Some Tasmanian wilderness, going business class

RooFlyer

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I said up-thread that we'd re-visit some of the mining legacy. Exhibit 1: the Queen River:

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Ahem. :oops: For about 80 years, the mining waste after the copper ore was treated at Mt Lyell - the tailings - was simply sent down the Queen River. Oh, about 100 million tonnes of it. they finally built a tailings dam about 40 years ago I think, and the Queen River water is now mostly clear, but the oxidised tailing staining remains. Not a good look, as they say.

First stop was the old gold mining area of Lynchford, 15 minutes down the track, where the old station has been done up nicely (toilets at all stops, but not on the train). Here there is gold panning to try. I was surprised to hear that yes, there is actual gold in the panning gravels - they buy it from the Henty mine up the road and on our day, 12 people found gold in their pans!

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Then back on the train and the temperate rainforest started to close in and soon the third rail appeared.

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RooFlyer

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The gradient increased and the engine started to strain. Pics and video of the steam engine coming up. But it was a slow pace up the hill - and this wasn't the steepest part!


Second stop Rinadeena where the engine had to take on more water for the climb up the hill.

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The rack and pinion system. As I think I said, steepest gradient is 1:12 (8.3%) - the steepest gradient with scheduled services in the southern hemisphere (ie to differentiate it from the old coal haulage 'train' at Katoomba), which doesn't have an engine, just a winder.

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The loco. Sorry train aficionados, I know nothing technical about it, except that it burns oil for fuel and that the rack-and-inion is powered by a 'separate' engine within the loco.. Perhaps @BAM1748 or someone else can say something about it? There were 5 such locos, I think 3 built in UK and 2 locally. the first one was sent out dis-assembled, without any assembly instructions ... so the locals had to figure it out. I think they have recovered four locos now 9including one that went to Puffing Billy in Victoria), with three running.

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Following the 1917 Mt Lyell mine disaster, the company improved conditions for workers, including an annual picnic at Strahan .. check out the passenger carriages!

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When re re-boarded, morning tea was ready for us, and we headed deeper into the rainforest, down going downhill towards the King river, which the Queen joined some way up-stream.

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RooFlyer

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Onwards .. past the King River gorge. You can see why the railway couldn't follow the low route, the river!! PS notice that the king River, which receives the Queen River up-stream doesn't have the dreadful colour, notwithstanding it carried the same 100 million tonnes of tailings. Go figure. Nature recovers.

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The colour of the water is due to natural tannins shed from the 'button grass' vegetation. Macquarie Harbour, Cradle Mountain lakes and most west coast waterways are all the same.

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We stopped at Double Barril where there was a pleasant rain forest walk ...

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And then they turned the loco around:

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RooFlyer

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A bit on the Abt rack-and-pinion system:

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The motto of the west coast:

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With the loco turned around and hitched to the other (my) end, we choofed off back up the hill. Lunch was laid out when we re-boarded.

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And we changed sides of the carriage; the view had changed!

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Dessert:

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Nearly back in Queenie, the Queen River again

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RooFlyer

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Drove back to Strahan and another buffet dinner at the Village. I had booked the 2 dinners well beforehand and there was nothing else available this night, due to Easter (crowds). Lots of screaming kids running around - it wasn't a memorable experience.

The next day I was on the 'Gordon River Cruises' 'Spirit', "Premium Upper Deck'. I had never done the cruise, in any format, so was really looking forward to it. The weather on Easter Monday was typical west coast - overcast, threatening (or actual) rain on the mountains and bursts of sunshine. Only moderate breezes.

The first thing that impressed me was the check-in. Three ladies doing the check-in over 30 minutes. if this was an airline, there would be one person and a queue. Boarded, up to the upper deck and shown to my seat. As a solo, with COVID restrictions, I had a shadow. :)

Seating in pairs only, angled. Window seats have most leg-room, the other has no-one behind you if you recline. The middle of the cabin is occupied with low easy stool-things, and tables.

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Light breakfast on boarding - pastries, yoghurt etc. And the bar was open!! Joseph Chromy sparkling was offered pro-actively :cool:

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Best seats would have been the forward pairs with unobstructed forward views, and best of all on the left, as the door to the forward deck was on the right - although it was a double door, so no cold wind when people went in and out.

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The top-most viewing deck and captain's cabin. You could visit the Captain there in the way back.

