Roadtrip Day 2: Forests

Trip Start Oct 23, 2011
Trip End Feb 06, 2012

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What I did
The Nut
Hellyer Gorge

Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Saturday, November 19, 2011

Our day started with a sudden bright light and a really loud ship-wide announcement that we would soon be docking. Not a nice wake up call. Bleary eyed, we gathered our things, joined the queue, and returned to the van. I'd had a coffee, so I drove. We pulled out of the gaping hole in the front of the boat (how I didn't scratch the sides will forever mystify me), and joined the quarantine queue. In order to help reduce interstate something-or-other (I didn't listen), you had to dump any fresh produce. We had, except one lonely orange hiding out underneath our passenger seat. After handing it over (and having a third official not care that 3 people were in a 2 person van), we pulled onto the main road, and headed west, to the nearest town that wasn't Devonport. Said town was named Burnie, and our first stop within it: McDonalds. One breakfast bap later, we searched the town for a shop, found a Wollys, and restocked up on fresh produce. I retook the wheel, and we headed for Stanley, along a coastal tourist route. The verdant green of the grass and the woods, the iron grey of the rain clouds, the winding, hilly road, sporadic beaches with no-one on them, and little traffic. I could have been in Devon. Even the towns had less of a structured, American feel about them and more of a haphazard, build where you want, village format. Despite my tiredness, and the lingering over-awareness of what I was driving (damn automatic gearbox kept making me jump as it downshifted up hills), I had a smile on my face. We pulled into Stanley around lunchtime, and made use of the visitor information centre, where we learnt the thing to do whilst here was climb 'The Nut'. Protruding out and up from the coastline, this geologic formation of igneous rock rises to 143m. And bugger is that path up steep! Being a walker, I saw it a challenge, but the other two just saw it as hassle, and when we discovered that there was a $5 chairlift that would have removed the climb entirely, I got one long stare. However, once at the top, and on the 40min loop walk, the views overpowered any exhaustion. You could see a lot of coastline, but also quite far inland, because by now the clouds had melted away into the cool, midday Tassie air. Upon reaching the chairlift station, Jake and Virva elected to save their legs and get it back down. Not looking to be outdone, I said I could get down faster by walking. Technically, it was more of a double-speed pigeon step, but even after stopping halfway to take photos, I was at the exit gate before them, with a stupid grin plastered on my face. After trying on some silly hats in the gift shop, we hopped back in the van, which, in a moment of genius, I christened Rosie, after the four legged protagonist of Water for Elephants. Team Rosie then drove up a hill, to see if an old house overlooking the Nut was any good. It wasn't, so instead we parked up and had some lunch. I relinquished the keys, and had a nap in the back, whilst Jake drove us inland, toward the mountains. I awoke a few hours later to a squeal from Virva: they'd just spotted a Wombat, and wanted a better look. By the time we had disembarked, I had scarpered. I couldn't get back to sleep, so I pulled out my book, but my eyes wouldn't focus on the print, and were instead drawn to the plethora of foliage outside the window. The road dipped and sweeped gracefully through one long corridor of trees, which changed every minute into a new species. Ferns, broad leaves, something resembling a willow, pines, conifers, they were all there. One of the few signs of human development apart from the road itself were the constant yellow signs warning you of the upcoming hairpin, and blue and brown ones signaling turn offs and other roads. One particular name that caught our eye was a mere 10k up the road. We pulled in, and another grin split my face: we were in Hellyer Gorge. I've got to be honest, the location did not cause any such phrase to escape my lips, as the gorge itself was hidden away upstream of the car park, but the fast flowing river was nice. Back in Rosie, we pushed up a hill, and at the crest swapped drivers. I wasn't at the wheel 5 minutes before the tree cover peeled away, and revealed dominating mountains in the distance, and scrub plains in the foreground. Numerous lakes dotted the scenery, and the stark white of the exposed tree bark here gave the whole visible area a strange air of foliage only just recovering from some disaster. This wasn't entirely untrue, as now we were entering the wild Western wilderness of Tassie, and area heavy with mining and farming. Our first proof of there claims came when we turned off the road to see if the Mackintosh Dam and Lake was worth a look. It was.I don't quite know the size of it, but in layman's terms, I'd say it was three steps above huge, and only a couple below being an inland sea. Some panoramic photos later, we scooted through Tullah, where the extinct rail network that spread through the whole village like a web told more of the mining than the bare rock could, then came across a potential overnight stop: Rosebery. Our first shop was the bottle-o (naturally), and from there we got directions to the local campsite with powered sites. I threaded Rosie down a couple of dirt lanes, pulled up at the shut office, where a sign kindly informed us to park up and use the facilities, and pay in the morning when the office was open. I reversed the van up into a spot, plugged her in with power and water, then got to work on my tent. I'd been carrying this tent since I'd bought it in Coles, in Darwin. It was good to finally make use of it. I went up really easily, I placed it in shelter and on the flat, and then had a go at blowing the up the air mattress Jake had carted around since his Great Ocean Road trek. I got it maybe two thirds full, then nearly passed out. Jake handed me a glass of goon and took over. In my semi-high breathless state, the goon hit me like wrecking ball, which was good, because it gave me an itch to go exploring. We were camped next to a river, over which spanned a high mining train bridge. The river disappeared out of sight about 50m downstream, and was making a hell of a racket, so I investigated. Following a fenced off path, I came across a waterfall. An actual waterfall; water crashing off angular rocks, churning and spilling, and roaring, roaring so loud. I ambled back to van, refilled my goon, and let my eyes wander to just above the tree line, where I could see, all around us, the tops of mountains, and above them, wisps of cloud, starting to turn colour in the dying evening light. I took stock of our position on a map, and realised that we had chosen a valley, sheltered from the wind, on the edge of a national park, just within the confines of a mining town. It couldn't have been more picturesque, at least to me. Jake and Virva were more concerned with the radio and dinner. That worked as well though, because as I returned from my walk, the grub was plated and ready. And it was Steak (yes, Steak, with a capital 'S'). That got polished off unsurprisingly quickly, and we turned the tunes up (TripleJ on a saturday nigh RULES), and chillaxed outside. Just as it got chilly, I whipped my camera out and got some shots of the vivid, well, I don't know a synonym for 'colour', but there needs to be one because these weren't the pastel shades you see everyday, but glorious splashes of, well, aah, just look at the photo! We shut ourselves in the van, and did what any group of twenteen year olds would do with a comfy space and some wine: we played drinking games and watched TV till we could barely stand. Actually, I was the only one who needed to, and thus I wrenched myself out of the warm interior of Rosie, and into the embrace of my sleeping bag, inside my economy tent. The crashing of the waterfall was gently muffled by my surroundings, and I was out like a light.
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