This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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1999 Travels November 29


Today is the start of our 100th week on the road! Hopefully, there will be at least 100 more!

We set out to drive to Sloping (Slopen on some maps) Main, an area and settlement near the Saltwater River Coal Mines site, but facing west. There is a lovely curved beach there, with the totally unsuitable name of Stinking Bay.

I was rather intrigued by the two versions of the name and initially assumed that some early explorer or settler couldn’t spell “sloping” correctly! However, found out that the first farmer to settle there – in the 1820’s, before Port Arthur was even established, was a Mr Slopen. Hence Slopen Island, etc.

We had a little cruise around and look at the Gwandalan shack/village area by the bay. Even though this is really not very far from anywhere, it feels quite remote. There are the usual magic views – in this case, across to Sloping Island, with the arm of land that is the eastern shore of the Derwent, hazy in the distance.

Left Truck parked by the long, sandy beach at Sloping Main and walked along its length to the end – about 3 kms. Then followed some rough vehicle tracks towards Lagoon Bay. They took us to Lobster Point, where there were even better views across Frederick Henry Bay, past Sloping Island.

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Lobster Point, with Sloping Island behind it

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Lagoon Beach from Lobster Point

John decided that, since our walks book said there was a track that followed the coast, and he saw some tape that seemed to mark this, that was the way we would walk back. It went through a lot of bracken and cutting grass, and was not really a track. It was a hot day, and I was in shorts, but luckily had my knee high gaiters on, as the way looked really snaky. My legs did get a bit scratched and I didn’t enjoy that section much. The coastal scenery was great, though.

We walked a short stretch of beach in a little cove called Whalebone Cove, before eventually emerging back onto the main beach.

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Whalebone Cove, with Sloping Main beach in the distant background

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A critter on the beach

We returned along the beach to Truck. This had been another reasonable length walk, and an enjoyable one, overall. The Tasman Peninsula is so varied. The many visitors who only visit Port Arthur do not realize what they are missing!

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The outlook inland, as we walked along the Sloping Main beach

Tea was a herbed lamb stew with pasta spirals. It was very nice.

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1999 Travels November 28


We had a leisurely morning reading the papers, and the like. After yesterday’s exertions a quieter time today was called for!

After lunch, John went off to play bowls with C. He came back about 5pm, saying we were to go to the motel, for a drink, which we did. Met C’s wife, who made some snacks to go with the drinks. We were there for about an hour, mostly talking about the local area and a bit about our travels. C used to be a professional fisherman.

Tea was penne pasta with a sauce made from grated zucchini and garlic, cooked with butter and cream.

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1999 Travels November 27


We had a rather slow start to the day, which, given our plans for the day, was not the best.

Mid-morning, drove to Fortescue Bay, in the Tasman National Park. This involved crossing the Peninsula, towards Port Arthur, then turning off the Arthur Highway onto the unsealed but good gravel  Fortescue Bay road. We followed that, through tall forest, to its end at the bay.

Fortescue Bay reminded us rather of parts of Wilsons Prom, in Victoria. There was a pleasant little campground there, which was clearly popular, being a weekend. There was a Ranger in place there.

Our goal for the day was to do the walk to Cape Hauy, which the books said was a 4 to 5 hour walk.

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Cape Hauy consists of the columnar dolerite rock that has created some of the most spectacular Tasmanian landscapes. We had encountered this in the past, in the Cradle Mountain National Park, when we walked the Overland Track. Around the Tasman Peninsula it has resulted in really tall sea cliffs – some rising about 300 metres, abruptly, from the sea. Off the end of Cape Hauy are a couple of rock stacks – The Lanterns, and a really narrow vertical sided rock column called the Totem Pole, that is a challenge to intrepid rock climbers.

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The fluted dolorite columns of the coast, and our track

It was a rather demanding walk. In places, the track was quite close to steep drops.

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Looking south, towards Cape Pillar, from the Cape Hauy track

The track followed the coast, at the start, for a short while. Then we turned away from that and climbed up and down, across to the narrow Cape section. Much of this was heath lands. There was one really steep downhill section – it would be uphill on the return trip and so not something to look forward to. It was really hard on the legs – it is a long time since I have done anything that tough. John managed really well.

Excellent views and scenery made it a worthwhile exercise, and there were lots of wildflowers in bloom, to add to the beauty. We saw three tiger snakes along the way – dubbed it a “three snake walk”. That is going to be our grading system for Tasmanian walks, from now on!

