Porirua – New Zealand

We found ourselves in the town of Porirus for no reason than a place to stay that had us heading north of Wellington.  Turns out it’s a great little town.

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We stayed at Camp Elsdon, a fantastic little place with a big heart.  Situated at the top of a hill, it is surrounded by bush and just a short drive to town.  We even found a Denny’s to eat at for dinner!

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They have some great little ponies too.

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Last night I had some wonderful conversations with some other travelers.  We seriously get some of our best information from people on the ground.  There is just something special about a personal recommendation over a Google search.  So after our walk this morning we headed for the community pool!

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With a heated large play pool, separate lane swimming pool, lazy river, big and small slides, kids hot pool, separate adult hot pool and saunas you would expect to pay big $$$  but, it is seriously cheep!  Less than $10 for all 4 of us to go swimming.  Also, there are no set times or limits.  It was simply open.

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Scarlet hasn’t  been feeling great today.  She is super tired and just fell asleep on Dan.  She was nice and warm too.

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There is also a cafe where we could grab some grub before hitting the road.  Now I knew this was going to be a drive where Roland falls asleep FAST!

Roland made sure to request we take as many pictures of him as possible before leaving too. ( A well-known stall tactic of his)

Our drive started costal before we headed inland towards the east side of the island.

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As per usual New Zealand driving, we headed up, down and around.  When they tell you to go 25 km/h around a corner they meant it.  The speed limit otherwise was 100km/h.NZ Day 18NZ Day 18NZ Day 18NZ Day 18

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That road down there is the continuation of the road we are currently on.

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I don’t get it.

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Dan and I have noticed a lot of the grass covered “hills” have a bee hive like look to them.  On closer look, you can actually see that the lines are indents and paths caused by the sheep walking on the steep hills.  I wonder how long they have been using these paths to make such an impression.

As it starts to get dark (earlier and earlier each day) we quickly called it quits on our drive.  Our original destination had been Waipukurau but we will stay the night in Dannevirke instead.

As we travel with no reservations booked we can easily drive into a caravan park and if we don’t like it, we simply turn around and leave (yes, we have actually done this).

We’re staying at Dannevirke Holiday Park and if the drive in through the park is any indication we are going to love our morning walk tomorrow!

Australia Day 38 – The last leg of Tasmania

We woke to some pretty spectacular views.  Located in the old copper mining town of Queenstown.  We had arrived after dark last night and it was spectacular driving (this is the nice way of say SCARRY as you know what going down a mountain in the dark with a cliff on one side)

 

Fog.  That was all we could see of the mountains.  Fog, or perhaps we could even call them clouds.  A quick drive around town was all we did and we hit the road with the plan to stop for lunch along the way.

The harbour-side town of Strahan has a long and interesting history including Sarah Island and The Ship that Never Was

We found a nice little spot to have some lunch looking at the boats.

We had a boat to catch so we did not get the opportunity to stay and explore.  It looks like a fascinating place to spend a few days.

Our drive is always interesting.  We have seen all sorts of farming, forests, lakes, rivers, ocean and industries like fishing, forestry, and mining.

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And then there is the construction.  I have often complained about the construction at home but we have seen more equipment on the roads of Australia than my whole life combined.  Roland loves it!

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This was a two for one picture of the fire truck and the construction!

This is all made up for by the amazing sights.

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This drive was mainly forest so it was such a relief to me when I saw the ocean again.  I even said to Dan how it made me feel was similar to when I arrive at the cottage.  There is this sense of relief that is only provided by looking at a large open body of water.  For me, there is nothing else.

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We were treated to some spectacular ocean driving before arriving in Devonport for our Ferry home.

There was no shortage of amusement as we waited in line to board the ferry.

There was going to be a Boat on the Boat and a Car on a Car on the Boat

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And you don’t want to forget The Jolly Lolly Trolly!

