Days 16 & 17 in Tassie

29th November, 2017.

The weather forecast for late in the week was not looking promising but Thursday seemed a possibility for us to do an Arthur River cruise which was highly recommended so the decision was made to drive directly to Arthur River from Ulverstone. I am still amazed by the relatively short distances we cover getting around this State but at 174 kms this was the longest drive we had had moving from one campsite to another.

We arrived around lunchtime and checked in at the Ranger station to book for 2 nights. The adjoining campground was really only suitable for small rigs but the Manuka Campground a few hundred metres back along the road is huge with almost 80 sites. As the wind was howling we looked for a sheltered site and chose 52 – we were the only campers in this section.

Once set up, we drove out to the Edge of the World lookout. The access road is dirt but curiously this is where the dump point is located. Not a place to take a caravan as there would be no room to turn around if there were cars in the car park. The views from the lookout were stunning; made all the more so because of the wind whipping up the seas.

Looking back to the mouth of the Arthur River with the town and one lane bridge spanning the river in the distance.

Heading back to the van, we stopped at the car park from which the two Arthur River cruise boats depart. As we were still unsure of the next day’s weather, we were reluctant to make a booking. Everyone we had asked for a recommendation had said the red boat was the one to take and reading the notice at the boatshed that we could pay as we boarded reassured us that we could wait till the next morning to decide if the weather was suitable.

We returned later in the afternoon to have a look at the boat itself and were happy that there was enough outside space for Erich to be able to get good photos.

The photo below is not very good quality but I’m including it as I believe this is a Green Rosella which occurs only in Tasmania, King Island and Flinders Island.

30th November, 2017.

There was a 5% chance of rain but the next day was forecast to have 95% chance of rain, so our decision was made to take the chance and do the boat cruise.

On arrival at the boat, we had a quick chat with one of the owners and found that there were only 4 passengers booked so no problem for us to go along as they always cater lunch for a few extras.

It was still very windy when we left the jetty but as we motored further upriver the force of the wind abated somewhat. Along the way we were given great commentary about the history of the river and the adjoining forests. As we rounded a bend, we were greeted by the sight of a huge male White-bellied Sea Eagle sitting high in a tree waiting for his breakfast.

Each morning the Captain prepares a sizable fish by injecting it with air so that it will float when he throws it into the water. The bird swoops down and carries his prize back to the nest to feed his two hungry chicks. The female bird has not been seen now for some weeks and the crew believes that she has met with an accident and probably drowned. So the chore of feeding the chicks rests solely with the male bird.

Circling to come in for the fish.

He must have been having an off day as it took several passes before he got hold of the fish.

After this bit of entertainment, we were circled by a huge Wedge-tailed Eagle, apparently a different strain from the mainland bird.

The Arthur River system is one of seven major river systems in Tasmania but is the only one that has never been logged or dammed so what we were seeing is exactly how it has been for thousands of years.

The exception to this ancient landscape is the tracts of Foxgloves growing here and there along the river. These plants have become a weed but are not invasive and should pose no risk to the pristine temperate rainforest. The plants were introduced by Chinese miners working in the area of Balfour on the Frankland River (which feeds into the Arthur River) who extracted digitalis which they used to regulate their heart rate giving them more stamina to work long hours in the mines.

Little Black Cormorants.

The hollow at the water line is the entry to a Platypus burrow.

Moored at our lunch stop.

The fine leaves of the Myrtle Beech tree which is so abundant along this river.

Our lunch venue.

This little Pademelon joined us for lunch.

While waiting for our BBQ lunch to cook, our skipper took us on a short walk through the rainforest and imparted some of his many years knowledge of the area.

A Black Currawong, another exclusively Tasmanian and Bass Strait Island bird, keeping an eye on us.

A Yellow-throated Honeyeater, also confined to Tasmania and the Bass Strait Islands.

We had a wonderful day and were very lucky with the weather as light rain only started around 5 pm once we were back at the van.

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Days 11 – 15 in Tassie

24th November, 2017.

As we would have had to hitch up and move from our riverside site at Myrtle Park because the site was booked for the weekend, we decided we might as well move on to Old Macs Farm on the outskirts of Launceston for a few days.

We arrived fairly early and found plenty of suitable campsites, some bordering the lake and others in more of a paddock setting. We chose a site where we backed on to the lake without of clear view of the water due to some high growing shrubs and grasses but we could see enough to make it a pleasant spot.

It was a nice sunny day so after setting up our camp we went for a walk around the two lakes which abounded with birdlife and busy insects.

A family of Chestnut Teals.

Pacific Black Duck and chicks.

A pair of Black Swans that had a sizable cygnet.

A White-faced Heron.

There were lots of Tasmanian Native Hens rushing about followed by their chicks.

A Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike.

A European Goldfinch.

25th November, 2017.

