Launceston

We arrived in the afternoon at the Commodore Regent Hotel , our accommodation, which was ideally situated, and the room perfect.  When we asked the host, an amiable man, if we could make it to Cataract Gorge he told us that we could make it anywhere in Launceston. He was not wrong.

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Second in size to Hobart in the south, it is a town nestled between river and hills, organised well and easy to navigate. In reply to the landlord, we asked if it was walking distance and, again, he said you could walk anywhere. We didn’t know if he had mountaineering types in mind and neither of us would profess to be that, so out came the map and he advised some good options, given our brief time. Like many of the people we met in Tasmania, he was not native to the island, but passionate about it.

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We went straight to Cataract Gorge, an easy 7 minutes by car, but did the Duck Trail walk to the power station, at the suggestion of the landlord. It was amazing, but we didn’t get to do the standard Gorge walk, so cannot compare and we missed Penny Royal, which was on the standby list of things to do. The Duck trail took 2 hours return, taking lots of photos. The track is quite good, although steep in some parts but if you keep to the ‘up’ side, it is boarded to the sentinel lookout and then has some gravel and tree root sections. The power station and museum is worth travelling to, if you can brave the ornate suspension bridge at the end.

There are many facilities for a family at Cataract Gorge Reserve, including a swimming pool and playground. It has the longest single chair lift span in the World!

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We followed this with a trip to Seaport, again at the suggestion of the landlord, and caught some pleasant views up and down the river. However, we should have veered a little more portside (left) to get views of the bridge. To walk the length from restaurants at Seaport to bridge view, it would take you about 20 minutes return, on good, level ground, suitable for wheelchairs.

Headed into town on foot and, being Easter Sunday, there was not the usual large range of establishments open, but we settled on The Royal Oak (there must be one in every town). We were not sorry, receiving excellent service, food and Guinness on tap.

DAY 2: Went to King’s Park, across the road from The Commodore. This is a must see. The Conservatory, Macaque monkey enclosure, longest bench in the Southern Hemisphere, fountains and gardens are delightful.

Took a walk into town and photographed the historic and quaint buildings – and there are plenty! Settled in 1804 it is one of Australia’s oldest towns.

We left Launceston with the intention of returning on our last day in Tasmania.

Travel safe, with water and hats (and good, stout boots for hiking).

Burra, South Australia

In the mid-north region of South Australia, which is about 2 hours out of Adelaide, lies Burra. It is a fabulous destination for a day, but there’s plenty to see to warrant staying longer.

It began as a mining town, in the mid-1800s, and supplied most of South Australia’s copper and 5% of the World’s copper for more than a decade. Most of the buildings and houses are original, so this historic town (in Australian terms) is charming and interesting.

We did the Burra Heritage Passport, paying a fee to the Visitor Centre and getting a map and keys to historic sites in the town. This is a kind of self-guided ‘tour’ and took us about 2 hours, covering only about 10 km. There are some shocking tales, of mining families that lived in the river bed, digging their homes into the banks – as miners they knew how to dig into anything – only to suffer illness and death when the rains came and the river bed filled up. Generally it was children and the old who couldn’t survive.

The tunnels under the brewery were educative and in very good condition. You could easily imagine being down there, rolling barrels along, probably in the dark.

The open cut mines were a feature of Burra, the miners having experienced cave-ins in Britain from where many came. It was a good solution to a familiar disaster. The buildings on the mine site are well-maintained and quite beautiful. There are little green bits of copper lying everywhere, for the geologist in you.

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A row of miners cottages remain and are used as accommodation, opposite the river and caravan park. The park was well-located for exploring the town.

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The school was very grand and formidable but I think it is the town hall, now. There is a cottage set up as an historical display of life at the time of Burra’s heyday.

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Visiting the lollie shop, after having a great snack in the cafe nearby, I commented on how the door to the rest of the house seemed to drop down. The attendant told us that the buildings were very well constructed and withstood high temperatures in Summer (40C) and very cold in Winter (around 2C at night), with the occasional flood that entered the room where we stood. The shop was on the banks of the river, but it was several metres above it. Most of the houses are stone, from nearby quarries, and the soil was obviously suitable for houses to be dug out of it and on it, as there was very little cracking or signs of movement. Well, I found it fascinating.

