This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2000 Travels April 19


We had a mid-morning appointment with the doctor, for check-ups and scripts. My blood pressure was way up, and she wanted to check it again next Monday. I was not surprised, as I felt very tense. John had been threatening to abandon the trip, forthwith, due to the state of the garden! He had insisted on calling in at home, on the way to the doctor, and hitching up the trailer, rather than go back for it later, so we were running very late. I could feel the pressure in my head!

John had some skin things burned off, and we got our scripts.

I posted a birthday card, and cheque, to V, Express Mail.

We drove to Yarraville, to the freight yard near the docks.

The timber consignment was huge! Instead of filling our original pack of boards with offcuts, to make it up to a cubic metre, they had sent a cubic metre of offcuts  as well – and a generous one, at that! So instead of the parcel we were expecting, that would sit on the trailer, we had all these individual pieces of timber to pack away. There was no way we could just load the pallet onto the trailer. It took us two hours to load it all into the trailer and the back of Truck.

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At Yarraville. The timber parcel we were expecting loaded onto the trailer. The unexpected stack of offcuts still to be loaded into Truck and trailer!

Back at home, it all had to be unloaded again, and taken, in wheelbarrow lots, up to the shed, where John had to find room to stack it. Much of the shed room was, of course, occupied by my car. The Huon pine stack in the corner of the shed looked huge. Lord only knows what John will eventually do with it all.

That took us until 8.30pm. And we hadn’t had lunch!

In amongst the unloading, met the new tenant of our unit. Don’t know what she thought of us! John fixed a faulty door in the unit, that she mentioned, and some lights, since we were there.

A very late tea was take away from the Chinese in Healesville.

We fell into bed, exhausted. On top of all the hauling around of wood, we’d driven 190kms, through city traffic, some of it towing a trailer.

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2000 Travels March 3


Today was another nice weather day. We are really being quite lucky.

I worked on share market stuff through the morning. John pottered about.

After lunch, went back to Bradshaws mill. I’d designed a Huon pine storage box I want John to make for the foot of our bed – to store knitwear and the like away from moths. He intended to buy a nice birdseye speckled board for the inset top and take it with us – he thought it would fit in Truck.

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Huon pine in various forms, at Bradshaws Mill

The best laid plans……We saw some lovely speckled and “waved” freshly cut pine and chose several pieces of it, including one eight foot long, narrow piece that would make an excellent feature display table. Therefore, shipping to home for us became the only option. The timber we chose cost us $475, including transport costs. They will round out the somewhat uneven sized parcel with offcuts, they said.

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Out little stack of Huon pine, at the front.

The timber will be shipped to coincide with our pass through Melbourne in April. We will have to go pick it up at Yarraville, near the docks,  and store it carefully in John’s shed, to dry.

After about three hours at the mill, we went and did a grocery shop and then headed back to the van. We were both excited by the wood purchases.

Fish and chips for tea.

Phoned K about the missing photos. They had arrived at home the day after he sent the mail bag. The slowness was apparently explained by the Hobart shop wrongly addressing them. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but I won’t be doing that again. Still, it was a relief to know they are there

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2000 Travels February 28


This morning seemed to herald a more promising weather day.

After breakfast, and making some lunch, we went to the National Parks headquarters again, and got the key for the Mt McCall Track. Washed the underneath of Truck at a servo.

We took the Mt Jukes Road, south, out of town. This paralleled the brown coloured Queen River for a while, to where it ended at its junction with the King. Then the road trended south east, roughly, until we eventually came to the southern part of Lake Burbury, which we followed south.

We saw a spotted quoll walking across the road near Mt Jukes – have never seen one of these in the wild, before. A quoll is a carnivorous marsupial. This one looked a bit like a large, spotted cat, but with a different shaped face.

It was still quite misty, out to Lake Burbury; we had assumed this would lift as the day went on – and it did.

The track  continued, generally south, until, about 37kms from Queenstown, we came to the junction with the Kelly Basin/Bird River Road. Our Mt Mc Call track trended to the south east again.

We soon came to the locked gate and locked it again behind us.

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Key is needed to go any further

The road had been really good until the Kelly Basin Road, then it quickly became rougher and steeper. In places, the track was quite rocky and there were some steep hill climbs and descents, but it was all quite manageable.

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Somewhat steep and rough!

I used my Franklin topo map and the GPS to try to keep track of where we were on the track. I was mindful of the warning in the rough track notes we had, that, at the end, the track stops abruptly and without warning, at a 300 metre log haulage way drop down to the Franklin River below!

