Port Arthur

We made an early start to Port Arthur, via Sorrell, stopping at Tessellation Pavement, the Devil’s Kitchen, Tasman Blowhole and Admiral’s Arch. The rugged coastline made it easy to understand how so many convicts, attempting escape, met their death. It also gave some insight into how bad things must have been in penal settlements.

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The Port was easy to get to and had so much to offer, just as all the reviews suggested. The ticket was $39 each for adults with no concession  and included a 40 minute tour of the near garden, the penitentiary, asylum, hospital, commissary residence and the church.

After this we had some time to wander at will until our boat trip (also included in the cost) to neighbouring Puer Island (a prison for boys under 15) and Isle of the Dead, as well as giving some information about the bay and the escapes that had been planned, the early ship-building and other industries. The tour guides were very informative and although we could have spent the day there, we both felt that we had received good value, memorable stories and outstanding photographs.

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A very Aussie fancy dress  – The funniest story we heard was about a convict who had been a tinker and traveller. He decided that to escape he would need a disguise and a guard would be too hard, a civilian was too much like a convict, so he caught and skinned a kangaroo. Draping the skin over him, he made his way to the narrow stretch of land that would lead him to freedom, where guard dogs were kept hungry in order to catch any escapees. The dogs smelt him but the soldiers, rarely seeing fresh meat, also thought the big kangaroo was worth a shot. Realising that he was close to being killed, he called out that it was he and was caught, sent back to the penitentiary and received 100 lashes.

Port Arthur is definitely worth a visit. Publications say you can spend a day there and I can see how that is possible. Many stay or arrive for the ghost tours. We were there for about 4 hours and we didn’t see some things, but I felt it was fine. We had time to buy up at one of the souvenir shops, so I’m happy.

Safe travels. It may be cool but you’ll need suncream, water and hat because the sun bites.

 

 

From Strahan to Hobart

Leaving Strahan with Hobart in the GPS, we made it to Queenstown in good time, stopping for any exceptional views along the way.

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Queenstown is like many towns in Australia that began as booming mining ventures and died a slow and unattractive death as the mine failed. There are quaint and ornate buildings in the town and impressive monuments to soldiers and to miners. Large hills form a protective backdrop to the town and the train station and Empire Hotel are beautifully maintained.

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Just out of town we stopped at the mine, where the green pool at the base of the deep stratified pit made the copper deposits obvious. Apparently, Abel Tasman noted that his ships’ compass needle shot north while passing this island and knew that Iron would be found in large quantities when someone found a way to approach safely.

En route to the capital we visited Nelson Falls, which was an easy and picturesque 20 minute return walk to the tiered falls. The vegetation along the way was sub-tropical ferns and trees, very green and dotted with moss.

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A roadside stop took us to a narrow and sometimes steep track to the Franklin River and one-person suspension bridge. I think that for both of us it was a milestone to see the river that had been at the heart of so much controversy in the ’80s. We were a little surprised to see the number of cars parked there, suggesting that at least 20 people had undertaken the Overland Trail – lasting 5-6 days. Good examples of fungus and bright flowers were caught.

Another stop at Derwent Bridge was special. There is a well-appointed visitor centre there, and we made use of the tables to have lunch with a great view.

 

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Reading that Tarraleah had a distillery, we made our way into that town but only found the Hydroelectric station. It is pretty impressive, with information that it is merely one of a series of such stations along the river. Commanding views.

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The little town of Ouse (ooze) was our signpost to turn off to Mount Field National Park and Russell Falls. The tourist literature said it was the most impressive of Tasmania’s waterfalls, with tiers over which it cascades. The drive was beautiful and, once there, the walk was easy and the falls pretty good, considering the locals said they hadn’t had much rain and it was the start of Autumn.

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Although our GPS took us to a wall that must have featured on the heritage list, rather than our expected accommodation, a quick phone call to Motel 429 brought us to the desired establishment in Sandy Bay. A good location, opposite Wrest Point Casino and calm water, beneath the brooding shoulder of Mt Wellington. There were supermarkets, restaurants and food vans on the weekend, all within an easy walk. If that wasn’t enough, we got a stunning sunset.

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We were set to explore Hobart.

Safe travels.

Lakeside

For this week’s photo challenge – reflecting – I thought I’d share one of the many that I am able to catch on my evening walk, with my sister, at local Mawson Lakes, South Australia.

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A northern suburb, it is happily situated to catch the sunset, twice over. This shot faces the old farm house, a heritage building that existed before the swampy area was redesigned to catch storm water and create the Salisbury Wetlands.

The best ones are usually in Summer, when they foretell a hot day, following.

Nitmiluk Gorge/Katherine

We both loved Katherine, in the NT. It is beautiful, interesting and has hot springs where, in the afternoon when we visited, workers in their high-viz gear strolled down to the water’s edge, stripped off and immersed themselves in the warm, soothing waters.

