Monday 25th November
What to do today? There were so many choices and it was hard to know which to make. We enjoyed some very nice toasted cheese croissants that David made for us and were soon on the road to Sheffield – ‘Town Of Murals’.
It was quite a long way but the road was good – it had 1 or even 2 wide lanes in each direction most of the time. However, the roadwork-sign-fairy had been busy in the night and I don’t know if we were more fed up, or more amused, by the situation. We passed the ‘slow road works’ sign and one that told us to slow to 40 kph. This was on a 110 kph road so a *massive* reduction in speed. There were no road works in sight. By the time we reached the second 40 kph sign I took a photo because there were still no happenings that would require us to slow down (and these signs were a very long way apart too!).
Or the next…
Or the stretch further on than those either! As far as the eye can see, still nothing!
Absolutely nothing but a public menace, for no reason at all. This stretched for probably 6 or 7 kms (about 4 miles)! Somebody please explain!?!?!? We travelled for about 80 kms along this highway before turning left and suddenly being on narrow winding country roads for the remaining 12 kilometres or so. We had to turn left at a town named Railton that announced its fame as being the ‘Town of Topiary’. ‘They must be in the back gardens!’ we thought, but did then see some spiral pine trees down the main street. We continued on our way.
Sheffield, so it turned out, was quite a decent sized town, and the murals were obvious for all to see. We parked the car and got out with our cameras armed. It’s going to be hard to choose which to share with you, there were so many and they were incredible! We did find a guide to the murals at one point but they were spread far and wide and we didn’t feel like driving to any of them so just stuck to the ones that we could walk to.
And this display was quite a shock. The three children around the chimney was fun but to have that baby just microseconds from toppling head first over the edge of a full-height gutter was really disturbing!
Having artworks on the outside of the building was also really unusual! I’m sorry for them being so cut off in the photo.
One of the surprise highlights in Sheffield was a shop named ‘World of Marbles’. It seems that they made their own marbles on site and had some truly beautiful ones that really qualified as works of art rather than play things. In a second room they had some executive toys, with wire constructions for the marbles to roll down or around and cause things to happen along the way. We, and all the other people in the shop, were totally fascinated and played with them all for ages. We were so tempted to buy one and really should have done. They have a website though, so I’m sure we still could.
One unusual sight along the street was a man walking around with a tall brown llama on a lead. We chatted to him briefly and he had a buskers licence name tag so we guess that people pay money to be photographed with the llama. We stroked it and it was incredibly soft! He said it was his pet and it was certainly well cared for.
I loved the views at the end of the streets of Sheffield. It looked so surreal with the town streets and businesses and then the backdrop of a mountain so close by. It reminded me very much of a movie set!
And of course by now it was definitely time for some food. There were several options but I knew which one I wanted because I thought the café name was very clever and that they deserved to be rewarded for thinking it up. It was ‘Fudge ’n’ Good Coffee’. Cute!
It was a tardis, huge on the inside compared to the small entrance, but we went to the counter to order from the cheery girl there. We both decided on a chicken and camembert pie, but it was after 1pm by now and there was only one left so we ordered that and a vegetarian pastie and shared both of them. The pastie was nice but the chicken and camembert pie… oh my goodness, it was heaven! If I go to Sheffield again I’ll be sure to get there early so we can have one of these each!
I had already seen a massive range of fudge in the glass counter and promised myself some tastings, as the server had promised, after lunch. Now this was fudge. Delicious, and a great texture. Still not the crumbly fudge that I particularly love, but this was the real deal and worth buying. We decided on a 6 pack and chose Lemon Meringue Pie, Rum N Raisin, Cataract Caramel, Peanut Butter, Choc Mint and Crème Brulee. Even David had enjoyed his tasters and he doesn’t have a sweet tooth. I’m trying to pretend that they don’t have a website and world-wide delivery 😀
I’d asked David to ask if the mountain we could see was Cradle Mountain but he refused because it was a ‘stupid question’ so I did the deed. The girl was lovely but said no, the one at the end of the street was Mount Roland and that Cradle Mountain was behind it.
In all honesty I didn’t really feel like an incredibly long journey. Getting to Sheffield had seemed plenty, but we discussed our options and decided that we were this close and may as well finish the journey or we would regret it. David filled up the car first and then we were on our way.
We passed right by the bottom of Mt Roland, which rose out of the flat, grassy fields so suddenly! Our route weaved all around on narrow country lanes. After every small hamlet (as had been the case on every small country road we’d travelled in Tassie) we got one of these.
Now what in the heck does that mean!?!?!?!? So we were expected to remember what the speed limit was before we were slowed down? Why say ‘end 60’ (or 70 or whatever) – why not just say ‘90’ or something definitive? It struck us as crazy, but they were everywhere!
