Wednesday, 30 November 2011

And so we travel back again

After a night at a camp site adjacent to the airport (and dinner with our Australian family), we drop the van off at the airport and check-in for the long flight home.

Hobart is such a small airport that check-in is easy and quick and it has ample seating, cafes and everything to make travel simple.

Hobart Sydney plane

All planes park very close to the terminal and ours stops just outside of the terminal gate.

We are not coming back exactly the same route as we came out because for reasons only known to Qantas we have to come back via Sydney where we have a five hour layover – should we spend it at the airport getting bored or doing something more useful? The last time I had a five hour layover in Sydney I was travelling on my own and managed to fit in the Sydney Harbour Bridge climb. However a more sedate programme is planned for this layover.

Getting to and from the airport to the city is easy because there are trains every 10 minutes and the journey takes only 18 minutes. So we invest $30 each on a return ticket and go into the city to Circular Quay Station which is the closest station to the Opera House and The Bridge.

Sydney Ferries 

As the train pulls into Circular Quay Station, we are greeted by a good view of the Bridge.

Harbour View 

The Sydney Harbour skyline is one of the great views of the City. The Jacaranda

Jakaranda Tree Sydney 

Trees around the harbour are in bloom, and we have time to grab a quick lunch

P&P and the Bridge

and two photographs just to prove

P&P and the Opera House 

we were there before we take the train back to the airport where our A380 is loading.

A380 with two meal lorries

This time when we transit Singapore, we have sufficient time for a shower at The Rain Forest Lounge. It really is a most efficient system and you can just turn up without booking. Qantas park around Gate C23/C25 at Singapore Terminal 1 and the showers are about 5 minutes away near Gate 1 (not as far away as the impression the gate numbering might give). You pay around $9 Singapore dollars return for a towel and access to the unisex shower area.

Singapore Shower-1 Singapore Shower

The showers are not the height of luxury but

Singapore Shower-2

the water is hot and soap / shampoo / combs are provided and they note your flight number and monitor its gate to ensure you get back on time.  We managed to speed through the whole thing in about 25 minutes only to find our flight was delayed by 45 minutes due to congestion over Afghanistan.

The UK on a dark cold December morning is not over welcoming but it is nice to be back, even if we do come back on a day when most of the public sector is on strike over changes to their pension scheme (a scheme which as a grateful public sector pensioner I can say is extremely good but unaffordable). As we left Sydney, we were given a letter by Qantas warning us of the possibility of long delays going through Immigration at Heathrow and the press were talking about 12 hour waits. In the event it took only 34 minutes from landing to leaving Terminal 3.

And so, about 10½ days after we left our house and 34 hours after we left Hobart, we are back again having travelled almost to the other side of the world just to go to a concert – something which would have been impossible not too many years ago and probably still is quite a ridiculous idea! It was however, absolutely worth it.

The temperature and climate change takes some getting used to however. In Sydney the calendar was heading toward the longest day, the temperature was 27c and there was 15 hours of daylight, in the UK the calendar is heading towards the shortest day, it is 7c and there are only 8 hours of daylight.

Comparisons of Maui with others

We have now hired vans from three different companies and can make a limited comparison of the companies and their vans. The best company we have hired from is Wilderness in New Zealand. They were very good to deal with before the trip and internally the van seemed to be designed by someone who had actually been on the road and knew what would make life easier when living in a van. In addition, neither the mechanical nor the camping sides of the van had anything wrong with them when we picked the van up.

The van we hired from Apollo in Australia was a bit old but worked perfectly well mechanically provided you let it wake up gently in the morning (i.e. did not drive hard until the engine had got warm). Its fault as a campervan was that the roof leaked (and they obviously had known about it because attempts had been made to fix it) and the air conditioner dripped water into one of the cupboards.

The Maui van worked very well as a van and internally, whilst perfectly functional, it was not as well designed or equipped as that of Wilderness (essentially the same product). The big problem with our Maui was that it had been poorly maintained from a camping perspective – we found too many faults when we were out on the road. Whilst we developed a work around for most of them, one of them was problematic (the grey dump tank valve was broken). These faults should not have been present in a van sent out on the road and because we only had a short rental, it was impossible to get them repaired without sacrificing a significant amount of our holiday time. Would I hire from Maui again? – maybe if the price was right but not from Hobart.

