Destination: Uluru, Part 4

Day 9 : Wednesday 21st December : Peterborough to Louth via Darling River Road

homewardThe trip was very much one of four clear sections and now we were into the fourth and final part; our route home.

From Peterborough we headed for the New South Wales border before going on into the outback town of Broken Hill.

broken-hill-streetThe town is as far west as you can travel from Sydney before leaving the state. It is known as a mining town and was where the worlds largest mining company, BHP Billiton started; the “BH” in their name actually stands for Broken Hill. Coffee and lunch were well received before heading on. There is much to see in this small town and so it is another place on the ever increasing list of “must return to” locations.

Our destination for the night was Louth on the banks of the Darling River. The bonus of this was another section of unsealed road. At Wilcania we refueled and took a left turn out in to the wilderness again.

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louthA relatively short 223km brought us into Louth. Shindys Inn offered an ideal camping spot for the night within a small grass covered field to the side of the main building. I mention this primarily as grass had not been easy to come by at many of our previous stops, but here it was plentiful and soft, perfect for camping. A couple of beers also went down well in the bar before retiring for the night.

Distance covered; 703 km.

Day 10 : Thursday 22nd December : Louth to Mudgee

From Louth we drove to Bourke and breakfast. This small outback town is known for it’s historic architecture and it was certainly a lovely place to take a walk and explore a couple of the gift shops.

Our intention was to have a slightly easier day of driving, but as we still had a considerable distance to travel it was important to press on.

Again the scenery had changed and we weimg_3016re driving through fields and lanes not dissimilar to those in the UK, but for the variety of trees which lined the road.

We past through Dubbo with a short stop so that Maria could buy herself a proper Aussie outback hat from an outfitters that Phil knew near the end of the high street, and on to our overnight stop at a campsite in Mudgee.

img_3017As this was to be our last night under canvas a couple of bottles were opened to celebrate. After so many nights away setting up had become routine and so we were soon resting with out feet up enjoying some good food and great wine.

Distance covered; 595 km.

Day 11 : Friday 23rd December : Mudgee to Sydney

img_3021More treats and traditions were to be fulfilled along the route home today.

Packed and ready to go, I just needed to sort out the driver!

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wineFirst stop was Logan Wines. A nice bottle of white, cheese and biscuits made for a wonderful breakfast. We also tried a couple of their reds with both Phil and I buying some to take with us. It was interesting to taste two wines made from the same grape but different locations, Mudgee and Orange; the taste being very different.

img_3023Not normally one for spending so much on wine, they were exceptional, even to me, so that coupled with the incredible location and the very interesting back story to the name “Ridge of Tears“, saw me part with some cash! Just need that special occasion to open them.

img_3031From Logan’s we took a short detour to Windamere Dam. A good opportunity to stretch our legs before pushing on.

It seems that when ever we head out towards Lithgow for a day on the tracks our meeting point is McDonalds. It therefore seemed appropriate that we call in on our way back to grab a coffee.

As you drive out of Lithgow up into the Blue Mountains you pass through a point which would have been the highest of our trip. While I can’t recall the exact elevation I know when I check previously it is higher than the majority of the mountains in the UK, with the exception of those in Scotland.

Our second traditional stop in this area is for apple pie and ice cream in Bilpin; it would have been awful to have missed out. This area of the Blue Mountains is known for its apple production. Not only are pies in abundance there is also a well known cider producer located here.

And so finally at about 5pm we arrived back where we started; Cafe Geo, Lane Cove North.

Distance covered; 270 km.

img_2559After over 6500km the trip was done. Our destination, Uluru, had been reach and so many amazing places visited, both on the way and way back. We had traveled sealed roads and unsealed ones. Motorways and country lanes. Seen kangaroos, camels, dingos, emus and more. Viewed salt lakes and pink lakes. Driven through mountains and deserts. We had even taken our cars below sea level while in the middle of this great continent of Australia.

img_3033It was a whistle stop tour which provided magnificent views on every stretch of road we traveled, as well as a long list of places to revisit and dwell in a little longer.

And memories – so many wonderful memories.

We started at Cafe Geo and so it seemed only appropriate to finish there, 6673 km and 11 days later.

