Day 14 Friday 29 September Strahan to Hobart

We left Strahan at 8.30am and drove up through the rainforest mountains, stopping at Queenstown, which is the gateway to the West Coast and is surrounded by hills and mountains and was once the world’s richest mining town. We stopped at the Queenstown Station, where the West Coast Wilderness Train came from yesterday. We wandered through their historical Museum and saw interesting information about the Rack & Pinion system as well as lots of other information about the building of the railway line from Queenstown to Strahan. Beside the Railway Museum were some sculptures about mining through the ages, including a Miners’ Siding. Across from the Station was the 19th Century Old Empire Hotel and in the Main Street was the brightly coloured Old Post Office building.
The scenic drive out of Queenstown up a winding road with supposedly 90 bends was quite spectacular. We stopped at a lookout over Queenstown, which was very picturesque and then we stopped again at the Iron Blow Lookout overlooking the Old Mine, which was built on the Lyell fault line. Patrick said it was very windy and he nearly got blown off the mountain!
We continued down the mountain with its rugged scenery, which soon became rivers and lakes and snow-topped mountains. We arrived at Derwent Bridge, which is a town at the gateway to the southern end of the wilderness and wildlife area of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. It was named after its crossing at the source of the mighty Derwent River. We drove out to Lake St Clair, which has an area of approximately 45 square kilometres and a maximum depth of 160metres, making it Australia’s deepest lake. When we were in Cradle Mountain, we saw the beginning of the Overland Track, which is one of Australia’s most famous hiking tracks through the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. More than 8,000 hikers each year complete the track which is officially 65 km long, however, many of the hikers choose to add the hike around Lake St Clair, which brings the length to 82 km. The track winds through mountains, rainforest, rivers and plains. A group of hikers had just arrived at St Clair when we were there, so we were able to have a chat to one of the girls about their trek. Lake St Clair was beautiful with snow-capped mountains in the background, but it was windy and very cold and started to rain again. Our picnic lunch that we had planned on the shores of Lake St Clair ended up being a picnic lunch in the car.
Not far out of Derwent Bridge, we stopped at The Wall in the Wilderness, which is “an inspirational tale carved from the mountains and rivers of Highlands Tasmania”. Greg Duncan, the artist/sculptor is carving 3 metre high x 1 metre wide panels from Huon Pine, telling the history of the area from the indigenous people to the pioneering timber harvesters, to pastoralists, to miners and hydro-electric scheme workers. It is a work in progress and when it is finished it will be 100metres long. We wandered around the long museum–type building looking at all the different panels, in awe of this talented man. He had left some of the panels in various stages of completion so that we could “experience the evolution of the carvings, from the drawing to the roughing out and the various stages of detailing, to the point of completion.” We were most impressed by the detail in his sculptures eg the veins and tendons on the backs the hands were so lifelike.
Back on the highway again and we were delighted to see an echidna toddling across the road in front of us. We continued along the Lyell Highway and passed through the HydroElectric Scheme town of Tarraleah where we saw the Tarraleah Power Station – the inlet pipes, the Turbine Hall and the Switchyard.
We turned off the Highway to visit Russell Falls, which is a tiered cascade waterfall on the Russell Falls Creek in the Mt Field National Park, part of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area. Once again it was raining, so we all put on our jackets and raincoats and walked to the falls on a track through some lovely rainforest, passing beside tall swamp gums and some species of typical rainforest trees. As we got closer to the falls there were some tall tree ferns which were lovely. The falls were spectacular and very loud as the water thundered over the three sections of the falls, with large amounts of mist coming off the cascading water.
We made our way back to the car and then drove to the highway and continued our journey towards Hobart, passing through some lush green farming land, stopping briefly at the Salmon Ponds at Plenty – it was pouring with rain so Katharine took Patrick for a quick look and then we continued our journey. We passed through the small picturesque town of New Norfolk, on the River Derwent. The town has a rich history and is the third oldest settlement in Tasmania, established by evacuees relocated from Norfolk Island after the island prison was abandoned in 1807. We saw lots of old pioneer heritage buildings, such as St Matthews Anglican Church built in 1823 and one of Australia’s oldest hotels and many of the houses date back to the 1820s. New Norfolk is also a hop-growing area, which produces most of the hops for Australian breweries. Just outside New Norfolk, we some some unusual buildings called “oust houses” that are used to dry the hops in preparation for the brewing process. The views areound New Norfolk were lovely – beautiful river, the mountains and the valley – pity about the rain.
We arrived back in Hobart after a long, but lovely day at approximately 5.30pm and made our way to the Best Western Hotel, which is located in the city centre. We got checked in, brought all our stuff up from the car – it now has to be packed back into our suitcases, ready for our flight home tomorrow. We had dinner at Embers at the hotel and then bath for the boys and off to bed, while the weary adult travellers got the packing done and off to bed too.

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