How’s this for a place name? It must have been tiny because there was a row of about 4 letterboxes on the fence next to the turn off, so we guess that was the population and the postie didn’t travel the entire 2 kms to get there. Nor Barrington either!
As we travelled further I suddenly burst out laughing and said to David “Go back!” The road was clear so he reversed, thinking I’d lost my marbles. But I hadn’t, I’d just spotted this truly unique setup at the entrance to some holiday accommodation.
Now the road got very steep and winding and there were many sharp bends and a few hairpins as well. I watched them as each one got closer on Ms America’s screen and called out their approach to David, which helped me feel semi-useful ha ha!
Then we got to the top and all the tall trees just disappeared and there was nothing but barren heathland and a farm house. We’d driven over a couple of cattle grids and read signs warning of unfenced farm animals, it was the back of beyond.
Soon after this we needed to turn left down the road that only led to Cradle Mountain. It was not only narrower still than the road we’d left, but there were regular sections deliberately designed to force the cars in each direction to choose who was the most dominating because they had added chicanes so that only one car could travel through them at a time. Why? These had obviously seemed like a bright idea to someone because they continued on. 12.5 kms travelling at 40 kph and having to slow or stop for these stupid chicanes. There were about 20 of them in all, at a rough count. I think some road engineer had been talking to the roadwork-sign-fairy about how to be the most annoying to the general public!
We passed a guest house and an information place that said to buy your National Parks Pass here “Last chance!” but we already had one and continued on, until we reached a boom gate. Puzzled. There must have been a dozen signs around it (why didn’t I take a photo?) all saying contradictory things about vehicles larger than a car can’t travel beyond this point; our Parks Pass may be checked beyond this point; if the red lights are flashing do not pass because it means there are too many cars through there already… We scratched our heads, pulled into a nearby parking lot, worried about the sign saying we needed to pay for parking here (you’ve *got* to be joking!) and tried to find someone to ask advice of. But no, it was an ‘Interpretive Display’, words we’d seen now for the third time too many in Tasmania. What it meant was, lots to read but nobody to answer your questions.
Well, we saw no choice except to go through the ‘automatic boom gate’ and see if we got in trouble. If we did, don’t blame us, blame your weird signage!
We drove and drove, onwards, as best you can at 40 kph, watching for the stupid single-lane parts, some of which were hidden around corners so that you couldn’t possibly see them in time to stop in a wider part of the road if there was a car coming towards you. Or a bus. There were frequent 21-seater shuttle buses owned by the park itself.
We found a sign for Weindorfer’s House and followed the single-lane turn-off up a fairly steep hill for a lot further than you’d want to reverse if a car came the other way! Again it was narrow, with a bit of a drop down the left side, and too many trees and corners to be able to see if anyone was driving towards us. I was greatly relieved when we made it to a parking area and could stop.
There was a large grave site marked by a tall pillar of rocks as tribute to Gustav Weindorfer, who pioneered this area to ensure that it could be preserved as a National Park. And also a reproduction of what had been his house.
The thing that surprised us most within the house were snow skis. I suppose it stood to reason he would have needed some, but it’s been many a year since I saw a set of those! 42 to be precise!
We also went for a short walk along a track behind the house. If we thought that the area around Russell and Horseshoe Falls was green and mossy, we had seen *nothing* yet! It just looked too overdone to be real, or it was directly out of a fairy tale.
Honestly, that was a walking track? Imagine traversing that kind of terrain for 3 hours, I think it would be exhausting!
So we were done with the hut and, uneventfully thank goodness, went back down the narrow road and rejoined the one that I’ve been complaining about with the slow points on it. We passed a parking area totally in the middle of nowhere but continued onwards.
Just 5 minutes later we were in another parking area with no way to go onwards. This was, as they say, the end of the road! A bit of a surprise to us, when we could see Cradle Mountain’s peaks still in the distance.
We parked amongst all the other cars, and followed the path. There were large warning signs saying “All walks must be registered here” and there were large books for people to write in that they were taking any walks, and which one, so that they could be rescued if bad weather came in suddenly. We weren’t going far so we didn’t write in the book.
Just about 20 metres down the path and we could have been dipping our toes into the famous Dove Lake. We stood, waiting for a small group of people to have enough and move on, but that wasn’t to be, they were there for the long run so we picked our way through some scrub and found a spot of our own by the waterside.
We were much further from the mountain than we’d expected, the light was all wrong for photography and Dove Lake was scoring a big fat ‘Meh!’ on our excitement scale. We watched as the ‘virtually permanent resident group’ threw rocks into the lake and I felt cross with them for defacing the landscape, whilst David felt like giving them lessons on how to *actually* skip stones across the water.
I zoomed in as far as I could on that white patch to the right of the mountain peak and we’re pretty sure it was snow – what a shame not to be able to go to it! The sign about the walk to the summit said that there was climbing involved, plus a 5 (I think it was) hour hike in all. Not what we were in the mood for at all.
