Thursday 21st November
Our last full day in Hobart, so of course the discussion over our morning cuppa in the room was what we should do to make the most of it!
Somewhere or another, I haven’t a clue where, we had seen an advert for the ‘Shot Tower’ which had views all up and down the Derwent River and it happened to be on the way to the other place we’d decided on. And no I won’t ruin the surprise by telling you where that’s going to be; you’re lucky I’ve pre-advertised the Shot Tower.
We decided ‘who needs breakfast’ and set off, even though it was still peak hour. We had to laugh, the traffic was so light! Ms America guided us south along… you know don’t you… Davey Street. But fairly soon she told us to turn left through Battery Point and Sandy Bay and then we saw the round, tower-like building of the Wrest Point Casino. This is the first time we have not taken a look at the local casino, but it was more than walking distance out of the city and we just hadn’t got there. We never gamble and only ever look at the luxury anyway so it was no loss.
This car journey in particular had the craziest assemblage of speed limits. We were constantly changing between 70, 50, 60, 40 for roadworks, 60, 40 for a school zone, 70. I don’t think we went more than half a ‘k’ without a change! Needless to say the road workers weren’t working, they were pretty much just standing around looking at the rain falling. Turkeys drown if they do that! And it’s not as if rain is a rarity in Tasmania. But heck they have to have some reason not to do their job and get the road back to normal speed limits – and oh boy do have a story for you later on that topic!!!
So, 30 minutes after leaving the hotel, we finally found the Shot Tower much further along than we’d expected. We’d gone through Taroona, its reported location, a few kilometres back and had been on the verge of turning around to have another look there. But a tall tower is fairly hard to miss, even in this hilly place, so we were glad we hadn’t given up just yet. We pulled into the little car park in front of this pretty little house and the tower was on our left. There’s our little silver car.
The sign outside the tower advertised Devonshire Teas and we thought that we would enjoy this as a slightly late breakfast. David spoke to the man and he led us from the tower shop’s door down some wooden steps into a basement which was all done out with old fashioned tables and chairs and had a welcoming log fire roaring in the hearth. The day really was dull, wet and chilly!
The man’s wife came out of the kitchen and had her arm in a sling, but we got chatting and Lyn said that Peter did all the cooking anyway. I think her arm just meant that he would have to do the tea and coffee as well. We had the most lovely talk together and they were a gorgeous couple, but soon Peter suggested we sit near the fire as the scones were nearly warm.
Just at this moment Lyn called from the stairs “Oh no, there’s a kookaburra in here again!” and it was flying at the window half way down the stairs trying to get out. David raced up the stairs and managed to gently grab the bird and then take it outside. I would have loved a photo of a kookaburra up close like that but would not make it suffer longer for my sake. I was just glad David had caught it so easily and could let it go back to its babies (as Lyn and Peter told us) as soon as possible and without frightening it more.
The Devonshire Tea was so incredibly homely (and I mean that in an ‘it was amazing’ way). I was given a pot of tea with a hand-made tea cosy on it; the jam was plentiful and home-made, as well as the truly yummy scones. David had coffee. We were told that if we wanted more jam or cream to just yell. It was one of those peaceful moments in life where you actually don’t want to leave and break the magic.
Eventually another couple came down as well and we chatted a little to them and recommended the Devonshire Tea but they weren’t to be persuaded. We soon left them to it and went back up the stairs to the shop on the entry-level floor and bought a few trinkets as well as paying our entry fee for the tower. And then I asked the question “Ummm, what actually *is* a shot tower?” Well I mean, who’s to know? Lyn explained it all patiently, which I will relay in a moment, and told us to be sure to count the stairs as we climbed.
We had to go through a wooden doorway into a tiny room with some historical pictures and Lyn had set a little video going for us that told us a bit about the tower, after which we went through another wooden door into the tower itself. There had been cobwebs in the anti-room, but there were more here. They all looked dry and empty, fear not arachnophobes.
