Penguins feature heavily in this my weekly blog,
Getting lines to rhyme though has proved a tough old slog.
We are not talking Penguins, the chocolate covered snack,
But black and white birdie things with feathers on their back.
First we visited Penguin, a pretty coastal town,
We spent a good old hour or so just walking up and down.
Everywhere around us displayed a penguin theme,
Including the fruit and veggie store with Free Delivery Scheme.
Our next brush with penguins was by the Nut in Stanley,
Penguins come ashore at night just like they do in Manly.
On the boardwalk that night we had the best location
But then I screwed things up to everyone’s consternation!
Ten little penguins waddled slowly up the hill,
We all waited patiently and kept very still.
Suddenly my camera flashed giving everyone a fright,
I said I was sorry but it didn’t make things right!
Forget cod suppers, it’s gummy flake and chips,
We’ve done lots of walking to keep it off our hips.
Made it to the Edge of the World, or so the signpost said,
Unfortunate place for trees though as many of them were dead.
We loved Cradle Mountain, a popular tourist spot,
New social distancing means visiting is fraught.
For now we’re safe and healthy and continuing our trip,
But will keep away from penguins to avoid another blip!
The situation out here is changing daily. One minute we’re hearing we have to leave Tasmania, next thing is we can stay. We don’t know whether we are coming or going – literally! For now we plan to sit it out in Tasmania and return to Sydney after Easter. We hope to remain in New South Wales until things settle back down but the answer to that, my friends, is blowing in the wind. Keep safe everyone.
Our hiking boots have had several outings this week as we have explored some of Tasmania’s wild and inspiring walks. The longest trail we did was up to the magnificent Meander Falls. It was a climb of over 500 metres but the track wound up through beautiful temperate rainforest. The guide books suggested it was a 6-7 hour return trip but we comfortably did it in 4.5 hours which included stopping frequently to take photos. Maybe we were just super fit after the Windsor Park Run on Saturday.
Cataract Gorge can indeed bring a tear to a glass eye. The Gorge is close to the centre of Launceston which is Tasmania’s second largest city. There was a chair lift but we chose to walk the circular route which went up as far as the old hydro-electric power station at Duck Reach.
We have stayed at caravan parks in Deloraine and Latrobe this week. Both suggested they were good places for spotting platypus in the local rivers and they were right! It has taken patience but we have spotted three in the wild now but they’ve either been too quick or too far away to capture on film. Lovely to see them nonetheless.
No photos of the raspberry farm, cheese or chocolate factories we visited this week. The free samples were miniscule! We did however do our bit and look forward to finding out if the raspberry jam lives up to its slogan of being “The way life should taste”!!!
You wouldn’t believe the number of gorgeous photographs I’ve taken this week and it has been tough culling them back for the blog. The Little Blue Lake really was that blue, the rolling pastures we drove past were lush and green and Low Head at the mouth of the Tamar River was so calm and peaceful.
We have free camped beside a beautiful river in Derby, on a vineyard at Pipers Brook and also stayed at some very inexpensive campsites with fabulous facilities. Accommodation is certainly a lot more affordable here in Tasmania and so we have splashed out a bit more on entrance fees to various touristy attractions.
The $55 (£30) Tamar Triple Pass gave us entry to Platypus House, Seahorse World and the Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre. All three were very informative and offered present buying opportunities for grandchildren! I did briefly catch a glimpse of one platypus in the wild but hope to see many more. Meantime it was good to see them up close even if it was in an enclosure. I thought platypus would be similar in size to otters but they are much smaller. Their fur is really soft and they uniquely lay eggs the size of small marbles. There was no shortage of seahorses at Seahorse World. They had thousands of them – some for export, some for conservation. The potbelly seahorses caught my attention. The bigger the potbelly, the more attractive the male is to the female apparently. It is something akin to women with good childbearing hips I guess because it is the male seahorse that incubates the fertilised eggs in his pouch and then gives birth to around 1,000 little ones!!! Baby seahorses have to fend for themselves from day one and many don’t make it.
We spent over an hour and a half at the Beaconsfield Gold Mine Site which had a number of interactive displays. We hadn’t realised that as recently as 2006 there had been a major rescue operation to free miners trapped following a rock fall. The exhibition about this event was sensitively done and whilst there was relief that two of the miners were brought out alive after 15 days underground, it was tainted with the sadness that one of their colleagues was not as fortunate.
Having crossed over the magnificent Batman Bridge we have started coming down the Tamar Valley which is well known for its wineries. We have popped in on a few and met the owners, their dogs and some pigs. Proving very popular this year is Glamping In The Vines! We skipped that but did enjoy beer and cheese tasting following our tour round James Boags Brewery in Launceston. We did do our first Park Run in Tasmania last weekend and aim to do the Windsor Park Run this Saturday.
