21 April, 2024

Day 36: Dora Point to Scamander

We started the day with a cleaning job. We had been leisurely enjoying breakfast in the van when David spotted another padamelon outside. I had an open sleeping bag over my legs as it was still a little chilly, and foolishly I tried to leap up to see the marsupial out the other side of the van. Me or my actions on the sleeping bag knocked over my full cup of coffee. The sleeping bag, however, also saved me and the seat cushions from getting any spillage. … I should know by now that slow deliberate movement inside the van is best…but alas even five weeks into our journey and I’m still prone to error.

Beerbarrel Beach (no barrels in evidence!)
After (the initial) cleanup we drove into St Helens. We did the rest of the cleanup at the end of the day when we got access to a laundry (I should say David did the cleanup, really...he does the laundry most of the time in our house.) At St Helens I got a hair cut from a former Queenslander, David used the dump point for our waste water, we got groceries, sent off a letter, and checked out the visitor centre.

We then drove out to St Helen’s point for an early lunch and did an hour long walk to Beerbarrel Beach, and then a short drive to see a portion of the Peron Dunes (large sand dunes).

Sand dune: our sons would have
had tonnes of fun with snow sleds
on this! It was really hard to capture
the enormity of the dunes in a photo.
After this we drove a relatively short distance to the next town we were staying in: Scamander. It’s also a beachside town, and closer to St Helen’s than we realised. 

So a relatively short day of activity, but probably okay as David was showing signs of decision fatigue. We’ve realised that so many of the decisions about how we used our personal time in the last 25 years has been dominated by what’s best for the boys. Making decisions just for us is still very novel and a bit tiring in a strange way!

When you realise that your size L feet
(Japanese sizing) aren’t actually that big!
In Australian sizing they are 8. 

20 April, 2024

Day 35: Grants Lagoon to Dora Point

We had a visitor towards the end of this day.
A pademelon, which looks quite like a wallaby,
except a bit stockier with a shorter tail.
Our free-free campsite at Grants Lagoon was just one of about half a dozen in close proximity on the coast at Bay of Fires, north of St Helens. Seeing as there seemed to be few camping and no bookings or fees, we decided to pack up and drive around the bay, looking at the sights and seeing if another campsite appealed for the next night. Grants Lagoon was nice, but unless you were planning to swim or kayak, there was not a lot to do or see in the immediate vicinity of where we'd spent the night.

So we drove north as far as the road would take us, to a place curiously called "The Gardens". No, there aren't many gardens there now, but legend has it that it was called that by one of the early influential women who found the area had many wildflowers. At The Gardens there was a short walk/rock scramble where we got our first glimpse of the Bay of Fires. Very beautiful!

More stunning sand and clear water
After that we drove south a little bit, parked, and walked to the end of Taylors Beach and back (a bit over an hour). Then we ate lunch and explored the various free campsites between there and St Helens, settled on one near Binalong Bay township, accessible via a relatively rough dirt road. The campsite was called Dora Point in the Humbug Point Nature Recreation Area. Again, a sparsely populated campsite with no facilities except flushing loos and fenced-off campsites.
A common feature in this section of the coast is
this orange lichen on Romans. 

We went for another walk out to the ocean. My phone said at the end of this day I'd walked nearly 12 km. 

Taylors Beach

We made apple crumble from scratch 
(I cut up the apples and stewed them and
David made the crumble and baked it in our
little oven. It felt like an accomplishment.

18 April, 2024

Day 34: Low Head to Grants Lagoon

Looking towards the Tamar River and George Town.

On our way out of town we stopped at a lookout outside George Town. Read some more history and discovered it’s the third oldest town in Australia, after Sydney and Hobart.

We also found more mountain biking stuff today. Many small towns in Tasmania have made tracks and attract cyclists. The most noticeable we drove through today was the small town of Derby: there were many bike and bike trailers. It’s school holidays here, so I’m guessing they had holiday events going on.

St Columbia Falls
We stopped for a comfort stop in Bridport, it's on the north coast and has been a vacation spot for over 100 years (remember: this is a long time in Australia's short history!). Then we had lunch in a Lions park in Scottsdale. Another free camping spot, but this was was very well patronised, probably because of the hot showers that were available for $3. 

After lunch we drove on very windy roads for over an hour, as we headed east to the coast at St Helen’s. I rarely got over 50 km/h.

We stopped for a short walk to St Columbia Falls (so wet and cold!) in Pyengana and then for coffee/chai and scones at an old dairy farm. The dairy farm is fully automated: which, I discovered, means the cows can come at any time (minimum interval six hours) to be milked by the machines! 

Dairy Farm where we stopped for afternoon tea
There's so much history in this one little valley, some of the farms are run by the fourth or fifth generation. At the head of the walk was some of the stories of the ancestors of the current land owners. Including one mother who went looking for a lost cow in winter and got lost herself for over a week. They gave up on her, but she showed up anyway, with frozen toes that needed amputating! Her first words were: let me see my kids! There was another family that had six sons who licenced their farm house in 1880 so they could sell alcohol. It's now called Pub in the Paddock.
About 190 km, took over two
hours, though,
due to very windy roads.

We found some really free, free camping north of St Helen’s at a place called Grants Lagoon. The local council (called "Break O'Day"!) has made a real effort to provide great camping options in this area and further north. There was almost no one there. 

Grants Lagoon
Free camping, We are discovering, often costs money, but not as much as places that provide more facilities. Usually they don’t provide electricity or water or showers. Sometimes there’s a fee, sometimes a donation is requested. Occasionally you can pay for a shower and sometimes there’s toilets. But at this place there was no fee or request for a donation, so for the first time in our trip we stayed in a public place without paying anything! There was a drop toilet that we used during the day (but at night used our own). It was another very quiet night, with no need to use our eye masks!