What we saw, in the dim light, was a round, and apparently never-ending staircase heading upwards. Surprisingly, even looking down the centre there was quite a drop – more than just down to the café level below. Looking upwards, the hole in the centre got too small to see and you couldn’t see light at the top. We began our climb. And I counted – David couldn’t be bothered.
The tower is apparently 58 metres tall but it was an incredibly easy climb. The wooden stairs creaked and it seems some of them are original from 1870 – not news I wanted to know! Each stair was not very high above the previous one so I guess that contributed to the ease of the climb but, as you can imagine, the step was very narrow on the right and a bit wider on the left. I stuck to the left and the handrail was my best friend.
About a third of the way up I began to wonder what would happen if one of the old stairs broke. Would the set below stop my fall or, because I was arriving with force, would it give way too? My knees began to feel rather like jelly, but I continued following David’s cute little butt further and further upwards – not that I had much time to admire that view, I was too busy watching the steps! I tried to concentrate on counting them instead of thinking.
There were occasional slit windows, open to the wind and slight rain, where we could see that the weather was still miserable and grey outside. Upwards, upwards, creak, groan, creak, and jelly-for-knees.
Now, to entertain you while we climb, a Shot Tower was used to make buck shot for guns and the method was this. Some poor sap had to collect a bucket of lead from a pile that was presumably delivered to them ‘in the car park’ and then climb all those stairs to deliver it to the top. When he got there it would be heated until it was molten and poured through sieves according to what size shot they wished to produce. The sieves were held over the massive drop down the centre of the stairs. As each pellet fell it would cool enough on the way down that when it finally hit the bottom and landed in a vat of water it would hold its shape. So, all day long, one guy got to climb stairs with quite literally a lead weight on his back and the other got to stay up top, boiling half to death in the summer I should think, and make shot. I’m guessing wildly, ha ha, that fuel also had to be carried up. I’ll never moan about my job again!
And we climbed even more and thought it would never end, but of course we finally got there. And what was at the top?
Metal ‘flooring’ – I use the term loosely, and this ‘pot’. I actually laughed. We’d climbed all that way to see this pot!!! And one of those ‘safety required’ green signs that said ‘Exit’ and showed a man running towards the stairs ROFL
Looking around, there were also 2 wide slits in the brickwork where you could step out onto more of this same metal flooring and it had a railing around it so that, if you wished, you could admire the view. This narrow balcony went the entire way around the tower. Eeekkk!
I was fairly happy to stand *on* the window/door threshold but to think of stepping out onto that flooring with nothing but air for 58 metres below me? It was drizzling – that was it – I couldn’t go out there because it was raining, uh huh!
But inch by inch I did get just a little braver and managed one foot on the threshold and one on the balcony and I even managed to hold my camera out, with the neck strap firmly on, and take a photo straight down over the edge. My knees remained at the same jelly rating as they had been up the stairs so I was really quite proud of myself.
Yes, those ants near the white arrow on the road are people, and you can see the corner of the tiny house top left. Oh man!!!
David says it did actually take him quite a while to feel confident to walk out there. I tried to pretend that wasn’t happening because knowing he was trusting his life to that thin layer of tin foil turned my stomach to jelly as well.
The view was grey, wet and very limited, though for a brief glimpse we could see the wide channel of water leading back towards Hobart. But even just sticking your head out was enough to get too wet and with no view either there wasn’t a lot of point staying so, after a final look around just to be sure we hadn’t missed anything exciting in the tiny, round room, it was time to go back down again.
By half way I was feeling a lot better, though I was shocked at how long it took for my knees to feel brave under me again!
When we got back into the little shop, whose roof you can see in the photo above, Lyn asked us how many stairs. I replied 262 and she said “Close!” and gave us both a little Badge of Achievement which was fun – we felt like kids at school who’d won a running race.
