively lazy morning, enjoying the sights from the water, we are now headed to Cataract Gorge to see this wonder from the ground. Gen tells me that she had been here last time she visited Launceston and loved it. she had done the Duck Reach Trail and the Reedy and snake Gully Track which circumnavigated the whole gorge, but said that as there were some very steep sections on this walk, it wouldn't be suitable for me to do. We head off to the entrance and the inclinator so that I didn't need to walk down the very steep slope. Nope, not operational. Bugger. Oh well, I tell Gen, the steps have a railing. Off we set. 99 steps later, I am ready for the jelly-like knees to have a bit of a rest. Ah, the cafe is just here!

We start with Scones with Jam and Cream and a coffee to pep ourselves up! We can see the Suspension Bridge and the Chairlift through the picture windows as well as the plentiful children's activity areas - adventure rides, tumble tubes, slides, a small wave pool complete with artificial beach etc. Coffee downed, Gen asked if I was up to walking to the Suspension Bridge. Yep, lets go!

Well, that walk was longer (and steeper) than either of us knew. And Gen had to cross that suspension bridge with a number of other people on it at the same time, so it was swaying. If only you could have seen the poor girl's face! Turns out the total trip around the First Basin Loop was 900m. Add that to the walk down to it, and the tortuous climb back to the carpark, and we did about 1.2km in right on an hour. Mightn't seem much to most, but to me it sure was.

We had booked dinner for 6pm at Alida at Penny Royal, but now it is only 4:30pm. Me knackered, and with all the other activities at Penny Royal closed at 4, we decide not to stay in town and wait, but rather, to cancel the reservation and head back to Rosevears. We decide to detour and have a look at the local town of Grindlewald, that is modelled on the Swiss Village of the same name. As a condition of building in the tract, there were strict caveats put on land purchasers who had to build in the Swiss Chalet architecture style. The original settlement is now a resort, and the 'village' has grown to quite an up-market suburb.

Back at the hotel, we decide to eat in the room tonight (I need an early night). Shared a Chicken Parmi as I'm not too hungry!

Off to take a look at the Pyengana Cheese factory en-route to the Bay of Fires tomorrow. Our time is closing in on us fast!

Sunday, April 10, 2022

What is the saying? Ah yes, bread and WINE!

Once we get out of bed and open the very efficient blockout blinds we are greeted with an overcast morning, but with spots of clear skies. It is meant to get to 22 degrees with the chance of showers, but given we are going to winery-hop in the Tamar Valley today, we are not at all concerned. 

We are still preparing our own breakfasts - me for one will never tire of these amazing raspberries (almost finished 😭) to add to our fruit toast. Not only does it save money, it also saves time - which is our main priority. There are a number of people in the carpark below us eating delicacies from the Rosevears bakery. We can vouch for the freshness and tastiness!

The days left are gallopping by. There is still so much to see and do, and so little time to do it in. Breakfast underway, I grab the Wine Trail booklet to decide on 2 - 4 wineries to visit. Now, Gen is no a big win drinker and to date has restricted her choices to very sweet varieties such as Moscato. So today might be a bit testing for her. For the last few years, my driving restrictions have meant that I have been able to continue to imbibe as now, there is always someone else doing the driving! But on this trip, I am feeling a little sorry for Gen as she is doing all the driving. On previous holidays, I have always enjoyed being the one behind the wheel as I am sure some of my past travelling compatriots can attest! Not mentioning anyone Helen and Donna!!

Anyway, this morning we leave Rosevears and are heading towards the south. As we join the highway a few kilometres from the hotel, the first thing that we see on the road is the signage advising that there are cyclists in the area. We know first hand, having followed a number of cyclists for kilometres in areas where passing visibiity is poor. The yellow road sign shows two cyclists riding abreast. And that is exactly how they ride. Too bad the powers that be did not think to depict those same two cyclists RIDING IN SINGLE FILE! But for every storm there is a silver lining and the silver lining to being trapped behind cyclists driving at about 20 kph, is that you have more time to be observant of the little things that you pass. Like the tired agapanthus, drooping along the borders of garden beds, bereft of their colour and vim , tired and spent. Or the way that the clouds part momentarily to allow the sunlight to dance across the waters of the body of water that is the Tamar River, and not some bay. Like the extra detail that the man cleaning the exterior of his truck is doing. Instead of just using his gerni to water blast the behemoth that no doubt provides his living, he is up on a step ladder, hose in one hand, rag in the other, polishing the chrome around the edge of the windscreen - that's dedication. Like the passion and power of the footy players on the field that we hurry past (once we're passed the cyclist!)

