Day 8. 22nd October 2018.
Departure day from Cygnet and a travel day for us down to Koonya, which requires a return to Hobart before continuing down the opposite side of the bay via Eaglehawk Neck. Coincidentally, Koonya means “black swan” in one of the local Aboriginal dialects. A quick trip into town before returning to Anne And Bruce’s place to finish packing and a fond farewell before driving towards Hobart via Huonville: a track less windy, but no less stunning as we passed through hillsides, taking in the view of Sleeping Beauty Mountain one last time. Sleeping Beauty is made up of a series of mountains, with the rise to the right representing her face, the valley off to her left forming her neckline and the two mountains further to the right making up her bust and the rest of her torso. A trick of the eye, but loved by locals and travellers alike.
We reached Hobart, continuing our lazy, meandery theme, and stopped at the Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens. We entered from the bottom gate where there is a walled garden, overflowing with the colours of spring. Cone-shaped flowers half as all as me in white as well as pastel blue, purple and pink poked out from all directions. Poppies are scattered around the garden beds amongst other specimens, too numerous to list. Up the hill we took in the orchid display, housed in a controlled, humid environment, the variety of flowers challenged the limited belief of what an orchid flower is meant to look like. There were also rows of red wax flowers, their petals bending downwards as their stamens arched upwards, forming shapes that looked like little swans in a row along the edge of the raised garden display.
The tulips, nearing the end of their bloom, waved their purple, red and pink heads above their beds. One particular specimen was especially interesting with a mixture of yellow and vermillion, as if sampled from an artist’s palette.
Winding through the pathways, we entered the fernery, which is a shaded display of ferns, the rocky backdrop forming part of the hillside you can follow up to the path that branches from the top entrance. Fishbone ferns and other cultivars of varying frailty sit around a pond, into which water flows from a small waterfall that has been made to replicate their natural environment.
One of the more interesting displays in the gardens is the Sub Antarctic Plant Collection, housed in a purpose built hut where the temperature is kept at a constant cold level to support the range of mosses, ferns and broad-leafed plants you would expect to find on Tasmania’s nearest continent. The sound effects of penguins and sea birds add authenticity, but it is a relief being able to exit back into the regular climate after a small loop around the hut and reacclimatise to the relative warmth of Hobart’s spring day.
The next tract of the gardens was the cactus display, and I’m happy to report that I was neither tempted to feel one of the ‘fluffy’ cacti, nor did I accidentally brush up against any plants and get punctured within an inch of my life. One of the plants was in bloom with stunning red flowers extending out from their spiky host.
The final botanical treat was the Japanese garden, resplendent with relaxing water features, the main one being a pond on which sits a hut that houses a wooden wheel that gently turns as water flows through before tumbling over a wall and running down a small stream into the next pond. Miniature sandstone houses and structures are dotted around the garden. Wisteria trails along sandstone walls, its blue and purple blooms weeping in clusters. Japanese maples and flowering cherry trees add to the array of colour and environmental texture.
Back in the car, we crossed the Derwent, had a cheeky turn-off at Barilla Bay to procure some local (and very delicious!) oysters, then continued south towards our next destination, where Mahni, Geoff and Jesse were waiting to greet us. Mahni and Geoff’s home is on top of a hill, overlooking the bay. The sunsets are magical, as is the absolute silence and serenity. Apart from a few frogs, which gather up pace in the night creating their own rhythm and song by the light of the full moon.
Geoff assumed the role of tour guide and took us around to the long-dormant coal mines. Manned by convict labour after a coal seam was identified from the coast, the ruins of the prison encampment illustrate the cruel conditions prisoners were forced to work under. Ruins of a bakery and school house sit near the remains of solitary confinement cells. Much of the sandstone from the buildings was pilfered (repurposed?) to construct houses after the prison was shut down. In those times, there was no pride to be found in the heritage of such a site, so removal of the stones was not punished.
You can walk through the ruins and along parts of the cell corridors that have been preserved. The sandstone cells would be roughly seven feet deep, with enough room to barely stretch out your arms. Needless to say, they are dark and cold, and would be their own form of hell for any prisoner who might have suffered from a mental illness. The site has pathways that lead to long abandoned military quarters, which have since vanished. To think of the atrocities that would have occurred, juxtaposed against the beautiful backdrop of the water is sobering, and lends its own sense of awe to the site.