There are a few places to eat or buy food and at least one secondhand store that had such treasures it was hard to walk past. It is a snug town, where you feel that you’re returning home, rather than visiting. I had the impression of being in a valley, despite open fields and arid landscapes.

The Burra Visitor Centre has some good information about the megafauna of the region which became extinct about 50 000 years ago. There are fossil displays in the Council chambers but we didn’t get to see them. Various trails can be taken, too, to explore this aspect and vegetation as well.

We travelled fast, of course, and didn’t stop more than two nights, so we were moving the whole time, seeing things, walking, driving. We would go again, for sure. It is a town just waiting for an historical mini-series!

The Clare Valley is to the West, Broken Hill is North East and Morgan is South East. All good destinations to follow with.

Take a camera, a hat, and water.

Travel safe.

 

Karijini National Park

Deep in the Pilbara of Western Australia, Karijini should not be missed. To view the 2 billion year-old formations, in a variety of colours and arrangements is worth the drive.

We arrived at the end of the dry, when temperatures were in their 40s and the roads were so corrugated that the ranger said he wouldn’t risk a 4WD beyond Dales Gorge where we ‘landed’.

There are a few approach paths but we came from the north, after visiting Port Hedland. It was quite a scenic drive, although a huge number of double semis were using the road en route to Newman, I think.

The Karijini Visitor Centre, managed by the local Aboriginal people, is architecturally unique and attractive. Designed as a snake, I think, it is also built to withstand fire (common in the area) and so different on the inside from the outer approach. Informative and worth a stop, the workers are very happy to give advice and maps.

So, we were restricted to Dales Gorge, but that’s like saying we were restricted to a corner of paradise. There are a few accommodation options – free roadside (see wiki camps) where people we met said it had a great view but no shade, eco lodges, and the small fee Dales camground where we stayed, but having a parks pass I think it was free. There was minimal shade but excellent toilets that had just been installed. Probably a woman thing.

From here it was an easy 10 minute walk to Dales Gorge and the whole Gorge trek takes about 1.5 – 2 hours. This includes Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. The latter two are simply amazing and when I have one of those ‘if I could be anywhere in the world right now’ moments, it is very often Fern Pool. Cool, lush, buzzing with bird and insect life, I think we stayed there for about an hour. The paths around the falls and Fern Pool are excellent and easy.

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Fortescue Falls, with its terraced steps, called us back in the morning, where we decided to have an early swim before heading off once more. There is a warning that if there is ANY SIGN OF RAIN, you are not to walk in the gorge. I believe that in such places when it rains it veritably buckets down and the possibility of flooding/being swept away is very real.

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The heat of the day, with little shade and no air conditioning, made a long stay there not desirable, unless we were to spend the days at Fern Pool. There are stunning pictures of the other gorges and swimming spots that we would definitely have visited if we had a more suitable vehicle, but our two wheel drive wasn’t going to cut it.

There is a variety of wild flowers – mulla mulla being populous. Birds, large ants and goannas all contrast the iron-rich red soil.

Most people head from here to Tom Price and then on to Coral Bay, but we headed for Karratha, much to everyone’s shock.

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We’ll definitely go back to Karijini.

Take good, closed walking shoes as tracks are rubble-strewn and sometimes steep. Snakes are not uncommon but we didn’t see any. DON’T FORGET YOUR HAT AND WATER whenever you leave your campsite. We had a little car trouble and pulled into the service station at Auski Roadhouse, in the middle of nowhere. The mechanic on hand had been there for 15 years, but was originally from within a block of our house.

Safe travels.

Dome of lost souls

A very moving and dramatic memorial to lost soldiers is the Anzac memorial Geraldton, Western Australia.

A striking sculpture is the Dome of Lost Souls, made up of 645 individual seagulls, representing the 645 soldiers who lost their lives when the HMAS Sydney sank on 19th November, 1941. I have entered it in this week’s monochrome madness challenge – culture.