This morning I took the last of my Panadol Osteo. This is probably the gentlest of the drugs I take daily and is useful as it allows me to limit the stronger pain-killers to an as-need basis. Now, given the problems that we had trying to fill my Qld written prescriptions, we are not sure whether we will be able to buy them over the counter, or whether we will need to get another script written here in Tasmania. Turns out, this is an easy one. You can buy them over the counter, with no record taken, AND for about 2/3 the cost of supply in Queensland where a record is kept of supply and questions asked if you need them more frequently than what a pharmacist might think you should. Go figure, there is no rhyme or reason to the lack of consistency. We decide that before we leave Launceston that we will buy a couple of extra boxes as spares.

So we are now through the City Centre. We are heading south on the Tamar Valley Wine Trail. Last night I had a quick look through the Wine Trails Tasmania 2022 booklet that we picked up a few days ago. The booklet divides the state into four major wine regions. For each region, it explores the region geographically, climatically and soil typing and the impact these have on the fruit and resultant wines, as well as supporting producers and non-wine things to see and do. The Tamar Valley includes the Tamar Valley, Pipers River and Launceston. There are 17 wineries listed in the Tamar Valley region, and we do not have enough time to do them all, so I have selected:
1. Josef Chromy Wines in Relbia (most southerly and because I really enjoyed the glass I had at Stillwater Restaurant last night; 
2. Clover Hill Wines in Lebrina in the north east of the region as they specialise in sparkling wines;
3. Pipers Brook Vineyard north of Clover Hill and the one i had heard of before visiting the region; and finally
4. Jansz Tasmania which is adjacent to Pipers Brook.
A number of the unvisited wineries are open by appointment only and we do not have the time to commit. I am just glad to get to these ones!

At Josef Chromy, you must book a tasting, which we have not. The only vacancy they have is for 2:15pm today, and so a little dejectedly, I turn to leave. But once a salesman, always a salesman and the lady who we had been speaking with had another alternative (of course!). While a tasting was not possible, we could sit on the terrace and have a glass of wine with a cheese plate. I am so glad we did. I convinced Gen to swap out her Moscato for a Reisling and I had a Chardonnay. The cheese plate was amazing - a Brie, a blue and a cheddar from the region along with some of the amazing leatherwood honey (we are on the hunt for some to bring home) fruits fresh and dried, candied nuts, home-made crispbread and dried fruit-bread. The wine was truly delicious and Gen conceded that perhaps with a bit of training, her palate might be able to be trained to enjoy other wines! Watching the tastings underway, I can understand the need for bookings. They are held for no more than 4 people per wine advisor who sits with them in conversation rather than just presenting wines by a glass. They walk the grounds, explaining the varietals and the outcomes. As well as wine and cheeses, Tasmania also grows a wide variety of nuts and just beside us, beyond the path is a beautiful hazelnut tree. Like many quality producers, the grounds are just beautiful. Manicured lawns are dotted with flower beds and named mature trees. The aerator pond is home to a black swan pair and any number of ducks. There is a clutch of native hens (Turbo chooks as Gen calls them) scratching away around the base of the vines for any wriggly tasty morsels.