As we say goodbye to Tasmania it is bittersweet.  I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in this unique state and I wish we had longer to explore the area.  I am. however, excited to know that we are one step closer to New Zealand and all the new experiences we will have there.

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Australia Day 37 – Heading to Tasmania’s West Coast

There’s not much in the way of people, towns or roads on Tasmania’s West Coast.  Often skipped for more popular places, such as Hobart or the Cradle Mountain, many people will miss out on its beauty.

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We left New Norfolk (north of Hobart) and started to drive.  Our destination was Queenstown, an old copper mining town that was mentioned to us by some fellow travelers.

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Along the way, we are treated to various mountains, rivers, lakes and farmland.  The towns we find are small and friendly.

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We always try to schedule extra time into our drive to accommodate A) having children who need things and B) detours and scenic places to stop.  We found a lot of the latter today.

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Detour 1″  Scenic Bridge over The River Derwent

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Framed on either side by mirrored glass water, this was a view not to be missed.

Detour 2:  Tarraleha Power Station – A Hydroelectric Dam

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As we continued our voyage into the vast mountains of the west side we noticed some peculiar concrete trenches.  Shortly after we noticed these LARGE pipes.  Being the clueless people we were it took a little longer than it should have to put the two together.  Naturally, we decided to follow the pipes that were accompanied by a Scenic Lookout sign.

 

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Did you see the pipes running down the other side?

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Looking up from the bottom.

 

 

Detour 3: Lake Binny

Intrigued by a Hellocopter landing sign we decided to go for a drive down this road.

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It lead to this road-

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And this road leads to this lake, where we actually found a surprisingly large number of people were living.

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Detour 4: Monument to the Early Surveyors who explored and mapped Tasmania.  Interestingly located very close to the middle of the state.

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Detour 5:  Lake St. Clair National Park

I had seen signs and it was lunch time with 4 people who all wanted to stretch their legs.  We took the detour and headed for the lake.

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This is the deepens freshwater lake in Australia.  It goes down as far as 160m or 525 feet!

You could hear nothing but the birds – until the helicopter came.  We’re still not sure what it was carrying but it was picking up or dropping off VERY close by.  It actually made three trips while we were here.  It was mostly obscured by the trees but it had a very long line to carry whatever it was.

We made sure to stop in at the hotel and have some lunch and coffee before heading off.

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Scarlet is trying so hard to crawl.  She just needs to figure out the hands and she will be on her way!

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We take any opportunity to get her on the floor, even when it is the carpet of the restaurant.  She rolls and wiggles herself around quite a bit so we still need to keep a close eye on her.  We even managed to rig up a blockade for the bed in the motorhome so she can move around on that every day.

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There is, of course, an information center at the park.  Roland had a blast looking at all the creatures and running around while I chased after him, with Scarlet attached to me (not my favourite activity!)

Detour 6: Suprise Canyon

No, I’m not making up the name.  We saw the signs and made the stop.  This is what we saw…

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Even without the detours, we saw a lot of incredible things.

 

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Clearcutting

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Road Maintenance (In the Mountains 100 km form anywhere)

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Makes me feel like home

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Dead Forests covering several mountains

 

 

With all our detours the day was getting late and we still had a lot of ground to cover.

The moon was near full tonight and made for some AMAZING sights I will never forget.  Iphone and driving did not make for good pictures but this will suffice.

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That is the moon, not the sun.

 

 

Coming down a mountain into Queenstown it was already dark and was one heck of a hill!!!  Too dark for pictures.

I did snap one of this building.

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Some 244 km later we are checked in and eating odds and ends for supper.

Tomorrow we have a boat to catch and we must not be late.  I am hoping the view from the top of the mountain we just drove down will be as good as everyone tells me it is. It was one heck of a ride to get down.  Oh, and there is a guy here who rode his bike.  Yeah, his bicycle.  Human powered up and down these “hills”.  That is some dedication!!

