Burbury Lake low cost camping

Our next destination was Derwent Park, visiting Tarraleah Power Station, The Wall and Lake St Clair on the way.

'The Wall' is fabulous and was highly recommended with very good reason. I liked it so much, that I have written a separate post on the place. I didn't like the town of Derwent Bridge though nor the free camping ground is around King William Lake. I thought this area was rather ugly with all the tree trunks etc exposed all long the water's edge due to the very low water levels. Aside from that, the access to the free campground ground at this lake would scratch the hell out of our motorhome, even taking the car down the road was dicey, as it involved very sharp left turn with branches closing in on both sides and above. So no go!

King William Lake

We did pop into Lake St Clair but since we weren't going to do any of the walks here, there wasn't much to see from the Visitor's Entrance. It is possible to camp here, but the costs and all the regulations made us less inclined to pursue it, though we have heard much about it's beauty.

Lake St Clair
When we decided not to camp at King William Lake, we considered the low cost camp at the hotel but neither of us like being right next to the highway. So back to the the Camps Australia Wide Book and WikiCamps, as we look up the next free camp and then we decided to keep on driving to Burbury Lake.

Robbiebago heading down Lyell Highway on the Plain of the Mists

It was a long, twisty windy road for just about the whole of the 85 kilometres from Derwent Park, as is usual for this mountainous state. I noticed that there are a few walking tracks to which you can stop and park your vehicle and walk, especially to climb Frenchman's Cap from which you can see the Southern Ocean beyond Macquarie Harbour & the famous Gordon River.

The spectacularly white Frenchman's Cap

We cross a bridge over the Franklin River and then near the base of the ranges is a car park for Nelson Falls. We decided to stop here and stretch our legs and see the forest and the waterfalls here. It was a very short and easy walk up the track. We are now only a few kilometres from the free camp ground of Burbury Lake and about 20k from Queenstown.

Nelson Falls

The campgrounds are council run and are no great shakes, but it does offer clean flushing toilets & a hand basin though no drinking water. There is a playground for the kiddies and a boat ramp access to the lake for trout fishing. There is only one BBQ but it is free, gas and cooks really well, not the slow ones as most council run BBQs tend to be in our experience.

Nelson River

The Lake itself offers stunning views of the mountains as well as the lake. We had excellent weather but the grounds are peat which is proof enough that it can be boggy in the obviously frequent rainy days. It is quiet and we enjoyed it here but I wouldn't want to use it as a base camp to run up and down to Queenstown as the road from here to Queenstown is very steep. All in all, I thought the $10 fee per night quite acceptable.

Lake Burbury

Happy travels until the next time

Michelle & Rob

The Wall - a must see

This is a place you really must see if you are anywhere near Derwent Bridge or Lake St Clare in Tasmania. It is called simply 'The Wall' but there is nothing simple about the place or more specifically the art this one guy has created.

This place is the inspiration of a wood artist, Greg Duncan, who has the most extraordinary gift working with wood. He is able to make wood come alive in ways you just can't possibly believe.  Understandably, but sadly he has strict controls on the copyright of his art and NO PHOTOGRAPHY is allowed, in fact you have to leave your camera at the entrance when you pay the small entry fee of $12. So all I can do is photograph the image on the brochure that he has just to give you the tiniest hint of the splendour you will see.

A photo of his brochure is the closest I can get you to see what wonders are in store for you

The Wall is actually a group of panels that measure 100 metres. The panels are something around 5 metres high and depict images of the history of Tasmania. The artist reckons he will be finished within 2 years. Seeing what he has done within the past 10 years, I can't see how he can be finished within 2 years, but as one other traveller mentioned, it seems important to the artist that visitors can see the various stages of the construction and that he will most likely leave some parts in the various stages deliberately so we will still be able see this.

We were both amazed at how much detail the artist is able to achieve; even to the veins on a cow's udder, the texture of cloth, leather, animal skin etc

I can't emphasize just how amazing his artwork truly is. As amazing as "The Wall" is, I personally prefer the 3D work he has around the huge foyer. He has a coat & scarf carved from wood that just looks so real, a canvas bag that just needs refilling with water, and that leather glove... oh my gosh, I just had to touch it, it was too real to believe it was wood.

Happy travels until the next time

Michelle & Rob

Free Camping at Bethune Park

Our next stop is just outside Ouse and Hamilton since were heading towards the west coast, specifically towards Queenstown and Strahan before going north.I just love that we are not in any hurry to get around this magnificent Australian island.

