On the way from Somerset to Queenstown I had to go past Cradle Mountain NP so I decided to have another look as it was earlier in the day and should not be so crowded. I arrived there at 10:00 and the car park was less than half full. First I had to go into the Visitors Centre and show them my Parks Pass and received a Shuttle Bus Ticket in return, you will not be allowed on the bus without this ticket. Another day of drizzle, 15 minute ride to Dove Lake, off the bus in a drizzle and walked along a boardwalk to the Lake, could not see a thing, took one photo and back to the bus stop, disappointing. I have included a photo from my last trip to Dove Lake in 2001, I was lucky that time 4 days and no rain hahaha. It also used to be a dirt track from the main road and you could ride right up to the Lake. So far 4 days and rain every day.
Queenstown was where they mined copper for many years and in its heyday had a population of 10,000. The landscape has still not recovered but it is in better shape than it was 20 years ago with some of the barren mountain slopes starting to get covered in forest. Copper mining continues but they are not damaging the environment now.
The Empire Hotel in Queenstown has a very elaborate staircase that is heritage listed and there are some other old buildings that have been restored. There are also murals if you take the time to walk around the town in the rain.
The Gordon River cruise from Strahan is one of the touristy thing you are required to do when you visit this area. There are two cruise boats and I went with World Heritage Cruises and I have only good things to say about them. The boat is new and immaculate and you are allowed to wander anywhere even join the Captain in the bridge and sit up there with him for the best view in the house. I booked the most expensive ticket ($185) which was top deck window seat but in hindsight I should have booked the cheapest ticket ($135) and spent my time on the bridge or anywhere else on the boat and only gone back to my seat for lunch. The cruise was interesting but again with the mist and drizzle views were limited and the guided tour around the Sarah Prison island interesting but miserable in the rain. There was another stop for a rain forest walk but it was raining and I did not get off the boat, The cruise leaves at 0900 and returns at 1500 hours.
The Wilderness Railway another touristy option, you have to book weeks in advance to get a seat on one of the trips. I did not but they managed to find me a seat on one of the trips and it was of course the most expensive class $185, same view but better seats and food included. This railway was built to carry the copper from Queenstown to the port at Strahan and it was not an easy task. The tracks run along the mountainside with a cliff on one side and a steep drop to the King River on the other. Very well organised, the trains are immaculate and overall an interesting experience. The train leaves at 0900 and returns at 1300, there are three stops, Lower Landing, Dubbil Barril and Lower Landing on the way back. There are longer trips to Queenstown.
I used Somerset as a base to explore the North West area of Tasmania. On the first day I visited the Nut, a huge rock which is the remnant of a volcano, the Edge of the World which is a rocky coastal area with strong winds and huge piles of driftwood, Trowutta Arch which is a magical walk through a Fern forest like something out of a fairy tale and finally Dip waterfall. Distance covered 416 km in 8:45 hrs over some very torturous winding roads, a fun drive in drizzly weather.
On the second day I visited Fernglade hoping to catch a glimpse of a Platypus no such luck but I did see a few Pademelon. Guide Falls a beautiful waterfall. Hellyer Gorge which turned out to be a walk through a forest to a river and back, very nice. Cradle Mountain which was crowded so I turned around. Champagne and Bridal Falls to which the road was closed but I discovered Lemonthyme Wilderness Retreat while searching for the road and finally a 570m walk uphill to the spectacular Leven Canyon. I drove 298 km in 9:10 hrs, mainly fine weather with a couple of hours of drizzle, another great day.
Left Mount Gambier at 0810 or 0840 Eastern Standard Time, this will be the last time I have to change the time on all my devices. I crossed the Victorian border after about 20 minutes, the speed limit drops from 110 to 100 kph. I have to look out for Toll roads in Melbourne, just in case I get lost I downloaded an app called LinktGo that pays the tolls and charges a $0.95 commission, there are no Toll Booths, it can only be done online. Victoria and NSW are the only states with private toll roads. I followed the Great Ocean Road, one of the great driving roads, my first time in a lumbering 4×4, every other time on a bike, on par with Highway 1 in California, E65 in Croatia and D010 in Turkey, there are others but I can’t remember them offhand. Non stop curves, beautiful views of the ocean, picturesque villages along the way. I stopped at the Loch Ard Gorge, Twelve Apostles, Bells and Torquay Surfing Beaches but no decent waves for the surfers and took some photos.