 

 

 

Australia Day 36 – Up and Up we go

Tasmania, no doubt, inspires images of devils, platypus, and other odd creatures.  For many is also conjures images of rugged mountains.  Of this, they are in no short supply.

We woke in Hobart.  Having arrived at our campsite, yet again, in the dark, we had no concept of just where we were.

What a view! We had no idea.

While we were at the zoo in Sydney we casually chatted with a Dad in the platypus house.  He was from Tasmania and happened to work as a breakfast chef at a downtown hotel in Hobart.  Since we were in Hoart be headed to his hotel and ate.  Dan even dropped off a dime (thin only Canadian change we happen to have) as a way of saying “Hello from Canada”

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The boats downtown Hobart make me think of Toronto.

It was made clear (by Roland) that Roland needed some play time.  A quick search revealed a play place that looked like a TON OF FUN and Scarlet could even get a chance to goof around.

Yup, still serving coffee!

Dan had been doing some reading and suggested that head up Mt. Wellington.

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So up we went.

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And up.

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And up, into the clouds.

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You could barely distinguish the houses and you were driving right on the edge of a cliff.

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The clouds quickly clouded any chance of seeing Hobart.   There was also snow.

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There is a wonderful observatory to stand in.  It has some great information too.

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In case all this snow, clouds, wind records and shelter hasn’t convinced you of the crazy weather you should check out this video.  Oh and turn on the CC close caption, it’s funnier.

 

It didn’t take long for the clouds to clear once we started heading down.

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There are people who bike up here.  It’s 4,170 feet high.  yeah.  insane.  

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While we were at the top I spoke to a bus driver.  He drives a large coach bus up and down this mountain.  We weren’t even sure we should take “The Beast” our motorhome up until we saw that!  He told us that the mountain has actually been closed for the last few days due to wind and snow/ice.  It was even closed at 10 this morning.  We really lucked out with our timing on this one.

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Back down at ground level, things are much more flowery.

 

We found the obligatory fire hall (built in 1911 is actually pretty cool though)

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And spotted an Ambulance

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We even saw this guy on the way out of town (By the way, this is called a UTE and they are EVERYWHERE)

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We have driven to New Norfolk and done more grocery shopping and landed ourselves a little spot to camp for the night.

We drove 105 km today and tomorrow we will head for the west side of Tasmania where even more mountains will rise up on our path back to Devonport.

Australia Day 35 – Port Arthur to Hobart

As much as I say we visited Port Arthur – we mostly shuddered and huddled from the cold rain and gusting/roaring winds today.

We had a walking tour booked for 10:30 and had every intention of attending.

 

Thankfully I had done some walking around with Roland Yesterday and Dan had gone on the ghost tour last night.After the walk, we headed for the boat and were rescued by a wonderful cart with plastic shields.  She drove us both to the boat and back to the visitors center. I think Roland had had enough of the rain and cold.  We need more warm clothing!

After the walk, we headed for the boat and were rescued by a wonderful cart with plastic shields.  She drove us both to the boat and back to the visitors center. I think Roland had had enough of the rain and cold.  We need more warm clothing!

The harbor cruise took us past the Ile of the Dead and the Boys prison.  We couldn’t see much with the rain and the fogged up windows on the boat.  We did, however, get to sit somewhere warm and drink coffee!!!

So with all this rain and cold, we did not want to explore any further.  I know there is so much to see and do here but sometimes the weather rules when you have wee ones to worry about you make sure they come first.

The key thing to remember is that we are in the Southern Hemisphere and their winter is coming. We are at the southern most point of the southern part of Southern Tasmania which is south of Australia. Our north is to their south, cold!!!  The next piece of land to our south is Antartica, some 4500 km away. The winds that are blasting away at us and bringing rain have been on an absolute tear with nothing in their way for hundreds or even thousands of kilometers to bring us this soul robbing and bone chilling cold.