It was a little overcast and drizzly so we just stayed around the caravan for the day. As usual Erich was out with his camera to capture the local wildlife.

The black swans wandered around very close to our camp, seemingly unperturbed by our presence.

A Eurasian Coot or Taucherli as they are known in Switzerland.

The nearby Bottlebrush (Callistemon) shrub was a magnet for all kinds of birds including this Silvereye.

A female Superb Fairy-Wren.

26th November, 2017.

Unfortunately our plans to visit Cataract Gorge were thwarted due to persistent rain so we just did our grocery shopping and headed back to Old Macs. With not much else to do, we decided to have lunch at the adjoining restaurant. The Stonesthrow Restaurant seems very popular with the locals with long tables filled with family groups but they managed to find a spot for us.

The view from the restaurant looking over the first lake towards the campground.

Lunch was really nice but I don’t understand the idea of serving the meal on a plank of wood. It is just so impractical for the diner.

It appears that a covered alfresco dining area is being completed to the far right of the main restaurant building.

Erich came across this huge White-bellied Sea-eagle on his afternoon walk.

These Little Black Cormorants enjoyed the lake.

27th November, 2017.

Monday morning and time to move on again as we have decided to explore some of the north-west coast before a gathering in Ulverstone commencing on December 7. Our destination was the Blue Wren RV Park several kilometres to the west of Ulverstone. What a surprise we got when we arrived to find our friends, Rick and Lea, already set up there.

Set among 5 acres of beautifully maintained gardens, the campsite was delightful. As it was a lovely warm, sunny day and we really needed to do some laundry, we spent the afternoon doing our chores. However, there is always time for a stroll and some photography.

The Proteas in this garden were nothing short of stunning.

This Little Wattlebird made the most of the floral offerings.

And the occasional caterpillar.

A Grey Fantail.

The view out to Bass Strait was spectacular.

Dinner with a view.

28th November, 2017.

Another beautiful day dawned and Erich was out to catch the early morning light on Goat Island just offshore. This involved a scramble over the elevated railway track but the resulting photos were worth the effort.

Pied Oystercatchers.

Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos.

I still had some washing to do but once that was completed we drove back into Ulverstone to have a look at the beaches and get some lunch.

There are some well-maintained buildings in the town centre with quite a mixture of architectural styles.

Heading back to our campsite, we decided to follow a Tourist Drive route which led us to a hill high above the town. Unfortunately, trees had grown too high to allow a good view.

The humble Galah can always be relied on for a bit of colour.

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Days 8 – 10 in Tassie

21st November, 2017.

For our last day in Scottsdale we decided to drive to the nearby town of Legerwood to have a look at the Memorial trees. Originally planted in 1918, each tree served as a memorial to a fallen soldier from the district. However, in 2000, the trees were declared to be unsafe and the locals were devastated that the memorials would be lost. A plan was made to convert the tree stumps into the likeness of each of the soldiers they were planted to commemorate and a chainsaw carver from the town of Ross was entrusted with the task. What an absolutely stunning tribute to those men. Following are photos of some of the carvings.

On our return to Scottsdale, we had a walk around the town and continued on our mission to find the best scallop pie in Tassie. This one was at the Cottage Bakery which we voted about on par with the first we tried in Sheffield. Not a great number of scallops though.

We haven’t done any Geocaching for ages but there was a cache at the campground which Erich said was an easy find.

An immature Common Blackbird.

A very contented looking Pacific Black Duck.

22nd November, 2017.

Having driven over Weldborough Pass a couple of days ago and being advised that the Sidling on the Tasman Highway between Scottsdale and Launceston was similar terrain, we decided to take a longer, but hopefully less knuckle biting route via Lilydale. It was a lovely drive though certainly hilly and steep at times but without the very tight corners of the other road. We stopped in Lilydale for a coffee and a break. The town’s claim to fame is its painted electricity poles with depict local attractions and other notables. At the village green we came across of group of concrete poles in the process of being painted so we stopped for a chat with the artist who explained the reasoning behind the concrete poles. She told us that the paintings on the wooden electricity poles took a tremendous amount of maintenance to keep them looking good and the idea of using concrete is to continue the work but using a more maintenance free base. Eventually the wooden poles will be replaced.

Working on a concrete pole, this artist told us she was commissioned to paint four of the poles.

Following are a few examples of the wooden poles.

Our next campsite was at Myrtle Park, approximately half way between Launceston and Scottsdale. Situated on the St Patricks river, it’s a very popular spot but we were lucky enough to get a riverside site but only for two nights as all the riverside campsites were booked for the weekend.

After setting up the van, we made the short run to Launceston to collect our mail from the main Post Office. With the upcoming State election due, we needed to complete and postmark our postal votes before the close of polling on Saturday. Erich had also damaged his prescription sunglasses so it was an opportune time to stop in at OPSM to have them repaired. The nearby Banjo’s Bakery provided another chance to further my scallop pie education. This was definitely the best so far – guaranteed 6 scallops in each pie and it was true. We counted them!

