Day 4. 18th October 2018.
Today’s themes are water and perseverance, starting with a solid downpour of rain overnight. This must have been the main contributor to us leaving our digs closer to midday today. First stop: the MUSHroom, because when it comes down to it we’re all creatures of habit, whether we care to admit it or not. With little prospect of seeing anything at Cradle Mountain, as the clouds and rain set in, we decided to check out the Don River Railway. It’s interesting to note that there aren’t any passenger rail services in Tasmania now, only freight trains since the the last passenger service departed Hobart in 1978.
We retraced our route to Burnie from yesterday, low-lying clouds tickling the treetops with their misty fingertips. Once at Burnie, we continued Devonport. Don River is just before Devonport, roughly eighty minutes from Waratah in total. It was about 1:30 pm when we arrived at the museum and wandered up to the visitor's centre. We were well ahead of time for the 2pm train trip to Coles Beach. Bad news. The train blew a foofer valve and wouldn’t be running, but if we wanted to come back for the three o’clock, we might be able to squeeze on... with... the tour group. God help us.
The volunteers gave us a couple of tips for things to check out in the area. Perhaps we’d be interested in the Axeman’s Museum or chocolate factory? We bade them adieu and headed into Devonport, ten minutes up the road. We wandered along the waterfront, capturing a few photos, including some of the Spirit of Tasmania 1, which was moored on the opposite side. It was time to eat, or something, and Chris was craving bakery treats.
For a major port, the streets were eerily quiet. You could have fired a canon down the shopping mall and only hit one person through bad luck. We ducked into Banjo’s Bakery to satisfy our hunger: a meat pie for Chris [they were out of potato :(.. ] with coffee and a lemon scroll. A cheeseburger pie for moi (actually, it was OK, thanks for asking!) and a raspberry house cake with a locally produced lemon mineral water.
The pigeons are really friendly in Devonport. They have no reservation in flapping right up to the back of a vacant seat at your table, eyeing off the crumbs from your meal as you consume it. They also have no issue walking straight onto discarded plates to help clear the food scraps. The locals of Devonport also provide helpful public service announcements as they pass by. As one particular gentleman walked past, hearing his familiar ring tone (which was actually coming from the table behind us) he exclaimed, to nobody in particular, “it’s not mine, so it must be someone else’s!”
I rang the museum to see if the foofer valve had been fixed. It had. Hallelujah! We headed back to the station, seeing the tour group had already arrived. They were winding their way back from the sheds, having made a pre-ride inspection. There were only a couple of walking aids amongst them, but the average age would have been several degrees north of seventy. We hopped onto the vintage diesel rail car which, within 5 minutes, shuddered itself awake and rolled on to to our three-and-a-half kilometre trip to Coles Beach, And when I say Coles Beach, I mean a grassy platform about five minutes walk away from the beach.
The rail line winds its way along the Don River, which at this time of day resembled a mud flat because the tide was out. The surrounding scrub opened out onto what looked like a local sports oval, near which was our lawn-carpeted landing point. With some encouragement bordering on coercion, participants in the tour group disembarked to inhale the fresh air and stretch their weary limbs. I hopped off and snapped a couple of photos before jumping back on the train to head back to base.
The museum had a lot of interesting artefacts from when Tasmania’s rail system actually used to carry people. We also had a wander through the work sheds where, amongst other things, is the fully restored Royal Carriage that King George VI and Queen Elizabeth rode in when they visited Tassie. The group who maintain the Don River Railway are lobbying the government to allow them to run trips on the main line down to Penguin, which would definitely be a trip worth taking. As we were exiting the museum, one of the volunteers suggested we might like to take the coast road, via Penguin to Burnie, on our way back to Waratah.
The rail line ran parallel to the road for most of the way, and would give some tourism award-winning photo opportunities of the Tasmanian coastline. The sojourn by road gave us some great photo opportunities (the Penguin Uniting Church design is really funky!) Entering the township of Penguin, we were greeted by flower blooms of every shade lining the verge on both residential and railway line sides. It’s clear the people of Tasmania really value the beautiful environment they're lucky enough to inhabit, and take real pride in showing it off.
The beaches have an interesting mix of sand (yes, really!) pebbles and sea glass of every description, as well as volcanic rock. There was also a nine-year-old child up on the roof of his house. We watched as he retrieved his friend’s toy (which obviously fell up there accidentally) before jumping (almost to a life of disability) to the ground. As we neared Waratah, the sun pierced through the clouds for the first time today before setting, but we’d had a fine time without it, anyway!