Back in the warmth of Dugan Manor, there was great conversation to be had over the colourful sunset, with a delicious spread of nibbles with wine before a sumptuous feast.
Holidaying is very, very difficult.
Day 9. 23rd October 2018.
Another gorgeous day for travelling about as Geoff and Mahni treated us to a day of Peninsula-ing. Heading up the hill from their place, we skirted the coastline, through Nubeena, taking in the bay and surrounds. The scenery is starkly different to the peninsulas we explored before coming across to the east coast. The terrain is drier than the opposite coast, with more scrub and bushland that meets the sea at various points. The rugged coastline of Cape Pillar was one of our first stops, its rocky outcrops lashed by the waters that foam, then subside before the next wave rolls in. Remarkable cave is just around the corner and a short walk down the hillside, via some stairs. Thankfully not as many stairs as Philosopher Falls (they will be forever emblazoned on our memory). Remarkable Caves are just that. They tunnel through the sandstone cliff from the sea side, landing in a small (really big) alcove, lined by sandstone walls, littered with rounded stones around a couple of large boulders. The stairs used to lead all the way to the bottom of the cave floor, but have since been altered to end a couple of metres above, from which stretches the viewing platform. When the tide is in, the waves rush through the tunnel from the sea and hit the back wall of the cave, spraying anyone who’s game enough to be standing there to appreciate it.
After a brief stop at a lavender farm for coffee along the way, we headed to the Tessellated Pavement. It’s a completely natural rock feature, formed over many millions of years of compression and erosion, but looks like cobble stones or a concrete concourse that could have been poured in the last fifty-odd years. The symmetry is fascinating to explore, parts covered by sea algae, some of its crevices inhabited by pippies or strewn with various types of sea weed. The remarkable thing about this place is the fact there is something interesting to see regardless of how wide or tight you make your focus. The vistas of the pavement with the backdrop of surrounding mountains and sea, right down to the microscopic detail of life between rocks or on leaves. Another special feature to observe here are middens - the archaeological remains of Aboriginal campsites that show where fires once burned, long before colonisation, and the shells of whatever the visiting tribe had been feasting on as they passed through. Like a modern day traveller’s diary, middens tell a story about the stay that occurred. More importantly, they were a means of communication, as the next visitors would avoid harvesting the same crustaceans as the previous mob in order to conserve the food source.
Pirate’s Bay was an adventure of a different type, climbing over rocks that could easily have been a moonscape, should NASA have wanted to fake a moon landing. Smuggling used to occur down there in the early days of the colony, hence the name. Now it’s just a pretty bay where the Tasmanian Tuna Association have their headquarters. A short climb over the rocks and toward the sea reveals an alley where water rushes through. The large boulders protect the bay from the surf, the walls they form embracing the bay. A short way up the hill from Pirates Bay is the blow hole, water rushing through another one of those alleys through the cliff, water crashing onto the rocks within, spraying into the air. Caves are quite common along this coastline and the features carved by millions of years of persistent wave action have created some of the most stunning landscapes.
A short drive away is Tasman’s Arch. Imagine a sandstone sinkhole, a hundred metres deep, but one of the walls of the hole has been tunneled through, so now the water from the coast comes through. To look at Tasman’s Arch, it looks like two cliff faces that have been bridged by rock, under which the water flows in an out. A gentle walk to the left reveals more of the rugged coast line, then further around back to the right is Devil’s Kitchen, another pen of steep cliff faces with rock shelves and a water course running to and from the caves.
The final stop of the day was Waterfall Bay, within the national park. Magnificent sandstone cliffs that form an alcove where the clearest of sea water laps above the sandy bottom. After rain, waterfalls cascade from the top of the cliffs over the rocky cliff faces into the sea. I could listen to the sound of the water from this place for hours as it rushes over the rock shelves and against the cliff faces, pounding the side of these mountain faces that were there long before anyone inhabited this land, and will long after we’ve all trodden here. Not a day passes on this island where the beauty and fragility of life is not apparent, and how lucky we are to have it to enjoy.