A Postscript

There will be a slight pause now before the next set of blog entries. Unfortunately we have had to cancel plans for going to India sometime in February and probably also a long camping trip to the USA next summer because I am about to commence treatment for Early Stage Localised Prostate Cancer. It was detected simply because (due to my age) I asked for a PSA test even though I had no symptoms of Prostate Cancer. My chances of a near 100% cure are pretty good and I am hoping for an operation in January.

We are planning to get back to travelling sometime around mid 2012 with an easy and restful  trip to the Greek Islands perhaps, then maybe some autumnal diving and in the winter, perhaps a longer trip up the coast of Norway to above the Arctic Circle to see the Northern Lights again and then also perhaps India. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Men - Go and get your PSA checked - it may save your life. It saved mine”.

Monday, 28 November 2011

The East Coast of Tasmania


Freycinet National Park

Freycinet National ParkOn our penultimate day in Tasmania, we are going to go for a short walk in the Freycinet National Park up to a lookout overlooking Wine Glass Bay between Mount Amos and Mount Mayson.

The park runs some distance down the coast and is well organised. Users have to pay a day fee ($24 2011) or a larger fee for a longer period.

Freycinet short walks

There are three main walks (with variations): a walk uphill to the Wineglass Bay Lookout plus optionally down to the bay and back; or the 5 hour day walk around the Hazards Circuit; or the 3 day walk around the

Overnight Walk Instructions

peninsular. We (unfortunately) only have time for the shortest walk.You are encouraged to

Walker Registration

Route Down Hazards Junctionregister your intent at a shelter at the start and then set off on a well signposted walk. The timings given are reasonably accurate although I think assume a slower pace of walking than we are used to, perhaps more suited to those we see on the route wearing thongs (aka flip flops UK).

This boulder will not fallThis particular walk has been well designed to fit into the landscape with boulders left where they fell presumably some millennia ago. If this were a 3-D photo, you would see that this boulder overhangs this walker in a somewhat gravity defying way.

Pat and Moreaki style boulderMoeraki style boulders are on the track side


Henry Moore was herealthough some look like they are from the Henry Moore Centre at Perry Green.

Coles Bay

As you climb the hill you get great views back over Coles Bay,

Forrest running up the mountain side

and of the forest running up the hill side which has just started to come out of Winter and heading into Spring.

There are numerous examples of one of our favourite Australian trees – the Paper Bark Tree.Paper Bark Tree

Paper Bark Tree - Bark

Arty Chair 

There is a arty chair to rest on (unfortunately near the top rather than mid way)

Wine Glass Bay-1

and eventually you get to the lookout over Wine Glass Bay. No one knows why it is called that and various theories abound related to blood spilt during whale hunting or its shape.

Wine Glass Bay 1     Two Walkers Overlooking the Bay 

and a the lookout are two walkers there looking rather pleased with themselves. 

We are resolved that the next time we come to Tasmania, we are going to schedule in a much longer period here and do all of the walks including the three day if possible.    

Coles Bay to Hobart

The road back to Hobart, follows in the main

Moulting Lagoon-1

the coast and due to the geography of the coast line, for the first 70 kms or so, Freycinet National Park is on the other side of the bay

Small Spikey Beach Panorama

and there are a  number of nice places like Spikey Beach which make a fine stopping place for lunch.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

The North Coast of Tasmania

Stanley to Kelso


Stanley is famous because of the 154 metre

The Nut

rock known as “The Nut “ which is the stump of an old volcano and also the picturesque houses in the old town around the base of The Nut. The Nut (then named Circular Head) was first seen by western explorers in 1798 when a voyage around Tasmania was made to prove that it was an island and not attached to the mainland.

Stanley Town Hall Stanley NIce Building Stanley Old Bank

The Van Diemen’s Land Company established a settlement here in 1826 and the original store the built a few years later still exists.

VDL Store

It also has a clean and sandy beach which should be large enough for the most

Beach at Stanley

demanding of sand castles. Despite a red sunset last night which

Stanley Sunset

supposedly foretells of great weather to come, today is one of those days when it rains non-stop (11 mm of rain, it may not sound a lot but it is) and flooding becomes an

Wet Day

appropriate descriptor for the day. Hence we head for Launceston along the coast because it has a museum – always a useful way to be dry but not confined to the van.

Our view of Launceston is that it has little to recommend it but the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery (aka QVMAG) is an enthusiastic hive of activity with something for everybody between its town centre and outskirts building. Again, we are lucky in that a chance visit somewhere because of the weather takes us to a wonderful exhibition

Love and War Poster

entitled “Of Love and War”.