The Robbiebago on the way to Ouse

Though I loved it at Mt Field National Park. No matter how much we loved it, there were many other places in Tasmania that we had yet to see and fall in love with too.

Looking over the lower level and across the lake. We're the 2nd RV from the left.

Bethune Free Camp is just over the river from Ouse, in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. You get to have some views of Lake Meadowbank from just about anywhere on this park. The marshy ground make direct access to the water impossible, however it is only a hop and skip to the river and boat ramp alongside the nearby bridge. There are two levels at the park. The top has the better views, the flushing toilets and it is much drier. The lower level has the covered picnic area, it is more protected from wind and road traffic noises, but it does have the draw back of being damper in the centre and definitely a bog hole in wet weather. It was dry and we decided to camp on the lower level for 3 nights and loved it.

Looking back to the camp from the lake

Our experiences within a place can vastly affect our appreciation of a place. If we have a bad experience, then we might not like a place so much. Well here we had a fabulous time due to the people we met here.

Looking across Lake Meadowbank

Our wonderful experience centred around the people we met here. First off was a local Tasmanian who was taking some time out with his missus and their 4 dogs. They were 'adopting' a German camper who was trialling her tent for the first time and was lacking a bit of confidence (and some equipment). Then there was a gent taking a week off from lecturing at uni by camping and fishing. One truly should never judge a book by its cover. This second gent was in ratty torn clothes, had a grey ponytail and smoked a pipe. Being rather deaf, I lip read and thus tend to notice people's teeth and I saw that this guy had some some missing front teeth. Yet as I got to know him, I was blown away by his kindly nature.  A  lesson to myself too as he is a professor! (Never, ever judge people, especially by appearances - full stop!!!) There were also other casual visitors that stopped overnight, mostly were friendly too.

Happy Hour

Happy Hours are nearly always great but they sure go from great to fabulous if someone has a guitar.  In fact we had two gents this evening that could play and sing for us.

The singing professor - 'tis a pity you can't hear his wonderful voice.

Happy travels until the next time

Michelle & Rob

Lake Pedder and Gordon Dam

We decided to leave the motorhome at the Mt Field camp grounds and drive the 80 odd kilometres to the picturesque town of Strathgordon and the nearby Gordon Dam.

The day started promising with some early sun peeking through the clouds, so we packed a picnic lunch and took off. Sadly it started to rain lightly just 15 minutes into our trip. We ummmed and aaahed and decided to bash on in anyway. If we turned back every time it rained here in Tassie, we'd hardly ever get to see anything. As it was the misty rain came intermittently and the weak sun tried to play peek a boo a few times, causing us to react in a silly made up game just between the two of us. You just have to make fun whenever you can sometimes. We had fun though I suppose anyone if they had seen us would have wondered at our sanity! (Chuckle)

Whitish Quartzite found around Lake Gordon and Lake Pedder.
The road is in good nick but it is a very twisting, windy road, going up and down a lot but always slowly ascending. Lake Pedder is the first lake you see and drive along. It is quite beautiful with lots of places where the mountain meets the lake. I later find out that there was a lake here originally but the large lake we have today is the result of damming for Hydro Electricity. Lake Gordon was also dammed for Hydro Electricity. I am not against dams in general, but it would be good to see some natural lakes and rivers that are dam free.

Actually the story of Lake Pedder is pivotal to the way the Australian people think about the environment. The original Lake Pedder was a pretty little lake, however it was mostly only accessible bushwalkers of the hardy kind, as it was deep in the wilderness without nearby roads or even tracks. The government of the time decided that Lake Pedder and its immediate surroundings would be an ideal place for the Hydro Elecricity Station. Although it went ahead, there was enough outrage that when the damming of the Franklin-Gordon Rivers was planned, there were many organised environmental protests that eventually swayed and halted the damming of the Franklin and Gordon Rivers and the surrounding wilderness. Even people on the mainland who have never visited Tasmania and the Franklin-Gordon River were aware of the protests and the way the governments of the time had to consider what the people of Australia wanted.
Lake Pedder
The forests around here are totally different to what I have seen elsewhere. There is very little grass, a lot of ferns especially tree ferns, (which add a sort of tropical air to the forests in my mind) and some very tall trees on the lower levels, but generally I think they are much smaller, thinner trees especially as you get higher up to the tree lines. I was quite fascinated to see the distinct difference of a certain height above sea level (or is it the effects of the cold/snow) has upon the tree line where only in small pockets will you see some trees or bushes above a certain line.