We took a tour around the Tasman Peninsula before heading off to Hobart.  Sadly we were not able to visit the Remarkable Cave either. The view is legendary but the weather would have ripped us to pieces, it’s so cold. It had been recommended to us by some fellow travelers.

 

So we headed off to Hobart to shop and see the town.

There is an incredible bridge that is stunning to see.

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We looked in a few outdoor clothing stores like MEC or Edi Bower.  A fleece jacket for Roland was $99 to $120.  A quick search showed a Target close by and off we went.

Do you remember Roland wrestling the crocodile?  Now he’s going for the Tasmanian Devil too!

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At target, we got 1 pair of jeans for Dan, 2 sweatpants. a sweater and 4 pairs of socks for Roland, 2 thick tights, and sweatpants for Scarlet and 3 pairs of socks for me, all for $100.

Now, I like to buy local and I like to buy good quality but I draw the line sometimes and I just need cheap.

We were treated to a fantastic view down one of the many hills.  The cloud formation when you are near mountains are always changing and always fascinating.

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We had a little trouble finding a place to stay tonight.  I finally found showgrounds that you can book online.  It had power and toilets.  We needed to do laundry but the machine took tokens that you could only get from the office and obviously it was closed.

Oh well,  Laundry can always wait one more day.

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We drove 145 km today and will be heading north again so we can catch the ferry back to the mainland.  We will be flying to New Zealand on May 14 so our time in Australia is almost done.

 

Australia Day 34 – The Unzoo

Today we woke up in Richmond, not having a clue about the town.  It was simply a place we chose on the map because there was a caravan park we thought we could stay at for the night.

As we drove into town for breakfast we quickly realized we stumbled on some fascinating history.

The town is home to beautiful buildings that date back to the 1820’s.

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This bridge was built in 1925 and is the oldest bridge still in use in Australia.  The bridge was built by hand by convicts.

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There are also a lot of grapes grown in the area.

Our primary destination.  The UNZOO – “Instead of exhibiting animals in traditional enclosures for the benefit of humans, an Unzoo invites us into natural habitats in which cages or barriers are removed or concealed and wild, as well as resident animals, are encouraged to interact with the environment.” ( tasmaniandevilunzoo.com.au)

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Do you know the Tasmanian Devil? Not the cartoon spinning, drooling and funny talking one but the real one.  The endangered one.

They are fascinating.  These little creatures got their devilish name from the explorers who could hear them every night, feeding, cracking bones and screaming over food.  The newly landed people had no clue what it was making the demonic noises in the deep dark forest.

If you haven’t heard one, go to youtube and look it up.  They are loud!

They also have the strongest bite relative to its body size, 400 PSI!

They are also endangered.  Not because of humans (surprising, I know)

They have experienced an extinction level event due to a genetic mutation that is causing a facial tumor and the cancer is being spread by their bite, something they do a whole lot of.   It first appeared about 20 years ago and has decimated the wild population.  The Tasman Peninsula is the only disease free zone in Tasmania.

Not all is lost though.  Through breeding programs and continued work on a hopeful vaccine, there is hope for the devilish little creatures.

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Make sure to visit all 4 devil enclosures and crawl through the tunnels.

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GET A PEEK INTO THEIR WORLD AT THEIR LEVEL

There is way more to this Unzoo than Tasmanian Devils.  Explore the trails, bird watch and look for the wildlife that calls this safe haven home.

There are a large number of resident kangaroos.  To be honest I’m not sure on their story but you only need show up to garners some friendly attention.  They LOVE to have their chest scratched.

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This larger male Kangaroo appears to have claimed Dan.  After getting some scratched and love from Dan, the kangaroo wouldn’t let any other near.  If they got too close he would grunt and even lunge.  Clearly, Dan was a favourite!

We kept a close eye on Roland.  These are WILD creatures and no matter how friendly they appear, you need to be aware that they are unpredictable.

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none the less, Roland had a blast and this picture looks like they are lining up for a race!!

