Friday 22nd November continued…
So we brought all our luggage into the cottage and had a cuppa while we settled in and then got dressed to go for a walk and explore around the place. Making sure that our new 4-legged friends were not shut in, we set off with the trusty map and our cameras in our hands.
We headed towards Cataract Gorge, which Rob had said was worth a look and we headed up the short remaining stretch of Balfour Street. ‘Up’ was the operative word as it was pretty steep, but then we turned right and were on the flat for a while. We took a few gentle turns and crossed a road and came upon a little street heading further to the left, the direction we needed. It looked on the map as if we needed to go up a zigzag pathway to the top and then we hoped to see the Gorge.
This was the steepest hill I have ever walked up in my entire life! I don’t think I’ve even been driven up anything steeper, and I’ve been to the Alps in Europe, and had gone up that other steep road in Hobart. This road consisted of a tight, short zigzag, and every time it got to a ‘zag’ there was a driveway off it to the left. These houses were built on a steeper-than-45° incline! Rather than walk the zigzag, there was a path straight up the left side and with each step we were climbing higher than we were moving forward.
We stopped about 3 times, absolutely heaving for breath, and as we did so we heard thunder in the distance. We put up our umbrellas as rain and then hail started to fall, the sky turned black and the thunder continued. Help!!!
David kept saying that the weather was not coming towards us and, with his 22 years’ experience of working outside I tried my best to trust him!
Finally we made it to the top of that hill and turned to quite literally admire our achievement. We had laughed on the way up about how many letterboxes had ‘No Junk Mail’ written on them. Who in their right mind would mountain climb up here to deliver it anyway!?!?!
But now we were stumped. We turned right but the road quickly came to an end. Did we continue up another steep hill or go forward through what now presented as a sandy path through trees? This was certainly the direction we needed for the Gorge. Because of the weather, I was all for turning around and going back by now, but David insisted that we must be nearly there.
We continued on the sandy, rocky path and then the rain miraculously stopped and we were able to put our umbrellas down. Then a runner passed us but must have seen that we were lost and asked if he could help. What a sweetheart! He assured us that if we continued we would indeed get to the Gorge – so we did. And then the sky began to clear and there was even some sun.
Pretty soon we reached a T-junction. Now we were stumped! Looking at the map we decided to head back to civilisation and turned right. The path consisted of rocks, big rocks, and huge rocks! And some stairs made of rocks too! I began to know how a 2-year old feels using stairs made to suit adults. We could just glimpse the rushing water over the top of some bushes.
A little while later a lady came by and we told her we were looking for the Gorge and, seeing the direction we were headed, said “Oh, well you’ve only just missed it!” What does ‘only just’ mean? We knew one thing for sure, it meant mountaineering back up those rocks and we decided we’d continue downwards and see where we ended up.
A few people passed us and were all cheery and friendly, despite the weather. Not too long later, down one final huge rock, and we were on a bridge (visible centre in the above photo), Kings Bridge so it turned out, over the Cataract Gorge. It felt quite a relief to be on tarmac and flat ground once more and we walked halfway over the bridge to look at the rather brown water coming towards us.
This shot, below, shows part of the hill that we’d climbed the back of via the zigzag road, and then climbed down via the massive steps. It was higher still out of shot to the right.
Now what? Surely there must be some restaurants or something around? The map showed an eating area further down the river but I really wasn’t in the mood for going anywhere much. But David insisted that it couldn’t be far. It wasn’t too far I suppose, though he was more wrong on this than he had been about the weather. Had we known what we were looking at they were visible 2 photos above.
Along some boardwalks, and the scenery began to turn modern with yachts moored, though we could still see the remnants of the bad weather in the sky!
We looked around and chose the Levee Restaurant where the friendly girl told us that we could have the lunch menu, or wait 15 minutes for the dinner menu. We looked at both and decided we’d have the same thing from either so voted for lunch – it was faster.
I ordered a pumpkin and beet salad and David ordered a chicken coconut salad. Both were absolutely divine and I truthfully told the girl it was the best thing I’d eaten in a week! I also had an iced chocolate which was very nice indeed and David had something with alcohol included.
