Tasmania Day 3: Ben Lomond

Low Head

Waking up in Beechworth felt like waking up in a small coastal village in the Scottish Highlands: the weather and landscape fitted almost perfectly. We headed back – this time along the main road instead of hammering along a dirt track again – to Georgetown for food, a look around, and to stage a photo. Georgetown was settled by the British to fend off the French from staking a claim on the north coast so it seemed almost a crime – as a British guy travelling with a French guy – not to pay homage to the history of the town. In the end, we went to the supermarket and got distracted by ‘Aussie burgers’ (they’re cut in the shape of Australia; we were a bit disappointed they didn’t chuck in a lump of mince off the south coast to represent Tassie) and forgot all about the photo. We did fit in a look at the light-house at Low Head, and found it odd that the number of performers on the street (I almost forgot, there was a festival on in town) embarrassingly outnumbered the visitors.

A fleeting moment

Back in free-shower-locating-mode, we headed towards Lilydale, stopping on the way at Hollybank Forest Reserve to eat our Aussie burgers, play some shithead, and drink some bubbly with a rather nice local who passed through while we were there. The showers at Lilydale weren’t free, and there was a wedding being held, so we looked a little out of place. We checked out the Lilydale falls but, in the dry season, they weren’t up to much, then headed on to an area of the island with a special interest to me. In the north-east of Tasmania there is a hill of the same height and name as Ben Nevis in Scotland so naturally I thought it would be cool to climb it, especially since I’ve never conquered the Scottish peak. Driving out of Launceston into Ben Lomond National Park, the scenery started to gain height and turn more like that of the drive towards Aviemore from Dufftown and the dull day had cleared up into something that lit up the landscape brilliantly. We had the not so helpful combination of a map that marked the peak of Ben Nevis, but not the roads around it, and Google Maps on my phone, which marked tracks way beyond the capability of our vehicle but didn’t say exactly where Ben Nevis was, so we never did find the peak, but my gps was playing that afternoon so when I checked the log later it showed we were circling the right hill.

Ben Lomond

After another few hours of driving some fun forest tracks in the middle of nowhere and never quite knowing where we were, we hit the out fringe of civilisation at the Mathinna campground. By this time the sun was setting and we were past the point of caring about getting a shower today, and were more glad that we knew where we were again. For being so far from anything, we were amazed to find possibly the most organised 21st birthday weekend ever cranking up: about 20 people had turned up with maybe a dozen cars, a few trail bikes, a generator, floodlights, a massive tarp hung from a few trees, full size cooking stoves, and a chain-saw create the fuel for the respectable bonfire that sucked everyone in as the temperature dropped. We didn’t expect to meet many people in Tassie, least not out here, so it was nice to kick back with a few beers for an evening under the stars with a few locals.

Tasmania Day 2: Tamar Valley

Mt Roland

Waking up to the sun shining the tent and warming up the stunning landscape, that we’d not fully appreciated in the fading light of the drive in, was awesome, made only better by how similar to Scotland it was. Trying to keep planning minimal we settled on a rough clockwise circle of the island and started it by heading east from the campground, past Sheffield – with the view of Mt Roland dominating the view to the south for a while – and through the rolling cropland that led to the West Tamar valley. As soon as I started running my GPS logger off the car’s power inverter, it started playing up so, annoyingly, I don’t have a good record of exactly where we drove on the island and, more annoyingly, I’ve got to try to remember where I took most of the 1300 photos I have from the state. Based on that, I think we hit the Tamar valley at Exeter then headed up the coast to Green’s Beach.

Green's Beach

Still high from our day of body-boarding at Torquay we had to try out the Tassie waters, which turned out be not nearly as cold as expected. There was no surf, but it was still a nice spot to chill out in and wade out in the waters that only reached head-height a few hundred metres away from the shore. Tassie was defined by a few recurring experiences, starting with washing in public places for want of anywhere better. Green’s Beach has a beach shower across the main street from the shop, so we brushed shame aside, got out the shower cream and lathered up, and damn it felt good to be clean, if not slightly cold for a minutes.

Batman Bridge

Doubling back down the valley coast and across the Batman bridge, we hit Georgetown – the 3rd oldest settlement in Australia – but it was a bit short on free camping and an abundance of locals who liked to stare at people who weren’t from around these parts so we moved along and checked out a beach on the north coast a few km away. That didn’t work but, after what almost turned into an hour of bush-bashing on unmarked tracks in the hope of an ok wild-camping spot, we ended up in Beechford, a quaint village which, for being tucked away at the end of a coastal road, surprised us with a fairly decent camping area sheltered by the dunes. We got a decent bonfire going to keep us warm in the cold, damp wind for a while before the weather got the better of the fire, and us.