February 3, 2018
Friday morning, February 2, looked a little bleak; cloudy and mild and looking like it might rain; but we are only here for a couple of nights so it was onwards and upwards. Outside it turned out warm. And, in fact, hit 23. Plus the cloud cover probably kept us more active than if it had been full on sun. We drove to Freycinet National Park, the Banff of Tasmania. It was as the bird flies a few clicks, but 56 km by car, as we had to head north of Moulting Lagoon then south again. On our way we passed the Devil’s Corner vineyard where a lookout, constructed on shipping containers, beckoned a few view shots south across Great Oyster Bay. Once at Freycinet, we parked in the centre, then took the path to a lookout over Wineglass Bay, then the (well worn and heavily trafficked Grouse Grind-like) path down to the beach. Famous for its clear waters and white sand, it was perhaps a bit of a letdown on a cloudy day, but still the surf was impressive and some locals dared the undertow. Granite mountains rose up off the bay. We had PB & banana sandwiches which, as any hiker knows, always taste epicurean on a hike. Most tourists only go to the lookout; those that go all the way down to Wineglass beach retrace their steps and are done with it in less than two hours. But there is an alternative return, making the whole trip 11 kms (as opposed to two); we chose the longer loop back. This longer option took us across an isthmus, past the Hazards Lagoon, then to a beach on the east side of Wineglass called Hazards Beach on Promise Bay. From there you walk the beach a ways then veer upwards on the Hazards Beach Track past Fleurie Point, through the forest, and after an extended period, back to the car park. A wallaby jumped across the path at one point scaring the bejesus out of us, but apart from that it was lovely and serene if wholly taxing and despite the cloud cover very sweaty work. SS descending the steps to Hazards Beach. A huge private yacht moored at Promise Rock. There was a moment of free state WiFi at the visitor’s centre and there we learned of Kyle and Emilia’s Danish Love Fest, which was surprising and amusing but also comforting given our remoteness. On our return we drove north 20 kms; of the three local towns, Swansea, Coles Bay and Bicheno, only one has a butcher, so we headed north to Bicheno. (Or, as the locals say, butchery.) Bicheno had the feel of an authentic town with people living and working there, not just day-trippers; the beach, in the centre, was lively and looked worth a swim. The clouds had parted and the sun was shining and it was a lovely afternoon, if breezy. We kicked back for the rest of the day.
February 2, 2018
Thursday AM, February 1, we did a little green grocer shopping and, just down the street from where we were staying was a Roman making fresh pasta, so we bought one of his lasagnas, then headed out to the east coast. We drove south first, through central Tasmania, farm after farm, cattle and sheep, mainly sheep, to a place called Campbell Town, where I stopped for a coffee and a photo opp but darned if there wasn’t even a blooming agapanthus to make a decent photo. From there we veered off the main route to Hobart, instead going east to the coast. It was like we were the only car on the road. The farms gave way to eucalyptus forests. We decided to count the road kill, which again was significant, mostly wallabies, possums and, er, some unidentifiables, but at 30 we found it too depressing. I did come to a full stop, in a 100 km zone, to let a hedgehog cross, which took what seemed like an aeon, and this is really the problem; the risk of slowing or stopping on a narrow, no-shoulder, two lane 100 km/h highway versus just hitting the darn things. There were no viewpoints along the way, although the views over the trees were beautiful, and here on a siding we snapped a few shots looking down toward the coast. We landed in a sea town called Swansea around noon. Very touristy retirement village-ish, but quaint. I wandered into the local museum and got into a long and convoluted chat with a local on the historical committee who told me about the early UK settlers, convicts, whaling industry, the antique billiard table from the mid-1800s built in Melbourne that could be disassembled mortise and tenon style into 65 pieces and on which the WWI returning soldiers used to pass their time. The museum had been many things, initially the school house. I was taken by the rules of conduct for teachers lured to the colonies. Here are some rules for teachers from 1879: Make your pens carefully. Whittle nibs for children’s individual needs and preferences. After 10 hours in school, you may spend the remaining time reading The Holy Bible and other good books. Gentleman teachers may take one evening off for courting purposes and two evenings to attend church. Lady teachers whom marry, or engage in unseemly conduct, will be dismissed. In the pre-union days, teachers were also advised to put aside a goodly sum from each wage for their declining years, lest they become a burden on society. And any teacher who smokes, uses liquor in any form, frequents pool and public halls, or gets shaved in a barber shop, would be under suspicion for their worth, intention, integrity and honesty. Sounds intolerable. Not to worry, things had improved a few decades later when in 1915 lady teachers (their term, not mine) were reminded to: Not marry; not keep the company of men; be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. unless at a school function; never loiter in ice cream parlours; never ride in a carriage or automotive with a man unless he is your father or brother; not to dress in bright colours. If that wasn’t enough, a woman teacher must under no circumstances dye her hair and must wear at least two petticoats and her dresses must be shorter than two inches above the ankle. We had lunch at a bakery in Swansea then found our way to our Air BnB. The enormous swath of Tasman Sea here is the Great Oyster Bay, with Swansea on the west, Coles Bay on the east. We are semi-off-the-grid at a beach place on Nine Mile Beach, which is a spit that extends north and east from Swansea, nearly touching Coles Bay on the east side, but doesn’t, and this tiny opening creates an enormous lagoon to the north, fittingly called the Moulting Lagoon. Nine Mile Beach beach house. Great views east. A converted shipping container provides an outdoor kitchen (!). Beach view shows Swansea to the south. The elevation provides great ocean views as in this pic from the main deck. Although the surf is tame, the roar is similar to Tofino. Views of the beach. Views of the beach. Views of the beach... We walked a couple of hours on the beach. There was no one to speak of. The views were ridiculous. I waded into the water at one point expecting the bracing Southern Ocean to surprise but in fact it was mild and much warmer than a swim on Saturna. Nieghoubr's place not too shabby! There was no WiFi but there was a Smart TV with an elaborate THX sound system, so SS hooked up his iPad and we watched downloaded shows after dinner.