Now to choose the next destination and plan a whole new adventure.

TOTAL DISTANCE COVERED; 6673 km / 4146 miles

Destination: ULURU, Part 1

While dates and routes were only finalised a short time before we set off, the destination was never in any doubt. Neither Phil or I had been to Uluru and the opportunity for me to undertake a proper Outback Adventure was way too good to miss.

img_2560While we both had our cars, me a Land Rover Defender and Phil a Land Rover Discovery, there was an awful lot of other stuff to get sorted before we could set off.

The list for me seemed almost endless and without doubt the credit card took a huge hit. Tent, sleeping bag and bed, cooking equipment, table, chairs, fridge, awning and so it went on. There were also the bits for the car itself such servicing, a new tyre, two way radio, etc., etc., etc.

Once we settled on the start date for our adventure, Tuesday  13th December, everything began to come together. We even managed to set out our first three overnight locations although the return journey was to remain undecided until we got to our destination.

By Monday afternoon pretty much everything was packed, loaded and ready to go. Maria, who was joining us for our trip, arrived from Brisbane on Monday evening and so we were set for a very early start next day.

Day 1 : Tuesday 13th December : Sydney to Balranald

6am Cafe Geo, Lane Cove North, the designated start of our journey to Uluru.

But first some breakfast!

Rigged and ready to go, we set off about 7am heading west out of Sydney through Katoomba and the Blue Mountains. Our route took us through Bathurst, past the icon Mount Panorama motor racing circuit and onward.

Today was all about distance and covering the miles, but none the less we got our first feel of the amazing scenery to come. This was particularly the case along the Stuart Highway between Hay and our overnight stop of Balranald where the land became flat and increasingly baron with a huge sky that carried on forever.

img_2565Our stop for the night, after over 10 hrs driving, was the Yanga Woolsheds near Balranald, a spot Phil had visited on a previous trip. This was my first opportunity to set up all my gear and make sure that not only was it all complete, but that it all worked. Only one minor problem was a missing part on my brand new ARB awning. Of all the things which could have gone wrong this was simply an annoyance, and easily resolved as it turned out.

img_2576As always when I go travelling my faithful sidekick Safari Bear was on hand to make sure that we didn’t get into too much trouble or lost somewhere in the Outback!

Distance covered; 875 km.

Day 2 : Wednesday 14th December : Balranald to Baroota (Port Augusta)

Again we needed to cover the miles with a good 8 hours driving ahead of us, before we added a slight detour. Maria made a couple of phones calls once we were on the road and managed to locate a replacement for the missing awning part and so we headed for ARB Regency Park, Adelaide. It seemed rather strange saying we would be there in approximately six hours but this didn’t seem to phase them. Distances and journey times are very different in this country.

Having left our camp site we soon crossed our first border into Victoria, which also meant the first time zone change. Only half an hour this time but sufficient to leave us a little confused about what the time was until we got back in to New South Wales some days later.

We continued to head west crossing through into South Australia; not only did we have another time zone change, but we also had to go through a quarantine station which required us to give up all our fresh fruit and vegetables. For one of my companions the loss of oranges was almost too much to bear!

At some point along this route, but unfortunately I didn’t note exactly where, we got a sight of one of South Australia’s pink lakes. Although I had read about them before the trip I wasn’t expecting to see one. The colour, which is very pink, is caused by an algae not minerals as I had previously thought.

The detour into Adelaide was very successful with the missing part waiting for us when we arrived as well the fly screen awning room Phil wanted. This proved a huge benefit a few nights when it was almost impossible to do anything for waving mosquitoes, and other insects, away.

For reasons I can’t quite remember Port Arthur was mentioned as a possible destination for dinner. Which was an interesting choice as it soon became apparent that Phil was actually thinking of the penal colony in Tasmania. However, on checking the satnav’s we realised that there was actually a Port Arthur in South Australia and it was roughly on our route – clearly it would seem wrong not to visit.

Although Port Arthur is available to select on our various navigational devices and is shown on Google Maps – feel free to check – there isn’t actually anything there! Not a single thing! No buildings, nothing. Just a road straight through empty fields. Have a look on street view. Having checked google while writing this section I have discovered that it is listed as one of South Australia Lost Towns! This became another standing joke of the trip – who suggested going to Port Arthur.

