All good things must come to an end (for now)

A bit overdue, but let’s start with a bit of this:

Footprints in the sand going this way and that,

Random patterns drifting and seeking.

Seeking the ocean,

Seeking each other,

Seeking new connections,

Seeking fun and revitalisation.

So many footprints and so many stories

Soon to be washed away,

Only to start afresh the next day, the next time….

Now, forgive the lapse into the land of arty-farty, but the footprints image was one that really struck me on our last morning in Oz when we had gone for our final dip in the ocean, and has stayed with me since.  It was only 7am but there they were.  And it struck me that it was quite a symbol for our trip and our love of drifting and seeking new places and experiences.  Strangely, I’ve found it quite hard to do this final blog.  Not sure why.  Might be the nearly 19,000 kms covered, the 60+ different campsites enjoyed, all the people and places we’ve been privileged to visit/meet and the joy of being around to welcome Caden into the world.  Maybe that’s it.  Anywho, we’re now back in the motherland and having had a few days to regroup and re-centre, that image and those words in my poor attempt at a bit of poetry have finally spurred me into action. 

So here we are again lovelies.  It’s definitely been a bit of a whirlwind since the last missive but for this last effort (for now at least), we shall mostly consider things beginning with the letter T:  Tasmania, top views, trails, things that go thump in the afternoon and (more) trains and tastings.


It’s always a bit of a concern when almost everyone you speak to who has visited Tassie waxes lyrical about it.  There’s always a bit of you that worries that it might not live up to expectations.  Well, we needn’t have worried AT ALL.  After such a lovely family time over Christmas and New Year, it was a bit of a wrench to head out again – which is a very ungrateful sounding thing to state given the prospect of what was to come  – but hopefully you get my drift.  Anyway, off we set, down to Geelong near Melbourne and had a couple of days exploring down there before we were due to catch the ferry.  A very pleasant time we had too.  Lots of cycling to explore what felt like a very sea-sidey town complete with promenade, bathing pool, ferris wheel and pier.  It also just happened to have a very nice brewery called Little Creatures that we checked out for Timmo and which didn’t disappoint.  Super beer, great buildings and lovely charcuterie board to soak up the drinks!

Soon the day of the crossing to Tasmania was here and we were fortunate enough to have very calm seas.  This was a massive relief as it has a bit of a reputation for being more than a bit feisty, but the 10 hour journey went without incident or use of sickbags so all good. 

Now I think I’ve mentioned before how delightful it is to me to come across so many familiar place names in Australia – the result, I’ve assumed, of those early British migrants striking out in the new country but naming it in (presumably) fond memory of the old.  So just imagine how delighted I was to be entering Tasmania by docking in Devonport, only to pass through Exeter on our way to our first destination of Launceston! (pronounced Laun-ces-ton not Lanson like the Cornish do).  Anyway, we were soon off on the bicycles to explore said town and found a lovely track alongside – wait for it – the River Tamar before finding the very Victorian gem which was the Cataract Gorge.  The first recorded visit in 1804 claimed that “..the beauty of the scene is not surpassed in the world”.  Quite a big claim but actually not one to be sniffed at as it is indeed still a beautiful spot.  Development of the resort began with the building of a fine metal arch bridge in 1864 which was fabricated in Manchester and transported over.  Later, in 1890, a Caretakers cottage was built in preparation for the creation of the Victorian Cliff walk and grounds which remain today.  Picnic rock (in the centre photo below) was where boats landed before the walkway was completed and became a popular picnic spot.  No longer accessible for the eating of picnics, the only things that land there are the seals which visit the area at various times of the year.  The walkway was started in 1890 and was constructed over a period of 3 years with great difficulty.  Thousands of tons of rock were removed by hand with raised bridges forming the walkway overhanging the water course, over crevices and around rock faces.  It certainly still looks and feels like a massive feat of engineering and the walk culminates in a pleasure ground complete with café, swimming pool and more recently in 1972, what is believed to be the world’s longest single span chairlift spanning the huge natural basin. 

Top Views

Having made such an impressive start, we continued onwards to the east coast and the delights of both the Freycinet National Park and Mount Wellington just outside Hobart.  The only downside was that on both treks – aimed at savouring the delights of these outstanding vantage points – we were met with dense fog!!  Not to be beaten, we continued anyway and enjoyed the most amazingly crafted and maintained tracks, beautiful trees, fauna, and flora and a bleddy good walk.

We were later rewarded, however, when we finally made it round to Cradle Mountain and did the Dove Lake walk in clear blue skies and lovely warm sunshine.  All good things come to those who wait.  Cradle Mountain campsite was one of the best we experienced – night skies to blow your mind and lots of wildlife milling about.  Although I’m pleased to say that we had actually seen skippys on this trip (as I may have reported previously), it was something else to see them hopping past Bob whilst we were sitting enjoying a cheeky beer and wine, along with sightings of a possum, wallaby and a couple of wombats but sadly no Tasmanian Devils.