Thankfully the weather continued to improve for walk home, because we weren’t entirely sure of our way to start with and just turned left, right, left, right, heading in what we felt was the general direction and happy to see what there was to see. Maps are only if you’re looking for something specific. We ended up at a garage to buy a few supplies for the evening because we knew it would still be a few hours before bed once we got back.
We found our cottage far more easily than we had done by car, and Thomas the tabby was waiting eagerly for us on the doorstep and came on in, but we gently turfed him out again about an hour later because he insisted on asking for food, which we had not got for him.
David filled the spa while I poured some port and we relished the bubbles, the soothing jets and the total relaxation experience of the beautiful spa. Then we went and watched an episode of ‘Castle’ before *very literally* climbing into bed. We’d laughed at the little portable step under the dressing table until we actually tried to get up there! We didn’t use it, but could understand that some may have need of it.
Saturday 23rd November
We both obviously slept really well at the high altitude of the 4-poster bed because we awoke bright and refreshed at 6:30. David prepared us a lovely toasted cheese and croissant breakfast and we decided that we would have another shot at exploring Cataract Gorge, this time up the path we’d seen on the right side of the bridge. The sun was shining between the white fluffy clouds and it was a beautiful day.
We went to the Gorge via a more direct version of our route home last night, and found Kings Bridge very easily indeed. The brown water slid towards us as we looked over the bridge and there were wide, swirling trails of white foam on the top.
We saw this one building just over the bridge and to the right of the path you follow to walk beside the Gorge. It’s a private residence – what a glorious place to live! And you can see its nearest neighbour far above just peeking over the trees.
The path was bitumen and for the most part just a gentle slope upwards. The rocks of the other side, where the steep and rocky path was, were showing beautifully in the current light.
It was a very pleasant walk and the pathway was plenty wide enough for the occasional walker coming in the other direction, or people walking faster than us to overtake.
David was standing and watching the water tumble noisily over some rocks when he called me to look. The water was rising as we watched it! To the right of ‘David’s Rock’ (below) were 2 other rocks, each lower than its neighbour. When we were first looking, the water was barely going over the lowest rock, but in just a few moments it had risen about 4 inches. That’s a lot of water at the speed it was all travelling!
The view back to Kings Bridge from David’s Rock. So pretty!
At one point, on the right was an incredibly steep set of concrete steps leading to a look out. Needless to say we climbed up to see the view. The steps were so steep though that even David used the handrail. From up here we could finally see the pedestrian suspension bridge ahead of us – apparently the longest single-span foot bridge in… southern hemisphere/world I can’t remember.
I’d known this bridge was around somewhere because I’d seen a photo that an online friend had taken. So here it was at last! As we were just leaving the lookout, some right ‘wally’ came up the narrow, steep stairs as David was going down, instead of waiting for him at the bottom. It was incredibly difficult, and quite dangerous for 2 people to pass when there was only a handrail on one side! I waited at the top for her and her surprisingly agile elderly (father?) to reach the top before I ventured down. I made David bar the bottom to make sure I had the steps, and handrail, all to myself!
As we continued on the pathway and drew closer to the bridge it became apparent that there was a chair lift going across in front of it. We were amazed! That’s not something we can *ever* see happening in backwards Perth even though we have a far larger population these days. We’re just so behind in tourist attractions! Good on you Tasmania!
We rounded a corner, began to head downwards a little and then, set out before us was the most amazing sight! There was a round (are they always round?) bandstand with public toilets underneath it, a café with generous outdoor seating and several peacocks strutting around. This was the last thing we expected here, we just expected to see a river going under the bridge and then head back again but this was a Destination!
We never pass up the chance to sit and drink so David went to order us a drink each and decided to get a vegetarian pastie for us to share too. I happily sat taking photos of the peacocks while I waited for him.
And yet more rhododendrons.
Now take note of that particular peacock and, if ever you find yourself at Cataract Gorge café watch out for him. David brought the drinks and pastie back and pulled the pastie into 2 pieces. The peacock came up, looked over the edge of the table and swiped a half in the blink of an eye!!! David yelled out “Bah!” which is our command word for our little dog, but had no effect on the Blue Bandit at all. It certainly made all the other patrons look around! Somehow, David grabbed the pastie back again and all the peacock got was the crumbs, but the whole café was in stitches at what had just happened.