Heath like and almost bare of trees the higher up you go

We first stopped at the Visitor Centre in Strathgordon, which we found basically unmanned: a child of about 8-10 was sitting at the desk. There is a little information that can be gathered from the displays but no maps or information about the national park that we could take with us. I was keen to find out what makes the Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Parks unique & special enough to warrant World Heritage classification especially considering the lakes are not 'natural' and thus have altered the ecology of the area. I couldn't work it out from the displays and there was no rangers or otherwise to talk to. I did enjoy reading about some of the history and I was surprised to find that the dammed lakes combined to have a capacity equal to 27 times that of Sydney Harbour. The dam is a very skinny dam, 140m high, 192m long, the tallest dam in Tasmania and the fifth tallest in Australia. Its strength is in its shape and its double curve design, being curved side to side and top to bottom, the top overhanging the bottom by several metres. Its an arch dam, the weight of the water being transferred by dispersement to the rock walls and the dam abutments which makes it very strong and being thinner it so cheaper to build. It was dammed to create a huge fresh water reservoir that it is today.

This tree was just a 'teen' at the time of Jesus' birth

A cross cup of a Huon Log and just some of the approximate times of history

We would have loved to stop and have a warming coffee and hot chocolate with a cake or two for our morning tea at the coffee shop there but upon placing our order, we were told that they have run out of milk and they can only offer us black coffee & tea. It was still morning time and there was only one other couple in the joint. We were quite disappointed and surprised at the lack of management skills. I can only imagine how it is for the people who have paid to stay at the Chalets there if they can't even get a decent hot cuppa. I can understand that having fresh milk in a remote area might be difficult but there's no excuse when long life milk can be kept almost indefinitely.

Gordon Dam
Oh well we have our picnic lunch with us. We head off to see the Gordon Dam. The water levels are so low that the lake looks quite ugly along the water line. There was something like 20 feet of exposed timber that was cut down but just left to rot where they were cut or fallen all along the lake. The dam wall itself was much smaller or rather thinner than I had expected, yet it is very high. At the dam wall site there is no information regarding height, concrete or such which would have made it more interesting. There is nothing about the hydro electric station nor can you drive to see it. There is so much more that could be done to make it more attractive at the dam wall and encourage picnickers. Maybe I expected too much but I did not think much of the dam or the wall.

Low water levels exposes the ugliness of the trees that are 'buried' under the water

We decided to drive back to Ted's Beach, which was sign posted that we saw on the way up. Ted's Beach is also a camp ground with a covered picnic and BBQ area and good flushing toilets but there are no showers available there. The beach is a area that has been cleared of vegetation thus simulating a sandy beach type area for water side play or even swimming for the cold hardy. A boat ramp is incorporated as part of the beach. We certainly appreciated the covered picnic area that is fairly wind proof too and would have toasted our lunch had we had something that could have been heated, fried or cooked with us for the additional warmth.

Ted's Beach
If you wanted to camp in the area, I reckon you are better off camping at Wedge River Picnic Area. There is no sign saying "No Camping". The ground is level and there are toilets, a covered picnic area complete with a fire place and some wood. You can't see the lake from here  - but hey,you can't have everything! I found out later that there is at least one walking track that leads out from this picnic ground.

Wedge River Picnic Area's shelter

Just remember that though you may be lucky to have the Tasmanian sun come out, that it not only can burn your skin fiercely with the thin ozone layer up above, it can be mighty cold, so ensure you have enough layers for your activity.

Mount Field National Park

Mount Field National Park is the place of our next destination. It is relatively close to Hobart, being just 64 km northwest of Hobart.

This is our first stay after sightseeing a bit and working in Hobart. The landscape here ranges from eucalyptus temperate rainforest to cold alpine moorland, with the summit of Mount Field rising to rising to 1,434 metres (4,704ft). It includes divine waterfalls that are easy to access and freezing cold alpine lakes which also are the source of some wonderful cross country skiing in winter.

Along the road we notice all these wild blackberries and the occasional apple tree. Rob even saw a plum tree on the side of the road but there was nowhere for him to pull over safely. Further along the way we stop an grab our buckets and off we go and pick as many blackberries as we could. Of course we ate the biggest and juiciest ones there and then. All I can say is yummo. They were just sweet, juicy and oh so fresh.

Wild blackberries ripe for the picking (and eating)

Along the road to the turnoff to Mt Field, all we can see around us are these tall rows of tall plants that running up some sort of rope or cable to reach a height of something like 3to 4 metres. Further along the road I see a sign for such and such Hop Farm. Aha, now I know what these unusual farms are. I also noticed that there are strict controls and only authorised people are allowed... not just trying to keep out strangers but all people appear to need govt vetting.

