NOW: SOUTH WEST TASMANIA
The bare, craggy hills of Queenstown were in sharp contrast to the forest of the southern wilderness. Mining has denuded the hills surrounding Queenstown but as we heard on our Queenstown walking tour local efforts are seeing the vegetation slowing climbing back.
Strahan was in complete contrast to Queenstown with a pretty village on the shore of Macquarie Harbour and rainforest in the valley and foreshore parkland. We opted to camp at Macquarie Heads so that we could have a fire to keep us warm in the evenings. We can put the Ozpig close to the Tvan trapping the warm air under the awning and the smoke up the chimney. Keeps us toasty and doesn’t use much wood.
We shopped, dried the washing and bought some Huon Pine in Strahan as well as seeing the longest running play in Australia that hits the stage in Strahan every night. ‘The Ship That Never Was’ tells the history of the convicts, ship building and survival in a penal colony but has the audience laughing and participating. It is however based on historical facts.
Our Ford Ranger got it’s first beach run at Macquarie Heads. We looked over the bay entrance known as Hell’s Gate with fishing rods in hand. Two Australian Salmon (a very popular table fish in Tasmania) took the bait, so crumbed fish fingers for dinner followed by Tasmanian apple upside down cake in the camp oven! It’s a secret recipe we quite enjoyed – slice the apples thinly, sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon in grandmas old ring cake tin, top with a Greens cake mix. When you smell it, it’s cooked and nice warm with long life custard from the tucker box! The ring tin helps it cook more evenly (no soggy middle).
Hogarth Falls are right on the edge of the Strahan village with rainforest and a crystal clear stream running into the harbour. This spot was once the picnic ground where all the miners came to relax and enjoy the town band playing in the rotunda. It was also the caravan park but is now a public reserve.
We don’t see many sunrises because we don’t like cold mornings but we got up early to catch the Wilderness Railway steam train to Queenstown and were rewarded with a beaut sunrise over the bay. The Wilderness Railway takes tourists along the King River to Queenstown stopping at 3 old stations along the way.
In the 1800s settlers searched for gold, nurtured cattle and harvested timber using the railway to get people and goods in and out of the pioneer camps. The railways primary purpose however was to get copper from Queenstown to the port in Strahan and is still the only way to travel through this wilderness area.
The rack and pinion railway line hauled the train up the steep inclines and held it from running away on the way back down. This system was invented by Mr Abt who made his fortune from the copper mine. The rack and pinion concept is still in use on the Wilderness Railway but also used on the newer Perisher Skitube in NSW.
The oxide leaching from the copper mining is still staining the waterways making the Queen River bright orange despite efforts to remediate the tailing dams upstream. Apparently its better than it used to be. But I did strike it rich when we stopped at a station once known for nearby gold strikes. My gold pan held a speck of the precious metal. It could take me a while to make my fortune.
You can also spend a day on the water from Strahan and cruise up the famous Gordon and Franklin Rivers which we had done on our previous visit. For a small town on the edge of the wilderness they really offer lots of choices for tourists.
NEXT: THE NORTH WEST
See you on the Emu Track
Cheryl and David