A Discovered Gem: Western Tasmania Pioneer Museum

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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What I did
Western Tasmania Pioneer Museum
Hogarth Falls

Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Saturday, March 9, 2013

We got up later today:  7:30 am.  It didn't take too long to pack up.  We didn't have any yogurt so we had our coffee and I grabbed some nuts and dates and off we went.  While we were loading the car, I heard a noise in the bushes and went to check and saw a kangaroo-type animal, probably a pademelon,  hiding there.  He hopped off fairly soon after I spotted him.

We drove back out of Cradle Mountain NP with a cloudy sky and wondered if it would clear up like the previous days had.  Neither of us had any idea of the weather forecast.  We hit a bit of rain after we got back on the highway towards Queenstown.  We made one stop at an overlook - more moorland vegetation but a little different from the park.  There were great flower, bird and animal posters up there.  The animal one even had several varieties of bats!

Doreen spotted a sign for a pioneer village after we had discarded the thought of seeing another waterfalls.  Apparently this waterfall was the highest in Tasmania.  Hmmm, was that wise?  We did decide to try the village and turned off for Zeehan.  When we got to the building, we found that the museum encompassed several of the buildings in town as well as grounds with West Tasmania artifacts.  The Pioneer Museum was excellent - we both enjoyed it immensely and felt we got a lot more out of this one than some of the others where we paid substantially more.

The museum was housed in the miners federation building and one of their leaders was largely responsible for creating it in the 1960's.  I took at least one photo of a photo of him.  In several of the rooms, upstairs and downstairs, there were thousands of old photos of the mining history of the region - lots of tin, copper, and even diamond minds.  There were collections of all sorts of things, like the hosptal equipment, ore assaying equipment, housewares, clothing - everything of use in the area's history.  The photos themselves showed mining operations, railroad building, homesteading, churches, banks, hotels, sports activities, et al.  I especially liked the inclusion of old newspaper headlines.  The labeling of the photos was excellent too. 

From this building, you could go next door to the old police headquarters and court building and then to the old Gayiety Theater.  The theater was fantastic with its original seats and probably carpeting too.  There were old posters of performances held there and some old movies.  They ran the old movies I think, even though I only saw part of one.  In a room off the corridor on the side of the theater was a room devoted to women's history.  There were stories and photos of several women who lived in the area.  There were clothes, sewing machines and irons - all the implements used by women and an exhibit of items relating to Eileen Perry, a famous pianist who was born in Tasmania.

From the major buildings, you went outside and toured the various equipment sheds and buildings - there was one building devoted to old vehicles, one with machines used in mining and two blacksmith shops.  Doreen was very impressed with the primary blacksmith's shop - it had lots of bellows and at least two fireplaces.  Lots of cool tools!  A miner's "sanctuary" had a cot, stove, table - everything needed by a miner. 

A door led under the main building where a mine experience was replicated.  A video showed what you would see from the windshield of a vehicle as you traveled through a mine with a driver giving you a tour.  I was amazed at what was down there - an office - several supply depots, places for heavy equipment to turn around.  I took a little video there of the video but it may not turn out very well since it was pretty dark.  After the mine simulation, I toured the last bits - which were pieces of heavy mining equipment and train engines - huge black and red ones

This place had everything and took us quite a long to go through.  The woman who sold us the tickets said our tickets were good all day and we could go out and have lunch and come back.  Doreen said she knew why the woman said that - because you needed a fair amount of time to go through it all!  By now it was around 2:30 pm.  Doreen had gotten info that the road we had detoured on to go to Zeehan was actually much better road to get to Strahan than the main highway.  Since Strahan was our ultimate destination, we bagged going to Queenstown and headed for Strahan directly. 

When we got to Strahan about 40 minutes later, we decided to forego the visitors center until we had found a place to stay for the night.  That proved more difficult than we anticipated.  It is now Saturday and Strahan is quite the tourist attraction plus we didn't realize monday was a holiday so this is a long weekend.  We tried several places - the first was too expensive - the rest were all fully booked.  One reception person told me to go to tourist info and they could tell us exactly what was available in Strahan.  So we ended up back at tourist info.  We found the only thing available was the rejected expensive place.  Another place had availability only for two days and only with a double bed and Doreen and I don't feel that close so we decided to broaden our search to the outskirts.  Oh, yeah, we did make a foray out of the town center to see if there was anything, but gave up on that idea as well.  In any case, we managed to book this place back in Zeehan and a cruise on the Gordan River out of Strahan for tomorrow.  The one bad part is that the cruise is quite early - 8:30 am - and we need to get up by 6 am in order to drive to Strahan.  All is OK though.

By now it was around 4 pm.  Doreen remembered that the friendly guy we met when we stopped for coffee and breakfast sandwiches who was doing a 30 km cycle race in Strahan that day told us that there was a short trail not to be missed in Strahan.  Doreen managed to find it around the side of the Harbor at People's Park.  The walk went to Hogarth Falls over a lovely path through the tall eucalyptus trees and the tree ferns and other ferns.  It was a lot more like my vision of Tasmania but without the dripping water.  There were other trees as well - a dogwood, sassafras, blackwood - a form of acacia, and black gum - a eucalyptus.  Ferns were very well represented:  Fish-bone water fern, Hard-water fern, regular bracken ferns and it seems as if there might have been others as well.  Doreen said the walk was 40 min and I had better keep to the time.  Oops, I only took the Lumix and tried to snap photos quickly and then run or walk quickly to catch up to Doreen.  We were 5 minutes over on the walk up to the falls, but I managed to do the return trip in the allotted 20 minutes even though I did take a few more pics.

After the walk, we stopped back in the area of the Strahan info center - and went in to two wood shops.  The first was attached to a lumber demonstration and smelled of cut huon pine.  The modern building contained some lovely wooden gifts - cheese cutters, boards, lemon squeezes and some art work as well.  All very nice!  The second was better I thought but quite different.  A tall, large woman was running it.  They had board lengths of cut wood with little blurbs on what made them special.  You could get several - from the same tree - for several thousand dollars.   I could imagine you could make something really special from them.  They also a box with an assortment of ends and discards.  There were some shelves with round wood sections and I was quite taken with them.  I ended up trying to decide between a smaller round of sassafras wood and a larger of pine.  I ended up with the pine.  The woman in charge told me that the round was from a King Billy pine that had been damaged in a fire in 1896 and was estimated at that time to have been about 1000 years old.  The piece is coated in wax to protect it from heat because it is very heat sensitive and I need to be careful how I get the wax off.  She gave me a special reusable tote bag with a winning design for Strahan on it - what a treasure!

Now it was definitely time to get to Zeehan and to our lodgings for the night.  We drove back without incident and got our key, dropped off our stuff and went in search of food.  While checking in, Doreen found out at the desk that our hotel has a wedding so their dining room is closed.  The other hotel restaurant in town is also closed for a wedding or some function.  We went into the bar at the end of this complex - hotel, restaurant, gaming casino, bottle store, bar.  A man on a bar stool enumerated the food options in town and Doreen realized that the hotel bar was the only one available.  We went along to the IGA food store that was closing as we entered, picked up a few items, dropped them off in our room and went back to the bar for our dinner.  I had a seafood basket that wasn't bad at all and Doreen had chicken schnitzel.  Finally my hunger was appeased for the day.  We returned to our room to map our strategy for tomorrow and remaining days in Tasmania and then it was blog/photo time for me.

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