By this time it was getting late and we wanted to be off the road before it got dark. Kangaroos start moving about at dusk and they haven’t yet been taught their Green Cross Code; hitting one could well end our trip. As it was on our way we pulled into Port Pirie and had dinner in a local pub. An interesting experience; one of many on this trip.

img_2572While eating Phil found a camp ground at Baroota (Rodeo Campground) which proved to be an excellent choice. Although wet and muddy as we pulled of the track we were met by the owner who pointed us towards his brand new barn which provided the perfect cover for our camp keeping us nice and dry as it poured with rain over night.

Distance covered; 700 km.

Day 3 : Thursday 15th December : Baroota to Coober Pedy

From Baroota we headed north on the Stuart Highway for our next overnight stop and a place I have wanted to visit for some time; Coober Pedy, the opal capital of the world.

But first we had a long distance to travel.

There were three things that we experienced while driving this section of our trip which will stick with me …..

The long straight roads! Several times we stopped just to look at where we were heading and where we had come from. The roads were straight heading off in to the distance with nothing around but hot, barren earth.

At one point the main highway had been widened and signs posted at each end of the section to designate it as an emergency landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctors Service. Its when you see things like this that you begin to realise just how remote the area is.

Following this link to see exactly where the RFDS planes are flying in real time.

roads

img_2599Next came our first Road House. As with any long, remote, trip you always have your eye out for the next fuel stop, in my case I generally had to refill twice a day. Spuds was one such stop on the junction between the Stuart Highway and Olympic Dam Road.

Not far on from Spuds, out of the right hand side of the car, you will see Lake Hart. A shimmering white salt lake which appears to go on for ever. My picture doesn’t do this incredible natural wonder any justice. In the heat and bright summer sun it was just truly amazing to behold.

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img_2606We pulled off the highway and stood on the railway track to take in the full wonder of the view. This proved to be our first proper “off road” driving of the trip, albeit just a few hundred yards.

coober-pedy-outback1Coober Pedy was exactly as I expected, having seen it a number of times on the the TV.

coober-pedy-outback2You know you are getting nearer as the number of man made earth piles increases almost to the point were the entire landscape is disrupted by mining. The process, as I understand it, is rather simple. You did a shaft, lower somebody in and if there is an opal you keep digging; if not you start again. And so it goes on. The evidence of this is everywhere you look as you approach the town. Clearly some people have struck lucky, or simply got better organised, as their spoil heaps are considerably bigger.

img_2614The town itself is very functional, dusty and as I would image mining towns in the Outback have looked ever since man started digging holes. It is a small town with only the necessities, grocer, bank and of course a bottle shop. There are a few concessions to visitors such as the Underground Hotel, working mines to be toured and an underground church. All except the church were shut when we arrived.

As the summer heat is extreme in this part of Australia many people choose to live underground where the earth maintains a manageable ambient temperature all year round.

The Stuart Range and Highway were named after John McDouall Stuart who was the first European explorer in the area. He was the first to complete the South to North crossing of the continent which he achieved in 1862. The plaque in the photograph below commemorates this achievement.

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Distance covered; 600 km.

 

Road Trip, December 2015

For reasons I cannot start to explain I have so far failed to write up my first Australian road trip and so, while it is rather late, I thought I would make an attempt so there is some record of this momentous event.

December 2015 and Lauren was coming over to join me for my first Christmas in Australia. As part of her holiday we planned a road trip to Brisbane. Two days up, a day there and then two days back getting us home in time to complete the final arrangements for our Christmas in the sunshine.

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Safari Bear has accompanied me on all my major adventures from my trip to Nordkapp in Norway, the most northerly point of main land Europe, to the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco, and so as he had arrived in Australia with Lauren it seemed only appropriate that he should be part of this journey as well.

 

 

Saturday 19th December

Packed and ready to go, we headed north out of Sydney with a view that we wouldn’t make our first stop until well past Newcastle. From the Pacific Highway our first detour from the main roads was towards Mungo Brush and the ferry across the lakes blocking our way towards Seal Rocks.