23rd November, 2017.

Myrtle Park is a lovely spot but there is not much to see or do in the area so a quiet day was had with just some photos from around the campground.

More lovely foxgloves growing wild.

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Days 6 & 7 in Tassie

18th November, 2017.

With not much more to see in the area, and as the weather was so beautiful, a washing day was declared so just some photos of the flora and fauna at the campsite and back at the interpretive walk.

A Laughing Kookaburra.

A female Superb Fair-wren.

Early in the morning there were a dozen or so rabbits roaming around the campsite.

19th November, 2017.

Time to move on again. Back through Beaconsfield and then across the Batman Bridge to the eastern bank of the Tamar River and a stop in Georgetown for restocking the pantry. Before heading further north, we stopped at a riverside park to look at these woodcarvings. They looked very new and there was no signage to identify the subject, but we think this is meant to be Lt.-Col. Paterson who settled this area.

A nod to the early fishermen (perhaps Whalers) of the early settlement.

We loved the form of these trees.

This mosaic was also very effective.

Driving further north, we came to the end of the road at the Low Head Lighthouse.

We left our van at the bottom of the hill on the left and walked up to the lighthouse.

Returning back southwards, we stopped off at the Low Head Pilot Station.

After a very nice lunch of fish and chips, we continued our journey to Scottsdale where we found the Northeast campsite in town to be crowded but we managed to find a fairly level spot backing onto the creek with a beautiful flowering Rhododendron almost under our awning.

The creek is said to be home to a platypus but unfortunately it was not sighted.

A Pacific Black Duck.

I thought this was a new bird sighting but it was just a juvenile Common Starling.

A Purple Swamphen.

And the rear end of the elusive female Suberb Fairy-wren.

Today’s route.

20th November, 2017.

Beautiful weather again and we decided to take a round trip encompassing the areas north and east of Scottsdale. First stop was the pretty coastal town of Bridport.

Then a drive into the Waterhouse Conservation Area to have a look at a campsite on the shores of Big Waterhouse Lake. Not somewhere to take a rig of any size though. There was a slide-on tucked in amongst the trees but anything bigger would have had difficulty with the overhanging trees and narrow dirt road towards the end of the track. With the proper setup and a kayak, it would be a wonderfully peaceful place to enjoy the birdlife.

Next stop was the curiously named town of Tomahawk. Nothing much to see there but we stopped at the rest area to eat our sandwiches before moving on.

The beach at Tomahawk.

Continuing on, we were now on a dirt road most of the way to Herrick, where we turned south onto the Tasman Highway to cross Weldborough Pass and down to the town of Pyengana to checkout a campsite there. We stopped at a rainforest walk which was just stunning.

Close up of a fern tree trunk.

Returning to Scottsdale from Pyengana, we stopped off at a lookout point. Unfortunately there was no view to be seen as, since the lookout was built, the trees had grown up and blocked the valley view. However, it was worth the stop as we found these lovely foxgloves growing wild and this shrub alive with bees, butterflies and moths.

There were lots of these Macleay’s Swallowtails. Such a stunning colour.

Next was a quick stop at Moorina at an historic cemetery featuring a Chinese oven and a Dragon monument to the Chinese tin miners who worked in the area for many years.

The cemetery was bordered by beautiful flowering Rhododendrons.

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Days 3 – 5 in Tassie

15th November, 2017.

Another beautiful day in Tassie and we set off from Forth for an overnight stay with friends, Rick and Lea, who were house-sitting a property at Glengarry in the direction of Launceston.

We were soon parked up next to this stunning tree and catching up with each other’s news as we had not seen them for 3 or 4 years. I believe this is a Gleditsia, common name Honey Locust. The colour was so vibrant.

The approximately 1.5 acre property was surrounded on three sides by vineyards.

A few wines and all is right with the world!

A relatively short drive today.

16th November, 2017.

We said our farewells to Rick and Lea with the hope that we will catch up with them again before we leave Tassie.

Our destination was the locality of York Town, situated on the western side of the Tamar River but first we stopped off in the interesting town of Beaconsfield, well known as the site of the so-called Beaconsfield Disaster which occurred in April 2006. A small earthquake caused a collapse in the gold mine where 17 miners were working at the time. Fourteen of the miners were able to escape immediately, one was killed and the remaining two miners were trapped for two weeks one kilometre below the surface before eventually being rescued. More detail about the mine collapse can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaconsfield_Mine_collapse.

There is an extensive mining museum in the centre of the town.

In a small park near the museum there is a tribute to the surviving miners and the one who lost his life.

We stocked up with groceries and continued north detouring through the riverside village of Beauty Point and then back onto the main road to York Town with the intention of staying at Watermill Cottage campsite. What an inspired choice this turned out to be. A privately owned property with beautiful manicured grounds, a lovely pond and a solar powered waterwheel to add to the ambience.

