Monday 28 May 2018

Reece Dam

With all the mountains and high rainfall of Tasmania's west coast, it's no wonder that Tassie has several stunning dams and hydro systems. Reece Dam is located west of Tullah, and is the final hydroelectric power station (of four)  along the Pieman River. 

I find dams an amazing feats of human engineering. Sure, the idea may sound simple, but seeing these in person amazes me every time. They're just so immense!

Fly fishing for trout is quite popular at Reece Dam. If you decide to have a crack at the sport, be sure and obtain a license.

The place is named after a bloke who was Tassie's premier for a total of forteen years, Eric Reece.

It is also a free camping spot if you're in the area. The place lacks amenities, however, so be sure and take your rubbish with you. It's important these amazing little spots remain pristine.

Thursday 24 May 2018

Mount Murchison

The drive from Queenstown to Burnie, Lake Plimsoll Drive in particular, is full of scenic beauty. Lake Plimsoll itself is a high-altitude lake surrounded by mountains. No matter how many times I did this drive, the scenery never grew bland. Driving back to Queenstown in the late afternoon lit the sky, lake, and mountains with all sorts of constantly changing reds and purples. I noted a walking track that went up one of the mountains along this road, Mt Murchison Track, and when Jeni and I finally got around to embarking upon it, we were far from disappointed!

The walk itself takes about 3 hours and is a little more on the harder side. As stated, Mt Murchison Track is on Lake Plimsoll Drive. It starts through cool forests, but quickly rises up and the flora thins out as you hike up this conglomerate mountain. The walk is quite rocky, requiring some boulder climbing and scrambles; dry weather is recommended.

We were fortunate to have a crystal clear skies and fantastic weather during our climb. This always enhances a good mountain hike. There were some interesting fungi and plants growing along the path, but it's the views of the region that really take your breath away. Like always, we've got some photos to share with those who don't have the opportunity to explore this amazing area. Unfortunately, photos don't give the panoramic views justice.

It felt as though there was no end to beautiful mountains and amazing walks through Tasmania. If you have the opportunity to climb up Mt Murchison Track, it's definitely worth the effort. Views from the peak will make you feel like a god overlooking creation. The visible vastness of the rugged landscape is an experience in itself!

I do hope that our Tasmanian posts are conveying the rugged beauty of Australia's island state. It's a magical place, and definitely worth a visit.

Sunday 20 May 2018

Lake St Clair

Lake St Clair is the deepest fresh water lake in Tasmania, 170m at its deepest. It was formed by glacial movements, hence the ruggedness of the surrounding mountains. It certainly puts on a show with sunrises and sunsets!

There are many beautiful walks to do at Lake St Clair in the National Park. Actually there are many spectacular walks all over Tasmania! The Overland Track is the most famous. It is a 6 day, 65km hike that starts at Cradle Mountain and finishes at Lake St Clair.

I have done my fair share of multi-day hikes around Australia. All beautiful. Initially when I started working I wanted to do the track. After living in Tasmania for a couple of months I had quickly changed my mind. The weather is very unpredictable in the mountains and changes quickly. From the information centre at Lake St Clair, located at Cynthia Bay, there are many day walks ranging from 20 minutes to 7 hours. Most of these overlap the last section of the overland track. You can catch the ferry from Cynthia Bay up to Narcissus or Echo Point and walk the final leg of the track back to Cynthia Bay.

The first walk I did at the park was a 7 hour return trek to Little Hugel. This walk also passes Shadow Lake and Forgotten Lake, but choosing to go all the way to Little Hugel. My breath was taken away by the insane amount of beauty up here! I could even see the Pumphouse! There is much rock scrambling in the last hour of this walk/ climb. I would only recommend if you have rock climbing experience. I would also recommend doing it with someone. Cameron was not yet in Tasmania at this time, and I did it by myself. I regretted it. Going up was a challenge, but coming down was even harder as there is not many markers indicating the path. There are many boulders and they all look very similar. If you have someone with you it is easier to scout.

In March we climbed Mount Rufus. Again, the views were insane! Imagine 360° views of mountains, rivers, valleys, clouds, lakes. 100% nature. It was a 7 hour walk as we did the full circuit, but you can do it in 5 if you just go to the summit and back.

There is food available from the information centre, Lake St Clair Lodge, they decent pizzas, and pub food, which is really appreciated after a long walk. There is also the Derwent Bridge Hotel 5kms down the road that specialise in Sri Lankin currries.