We haven’t seen as much street art here in Tassie as we did on our lap last year but they do have a thing for tree sculptures. These were in commemoration of war veterans and for the whaling industry.
Tasmania has a ridiculous number of free or donation campsites. For every caravan park there are at least ten that will cost you nothing to park in for a day or two. Free campsites often have toilets nearby, sometimes showers but no power. That’s OK for the Britz-mobile though as the leisure battery can run the fridge and lights for two days before needing to hook up. We stayed at one free campsite that was totally amazing and there was hardly anyone there. The large grassy campsite was next to a beautiful beach and there was free access to the cinema, games room, tennis courts and putting green. There was a heated swimming pool to enjoy for $5 a day, washing machines for only $2 and oh did I mention, it had a brewery, a distillery and a vineyard as well!!! After working up a sweat playing table tennis we went for a paddle – Mike chose beer, I chose wine! Later on we had the most delicious meal in the estate’s restaurant and rounded off our most enjoyable day by sampling their whisky and fortified wine/port. The other freebie we’ve been enjoying are the blackberries which are growing wild along many of the foreshores. We have never seen anyone else out picking but we’ve thoroughly enjoyed them with local Tasmanian vanilla ice-cream.
We have stopped in quite a few places over the past week but will concentrate on just two: Freycinet National Park and the Bay of Fires. We spent two days walking at both sites and on both occasions we had one really sunny day and one not so good. As one person we met said, “With the elements you have to take the bad with the good”. The following photos demonstrate what a difference a day makes.
That said, here are my preferred shots with sunshine, early evening light and sunset at Freycinet.
Whilst one might think the Bay of Fires is so called because of the orange lichen found on the granite boulders lining the bay, it actually refers to the Aboriginal fires spotted by Captain Tobias Furneaux when he sailed past in 1773. This was a magical place again with free camping along the bay.
It has been an enlightening week in so many different ways. We were mesmerised watching how the birdlife here balance on one leg whilst using the other to pick up pine cones and brings these up to their beaks to munch on. I also never realised that there was such a thing as a vegetable peeler that does what it says on the tin! Happy days.
We are travelling anti-clockwise this time so it means we will go up the East Coast, across the top and then down the West Coast over the next eight weeks. It is not a huge island so we expect to only be driving between 50 and 100 kms between stops but there is plenty to see and do along the way. First stop was Port Arthur, a place of national and international significance, which gained World Heritage status in 2010. Port Arthur was initially a convict labour station before becoming a punishment station in 1833. We spent two days here and still didn’t see everything. Well worth the entrance fee which included a guided walking tour, a cruise past Point Puer Boys’ Prison and round the Isle of the Dead and access to 30 historic buildings and ruins.
I had read Marcus Clarke’s book, ‘For The Term of His Natural Life’ before visiting and it gave me a much fuller appreciation of the hardships the convicts endured not only getting to the island but their treatment whilst incarcerated. Visiting Port Arthur was a moving and humbling experience and should not be missed if you visit Tasmania.
Son-in-law Ben challenged us to do the Ghost Tour and warned me not to volunteer to hold the lamp as it is truly creepy. When our guide asked for lamp volunteers I didn’t give her any eye contact but still got picked! There were quite a few sceptics in our group and so we didn’t see any ghosts but still got our bravery awards! The sights and stories were interesting and we did just double check that “Amelia” did not hitch a ride home with us lol.
Tasmania is known for its fresh produce and we have already sampled the delights of Kate’s Berry Farm (delicious blueberry ice cream), Spring Bay (mussels), Darlington Vineyard (wine) and Sullivan’s Cove (whisky). Sullivan’s Cove Distillery are the only distillery in the world to have twice won the World’s Best Single Malt Whisky Award. Mike was all geared up to buy a bottle after tasting it only to find out they’d sold out!
We left home three weeks ago. Storm Ciara and Storm Dennis were unknown, the Coronavirus was quarantined in Wuhan and Australia was on fire. How quickly things change. In New South Wales, Australia we have had torrential rain which has helped put out the bush fires but caused severe flooding in places. Mike and I lost count of the number of times we got soaked through but we are really happy for the farmers who have seen little rain for the past three years!
Two weeks in Dee Why allowed us time to clear out our storage unit and move stuff to our friend’s farm in Dunedoo and catch up with our Aussie family. Granddaughter Sophie started Kindy and is very keen on homework and grandson Charlie enjoyed our trip to Circular Quay to see the Lunar Lanterns. There was quality Mum and daughter time, family meals and Mike and I celebrated our 17th Wedding Anniversary.
