Saturday 12 May 2018

The Lost Town of Pillinger


Today's blog post marks number one-hundred for the Trooprock Aussies! We've had a great five years travelling around this beautiful country, enjoyed sharing our stories with the world, and keen to share many more! To celebrate, I'll be sharing a very special location: Pillinger.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about the train line from Queenstown to Strahan. I also mentioned that Lyell and Crotty had a bit of a competition for the resources of the south west. Well, Crotty had his own train line. His line also travelled out towards Macquarie Harbour. Not to Strahan, though. Once upon a time a little town named Pillinger existed south-east of Strahan.

Today, Strahan thrives as a little harbour town and tourist destination. Pillinger, however, was abandoned many years ago. Consumed by the relentless rainforests and harsh conditions of the West Coast, all that remains of the old town are ruins. An interesting concept to think about, as you compare Pillinger and Strahan, is if the power between Lyell and Crotty turned in Crotty's favour, the reality of today would be very different. Pillinger would be the thriving tourist-hub and harbour town, whilst Strahan would be nothing but overgrown ruins.

Now, it may seem as though the start of this post is rather gloomy. Do not stress, as Pillinger today is an exciting place to explore! By simply travelling south west from Queenstown, where in the previous post I said you can find beautiful views of mountains and lakes, and continuing down an unsealed road, you can find the Bird River Track.

The final leg of the drive involves five kilometres that feels like a narrow slice through a cliff. Don't drive too fast, and keep a lookout for locations where two cars can fit side-by-side (there aren't many), because if you come across another vehicle, you may need to reverse to that spot! To get an idea of the width, think about the way train lines run through the edge of mountains. Yep, that old line is now your road!

After the drive, the trek begins! It's eleven kilometres on foot to reach the old ruins. Jeni and I found the beauty of this stroll something amazing. The best word I could use to describe the location is enchanted. Seriously, if a fairy-tale character was ever going to pop up and say g'day, I'd expect it to happen here!

The ruins themselves really blow you away. They're not even all that old, compared to many other ruins over the world. The mess of vines and verdant growth of the rainforests, however, permeates an ancient ambience. This place feels like the remains of a long lost civilisation, not a town that fell apart less than one-hundred years ago.

An information plaque shows an aerial view of the area, completely cleared of vegetation, with the town on display. Standing amidst the ruins, I could hear the forest growing around me, a chill ran up my spine, and the power of nature hit me like the caress of a spitfire. Actually, due to the warm weather—straight after heavy rain—during our visit to the area, I found myself experiencing many spitfire kisses, leech sucks, and spider webbings. Definitely keep yourself well covered while walking the Bird River Track! As I was stating before, this place offers an eerie clarity to the absolute power nature holds over man!

Not much of the old town remains today. A few beams of wood are all that remains of the old train station. The jetty leaves much to the imagination. Although, a new one has been constructed by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service. A handful of brick buildings still remain, far from in tact, covered in the creeping green of the forest.

Exploring Pillinger was, without a doubt, my favourite day trip from Queenstown. Definitely worth checking out, and compliments the train ride out to Dubbil Barril better than anything I can imagine. If you're in the area, and a twenty-two kilometre walk feels too much, you may be able to hire a boat from Strahan. At the time of writing, there are no tours that go out to Pillinger.

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