Dec 21, 2015

Tasmania Part 11 - Smithton - Marrawah - Arthur River - Savage River - Campbell Town

We left Sulphur Creek and drove further west stopping at Boat Harbour Beach for a refresh of the memories, last time we visited there was a school swimming carnival on, this time it was the year 12's BBQ and Beach fun. Vickie spotted a sign for fish & chips so we weakened (again) but what a disappointment it was, $36 for two serves with some limp salad that we did not ask for. We both dislike paying money for food that is poorly made. 

After feeling ripped off we continued on to look at Sisters Beach, all the homes are mainly holiday type and worth a few dollars. We stopped near Smithton at the Tall Timbers resort and rest stop, a beautifully presented area of green grass, tall shady trees and a running creek. Alas the sign said it was only for vans with grey water tanks so after lunch we drove into Smithton itself to the free camp near the river mouth. 

We were surprised to see two other Bushtrackers there as they were the only others we had seen so far in five weeks. One of the owners was a BOG member "The Dingo Man" Ken and he knew of us from reading the forum. We had a quick chat with the promise of catching up at happy hour. Another camper Bill was travelling by himself, he had a small Hi-Ace or similar with everything he needed. He called us over as he had caught some fish and wasn't sure how to fillet them, well imagine my surprise when I saw two flathead, one measuring 650mm and the other around 400mm, the largest was a real monster! A quick lesson on how to fillet them and Vick and I walked into town for a look. That evening was spent having a chat and a few red wines. 

The next morning we continued on to Marrawah, we couldn't believe that 10 years ago Marrawah was our 1st overnight stop after getting off the boat, why the hell did we drive so far? We must have been zonked out at the time and it was all a blur. This time it wasn't as windy but with the best spots taken we only stopped for coffee, it was nice seeing plenty of small bird life, majority move to fast for my compact camera, I'm kicking myself for leaving the SLR at home. 

We almost retraced our steps from our 1st trip, the fields of poppies were in flower, we believe these are harvested for the pharmaceutical companies, the fences had warning signs that trespassers would be prosecuted and that people have died from picking and using the poppies. 

Arthur River is a National Park and camping permit is required, as we were just passing through we did not stop. A lot of the road has speed humps and signs warning of Endangered Tassie Devils, we didn't see any and were not sure if the speed humps are to slow drivers down or make a noise to pre-warn the animals to scare them off the road, either way both worked. 

The road to Savage River is a well formed dirt road, hilly & windy it has some lovely views. Their is evidence of a large fire burning the area as most was in a regeneration phase. We didn't stop except to take some photos, we were hoping to come across a camp site we stayed at previously and when we did think we had found it we were not quite sure, if it was it had changed but it has been 10 years so we thought maybe it was. We stayed the night, a very quiet part of the country with no traffic coming through after the afternoon. 

The next morning we came across the camp site we thought we were at, oh well. 

Along the road we had to pull over as there was a wide load coming through, this would be the limit that the roads could take and the semi drivers were doing a skilled job in getting the trailers around the bends. 

Arriving at the crossroads for the Murchison highway we turned left and drove another 20klms to finally get to our nights destination Hellyer Gorge. This was one of our favourite spots previously, it was the scene of my 1st trout capture and has a lovely rain forest vegetation. We decided to stay two nights and catch up with the washing. Camping us allowed on either side of the road, one is under a canopy of trees more suited to tents or camper trailers, the other on the high side where it's a choice of bitumen or if your lucky on grass in between some lovely big trees, we were lucky and the only ones there. 

After a relaxing two days, we left Hellyer and headed to a camp site that was new to us, Upper Natone Forest Reserve sounded good on the Wikicamps and we were not disappointed. We had many choices of where to camp and we chose to be out in the open on green grassy area to make the most of the solar. We had another van come in, the male driver had suffered a stroke at some stage and his wife did all the van setting up, and got his electric gopher off the ute, they were a friendly couple and after unhitching they went for a drive. In the mean time we had a ute come in with some motorbikes on the back, for the next hour or so we had 3 young boys roaring around and up and down the bitumen road racing each other, no safety gear, no helmets ... 

