The Snail Trail

Travelling with my home on my back and in no hurry to get anywhere


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Christmas Cheer – and Tassie Chill. Brrrr!

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Merry Christmas from chilly Tasmania. I wish you happy celebrations over the Festive Season and good health, happiness and enough wealth to have lots of exciting adventures in 2014.

My trip over on the Spirit of Tasmania was pretty good even though I had only booked a recliner for the night. I was right in the front seat looking out over the water and then had these lovely young backpackers sitting next to me, who I discovered were French when the one next to me talked in his sleep in this beautiful French accent. Wish I’d studied harder at school so I knew what he was saying!

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Leaving Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania.

Another passenger, Michael, had an old Kombi and we exchanged details, promising to catch up on our travels. He called in a few days later and we arranged to meet at Mayfield Bay, which was to be my first trip since arriving.

Tasmania greeted me with a hailstorm and I don’t think I’ve felt warm since.

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Hail covers the ground at Marion’s home

I am definitely not a cold weather person and find the constant chill, grey skies and drizzly rain depressing. Thank goodness Marion’s home is lovely and warm or I would have headed north again for some sunshine.

Within a week of me arriving Marion and I packed up our vans and headed down to Mayfield Bay. This map shows the round trip that took us there and then back to Marion’s a couple of days later.

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There is an amazing old convict built bridge called Spiky Bridge on the way. Heritage Tasmania gives the following information about the history of the bridge.

“It took the cunning and ingenuity of an Irishman to ensure that a notoriously difficult road on Tasmania’s east coast was improved.
Edward Shaw was a friend of Major de Gillern, then superintendent of the Rocky Hills Probation station.
Tired of his requests to improve the road traversing the steep gully south of Waterloo Point, some 7.5 kilometres south of Swansea, Edward took matters into his own hands.
One night while driving the Major home he took the gully at full gallop making the journey somewhat uncomfortable for the Major. In no time a convict gang was assigned to build a bridge across the sharp dip.
The jagged rocks used to ornament the bridge provided the bridge’s name.
Built in 1843, it has been claimed that the spikes were designed to prevent cattle falling over the sides.”

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When we got there Michael had already set up camp and we were able to park nearby. Jack (the dog) was ready for a walk so off we all went to the beach.

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As we walked towards the rocks we saw this amazing old bridge that had been built by convict labour in Tasmania’s early history.

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Old Bridge at Mayfield Bay

When I started to do a little bit of research about its history I found out

“…….there was a probation station at Rocky Hills, about 10 Km south of Swansea. 300 convicts lived here. They built many of the roads along the east coast area. Many of the Rocky Hills buildings are still there, the officer’s quarters now serving as a farm house and the store as a barn. They are visible from the Tasman Highway. 

Convicts from Rocky Hills built the Tasman Highway. At Mayfield Beach at the bottom of the previously mentioned hill is Old Man Creek. Pull into the camping area, then follow the track down above the beach till you reach the creek – about 150 metres. There’s an information board showing the way and telling you about the bridge. This one has 3 arches. You’ll see the original convict road, with another road on top and finally the present road on top of that. There are many other such bridges, but this one is the easiest to see.”

Here is a great site for info about Tasmania’s East Coast

We had a pleasant couple of days at Mayfield Bay, enjoyed a lovely meal with Michael the night we arrived, celebrated our first Tassie adventure with champagne….and then….the weather deteriorated! We packed up and left our camping spots to the Christmas campers who were setting up for their holidays and did a round trip back to Marion’s cosy fireplace where we huddled for the next few days.

My next trip was to Bicheno for a haircut – OMG it’s short! Thank goodness it grows quickly as the hairdresser went crazy!

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Bicheno

I thought Bicheno was lovely, but that might have been partly because the sun was finally shining. Amazing how it changes my mood. I left there and took myself on a drive to Coles Bay on the Freycinet Peninsula Imageand then decided to camp overnight at Friendly Beaches, where I had spent my very first night in Brutus. On the way there I stopped at the Freycinet Oyster Farm and lashed out on a dozen oysters for lunch. Yum!

 

As I didn’t have a National Park Pass I did the right thing and bought a 24 hour pass for $24 – I won’t be doing that again! When I left there the next day I went on another tourist drive to 9 Mile Beach and right to the end, Bagot Point, where there is free camping right on the beach.

I then met Marion in Swansea where we were attending a Christmas Party that night at the Bark Mill Tavern. It was a great night. The local choir performed and then the ukulele group, the food was good, the drinks flowed, there was lots of laughter – and best of all we were able to stay the night in the car park at the tavern, so we didn’t have to drive anywhere.

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Marion and I then headed back north to Lagoons Beach –  to stay for as long as we felt like.I’m looking forward to setting up camp and not going anywhere for a few days.

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On the way there is a lookout over Moulting Lagoons.