This original painting, located in the above gazebo on the property, is the artist’s impression of how the village of York Town would have looked when it was established in 1804 as the first British settlement in the north of what was then called Van Dieman’s Land.

17th November, 2017.

We were interested to have a look at the camping areas in the far western area of Narawntapu National Park on the north east arm of Port Sorell. We left the van at the campground and took a fairly rough dirt road west through the National Park. There are three campgrounds all with access to beaches; one with powered sites, one which was really only suitable for tents or camper trailers and our favourite, Bakers Point, which has lovely large unpowered sites. We may return for a few days to camp if the timing is right. It would be a lovely spot to bird watch.

A lovely male Superb Fairy-Wren perched on a bollard at the beach.

A Pied Oystercatcher.

We opted not to return via the rough dirt road but took a slightly longer and very picturesque route through farmland and then continued past York Town to Greens Beach.

Looking out to Bass Strait at Greens Beach.

We followed a track that lead us to a lookout at West Head, also in the Narawntapu National Park.

Heading back towards York Town we detoured in to the village of Clarence Point where million dollar homes shared river views with some very humble beach cottages.

We came across a very new memorial to those soldiers from the area who lost their lives in WW1. A tree was planted for each soldier lost.

So sad that so many from such a small community gave their lives.

Last stop for the day was at the York Town park and interpretive walk close to our campground. Nothing remains of the original village but the well laid out walk and signage gave us a feel for the struggles of the early settlers.

A replica building of the era.

We stayed three nights at this lovely campground and would happily return there again.

 

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Day 2 in Tassie

14th November, 2017.

The volunteer at the Devonport Information Centre had told us about the Tasmania Arboretum and explained how the Arboretum had been set up to represent botanical specimens found growing in countries on the 40th Parallel (both north and south) around the world. Each section represents the plants of a particular region.

There was lots of different wildlife. Many of the Tasmanian Native-Hen with chicks.

Striated Pardalote.

Female & Male Superb Fairy-Wren which are very difficult to photograph as they flit around in the trees.

Crossing this bridge, we had a delightful surprise.

A Platypus, one of 6 resident in the lake, just nosing around in the shallow water.

The European Goldfinch seems to be fairly common in Tasmania.

We spent a very pleasant couple of hours wandering the various paths through each section and then had a delightful chat with the husband and wife volunteers manning the kiosk who told us of their move to Tasmania from Christchurch following the last devastating earthquakes.

A little further afield, we came to the town of Sheffield, dubbed the mural town due to the annual themed mural competition and also the many shop façade murals that make this an interesting stopover.

The winner of this year’s competition.

Some of the other examples.

In one of the shops, the original flying fox was still in place and the sales assistant happily gave us a demonstration as Erich had never seen one before.

The invoice and cash would fly along the wire to Mrs Slater who would sit above the shop observing her staff and customers and count out the change which would then be returned via the flying fox to the shop assistant.

As well as the murals, some of the old buildings were interesting as well.

Back at the Forth Campground we walked across to the quaint pub for dinner.

We were fascinated by the shape of these trees across the river from our camp.

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Day 1 in Tassie

13th November, 2017.

We were up, showered and dressed before the 5.45 a.m. wake up call abroad the Spirit of Tasmania and Erich was on deck to take photos of Devonport and our docking.

We checked out the two low cost camping areas close to the town but decided to go a little further afield to the town of Forth and the large Recreation Ground that allows 48 hour camping for a donation. As we had a few things to do in Devonport, we unhitched the van and headed back east via a scenic route. On the way across to the campground I had seen a turnoff to a lookout so we made that our first port of call.

The rural views from Braddons Lookout were just stunning.

Then we picked up the highway along the north coast, stopping at a Penguin viewing station. Obviously there were no penguins to be seen at that hour of the day but it was an interesting and picturesque stop.

An example of the concrete structures that provide protection for the penguin chicks while their parents are fishing out at sea during the day.

We found our way into Devonport where I had to collect my prescription glasses that had not arrived in time before we left home and had been sent down to the OPSM shop in Devonport.

We were also in desperate need of haircuts and found a Just Cuts salon that could accommodate both of us immediately. Next stop was Harvey Norman where we replaced our 5 year old Tom Tom GPS. A quick visit to the local Information Centre and we had a few places to check out.

Looking across the mouth of the Mersey River from near the Mersey Bluff Lighthouse.

A momument that Erich was keen to photograph for the Monument Australia website.

A European Goldfinch.

Our drive today looks a little crazy.

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On the road to Tassie – Crossing Bass Strait

12th November, 2017.