Now, I’ve already mentioned some great walking trails – amongst many – that we were able to enjoy in Tassy, but there was a trail of another kind that is also worth a mention:  The convict trail  – comprising 11 sites.   We only managed two and the first was during a stay in Port Arthur from where we headed out to the historic prison site.  The penal station was established in 1830 as a timber-getting camp using convict labour to produce sawn logs for government projects and then from 1833 as a punishment station for repeat offenders.  By 1840 it was ‘home’ to more than 2000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff and became an industrial settlement producing goods and materials such as worked stone, bricks, furniture, clothing, boats and ships.  It was strict and tough and although many left rehabilitated and skilled, most were broken by the regime.   Walking around the old penitentiary and seeing first-hand the size of the cells and the isolation units you could only begin to imagine how it might have felt – especially being on the other side of the world.  Contrary to popular myth, very few were transported for stealing a loaf of bread, many were repeat offenders and career criminals so well used to the type of regime they were in.  Beyond the main prison buildings lay a host of other buildings illustrating the fact that Port Arthur was indeed a complete community with police station, hospital, law courts, church, accountants and variety of buildings to house military and civilians tasked with the security and administration of the settlement.

Although boys and men were often sent to Port Arthur, women convicts were housed in other prisons such as the Female Factory situated in Hobart.  Although, unlike Port Arthur, very little of the original buildings remain, we were able to watch a one-woman performance – The Proud and the Punished – which really helped to bring forward the stories of prison life through six historical characters, and gave a real sense of the hardships and resilience of the women who passed through it.  It was brilliantly performed and very emotional. The site was the last one used in Tasmania and housed around 7,000 convicts and their babies over the years.

Both prisons had excellent interpretation and I particularly liked the ability to download podcast audio to use on your own device in your own time as you explored the site and also the use of playing cards – you one on arrival, found the matching card in a wall of drawers within which was a mini bio of a real-life convict.  This same card could also then be found around the site with a little more detail on what happened to them whilst interred and sometimes beyond.  I thought it was a great way to get to understand that this was a real place with real people, and it was a very simple yet interactive device.

Things that go thump in the afternoon…

No, nothing saucy you’ll be glad to know, nor the type of blows which you might imagine Timmo and I would be exchanging after so many days in the close confines of Bob.  Instead, I’m about to describe the impact felt when Bob got shunted from behind (oh er missus).  Now, if this was about some rather bad driving incident when some great galah piles into the back of you in traffic, you’d probably think, well after all those miles, that would be inevitable.  But no, dear friends, not at all.  Picture the scene:  We are parked up on a site in the very lovely town of Snug, having a day off before heading over to Bruny Island.  I am quietly knitting (yes, knitting) listening to some music whilst Timmo is off riding his bicycle up the road to test the repair he has just made.  The birds are tweeting, we can hear the gentle lapping of the waves next to the site, children are playing happily in the distance when…WHAM!!!!  I’m nearly knocked of my seat and very nearly dropped a stitch or two at the impact.  What????  On diving out of the campervan, I find a woman on her son’s electric bike (one of those that you don’t have to pedal I might add) the handlebars of which have smashed the tail light, dented the corner of the van and shunted the bike rack at least 4 inches to the right.   WTF? I enquire.   “I’m so sorry” says she, “I haven’t ridden it before and what I thought was the brake was the accelerator”.  Fan-bloody-tastic.  Why she would have considered the 30 m stretch from her cabin to our van the ideal testing ground, I don’t know, but suffice to report, words actually failed me.  When Timmo returned, he was not impressed either and I will resist relaying his thoughts and comments on the matter.  To be fair, I had already checked she was ok, but what was a quiet day off then turned into the absolute faff of sorting out a new tail light (which she paid for), completely reconstructing the bike rack (which took much longer than we thought) and beautiful Bob had a dent in his rear end.  What a pain.  We managed to tape up the light so that we were legal, but it would take a change of itinerary and trip back to Hobart to try and get the new light sorted.  Thankfully the bike rack was ok and we could press on.  Hey ho, could have been worse if it had been a highway collision I know, but who’d have imagined that our only issue was whilst we were parked up OFF the highway minding our own business??!   Mind you on the trip back to Hobart we did manage to fit in the Cascades Brewery so not all bad after all.