Hop Fields

Finally we get to the entrance to the Mt Field National Park. There is an information centre which we will come back to later. Almost immediately there is the camp ground on the right. You just rock up, find a vacant spot and ensure that the bay you've selected has not been prebooked. You can chose between powered and unpowered sites. Then you go back to the entrance and do the self registration. There's a creek that is partly hidden by creek-side foliage. The powered sites also have water taps alongside. For non powered sites, you can access water from the amenities block which also has hot and cold water showers, flushing toilets and a separate laundry with washing machines and a dryer. $3 per cycle.

A sculpture of a Pademelon (Rufus Wallaby) at the information centre

After settling in we decided to go to the information centre and immediately behind this is a short walk to the waterfalls. I absolutely loved both falls here which are just a short 45 minute walk.

Along the walkway

The first falls, Russell Falls, is even wheel chair accessible as it is on bitumen through the rainforest and past tall trees and many fallen trees covered in mossy green feather dusters, which apparently have medicinal uses. It is a fascinating and peaceful place. Birds chirp in the backgrounds occasionally. We were fortunate to see the small shy Rufous Wallabies which can be seen easily and if you are extremely lucky like I was, you may even glimpse the elusive platypus along the edges of the shallow creek beds.

Russell Falls

Russell Falls is a 2 tiered cascading style fall and the second waterfall, Horseshoe Falls, is a totally different waterfall that is in curved format both vertically as well as the way if falls. There is a little bit of easy climbing involved to reach this fall but again it is a relatively short walk, just another 15 minutes from Russell Falls.

Horseshoe Falls

While we were walking to the waterfall we notice that there is a glow worm grotto which we had intended to visit when it’s a lot darker. However as things worked out, we were far too tired at the end of our days there to actually make the trip esp as we had seen glow worms on an earlier part of our trip around Tasmania.

A typical scene along the walk to the waterfalls not far from where I saw platypus in the creek

There are all sorts of interesting snippets of information on discreet signboards along the walks as to history, flora and fauna to be found etc. For example the tall gumtrees here are Eucalyptus regnant and they are the tallest flowering plant in the world, and it doesn’t even start flowering until it reaches 75 years of age. (The tallest known tree was back near the Tahune Air Walk at just under 100m tall.) Another interesting snippet is that there are no koalas in Tasmania, also that kookaburras are not native either but were brought over from mainland Australia to prevent their decline. However, as is often the case they caused a problem for native fish in the streams which also relied on the flies which the kookaburras ate and then the fish population declined dramatically.

A pademelon or rather the Rufous Wallaby

The wallabies also come and forage around the campsites at dusk which I found quite delightful. On one of our drives we also saw some of the larger, darker faced Bennetts Wallabies.

Bennetts Wallaby

There is no doubt about it. Mt Field National Park is one of the most beautiful national parks in Australia in our opinion and is worthy of more than a one night stay. I would come here again and again if I lived in Tasmania.

A day trip on Bruny Island

Rob and I decided to spend a day driving around Bruny Island.  We had heard so much about this island and thus we just couldn't give it a miss. The ferry runs frequently all day and no booking is required, so we just took it easy, having a leisurely breakfast before taking off to Kettering to get the ferry across. The cost is $30 regular and $25 with pensioner concession, and that includes the return ferry trip at any time that suits you until about 7pm at least.

The Ferry that takes you across to Bruny Island

We had a front row view of Bruny Island
We were still working with the MMM Safari team in Rokeby (East Hobart) but being Australia Day we all had the day off. I had half thought that it might be busy with a lot of locals as well as others making full use of the holiday, but it was rather quiet and we were right at the front of the queue. The trip across didn't take long at all and we stayed in the car mainly because of the cool breeze off the waters even though it wasn't raining at that time.

The rather dry countryside as you drive around

We drove slowly along all the roads, soaking in the scenery and the foliage of the area. This small island just off Hobart is almost 2 island with a narrow strip of land to join the north and south parts together. We stopped by Bruny Island Cheese Factory and tasted the samples they had out. They were interesting but not tempting enough for us to buy some, however we did want to come back to see the cheese making demo since they were just cleaning out the cheese-making room when we were there.

Bruny Island Cheeses
From here we went across “the neck” of the island where you can see both sides of the island at the same time. We saw a long staircase going to the top of the sand dune nearby but as it was cool weather and raining we decided to give it a miss and maybe stop on the way back if the weather improved.  Overnight visitors can get a glimpse of the Fairy Penguins as there is a rookery nearby and you get to see the penguins coming in from the sea to feed their young during the season which is generally from December to March.