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Nitmiluk Gorge, once called Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park is breathtaking. We went in the dry season, where the boat did not travel so deep into the Gorge, but it was amazing. The colours, stories and culture were worth it. The park is managed by the Jawoyn Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government and the tour was led by a Jawoyn man, who shared cultural tales and understandings. Nitmiluk means land of the cicada dreaming.

One of the stories he told was of how his people used to fish: they would pick a plant that grew on the side of the river and throw it in the water. It de-oxygenated the water, causing the fish to float to the surface, where the Jawoyn people scooped up what they needed and then sent the children in to jump and splash about, thus oxygenating the water once more, so the rest of the fish were revitalised and swam off. Now that’s sustainability!

Another story was of a very old film, one of the first in which Aboriginal actors were used and spoke in their own language. It was called Jedda, was from 1955, and was partly filmed in the Gorge. As we passed a particularly beautiful and high cliff face, the guide said that it was there the final scene was filmed. I don’t want to spoil it, even though being so old you would probably find it appalling, but apparently they really jumped! The story was based on some accurate beliefs about inter-marriage (being forbidden) and typical tribal punishment (spearing in the thigh).

This cruise is a must. We went at the end of the dry, which means it is cut short but it was beautiful, interesting and the swim in the middle is amazing – even if you are all looking over your shoulder for any signs of  floating ‘sticks with eyes’. The crocodiles, we were assured, were not present at that time of the year, but we’ve all read about those tourists who found one …

Katherine is a big town with everything you need. The river is massive and when you visit the empty bed, it is hard to imagine that it frequently fills and floods the town in the wet season. Well, hard for someone who never sees that amount of rain.

The caravan park where we stayed was perfect. Pretty, wide, grassy, a great restaurant and pool, clean and spacious facilities, helpful staff – I’d recommend BIG4 Katherine Holiday Park. Loads of kookaburras.

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Take water, your hat and a camera.

Safe travels.

 

Giekie Gorge(ous)

We travelled to Fitzroy Crossing, in the Kimberley region of Western Australia, far to the north. The roads are suitable for front wheel drive and there is many an experience to be had in this lovely area.

You cannot leave without visiting Giekie Gorge – after seeing so many, I still say it is extraordinary. The chalk-like faces and colours, varied surfaces and sections are beautiful. I revisited the photos today, for the monochrome madness challenge and sighed once more.

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There is an information kiosk at the landing, from where you purchase tickets for the smooth and informative boat ride and marvel at the marks left by the largest flood they have had, well above my 175cm on the walls.

The boat ride is filled with opportunities to see cormorants (now, those I HAVE seen enough of) drying their wings – in case you didn’t know, that is the most photographed pose for them and I was led to wonder if they ever put their wings down.

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Apart from the birdlife, there is a variety of environment but the most stunning is the gorge walls.

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An endearing feature of the Fitzroy Crossing region was the caravan park, which was home to about 100 kangaroos and wallabies that grazed freely all night long, right alongside the cows! Very different. There are also hundreds of small bird nests under the eaves of the toilet block, so small birds fly about and poke their beaks out at all hours.

Fitzroy Lodge, at the opening of the caravan park was the only place I have been to in Australia where the Aboriginal people and the non-indigenous congregated in the pub in equal percentages and talked comfortably with all and sundry. There was no underlying ill-feeling or tension and it was WONDERFUL. I don’t know how the locals do it, but it was              incredibly uplifting. The riverbed, alongside, was almost empty but such a size that to dryland southerners it was unimaginable that it would fill sometime.

 

 

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There are other things to do in the area that we didn’t get to, and recommended by an indigenous local. Apparently, Tunnel Creek and Mimbi Caves  are surprising and an easy trek, with covered shoes. We’ll have to go back.

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So, whether you arrive here after Kununurra or on your exit from Broome, make sure you give yourself time to see the beautiful sights.

Don’t forget the hat and water and travel safely!

Other rocks #2 Kata Tjuta

About 30 km from Uluru, still in the Northern Territory, is Kata Tjuta, a series of dome-shaped sandstone rocks that cover an area of around 20km. The highest of these rocks is Mt Olga, and at one time they were called ‘The Olgas’.

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Several walks are possible and they range from easy to more demanding, due to gradient and loose rocks. The best thing is to ask someone who is returning from one, or has done one recently, how they found it. Wear sturdy shoes and a hat, and take water. Some walks are said to be wheelchair accessible.
The variety of scenery is unexpected and begging to be photographed. There are plenty of places to stop and just breathe in the beauty, or stop for a drink.

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The Anangu people, speaking Pitjantjara, have been in the area for 22 000 years and the rock formation is believed to have taken 500 million years to form. It is ancient and mysterious, shrouded in a deep, spiritual silence.

For a special treat, get there for sunrise or sunset.

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!