Ben Lomond National Park

About 60km from Launceston is Ben Lomond National Park and we decided we would walk to the top or rather we started to.



Which walk? 

It is a pity that Tasmania National Parks don’t offer any board or paper map for one to know where the tracks are let alone any information re accessibility, gradients etc. We found a sign post at Cara Villa that indicated 2 walks. including a summit walk that was labelled as 1½ hours – so with us walking slower, we thought we’d take maybe 2 hours. OK we had a backpack with water, lunch and some fruit so off we went, even if it took an hour longer - that was OK too!

Rocky tracks

I found it OK to walk the very rocky track and Rob did too, which is why we took it slow and easy. The path is a gravelly, loose rocky walk about 90% of the track having loose rocks no smaller than a man’s fist and obviously it is nearly all uphill. It would be very rough on your ankles and knees.

Typical of most of the track

Rock wallaby mini drama

Rob spotted the tail of a rock wallaby next to the path and since the wallaby was staying still and ‘playing dead’ I tried to go off the track and around the bush to get a better photo shot, but I slipped on the loose rocks and skinned my left shin and bruised my left buttock. I am lucky I didn’t do anything worst. Boy o boy, did I regret my impulsive actions for about 24 hours – I was so, so sore! Still, I wasn’t going to let that stop me.

Believe me it felt worst than it looked but I am so grateful I didn't break any bones!

Click on the photo to see the tail that was the beginning of my downfall literally!

Are we there yet?

We stopped a few times on the way up for a short breather and for our packed lunch. We came to a trickling spring that is more like a run off but we were able to replenish our water bottles with cold water. Still we climbed. After about 2 and half hours we started questioning how much further. So maybe another 15 minutes we reached a plateau and could see that the track is winding away to here and there and worked out that we were probably a bit more than half way up the mountain. Rob was very concerned that his leg would give out especially as we still had to walk all the way back. After some consideration we thought it wise to stay together and started to descend rather than continue on. I also decided to measure the distance we had traveled and I believe we had gone a bit over 2 km each way, which considering the steepness and difficulty of the terrain, I think was very good for us!


Beautiful flowers

On the way up (and back obviously) we saw some beautiful flora. We were very taken with the red flowers, I am not sure if they are a mini waratah or a grevillea, maybe someone with more botanical knowledge can inform us.

Is it a mini waratah or a grevillea? The whole bush is the image above.

We also saw many other flowers.



The vista

We had a clear walk up the mountains but the vista was a bit hazy. Still the vista is amazing of the craggy mountains and the valley laid out below.

Part of the craggy mountain sides

Alpine Village without the snow!

The drive up Jacob’s Ladder

When we finally made it back to the car, we decided to drive up the other road which apparently lead to the alpine village.

The zig zag road up is called Jacob’s Ladder and it is quite mind blowing. It would be terribly scary in icy or snowy conditions. I also wouldn't take a motorhome or caravan up there. However in a car it is certainly a trip worth making as the view from the top is just stupendous!



Was it worth it?

It is definitely worth the trip and even the walk. The walk from Cara Villa is good for fit people but make sure you allow more time. I think the 90 minutes is well underestimated even for one way. There is a much shorter though maybe steeper walk from the alpine village but we didn’t walk it. We’d had enough!

City Park & the monkeys

City Park is right in the centre of the city and it is an absolute delight. The monkeys are probably the biggest draw card, but I do suggest you spend time looking at the rest of the park itself as it is also fabulous.

Monkeys

There are 20 Japanese Macaques (monkeys) in an open exhibit/cage where the monkeys live and play. They were so delightful to watch. There were a baby and a couple of young “kids” there as well as one or two that I assume are older “grandparents”.

Japanese Macaque monkey mother and baby
It is wonderful to see the interactions between them all. I enjoyed watching how some check the fur for ‘bugs’ of some sort and when they find one they pick it out and eat it. (yech)

Japanese Macaque monkeys
One of the young ones chew on the ropes, another one is trying to work out how to undo the knots that hold the rope ladder that stretches across an area sort of horizontally. One runs out on this big limb and bounces it like a spring board above a swimming pool (only there is no pool under that part of the limb). It is just pure fun to watch them.