Moulting Lagoon Game Reserve is a large, internationally recognised wetland at the northern end of Great Oyster Bay on the east coast of Tasmania. It is an important breeding ground for various waterfowl and wetland birds, and also a destination for migratory birds. As such, it is an excellent place for bird-watching, although due to the sheer size of the lagoon, some species may be difficult to spot. It also contains rare and significant wetland flora and fauna, as well as being an area of extraordinary beauty. The name Moulting Lagoon comes from black swans shedding their flight feathers. These can often be seen piled up along the shoreline.

In addition to its natural significance, the lagoon is important for cultural values, such as its importance to the Aboriginal community, and its continuing use by the local community for a variety of recreational and commercial activities, including duck hunting.

 

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What a magic spot Lagoons Beach is! It reminded us of when we were kids and mum and dad took us camping to Balnarring Beach on the Mornington Peninsula. There were plenty of campsites and they were nicely separated with trees and bush so you didn’t feel like you were intruding on anyone else’s space. Jack loved it as there were lots of sticks, and a beautiful beach to run on. We had a couple of warm, sunny days there.

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Then the Tassie weather struck again! The morning mist became an afternoon drizzle and then an overnight downpour so the next day we packed up our wet gear and headed back to the cosy fire again. I’d only gone about 100 metres when old Brutus started to misbehave so I quickly pulled over and discovered I had a flat tyre. Damn, the spare was back at Marion’s as I hadn’t had the mounting bracket made for it yet. A quick call to Brian, who had arrived from his farm at Cudal to do some trout fishing, and he collected it and brought it up for me. Then I had to get the RACT to put it on because we couldn’t get the wheel nuts undone. Now I know I need a different wheel brace so that goes on my shopping list!

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Tomorrow is Christmas Day and we will be celebrating with some of Marion’s neighbours. The trifle is made, the oysters have been collected, the ham is waiting to be glazed and the presents are wrapped. There’s vodka for the Bloody Mary’s to start the day and the champagne is on the ice for later on. Sounds perfect.

I hope you all enjoy a perfect Christmas Day, too, wherever you are. Be safe, be happy, have fun, share lots of hugs – and look forward, as I am, to more adventures in 2014.


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From Tassie to the Gold Coast – Bringing Brutus Home

Brutus and I met on the internet, the way so many relationships start these days. He was older than I had hoped and lived in Tasmania while I was on the Gold Coast, but all obstacles can be overcome if you are meant to be together.

I asked my sister, Marion, who lives in Tasmania and whose judgement I trust implicitly, to check him out for me and she rang me excitedly to tell me that he was very well preserved for his age. He was clean and tidy and had a good body and she felt we would make a good team, so I booked my ticket and went off to meet him.

It was love at first sight! His last partner was sorry to see him go and gave me instructions on what he did and didn’t like, how to get him started in the morning and how to jiggle the key to his heart so he would let me in. I soon found out that Brutus had a stubborn streak and was reluctant to go backwards, but 10 minutes of therapy and we soon sorted that out. We stayed with Marion for a few days and then she insisted we had our first night alone before we came back to the Gold Coast to live.

I shouldOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA have known that our detours that day were a sign of things to come! As I’d missed meeting up with some new motor home friends, Rick and Janis, at Friendly Beaches on the Freycinet Peninsula, Marion suggested Mayfield Bay as a good place to go, so with a decadent little side track to Kate’s Berry Farm near Swansea, I headed south to the beach.

Well, I missed thOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAe turn off heading south and ended up at Triabunna, turned around and blow me down if I didn’t miss the turn off when I was heading north as well. Decided that perhaps I was meant to go to Friendly Beaches after all, so that’s where I headed off to. (To get there – 175kms – should have been 60kms if I’d headed straight there!)
What a magic spot! Not a soul around, so Brutus, my 1986 Ford Econovan and I settled down for a quiet night. Lesson Number 1 – position the van facing into the wind, not side on to it. We were buffeted by strong winds the whole night but Brutus kept me warm and comfortable. The next morning I shared my breakfast with a wallaby after a refreshing walk along the beach.

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It was soon time to start my journey home. We left Marion’s at Kalangadoo, near Lake Leake and headed to Devonport (185kms away) to catch the Spirit of Tasmania to Melbourne. The countryside was beautiful …. and the Berry Farm and Ashgrove Cheese Factory pleasant diversions along the way. I just love the beautiful raspberries in Tassie!

An uneventful Bass Strait crossing, and I arrived in Melbourne and off the boat about 7am Saturday morning. I spent 3 nights with my Aunty Mollie – 94 years young – and left there exhausted after going out for dinner every night I was there. She’s got more energy than I have!

My next stop was to catch up with my old school friend Bob, who lives in Warrak, about 20kms from Ararat in Western Victoria. (240kms from Melbourne). Bob tested Brutus out on a drive to a beautiful spot that looks out over the fields to Langi Ghiran National Park and across to Mount Buangor. Very pretty country and spectacular views.
I left Bob’s about midday after a lazy start – destination Echuca.

