The final day of my seven day tour with Under Down Under Tours dawned, with an earlier wake up than the previous day but notably warmer.
That bloody platypus remained elusive.
After an evening walk around Strachan’s foreshore to the Wilderness Railway Station where the gleaming steam engine was being cleaned up in its shed.
The engineer told me that the railway line to Queenstown had started in 1938 but now is a tourist service, running three times a week.
I’d returned to the creek in time for sunset though I suspected that the sounds of the children playing nearby would scare away any platypus. Whether that was correct or not, I still didn’t see any.
Nobody saw any this morning. I certainly didn’t here any congratulatory shouts from the hostel owner.
On the road, crossing the Henty River…
…with a brief stop to look at the ocean…
…we were travelling through silver mining country and rolling hillsides covered in gorse bush which was introduced in the early 1800s. It has spread rapidly through Tasmania and become a major problem where it has invaded farmland on the East coast and in the Midlands.
Phil told us more about the European discovery of Australia.
In 1602 Dutch East India Company established a base in Jakarta (then called Battavia). Several Dutch explorers actually landed in Australia before Cook ‘discovered’.
The first, in 1606 landed in what is now Queensland but was unimpressed by the ‘dry, unwelcoming land’ and his contact with the Aboriginal people was not friendly.
There has been speculation in recent years that the Portuguese may have arrived in Australia sooner, in the 1500s. Portugese cannon have been found on the West coast of Australia and South if Darwin.
Why weren’t they claiming the land, why was Cook able to claim it for Britain?
The Dutch were looking for commodities to trade and Australia didn’t seem to offer them.
The Portuguese may have thought they weren’t supposed to be here… the Pope had earlier granted one side of the world to the Spanish and one side to the Portuguese. It is possible the Portugese explorers thought they had encroached onto Spanish territory.
After a necessary coffee stop, in Rosebery a mining town, we were heading for Cradle Mountain, through forested land and artificial lakes that support the hydro-electric industry.
Why is it called Cradle Mountain?
Because there is a hollow that looks like it could be a cradle.
The area is a National Park and traffic access is limited to protect the delicate environment. There is a large car park at the visitors’ centre and shuttle buses take hikers into the Park.
There are a variety of trails to follow – the longest being the Overland Track, which would take eight days to complete.
I wasn’t feeling that ambitious.
I followed the Dove Lake Circuit a, boarded in parts, trail that also headed through the brilliantly named Ballroom Woods.
Quite where anyone would dance was unclear.
The Lake is around 900m above sea level and surrounded by alpine scrub with Cradle Mountain looming over one end.
There was a sharp freshness to the air, a little like a crisp Autumn morning in the UK, and refreshing as I walked.
The circuit is marked as taking 2-3 hours to complete though, walking briskly, I was having my lunch, with a view of the clear waters and mountain, at the end in half of the time.
Sheffield, not the one in Yorkshire (though named after that one), was the next stop of the day and, as if the tour hadn’t already hit all the buttons for me… Sheffield is known as Tasmania’s City of Murals.
Yes, we were off to photograph street art.
Regular readers may have twigged that this is something of a favourite pastime for me, especially if you have a look at my Instagram account (@phileasfiona).
In the 1980s, because the township was struggling, local people decided to employ artists to paint the public walls to encourage people to stop, take photos and visit. The murals continue to be updated.
It’s a beautiful town. The style of painting is more traditional than the type of street art that I usually photograph – it’s like walking through an open air gallery.
The murals represent different Tasmanian themes: history, geography, wildlife, scenes of natural beauty, the ANZACs, the legends, traditional industries and occupations.
My favourites were the ones that featured local people and local trades. These are paintings that you won’t see anywhere else. It’s very personal to this town.
I visited a Mural Village in Vietnam which took the same approach and found that art was a great way to support the local economy and local people.
The approach there was also to represent local people and occupations. For me, it’s interesting to look back and compare the Tasmanian representations with the Vietnamese murals.
After a stroll around Sheffield, it was the final stretch, heading back through the farming country that I had started the Tour in.
Last stop Launceston and I was promised a good curry. It had been over a week since the last one.