Well it was an accident waiting to happen, and it did, both Vick and I heard the skid followed by a sound that could be described as a watermelon hitting the road from a height, we looked over to see a young boy on the road shaking his arm around. His friends quickly on the scene started screaming hysterically his name and yelling "he's dead" I got over there straightway and proceeded to check the boy was breathing and on his side, he was obviously having a fit as he was convulsing and his eyes had rolled back into his head, blood was pouring out from his head and I put my hand there to slow the flow, he also had blood coming out of his ear. I had to yell at the two other boys to get them to listen, I asked them who they were with and they told me the boy's father, so I sent one off to get him here ASAP. With no phone coverage I thought it best to get the boy into his fathers car and get to the hospital as quick as they could. We lifted him in, hoping that no damage had been done to his spine, but what was the choice? Possibly die on the road whilst someone drove for help or at least get a phone signal, or chance it. The Father was all for getting to the hospital so that's what he did. 

I was certain the poor kid would not make it, or if he side would suffer brain damage for the rest of his life, the relief we got later on when phoned by the Dr in emergency telling us the boy was in their care and communicating and in a stable condition. He also mentioned that our quick response most definitely helped save the boys life as shock can be a killer in incidents like this.

We left Upper Natone and a short drive later we found ourselves at Bannon Park, another free camp beside a river. There were 1/2 dozen other campers set up, mostly local getting set up before Christmas, it would have been OK to stay a few days except there was no phone signal and we needed phone signal to speak to our family on the big day. So we stayed a night and then moved on back to Deloraine for two nights before deciding to go back to Campbell Town as it was closer to Hobart and Vickie wanted to go to the Salamanca markets one last time on Boxing Day. 

Christmas Day, we had a lovely meal of cold chicken & salad, and ham, Vick also made a mango creamy desert which was very nice. We had a nice couple John & Maralyn whom we had met previously at Smithton camped near us and after lunch we joined them for a few to many drinks.

We Skyped our family and hot to see and speak to them all, it was going to be a good experience for them all getting together without mum & dad but we were there looking down at them as Scotty put a photo of us on top of the tree. Hahaha

With Christmas finally over, we left Campbell town and went to Oatsland, we left the van there and drove into Hobart, it poured rain all day and we both got soaking wet and it wasn't the best fun walking the market especially as we had already been there before, I have the patience of a saint. Back to Oatsland still pouring rain, we cranked up the diesel heater and warmed our bodies up. 

We intend to leave here tomorrow and head towards Swansea and visit the girls again and pick up our push bikes, stay a night and then go North again and check out Beaconsfield. 

Tasmania Part 10 - Bracknell - Evandale - Sulphur Creek

We left the wind at Waterhouse and with no real idea where we heading found ourselves at Bracknell, a small camp by a river. There were two other caravans and a tent set up so we decided to park outside the camp area and get some privacy. Not much to add to Bracknell except I did see many Fairy Wrens and the two camp chickens was reduced to one the next day, and not by me but something with four legs and teeth as the feathers were scattered everywhere. 

That morning we decided to Deloraine and base ourselves there for a few days and take some drives without the van in tow. The markets were on at Evandale on Saturday so that was a good reason to be close by. As markets go it was one of the better ones, as a bloke I preferred it to Salamanca as that was just touristy stuff, Evandale had a mix of farmers produce, trash & treasure and arts & crafts. Even so I could walk around and see all I wanted to in an hour. I was surprised to find Vickie waiting for me at our allotted spot, I'm glad my impatience is wearing off on her. 

We had lunch at a small cafe in town, a lovely setting outside amongst the many flowers and roses.

Another day we went for a drive to Sheffield, this town is known for its murals and each year they add another, it's the uniqueness of towns like this that make Tasmania so interesting, always something to look at and something different. 

There is a very interesting 2nd hand shop in town, I could have easily spent plenty of time going through all the items on display, vinyl records are making a resurgence and looking at the prices being asked for LP's that we had given away many years ago was staggering. 