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There are 7 pillars, representing the States and Territories of Australia. It is 9m high and 12m in diameter and was designed by  Joan Walsh-Smith and Charles Smith.

The waiting woman stirs deep emotions, representing all the mothers, sisters, friends and women who have ever waited for someone to return home. Still brings a tear.

Western Australia was the State from where soldiers sailed to World War I and II and many memorials have been constructed in recent years as we remembered the 100 years since WWI. They are well worth visiting, even if you are not one to glorify war. They are tasteful and provoking.

Albany has a thousand steps (exaggerated) to their memorial and the view is amazing, after the beauty of the monument.

Safe travels.

Other rocks worth visiting #1 – ULURU

Situated in the Northern Territory, 450 km from Alice Springs,  lies one of the most famous, world-recognised icons of Australia – Uluru. Sacred to the Anangu Aboriginal people, it was once known as Ayers Rock, after Sir Henry Ayers, but was returned to its original name in the ‘80s, when such practices were widespread (and appropriate, too).

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The Rock, as it is colloquially known, is truly a wonder to behold. If you’ve seen it in pictures and think you know what you’re in for, you’ll be surprised. I won’t say too much on that, as that would spoil the effect of the real life experience, but if you thought the different colours you’ve seen were Photo Shop tricks, or creative manipulations, they aren’t. You can be at Uluru for an hour – and you’ll be there for longer, I think – and you will see different shades in the structure, the soil, the trees and quite possibly the sky.

Majestic, mysterious, ominous, it looms high above you as you circle it. Made of sandstone, the monolith is said to have begun forming over 500 million years ago! It is 348m above the ground (taller than the Eiffel Tower), has a circumference of 9.4km and descends 2.5km below the surface. Does my head in. At one time, I heard a rumour that it was a meteor from way back, but I do not hear that now, so maybe just a conjecture that was swept up in a whirly-whirly (they’re another story).

If you visit in the Summer, or wet season, from October to April (roughly) it can be very hot (up to 45C or more). There are moments of shade, but you should be prepared with water and a hat and take frequent stops. Never underestimate the need for plenty of water on hand.

Uluru was once climbed by all and sundry, but the custodians (the Anangu) would prefer that you do not, as it is a sacred site). When it is very hot, no climbing is allowed due to the danger it presents.

There are a great variety of surfaces and formations to view and some Aboriginal Art.

The ground is flat, but 9.4 km is a fair distance, punctuated by photo stops. You can hire bikes or take your own, to make the journey easier. There are stunning and unexpected waterways and the stories, on plaques along the way, tell of history and culture and are worth the brief read.

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There is an information centre with history, culture, facts and artifacts, along with locally made items.

When you’ve finished, gaze to the west and  see Kata TJuta – meaning many heads, in Pitjantjatjara. But I’ll do a separate post on that.

From the caravan park at Yulara, where you can get a cabin, motel room or campsite, you can get all the information you need and at sunrise and sunset, great views of Uluru and Kata Tjuta.

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There is a national parks fee for entering the area to Uluru and Kata Tjuta, but it lasts for 2 days (at my last visit, last year).

Safe travels!

Safe and Easy and SO WORTH IT

Thinking of travelling to Australia?

Need some ideas and tips? You’re in the right space!

The first thing to REALLY understand is how big our country is.

  • Japan can fit in it 20 times
  • 3/4 of Europe can fit in it
  • 78% of the Unites States can fit in it
  • And a little over 32 United Kingdoms can safely rest in our shores.

For some visuals on this, and more information, visit :

http://www.ga.gov.au/scientific-topics/national-location-information/dimensions/australias-size-compared

It is a long way between places, so ALWAYS TRAVEL WITH WATER.

The second thing is that we are an island.  Beautiful, dramatic coastlines and lush rain forests (sometimes) hug a central desert.

The last thing is that it will take time.Don’t worry about what you don’t see – you can always come back! But don’t underestimate the amount of driving required in some States.

Safe Travels!