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Sections of the track felt like the top of the world!

The drive was extremely scenic and different, especially as the mist lifted. We saw some most incredible vistas from the track.

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White quartz outcropped along parts of the track

Near the end of the track, some 22kms from the gate, it went very steeply uphill, then very abruptly down. I chose to walk this last section, as really steep downhills give me the heebies. At the end was a fair sized clearing in which to turn around – despite what we had been told, there was certainly room for more than one vehicle.

We parked in the turnaround, ate lunch, watched birds. We inspected the haulway remnants, where logs harvested from the surrounding forests were “dropped” down into the Franklin River and would eventually be floated down this to the Gordon and thence to Macquarie Harbour.

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Old logging haulway – logs dropped 300m down this to the Franklin River below

At one stage, we thought we could hear voices from below, faintly – maybe rafters on the Franklin?

It certainly was wild and lovely country and we felt privileged to have been able to do this drive – and so happy that we’d made the effort.

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View to Mt Owen from the Mt McCall Track

The drive back out was even more breath taking as we could see vistas that had been invisible in the morning mist. Much of the way was through quartz capped hills and ranges, like Frenchmans Cap, which was as the crow flies, not that far away. There were vistas into deep, thickly forested valleys.

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Really rugged country

In places, we could see the track winding away over the top of the ridges.

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The Mt McCall Track winding away over the ridges

We stopped at the Lake Burbury lookouts to see the views over this and to the back end of Frenchmans Cap in the distance.

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Looking over Lake Burbury towards Frenchmans Cap

On the way out of town, this morning, we had passed a big Huon pine sawmill. There were great heaps of the timber stacked about. John was amazed at the quantity. We called in on the way back – it was Bradshaws Mill. Although it was 4.30pm, the owner and his son allowed us in to browse around. John was really taken with the pallets of offcuts they sell – he thought they were great value. They had some great slabs and carving pieces too. They have recently amalgamated with the mill at Strahan, we were told.

Huon pine is a really unique timber because its natural oils make it repellent to insects, and it does not rot away. It is also very slow growing and can grow to many hundreds of years old. Thus, the rings in the timber are really close together. The early colonists realized that Huon pine was a perfect timber for boat building, and the logging of it became an industry, supposedly the reason that the Macquarie Harbour penal settlement was established. It is no longer legal to cut down Huon pine trees, but when areas were going to be drowned by hydro dams, the Huon pines there were cut and preserved for the future. Now, three companies have the right to retrieve and mill this Huon pine, Bradshaws being one of them.

When Huon pine is first milled, it is quite pale in colour, but ages to a golden caramel colour. I love the smell of it – quite distinctive. There can be beautiful speckly patterns in the timber – called birds eye – and this is the most valued form for woodworkers.

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Birds Eye Huon Pine

We did not stay too long, given the time, but John indicated to them that we would be back.

We returned the gate key to National Parks, and filled our large water container from the standpipe near the Parks Office, there for this purpose. The locals drink it so I guessed we could too. Presumably it is piped from somewhere up in the mountains that is distant from the pollution of the area closer to town.

We were too late to pick up the paper.

Tea was pasta with bacon and mushroom creamy sauce.

This had been yet another truly  memorable day in Tasmania. We drove 138kms.

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2000 Travels February 27


It was a bit misty this morning, and we were late getting up.

After breakfast, set out for Strahan.

We drove past the caravan park and had a look. It does appear to be in better condition than in ’93, but not by much. There are now some permanent amenity blocks at least. We are definitely better off in Queenstown.

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Strahan houses – colourful!

We spent some time in central Strahan. Booked ourselves onto a Gordon River cruise for Tuesday, as the weather forecast for that day looked ok. Bought a topo map – the Franklin sheet – that covers the Mt McCall area.

I put four rolls of film in for processing at the Kodak shop, after they assured me that their work would be good. I hoped I was not being gullible.

We drove out the King River Forest Drive – out along the Lowanna road beside Macquarie Harbour, then the dirt road alongside the King River. This took us to the old Iron Bridge, part of the former ABT railway, near the Teepookana locality. The road track followed the old rail alignment and was very narrow in parts, and with the King River right below.

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The King River from the Drive

The King River still had the polluted sludge banks evident in piles alongside its channel – from the days when the Mt Lyell Mine and smelter in Queenstown used the Queen River water in their processes, and then discharged the untreated waste straight into the river. The Queen is a tributary of the King. Even though the mining practices have changed in recent times, these rivers are probably the most polluted ones in Australia. The sulphuric acid residues remain a major problem.

