Monday, 21 April 2008

Day 4: Strahan to Cradle Mountain, Tasmania (21st April 2008)

Another early start for us this morning starting with breakfast at the girls' cabin at 7am. I just had to go out and check the temperature - brr, cold! I'm going back into the cabin where it's warmer :) Looked somewhat cloudy today though. Hmm, that ain't a good sign because we were going on a cruise today. Hopefully the sky will clear up soon...

I've slept well the past few nights - this is not the backpacking trip I expected! The places we've stayed were posh!

Strahan (pronounced "straw-n") is a small town and main tourist centre in west coast of Tasmania. Strahan shores the beautiful, unspoiled Macquarie Harbour, the gateway to the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and Southwest National Park, one of the world's last true wild river systems. Also where we will be heading to today!

Around 8.20am, we packed up our stuff onto the shuttle bus and headed into Strahan township where me, Louise, Kate and Wratty bought our tickets for the World Heritage Cruises. Niek and Ilse didn't join us for the cruise - Niek wasn't feeling too well from the wallaby steak he had last night (oh-o) so they stayed behind to do a leisurely tour around Strahan with John. The cruise was an optional tour on this trip which costed me AUD76.50. You could also opt for West Coast Wilderness Railway, or the 4 Wheelers Bike Tour but John strongly recommended we go for the river cruise (and he also advised us to stick close a guy named Richard??).

We did the Heritage Morning Cruise which departs daily at 9am, returning at 2.45pm. Quick stop for me and Louise at the local Banjo's bakery to grab some lunch. You could go for the gourmet buffet lunch on board for an extra AUD15 (they serve local salmon) if you wish but we wanted to save some money (so we can buy more booze - haha!).

ALL ABOARD!! Louise, Kate, Wratty and I hopped on board the catamaran cruise vessel and waved goodbye to John, Niek and Ilse who sent us off. Our journey started with a ride through Hells Gates, a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance to the harbour. I love cruising - something about being on the waters and having wind breeze against my face. Though there were moments where my hair were lashing against my face!

Yay, the sky is clearing up! After our trip to Hells Gates, we cruised back and stopped by to see the Tasmanian aquaculture fish farms - several huge pods filled with salmon. Hmm, salmon...(I'm thinking of food already). You know, surprisingly, I didn't see lots of seagulls or water birds here at Macquarie Harbour. The dark waters from the tannin leaching out of buttongrass plains makes it quite difficult for these birds to feed – even the tap water in Strahan is brown (though perfectly fine to drink). Photos taken this morning: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604862641656/detail/

We next made a stop to explore Sarah Island, one of the oldest convict settlements in Australia. Now I understand how this Richard guy fits in! Richard Innes Davey, is the founder of The Round Earth Company and advocate for the understanding of the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island. He works on Sarah Island as a guide and I definitely recommend that you follow him on the island tour. You can self-tour the island but Richard brings the tale of the lives of the inmates who once lived on the island to life! Lots of humour and us visitors got dobbed in playing the different roles of the inmates - oh, it was so fun :) He was such a fabulous story-teller! Remains of the early settlement are still visible on the island. Photos taken at Sarah Island: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604873993879/detail/

You know, Richard reminded me a lot of Gandalf from the Lord of the Rings movie - his height, and mainly, his deep, forceful voice. And for those of you who are keen to read on more about the life on Sarah Island, Richard has written a book titled The Sarah Island Conspiracies (I should look it up when I get home).

We had our lunches as we slowly cruise down the serene Gordon River. The river is one of the major rivers in Tasmania. It rises in the centre of the island and flows westward. So peacefully quiet and tranquil. Photos taken at Gordon River: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604870668912/detail/

Our last stop before heading back to Strahan was at Heritage Landing, a walkway built so that visitors have a chance to get a glimpse of what the forests along the river are like. We also had the opportunity to see some fallen, gigantic Huon Pine trees. No sighting of wildlife except lots of black caterpillars!

The catamaran began its journey back to Strahan and about 3pm, we were back where we started this morning. John, Niek and Ilse were already there waiting for us :) We gathered at Morrison's Huon Pine Sawmill to see a demonstration of a 100 year old working vertical frame saw which coincides with the return of the cruise. Didn't stay very long as we had to get some food for tonight's BBQ and head over to Cradle Mountain, about 130km away. Chop, chop - let's go, people! Photos taken: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604994894577/detail/

I wasn't sure if we had to cook tonight or what the deal was - everyone had to get something to put on the BBQ (this was paid for as part of the trip). Hmm...

Back on the bus and off we went to Cradle Mountain. A quick photo stop of the mountain:


I wonder if the mountain got its name because it looks like a cradle (the "U" shape)...

About 6pm, we arrived at Cosy Cabins Cradle Mountain and I have to admit, I was a little taken aback when we checked into our rooms (wonder if the others felt the same). We were given sleeping bags to sleep in tonight on our bunks. This was more of what I expected for the trip, backpacker accommodation but since we've had our own bathrooms and kitchen the past 2 nights, this was different. And it was cold here - the communal bathroom/toilets were outside! :''(

I wasn't looking forward to an outdoor BBQ but thankfully, dinner was indoors on a stove BBQ. We sure smoked up the whole kitchen and stunk like BBQ from head to toe! Everyone pitched in to cook and clean while John took a step back and just enjoyed dinner with his bottle of wine. We had to be the best group you've had by far, aren't we John? Hehe, we didn't mind doing the work and let John have a rest from all the driving :)

There were wild possums outside and they were lingering by the windows - obviously smelt the food! I still prefer a normal BBQ than the stove one. Burnt too easily! Photos taken at dinner:






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