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Peter & Joan's Adventures
11th Dec 2017 - 17th Dec 2017 - Adventure before Dementia Tour
Tasmania - Week 9 - NE Corner + East Coast

Woke Monday in Branxholm to sun and blue skies. Had a big day planned with three short walks and a cheese factory in our sights. We headed down the highway towards Pyengana with the first planned stop being the Goblin Forest Walk, part of the Blue Tier. En route we encountered the site of the now defunct Anchor Tin Mine. There is a track leading into the Anchor Stampers Wall. The mine closed in 1950 and the forest has now reclaimed the area. The waterwheel that drove the original stampers in the 1880’s (recorded as the largest in Tasmania) was an estimated 20m in diameter, 1.34m wide and weighed 100 tonnes. It was used to power a 40-head stamper battery. The battery at the site now consists of 2 sets of 10-head stamps. The forest is slowly taking it over. Forestry have constructed a boardwalk to gain access to the stampers. Moving on from here we ended up back at Pyengana without ever finding the Goblin Forest. As it was now lunch time we decided to leave the Goblin Forest for another day.

The Pyengana Dairy also incorporating the Holy Cow Cafe was a unique experience. Not only a great cheddar cheese tasting and scrumptious cheese platter for lunch but we got to watch a robo dairy in action. That is state of the art milking robots. Smart tagged dairy cows make their own way in their own time to the milking shed and a series of gates lead them to the milking area where a robotic milking machine relieves the cow of her milk burden, without human intervention. The Cow then has a measured prepared feed and is then directed out of the shed back to the paddock to graze until the next time it decides it needs milking. 

From here we drove 30 minutes up to Saint Columba State Reserve and then walked a short track to the base of St Columba Falls. The Trail Head claimed this to be the highest waterfall in Tasmania with a drop of 90 metres. There was not a lot of water coming over the Falls but obvious it would be impressive after good rain. We pushed on from here to Mount Victoria Forest Reserve. This was another 30 minute drive, this time on a gravel road through some high rough country with a lot of forestry activity. The walk into Ralph’s Falls was relatively easy and the streaming ribbon of water making up this falls is claimed to plunge 100 metres into a fern-filled chasm. So much for Columba Falls holding the record. From here we backtracked through Ringarooma and Legerwood, familiar territory from our visit the previous day to the Evercreech Forest.

Tuesday another sunny day. In the morning I slipped into Scottsdale to do a weekly shopping. Whilst there I drove out to Bridestowe Lavender to hopefully see a sea of purple. Not quite a sea of purple but the lavender crop had certainly turned with a mauve tinge across the fields with patches of purple. Still some good photos. Apparently the purple sea will not be at full bloom till around Christmas week. After lunch we drove about 3 klm out of Branxton to see the remains of the Briseis Water Race. This 48 klm, hand built race, with four metre deep cuttings through solid rock carried water from Ringarooma, through Branxholm to supply the Briesis Tin Mine at Derby. It was built between 1901 and 1902. Today much of the race is overgrown and inaccessible but fortunately this section near Branxholm has been set aside as a walking track. On the return trip back to Centennial Park, our campgrounds for this week in Branxholm we checked out the local timber mill and hops farms; timber and hops being the adopted industries after the demise of tin mining.

Wednesday afternoon we ventured back to Derby to visit the Derby Tunnel. After a short walk behind the town we found what looked like a cave. Once inside the cave entrance it is obvious it is a man-made tunnel. It was built in the late 1800’s to wash away tailings from the Tin Mine site. It took four years to construct and stretches about 600 metres. We did not venture to far in as we did not have the right equipment and no-one knew we were there. On the way back to Branxton we stopped off at the cemetery to check out the old headstones. Found a few but surprisingly no Chinese graves. Turning back onto the highway we made a spur of moment decision to visit the Mt Paris Dam, signposted opposite the cemetery. It was a 13klm gravel road before spotting an old sign pointing to the dam site. We turned off and travelled about 400 metres along a rough stony track before coming across a concrete spillway almost totally overgrown by the forest. When is a dam not a dam? Walking down hill from the car there was a unique concrete structure now surrounded by wilderness and slowly being overgrown; a sight one must see to believe. Research has revealed it was a reinforced concrete slab-and-buttress dam wall with a length of 250 metres, and a maximum height of 16 metres. The construction of the dam was very unique in that it was built entirely by hand, the only mechanical assistance provided was by petrol-driven concrete mixers and tip trucks which delivered blue metal and sand to the site. With the closure of the last tin mine in 1961 maintenance on the Dam ceased and in 1985 The Rivers and Water Supply Commission blasted a hole in the base of the dam wall to allow the natural flow of the Cascade River to occur once more.  It was rather eerie to see this massive man-made structure slowly being reclaimed by nature.

The other part of this story the car sustained a puncture (our first this trip) on the drive in, so we had to spend about 40 minutes unloading the car and putting the spare on before heading back to camp. 

Next morning we got the punctured tyre repaired and reinstated on the rear wheel before decamping and relocating to Scamander a beautiful beach town on the east coast. That afternoon I had my first dip the ocean since arriving in Tasmania. It was cold, short but enjoyable. Although we are planning to spend a week here we abandoned the caravan Friday morning and drove 100 klm south to the Freycinet National Park to visit Wineglass Bay and pamper ourselves with a night at the Freycinet Lodge. Freycinet is pronounced Fray-si-nay.

It was a scenic drive stopping off at Four Mile Creek, lunching in Coles Bay before heading to the National Park to walk to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. This iconic location was postcard perfect and ticks off another short walk off our list. We were surprised to see the Diamond Princess cruise ship visiting the bay. The Lodge, the food and the experience was certainly worth the drive and a short break from caravan life. The panoramic views of Coles Bay and Great Oyster Bay were beyond impressive.

Saturday morning after checking out of The Lodge we completed the Cape Tourville short walk providing another view of Wineglass Bay and Mount Freycinet. From here we walked along the white sands of Friendly Beach.  Another two short walks down making a total of five this week. On the return trip to Scamander we stopped off at the Bicheno Blowhole before enjoying a fish and chips dinner at the Bicheno wharf. 

Sunday was a lazy day around the van. Joan did the washing and cleaned the van whilst I busied myself writing this blog.

Until next week stay happy and safe.

Next: Tasmania - Week 10 - Scamander, St Helens and beyond
Previous: Tasmania - Week 8 - NE Coast + NE Corner

Diary Photos

Anchor Mine Stampers Wall

Self-serve Dairy, Pyengana

St Columba Falls

Ralph’s Falls

Lavender, Bridestowe

Lavender, Bridestowe

Fish Rock, outskirts of Derby

Derby Tunnel

Overflow wall being reclaimed by the forest, Mt Paris Dam

Dam wall Mt Paris Dam

What was the water side of Mt Paris Dam

Cascade River now flowing through Dam Wall, Mt Paris Dam

Wineglass Bay, Diamond Princess having a look.

Great Oyster Bay from inside Cabin No. 3

Cabin No.3, Freycinet Lodge

Happy hour Freycinet Lodge

Sunset, Great Oyster Bay from Freycinet Lodge

Mount Freycinet & entrance to Wineglass Bay from Cape Tourville

Cape Tourville Lighthouse

Aerial shot of Wineglass Bay (Joe Shemesh)

White sands of Friendly Beach

Joan, Friendly Beach

Blow hole, Bicheno

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