We took a short domestic flight from Sydney to Hobart and have eight weeks here to complete a mini lap of Tasmania. We have hired a campervan which we pick up tomorrow and are very much looking forward to living on the road again. We heard Tasmania is a lot like Scotland but we hadn’t expected to see men in kilts! Staying in a hotel in Hobart for the first few days has allowed us to take in some of the must do attractions in this lovely capital city. Hobart has the world’s second deepest natural harbour. Fish restaurants are everywhere and scallops feature heavily – yum yum!
We took a ferry to the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and found something to suit all tastes. Mike liked the strobe lighting room and the computer generated simulations, I was fascinated by the tattooed human who sat motionless for hours on a plinth and we were both mesmerised by the waterfall displaying random words.
The weather has been glorious and we did not need all the layers we packed for our trip to the top of Mount Wellington. We took a bus to the top but walked back down through the bush stopping at Australia’s oldest continually operating brewery on the way down. Old habits die hard!!!
It has been seven months since we finished our lap of Australia and returned to the UK in time to celebrate my father’s 96th birthday.
We loved our time in Australia and were keen to return again with another visa in place. Luckily for us the Australian Government brought out a new visa in July called the Sponsored Parent (Temporary) Visa which suited our purposes perfectly! It required our son-in-law to get approved as our Parent Sponsor and then it was over to us to sort out the necessary medical, police checks, referees, $$$ funds and application form. Our five year visa was granted on the 24th September 2019 and the clock has already started counting down!!!
It was always our intention to spend Christmas with my Dad and so we have spent the intervening months getting ready to move in the New Year. Whilst we haven’t had quite so much clutter to throw out this time, we have had the added task of getting rid of all the furniture we are not shipping out to Australia. We have carefully studied the guidance about what we can and cannot ship and unfortunately the 22 bottles of gin I was given for my birthday did not make the cut! As I’m doing Dry January quite a lot of ‘regifting’ happened at Christmas time!!!
Wangi Wangi on Lake Macquarie was our next stop before heading on to Chittaway Bay to share another bottle of fine wine with cousin Sharon and hubby Steve.
As you may have noticed our lap missed out the pointy bit on the far right known as the Cape York Peninsula. Jura would never have made it as you require four wheel drive to get to the top. To give us a taste of what we can expect on our next trip Steve took us into Watangan National Park on a four wheel drive off road adventure. The photos do not really show how steep or rugged the terrain was but it was quite an experience and unlike anything we have ever done before. Thankfully the delicious picnic lunch stayed in our stomachs during this white knuckle ride. We felt very safe in Steve’s hands even when he had to do a 360 turn on the edge of a precipice!
On the 11th June, 317 days since setting off, we completed our epic lap of Australia and returned to Narrabeen. We are now back in Dee Why with a full fortnight to enjoy time with the grandchildren, their parents and other friends. We’ve got some stuff to sort out with our Aussie property and future visa options but the rental motorhome has been returned to base and we’re back into AirBnB accommodation enjoying the comfort of a proper bed and electric heating.
For those interested in the final statistics, we covered 24,000 kms in the motorhomes, 3,000 kms on our electric bikes and wore out four pairs of shoes between us. Our total expenditure excluding the cost of Jura was $36,500 which averaged out at $800 per week. Interestingly we spent more on alcohol than fuel but then again we were undertaking research on behalf of the AWAS (Australian Wine Appreciation Society)! The biggest expenditure was caravan parks because we didn’t do as much free camping as originally intended. That said, many of the caravan parks were in the best locations and being off season for the majority of our lap we got some great deals along the way.
We have created so many new memories, seen the most amazing places, met some truly lovely people and it has been the best year of married life (so far). We have been blessed with continuing good health and thankfully not experienced any traumas that have required us to cut short our trip. We thank each and every one of you who have continued to follow our pootling adventure and provided encouragement and comments through various means. The blogging experience was a new one for me but I have enjoyed the challenge of keeping you informed and mildly entertained over this past year whilst simultaneously reminding myself of the awesome journey we have been on. Fair dinkum I have no idea what’s next but there’s no time to be bored in a world as beautiful as this.
We have spent the last few days exploring the Hunter Valley area which is Australia’s oldest wine region. Mike had done his research beforehand and lined up five boutique wineries we could easily peddle to from our Caravan Park in Nulkaba. Boutique wineries are basically small production wineries that don’t make enough to sell commercially through retail outlets. Some can be sourced in restaurants but most is sold through Members Clubs and the Cellar Door. Petersons had a beautiful Member’s Room and I’d happily sign up for membership if I lived out here as their wines were definitely the best in this area!