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The King River near Teepookana – and polluted mine sludge residue

Gold and copper mining began in the Queenstown area in the late nineteenth century, with smelting of copper commencing in 1895. Back then, there were no roads into the region and so, in 1897, a railway opened between Queenstown and Teepookana, near the mouth of the King River. This was to bring the mine products to a port there, for export.

The building of the 3’6″ gauge railway had to overcome major problems. The terrain was mountainous and heavily forested. There were many streams. Cuttings were dug by hand, some up to twenty metres deep. The original 35km long railway had 48 bridges, the longest of which was the “quarter mile” bridge – approximately 250 metres long. They had difficulty finding a firm foundation for this, having to dig down a great distance into the river silt. Even so, trains could only go at walking pace across this bridge, as any greater speed would cause it to sway too much and collapse! It was high up above the river.

The problem of the steep gradient from Queenstown up to Rinadeena siding – 1 in 16 – was solved by using the Swiss ABT rack and pinion system, for some 7kms. The train engine could engage with this central “rail” and pull itself up.

In 1899 the railway was extended from Teepookana to Regatta Point, near Strahan, where the bay was deeper. This necessitated the building of the Iron Bridge over the King River at Teepookana. Later, the railway extended right into Strahan. What had been a busy little port town quickly declined.

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The Iron Bridge, near Teepookana

The first road to connect Queenstown to the outside region was the Lyell Highway, in 1932. In the 1950’s, a road was built between Queenstown and Strahan, and this spelled the end for the railway, as the many wooden trestle bridges were too costly to upkeep, and there were increasing concerns about the Quarter Mile Bridge.

The last train ran in 1962. I was fortunate enough to do the return trip on the railway in May, 1962, and remember the Quarter Mile Bridge swaying quite noticeably as the train crawled over it. The bridge was virtually only the width of the rails, so one looked straight down from the open train windows – and the river was a long way below!

In 1964, with three friends, I walked the disused railway track, camping a night at Dubbil Barrel siding and even riding hand operated trolleys some of the way. These had just been left at sidings when the railway closed! Crossing the Quarter Mile Bridge on foot, high above the river, with no side rails, was very scary!

This bridge was, by 1972, partly washed away by floods and by the 1990’s most of the old track, bridges, sidings and station buildings had fallen down, been burnt in bushfires and overgrown by the lush vegetation of these parts.

Now, the decision had been made to rebuild the ABT Railway as a tourist railway and work was obviously  happening at both ends.

Because of this, the Drive was blocked at the Iron Bridge. It used to allow one to drive as far as the former Teepookana town site. We walked around the fence and across the bridge, with another Victorian couple who had fetched up there at the same time as us. They took a photo for us, on the bridge. When the former rail alignment here was set up as a tourist drive, wooden planking and side rails were added to the bridge, and mesh was slung between the top girders to stop flakes of rusty metal falling on cars and walkers.

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The Iron Bridge altered for road traffic

It was a pity that we could not access the walk to the old Quarter Mile Bridge. Apparently, a tour operator can take customers up to the Teepookana Plateau, for $30 a head. John is not inclined to do that, at this stage.

John found a healthy looking Huon pine tree growing by the King River, and wanted a photograph with it.

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John with Huon Pine at the King River

On the drive back to Strahan, we looked at the ABT Railway terminus at Regatta Point, which is being restored. This is where the new tourist railway will terminate.

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Regatta Point Railway Station being restored

In Strahan, we went to the huon pine sawmill, and looked at the mill and associated gallery of timber pieces. They had some great products, bowls especially, and some very evocative wax painting by a local artist.

We collected my photos. They were beautifully done. It was not cheap, but he gives a replacement film “free”. For $1 a roll extra, I could upgrade from a 24 exposure to a 36, so I got 4 rolls of 400 speed for, effectively, $4. That shop also had huon pine wood products for sale. I liked the wooden cribbage boards – an idea for John to make sometime for Xmas presents: wooden board, Tasmanian illustrated playing cards, printed game rules, in a box. I also liked the shaped garlic bread dishes, with a natural edged top, about 1cm thick, and naturally curved, hand carved, I think.

At the Strahan bakery, I bought a loaf of damper bread and some rich, indulgent fudge.

After a full day, we drove back to Queenstown. The highway between the towns is 41kms, so it is not that far, but overall we managed 156kms for the day.

Tea was cold roast chook, the damper bread which was very nice, and the fudge which was yummy!