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Peter & Joan's Adventures
5th Feb 2018 - 11th Feb 2018 - Adventure before Dementia Tour
Tasmania - Week 17 - West Coast

Monday woke to a blue sky day and after a slow start (late breakfast) we packed the car with a thermos of coffee, some lunch and snacks, then headed north up the Murchison Highway towards Rosebery. The goal today was to knock over another Tasmanian short walk - Montezuma Falls. It ended up a very pleasant walk and enjoyable day. It was an easy walk along the abandoned North East Dundas Tramway. The line was opened in 1896 to carry ore (copper, gold, lead, zinc and silver) from the Williamsford mines to Zeehan where it would be loaded onto another train for shipment to Burnie. The railway was closed in 1932. Walking through the rainforest lost in thought I could not help but admire the early pioneers and miners. Also came to the conclusion that I had been working here, back in the day, I would have wanted to be an engineer on the tram. With so many difficult, hard and dangerous jobs, back then, this would have had to be a most prized position, driving through this glorious rainforest every working day. 

Tuesday was a service day. Joan cleaned inside the van and I spent most of the day hand washing the exterior of the van in preparation for our return trip to Melbourne, week after next. Did spend some time in the afternoon touring around the remains of Zeehan and doing a weekly shop at the local IGA store. Zeehan was established as a mining field in 1882 with silver-lead deposits and was the third largest town in Tasmania. In 1910 with a population of 10,000 it was on par with Launceston and Hobart with a Main Street over 2 miles long and boasted over 20 hotels. Today the population would be around 500 and only 2 hotels. There is still some Tin mining being carried out in the area but tourism would be the main drawcard these days.

Wednesday another nice day so we packed another picnic lunch and flask of coffee and headed towards Corinna to the Reece Dam. A hydro electric power station and dam constructed in the 1970’s. Although man-made it is a beautiful setting and another testament to the ingenuity of mankind to work with nature and natural resources to build something both useful and pleasing to the eye.

Thursday we broke camp and retraced our steps to Rosebery and then pushed on through Tullah pulling up at lunch time at another historic mining town - Waratah. The first Tasmanian town to have electric street lights powered by hydroelectricity. The council here provide a very functional and popular camp grounds behind the council offices. After setting up we visited the visitors centre and got the rundown from Chris on the local area. From here we visited the Kenworthy’s Stamper, then Waratah Falls, which are adjacent to the Main Street. We then walked the historic walk of Waratah. Waratah is a lot smaller than Zeehan but has still suffered the decline in numbers with the downturn in mining. There is a reminder of the more glorious days with the Bischoff Tin Mine, at one time the largest mine in the world, still evident on the edge of town.

Friday was a sobering day as well as a milestone day. Joan’s dad worked on the construction of houses in Savage River back in the early 1960’s. The drive on this day had us passing through Savage River on the way to Corinna, on the northern side of the Pieman River, to complete the last of our Tasmanian Short Walks - The Huon Pine Walk. The first surprise of the day was the township of Luina no longer exists. With the mine closing they dismantled the town and the forest has reclaimed the whole area. Other than the remains of a few roads no other evidence of previous habitation exists. We moved onto Savage River. The first major landmark was the tailings dam. Not a pretty site. The town itself is no longer there. The mine is still operating but is serviced by a large Single Persons Quarters (SPQ). No houses, no shops, no pub, no garage. Guess it is the ultimate FIFO operation. Corinna is also an almost non-existent township, with now just a hotel incorporating a general store, some rental holiday cottages and the ferry service across the Pieman River. We completed  the short walk, meaning we walked 48 of the 60 Great Short Walks of Tasmania. On the return to camp we stopped about 10 kilometres short of Waratah to walk into the Philosopher Falls on the Arthur River. It turned out to be a spectacular walk steeped in history and lots of colourful fungi blooms. Initially the grade was moderate heading down but once we crossed the creek it was a comfortable grade along an abandoned water race which was built to supply water to the nearby Magnet Mine which opened in 1894 and closed in 1940. The last stage of the walk involved descending 206 steps (Joan’s count) to a viewing platform positioned about mid point of this two tiered waterfall. 

Saturday started off an overcast day. The main attraction today was the Waratah Wood Chop competition that was held across the road from the Camping area. It was only a small turnout but fierce competition and some entertaining axemanship on display.  It started raining mid afternoon and continued through the night accompanied by gusts of strong wind.

Sunday morning we woke to overcast skies and a rather cold morning. By lunch time the skies had cleared so we decided to walk from town to Ringtail Falls and see if we could locate the old Waratah Power Station. Glad we did as it was a very pleasant though steep and wet under foot in parts. The forest was so fresh after the rain. We did find the old Hydro-Electric Power Station buried in the woods. It was built in 1906 to power processing operations of the Mt Bischoff mine fed by a metal penstock some 170 vertical metres above the power station. The Power Station consisted of four pelton-style impulse turbines, that could supply up to 1MW of energy. It closed in 1952. Since then the water races and haulage ways have gradually succumbed to the forest, the power station and other infrastructure was partially dismantled and components removed. Today the back wall of the  powerhouse has collapsed and the building has now almost been reclaimed by the forest.

Only one week of our Tasmanian adventure left. We board the Spirit of Tasmania next Monday evening for the night sail to Melbourne.



Next: Tasmania - Week 18 - NW Coast
Previous: Tasmania - Week 16 - Southern Highlands & West Coast


Diary Photos

Montezuma Bridge with a mixed train to Zeehan. Beattie Photo around 1899.

Joan, Tinmine, Montezuma Falls

Montezuma Falls, Rosebery

Reece Dam, Pieman River

Pieman River from top of dam wall, Reece Dam.

Kenworthy’s Stamper, Waratah (an old shed in a shed)

Waratah Falls, Waratah

Waratah Falls, Waratah (Main Street in the background)

Overview of Savage River

Huon Pine Walk, Corinna - Our Last Great Short Walk

Fatman Ferry, Pieman River, Corinna

Bright red fungi, Philsophers Falls trail

Abandoned Water Race, Arthur River, Waratah

Philosophers Falls, Waratah

Tasmanian Tiger Country, Waratah

9” Standing Block Wood Chop, Waratah

Single Saw event, Wood Chop event, Waratah

Undercut Wood Chop, Waratah

Ringtail Falls, Waratah

Look closely and you can see Old Power Station, Waratah

Old Power Station, Waratah. now v’s then.

Waratah River, behind Campgrounds, Waratah


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