We awoke on the morning after our trip to Bruny Island with the heavy smell of smoke outside, although at this point the visibility was still quite good. The wind was blowing hard from the west and northwest, fanning the bush fires and creating this smoke which was being spread across the peninsula, tainting the atmosphere. It was also very hot and windy, even first thing.
The tourist map above will give some idea of the geography of the area. Kettering is on the east side of the peninsula marked “Huonville” The bush fires are around Geeveston and all points west of there. There were alerts all around that area.
As our options were limited because of the bush fires we had decided on a small road trip. From Kettering we would pick up the mountain road and head into Cygnet, spend some time there and then meander back along the coast road to Kettering.
According to Lonely Planet, Cygnet was originally named Port de Cygnet Noir (Port of the Black Swan) by the French explorer d’Entrecasteaux, after the large noir birds that cruised around the bay. Thankfully for all it was re-named Cygnet and has evolved into a peaceful, arty town with many quirky original shops and galleries but which is still a major producer of fruit.
By the time we arrived there the wind was very strong with gusts blowing dust and paper down the street. At times it was difficult to stand up, so strong were those gusts. Some of the shops had not opened (it was the day before Australia Day) because the owners were trying to protect their homes against the bush fires.
The Tourist Office is always a great source of local knowledge and information and Cygnet was no exception. Staffed by two “senior” ladies, one sporting a Pink Floyd T shirt with the Dark Side of The Moon motif on the front (we agreed on the band but disagreed on Roger Waters – can’t have everything!) they gave us some very useful information about the bush fires locally, basically we could use the coast road home but forget going anywhere else into the hills for a walk! They also told us about the best galleries and curiosity shops to visit.
Clockwise from top left: Mural that greets visitors to Cygnet; Lyn at a closed Art Gallery; Me at the ANZAC Memorial; One of many coffee shops in Cygnet – “The School House Coffee Shop”
Cygnet has a single main street full of re-purposed old buildings so it has retained much of the architecture built in the early 1900’s which gave it an old world charm. Any new developments were hidden away from the town centre. There were a few people about but the ominous presence of the smokey smell, and the very strong and warm winds was keeping locals and tourists away. In fact it appeared that many shop owners intended to close early, whether for Australia Day the following day, or to get home because of the fires, we did not know but by the time we had left after lunch the place was a bit of a ghost town. We lingered for a couple of hours, looking in the galleries and shops and admiring the old colonial buildings that predominate the main street.
Cygnet Old Buildings
Top row and bottom right: Some of the work decorating the main street Cygnet – yes those are street signs! Bottom left: Lyn out of luck, another closed gallery!
We followed the coast road on a slow meander back to Kettering. En route we saw a number of scarecrows on the roadside. There was a competition among some of the local communities to produce the most original scarecrow and there were some very interesting and original ideas propped up on the side of the road as we made our way home.
Us at Ninepin Bay
Some of the scarecrows en-route back to Kettering. Clockwise from top left: Tow images of Selfie Crows; Dalek Crow; Poppins Crow; C-P3Crow!
We arrived back at our accommodation where the outside air temperature was around 36C; it had been 21C the day before!
That was our last day in Kettering, we were heading up to the west coast to Strahan (pronounced Strawn) for the next few days of our “Tour de Tassie”.
The front door to our accommodation in Kettering with the bush fire smoke in the sky behind.
Early morning on Australia Day, we awoke to a very strong smell of smoke which had seeped in over night. The air outside was thick with it and worryingly, bits of ash and dust were drifting on the wind. As we set off we could not see Kettering in the valley below so thick was the smoke. It had blown over from the Huon Valley some distance to the west. We followed the road back towards Hobart and even there, the smell of smoke was still in the air. Only as we moved well to the north of the capital did the air clear and the sun appear.
Top row: Kettering is under that smoke; Bottom row: Driving through “the Wilderness”
The drive up to Strahan was a long one, taking us along the route of the River Derwent to a lovely village called Derwent Bridge and on into the Tassie Lake District. The ladies in the Cygnet tourist office had said “You must stop at Derwent Bridge, it is really nice”. Given we still had along way to travel over twisty mountains we decided not to stop. The colour of the vegetation was also changing, from a pale dry straw colour we had seen around Kettering, to a rich verdant green, we were entering the wet and rainy area of Tasmania, in the western mountains. This area to the west is also known as the Wilderness area, as there are many naturally forested steep mountains and enormous high plateau’s of bush land between. The roads became very twisty and many hairpin bends had to be negotiated before we reached Queenstown, which was the next town on from Derwent Bridge. It was only 53 miles but it took us close on two hours to get there. We did not stop. Everything around Queenstown was a lush green, yet the descent into town down the main road was stark and bleak, mainly due to the barren landscape of red dusty hills, and eroded gullies where the rain forest used to flourish. The reason for this moonscape was copper, which was discovered in the 1890s and which has been mined here ever since. We decided that when we left Strahan we would visit here en-route to our next destination.
Top row: Us at Queenstown sign on the mountain above the town; Bottom left: Memorial to those who built the road over the mountains to Queenstown in 1932; Bottom right: More wilderness above Queenstown
From Queenstown we drove up over more mountains, eventually dropping in to the village of Strahan, our base for the next few days.
Strahan sits on the west coast of Tasmania at the northern edge of Macquarie Harbour, a large stretch of water leading out into the Southern Ocean. It is small fishing village which the Chicago Tribune newspaper once described as the best little town in the world. It is easy to se why. The air is clear, fresh and uncontaminated with everyday pollutants, the locals are very friendly and helpful and the location, tucked in between the Macquarie Harbour and the temperate rain forest to the south east, makes it one of the loveliest places in Tasmania.
Scenes of Strahan
After such a long journey we had a relaxing first day, just walking round and getting our bearings. The village has a long harbour front esplanade which runs in a wide arc from a campsite at one end to the railway at the other a distance of close to 5km. On the waterfront in the middle sits a row of original buildings which now host a hotel, public bar, restaurant and coffee shop. To one end of these is a hill leading up to a look out point giving awesome views over Strahan and Macquarie Harbour.
Views from the Strahan Lookout
Further round is The peoples Park, an open space area for the village with a short path that leads to Hogarth Falls. It was a lovely walk through the rain forest and our first encounter with the Huon Pine, a tree that is common in the local area and which has provided material for ship building in the past.
Walk up to Hogarth Falls
More from Strahan: Lyn’s new friend – A wood carving of a Train guard; Needs attention – a shack en route to Peoples Park; Lyn at the Pioneer Women’s Memorial, 8 female convicts transported from the UK to Sarah Island, the most wretched outpost of the British Empire.
There are two days out that everyone who comes to Strahan look to participate in. The Wilderness Railway and the Gordon River Cruise. We are doing both.