On to Clover Hill, a 45 minute drive away. We skirt the forests on the drive and can smell the leatherwood on the air. It is such a dominating scent and explains the abundance of bees that we see everywhere we stop the car. The Cellar Door for Clover Hill comes in to view after you turn a corner and pass a huge tree. Architecturally speaking, it is stunning! I would not be surprise to find the architect was the same as the one used at MONA. Stark and striking, it is still sympathetic to its environment. The hard materials - sandstone, weathered steel and timber are softened by crushed sandstone paths, lawns filled (I assume deliberately) with clover, and trees and shrubs in the grey tones of sage and olive groves. We walk through HUGE automatic glass doors to find a tasting room cum lunch room - they do a shared cheese plate or a six course degustation menu only - that looks out over the vines down into the valley beyond. The autumn afternoon light glows gold over the changing colours of the trees and vines - Gen comments often how she loves the changing colours of nature here in autumn, as do I. There are also a number of beautiful bronze statues - a farmer and his dog just inside the front gate and next to the cellar door is a stunning large wedge-tail eagle landing, talons extended as she reaches her perch.
Tastings here do not require a booking, and are presented as a more 'traditionl' tasting. As Gen is driving we decide that we will share a tasting as the full six-sample tasting is equivalent to 1.6 standard drinks (and she has already had one glass). To compensate, she also orders a pot of French Earl Grey Tea - her favourite that she has not had since we left home.  The shared cheese plate is very different to the one we finished only a little while ago. There is a french baked brie with shaved pumpkin curls, a creamy blue and an aged Bay of Fires cheddar.
Clover Hills specialise in sparkling wines and the standard tasting is 6 wines. We begin with a non-vintage Rose and finished with a Cuvee Exceptionnelle that was splendid. There were two other wines not included in the tasting in the sparkling range plus a rage of still wines. But it is sparkling wines that are their speciality. I just can't pass up the chance to taste their not-included Exceptionnelle Blanc de Blancs so purchase a glass. Great move! Now I may have (or may not have, asif!!) joined their Cellar Door Club for a minimum of two deliveries per annum. The first delivery is timed to reach home about the same time we will, so remember, keep Saturday 23 April free!!!! I'm having a celebration of all things Tasmanian. 

Our next stop was at Pipers Brook Vineyard - the only Tamar Valley winery that I had heard about before arriving in the region. Their cellar door sits dead in the centre of the vineyard. You weave in and out of the rows of un-named vines following small timber signage. As we pull in to the carpark, there are a couple of families. Gen comments that she can't understand why people would bring children to such a venue - and really, I have to agree with her. There is little to keep a child interested and occupied, and we all know what bored kids are like!
By now we have had our fill of cheeses for the day and are actually craving something sweet. The kitchen at Nadines at Pipers Restaurant is closing, but they do offer a Brownie with berries, cream and ice-cream. It was just what we were looking for! This cellar door is much more casual and they offer a bit of everything. You self select the wines you wish to try which are listed under red, white and then sparkling, which to me seems back to front!  Again, given that Gen is driving, we opt to share one wine-tasting. I select the Ninth Island Rose sparkling, then the Ninth Island Reisling and Pipers Tasmania Pinot Grigio to be followed by the New Certan Pinot Noir. That in particular was a very nice drop. I bought a bottle to share with Andrew and Meredith when they arrive at the end of next week, and a bottle of the Pinot Grigio. Hope that they are in a tasting mood - lol!

We could have also visited Jansz Tasmania as they share the land with Pipers Brook, but the cellar doors are closing, so we miss out.

Still, I am comfortably mellowed and am happy to head back into Launceston and Rosevears. We have not yet eaten at the restaurant here and have decided that we will do so tonight. The trip back seems longer than the same one out, and Gen is tiring of the driving (and being in and out of the car repetedly). While we were at Pipers Brook, we phoned and booked dinner for tomorrow night at Alina at Penny Royal. We are doing a Tamar River Cruise and will explore a little of the Cataract Gorge site after the cruise. Our time here is fast coming to an end. Off to the Bay of Fires on Tuesday before Freycinet on Wednesday and then back to Hobart.

Just after 6pm we head down to the Rosevears Hotel, below the units, and walk through to the restaurant. We did not book, as we didn't want to have to cancel a booking a second time if we couldn't fit dinner in! There are a few cars in the car-park, but nothing like that of Friday or last night. Still, the waiter explains that they are almost fully booked and that he can only offer us a table in the rear and up a couple of steps. No problem - we can make that work. The menu is a mix of restaurant and pub food. I choose to have a steak, my first since I have arrived in tasmania. Knowing that I won't be able to finish it, Gen chooses a Marguerite Pizza. Just as well she did, because I could not finish all my meal. The steak, pan-fried field mushrooms with mash and wilted spinach was delicious. Gen enjoyed what was left of the steak. Desserts looked too good to pass up and I had a Turkish Delight Pavlova with cream and persian fairy floss (a tiny amount) and Gen chose the Salted Caramel Popcorn Sundae. Both were deliciously sickly.

Its off to bed now, we have an earlier start tomorrow!