When John the Pom, as he likes to be known, at Petersons asked me what wine I liked to drink I said, “not Chardonnay”. “You’re an ABC”, he said. None the wiser, I asked him what that was. John the Pom replied, “Anything But Chardonnay”. John has the most plummy accent ever despite living in Australia for the past 38 years. He was adopted as a child in Somerset and had a successful career as a food critic before joining Petersons. His large frame supports his many tales of degustation and he is a great fan of Heston Blumenthal. He was an entertaining story teller and told us about his close friend in the tasting industry called Clittie. We thought he was having us on but no, it is her real name. She’s become quite attached to it and has named her business Clittie Tasting (no pun or porn intended).
Being winter the terrain is quite brown but it was still possible to spot lots of kangaroos in the vineyeards. The roos do sometimes attack the fruit but bats and very high temperatures are more of a problem. The area is best known for its Semillon and Shiraz both of which do well being cellared for 5 to 10 years. The small boutique wineries we visited explained they do not have the luxury of holding on to their stock because the Australian government charges them a Wet Tax year on year.
About eleven years ago we did a Hunter Valley Wine Tour from Sydney. Back then we particularly enjoyed our visit to Ernest Hill where the wines were given some interesting names according to where the ashes of various dead relatives had been scattered. We went back again this time to taste some more of their full bodied wines. There have been no recent family bereavements but their Cab. Sav. really was to die for! We did tastings at Iron Gate Estate, Ivanhoe Wines and Hanging Tree Wines and have replenished our depleted wine stock with ten beauties: six reds, three whites and one rose. Friends and family we’re about to visit are in for a rare treat as we can’t bring them home.
Uncle Ken, as he likes to be known, at Hanging Tree Wines was determined to knock me off my ABC pedestal. We had already learnt the 123 theory which states you should never judge a wine until you’ve had three sips. On this basis Uncle Ken produced a bottle of their Chardonnay and provided strict instructions on how I was to drink it. The first sip was just as it came from the bottle, the next sip was to be taken after I had allowed my glass to sit in front of the fire for a few minutes and the third sip was to be taken following a nibble of smoked cheddar. The end result was amazing – I actually found their Chardonnay to be a really drinkable wine!
So now after Yarra, Barossa, McLaren Vale, Clare, Margaret River and Hunter Valley Wine tastings Sheila, as I like to be known, is officially an MMEA – a Much More Educated Alcohfrolic!!! Cheers.
Ten months down and only another fortnight on the road. It has been an epic adventure and thankfully it isn’t quite over yet. This week we have been hugging the New South Wales (NSW) coastline and seen some amazing bays. We visited Crescent Head many years ago under different weather conditions and circumstances. It is a place of great sentimental value to my Aussie family and it felt quite strange to be here under our own steam. We were given a camp spot surf side and were soon rubbing shoulders with surfing dudes and bingo fans!!! Mike and I did not join either party but we loved walking up Little and Big Nobby for the stunning views. I also had an energetic swim against the incoming tide on the lagoon side before sunset. Truly a magical spot.
Since leaving the Northern Territory, we have planned our route so that we can partake in as many Saturday morning Park Runs as possible. Queensland and NSW have offered us a good selection and for the past eight weeks we have been out there on the startline at 7 a.m. ready to go. Mike is now way faster than me and having turned 69 at the weekend I’d say that is pretty good going! We had breakfast out – a rare thing for us, but very popular with the Aussies. The sun was out so Mike donned his new Ray Ban sunnies (what a thoughtful gift!).
We enjoyed the Botanic Gardens at Coffs Harbour, the tasteful graffiti wall at Nambucca Heads and here in Forsters it’s all about the oysters. Who wants McDonalds when a hundred yards further down the road you can buy fresh premium oysters for only £1 each? I have been converted! We also enjoyed some beer tasting at Forster’s only microbrewery, the Coastal Brewing Company. They weren’t officially open today but the lady running the place originally comes from Leeds and liked our accents!
Forster is located in the Great Lakes Region but it also has an amazing coastline. Yesterday we saw a pod of dolphin and today it was a couple of breaching whales. We hope to see a few more closer to shore in order to photograph them. It is getting much colder now. Today it only reached 16 degrees so shorts out, trousers in!
It’s been a while since we regaled you with stories of our vineyard tours. Fear not, next week we’ll be in Hunter Valley and Mike has already worked out a full itinerary!