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The early part of the Cape Hauy track – wonderful wildflowers

The last section of the walk, going up and along the Cape, was quite open and exposed, with wonderful outlooks. We ate our packed lunch at a point along here.

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The outlook to the north, from a section of the Cape Hauy track

At the very end of the Cape, we did not tackle the last little section, which was signposted steep and dangerous. It would have taken us down almost to the level of the water, and given some excellent views – but we would have had to climb back up too! The views from the top were quite good enough for us!

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Cape Hauy

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This was as far as we went!

Anyway, we knew we had to do that rotten uphill climb on the way back. The walk took us five hours in all. We did not encounter any other walkers on the track, rather surprisingly.

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Junction of the Cape Hauy and Cape Pillar tracks

We really felt a sense of achievement after the walk. It was about 10kms.

Back at the van, a hot shower on the weary bones was most welcome.

Tea was tinned tuna, and salad. I was too tired to cook much, and neither of us was very hungry.

We noted that the caravan park is busier, as people came into some of the permanent vans for the weekend.

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1999 Travels November 26


We did the shopping for the coming week. in Nubeena. We did not need much. The range at the store is rather basic, but adequate.

We collected our mail, which contained some bills, a letter from my brother – nice to receive – and a notice about N’s estate. Seems John will inherit more than he thought – he will certainly have no problems buying a new lathe and a big TV set, with it, when we are home again.

Today was rather cool and windy.

After lunch, we decided to investigate Roaring Beach – the next one to the west of here. The Roaring Beach Road starts at Nubeena, soon becomes unsealed,  and sort of follows the coast around, for a little way, then takes a winding, up and down, course through farm land and forest, for nearly 30kms. It was an interesting drive on the narrow road. There are some very isolated homes and farms out along that road.

We parked at the end of the road, where there were sand dunes and a path to the beach. At the back of the beach was a creek lagoon, caused by the creek mouth being blocked by a sandbar. We had to walk across the creek on a narrow plank.

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On the walk to Roaring Beach

We found Roaring Beach a nice little one, somewhat marred by a dead seal on the rocks at one end.

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Rocks at the end of Roaring Beach

Returned to the van, then went out to get fish and chips for tea, in Nubeena. I found them rather greasy, but John really enjoyed his, including a “proper” potato cake – not easy to find in Tassie!

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1999 Travels November 25


We had a quiet day, today.

John tried – unsuccessfully – some fishing from the nearby beach.

We drove to Taranna – on the main road to Port Arthur – to buy strawberries from a roadside stall we’d seen, coming through on Tuesday. John’s idea. Bought a big punnet of seconds, for $2 – ho0wever, they later proved not to be as nice as we’d hoped. Probably not worth the nearly 60kms drive!

Returned from there via the Nubeena Back Road, which is unsealed and goes up over the hill tops and steep slopes, giving some good views. This whole Peninsula is jam packed with great scenery. I just love that just about everywhere we go, there are  water views.

Later in the day, John went to suss out the bowls club in Nubeena. He arranged to bowl on Sunday with C, the owner of the local motel.

Tea was pork and vegie stir fry, and rice, followed by strawberries.

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White Beach sunset

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1999 Travels November 24


The day was quite warm and sunny, so it was perfect for exploring.

We retraced yesterday’s route to Premaydena, then turned west on the Saltwater River road, headed for the Coal Mines historic site, with its ruins of the convict establishment there.

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Ruins of convict settlement at Saltwater River Coal Mines site

Once, this was, as the name suggests, a coal mining operation, initially worked by convicts. It began in 1833, three years after Port Arthur was established as a place of secondary punishment for the worst of the convicts and those who offended again in the colony. Saltwater River received some of the worst from Port Arthur!

In 1833, all needed coal was shipped from NSW – a costly exercise. The Coal Mine here was the first mine set up in Tasmania. Mining here actually continued beyond the convict era, until about 1877.

The settlement here had convict accommodation, plus that for the necessary overseers, military and administration. There was obviously mine infrastructure as well, such as jetties for shipping the coal.

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Was this a superintendent’s residence?

Parts of several buildings still exist. I first visited here in the summer of ’69/70, rather by accident, as Port Arthur was the focus of tourist activity in the area, then. I was surprised to find such a substantial set of ruins open to all comers, with no supervision or direction. Since then, there has been an attempt to prevent further deterioration of the ruins, which I am pleased to see.