 

IMG_0803On the way we saw a sign which just needed to be investigated further – The Tallest Tree in NSW! The Grandis, Eucalyptus grandis (flooded gum), near IMG_0802Bulahdelah, New South Wales. Circumference: 10.07 metres. Height: 70.5 metres.

Next stop was Sugarloaf Point Lighthouse at Seal Rocks. Readers of my blog will be aware of my fascination with these buildings and will not be surprised to know that this was the first of many visited on this trip.

In fact, while we made many stops and detours on the way, out next location was another lighthouse, this time Smoky Cape Lighthouse in Hat Head National Park. It was while here that Lauren had her first sighting of wild Kangaroos. A small group were grazing in the picnic area near the car park.

IMG_0846Lauren had found all our accommodation via Airbnb.com which meant that not only were we staying somewhere different each night, each location was somewhat unique. Our first night was spent at “Nestled in the Treetops” in Valla, a truly magnificent house up in the hills completely away from the world.

Distance traveled : 700km

Sunday 20th December

ChristmasBefore continuing our journey we took a short detour to Valla Beach in order to take our Christmas family photo. It was already extremely hot that morning and so we got a few odd looks from the locals. This wasn’t meant to be taken too seriously although many people seemed too.

From Valla we followed the coast road as much as possible through Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga before heading inland to Grafton and following the Clarence River back towards Byron Bay.

IMG_0854At Woolgoolga we stopped to admire the Sikh temple.

A short stop at Byron Bay confirmed immediately we needed to go back and spend more time there. Plans were made to come back on Tuesday before we headed to our overnight stop Tugun. Having dropped off our bags we took a drive to Gold Coast – not a place we will be rushing back to.

Distance traveled : 440km

Monday 21st December

IMG_0876Today is all about Brisbane.

In many ways Brisbane is all about its river of the same name, but what amazed us was just how quiet it was – I guess having become so used to the continuous hustle on Sydney’s harbour a waterway with so few boats seemed very strange.

 

IMG_0915We parked the car under South Park and surfaced next to the Christmas Market and a short walk from the famous “beach” which was packed with kids of all ages having a brilliant time. Crossing the river via the Goodwill Bridge near Queensland’s Maritime Museum, we walked up through the Botanic Gardens and past Old Government House which is now part of Queensland’s University of Technology.

IMG_0890This part of Brisbane is full of magnificent old buildings, some still used for the purpose with which they were constructed, others converted for modern needs but retaining their original facades. One such building I wanted to visit was the IMG_0908Commissariat Store Museum, but unfortunately it is closed Mondays! One for another day.

The Museum of Brisbane was not only open but extremely interesting and so we sent a good couple of hours out of the heat learning the history of the city and surrounding areas.

Tonight’s accommodation was in the Mullum Hills, Wilsons Creek, back towards Byron Bay and near the small town of Mullumbimby – remembered for its magnificent name!

Distance traveled : 268km

Tuesday 22nd December

We had promised and so it was to be ….. An early start saw us back in Byron Bay.

First we headed for Cap Byron Lighthouse before the crowds descended. The views out over the bay were truly magnificent. Breakfast next and then a long walk around the town looking through the eclectic mix of shops. A friend of mine, Steve, had traveled to Byron Bay back in the late 80’s and had said then there was little more than a back-packers hostel and pub – how times have changed. An amazing town with an a great atmosphere. Having visited I can understand why it is so popular and has been been for so long – although I’m not sure I could exactly explain it if anybody asks.

IMG_0933IMG_0938Next we headed south to Yamba and the Clarence Head Light and a replica of the original Clarence River Lighthouse which was in a style we would see again; several times.

IMG_0945Having had wonderful weather for out trip so far, it decided to change as we arrived at Tacking Head Lighthouse and so this was a very brief visit – just enough time to tick the lighthouse off my list and take a few photographs.

Our final stop of the day was Port Macquarie and so a steady drive in grotty weather was the order for the afternoon.