Finally the day had arrived for our crossing from the mainland to the small island. I had spent a lot of time researching our route to Station Pier in Melbourne and where we could park until it was time to board the Spirit of Tasmania. As with many best laid plans, mine came unstuck when we changed our overnight stop at the last minute. Instead of coming into the city from the north-west, we were now having to cross the city from the north-east. The caravan park we stayed at gave me directions which seemed simple enough until I consulted Google Maps which indicated that there was a City2Sea race scheduled which included part of the intended route with some road closures. In the end I decided it would be simplest to allow Google Maps to find our route, even if it included toll roads.

It was a relatively easy run and traffic, though heavy, was not a hindrance and we eventually found our way to Station Pier so that we could check it out in advance of our boarding later in the afternoon. Satisfied that we knew what was what, we set off to find a spot that had been recommended to while away a few hours. As it happened, the route there took us along a quiet street at the rear of Bunnings in Port Melbourne with plenty of parallel parking available so we decided that was good enough. On our morning trek across the city, we were called up on the UHF and told that we had a chain dragging on the ground. We always carry a spare shackle which we fixed at the time but having easy access to Bunnings allowed us to replace the spare.

Our route.

We thought parking under this shady tree was a good idea until we were ready to leave and found the van and car covered in the blossoms.

We left our parking spot at 4.30 p.m. and let Google Maps take us to Station Pier. It was very straightforward but I had to question the wisdom of choosing a Sunday for this boarding. Port Melbourne is full of trendy cafes and bars and, on this Sunday, full of trendy Melbournites as well! But eventually we were in the queue for boarding.

At this point we had passed through quarantine, where fridges are inspected for any lurking fruit and vegetables and gas bottles are tagged as passed if they are secured or surrendered for the duration of the voyage if they are unsecured. We had disposed of the firewood that we had at one of the fireplaces at Aysons Reserve.

This part of the queue is coming up to the checkin where we received our cabin allocations. It wasn’t long before we were safely aboard and parked on Level 5.

After dropping our overnight bag in our cabin, we found a spot to sit and have a celebratory tipple before the ferry got underway.

Getting towards the end of boarding.

The weather was beautiful giving us a lovely clear view of the city.

Although our sailing was scheduled for 7.30 p.m., we actually cast off at 7 p.m. and had wonderful light to capture these photos.

As Melbourne faded into the distance, we settled down to have some dinner in one of the bars and were entertained by this very talented singer. Unfortunately, I didn’t catch her name but she was very good and singing covers of the types of songs we enjoy listening to. (Edit by Erich: I am pretty sure the singer was Ella Rose from Leith, Tasmania – https://www.facebook.com/ellagrose97/ )

Our cabin was perfectly acceptable and Erich had no trouble sleeping but the crossing was a little rough so I didn’t get a good sleep until the early hours when the sea was calmer. We had an early wakeup call at 5.45 a.m. but were already showered, dressed and ready to disembark. This was a very simple exercise and we were off the ferry by 6.50 a.m. and on the road to an overnight camp in Forth, not far from Devonport.

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A week on the road to Tassie – Part 3

9th November 2017.

As we were now in reach of our goal to arrive in Melbourne on the 12th for our evening sail on the Spirit of Tasmania, we decided to spend a couple more nights at Aysons Reserve. It was a great place to relax and do some more bird watching.

Brown Treecreeper

A Dusky Woodswallow, I think.

A White-plumed Honeyeater.

And some pretty wildflowers.

Plenty more White-plumed Honeyeaters.

A majestic Pelican.

On Saturday, we decided to move closer to Melbourne so that we would have less than 100kms to drive to the pier on Sunday. We had in mind a free camp in the pretty town of Kyneton. Reviews and photos on Wikicamps made it look like a perfect overnight stop. Unfortunately it turned out to be a lot more exposed than it appeared in the photos and it just didn’t feel right to us. The only option was to find a caravan park in Melbourne for the night. The closest park to the pier was fully booked but we found one further out of town which had a spot for us.

We were allocated a nice shady site overlooking a small creek at the rear.

A Dusky Moorhen enjoying a splash in the water.

A pair of Chestnut Teals digging for worms.

Spotted Dove.

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A week on the road to Tassie – Part 2

7th November, 2017.

Melbourne Cup Day dawned and we made an early exit from Eumungerie with the plan to fuel up in Dubbo and camp somewhere in or near Narranderra. I follow a Facebook page that features Australian pubs that allow overnight camping on the grounds in return for a donation or spending a few dollars in the pub. One such place that always receives positive reviews on the site is the Royal Hotel at Grong Grong, just a few kilometres before Narranderra.

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We decided to check it out and received a warm welcome from the publican, Kay, and were soon set up at the rear of the building on a large flat area which we had all to ourselves. As it was nearing time for the running of the Cup, we joined a few of the locals in the bar, had a beer and studied the form guide. Not that it was much help as we don’t follow horse racing but it was fun to take part. As it turned out, I backed the second place getter, Johannes Vermeer, for no better reason than he (Vermeer the painter, that is) is a main character in one of my favourite books, Girl With A Pearl Earring written by Tracey Chevalier. So I had a nice little windfall that partially paid for our dinner and drinks.