It is a very photogenic area, with the superb bay in the background. Like other places in Tasmania, there is the juxtaposition between the idyllic natural environment and the unspeakable degradation of much that occurred here in the convict era.

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We wandered around, exploring. It is possible to venture into the ruins. We went into the solitary confinement cell block and inspected the very small cells there – which were underground, then.

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This was an underground cell block

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Inside a solitary confinement cell

Ate our picnic lunch, sitting on the grass, looking over the bay.

Walked to Plunkett Point, where the main jetty used to be. John gathered some mussels from the rocks there, for fishing bait. Then we followed tracks up the hill to where the mine shafts were – it was underground mining. Up here there was an old boiler – steam power was eventually introduced here.

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Steam boiler at the mines site

Followed another track back down to the ruins.

We then drove up to the ventilation shaft, a little distance away, and walked up to the top of Mt Stewart, the highest point. We encountered a large tiger snake beside the track, but it slid slowly away. The effort was worth it for the views.

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From Mt Stewart, looking to Sloping Main and Lagoon Beach

By now, it was getting late in the afternoon, so we headed back.

On the way, we noticed some interesting looking houses for sale, right by the sea, at the little nearby Saltwater River settlement. Found them later, in a real estate guide we picked up. Some were $180,000-$200,000, which seemed rather tempting. However, there is no reticulated water supply on the Tasman Peninsula – it is all tank water – which is rather off-putting. But it would be a glorious area to live.

Tea was the salmon I bought yesterday, pan fried, with salad. It was beautiful and worth the cost.

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1999 Travels November 23


We got away about 10am. Had to stop at Glenorchy for diesel – 77cpl – then for wine and a paper. All this was not the easiest exercise with the van on the back, and it would have been better had John taken Truck out alone and done all this before hitching up.

We crossed the Bowen Bridge, then took the highway down the eastern side of the Derwent, to the Tasman Highway. This took us east, through Cambridge, then across the scenic Pitt Water inlet to Sorell. The inlet must be quite shallow because most of the two crossings – Midway Point is a spit of land between them – were on causeways, with only one small section a bridge. From there the way was still east and south, through predominantly farm country, to Dunalley.

We made a slight detour at Dunalley, to visit the Fish Market – with locally caught produce. I bought some Tasmanian salmon.

Here we crossed the Denison Canal – a canal made to allow smaller boats east-west access, without them having to go all the way around the coast of the Tasman Peninsula. The quite narrow canal has a swing bridge so boats can go through.

We followed the Arthur Highway, towards Port Arthur, as far as Taranna, where we turned east and took the Nubeena Road. Just through this little town, we turned right, for White Beach Caravan Park.

The roads had, for much of our way today, been narrow, winding in parts, and not great for vans. There were some steep hills too, like the one coming down to Eaglehawk Neck. But it was a lovely and varied, scenic drive, much of it by water.

We liked the look of the caravan park very much and booked in for a week, to start. It was $15 a night, with the seventh night free. We chose an almost-sea-front site, in a grove of native trees and shrubs which should provide some shelter, as it is obviously often windy here – and was today! It was a nice grassy site, too.

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Our White Beach site

We set up for an extended stay. It was our intention to spend some time here, as we felt there was a lot to explore. The walking book I had indicated there was some excellent walking in the area, too.

At the Park office, I tried to arrange to get the Age newspaper delivered there every day – not easy, it seems. Didn’t see why it was that hard, since they obviously get the Tasmanian papers, and so far we had found the Melbourne ones as readily available.

Later in the afternoon, went for a walk on the beach here – up to a small jetty at the end nearest us, where there was also a boat launching area. Then we turned around and walked right along the beach to its other end. It was quite a decent walk and very pleasant. There were a lot of Pacific Gulls and plovers on the beach. The outlook out to sea is across to Bruny Island in the distance and beyond that the peaks of southern Tasmania. There are headlands and little islands closer to us. It is a beautiful outlook.

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The bay at White Beach

Tea was a shepherds pie.

Discovered that the TV reception is not great, even though it is co-axial cable linked to the van – that was supplied by the park, when we booked in. However, John seems rather philosophical about this.

Also discovered that the showers required a 40cents donation in a slot, to deliver hot water for about six minutes. Given the lack of a reticulated water supply, guess this was fair enough, to control usage. We would have to start accumulating 20cent pieces though!

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