At Derwent Bridge is an interesting place called 'The Wall in the Wilderness'. We have no photos from here as photos are not allowed, but if you are interested in woodwork and woodcarving it's worth checking out, even if you're not all that interested it is wonderful. It is incredible how much detail is in the woodcarvings. The wall itself is 100m. You can view both sides. Each panel is 3m tall, and the panels tell the story of Tasmania. Made from Huon Pine. 
Happy Travels 
 - Jeni 

Wednesday 16 May 2018

Pumphouse Point

How did we sunshine and warmth lovers end up in Tasmania you ask? Well, despite what we had heard, WA is NOT an easy place for travellers to find work. We were in Bunbury six months and nothing. It was a little saddening. We moved to Esperance, and we had a little work, but not much. Cameron had just released his 2nd book, Silvaste's Spear, and he had decided at this point that he wanted to write more. I said I would work full time while he focussed on writing for the year. We ended up in Tasmania for simple reasons. I found work, and it is cheap to rent. Cameron spent the year in Queenstown where he focussed on writing and later picked up work at the Library, (by the end of 2017 he had 5 books published total, and in March this year released his 6th). I lived there too when I wasn't working, but I had a 10 on 4 off roster, working at Lake St Clair, Pumphouse Point. I lived at work as Queenstown was 90 minutes away, the closest proper town.

Lake St Clair is a beautiful and rugged part of Tasmania. It is at the southern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National park. The weather was a little bit unpredictable in Summer, and very wet in winter with the odd bit of snow. I arrived in December 2016. It snowed a week before Christmas, then, a week later on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day it was the hottest days we had all summer, hitting 30°C. Summer disappeared again after this, and went back to spring weather. It showed itself again on February 28. The last official day of Summer. 

The changing weather meant beautiful photos could be captured at any time of the day, and any day of the year. No two days were the same. A moving painting. 

Pumphouse Point is a Boutique Resort. It was once a pump station to pump water from Lake St Clair to the Tarraleah hydro power station. It was decommissioned in the 1990s. The land was handed back to the National Park, and consequently got caught up in being heritage listed. There were a few developers who had their eyes on it too. One of those was Simon Currant, who eventually obtained the lease in 2004. It was a long 11 years turning the pumphouse and substation, (now known as the shorehouse), into the beautiful hotel it is today. There are 12 hotel suites in the pumphouse 250m out on the lake. At this point the water is about 10m deep, dropping off not far past the pumphouse. There are a further 6 suites in the shorehouse looking out to the lake and the pumphouse. The dining room is on the ground floor of the shorehouse.
Things to do at Pumphouse Point:
  • Walking around the property you can see all different angles of the pump and shore house, the beauty of the lake, the ruggedness of the mountains.
  • You may see a variety of Australian animals. Wombats. Wallabies. Echidnas. Platypus.
  • Go fishing, specifically trout fishing.
  • Take a row boat out on the water.
  • Take the pushies for a spin.
  • If the weather is not so nice outside, snuggle up by one of the cosy fire places in the lounge areas with a blanket and book, or perhaps challenge your other half to a board game. Get back to the simple things ey! There is lounging areas in both the pump and shorehouses. Guests are not restricted to the building they are staying in.
  • Order complimentary loaves of hot sour dough bread, delivered to your room, or wherever you are relaxing, and enjoy with some tasty tassie wine or food from the fully stocked larders in the rooms.
  • Enjoy beer, cider, wine, or spirits from the self-help bars.
  • Enjoy a continental breakfast and evening dinner. If you are a hobbit, you can arrive at 7:30 have your first breakfast including bacon, beans, and eggs, come back at 9 for your second breakfast, (quick, it finishes at 9:30), then order a loaf of hot sour dough bread for your third breakfast at 10:30, (or whatever time), then dinner as a three course meal in the evening!

If you really want to live it up with a bit of fancy VIP relaxing instead of the regular cosy variety, at the end of 2017 the newest addition to Pumphouse Point was a new, all inclusive, exclusive use, retreat. How does a private spa sound to you? Good? How about 2 private spas? One inside, one outside. Oh Man! During winter it would be the perfect place to hide away, watch the snow falling, from the cosiness of the retreat, eat some chocolate, drink some red wine, enjoying the beauty of winter without feeling the harsh and bitter wind from Antarctica...

 - Happy travels, Jeni

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.