We wandered around the gardens for a while holding umbrellas above our heads. There was a really steep path going down, presumably all the way to the river, which we would have taken if the weather was fine. Never mind – nobody can say we weren’t warned! I took a few flower photos until David dragged me away because, in this rare case, we have these at home and I didn’t ‘need’ to be shooting them 🙂
Obviously there was nothing more to do than get back in the car and head off for our long, 94 km, journey. We slowly climbed up into mountainous country and the rain continued. We think there was also low cloud. Well that was our guess on what this poor visibility was all about. Those experienced in such conditions might let me know?
Finally we came over the mountains and got down low enough to be following along the side of a river. We went through a few small towns, dropping our speed to 70 or 80 kph, which will tell an Aussie that they were tiny because anything with a population more than you could count on 2 hands drops to 60, or more likely 50!
Huonville was a surprisingly large town though, and Geeveston too and it was after Geeveston that we left the river side and went overland until we got to Dover. Some of the houses along the river’s edge were so incredibly ‘rustic’ with gardens full of gorgeous, picture-perfect flowers, I was so in love! And there were really old country churches too – some of which had been converted into homes. I would so love that! But we drove onwards and the weather did actually start to improve a little.
The road went on forever. I don’t know why this journey seemed so long, and I checked with David that he was OK and whether he needed a driver change. He finally got me to consult Ms America because we were sure we must have passed our turning, but no, we still had 4kms to go. Well that was encouraging at least.
At last the turn-off came into view. Had we not taken it there was only 1 more town on the map before you got to the Tasmanian wilderness. One small track could have led onwards for another hour but after that it’s a 4-day trek on foot, if I remember correctly what the brochure said.
We had arrived! David pulled into the crunchy-stone-floored car park and we were glad to get out and stretch our legs. This time our ‘National Parks Pass’ was not going to help us because there was a fee for the tour, and no escaping it. We’d taken far longer to get here than we’d expected and hadn’t even stopped along the way. It was just after 1pm, quite a shock!
The building had signs saying that we ‘must stop here before proceeding’, which is polite code for ‘we want your money’. We went into the building to ask about, and pay for, the next tour and then had enough time to wait that we could have a bit of lunch. The menu really made me laugh. Are you ready?
Cheese and tomato toasted sandwich
Cheese and ham toasted sandwich
Cheese, ham and tomato toasted sandwich
Cheese toasted sandwich
I still think that’s absolutely hilarious!!!
However, the Rangers who were serving were having a ball and were sooooo friendly! David’s coffee took ages to arrive and when he motioned at them, with a cheeky grin, ‘where’s my drink’ they were laughing and blaming each other and then delivered it saying they’d sent the bravest of them to deliver it in case he was abusive. Why isn’t all service like that?
Chatting to one of the rangers it turned out that she has a son who lives 2 suburbs north of us in Perth. It really is a small world.
We had just the right amount of time to eat our high class lunch before we had to get in the car and drive further up the road. It was only a short distance but it was rather bumpy with big, water-filled pot holes and tall trees and ferns all around us. Suddenly it was bitumen and then, just as suddenly it was mud and wet bumps again. Then the road just ran out. We’d arrived properly this time.
If the road doesn’t look very bumpy, it was actually quite corrugated, check out how blurred that photo is lol
We stood and waited for the ranger to arrive and it was one of the gorgeous ladies from the building, hooray!!! Just a short walk along a boardwalk through more trees and we were at… oh gosh, I feel really silly for doing a big build up now, it’s not that thrilling… Hastings Caves and Thermal Springs, ta daaaa! (Yes, I’m ashamed.)
We were a large group, not least because one party had set off from the ‘restaurant’ (lol) for the last trip and just never turned up. The ranger had had to give up and do the tour without them, but these people had now waited an hour to come around with us. Bother – don’t you hate crowds? Actually they were lovely people and we got chatting to them quite a bit.
Our ranger was Carolyn, and I think that’s not quite right, she said her name very carefully so I think it may have been a bit different, but neither of us could quite hear. She opened the gate to the cave entrance and turned on the lights.
The stalactites started straight away, right at the entrance, though you could see where they’d been sheared off, all at the same level, to allow people to walk through underneath them – what a shame!
