I am met by my May housesit hosts at Hobart airport and driven to their beautiful home and treated to a dinner of Tasmanian salmon with mashed Tasmanian potatoes and copious amounts of red wine – what a lovely welcome! The following day – a Sunday – they take me on a guided tour of Hobart, first stopping at the ‘beach’ just a ten minute walk from their home, on the Derwent River. The widest expanse of water I’ve ever seen – classified as a river but more like a bay, even with small waves breaking on the shore, it will be a really nice place for a walk when I return for the housesit.
A visit to Battery Point – east side – where I learn it was built to keep out Russian invaders (what did Russia want with Tasmania?) and enjoyed amazing views of this waterside city.
Into the Farmgate Markets in the heart of the city, a market full of fresh produce held every Sunday. Beautiful fresh fruit and vegetables, with the largest array of potato varieties I’ve seen – I didn’t realise there were so many choices, I counted at least twelve different types. More stalls of cheeses, meats, salmon (salmon sausages – must try them), honey, cakes and wines. Chatting to the lady at the Tickleback Ridge Winery stall, she tells me about a grape picking day coming up in a few weeks where they invite ‘pickers’ to come help with the harvest, then treat them to a lunch and a winetasting afternoon. Sounds fun, but I think I’m going to miss it by a week – she takes my email address to let me know.
Onto the Salamanca Markets precinct and a coffee, before a slow walk through a beautiful park and onto the waterfront. The ‘Endeavour’ is docked in the marina on a visit (I’m really getting my fill of tall ships lately), alongside one of the ‘Sea Shepherd’ ships, from the marine wildlife conservation organization. A little rubber dinghy with crew from the ship are quietly approaching a stranded cormorant who has fishing line entangled around its neck, while onlookers guide them to its hiding place.
Lunch at the famous Salamanca Markets then a drive through the other ‘Battery Point’ on the opposite side of the river. This time it’s in a gorgeous, quaint little suburb full of historic houses. I’m then taken on a drive half way up the mountain that overlooks Hobart – Mt Wellington. Unfortunately there is a burn off today so the top of the mountain is shrouded in smoke, so no point driving to the lookout at the top. We settle for the half way lookout.
Back home for another fabulous sample of Tasmania’s cheeses, more wine and a delicious dinner. And another home made pear tart for dessert!
Next morning I am driven back into Hobart to pick up my hire car (Budget.com.au) and head west along the Lyell Highway.
First stop is the Salmon Ponds, recommended by my hosts. Located near New Norfolk in the Derwent Valley, it is an historic trout hatchery where you can learn about the life cycle of salmon and trout, and stroll around the beautiful grounds full of evergreen and exotic trees up to 140 yers old. I enjoyed a coffee overlooking the ponds in the Pancakes by the Ponds restaurant. Well worth the small diversion off the highway. www.salmonponds.com.au
Next stop – The Wall In The Wilderness – words can’t describe this place. Briefly, it is a work in progress by artist Greg Duncan – a wooden sculpture being carved on three metre high panels, depicting the history of the harsh Central Highlands region of Tasmania, beginning with the indigenous people, then the timber harvesters, pastoralists, miners and Hydro workers. When completed in 2015, it will span 100 metres in length, and will be a major work of art. Housed in a delightful timber building with sitting area surrounding a roaring log fire, it is a fantastic break in your journey across to the west coast. No photos are allowed of course, but please have a look at the website – it has to be seen to be believed! www.thewalltasmania.com
A couple of more stops along the way to take in the scenery of this vast wilderness area:
I would have liked a walk around Lake St Clair, but it was late afternoon and fairly cold and windy, so not a great idea for a solo walker to set out on a trek. I continued on my drive along this wild wilderness area, thinking one wouldn’t want to break down anywhere, it is very remote country.
I arrived in the mining town of Queenstown, more like a village that time forgot, surrounded on all sides by mountains and quarries. I discovered an intriguing series of bronze sculptures known as ‘Miners Siding’, consisting of the Jumbo Drill display – a bronze statue of a miner operating a large drill; Miners Sunday – depicting a family downing tools and enjoying their day of rest; and ‘Ten Decades of Man and Mining’ – 21 beautiful plaques along a cascading stream depicting the evolution of the 100 year history of the Lyell mining district. An awesome tribute to this important mining area.
I had taken the plunge and arranged for my first night of couchsurfing – see www.couchsurfing.org to see what it’s about. What a fantastic concept! People register on a website to open up their homes to travellers for a free night on a couch or bed – hence the name ‘couchsurfing’. My first host was a fascinating lady in her late sixties who does ‘thousand mile walks’ every other year. Teaches English in China in between to fund her walking treks, she certainly had some interesting stories to tell me. These walks take her to some exotic places around the world.
The house was an ecclectic mix of old and new with a fascinating story behind it. She had pretty much ‘won’ it in a raffle, after submitting a ridiculously low offer in a tender for it. Almost ready to be condemned, she rescued it from demolition and has been repairing and refurbishing it in readiness to sell it on – at a fairly decent profit, I might add. I enjoyed an entertaining night of conversation, a comfy bed and a warm shower before moving on.
The charming fishing village of Strahan was my first morning port of call for a warming breakfast while I ummed and ahhed whether I should take the Gordon River cruise on this wet, cold, foggy morning. I decided to save my money in the end, ninety nine dollars is a lot to spend when the weather isn’t on your side. I opted instead for a bit of sightseeing around the town before heading north to the coastal town of Burnie.
A pleasant drive through changing countryside as I headed out of the wilderness area of the west and into the pretty rural regions of the north. A lunch and fuel stop in Burnie and a visit to their local beach which was a pleasant surprise. I then followed the coast road across to Devonport, and beyond to my next couchsurf destination in the beautiful beachside town of Penguin – just the name was enough to tell me I would love this town!
And love it I did! What a cute little town with lovely beaches and a friendly ambience. My couchsurf host was delightful. Another lady of my age, also studying to teach English (as I am), written her own book and is also a traveller. We enjoyed a delicious middle eastern dish for dinner and chatted till the early hours of the morning. With a fascination for Morocco and deserts, she is hoping to take herself off on an extended trek to this vibrant country in the coming months. I had a delightful stay and we have remained friends, keeping each other updated with our travel plans, with promises of catching up on our travels somewhere. An early morning set off to my next housesit destination – the Tamar Valley north of Launceston.