Return to Tasmania, February 2010 – Part 1

Tasmania, February 2010 – Part 3

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Photo albums from this trip are here.

On Saturday, 20 February, we drove to Strahan by way of Rosebery and Zeehan. Rosebery is still an active zinc mining town. There is a large mine just past the petrol station, and historical exhibits from the mines in parks by the main street. In the past its copper, gold,lead and zinc have produced over $8 billion of ore.

As we approached the coast from Zeehan, we stopped at a lookout. This gave coastal views of dunes and sand along the shore extending for kilometres. The vegetation here was low brush, unlike the giant plantation pines we had often travelled through on the way. The tree plantations were interspersed with areas that appeared to be clear felled. We saw little sign of burnt trees, testament to the high rainfall on the west coast of Tasmania.

At Strahan, we stayed in a converted 19th century terrace across the Esplanade from the river. This featured a large spa bath in the excessively large bathroom. We overindulged in Valhalla ice cream from the Fish Shop on the wharf. This double serve made an alternative to a proper lunch.

After a rest, we walked around Strahan village. The various restaurants all seemed reasonably fancy, with a lot of seafood, as might be expected in a fishing area. One tourist store had an internet terminal, as well as one of these photo printing booths. Way up the street was an old Post and Telegraph building, also Customs. This still appeared to have PO Boxes, an internet access area, and the Library. Naturally it was closed.

Partway up the street was a rough looking sawmill shed, with a variety of Huon and other Tasmanian woods. The largest store, Strahan Woodworks, had very fancy Huon sculptured tables and other furniture, and art works in wood and glass. Very upmarket. We really liked Tasmanian Special Timbers, specialising in recycled and recovered wood. They had some magnificent pieces of wood. They also had little chunks of Huon pine, so we selected a few as a gift for Ray, the wood turner, at Carlyle Gardens Retirement Resort. (Some weeks later, Ray returned to us the teapot stands he had made from the scraps.)

The wine we opened today was the Sinapius 2006 Pinot Noir from Piper’s Brook, Tasmania. This was a nicely mature red, full bodied compared to the lighter Ninth Island Pinot Noir we had been drinking with many dinners.

Fish Cafe on the wharf for dinner. Jean had ocean trout from Macquarie Harbour, with pumpkin and fresh asparagus. Eric had fish and chips, the battered fish being Pink Ling. Jean had a Boag Draught, and Eric had a Boag Wizard Smith English ale. The bottled beer does not seem as tasty as from the tap.

Premium car, West Coast Wilderness RailwaySunday, 21 February, featured a half-day trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. We had chosen the Premium service, so we had padded seats and an almost unending supply of tasty snacks and wines, all Tasmanian produce. The train takes tourists the 35 kilometres between Strahan and Queenstown up and down the steepest railway in the southern hemisphere.

West Coast Wilderness RailwayThe Railway has three (1,3,5) of the five original steam engines restored and hauling the train. The restoration cost over A$30 million. The train travels partway alongside the King and Queen Rivers. It is a restoration of the Mt Lyall Mining and Railway Company railroad built in 1896 to haul copper concentrates to the coast for shipping. Prior to the railway, with no roads, packhorses were the only means to hauling. The original railway was used until 10 August 1963, although the first road to Queenstown was made in 1932. Teepookana to Queenstown was the main stretch, completed in 19 months by up to 500 labourers. Teepookana to Strahan took 11 months. Restoring the railroad took longer, three years in all. These days the steam engines burn diesel oil, from a 2,000 litre tender. The water tank surrounding the boiler holds 3,000 litres. We had to pause to refill the water tank half way along the journey.

King RiverAt the restored Dubbil Barril station we changed trains. Restored steam engine Number 5 pulled the train up to Rinadeena Saddle using the rack and pinion. Then it was downhill using the rack and pinion on an even steeper slope to Halls Creek siding. Lynchford to Queenstown was relatively flat.
The food was excellent, as we expected. We started soon after we pulled out of the station with a couple of tiny tasty chicken and camembert pies, with poppy seeds on the fine pastry crust. This was soon followed by a medley of mostly tropical fruits, with grapes, honeydew melon, pineapple, rockmelon, strawberry and watermelon.

The box lunch was provided shortly before we changed trains. This included a hot Cornish pasty made to what seemed an original fettler’s recipe. Also with that was a container of a fine hot sauce. There was a small ham, cheese, tomato and lettuce roll. There was a King Island Diary camembert, with water crackers. To complete the lunch there was a chocolate truffle from Anvers Confectionery of Tasmania.

After lunch and changing trains, our helpful carriage attendant Paul leapt from his pantry. We were offered an apple. Then we were offered a sweet. A very rich Rocky Road, a chocolate fudge with walnuts, and Jean had a white chocolate fudge with raspberry intrusions. The final course was a cheese plate, with grapes, crackers and a selection of fine Ashgrove cheeses. These included the Outback Red, the Bush Pepper, Mr Bennett’s Blue, and a double Brie. There was also a dish of Webster’s walnuts. This delighted me, as I am able to eat walnuts, unlike almost every other variety of nuts.

The wine list was extensive, for a train, all supplied by Tamar Ridge Kayena Vineyard, up north west of Launceston. Paul started us off with the TRV Sparkling as soon as we stepped aboard the Premium carriage. He kept refilling the glasses whenever the level dropped a bit. With lunch we had the Pinot Gris. We followed it with the Pinot Noir with the cheese course.

The wines we did not try included the chardonnay, the sauvignon blanc, and the Bend merlot cabernet blend. All sounded good in the tasting notes supplied. We also did not sample the Boag beers on offer, the Premium, Premium Light, and Blonde.

In addition, there was cascade beer, Cascade fruit juices, and Cascade soft drinks available. Coffee and hot chocolate were also available. Jean had a very nice cup of tea, which was accompanied by a chocolate coated after dinner mint. We had so much food left over from lunch that we snacked on that instead of going out for dinner.

Franklin Gordon Wilderness areaMonday, 22 February, we drove to Hobart, starting by going up the mountain to Queenstown (many twists and turns, slow going), then through the Franklin Gordon Wilderness area. Lots of mountains, lot of trees. We diverted to Lake St Clair, as we had read about a Great Wall of carved wood. This turned out to a commercial outfit a few kilometres up the road, With the size of the woodcarving described as 350 feet, we could not see how we could give it sufficient time. So we continued along the road to Hobart.

The most enjoyable part of the trip for Eric was seeing a number of decent size hydroelectric power stations, such as the one on the River Nipe.

After arriving in Hobart, we checked in at the Mercure and turned in the car, then rang a friend to organise dinner for the next day. Turned out that two other friends (from Victoria) were in town doing research for a book. So five of our Hobart friends and the two from Victoria joined us for dinner on Tuesday, 23 February, at the New Sydney Pub. It was great to catch up with everyone.

On Wednesday, we flew to Melbourne and checked in to the Mercure Welcome. Wednesday afternoon, Thursday, and Friday morning were spent shopping and catching up on email. Jean found some items she very much wanted: a small leather bag (at the Victoria Markets) and a pair of low black boots with multiple buckles (at a shoe shop in Melbourne Central). Eric did well on computer books at various shops.

Friday afternoon through Sunday was Continuum, a science-fiction convention. We saw many old friends.

On Monday we had a mid-afternoon flight, so another opportunity to wander around and check some stores we’d not had time for earlier.

Page last updated 26 July 2010.