Japanese Macaque monkey enclosure

Eventually we drag ourselves away to walk amongst the rest of the gardens. There are so many seats available to sit and watch the world go by or to admire the beautiful grounds. It would be a marvellous place to have a family picnic too!

Sitting back and admiring City Park

John Hart Conservatory

This leads us soon to the John Hart Conservatory where not only it is a mass of green tropical plants of all shape and size but there is a huge collection in the centre of magnificently flowering orchids. I later see that the massive hanging baskets way above our heads are also full of flowering orchids.

John Hart Conservatory

Motorhome & car stuff

There is always something that needs doing... well it seems like it.
Rob goes off to get a electronic key cut for a spare car key and I stay behind to work on our blog a bit and to clean the floor of the motorhome. It still hadn’t been cleaned properly of the wood glue when the floor boards went down. So today was a good day to get stuck into this. I was pleasantly surprised how easy it came off with just turps and just a touch of a little elbow grease. Now my floors look nice.
It is good to have another job out of the way.

Launceston Christmas Parade

We found out the night before the event that Launceston has a Christmas Street Parade. So we set off early to get a spot. As it turns out we found ourselves parked right in one of the streets that the parade is going through. We actually got there just before they closed the street. It was right near the corner and so we were able to get a great view and even work out what we wanted to photograph and such before they actually got in front of us. I even sat inside the car so that I had an unobstructed view and a perfect spot for photos.

Our corner spot - that's our car and you can just make me out in the front seat with a camera!

I love to hear the marching bands, listen and sing along with the carolers, and watch the various community groups in action.

Scottish Drummers

I took great delight in seeing that the real meaning of Christmas was apparent in quite a few floats.

God's Christmas Present to us

I was fascinated by the Aviation Rescue vehicle esp since our eldest son is a pilot! I had never seen one before. It is nice to know there are specialists available at some airports at least!

Aviation rescue vehicle

Motorhome modification

In the afternoon, Rob did another little modification to the motorhome. This time he added 2 door stops to the lounge slide out. It was not for stopping the slide out from sliding in or out but rather to stop some creaking noise that occurs when we are driving the motorhome.

Adding a lock on the lounge slideout

Crafting


I spent the wonderful afternoon making a doily swag that I thought our newly engaged daughter would like at her engagement party. However if it doesn’t fit with her theme then that was OK as I enjoyed making it and I can add it to my shop which I intend to resurrect when we stop traveling. I might even make some more!

Michelle making doily swags

Cataract Gorge

Cataract Gorge is a beautiful parcel of natural wilderness, just minutes from Launceston City, in fact you can even walk it if you are so inclined since it is only 1.5km from the centre.

Chairlift over the gorge


Cataract Gorge is a river gorge and there is the world's longest single span chairlifts, walking tracks, and a swimming pool as well in the reserve.

Looking north west back over the suspension bridge
It is also wheel chair friendly with a lift down to the various levels and very good bitumen tracks. There is a restaurant, kiosk, cafe and beautifully maintained gardens. Peacocks wander around and are more than willing to share your lunch though of course you are not supposed to feed them.

It was a glorious sunny day and we took a picnic lunch went down the lift to the bottom level where we found a table and soon enjoyed the approach of a peacock trying to wheedle some lunch from us. He gave us a magnificent display of his feathers, though by the time we got the camera out, he  had tucked his feathers away!

Peacock is almost begging Rob for some of his sandwich
 
We missed capturing the full feathered display

After wards we decided to walk over the suspension bridge and around to the other side, up to the cafe on the other side and down to the waters and back again. It is a very easy walk and I believe it is wheelchair friendly too!
Walkway on the eastern side of the gorge.

Camping in the middle of Launceston

We camped on Old Macs Farm  (not Old McDonald's as per the song) which is a beautiful 50 acre farm and fishery with lots of small lakes and plenty of flat grassy room for parking your rigs no matter what size with plenty of sun for solar charging. You do need to be self sufficient as there is no toilet close by (300m up a steep hill) and no electricity. It is a great place for RVs of every sort but it is NOT meant for tents and campers. It is not quite free camping as there is a small fee of $10 per night per rig no matter what size family you have and fresh water is available in several locations (in Dec 2014). It is more like a farm stay rather than a caravan park. It is closed for winter though (something like June – October) so call to check availability!

