Travelogue: Western Wilds (Part 2)

Road trips need slow days to offset big drives. Moseying around Strahan has been one of the highlights of this trip so far. Thanks to my friend Cath, whose recommendations never fail, we had excellent coffee at The Coffee Shack run by two local sisters. Following the path along the bay brought us to the railway station for an old steam train that takes tourists through the conservation – formerly pining – areas between Strahan and Queenstown.

We saw a shipwright putting a fresh coat on a lobster-fishing boat, and were tailed by a cheeky blue fairy wren all the way to the track head to Hogarth Falls. This, another of Cath’s suggestions, was predictably amazing – a stroll through rainforest, guided by info signs written and illustrated by the children of Strahan Primary School.

Blackwoods from below.

The waterfall itself was loud and messy. Lots of organic matter had infused the streams, swollen by recent rainfall, making the water look like a high-speed, high-volume tea spill. Mountains of foam bobbed below and, even though I know it’s caused by natural things like ‘surfactants’ and ‘evaporation’, I still think it’s unsightly.

(But I’m glad nature does its thing regardless. I have such an airbrushed, sanitised perspective!)

After getting caught in the rain, a Tassie scallop pie warmed me up. That afternoon I spent about four hours wandering around the mill and woodworking spaces in the harbour precinct. I watched the demonstration of an old reciprocating saw chewing through a Huon pine log bigger than my arm-span in diameter, and walked away with some off cuts of Huon pine, Tasmanian sassafras and Myrtle beech from which to carve spoons. After some more chats and local booze with Kerrie and Kelly, I strolled back to the cottage to safely deposit my timber bounty.

I learned that the phrases ‘top-dog’, ‘underdog’ and ‘the pits’ derive from the process, used by convicts on Sarah Island, of manually cutting Huon pine logs with a vertical saw.

My mum and I chased the sunset out to Ocean Beach, a blustery expanse of coast from which the next landfall is the shores of South America. Then, another locally-caught fish dinner. (Winner winner.)

Continuing the tour of Tasmania’s windiest roads was the leg from Strahan to Queenstown the following morning. For some reason, I believed this would be another beautiful, historic town. In fact, it has approximately two nice buildings and one passable cafe. Oops. Oh well, it also has a petrol station.

One of the nice buildings in Queenstown… My mum remembers coming here as a child with her parents in 1972 and being struck by the starkness of the mining landscape. The mountains surrounding Queenstown have become a lot greener since the decline of mining in these parts.

Via the serpentine road through Hellyer Gorge, we found our way back north to an apiary where we procured a selection of local honey for my beekeeper brother. Their mead and ice cream were both delicious! (Also: I learnt the origin of the word ‘honeymoon’. Fascinating!)

Our final destination was Stanley, another tiny fishing town at the end of a finger of land that juts out into the Bass Strait from the western corner of Tasmania’s north coast. More on this scrumptious place next time!

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