Distance traveled : 755km

Wednesday 23rd December

IMG_0961There were two sights we wanted to see in Port Macquarie. First was the Koala Hospital, the nearest either of us have been to these lovely creatures, and the second was Roto House which happened to be right next door. IMG_0972The house was occupied by the same family from when it was built until 1979 and houses a fascinating history of the family, their life and expansion of the area.

 

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Time for one final lighthouse, this time at Crowdy Head, before heading home.

Distance traveled : 440km

A trip to remember …… first of many I hope!

 

 

 

A New Year, A New Life ….

I have been back in Sydney for nearly 2 weeks and only now feel able to write my first post of 2015. What made be knuckle down? Simple, a walk round Sydney was all that was needed to remind me why I had made the decisions I had …..

Earlier in the year I was approached to see if I would like to move to Australia on a permanent basis. With my marriage over and house already up for sale due to the divorce, it felt like I only had one reason to say no and that was Lauren. We had many long conversations about the the pros and cons of such a move. I had many sleepless nights as I thought about the enormity of what I was considering, but in the end it was just too good an opportunity to miss. Never before had I received such an offer, and at my age it is unlikely that I would get such an offer again. After a number of discussions with my old employer about a leaving date, in theory I needed to give three months notice, and receipt of formal jobs offers and contracts of employment from my new employer, the decision was made and the wheels of my new life started to roll.

On Friday 27th February 2015 I left Causeway with just a week and a half’s notice after being employed by them for over 16 years. On the following Monday I started in Woking for my new employer Mouchel. An agreement was put in place that I would be employed by the UK business while my visa application was processed and then switch to the Australian company as soon as I was able to move to Sydney. During that interim two months I continued to spend time in Manchester working with the team there, with whom I had a brilliant night out aft my last day working with them.

Tuesday 5th May saw my arrival in Sydney on a one way ticket.

Mouchel engage a relocation manager to help new arrivals find both temporary and permanent accommodation as well as anything else you need when setting up home in a new country. Without doubt I felt much more relaxed about the process than many would having already spent four months here last year and therefore knowing my way around; a little. Melissa collected me from the airport, which was brilliant, and made sure I was settled in my apartment in St. Leonards. After a sleep I headed to the office in North Ryde to meet the new team and then down to Lane Cove to say “hi” to everyone I had met last year – and what a seriously brilliant welcome I got at Lane Cove! It certainly felt good to be back amongst friends.

It turned out that many of the team in North Ryde, the new Mouchel Design Centre for Australia, had only been there a short time before me. In fact they had only moved into the office the Friday before I arrived and so it was decided that a night out was in order for people to get to know one another. On my first Thursday back in the county we headed to the Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks district of Sydney for a few drinks and something to eat. I had been to the Glenmore before and would highly recommend it if only for the amazing views over the harbour and Opera House from the roof terrace.

Saturday was to be spent house hunting! Well more specifically apartment hunting. Melissa picked me up at 09:30 and we were off on a whistle stop tour of Lane Cove, Chatswood and the surrounding communities. Rightly or wrongly I had decided that I didn’t want to be too far from the office or, if possible a train station. This meant that my already tight budget was going to be stretched to its limit. They have a very strange system in Australia for rental accommodation, and possibly purchases as well. You don’t make an appointment to view, the agent simply advertises when he will be at a property and all are welcome to view. The “open house” time slots are often as little as 10 or 15 minutes!! 10 minutes in which to view and make up your mind on somewhere you could be living for the next year or more. At one apartment there must have been 30 people queuing up and making their way through a two bedroom property!

Having viewed about 10 places they were beginning to merge one into another, but what was clear to me was that the majority where simply not suitable. The last however would suit me just fine. Although a little older than I perhaps would have liked, the layout was perfect, the street lovely and the whole place had been recently decorated through out.

Now for the next stage of the property searching process…

Having thought about it on Sunday, and also looked on line at a number of other properties and locations, I decided that Stokes Street would do me just fine. My application was put together on Monday, various documents copied and sent through to the letting agents on Tuesday and lots of telephone calls by Melissa to see what was going on. It seemed there were three of us interested and it was up to the landlord to decide who they liked best. Finally midday Wednesday I go the news that the property was mine! By all accounts I was incredibly lucky to get the first place I chose as most people it seems have to go through this process a number of times before they are accepted. The property market in Sydney is certainly very fast moving at the moment.