Day 33: all day at Low Head

It was a Sunday and we’d hoped to walk to church this morning (2.8 km away), but I came down with a cold and we decided it was better to keep that to ourselves. Also, we had complementary WiFi at this place (pretty rare on our journey!), so online church was possible.

One of the lighthouses at Low Head

We went for a walk after lunch to a couple of nearby lighthouses. We learned this region was discovered by Matthew Flinders and George Bass just 10 years after the first white settlers landed in New South Wales. It was settled in 1804 when they brought convicts and established George Town, just south of Low Head. One of the chief concerns was safe navigation, and, though the Tamar looks wide, it's apparently actually pretty tricky to navigate. So various navigation aids were introduced, including the two lighthouses we walked to. This area was also where the first submarine cable was laid between Tasmania and the mainland in 1859.

Getting the washing dry hasn't proved too hard,
we've had pretty good weather much of the time.
This view of the Tamar River was pretty good!

Bells Bay is Tasmania's main international port 
and is located just south of George Town.
On Sunday when we were chatting with our
sons, we saw this large ship sailing towards the ocean.

Day 32: Montagu to Low Head

Sunset at Low Head

We enjoyed the peace and relative isolation of Montagu, but it was nice to get to a caravan park where we could have a good shower this day. 

On the way to Low Heads, near the mouth of the mighty Tamar River, we stopped at Ulverstone. David visited the library to print out a form our real estate needed signed and I visited yet another doctor.

Another beach, this one called “Buttons Beach”

I was not experiencing anything like the pain I had over Easter and all the nausea was gone, but I wasn’t convinced that the infection had completely gone as I still had some lingering pain and could feel a little bit of swelling. The doctor agreed and so I got a third course of antibiotics with a phone appointment to followup on Thursday. The doctor owned a motor home that he often takes to the mainland during winter (his wife hates the cold) and that helped with understanding of how transient we are at present.

We ate lunch and walked along the beach there—it would be a lovely spot to holiday with kids in warmer weather! We then drove another hour and a half east to the Tamar Valley, across the Batman Bridge, and north to George Town where we shopped and then took up residence in Low Heads Tourist Park. 

Day 31: all day at Montagu

This was another quiet day. A bit of walking along the sea shore, rock hopping. But also a lot of quiet reading and game playing. We enjoyed watching the tide come in and go out. It was shallow for a long way out and low tide revealed many rocks, not sand. Walking at low tide was fun, but slow! We also enjoyed watching the birds cope with the tide coming in: moving where they were perched as their own particular "rock" became submerged. To our surprise there were many pelicans in the area also, always magnificent birds to spot!

The campground. Lots of lovely trees and space. 

So many rock pools. It would be a fun, but
slightly dangerous place to bring inquisitive kids.

Tide is out. In the distance is Robbins Is, the cattle farm.

The parallel lines on these rocks were repeated in many places, but hard to capture in a photo. Geologists have a lot to study in Tasmania!

There were thousands of these tiny crabs at low tide!

One of the eroded rocks, looked so cool. 


You can see we were parked very close to the shore’s edge. 

Another angle on where we were parked. It took ages to pick our way across this at low tide on foot, I was so surprised to see how little distance we’d actually covered. 

Day 30: Wynyard to Stanley to Montagu

The famous Stanley Nut
The downside of living in your vehicle is that you have to pack up entirely to drive anywhere. So we’re trying to do our shopping and other things that need wheels on our travel days. This day David discovered as he went to make breakfast that  one of our gas bottles was empty (mysteriously, at the same time the gas lighter also stopped working), so before we left town we bought another, and did grocery shopping. Shopping took longer than we'd expected. The shop was packed, we think, with people shopping on the day that their pension was paid (someone noted that Thursdays were always busy!). Also, every time we do groceries we're dealing with different shop layouts, which takes longer. Not to mention that we're looking to buy different things to what we usually buy: including smaller quantities for just the two of us, but also smaller sized packaging to fit into our tiny kitchen and fridge/freezer. But, it really is a bit of a novel adventure, and that's the best way to look at it, rather than be frustrated by these small things.

East from the Nut
Then we headed west, almost to the north-westernmost corner of the state, but just off our route was the famous Stanley Nut. So we stopped there for lunch and then climbed up the steep path and around the track on top. Then did a little bit of a historical walking in the town, finding a church that was completely imported from Britain! The first one in Australia, I think, the sign claimed. 

We moved on to our campsite and discovered a gem at the end of a dirt road. This is a popular campsite that only has toilets, but no showers, electricity, or water. It’s popular for fishing, and we saw quite a few boats in the campsite. It is more popular during the summer holidays and at Easter, so it was far from full with us travelling in this "shoulder" season. Apparently when things are buzzing, there can be over 70 kids running around (bike riding is popular too).

We were surprised by an offer for free pizza when we checked in with the site managers. Apparently it is their tradition in the quieter weeks, to provide pizza for anyone onsite who would like to join. We gathered around a fire in an old oil drum (fire pot or brazier?) with our chairs and drinks. This was a novel experience. We enjoyed chatting as the sun disappeared, meeting people from Western Australia and Victorians as well as Taswegians (Aussie for "Tasmanian"). We discovered that the island we could see from our parking spot is privately owned by farmers near the campsite and that they run cattle on it, cattle destined to be turned into Wagyu beef! It was really lovely to be included in this impromptu gathering, we felt included and somehow that we were "insiders" in this whole life-on-the-road thing.

Campsite at Montagu, right on the edge of the mainland.
It started to get quite cold, though, when the sun completely disappeared and we retreated to our little home-on-wheels. With no electricity, this campsite was completely dark, something we rarely see in Japan! Plenty of serenity indeed.