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RooFlyer

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Out of Strahan, first stop was Hell's Gates, the entrance to Macquarie Harbour. Macquarie Harbour has six times the volume of Sydney Harbour, but is smaller than Port Phillip. Every day, the tide rips back and forth through the narrow entrance. The navigatable entry-way is 80m wide - the other side of the island is shallow and changeable sand-bars. Many lives have been lost here.

Something I didn't know - in colonial times, they constructed a 'training wall' in the harbour to focus the water as it approached the Gates from the inside, thus helping to keep the navigation channel clear. Still in place today, but you'd want to know it was there! In many places its barely above the water line. This is just a small section.

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Approaching the Gates. The weather had fined up, although as usual, there was a strong wind blowing off the Southern ocean:


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The inner lighthouse.

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There are several houses on the southern bank - only accessible by water at the Gates. Love to have one!!

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Outside the Gates, a solitary fur seal - more on them later.

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Thar be the Southern Ocean. Remarkably calm

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Just outside the Gates, we turned around and headed back into the Harbour: That's Ocean Beach when I pan left, where i was 2 days ago.

 

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Next destination, the Gordon River. The big three Atlantic Salmon farmers all have a presence in Macquarie Harbour and they've been controversial through the years. In the early 2010s they expanded a lot and this resulted in dead zones beneath the pens due to the rain of fish poo, and oxygen levels in the water were frequently low. Seals were attracted to the pens, becoming nuisances in the Harbour in general (they can be aggressive) and pens were damaged, resulting in mass fish escapes. Fish escapes, from say 300g tiddlers to +1.5kg are not uncommon in all the salmon farming areas. They last only a month or so in the wild, as they don't know how to catch their own food (pellets are their diet in the pens). A lucky time for fisher-folk though!

Regulations were tightened (biomass reduced), pens were re-inforced against seals (which were removed if they became a nuisance) and there were even pen 'nappies' developed to catch the fish poo as it dropped beneath the pens. Valuable as fertiliser. TasSal at least posts its regulatory measurements (dissolved oxygen etc) on its web site. There are still many who don't like the fish-farms, but I think that's more hard core "I don't want fish farms" rather than environmental. To expand, the fish farmers have gone offshore, in open waters and this is still opposed by some.

Remember the 100 million tonnes of sulphidic tailings that went from the Queenstown mines down the Queen and King Rivers? It all ended up in Macquarie harbour - here is the tailings delta at the mouth of the King. Like I said, nature heals.

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Passing one of the fish farm clusters:

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Time for a Joseph Chromy ...

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About to pass Sarah Island. We do it on the way back; the Red Boat does it on the way up. The weather had turned a bit.

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In the Gordon River. As others have noted, this craft switches to electric motors when on the river. Reminded me of the line in The Hunt for Red October: "Engage the silent drive!" Not quite silent, but you could hear all the birds etc across the forest.

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RooFlyer

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By this time i was well and truly exploring the wine list (not pictured :( ) . Nine different Tasmanian wines, including a sparkling and two Rieslings (a dry and a sweet). That's what I call a selection!!

Here is the cruise Upper Deck menu. I didn't photograph the canapes, but they were yummy.

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Here is the comparative pricing between the Upper deck and the main deck. As with airlines, ya gotta drink a lot of booze to make up the difference! But there is also the comfort factor ..

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There were some good reflections on the river, better on the way out. Reflections are enhanced by the dark tannin staining of the water, mentioned before. I was disappointed that we only went as far as 'Heritage Landing' - the boats used to go up much further, to the site of the Gordon Dam protests. They don't even go around the long loop, which is in most of their publicity shots. Heritage Landing is on one side of that loop. Its because of environmental regulations (boat wash etc).

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A Huon Pine. Lagarostrobos franklinii. Somewhere they changed the genus name. It is a very slow growing, oily (aromatic) softwood, incredibly good for boat-building, so it was harvested extensively in the colonial days. Its still salvaged from the depths of hydro impoundments, so you can buy carved pieces quite easily, including at Strahan. A bit pricy, but I think they are the perfect 'non consumable' Tasmanian souvenir (bowls and other similar things). Beautiful, and the scent lasts forever. I have bowls I bought 40 years ago and they still smell of Huon pine.

This is a straggly survivor on the lower Gordon, not harvested because of its shape.

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You can see the tannic colouration of the water.

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Heritage Landing, where we got of for a walk and there was a talk too if you wanted to listen to it. Excellent infrastructure, as I also noted in my TR to Cradle Mountain. Non-skid boardwalks, all wheelchair accessible.