Cape Bruny Island

We drove the Cape Bruny Lighthouse. As it was still raining, we didn't bother walking right up to the lighthouse itself but we did enjoy visiting the museum that is housed in the lightkeepers' residence there.

The view of House Bay from the lightkeepers' house

There are a few places where one can purchase food including a winery. However as is common for us, we took a picnic lunch and found a secluded place near Adventure Bay, when the rain had stopped for a bit even though it was still quite cool.  Actually the rain had given up though it remained overcast and cool for the rest of the day. On our way back, we decided to skip the chocolate place as we thought we try the Cheese Factory again to see the cheese making demo but sadly they don't have the demonstrations on public holidays. Oh well, we just stopped for a hot coffee and chocolate instead and enjoyed watching other patrons.

Back at the Cheese factory
The island is nice but we didn't find anything really unique about it as the flora and coastline is pretty similar in our eyes to what is around Port Arthur and such. However if you don't have enough time to get around Tasmania, then it is certainly something not to miss

Overlooking Cloudy Bay

Shells and colourful lichen of the area.

So we hopped back on the ferry at 4pm and that was our day trip to Bruny Island done and dusted.

On the way back to the motorhome we stopped by the Shot Tower which was built in 1870 for the production of lead shot for firearms. It is a sandstone chimney type tower. There is a small entry fee to walk inside.

Volunteering with MMM

We love to do some volunteer work when we travel. Volunteering is a great way to give back to a community and to connect with the local people. It also has some great benefits for you too! We have the time and energy to give at this stage of our lives. Just because we are retired doesn't mean that we are 'past our use by dates'.

Volunteering also helps us to focus on others rather than just on ourselves. Australia has always been a great country for it's huge volunteer base and I think this is something to be encouraged.

There are so many ways one can volunteer even when travelling. There are many organizations that will pair you with people or groups that will gladly make use of any time or skills you wish to share while you are on the road. You can also make your own arrangements yourself if that suits you better.

Rob installed a pack kitchen at Wirraway Youth Centre
You do not need to have specific skills, just a willing heart and hand. Maybe you can read and tell stories at the libraries or nursing homes. Maybe you can wield a paint brush or roller and put a fresh coat of paint on doors. I love gardening and often will trim and weed neglected gardens, though obviously I can do some other things such as general cleaning and I am often called in as an extra pair of hands for Rob.

Watching the cattle get mustered at Bogarella Station in Qld

Rob is a handyman who is also a qualified carpenter and as such he is very popular just about every where we go. As you can imagine there is often a shortage of tradespeople in many small communities and remote areas. In some places, the people were just worn out and needed some TLC, Rob did a lot of little maintenance jobs around the house and I 'played' with the baby and helped with the never ending washing pile. I was also able to help do those odd bits of housework that rarely ever gets attention such as washing the walls.

Camped at Bogarella Cattle Station
Depending upon the jobs in hand and where they are, we found that most of the time we stayed on site in our our caravan or motorhome and had use of their electricity and water. Toilets and showers would be a bonus.
Camped with another couple at Robxby Downs
Mostly Rob and I have worked with various Christian Organizations including MMM (Mobile Ministry Maintenance), BCA (Bush Church Aid) and Frontier Services. There are others that I know of include Blaze Aid & National Parks. I have also heard that you can contact various Shires, Councils and Aboriginal Boards such as Volunteering WA and ask if there is something you could do in their area.

Due to my health issues, we have joined only a 2 week stint with a MMM safari here in Tasmania where there were 5 couples (and a single lady) and we did a lot of building maintenance and painting jobs at the Emmanuel Christian School, in east Hobart. Most of the ladies did painting jobs, one looks after the kitchen where we had morning and afternoon teas, lunch and the occasional combined meal.

2 of the ladies having fun whilst staining the benches with MMM (in Hobart)

The men were all tradespeople and were put to good use building cupboards, concreting, fencing and what not. As I said, I am still recovering from health issues and so I took it easy. When I felt I could handle it, I did some painting, only to find even a few hours of this was too much for me, so mostly I just joined everyone for morning tea and lunch each day and took it easy.

Taking some time out to do some work on our motorhome
Everyone is encouraged to only work within their own capability. If you like to sleep in or have a day out, you can.
The MMM safari team at Emmanuel School
We didn't know any of the other people when we started and we left as good friends. They are mostly travelling together to other 'jobs' that have been lined up (that's the safari part). But Rob and I wanted to travel and see more of Tasmania. As we loved working with this team, we endeavour to join them again up north near Smithton just a few weeks before we sail back to the mainland and start heading home.