Once we’d had our drink and food – yes, David said the 10 second rule applied so he still ate his meal – and were leaving the café we saw this sign. Too right they are!!! LOL
Suitably revived, despite the brightly colourful native’s attempts, we set off to explore the suspension bridge. It wasn’t far away and I confidently followed David onto it and was happily taking photos over the edge which shocked him a bit. It moved quite significantly and he said it was even making his head a little dizzy, but perhaps that’s it – it’s the small, unexpected movements underfoot that make me feel sick. I was fairly happy up there.
On the far side, after following a short path along the left of a mountainous rock-face, we found lawns, a muddy brown swimming pool, and a toilet /changing rooms block with a large restaurant on top that had panoramic views over ‘The Basin’ as this area was named. The river really widened out here and pooled around fairly peacefully before cascading down the gorge, tumbling over the rocks on its way.
It was such a beautiful recreational area and we could imagine it on high days and holidays teeming with people and being a very happy place.
We wandered a little and decided, well *I* decided, that I was brave enough to try the chairlift. We booked return tickets in fact! That cost $30 altogether thank you very much, but we may never return to Launceston so this was our only chance. A sign told us this is the ‘Longest single chairlift span in the world’ and ‘Total length 457 metres’ ‘ Centre span 308 metres’ as well as ‘Official Carrier Year 2000 Olympic Flame’.
A very patient and kind man explained how best to stand so that we could easily get into the chairs after telling David he had to wear his backpack as a front pack. We presume this was so David’s bottom was fully back in the seat. Then we were quickly in the seats without time for a second though, and it rocked slightly and headed over the top of the restaurant.
Of course, 2 seconds after the restaurant roof was a 2-storey drop but I was determined to do this. No choice once you’re in it anyway, other than to jump! Two ladies came towards us in another chair and one cheerily called out “I’m not allowed to move, she’s scared!” I replied “He’s not allowed to move either, I’m terrified!” It was a bit over-stated but I was fine as long as David barely breathed. He tried to wriggle around to face sideways to see the suspension bridge to our left more easily and I said “No. Please, please, sit still, I’m only just managing this!” And he was a pretty good boy after that.
I alternated between being happy, looking around (by only moving my head!) and taking photos, or feeling on the border of panic, but I have to say it was incredibly peaceful with no sound of travel. By the time we passed the first support post and it made our chair kick a little I was pretty much alright with it.
We found out that normally there’s a footpath across (we don’t know how the water goes down the gorge if there is!?!?) but much of it had all been washed away by the bad weather the day before we got there.
At the far end we had to hop off but had no desires of anything to do over there – it was the side with the café and peacocks that we’d just come from – so we talked to the lovely man there and he showed us that there was a dear little wallaby close by in the scrub, sunning herself, and I took a few photos before we got back on the chairlift for the return journey.
It was easier coming this way. As we set off we were over the top of masses of rhododendrons on a huge hedge of plants. It looked as if the tops of the plants had been trimmed to make way for the passage of feet dangling from the chairs and, because of the height from the footpath can only presume it had been done by someone with a hedge-trimmer reaching down from a chair on the chairlift!
The return journey was most definitely easier and we enjoyed it, waving to the people coming the other way and marvelling at how low the chairs could hang on whichever side of the chairlift that had the most passengers.
It was then definitely time for a nice drink and some lunch at the restaurant. We had to do it in that order because we were too early to order food yet. David was a bit bewildered that the chef couldn’t take an order 10 minutes early but there you go. I had a very nice quiche with salad and David had salt and pepper squid.
Once we were done with our meal and the wonderful view over the Basin from the window, we hiked back the steep way. There was quite some considerable climb up before the downward descent began – we were quite surprised!
And, being the idiots that we are, we decided to come back half way along the shallow side once more just to see how submerged David’s rock was by now. The water was now covering the top of the highest rock in the set so it was still rising.
We also saw 2 guys sitting on a precipice as well as a more formally equipped rock-climbing team.