All the papers were signed last Friday and I move in next Friday! On Thursday night I went out for dinner and a few drinks with some of the guys from the Lane Cove office as a welcome back celebration. We went to the Longueville Hotel in Lane Cove which was not only where we went for lunch on the last day before I left at Christmas, but will soon be my local! Another great night; I am looking forward to many more!

Having signed all the paperwork I now need to concentrate on getting furniture and everything else that is needed to make a property a home. Friday evening I went to IKEA and made a list of those items I needed first off. Back at my apartment the list was extended to cover all those items you can’t buy at IKEA – not too many additions to be honest – and then finally a few decisions about the logistics of it all. Saturday I went into Chatswood to check out a few more bits and also picked up my first purchases; kettle, toaster and iron.

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After shopping I decided I needed a break and so header to Sydney proper for the first time this visit. My first couple of weeks had been busy doing many of the routine things of life with little time to relax or enjoy my new surroundings. But finally I was in the city wandering through the streets, the botanical gardens and round the Opera House and Circular Quay.

Now I remembered exactly why I had mad the crazy decision to move half way round the world and start a whole new life.

Australia, Trip 4 – 2014 Finale

Saturday 13th December

This is my final weekend in Sydney for this trip, and probably quite a while, although of course I have said that before.

I decided to spend Saturday in the city; some final shopping and a little sight seeing. The weather was wonderful so needed to be enjoyed, all too soon I will be back in the cold of home.

Extreme Sailing

As I walked around the Opera House from Circular Quay I could see there was a sailing competition taking place out in the harbour. The boats were very big and moving at quite a pace round what appeared to be a very small course. I continued to walk around the water front towards the main spectator area at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair and found somewhere to watch the action. The event was part of the Extreme Sailing Series which has heats around the world, this weekend in Sydney being the last of 2014. Click here to see some of the highlights.

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Sunday 14th December

A couple of weeks back I took a drive out to Wisemans Ferry, but the weather wasn’t great so today I decided to take another look. Even on a dull wet day the scenery was stunning so I was expecting so much more today, and it didn’t disappoint.

This time I approached Wisemans Ferry from the opposite direction and on arrival took the opportunity for a coffee at the small cafe while watching the ferry move cars across the Hawkesbury River. After a short break I chose to cross the river via the Webbs Creek Ferry which is back up through the village and then turn right. Although the two ferries are reasonably close, they are out of site of each other due to the curve in the river.

Once across I was heading for St. Albans, a small village in the Macdonald River valley. The valley had been populated as a farming community due to the fertile land. Close by is the convict built Great North Road which helped the community grow. Life was extremely tough in this remote location with the population consisting of ex-convicts as well as convicts themselves.

In later years the area become known as the “Forgotten Valley” by the locals as new roads took travelers away and alternative farming communities were established on larger areas of more easily accessible land.

StAlbans

2014-12-14 16.16.21The first bridge across Macdonald River takes you into the settlement. From here the roads north are gravel and disappear off into the remote fields and valleys. Yet another journey for another day.

2014-12-14 16.50.12Having spent a little time exploring I took the road south on the opposite side of the river from the one on which I had arrived.

After only a relatively short distance I came across two sights of interest. The first was the St. Albans Old General Cemetery. There are inscriptions dating back to 1833, including that of First Fleeter William Douglas who died 27 November 1838.

2014-12-14 17.07.12A little further on is Shepherd’s Gully Road which was constructed between 1827 – 1828. Now a walking track it was built by convict labour as a spur to the Great North Road and forms part of the Convict Trail.

Each time I see parts of this road I have to wonder at the immense efforts needed to construct it and the extremely harsh nature of the environment in which the men were forced to work for so long. It is all such a contrast to the beauty of the landscape that you see from your air conditioned car as you travel through the region today.

Wiseman

2014-12-14 19.16.08On the way back to Sydney I decided to make one final detour. There are 11 Australian convict sites on the UNESCO World Heritage list, one of which I hadn’t yet visited even though it was so close to were I have been staying.