Rural view at the rear of the hotel. This horse was not a starter in the Cup.

A nice shady spot under a peppercorn tree.

Almost one hundred years old. I wonder if it will be standing in another hundred years.

At the time of our visit, work was almost complete on the Newell Highway/Grong Grong by-pass. Will this be good or bad for the town of Grong Grong?

8th November, 2017.

The next morning we continued along the Newell Highway, crossing into Victoria over the Murray River at Tocumwal and then turning onto the Murray Valley Highway as we made our way to our intended camp at Aysons Reserve, a popular free camp located on the Campaspe River. Fortunately for us there had been a mass exodus of campers that morning. Melbourne Cup Day is a public holiday in Victoria so many people make it a 4 day weekend and this reserve makes an ideal getaway just a couple of hours drive from Melbourne.

We soon found a nice spot at the far end of the campground with a nice view of the river and not too many neighbours.

There was plenty of birdlife to keep the photographer occupied.

Lots of pairs of Red-rumped Parrots.

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On the road to Tassie

4th November, 2017.

It was touch and go whether we would have our van back in time to make our run to Melbourne to catch the Spirit of Tasmania on November 12th but many thanks to Allweld Manufacturing in Tinana for ensuring our axles were returned from Alko in Melbourne and refitted. We collected the van around close of business on Thursday which enabled us to pack and leave on Saturday. At that stage, Allweld hadn’t even made up our bill – they just wanted to make sure we would be able to get on the road as quickly as possible.

Here we are heading out of our garage at around 9.40am on Saturday.

Our destination for the night was the Moonie Crossroads Roadhouse. We stopped in Kilkivan to check the hubs on the van and they were cool. Then it was an easy run via Wooroolin where we stopped for lunch. On checking the hubs again, we found they were warm so made a quick call to Josh at Allweld for reassurance that all was well. Continuing on we passed by Kingaroy, through Dalby and then onto the Moonie Highway to the Crossroads, a distance of 410kms which was a great start to the trip.

We refuelled before settling into an unpowered site at the adjoining caravan park, sat outside for a while bird watching and just relaxing before wandering over to the Roadhouse to sample the Pork Belly, which has a reputation of its own.

There were about 6 other rigs in the campground but all on powered sites so we had plenty of room to ourselves.

Our first sighting of Striped Honeyeaters.

It must be mating season.

There was a row of these shrubs running along behind the van. Based on the leaf shape, I’m fairly sure it is a dwarf Oleander.

The Pork Belly certainly was outstanding and a very large portion with a little bonus pot of Chocolate Mousse and Cream on the side. One of the owners of the Roadhouse stopped for a chat and apologised for the renovations they were currently undergoing. It will be interesting to revisit to see how the “modernisation”, as she called it, turns out.

There was an stunning sunset as we walked back to the van.

5th November, 2017.

Tonight’s destination was the Eumungerie Recreation Reserve, a distance of 565kms, which is a long drive for us towing the van.

This is a low fee ($5 pn unpowered or $10 pn powered) campground with showers and toilets for those who don’t have their own. The fee was collected by Ron, the friendly caretaker and we were soon set up away from the 8 or so other rigs all clustered around the power boxes.

Erich found a native bee hive in one of the trees close to the entry to the campground.

Later in the afternoon, one of the local volunteers stopped by for a chat and thanked us for supporting the town. It’s always lovely to talk to the locals and find out a bit about these small country towns.

6th November, 2017.

We had planned to move on the next morning but when we woke it was blowing a gale outside and certainly not ideal weather for towing a van. We decided to sit it out for a couple of hours in the hope that the wind would abate. It soon became apparent that we were going to be hit by a large storm cell so we abandoned any plans to move on. Instead we moved the van forward, well away from any trees. Astonishingly, all but one of the rigs from the previous night had left. The caretaker told us that he told the driver towing a pop-top van that he was a fool to be driving in that gale.

We could see the storm building in the distance.

As it was now midday, we thought we would support the town a bit more by having lunch at the pub. We took a couple of steps out of the van and then the rain started in earnest so we retreated back inside and waited it out. It was a furious 30 minutes or so of wind, rain and marble sized hail which sounds horrendous when sitting inside the van. Once the storm had passed we headed off to the pub. The caretaker had put up a sign temporarily closing the campground as it was completely sodden. It was just a short walk to the pub but we passed this Memorial which Erich found was incorrectly titled on the Monument Australia website (www.monumentaustralia.org.au) and did not have an accompanying photograph. Contributing to this website is one of Erich’s hobbies which fits in well with his passion for photography.

The pub was open for business.

We were served a delicious lunch of flathead fillets, chips and a lovely fresh salad.