There’s a whole heap of facts and figures that I could (mis)quote at you but suffice to say that the cave complex was really extensive and impressive. We’ve been to quite a few caves in Western Australia but I’m sure this was much bigger. Apparently these are famous because they are not limestone, as all the WA ones are to the best of my knowledge, but these are dolomite rock. We had been warned that we were in for 500 steps but I’m really thinking that was 250 down and the same 250 up, there was nothing difficult about the climb. If you’d have asked me at the end I’d have guessed 100 in each direction tops!
When we got nearer to the entrance someone, who I know well and had driven me there, asked how dark it would be without the lights. Carolyn obliged by turning them all off once she’d made sure everyone was standing still and knew it was about to happen. Wow! It was incredible how quickly it began to feel frightening. That’s completely the wrong word but I don’t know which word to use instead – oppressive? Something to do with hardly knowing which way was up and not daring to move my feet. How much of that is driven by my balance issues because of my damaged ear I don’t know – maybe everyone felt similarly.
Carolyn also passed around a piece of stalactite so that we could feel how incredibly dense and heavy they are, but warned of big fines and prison time for anyone caught removing a piece from any cave anywhere in Australia. Yet they’d chopped off the ones near the entrance and must surely be interfering with Nature’s course with all the walkways and steps in the cave.
I’m really happy with this shot (below). The lighting was of course very, very difficult in the caves because of the vast distances and the fact that a flash can only travel effectively about 6 feet. We also weren’t allowed to take camera tripods in, which I guess I can understand – so we didn’t trip anyone or bash the stalagtites/mites around. But no tripod meant no long shutter speeds to let extra light in, so yeah, very happy with this.
So after all that secrecy and build-up, that was about it really. Sorry tee hee! Well for the caves anyway – obviously there is more of the day yet to come.
Oh gosh I nearly forgot. We hurried back to the ranger’s restaurant (that’s not what it was called) because time was running out until they shut and we had not seen the hot springs! We got special permission, with 10 minutes to go before they shut, to go through. We’d taken our bathers thinking, in the original plan, that we would swim in the Springs – that’s what they showed in their brochure.
The ranger that was through near the baths (more to say on that) looked at us without much enthusiasm and warned that they close in 5 minutes. Hhmmm we’d found the grumpy one! And… were there *any* men here? These rangers were all female – every single one of them!
So, large as life on our left as we spoke to her was a below-ground swimming pool. An ordinary, everyday, blue ‘plastic’ one such as you’d find in any back garden. And there were some Asian girls swimming in it. She wasn’t going to get them out of there and dressed in 5 minutes! Ms Grumpy told us that she’d just measured the water and it was a constant 27°C. This wasn’t the Springs, was it? We felt really confused. There was a sign further over for a circuit walk of 15 minutes but we didn’t have 15 minutes, that had been made plain. Even though the lovely ranger in the building had hinted that the exit would probably remain open and we could leave ‘after hours’, those sentiments did not seem reflected by this one.
We walked a short way and there was a wooden bridge over a little brook and the sign told us to try the 2 taps there. One, apparently, produced water from the left of the brook, which was lovely and warm and the other produced water from the right, which was cold. Literally hot and cold running water, but we couldn’t go in it!
But the spring itself, visually, was just some tiny bubbles coming up from the riverbed. Disappointing to say the least, though at least it didn’t mean that we were upset at running out of time. I guess 🙁
I’d share a photo of the Spring but it’s just too embarrassing. Thank goodness our main purpose was to see the caves and not the springs! And we’d also been to the edge of civilisation, and almost as far south as you can get on land without it being Antarctica.
As we were leaving I spotted this and it made me laugh.
And I thought diesel came from underground!
And, needless to say, I found a rhododendron to photograph just before getting back in the car. This tree must have been 12 feet high and so gloriously lush and full of blooms!
As is so often the case, the homeward journey went incredibly fast. As we drove towards the gorgeous houses and gardens I determined to stop and take some photos, but we couldn’t find them! Maybe the light had changed, maybe they looked different from this direction, but there were no photos of rustic old houses and gardens to be had!