I was determined to stay on the Murray River somewhere, but ended up in a caravan park at Moama on the NSW side of the Murray. It was only after Brutus and I got settled that I realised the park was under the bridge between Echuca and Moama , so it wasn’t the quietest night I’ve ever enjoyed. However, I got out my Camps 6 book and started planning my next night’s stop – time to get out of the comfort of caravan parks and into the wild!

Echuca-Moama

My planning didn’t work because I made better time than I expected so I kept driving – and driving, and driving. Finally I passed a sign to Goobang National Park camping ground just south of Peak Hill and decided that was the place to go. The name should have been a warning. I missed the turn off – I’m good at that – but saw another one about 70 kms further on at Tomingley so I thought – ok, I’ve been given a second chance to go there, so off I went. 42kms off the highway I see the sign to the camping ground. Thoughts of isolation, National Parks, and Ivan Milat and I decided this wasn’t for me, so working on the theory that Brutus prefers to go forwards, not backwards, I kept following the road to get back to the highway.

By this time I had done 618kms from Moama to Tomingley and then added another 150kms with this little diversion that put me, via a town called Yeoval, back on the highway south of Peak Hill,– yep, at the turn off I’d originally missed! Pitch black at this stage and I’m sooo tired so headed off to yet another caravan park at Peak Hill. For those travelling through Peak Hill I can thoroughly recommend the Double D Caravan Park. Apart from the fact it was in Bogan Rd, which I have to admit did give me a moment’s hesitation, everything about it was great. Friendly owners, not too many sites, hot clean showers, off the highway and quiet. I put up the roof, got into my pj’s and went straight to bed. (Total mileage today – 770kms – too much!)

Lesson I learned – have back up plans.

So, out with the Camp 6 book again and I picked out a pretty good looking road side stop south of Moree for Friday night. Back up plan was the Moree Showgrounds, which offered camping also. I’m feeling good about Friday and gaining confidence with my travel plans. Silly me!

I stopped at Gilgandra for the worst coffee and a bite of a stale lamington – so bad I couldn’t finish either – and headed off – next stop Coonabarabran. Well, I followed a road heading to a C but it was Coonamble, not Coonabarabran. Whoops, another detour! Another 200kms added to my trip. Another tank of petrol! Another place I hadn’t planned to see. I really will have to brush up on my navigation! Or plug in the GPS!

What did I learn? It’s only 3 hrs to Lightning Ridge from Coonamble, and if I didn’t have a job to come home to I would have just kept driving!  I finally made it to Coonabarabran and headed north to Moree. I pulled in to my first choice of stopover, had a look around, and had my doubts. When in doubt, don’t, has stood me in good stead over the years, so off I headed for Plan B, the Moree Showgrounds. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I got there, a big sign – CLOSED UNTIL SEPTEMBER 30TH. Whoops – no Plan C! Out with the book again and there’s a road side stop about 10 kms north of Moree, so that’s where I headed and that’s where I stayed. Bloody noisy trucks whizzing by on the Newell all night but after another big day driving it didn’t take long to fall asleep. ( Total approx 570kms today – 200kms less than yesterday, but far enough!)

Sights along the way – wish I’d stopped and taken photos –don’t know why I bother having a camera
• huge fields of canola – bright yellow amongst rich red ploughed earth and brilliant green crops.
• The Warrumbungles providing a stunning back drop
• Emus in fields – can’t help but get excited about that! Especially the mother and baby on the side of the road – made my heart glad!emu & chick
• A little goanna risking becoming road kill as it darted from one side to the other – phew – made it! Some wombats and kangaroos not quite so lucky – although not as much road kill as I expected to see. And what there was, the crows were making short work of. They have to have some use in life, horrible birds…..

I wake up early, look at my map, and I’m thinking the Gold Coast and home is in striking distance. Only 570 kms to go. I’m going for it!

Brutus climbed through Cunningham’s Gap without a worry. But oh boy, did he hate the climb out of Canungra. Almost home and poor old Brutus let me know that short sharp hills are not something he likes. By the way I share that sentiment. Both he and I were very relieved to arrive home safe and sound at about 3pm Saturday afternoon.

Biggera Waters for Blog

I’m really happy with the way Brutus travelled. Very comfortable to live in but he chews through the petrol, so I will definitely be planning my trip in the future with a petrol budget in mind. Now that I’m home I realise that only about 10% of what I’d put aside for my new lifestyle will ever get used, so the next cull of possessions is happening. Also, I have a sticky door lock on the driver’s side and often have to climb in through the passenger side – not my best angle if you happen to be going past!

Brutus is now a commuter vehicle for the next few months until I finish my working life, but I can’t wait for the time that I can take that detour to Lightning Ridge, or any other place, without any time constraints and the absolute freedom to go where I want, when I want, and the only thing stopping me will be my petrol budget!

Give me a wave when you see me – there’s always good coffee and cold wine at the ready and Brutus and I look forward to making new friends.