The trip over to Tassie was long and rocky. The kids slept through the night, but we were rolled from one side of the bunk to the other. By 7am we hit Tasmanian soil, and there was no mucking around getting off the ferry. As were drove along the streets of Devonport, the feeling was instant; a calmness and tranquillity struck us both.
WE DISCOVER PENGUIN
We decided to spend the first two weeks exploring the North Western corner. Penguin, yes, they actually call the town Penguin, was to be our first stop.
We got onto the main highway and we were literally the only two vehicles on it at one point. The countryside was amazing; green rolling hills leading right down to the deep blue ocean of Bass Strait. Each small town we drove through on our way to Penguin was prettier than the last. They all looked so peaceful and serene. We got to our free-camp spot just out of Penguin and were absolutely amazed. First of all, that it was right on the beach and then, that it was empty of other campers. We were soon to find out why.
The wind, (not me this time!) straight off the sea, was wild and very cold. Tasmania was possibly the most windiest and coldest place on earth that night. We had decided to leave it until Summer to come over and, here we were, December, parked right on the edge of Bass Strait, with a gale blowing and freezing to the point of chattering teeth. Once we got used to that, we loved it.
WE MEET THE LOCALS
We loved exploring all the little towns along the North West coast, and meeting the locals. One night we were parked at a free-camp, once more on the edge of the water and the views outside again were beautiful but, with the wind howling, it was best viewed from inside Honky.
At about 8pm as we were sitting there huddled, just to keep warm, we heard a tap on our door. It was the ‘Odd Couple’ beside us who had ventured out for the day to get some supplies in town; they were from a little town up in the hills of Tassie. They told us about two whales that were worth watching, playing about 100m offshore; they were splashing and jumping out of the water for ages. Unfortunately, the kids were already in bed but, we ventured out and watched for a while before turning blue with the cold, so we went back inside. We could still see the whales but, for us, the next “Show” was about to start. The Odd Couple were in a Toyota-coaster motor home. They were parked right beside us and, as I looked out the window towards the rear of their motorhome, I saw a bale of hay fly through the air and hit the ground. Then another, and another. The old fella, who was on crutches, then proceeded to stack the bales to the rear of the van, then cover them with plastic. I was contemplating going out to help but, before I could find my snow jacket, he was on the roof throwing ropes around in an effort to tie the whole show down. Clearly, he had it all under control and, all that remained for me to do was to get the banjo out!!
Another nocturnal activity big in these parts is penguin-spotting. As it doesn’t get dark till quite late down here, it was about 9.00pm before they would show. At 9 degrees centigrade and, not being built to withstand the cold, I found the pictures of the penguins on the brochure just as entertaining. Unfortunately, I forgot to put the brochure away and the next morning, while we were sleeping-in, the kids were finding out all about the penguins that live nearby. That night, guess what we had to do. Yep, don the snow clothes and go to the Penguin-viewing platform. Once we got over the frost bite, it was well worth seeing them. There were heaps of baby penguins screaming at their parents for food; just like it is at home really . . . . . . . . . . .
The next morning was a slow start due to the late night of penguin watching. Our intention was to head for Stanley but, half way there, just past Wynyard, Michelle saw a sign that said “Hand-made Markets” and, that was it. (I forgot that the whole purpose of this trip was to go to as many markets that we could find in Australia.) So, a quick U turn on the highway saw us in a place called Sisters Beach, as it was within striking distance to the Markets the next morning.
As it turned out, it was probably the pick of the spots so far. Tucked out of the way, but only 8km off the highway. Beautiful, white sand and crystal clear, blue water; we had the perfect spot. We stopped for the afternoon and met another family who had been traveling for 18 months with their three children. It was reassuring, as we swapped notes, that we are doing the right thing with our kids.
STANLEY & THE NUT
We made our way to Stanley, an amazing little town right on a peninsula and, its unusual feature, The Nut.
The highlight for the kids the next day was catching the chair lift up to the top of The Nut. The views from the top were quite stunning.
The following morning we hit the wharf for a bit of squid fishing. Jade landed a huge squid but panicked as soon as it hit her line and we lost it while trying to get it in. Five minutes later she was on to another one; this time a keeper. We found another camp spot in Stanley, this one was right on the beach. We moved the bus from the Wharf area at the base of The Nut to our new beach-front spot.
IF THE VAN’S A ROCKIN’ DONT COME KNOCKIN’
That night the wind picked up, quite a lot. (Anyone driving past would have thought there was some good action going on in Honky.) The old girl was swaying so much, we were convinced it was going to tip. I drove to the wharf in our ‘tag-along’ where we had parked initially, to see if it was calmer there. As it turned out, it was windier there than where we were, so we decided to stay put.
We explored the North Western corner of Tasmania over the next few days, including Arthur River and “Bondi”. Well, not really, but the “Bondi Vet” just happened to be in town shooting an episode for his TV show.
WE MADE IT TO THE EDGE OF THE WORLD
We came across another interesting little location nearby was a place called, ‘The Edge of the World’; not sure why.
The Edge of the World
It was fascinating seeing an almost black river stained with tannin from the trees, as it met the piercing blue of the ocean. It was an extremely windy day (surprise, surprise) and the waves of the ocean were clashing with the surge coming out of the river. It was a very eerie-looking place. The drift wood on the beach were large trees not just sticks and, the seaweed looked like it had been on steroids.
One piece of this giant stuff took two of us to drag it out of the water and, was over 4 metres long!