Old Macs Farm camped next to the lake

Centrally located


It is very convenient as it is just 3 km into the centre of Launceston. It is not exactly a quiet place if you just wanted to sit back and veg as it is a working farm and Ian is always doing something, like running the pumps (transferring water from one dam to another), mowing the lawns, whipper snipping, etc.

Plenty of room

Bird life


There is the constant chatter and songs from the many birds that water attracts which can be lovely or noisy depending upon your disposition. We saw black swans with 7 cygnets as well as a myriad other birds.

Looking down onto the farm from a higher vantage on the property

Other activities on site


Not only can you walk around the wetlands and see ducks and swans etc, there are also some alpacas (or are they llamas?) which you can feed on the property. You can hire a canoe and paddle on one of the dams. You can go fishing in a dam (you must get permission & pay). There’s a communal fire pit in a couple of places with Ian supplying the wood. There are also many picnic tables and shelters scattered around the top area.

Curious animals


There’s also a very popular public restaurant on site which does Italian nights on Fridays and offers a great $10 value campers breakfast. We didn’t partake of either at this point.

This would truly have to be the best value RV rest stop in Tassie if not all of Australia.

We’ve arrived in Tasmania

We’ve arrived in Tassie. Shortly before we arrived in Tasmania we found out that our dear friends were spending a couple of months assisting one of their friends at Penguin and so we knew we wanted to catch up with them whilst we were in the area. We spent many lovely hours with them in Devonport and at Penguin which is where they were working.

One of the many signs that greet us on arrival in Devonport

Free camping at Cooee Point

We decided to free camp at Cooee Point in Bernie which is a town on the top coast just about an hour from Devonport. We will spend the weekend here with new travelling friends Frank and Jennifer that we met just prior to getting on the ship.

The view from our motorhome at Cooee Point

We were fascinated with this yellow moss covering many of the rocks in Cooee Point

Above is the view east from our motorhome with its calm waters and moss covered rocks. It is a relatively cool overcast day

Penguin

Spent the morning at the Reformed Church at Penguin where a friend of ours was preaching.


Reformed Church at Penguin overlooking the sea

After church we were off to the Penguin Markets which is a permanent market a little like Paddy's Market only less imported stuff and more antiques and hand crafts... just perfect. We scored with a huge box of war comics at a bargain price - these are almost impossible to buy now days!

Just one of the many stalls at Penguin Markets - these are all hand knitted dolls


Penguin is so pretty with so many flower gardens everywhere even the roadsides are covered in flowers let alone the beautiful coast line.

Even the roadsides are full of glorious flowers in Penguin

Pretty coastline

We took a leisurely drive back to Cooee Point. The coastline is so pretty and flowers abound everywhere especially prominent are the roses in private gardens right now. I am also surprised how very little surf there is all along our drive. I would have thought that the mainland is far enough away that it wouldn’t affect the surf.

Sulphur Creek

Bernie Makers

At the Bernie Information centre there is much more than just the info desk with walls full of brochures and tourist merchandise. The centre also houses the Bernie (Paper) Makers. They have regular tours several times a day showing you how they make handmade paper along with giving the participants a turn at making a paper.

Rob was fascinated with the handmade fold flat chairs in the art gallery

Rob is trying to get the point across with one of the paper sculptures

They also have the most amazing almost life size 3D paper sculptures of people. There is also a small art gallery and sometimes if you are lucky you can get to see some of the artists in action carving or making their craft.

Love Nurtures

Handmade woven baskets

Perth

We have finally arrived at our first volunteer post. Here we are 'camping' at MMM headquarters in Perth, Tasmania where we met our wonderful hosts are Rod and Lynn.

Camping at MMM 'headquarters' in Perth

Mobile Mission Maintenance

MMM is an interdenominational volunteer based ministry where by building, renovating and maintaining facilities used in Christian outreach we are supporting churches through the country. We have volunteered on previous trips and we expected that Rob will be assisting in the building of a hall in Launceston for a Baptist Church. I took some time out to make a personalized wine glass charm so that I can tell which is MY glass for future happy hours!

