Baw Baw National Park

After getting off the boat from Tassie, we visited a dear friend in Wonthaggi, and then kept heading in the wrong direction to the stunning Baw Baw National Park northeast of Melbourne.

From Walhalla, a gold mining town, and at my suggestion, we took a dirt road to the remote (free) campsite, Aberfeldy River.  It was 17 kilometres down a rocky road that hugged a steep mountain.  At some point I looked left out of the window and saw a three hundred meter or more drop down a cliff.  My palms became moist.

Then we got to a place to where the road narrowed and I’m sure Lee and I were both hoping like hell that no one was coming the other way.

Every time I looked out the window and saw the drop, I pictured us falling, trailer and all, down the cliff to the bottom of the valley.  I was so nervous and I wasn’t even driving.

After we’d gone 12 k, we came to a tree in the middle of the road.

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On the road to Aberfeldy River

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Thankfully, my husband is prepared for everything.  He brought out a shovel and heaved and hoed until the tree was out of the way.

When we arrived, it was all worth it.  We stayed for three nights on the river.  The days were warm and 23 degrees; the nights were cold and crisp.  We skimmed rocks, built dams and the girls made endless potions.  K and I took a river walk upstream where we skinny-dipped in a swimming hole.  In the evenings sat round the campfire with the guitar, under the stars, all on our own.

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After three days and nights, we finally drove west–in the right direction–towards the Grampians.

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Leaving Tasmania

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Three weeks is not nearly enough to see this beautiful island, but here we are, boarding the ferry.

We spent our last days at Mt. Field National Park, which boasts a fine campsite (v. cheap) with hot showers! We went on bush walks and explored the Styx River with its massive Swamp Gums, some of them 400 years old.

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R looking up at s 400 year old Swamp Gum
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The top of the Swamp Gum
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Getting on the boat

On on the third day we woke to the smell of smoke–Tassie is experiencing an especially bad fire season.  And R had a fever.

We packed up and drove three hours north, hoping to camp at Bakers Beach.  As we got closer, the smoke grew thicker. Then we saw a helicopter with a bucket of water dangling beneath. That’s when we turned around.  I cursed myself for not checking where the fires were earlier.

We drove through the smoke to Devonport.

On the way, R threw up in the car. We pulled over and cleaned it up as best we could with wet wipes, but she kept saying, as we drove, ‘I can smell vomit.’

In Devonport the smoke was too bad to camp and every motel, hotel and cabin was fully booked.  At six pm, we booked a motel (our first) in Burnie and drove the extra 40 minnutes there.  Lee and I took turns eating in a restaurant. It was bliss to sit there on my own with food someone else had cooked.

R is better now; we’ve cleaned the car and we’re getting on to the Spirit of Tasmania. On the other side, we’ll visit a friend on the Mornington Peninsular before heading west round this big country.

 

 

 

The Southernmost Point in Australia

Cockle Creek is the end of the road in southeastern Tasmania and the furthest south you can drive in Tassie.  You can walk a further seven kilometres to the southernmost point, which Lee and I were lucky enough to do.

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Lee and the girls at the beach at Cockle Creek
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Paddy melon on the south coast track to the southernmost point in Australia 

Located within Southwest National Park, Cockle Creek is also, quite possibly, the most beautiful free camp in the world.  Clear calm blue-green waters lap the shores of the vast Recherrche Bay.  Paddymelons hop around the bush at dusk.

The colonial history–like all Tasmanian history–is violent, dark, heart wrenching.  Aborigianls lived here for tens of thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.

What’s interesting is how different the French explorers were from the British.  Of course the French have their dark chapters of colonial history elsewhere on the globe, but when Bruny d’Entrecasteaux arrived on his ship to what is now known as Cockle Creek, he  came to observe.

He took on board with him artists, botanists, zoologists and philosophers.  The French explorers were there in 1792 to gather information about the people, flora and fauna.  They learned and recorded some of the local language and one Frenchman on this trip wrote in his journal (echoing Rousseau) that the locals were, “close to nature . . . whose candour and kindness contrasts so strongly with the vices of civilisation.”

The British, on the other hand, saw Tasmania as the perfect place for a prison.

They came and chopped down thousand year-old Huon pines.  Logging remains a significant industry in Tasmania.

In something that many call genocide, the Aboriginal Tasmanians (except for a few remaining descendants) were wiped out.

And they slaughtered whales in the name of progress, for their precious oil.  It’s hard to imagine those calm blue waters running red with blood and stinking to high heaven with smouldering whale blubber.

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Recherché Bay

There used to be around 100,000 Right whales.  Now there are 1-2 thousand.  The baleen from the whales was used to keep women corseted half a world away in England.

It makes you wonder about the meaning of the word, “civilised”.

 

 

Scenes from Bruny Island

Located in the southeastern tip of Tasmania is the stunning Bruny Island, really two islands, joined by a ‘neck’. There are no grocery stores, just gorgeous views everywhere you look.

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R on the ferry to Bruny
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Fairy penguin
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Echidna
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Sunset, at Cloudy Bay

 

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K at the ‘Neck’ of Bruny, where there is a memorial for Truganini
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The Neck 

We spent four nights camping in the Bush–just $5 per adult a night and $2.50 for for K.

At the first campsite at the Neck, we met a family who’d been traveling for seven years! They looked surprisingly clean, but they did have a caravan with a shower.

The second site was four wheel-drive only and we had to drive on the beach to get there. Cloudy Bay was gorgeous and we could’ve stayed weeks except for the Blow Flies and the fact that we  ran out of chocolate.

We’re headed for a caravan park in Dover tonight for showers and a shave and the dreaded laundry.  Then, back to the bush!