Today was to be another big day of driving. Majella’s plan had us visiting Stanley, Burnie, Devonport, Sheffield, Deloraine, and possibly other locations before reaching Launceston where we will stay for 3 nights. It was an ambitious plan, worthy of Majella’s energy but difficult to accomplish.
At our briefing last night we agreed to give the plan our best shot by departing from Cradle Mountain at 7:30 am. We actually managed a little better than that and headed down the road with me at the wheel a little before 7:30 am. Once out of the park area we headed west past the scene of the accident that delayed us yesterday and then northward on the Murchison Highway. It had rained overnight so the roads were wet and it continued to sprinkle intermittently for about the first hour. It looked to be lighter in the sky to the north so we hoped it would eventually clear and at least the rain would have scrubbed the smoke out of the air.
Our first disagreement with the GPS came at the junction of the Murchison Highway with the Ridgley Highway. It looked like a left turn and the GPS called it as so. A chorus of voices from behind me objected and, obediently, I drove straight ahead onto the Ridgley Highway. Those who were looking at maps had interpreted the left turn as going onto Waratah Road which terminates in the Savage River wilderness area. It does, but not before the Murchison Highway turns off to the right about 200 metres around a bend. The small scale maps did not show that level of detail.
The error with the GPS was not catastrophic. We drove north as far as Ridgley and then went cross country through some scenic farming country and reached the coast at Camdale where we turned and headed west toward Stanley. We paused at Wynyard for coffee at Rumour Has It and also picked up some bread rolls and other provisions for lunch before driving on to Stanley.
At Stanley we drove around the streets to look at the historic houses, including the one where Prime Minister Joseph Lyons was born. We looked at the track up The Nut and the chair lift. Nobody wanted to try the track and most were not interested in the chair lift. Having come that far I could not see any point in leaving without getting to the top. By that time the smoke had been blown away from that area and there would be wonderful views up and down the coast. I really wanted to be up there with my camera.
Majella, Warwick, and I headed for the chair lift. As we lined up to enter, Majella intimated that she was planning to go up, walk as far as the lookout, and return. I had assumed we could walk the 2 km circuit and enjoy the views all round. Ultimately, Warwick and I did the circuit and Majella came as far as the lookout before waiting for us to return. On the ride up on the chair lift the wind caught our backs on the final section and pushed us toward our destination. I had to hold my hat and took it off and put it in my backpack as soon as we arrived. Warwick and I made it round the circuit with photo stops for views and wallabies in about 20 minutes. As Majella and I boarded the chair lift to descend the operator asked us to think about our ride down and rate it out of 10. They were thinking of limiting operation to one way, up, if the ride down was too boisterous. We had no problem with it except that the wind seemed determined for a while to keep us on top and it rocked a bit on the way down.
Overall, with driving around and doing The Nut, we spent about an hour in Stanley but that was probably enough to wreck Majella’s itinerary. We headed off from Stanley with Russell at the wheel. In the confusion of driving around the streets of Stanley and debating the merits of mounting The Nut, I had neglected to mention that we were running low on fuel and Russell did not pick up on that until we had left Stanley after some more local touring. There was an air of mild desperation until we found a service station at Rocky Cape and filled up.
From there it was plain sailing to Burnie where we had planned to have a picnic with the bread rolls and other makings we had picked up in Wynyard. When we reached Burnie it was still blowing a gale and the smoke had returned. We abandoned plans for a picnic in favour of buying lunch in the Makers’ Workshop which was our target in Burnie. We enjoyed excellent food for lunch – chicken and camembert baguettes for us with local ginger beer in a numbered bottle – and some fascinating exhibits. Majella spent time talking with a hat maker and had to be dragged away to meet her own scheduled departure time.
We drove on to Penguin where we stopped at the Surf Lifesaving Club walked down toward the beach to catch up with Tim Powell, former Toowoomba resident and St Joseph’s student, who was well known to Jim and Fay and Warwick and Colleen as a friend of their respective sons, Paul and Luke.
Majella had intended going via Devonport to Sheffield but decided there was really nothing that she needed to see there. Instead we plotted a course south from Leith via Melrose. That went well until we came to a turn we needed to take that presented a sign about an essential bridge being out of service for upgrading. We had to turn around and go back almost to Forth before heading off to the outskirts of Devonport and then south toward Barrington and Sheffield. These diversions were no real problem as the countryside we drove through was beautiful and we enjoyed seeing more of this region. We also had the added advantage of getting to see some of the fine houses in the outer suburbs of Devonport.
The attraction in Sheffield was the collection of murals on walls around the town. Majella allowed us 30 minutes to wander the streets and view the 50 murals that are part of the Kentish regional outdoor gallery project. The murals were impressive but we were much more impressed by the real fruit ice cream offered by the little store we found down a side alley. It was announced by an inconspicuous sign on the main street but somehow we all found our way there. As a final treat in Sheffield we had an up close encounter with one of the flowering gums that we all had been admiring all over Tasmania.
From Sheffield we drove east to Launceston. Not far on we passed through Railton where the contribution to the outdoor gallery is topiary. We stopped briefly at Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm just before it closed at 5:00 pm to add some fresh raspberries to our dinner collection.
Our accommodation in Launceston is just out of the CBD in Penny Royal Apartments. Some of the buildings here are genuinely historic but the apartments have been built to give them impression that they are old and the military names on the apartment doors are apparently completely fictitious. We settled in, did some essential shopping, and ate our planned picnic lunch for dinner with the addition of some cheese from Burnie and the fresh raspberries.
We are here for three nights and will have time tomorrow to explore Launceston.