I stopped at Port Melbourne to fill up with Diesel and a HJ Oreo Thick Shake and arrived at the Ferry at 1805. Boarding started at 0835, I was asked to open the Bonnet and the Boot, the guy had a cursory look and gave me a mask and said I had to wear it at all times on the boat. Followed the queue and had to show the Booking receipt on my phone and received a Ticket in return, wait and wait and wait, finally drove onto the boat and parked at 2050. Went straight up to the Recliner Lounge, you have to use your ticket to open the door and the Recliners are huge with extending footrests and every other seat is vacant due to Covid, very comfortable. Cost of the ticket was $230 (this varies from $110 to $350 depending the sailing time and date), cars free as they are trying to encourage tourist to visit Tasmania. My phone had a signal the whole trip, they must have a Small Cell Satellite connection. We docked at Devonport at 0745, and I was off and running at 0840. I had some time to kill untill hotel check-in so I did some sightseeing in Devonport though it drizzled almost the whole time.
Ceduna to Adelaide only stopped twice for fuel 776 kms in 8 hours.
Adelaide – population 1.35 million, the smallest of the big five Australian State Capitals and a very nice city. Broad streets with wide pavements and a bustling City Market. Public transport consists of busses, trams and trains, there is a free transit zone in the city. I only used the Bus and Moovit is the app you need for public transport, this is the same app I used in Trieste, Italy, they work in collaboration with the city who therefore don’t have to develop their own app, very good.
Glenelg and Brighton Beach, where the Adeladians go for some sun and sand, beautiful beaches. I visited the small and free museum in the Visitors Centre.
McLaren Vale – South Australia is known as the wine capital of Australia and Mclaren Vale is one of the regions famous for its wines. The most outstanding feature of this area is the D’Arenberg Winery which has a unique piece of architecture shaped like a Rubik’s cube which houses a Salvadore Dali exhibition, an amazing place and a must see.
Adelaide – The Museum, Art Gallery, Rundle Mall, City Markets, Himeji Garden, River Torrens or Karrawirra Parri, North Adelaide.
Port Adelaide where Street Art Wall Murals abound. I spent half a day walking around looking for these murals.
Kalgoorlie Superpit – First stop was the Superpit Lookout on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie, this never ceases to amaze me. The scale is so big that the monstrous trucks used to haul the ore out of the pit look like toys.
Now for the long drive to the WA/SA Border, I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going to stop for fuel or spend the night, just got going and stopped when I felt tired. I can travel 600 km with another 100 km in reserve if necessary but I try to stop at least once every four hours. First stop was Balladonia, next Madura Pass and finally the WA/SA Border Village where I spent the night. I had to apply for a visa to enter South Australia giving them details of where I was coming from and where I had been in the past two weeks and I was told to keep the permit with me at all times. But when I arrived at the border there was no one there and a sign that said “No need to stop” hahaha.
From the Border Village I drove to Ceduna where I camped for three nights while I made enquiries about the tracks I had planned to travel on. Due to heavy rain 125mm in the Simpson Desert area all roads in the area were closed and would not be open for some time, Googs Track was open but it was on the way to the Simpson so no point in travelling in that direction. Therefore I decided to keep following the coast and after I reached the top end come back down to the middle, the weather in winter would also be cooler in the desert.
This is the start of a lap around Australia. I hope to visit places that I missed on my last three rides. As I am in a 4×4 this time I can carry enough food, water and fuel to enable me to travel roads and visit places I could not on my bike.
First stop Kalgoorlie, I decided to take the scenic route from Perth via Hyden and the Hyden-Norseman Road turning left on Victoria Rock Road which would then take me on to the Great Eastern Highway and Kalgoorlie. Most of the Hyden-Norseman road is gravel in good condition because mining road trains use it and they presumably pay for its maintenance. The Victoria Rock Road is narrower and not in as good condition and I did not see a single other vehicle over its entire 141 km length. You still have to check with the relevant Shires and there are three of them to make sure the roads are open because when it rains they get flooded. This route can also be driven in a normal car.
I stopped and filled up at Kondinin and all went well until I reached McDermid Rock campground where I planned to do some exploring on foot, stay the night and carry on the next day. When I arrived there the temperature gauge in my car read 41c and I was surrounded by a million flies. I had something to eat, took some photos and after 30 minutes of torture hahaha decided to head directly to Kalgoorlie as it was only 15:15. I stayed in Kalgoorlie for three nights with temperatures hovering around 40c. I had also planned to stay a couple of nights camping in Menzies so I could visit Lake Ballard and Ora Banda but decided to drive there and back instead.