Back home s herman

Sali Herman (1898-1993), Back Home, painted in Sydney, 1946

The museum, describes the exhibition as “Love touches us all. During times of conflict it has played and continues to play, an important role in the lives of our servicemen and women, the sweethearts and lovers they left behind or those they met while serving. The Australian War Memorial's exhibition looks at the impact of war on these relationships and the ways in which Australian incorporated affairs of the heart into their wartime lives.”

The exhibition comprises memorabilia related to relationships from a number of wars - photographs. letters, personal accounts etc. Some of these are poignant, some tragic, some happy etc.

Love and War Letter

Some show the insecurities of wartime romance. The text in this letter starts:

“My dearest darling: Hello Iva 7 months today since we were joined and 3 months today since I came away and left you alone. It is not a happy life my dear, I cannot be happy without you. Iva I will return to you - just as soon as I possibly can and that will be wonderful just the thoughts of what returning to you means is wonderful. You have given me a lot darling and I cannot think how I should feel if I was to lose you or if someone else should partly replace me………….”

We are not allowed to take photographs of the exhibition so there is little to show here other than the few photos I took before I found out that I was not allowed to take photos!

Amongst the more conventional museum exhibits are a large number of stuffed animals once or currently found in Tasmania

Tasmania Devil Bustard
Tasmanian Devil Bustard


 Numerous dinosaurs and

1923 Alfa Romeo

vintage cars etc and because the museum

Iron Works

site was originally a railway iron works, some

Iron Works 2

remains of what it was like in the old days

Iron Works Transporter

complete with sounds and smells since many children today will never see heavy industry.

In the meantime it continues to rain, and the campsite we head for is waterlogged. This is a pity because it is known for the large number of indigenous species which come out on drier nights (wombats, possums, wallabies etc) and possibly is the only camp site which issues the advice “Do not be worried if you hear sounds from under your van in the night, wombats like to scratch themselves on the underside of your van” It is too wet for them to come out and we sleep soundly to the comforting noise of heavy rain on the roof.

Kelso to Coles Bay


What a difference a night makes, after heavy rain throughout the night, the morning brings

Kelso Pitch
note the rake in the table, it is there to scrape away wombat and possum poo before you walk around on the grass

bright sunshine and a warm day, although

Kelso Site

evidence of the heavy rain is everywhere with flooded areas of the campsite.

As we head east across the top of Tasmania,

Bush Trees-1Bush Trees

the landscape quickly returns to that which we


love most – tall thin trees, ferns, loud

Bush Rocks

birdsong, colourful rocks and hot day Australian forest smells.

It is this type of countryside where the satnav gets a bit confused. It evidences this by suddenly saying something like “turn right in 100 metres” when there is absolutely no chance of you doing that unless you want to drive off the road, up the hillside or into a river etc.

Sta Nav having problems

This picture of the satnav has us theoretically some 170 metres off the road in the middle of the forest. We are not (as this photo shows).

Sat Nav having problems

The reason for this problem dates back to the founding of Tasmania. Rough maps of the island were sent back to the UK and there the planners said “Build a road between Town A and Town B. The landscape looks flat according to the map you have sent me, so lets make it a straight road.” Of course, the landscape was not flat, they simply had not surveyed it and so they built the road the best they could between A and B with curves which followed the hillside. They never bothered however to tell the planners back in the UK and so officially the road is straight and this is what was translated into a map for the SatNav. We have learnt not to necessarily believe the SatNav although it is a most useful tool when driving here.

Wide Open Countryside 

Where the forests have been cleared, the landscape is flattish grassland with fields, almost like parts of the UK.

Rolling Fields

Country towns date back to the mid 1800s and some have not changed much since then.


Derby is a Classified Historic Town which dates from 1874 when tin was discovered in the area. At its peak, some 3000 people lived here, now there are around 300.

Derby Town Hall

The Town Hall looks as if it were built then

Derby Bank

as does the Bank

Derby House

although this house has been modernised, it still shows it history. The Church is a simple wooden structure


but interestingly the brick chimney is separated by an air gap to stop the heat of the chimney setting fire to the wooden structure.

Church Detached Chimney-1

Some of the original buildings are still managing to stand (just)

Derby old garage 

Eventually the coast appears but it is not just a coast, it is a spectacular coast with large clean bays

West Coast Sandy Bay

and at Bicheno

Bicheno Bay

a large bay which is also a harbour.

Freycinet Peaks-1

Freycinet National Park (our destination) is on the horizon with the characteristic peaks of it mountains as the landmark.