What now? Those people were still in the best spot so we decided to go back to the parking area ‘in the middle of nowhere’ and eat our packed meal. There were only 2 picnic benches, but we were lucky because one of them became vacant just as we approached, so we grabbed it quick. We’d have happily shared if anyone looked as if they wanted to anyway.
We put the left-over chicken into the second roll each that we hadn’t wanted last night and enjoyed chomping on those. David found the bread a bit chewy, which meant that I was very happy with it. We took our time, though it felt very exposed sitting at the benches with open terrain all around us for miles.
And then… we didn’t know really. Maybe go back to the lake and see if we can find the photographically famous ‘boat shed’? Any photographer who’s anyone has photographed this so there was no point pikeing out now we were this close. We drove back to the end of the road and parked once more.
There were several walks to choose from, 3 hours, 5 hours or 3 days (not a typo!). I would definitely register in the books for that one! We didn’t feel like any of them. It was about 3:30 by now anyway, but we turned right to go and have a look at how far it might be to the boat shed. We didn’t even know if we’d turned the right way.
Up quite a few steps to the top of a hill and then, there it was below us! We turned left, down more stairs and looked in horror at the huge number of people milling around it. It was far from photographic material, and of course would make the best photo at sunrise or sunset. Sunrise more probably, and we would be far away.
We found a spot each and hung around and, surprisingly, the people all cleared away at last and we were able to attempt the impossible in peace!
We stood for ages waiting for the light shining through a gap in the clouds to move around onto the peaks but it didn’t want to oblige.
As we had given up and were on the way back along the path there was another couple holding hands and David said to other guy “I see you’re a tow truck too!” It took him a second to realise what David had meant and then we all laughed.
As we were driving back down the road towards the boom gate David suddenly applied the brakes and yelled “Wombat!” I was grabbing my camera, leaping out of a moving vehicle and yelling “Where? Where?” He’d just caught a glimpse of it beginning to cross the road after we’d passed. Mr Sharp-Eyes!
For a slow moving animal I was surprised how quickly it got into the scrub and down a bit of a hill but I did manage to get one shot out of about 6 attempts. We were both happy with it. Well, under the category ‘better than nothing’ anyway!
It had been a long, dry several hours so we stopped at the genuine information building to get a cuppa each and enjoyed sitting at a proper table and chairs to do so.
We now headed for home despite a very slow campervan determined to hog the road. Every time there was a small chance of passing him he sped up, and then the more winding the road got the slower he went. I suppose these people get a buzz out of making others angry – I can’t see any other reason for the behaviour. He was travelling at well below the speed limit – as much as 30 kph at times – so he really should have pulled over and let us overtake safely. He was breaking the law as well as being really annoying and selfish. [For the non-Aussies, we can only do up to 20 kph under the speed limit legally.]
I was watching the navigation screen and telling David where straight stretches were coming up and finally David managed to get past him. We managed not to shake our fists at him as we disappeared into the distance.
Once we reached Railton again we looked out for some Topiary. To start with we couldn’t see any, but suddenly we got our eye in and they were everywhere! We took some photos without getting out of the car and it surprised us that this was OK with a police car that drove past. People with long zoom lenses presumably look a bit suspicious, but obviously we didn’t – phew!
Then I got out of the car and David drove to keep pace with me. And didn’t get done for soliciting either ROFL We didn’t dare hang around too long in case that campervan caught up with us.
One of the first topiaries we saw was in the school grounds. Surely it was rather unfortunate that there were no leaves covering that piece of branch on the ‘dad’. Someone really should get him a fig leaf!!!
We eventually got back to the main highway and I lamented the fact that it was well past 5pm. We’d passed a raspberry farm on the journey here in the morning and, although we were a couple of weeks early for raspberries, this farm would have sold raspberry products. They’re another thing I really miss from my youth – those and blackcurrants and gooseberries that just can’t be found in Perth.
And yes, the phantom road works were still in place. The car behind David was very grudging about obeying the signs along with us but he didn’t pass.
I have meant to say that Tasmania was incredibly clean. There were signs everywhere with an 1800 number to dial if you saw anyone littering, and it said they take littering seriously. There was also a marked lack of graffiti – I think we saw only one lot in the whole 10 days. We were impressed.
As we pulled back into the driveway at Alice’s Cottages, the cats had apparently been waiting on the fence-top for us. They leapt down delightedly and raced indoors the moment I opened the door. The ginger one hopped up onto the bed and snuggled down.
We had a cuppa while we watched ‘Top Gear’ and then had a spa. Just so relaxing and therapeutic! Then we watched ‘Castle’ before putting the cats out and going to bed. He hadn’t warmed the bed much! LOL
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