Another entry for Monument Australia that had not previously been documented.

Unfortunately the trees weren’t flowering.

It didn’t take long for the thirsty ground to soak up the rainwater so Erich was out taking more photos of the area.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 22

26th September, 2017.

Our last day in Vietnam and we were saying goodbye to our fellow travellers who were heading in different directions.

As we had a few hours before our transfer to the airport, we revisited the markets to soak up the atmosphere.

Vietnam had been on our bucket list for a long time. We thoroughly enjoyed our time there and the many unique experiences we had.

 

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 21

25th September, 2017.

Our last full day in Vietnam and a little more touring of Ho Chi Minh City.

The beautiful Municipal Theatre aka Saigon Opera House, a lovely example of French Colonial architecture.

Apparently this hotel was frequented by US military officers during the Vietnam War.

The lovely City Hall.

Our next stop was the Thien Hau Temple.

The intricacy of the porcelain decoration is amazing.

The temple is operational and there were many people making offerings and lighting incense.

After lunch we bought some Mooncakes to bring home. A traditional delicacy available during the Mid-Autumn Festival, they can be an acquired taste. They were beautifully displayed in a traditionally decorated presentation box.

For our last dinner in Vietnam, we were treated to a very special buffet in one of the upmarket hotels lining the pedestrian mall that runs up to City Hall. The display of food was quite a sight to behold.

There were hundreds of people thronging the mall when we left the buffet and this was on a week night.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 20

24th September, 2017.

Today we had the choice between an excursion to the Cu Chi Tunnels or a walk through Ho Chi Minh City. Erich opted for the tunnels while I decided to explore the inner city with a couple of our fellow travellers.

The trip to the tunnels was a fairly long drive in the coach with plenty of opportunities for Erich to capture the passing traffic.

This guy seems to enjoy himself.

With cars in the minority, scooters and bikes queue up in front of the cars when waiting for the green light.

Many children sit in front of mum or dad on the main seat.

These guys not only carry a lot of wares, the passenger seems to be on the phone as well.

Amazing what they carry on their bikes.

Two traffic police on one motorbike.

Map of the Cu Chi Tunnels

This is a replica of one of the huts that the Vietcong used in the jungle before agent orange defoliated the canopy of the trees that provided cover.

One of the original bomb craters from bombs dropped from American B-52s.

A trap placed by the Vietcong to kill the enemy (including Australian soldiers).

Demonstrating how they entered the tunnels.

Even uniforms were sown underground.

Making sandals from car tyres.

Entry to the tunnels – widened for tourists with stairs allowing easier access for tourists

Only one of our group (the youngest) ventured down into the tunnel.

Leaving the tunnels behind, the group was soon in a beautiful spot having lunch close to the edge of a river.

Not a bad lunch menu.

As on many other rivers, these floating plants drift by.

Just a couple of photos on the way back to Ho Chi Minh City.

Meanwhile, back in the city, I spent the morning wandering the markets and back streets along with a couple of our group and our guide Mr Lam.

There are some very beautiful old buildings – this is an upmarket clothing store.

Lovely stained glass windows.

Some beautifully maintained hotels.

Mr Lam pointed out the most famous ice cream parlour in the city so at the end of our walk, we three girls treated ourselves and Mr Lam went off to do some personal shopping.

We decided on a late lunch at the Street Food Market just down the road from our hotel.

There were so many kiosks with different types of foods that it was difficult to choose.

In the end I settled for a couple of Samosas – not Vietnamese but delicious and we found a table right at the back of the market.

Sitting there enjoying our meal, I looked up and spotted a familiar face. Our neighbour, Steve, from up the street, who was on the last day of his south-east Asian trip. Small world.

While we were chatting, Erich arrived back from his day trip and we spent some time comparing our impressions of Vietnam with Steve.

In the evening we had dinner on a floating restaurant, taking a cruise on the river.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 19

23rd September, 2017.

On our first full day in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), we had a coach tour of many of the notable sights with a very knowledgeable guide.

Notre-Dame Catholic Cathedral. Unfortunately we couldn’t go inside as it was closed for some restoration work.

This old building was the CIA Headquarters during the Vietnam war and from where the final evacuations took place as the city fell to North Vietnam.

A photograph taken at the time of the evacuation.

The beautiful main Post Office.

Inside the main hall of the Post Office.

Known variously as the Independence Palace and Reunification Palace, this building was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam war.

On 30th April, 1975 during the Fall of Saigon, a North Vietnamese tank famously crashed through the gates into the Palace grounds.

The inside of the building has been retained exactly as it was during that era.

On the roof of the building.

A beautiful old Mahjong set.

The view from an upper floor.

The tallest building in the city has a helicopter pad built onto its side.

A better view of the helicopter pad.

The scooter traffic was just as crazy here as it was in Hanoi.