We turned around though and came back the easy way, across the bridge, and I said to David that I fancied eating in the restaurant that used to be a water mill – it still had the wheel on the side and was such a picturesque sight! We were just going to book a table for later.
But it was not to be. Once we got to the door a sign said that they’d moved just up the road to a boring modern building. It may as well have said that bit too because we’d seen the new building and it didn’t appeal at all.
Instead of that, we stopped in at a bottle shop for David to get some beer. Now along the way he had completely missed my big fat hints to buy some fudge from Ye Olde Lolly Shop, which was still open next to the old mill. Funny that I had not missed his hints for wine! So as we got closer to Alice’s Cottages I began to feel a bit hard-done-by and dropped the kind of hints that can’t be overlooked, even by a male of the species.
By now my legs were really tired but there was no choice, if I wanted fudge I had to walk with David to get it. Not my hero! He was supposed to install me in a luxurious spa with a cup of tea while he went to get it ha ha!
We managed to think through that the big shop attached to a garage near to the cottages might be our best bet. It meant walking further, but I knew I’d want some through the evening so we dragged ourselves. And they had some and I bought 2 little packs that were twice the price than I’d thought them to be because the ‘special price’ advertised was talking about the item next to the fudge.
Finally we got through the door to the cottage, with leaden legs and aching feet and it was only 2:30pm. We relished a beautiful hot cuppa each and I went and crashed out on the bed for an hour.
Well, you can’t spend all afternoon and evening ‘in’ when you’re on holidays can you, so I looked through some brochures to see what we could do for an hour or so. I chose driving to City Park. We’d have walked but the rain had really set in now. We’d been very fortunate indeed with the weather for our walk in the morning.
We drove up Balfour Street and soon met with the most unbelievable hill. This is the house that showed it best. I can only presume that the zigzag one we’d climbed the day before had been steeper still.
Sensibly, the parking in this street was ‘nose in to the kerb’. You’d hate to do parallel parking here! However, to take this photo I had to get out of the uphill side of the car – that was interesting LOL
I’d read that there were monkeys in City Park so as we walked through, under our umbrellas, we were gazing up into the trees to see if we could find any monkeys. Nope!
However, there was a massive oak, yet more beautiful rhododendrons, foxgloves, irises, primroses, clematis, sweet peas and, believe it or not, even holly! David had found the holly and there was one small berry on the bush, right in the middle of a thicket where it couldn’t possibly be photographed.
Then we found the monkeys and laughed loudly at ourselves. They were caged monkeys!!! It didn’t say that in the brochure so what were we to have thought!?!? But we didn’t even get to see them because they were obviously put to bed at 4pm and it was more like 5pm now.
There was a conservatorium which was closed, a beautiful little formal garden and a shrine ‘To Commemorate the Queen’s Jubilee 20th June 1887’ that was rather pretty. The rain even eased and then stopped.
And then we’d seen all there was to see and headed for home, wondering what to have for dinner.
I mentioned the ‘Pizza Pub’ that was across from the garage shop and David pulled a bit of a face but couldn’t come up with a better suggestion. The rain was starting again too, so we found somewhere to park and went in.
As with almost all of the eating places we’d used, the waitress looked hesitant at the fact that we hadn’t booked but ‘managed to find’ a table that we could sit at. We looked at the menu and decided on a ‘Sweet Chilli Chicken Pizza’. David placed the order and then went for a beer for him and a ‘cappuccino cocktail’ for me. He was gone for…ever! I twice looked around to make sure he hadn’t been stolen away from me, but he was still there, being served at the bar. It seems the barman had made a double serve of my cocktail because it was the waitress’ favourite and he would give the rest to her. Lucky girl!
The pizza was really delicious, even though I’d completely overlooked that it had olives on it. I just picked them all out of my half and put them onto David’s pieces. He was happy, he’d got double!
It was still raining after our meal and we went home to view the days photos and take a delicious spa with a teensy serve of port each. We watched ‘Total Recall’ and then fell… no, nobody could fall… *climbed* into bed. We never did remember to put the electric blankets on, but the heating in the cottage was ample when we did need it so we were always very comfortable there.
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