Wine glass charm

Michelle's wine glass

Sometimes, things don’t always go according to plans and desires and we have rolled up at such a time when we really aren’t of much help at this stage of the building project. So, that's OK. We would go and do some sightseeing and come back in a few weeks time and see what and where the project is at then - only we are getting rather close to Christmas by then. Oh well let's see what happens then!

Rob, Richard and Julie - volunteers on a previous job
Off we go to our next stop!

A trip on the Spirit of Tasmania

We arrived early in Port Melbourne and found the wharf very easily coming in from Ballarat. We parked nearby at no cost and adjacent to a parkland along the water’s edge. We had a late lunch before going to a walk to the ship and check out the actual road in for boarding etc.


The simple directions from Ballarat

Hop onto the M8 from Ballarat
Then onto the M1
Turn off (left) at Todd Street – that goes around and under the highway. You’ll see a sign for the ship to go left, we went straight ahead to the end of the road where it turns left and you are
On Boulevard where we parked the motorhome.
BTW We left Ballarat at 11.45am and parked at 1.45pm. Plenty of time for lunch and a familiarisation walk along the walk and the road we’d end up taking to get to the ship before the gates open at 4.30. We didn’t start the motorhome to join the queue until about 5.15pm.


Around the Port

There are some nice little cafes near the wharf and in the opposite direction to where we parked there is a shopping mall judging by the signs. Since I am deaf and will be driving the car myself whilst Rob is driving the motorhome, I went up to the gate house and specifically asked what happens so that there was no confusion since I imagine with that with the noise of all the vehicles and the number of people getting on, that I could have difficulties hearing instructions enroute. As it turns out, everything runs very smoothly and efficiently as far a knowing where to go and when. The only time I needed to listen was when 2 custom inspections occurred. Once I explained that I was deaf and that I needed to lip read they were patient with me and made sure I could see their faces. (I can hear but I didn’t want to have ANY misunderstandings!)

Embarkation

Loading starts at 4.30 and outside gates close at 6pm. It all went quite well for the first 20 minutes and then the wait really started. I managed to stay right behind Rob nearly all the way, basically until just before we got onto the ship, then we split to go to different locations. We were even on different decks by the time we parked our vehicles. All in all it took 90 minutes me for to get from the gate to my parking spot on the ship. It took Rob another 20 minutes. BTW don’t think that you can come in late and be the first off. That’s not the case at all – it is almost last in - last off!


Find your spot

Once on board, find your seat or cabin. There are plenty of tv’s scattered through the ship. Most of the socializing occurs on levels 7 and 8 as are most of the cabins. The restaurants, bars and the movie theatre are on level 7 the reclining chairs are on 8.

The cabin

We had booked an overnight trip and decided that a decent night’s sleep would be worth the investment of a cabin room.

The room is basic but adequate. We had a four berth cabin to ourselves and so I folded the top bunks up against the wall. We did have a private ensuite with shower and toilet, including towel, soap and floor mat. There is a small hanging space with coat hangers near the door.

I would have liked the addition of a chair to lounge in private but it wasn’t hard at all to read on the bed though there was no bed light only the room lights.


The actual trip

We had booked an overnight trip and decided that a decent night’s sleep would be worth the investment of a cabin room.

We had a very pleasant voyage and we were fortunate as it was a very gentle swell the whole way. We met up with the people we met whilst parked at Port Melbourne and socialized with them for an hour or so. Then Rob watched the end of a kid’s movie and the beginning of the next movie which he didn’t like so eventually he gave up. None of the movies or televisions were captioned and so that leaves me out. Instead I grabbed a book and spent some time relaxing in our cabin.

Disembarkation

Disembarkation is slightly quicker with another customs check. You will have a hold up if you have used fishing gear within 2 weeks. Don’t forget to pick up your gas containers etc.


Joining up again.

We met up at just near the exit gates in Devonport. We decided to stay separate for now and wait to see just what we were going to be doing as we were trying to get in touch with friends who were staying in Devonport for a while and they were not responding to our phone calls at that time. We found Maccas and decided to have a cuppa as made phone calls to decide when and where we were going.