It was wetter still over the top of the mountain and visibility was even worse.
But we safely got back to the hotel without incident and, not only that, our actual parking bay was free as well. Woo hoo!
We had a nice refreshing shower and were wondering where to eat when David suggested the Hogs Breath just up the road – joined to the bottle shop he’d used earlier in the week. Well, why not? We have 2 near us at home, but each one has its own style so we donned warm jackets and umbrellas and walked the 50 metres or so to the surely unique building that contained Hogs Breath.
You’d be right in thinking I didn’t take this photo late on a rainy day but the point is more about the chimney. I don’t know what this building originated as but it was wonderfully old inside as well, yet still had the Hogs Breath signature décor.
The guy at the door told us that we seemed like a nice couple so he would give us to the ‘new girl’ and we could see how she went. We found out when we were paying that it was not her first day, as we’d thought, but she’d been there a couple of weeks!
But whatever the case we had a nice meal. We ordered garlic bread and got garlic bread with cheese – yuk from me and yum from David lol Do we have *anything* in common? I chose deep fried cheese sticks and crumbed mushrooms, both entrées as my main and David had a big steak with calamari on the side and a beer. David hardly ever eats red meat unless we go to HB. He says they cook it beautifully and it’s worth having. He drank beer and I had a mudslide that didn’t seem to have much alcohol in it – or possibly not any! He would have had another beer but nobody ever came by to ask if he wanted one.
After the meal it was still light and I made the very unpopular request to go and look at a water fountain that we’d seen the day I drove – we hadn’t had the chance before. The Man wasn’t impressed but dutifully headed with me in the general direction. Why is it always the case that when one person doesn’t want to, everything goes wrong? It took us a while and a few wrong turns to find it, though it was David that found the underpass to take us there.
It turned out to be in the centre of a very sunken garden that was actually a roundabout for cars. There were 4 underpasses for pedestrians to go through and it was a beautiful spot! Well, if it wasn’t raining it would have been.
David spent ages trying to photograph the fountain but only really getting frustrated with it all and I spent ages photographing the rose hedges – yes I know I’d asked to go see the fountain but it turned out to be really ugly.
I did love these trees though!
Just then I happened to see a sign for University Rose Garden through one of the other underpasses. It wasn’t pretty, I had to beg and plead before David would still grudgingly accompany me to them. OK it was raining. OK the wind was bitterly cold, though I honestly didn’t realise that he was feeling it – he never usually does!
So we went through and I was in heaven and he was in hell, both in the same place at the same time. The wind was blowing and making it difficult to get photos that weren’t blurred and David was getting grumpier by the minute. I managed to get him to hold my umbrella for me, as well as his own over him and that did speed me up because I had 2 hands for the camera, and I promised him “Just 3 more colours!” And the reply sounded like “Hmpfph!”
But I was true to my promise and only photographed 4 more colours and then we made our way back again, during which time he moaned once too often. Actually it was the tone I objected to more than the words, so I somehow happened to be walking a couple of paces ahead of him. I glanced back from time to time to make sure he was still there but I was not interested in walking by his side and definitely not in holding his hand as we always do.
My feet were getting very wet now and the rain was quite heavy. David had perfected the process of how to hold his umbrella in the precise position so that the rain ran directly from it onto his backpack, and it was soaked.
He caught up with me when I had to slow down to cross a road and he said something back in his normal tone of voice, including that he was frozen to death. If he’d have said that sooner I probably wouldn’t have kept him out so long – my jacket was nice and warm so I hadn’t realised the cold had gone right through him. We walked the rest of the way back to the hotel, hand in hand as usual, as darkness was falling.
It was most definitely time for nice hot showers and a cuppa while we viewed our photos from the day and then crashed out. There was nothing wrong with the bed but we didn’t sleep perfectly on any night in Hobart for some reason. It wasn’t bad sleep, just not good sleep 🙂
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