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bpeteb

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I was disappointed that we only went as far as 'Heritage Landing' - the boats used to go up much further, to the site of the Gordon Dam protests. They don't even go around the long loop, which is in most of their publicity shots. Heritage Landing is on one side of that loop. Its because of environmental regulations (boat wash etc
Interesting you mention the distance cruised up the river. We also thought it would go further up river and would have been fine without the stop at heritage landing.

BigAl just said he wouldn’t have coughed up the money for upper deck no matter how comfy the seats were. He said I barely ever sit down so the fancy seats would have been wasted on me. The $120 would have gone a long way in the bar :)
 

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After lunch we headed back down the river, bound for Sarah Island. We had some OK reflections, but the electric motor really was effective:


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Hello, there's the opposition - hello (by a day or so) @kookaburra75 :)

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By the time we hit Macquarie Harbour again,after lunch and (ahem) a few wines, most on the upper deck passengers were:

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I took a wander downstairs and found some good advice on the bottom of this stern door ...

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As we approached Sarah Island, I was excited to see this ruin, for reasons I'll explain next post.

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Our vessel docked at Sarah Island

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Sarah Island was the destination for the 'worst of the worst' convicts from New South Wales or Van Diemen's Land in the 1820s. It wasn't just punishment, it was banishment. A miserable place with miserable weather. The main work for the convicts was ship-building, utilising the Huon pines harvested from the river banks. It was closed when Port Arthur opening in 1830.

Some remains of the ship-docks and slipways:

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One of my motivations for doing the Gordon River cruise was the visit to Sarah Island. As some may know, I'm now a history researcher and writer and a couple of years ago I researched a convict builder who had 2 life sentences. I published a paper in a history journal about him and it involved Sarah Island, which I'd never been to. The convict was sent first to NSW and then to the Island and there apparently found his vocation. He was such a good builder that the Commandant recommended his freedom to the Governor. The Gov wasn't having any of that, but eventually he did receive his Ticket-of-Leave and afterwards became a builder of some of the grandest buildings on the east coast of Tasmania.

One of the structures he built (or led the building of) was the 'new' penitentiary, which I photographed above.

Like the other tours we were met by several tour leaders and we had the option to either take a guided walk or do our own thing. I decided to take the tour, and very lucky I did.

There was much more remnants of the settlement left than I expected

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Bloody thick walls!

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Now at this structure, the bake-house, the guide mentioned that it was built by ... my convict! I didn't have this one down as one of my buildings, so I got chatting to the guide. Unfortunately he didn't know much, just doing a script really (but doing that well) so he was pretty excited to learn more, especially that one of 'his' convicts "made good". In fact, mad every good. he didn't get rich, but was a talented builder whose legacies have outlasted all the commandants etc on Sarah Island and he died in Hobart Town much later.

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More of the penitentiary:

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and what it was a bit earlier:

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Before I go. This is Sarah Island sort of in the middle (it was cleared of vegetation during convict occupation) and the little spec off to the left is Grummet Island. That's where the female convicts were initially 'housed' and later became the punishment venue for any convict on Sarah Island. They just got dumped there.

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Before I forget, dolphins in Macquarie Harbour


After Sarah Island, we zoomed back to Strahan when i think all disembarked thoroughly satisfied. I'd highly recommend the upper deck, although having seem much more of the Tas wilderness than the average tourist, perhaps I put more value on the food and bev!

Back to the hotel, passing this fern:

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A glitch at the hotel. Knowing that I'd be stuffed from the cruise, I hadn't made any dinner plans but thought I'd just have a snack in the lounge. At 6 I went to the bar to order only to be told that stops at 6 and I could use the ($65) buffet. There as no indication on the displayed lounge menus that the service stopped at 6. :mad: I hoofed it down to the pub where I put in a take-away, which took forever (Easter Monday night) and was pretty forgettable.

But the evening was nice

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Checked out early next morning, and back to Hobart. A pretty typical scene hauling out of Queenstown:

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Another shot of the Linda pub

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and that was that. This was the forth 'Tasmanian tourist experience' I've done in the past 6 months in lieu of overseas travel and I've greatly enjoyed it (not to mention the savings!).
 

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Thanks - it is sometimes nice to see your own backyard and I'm hoping to see a lot more of Tassie but I'd also like to see a few international backyards in the next year or so
 

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