Another day we drove through the hills checking out some other camp spots, we found a lovely spot at Liena but the effort to get in would have to weigh against actually getting a spot that wasn't taken so we crossed it off the list. 

We called in at Forth, another town with a free camping area, on this particular day there was a Harley Davidson motorcycle show on so I walked around having a look. 

Time we left Deloraine but we have a feeling we will be back. One of our longest drives to date, around 100klms found us along the North West coast at Sulpher Creek, not the most enthralling camp stuck between the highway, a rail line and a rocky beach, But it was Vickies Birthday so nothing but the best for her, we drove into Burnie looking for a place for lunch and we spotted a hotel and thought that looks ok, well after committing ourselves to a table we realised there was a end of year school lunch going on and the noise was incredible! We couldn't wait to get out of the place. So feeling a bit disappointed that the birthday lunch wasn't a success we headed back to Penguin for a look then back to camp for a few drinks. 

Tasmania Part 9 - Scottsdale - Waterhouse Conservation Area.

Scottsdale has a free camp close to town that allows a 7 day stay, with a dump point and all shops close by it makes a good base from which to explore from. We arrived and it was already very crowded, we thought at 1st we had the best position of them all, tucked away near some large trees but things got a bit scary during the night with the wind breaking some branches and nuts falling onto the roof of the van, so at 2am I was up and moving the van. It wasn't the most restful nights sleep because now the van was at an angle, so when the local camp rooster started crowing I shifted the van again over to the day picnic area. 

There is a dam next to the camp that has Platypus in it and we were lucky to see it playing around near  the small spillway, it was using it as a water slide, it was difficult to get a photo, this was as good as I got.

We watched a large van get towed in by a 80 series Landcruiser, I had a chat with the owners a lovely elderly couple who told me it was 35' long and they bought in America and towed it 76,000 miles around the States before bringing it down to Tassie where they have continued to tow it around. They were a lot keener than me towing a fan that size around the hills and bends down these parts.

We only stayed the one night at Scottsdale and headed out to Waterhouse Conservation area, in particular Ransoms Beach, there was one other camper set up, an Ex Viet Vet from Hervey Bay named John and his dog Zorro, he was on his own until his partner finished work and was happy to enjoy the isolation. The two says we spent there the wind howled and as pretty as the area is the wind took the enjoyment away. 

Tasmania Part 8 - Kempton - Bay Of Fires - Legerwood

With the washing back under control we again left Kempton and retraced our way back towards the Bay Of Fires and St Helens. Before getting there though we stopped at the Elephant Pancakes on Elephant Pass Road, we had been here 10 years ago but this time we didn't think it was as good, the business is for sale and appears to not be in the same condition and for what flour & water costs the pancakes are over priced. 

With the pancakes ticked off the list we continued on to St Helens and in particular the area called The Gardens. Before getting there we saw a sign for Jeanette Beach and decided to take a look, we were happy that we did because we found a lovely camp site with one area left big enough for our van & car. Campers are allowed to stay four weeks if the want and with a lovely beach on either side of us it wouldn't be hard to do just that. But having only about that amount of time left it was just a three day stop.

We explored the area known as The Gardens but was very happy we choose where we did. Any of the free camps are great but our spot wasn't as crowded. 

After three nights we left and continued on to the tip if the North East coast, we had been up this way before like nearly everywhere else but we hadn't called into the Pub In The Paddock so that was another to cross off the list. Again we were disappointed that all they had to offer us for morning tea was cake from a freezer and average coffee.

We took a turn left at Weldborough looking for a camp along Mount Paris Dam Road, we eventually found it but the track in was very tight with bushes and trees lining the track, there was no turning back though and eventually we came to a small area just big enough to turn around in. 

We have seen lots of these flowers around in the bush, not sure what they are, could even be a weed for all we know but they are pretty. 

After all the effort to get in we decided it was a bit dodgy to stay because of the isolation and if we did have to leave quickly it wouldn't have been easy. So on towards Legerwood we went, this town is known for its chainsaw carved statues, the trees used were planted after the war in memory of the towns soldiers who never returned.