Situated in Parramatta, a suburb of Sydney, is Old Government House and Government Domain. The building was started in 1799 by Governor Hunter and then extended in 1815 by Governor Macquarie. It is considered to be the oldest vice-regal residence in Australia.

Although too late to visit I did have a walk around the park before calling it a day.

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A final week in the office and then home in time for Christmas. It has been amazing to have had the opportunity to spend so much time in Australia this year. I have seen so many incredible sights, but what it has also shown me is just how much more there is still to see. All being well I will get the opportunity.

Happy New Year.

Australia, Trip 4 – Tasmania Part 4

Monday 8th December

This is my last day in Tasmania and I decided to start by visiting another first ……

In my room at the hotel the owners had left a small history of the local area. There were a number of places which seemed interesting to visit but one that stood out to me as a must.

2014-12-08 08.33.49A short distance from New Norfolk is the small village of Lawitta in whose church yard is the grave of Elizabeth (Thackery) King. Betty, as she was known, died in 1856 at the age of 90 and has gone down in history as the first white women to step foot in Australia. Although there is no documentary evidence to prove this statement, she always told the story that by the time the convict ship Charlotte, on which she was travelling, arrived in Botany Bay she was working as a maid to the officers wives. It was 2014-12-08 08.36.18the wives who were to leave the ship first but they didn’t like the look of the rough surf and so sent Betty out to make sure it was safe.

So far during my trip to Tasmania I have spent my time visiting the built environment, now I thought I should see some of the natural and so headed north west to Mount Field National Park and the Russell Falls.

Falls1Having parked up at the visitors centre I follow the leisurely path to the base of the falls. The path is lined by some incredible trees and tree ferns. Where a tree has fallen you can almost see it rotting back into the earth, covered in moss it begins to blend into the surrounding plants.

At one point on the path there are signs to say if you are walking through at night, turn off your torch, allow your eyes to adjust and then enjoy the glow worms which will light the way for you.

At the end of the path are the Russell Falls which are truly wonderful to see. The pictures I took really don’t do them justice.

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2014-12-08 09.47.39From the bottom of Russell Falls I followed a very steep path to the top. For most of the climb you follow a boardwalk which staircases to take you up the side of the rock face. The walk was tough but I found myself thanking the people who had built the path and wondering how they managed to do so.

The view from the top was amazing; watching the water disappearing into the abyss.

A little further on the path are the Horseshoe Falls, which if anything are even more beautiful.

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Having returned to the Visitors Centre I decided to jump back in the car and take the gravel road up the mountain. I drove higher and higher for about 45 minutes with the landscape changing considerably the higher I went. At the highest point I drove, time didn’t allow me to go further although I would certainly have liked too, was Lake Fenton. The river had been damned off to form the lake which was part of the drinking water catchment for Hobart and the surrounding areas.

Falls2

The road, called the Lake Dobson Road, was built as part of a job creation scheme during the depression of the 1930’s. It is hard to imagine just how difficult it was to constructed, but still easier than it would have been in years gone by for convict labour in their heavy chains.

Time was beginning to run short as I needed to get to the airport for my flight back to Sydney. However, there was one further building I wanted to take a look at before leaving. I had read about the Willow Court Asylum, New Norfolk, in the information pack at the hotel and it was on my way. Although not currently open to the public due to a major renovation project I was pleased to have a look, albeit a very limited view. Maybe during a future visit I may be able to stay there as they are turning some of the rooms into hotel accommodation.

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I have really enjoyed my visit to Tasmania, with the time flying by. Although I have crammed loads in there is still a huge amount to see and so I find it hard to think that I wont be back at some time in the future.

 

Australia, Trip 4 – Tasmania Part 3

Sunday 7th December

Today I was heading back to Port Arthur, but with a stop or two along the way.

When I first arrived at the convict site yesterday it was my intention to only spend the day, even though the entry price did cover for two. However, there is far too much to see so a second visit was essential. On my way from the hotel in New Norfolk I had passed through the small town of Richmond, but with a final destination very much in mind I didn’t stop; today was my opportunity to have a look around.

As you drive into Richmond the old colonial buildings are everywhere to see; it was these that had caught my eye. You get a real feeling of stepping back in time.