Tuesday 8 May 2018

Getting to Know Queenstown

Queenstown, the place I called home during 2017, is, to say the least, a very unique place. Late in the nineteenth century, mining saw this little place boom to life. In 1900, the population of the area was about 10,000. Today, it is between 1,000 and 2,000. When I first approached the town, from the western side, I thought someone had built a town inside a mine! There's a lot of unoccupied houses, and, unless you drive a couple of hours north to Burnie, the commercial side of things are quite limited. Definitely a weird first impression!

With all that said, I quickly fell in love with Queenstown. Being so remote and lush gives it a special charm. The residents are friendly, the shop-keepers helpful, and it has a top-notch library! So good, in fact, I ended up working there while writing my novels. A fantastic combination. Whether you're passing through, or staying long term, it is worth checking out the LINC in Tasmania. It's a floating library, and with a temporary membership, you can borrow audiobooks to enjoy on those winding drives.

The rich Australian Rules football culture is so intense their football field is gravel. Yep, Queenstown breeds them tough! There's a museum with all sorts of old-timey stuff, a couple of pubs to quench your thirst, and a nice cannon—with a story—sitting atop Spion Kopf Lookout.

Queenstown is also full of hidden gems. I think you'd need to live there for quite a while to know every nook and cranny. The mountains and caves of old mines hidden about the place can stir your inner explorer. You don't need to travel far from town to feel a world away.

A simple cruise along Cutten st will take you through the town and onto a gravel road that winds up into Mount Owen. Through here, you can search for old caves, or take a leisurely stroll along an old telegraph track.

Alternatively, once you take the turn into town (and go past the train station) just keep driving. You'll end up at an amazing lookout near some old caves. Go a little further, stunning views of islands pushing up out of the southern end of Lake Burbury. Go further again, and you'll find a walking track to the forgotten town of Pillinger!

If getting off the beaten track isn't quite your thing, on the eastern side of town a carpark is right beside the Iron Blow Lookout. Across the road, you can find a short board walk to observe the impressive Horsetail Falls.

Friday 4 May 2018

West Coast Wilderness Railway

After spending almost a year living in Queenstown, there was no way we could miss out on a train ride with the West Coast Wilderness Railway. For those who don't know, this track runs from Queenstown to Strahan with Dubbil Barril sitting half way. The line was originally forged, and used, by the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company to transport copper. Today, it's a fun day out to experience the beautiful rainforest of Tasmania's West Coast. All from the comfort of a beaut steam-engine's carriage.

You can ride the train all the way across (and back) if you want, however, the West Coast Wilderness Railway also do trips from either Queenstown or Strahan out to Dubbil Barril and back. We lined this adventure up with some mates, and sharing the carriage with friends, laughs, smiles, and possibly a few sneaky beers, made the experience all the more awesome.

Once you leave Queenstown, it's amazing how quick the lush rainforests take over. It truly is amazing how much of this island state feels untouched by man. Despite the cold climate, most of the land is teeming with ferns, vines, and gums, giving off the visuals of a tropical rainforest.

The first stop from Queenstown is Lynchford, which throws you back in time with the museum-station. After meandering through and taking in the relics of the past, you are handed a bag of river soil, a pan, and told to go find some gold! While Conglomerate Creek doesn't contain the richness of gold shared with many other Aussie locations, traces of it can be found. And like all sources of gold, in those early years, people flocked to the river with immense hopes and dreams. As you can see from the photo on the right, the promise of gold flares that same spark just as powerfully today.

The ride is also accompanied by tour guides. These guides get right into the spirit of things, telling jokes and having a laugh, all while telling the tales of how the rail came to be, the harsh life the pioneers lived through, and Crotty and Lyell's competition to run Queenstown and its mines. Our guide happened to be Merl, a sheila who I worked with during my time at the library. As part of the tour, she gave me a hat and dubbed me Crotty!

The steep inclines of this route really forced some ingenuity from those early pioneers. They came up with a third wheel pinion system that basically ran a cog along the middle of the track to help haul it uphill. I won't post too much on the topic, but if you are interested, go check out what Wikipedia has to say about it! My personal favourite story during the trip was about how the workers went crazy on Sassafras Beer. Along with Sassafras tea, the workers remained pumped and excited for the work. The track was also completed way faster than it had been projected. It was later discovered that Sassafras bark can synthesise an amphetamine!

As you travel alongside the King River, the views only become more amazing. Definitely sights that have to be experienced to truly appreciate. The final stop, Dubbil Barril, gives you a wonderful opportunity to wander through a small track of forest, take in the sights of the river, or grow really excited as you watch the train on the turntable. 

We found riding with the West Coast Wilderness Railway a great day out, and can't recommend it enough!