Following our city tour, we were taken to District 7 for lunch and to see this very modern part of the city with wide boulevards, beautifully kept green spaces and modern, but very expensive apartments, mostly occupied by foreign workers. A stop at a large shopping centre on the way back to our hotel was popular with most of our fellow travellers but we were just happy to find somewhere with decent coffee.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 18

22nd September, 2017.

This morning’s adventure would take us on the river for a tour of the floating market. Not a tourist market as one finds in Bangkok, for example, but a trade market where farmers from near and far bring their produce by boat. In fact, the only thing we could have bought were cold cans of soft drink being hawked to the various traders.

Waiting to board our boat.

A certain amount of agility is required but there is always a helping hand for anyone who needs it.

Most of the larger vessels displayed a sample of what produce they were carrying on a long pole that could be seen from a distance. This boat was carrying onions.

Onions and cabbages.

A woman moving from junk to junk selling food to the traders.

Back on our coach we headed to our lunch venue and, as always, the comings and goings of the locals were worth photographing.

It was very common to see girls riding “side-saddle” in their skirts.

Good balance is essential.

Our tour guide was trialling a new eating place which featured pizza made with noodles as the base. Tucked away in a residential area, I doubt the average tourist would ever have found it.

The open kitchen.

Whilst we waited for our orders, we were given a demonstration of noodle making.

Here the rice mixture is spread on a hotplate to cook.

Then placed on bamboo mats to dry.

The dried rice paper sheets are fed through a machine similar to a shredder.

The person sitting on the other side then gathers the shredded rice paper into bundles.

The noodles are then bagged for sale.

A few of our group had a go at gathering the noodles. It’s not as easy as it looks.

The end result was worth the wait. Absolutely delicious and something that I would love to try making at home.

And we ate every morsel.

After lunch, we boarded our coach to return for our final few days in Ho Chi Minh City.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 17

21st September, 2017.

Our hotel in Long Xuyen with our coach ready to take us on the day’s adventure.

One of the main reasons for our unofficial organised tour was to visit a couple of schools in the village where Minh grew up, which our organisers raise money for each year. During the past year, she and Rudy have held Vietnamese cooking classes and meditation classes in the community where they live with these schools being the beneficiaries. The tour group also voluntarily donated funds to the cause. So we were paying a visit to one of the schools to see how previous funds had been used and to meet the teachers and students.

But first we had to cross the river on one of the local ferries.

Then it was a short walk to the school.

This is the canteen built and fitted out thanks to funds raised in previous years.

Due to the shortage of space, the school day is split in two with one group of children attending in the morning and a second group attending in the afternoon.

We were so impressed with the children – they were polite and respectful to their teachers and so happy to see us and so neat and tidily dressed in their uniforms. They and their parents really appreciate the opportunity for an education.

The money raised this year will provide a new computer for each school as requested by the respective Principals. Minh related a story from a previous trip when one of the tour group, who was a teacher, questioned why children who were waiting their turn to use the only computer were not given some task to occupy themselves while they waited. The Vietnamese teacher responded that being unoccupied taught the children patience and gave them a greater appreciation and respect for the equipment.

The end of our visit to the school coincided with the finish of the morning classes.

One of Minh’s five brothers very generously invited us to his home so that we could see how a typical Vietnamese family lives. Our transportation was a bit different. Unfortunately our driver thought he was Stirling Moss and decided to have some fun. We were all hanging on to anything that felt secure to keep our seats. Going in a straight line was bad enough but the corners were something else! In the end I had my iPad clamped between my knees so that I could hold on with both hands.

Minh’s brother was justifiably proud of the home he built himself from whatever materials he was able to gather.

The front courtyard was a leafy oasis giving respite from the heat while we enjoyed the fresh coconuts.

Many of the people in these small villages have shops in their front yards where they sell all sorts of stuff to augment their incomes.

For the ride back to our coach I made sure we did not have the same driver so we travelled at a more sedate pace.

When not transporting tourists, this is one of the uses these carts are put to.

En route to our next destination, we had an unscheduled stop at a rice distribution factory to see how the bulk rice was received, graded and bagged for distribution around the world. Hard hats and face masks were supplied.

Much of the Vietnamese commerce revolves around its waterways. Here the bulk rice arrives by barge.

Conveyor belt used to load the bagged rice onto barges.

That evening in Can Tho we went to the night market and had dinner beside the river.

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Vietnam 2017 – Part 16

20th September, 2017.

We enjoyed our breakfast in the open air restaurant at our My Tho hotel, watching the river traffic and the locals getting their morning exercise swimming in the river. The really dedicated ones were swimming up river against the current.

After breakfast we boarded one of the cross river ferries which took us to one of the islands where we visited a honey processor and sampled some of their products. Australian quarantine restrictions meant that we weren’t able to buy any of the products should we have wanted to.

Looking back across the river.