Richmond

I only intended to have a walk along the main street to take a closer look at the various houses and shops, but on pulling into a space in the public car park I noticed a sign for the town jail which seemed too interesting to ignore.

Richmond Goal was built in 1825 to house the convict labour which was being brought to the area to build the roads and bridges needed to help colonise the lands in the surrounding countryside.

Richmond1

This small jail housed both men and women prisoners as well as their guards. Originally everybody was in a single building but as the needs of the area grew so did the prison eventually having buildings on all fours sides on the central court yard.

Richmond2

Richmond Goal is a wonderfully preserved group of building which provide a real sense of times past. The entrance in particular provided that passageway from now back in time.

There are many stories of the people who spent time here including Ikey Solomon who it is said was the inspiration behind the Charles Dickens character Fagin in Oliver Twist. Ikey, it seems, was also happy to “pick a pocket or two” resulting in him ending up in Tasmania.

2014-12-07 11.05.09

As you drive out of town you cross this magnificent stone bridge. A small sign fixed to the side, which I had seen during my earlier walk, says …..

“This fine example of early colonial bridge engineering was built to provide a reliable all weather crossing of the River Coal. It was constructed by convict labour between December 1823 and January 1825. It is the oldest bridge in Australia

From Richmond it was back to Port Arthur and the opportunity to explore the remaining buildings on the site.

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As you enter the historic site of Port Arthur your eye is immediately drawn to the main penitentiary building which is straight ahead across the large expanse of lawn. Behind are the Separate Prison, Asylum, William Smith O’Brien’s cottage and various barrack buildings which housed the guards. Off to the left are the open waters of the bay and the Island of the Dead. But today I was heading left up to the little row of cottages which originally housed the more senior administrative staff, later being purchased by private individuals as part of the Carnarvon settlement.

The buildings had a number of uses as homes, boarding houses, shops and the communities Post Office, undergoing modifications as their use changed and the environment took its toll. Port Arthur suffered a number of devastating bush fires which resulted in at least one of the houses shrinking from two stories to one.

PAHouses

2014-12-07 13.18.032014-12-07 13.17.54One of the houses became the settlements Post Office and telephone exchange, a slot in the base of a front window was used as a post box for letters to be collected and sent far and wide. A notice under the slot warns the user not to post letters containing valuable items but instead to hand them directly to the Post Master so they can be registered.

2014-12-06 17.22.18Right of the houses is a magnificent church ruin. This church had been used for many years by convicts and free men alike, but was not consecrated as it was used by all denominations, at first all together. That was until one protestant clergyman decided all that was wrong in the world was as a result of the Roman Catholic Church and proceeded to preach against it.2014-12-06 17.19.52 The catholic prisoners subsequently refused to leave their cells for the mandatory church services, but rather than force them out they were allowed to remain as long as the time was spent in prayer, reflection and where possible bible reading. After a short time a catholic priest was employed to administer to their needs allowing separate services to take place in the church. A sign of the importance with which religion was held; the new priest received a salary higher than that of the colonies governor!

Further to the right of the church are the ruins of Government Cottage with the restored gardens stretching out in front. This building was only used occasionally to house very important visitors to Port Arthur.

The church ruins and gardens reminded me so much of the English landscape due to the design of the building and the trees and plants which are in abundance. The oak trees in particular are truly magnificent. It was certainly easy to imagine looking down from the cottages and watching men playing cricket on the village green below.

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From Port Arthur I headed to the Coal Mines Historic Site, another of the World Heritage Convict Sites.

Various buildings are still visible as you follow the path through the trees, from the barrack blocks to the enormous hole in the ground which was once the main mine shaft. Although the mines are no longer open, having long since collapsed or flooded, there is enough above ground to give a real sense of the convicts lives and what they would have had to endure in their struggle to stay alive. There are also signs of the coal that brought them here scattered across the paths.

I have mentioned a number of times about the solitary confinement cells which were used as a punishment against prisoners, but at the Coal Mines they managed to add an extra element of fear and terror to the already terrible experience; the cells were under ground!! So not only was there no light, sound or fresh air, there was the added terror of knowing you had actually been buried alive.

Coal Mines