(More) trains and tastings

Although we have covered these topics before, I just wanted to mention a couple of very lovely wineries on Tassie – Bangor Vineyard en route to Port Arthur and Bruny Island Premium Wines.  The former presented some very lovely wines and I opted to purchase both the Chardonnay and the Riesling.  The 1830 Chardonnay was particularly good and is named in honour of John Dunbabin and makes a great connection to the convict trail previously mentioned.  In 1830 John, convicted of horse stealing, was sentenced to 14 years transportation.  Having narrowly escaped the hangman’s noose he was determined to make the most of his opportunities and through sheer hard work, he earned his freedom and bought his own land paving the way for five generations of farming at Bangor.  Still a family farm, it is today managed by Matt & Vanessa Dunbabin.  I must just mention also that on the journey between the vineyard and the campsite at Port Arthur we went through a couple of winding stretches of hills which were impressively called ‘Break Me Neck’ hill and ‘Bust me Gall’ hill.  If nothing sets you up for the steepness of what’s to come I don’t know what is!!  Love it.

The other winery – Bruny Island Premium Wines – was also an excellent place for lunch and their Chardonnay was also very lovely indeed (I know, I say that all the time…)    What was very exciting about this one though, was that it is Australia’s most southern vineyard so we could hardly not pay it homage could we?  Also, a direct descendant of one of the first settlers on Bruny in 1892 (not a convict though in this case it seems), Bernice, and her husband Richard are keen to maintain what they see as their patch of paradise from which they produce their world class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay vines.  Good on them.

The train experience this time was that enjoyed in Queenstown (no, not that one) which was an old copper mining town in the west of the island.  We had arranged to do a white water rafting trip on the King River which included a return trip on the West Coast Wilderness railway.  Let me tell you about the rafting first.  What a great experience it was!   Never having done it before, I was a little nervous to say the least.  But the kit they provided was good, the briefing was excellent and our boat ‘captain’ Deano from Liverpool was a superstar.  Clear instructions followed through = no upturned boats.  Easy.  The rapids varied in intensity and difficulty and all were negotiated successfully but not without a proper soaking.  Timmo was at the front so got more than his fair share but it was a real hoot and a good time was had by all.  Once at the fantastically name Dubbil Barril (various explanations for the name were proffered but non were absolute) we boarded the train to travel very slowly along one of the Southern Hemisphere’s steepest tracks via a specialised Abt rack and pinion system.  Designed in the 17th century, the system is the only one of its kind left in the Southern Hemisphere so we were on a real unique bit of railway.  Not exactly fast or overly exciting, it was non the less a very interesting trip with lots of snippets provided of the determined and visionary people who carved out their fortunes in one of the most difficult and remote landscapes imaginable.  Their motto of ‘We find a way or make it’ says it all I think.

So, there we are.  That was the adventure that was Tasmania and it was well worth the visit.  Even the crossing was calm again on the return, so it was obviously meant to be.  As lovely as it was, though, it was so great to get back to Sydney and to meet up with the family again.  Caden has grown up so much since our arrival.  He now is less of a baby and more of a little boy and is so responsive, bright and smiley, it makes your heart soar.  Mind you, he’s got a good pair of lungs on him too when he’s not ready to sleep (even though he needs to) so he’s already in full possession of his own mind thank you!  He’s even started weaning so he’ll be enjoying a good Aussie barbie before long.  An added bonus has been reconnecting with Stuart & Lynn (great barbecue, too many glasses of wine!) and with Paul and Sharon – also visiting from the UK – and with Tim’s old school mate John and his partner Jane.  Lovely walks, another trip on the River Post Boat and lovely meals out – what’s not to like? As Timmo would say.

As much as we are really looking forward to seeing the rest of the family and friends back in Old Blighty, we are so sad to leave the lifestyle we have got used to in Australia.  It seems to just suit us so well and the last few weeks just walking down for an early morning swim, picking up a coffee, catching up with the kids has been great.  Roll on next time. We will, of course, look forward to similar experiences now that we are back (well, not the early morning swim bit obvs as it’ll be toooooo cold!!!) and can’t wait to meet Eva and see the other grandkids.

Au revoir for now my Aussie lovelies, see you next year!! Let me just leave you with some images of Tassie – just because I can!!


2 thoughts on “All good things must come to an end (for now)

  1. So there we are – 6 months and thousands of miles later and it’s all over. Back to Blighty.

    So, in the time you’ve been away, we’ve had three Prime Ministers, two grandchildren and Christmas/New Year. You’ve kept us all well entertained and informed, and made us feel as though we were there with you, and meant we missed you both just a little bit less. We’ve loved keeping up with your adventures (which strangely enough more often than not involved bikes and alcohol), and even though we still don’t know what Barry was, and I still have nightmares of Tim’s ginger nuts being confiscated, it has been a blast. Less so for us, I’m sure, than yourselves.

    We cannot wait to see you all (once you’ve cleared away the cobwebs Miss Haversham) and thank you again.

    Lots of love from us xxxxx


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