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The Kangaroos were described by one person as a cross between a velociraptor and a deer.  Yeah.

There is a Birds of the Bush presentation where you can meet different birds who have been rescued by the Unzoo.  You can meet a galahs, eastern rosellas, corellas and a tawny frogmouth

There is, of course, always time for play.  Dan is trying to teach Roland the finer points of taking pictures.  Apparently, this is going well.  In the first 100, Dan’s head was missing…

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There will be enough videos like this to make a montage by the end of this trip…

Lunch was next on our agenda.  We love to ask locals where to eat and this time the Lavender Farm was recommended.  Set on the water the farm and it’s “House” is beautifully situated and serves food that is equally stunning to look at.

Our final goal was to make it to Port Arthur.

There is only one place to camp so that is where we went.  This was by far the earliest we have ever shown up to get a site.  It was about 2:00 so we took some time to clean up and, of course, play.

They have a track just for little children to run on.  Toddler approved and well done!  (yes, I know it is for bikes but it is just perfect for him to run on!)

We had enough time left in the day to head over to Port Arthur and start exploring a little bit.

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Dan got to go on a Ghost Tour tonight while I hung out with the kids (AKA Blogged while they slept)

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Drove a total of 85km (big day!)

Tomorrow we plan to explore Port Arthur some more

Australia Day 33 – Do you know your platypus?

When we check into all these different holiday parks we have the opportunity to gain a  little bit of local insight.  Where to eat and what to see are the usual conversations beyond “wow, you are so brave to travel with kids so young!”.

Last nights check-in was no different.  Dan learned about a gorge that the locals are quite proud of.

After a quick Maccas Breakfast (McDonald’s for those outside Australia) we went up and then surprisingly down some very large hills just a few blocks away from where we slept.

Welcome to Cataract Gorge.

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We were greeted by several striking male peacocks (not native here and I don’t know the story on why these ones are here)

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A short walk from the parking lot will greet you with a wonderful view of the reserve.  There are several different paths to choose from with varying difficulty.  A five-minute walk will take you to the bridge and another 5 minute or so will take you back along the other side.

 

The gorge, originally discovered by Europeans in 1804 is home to the world’s longest single span chairlift. (not something I wanted to take a 2 yr old on).

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There is a lovely little play area for the kids to run around.  Naturally, Roland required that he make sure the equipment was suitable for everyone to use. (Dan had to check some of it for him)

p.s. I tried to sit on this while wearing Scarlet…not a good choice…no pictures were taken…thank goodness.

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Here is one of the hills we had to drive down to leave the gorge.  Super steep.

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Our next stop was a rather impromptu decision.  The Platypus house wan not on the original schedule and I am so glad we went.

On the way, we saw a sigh that warranted further investigation.

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A few kilometers down the road was an old bridge and a rest area.

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As we headed down the hill purely to turn the beats around we were greeted by a TOTAL surprise!!!

You, that’s right.  A peahen and a rooster.  At the bottom of a hill.  Together (who am I to judge) and super friendly…they even split up and each took a side of the camper hoping for some free food.  Weird.

Our arrival at the Platypus house had us staring at a dockyard and some warehouse looking building.  The Seahorse World is also right next door.

 

Did you know the platypus is poisonous? So this mammal with a duck-looking bill, that lays eggs and only lives here, has a venomous spur on its back feet.  And it causes serious damage too!!!

There is also a trio of Echidna.  An odd looking creature with a long tongue and backward hind feet.

 

So why the Platypus?  When we were on the Great Ocean Road, Dan and Roland played at many parks.  One of these parks Roland found a tiny plastic platypus and LOVES the little thing.  Constantly asks for it and we love hearing him say the word too.

With all this fun completed we ate some lunch at SueNaMe  http://www.suenamibeautypoint.com/

Fantastic food and prices too.  We had the $10 lunch special and it was delicious!

Now onto the “long” drive of the day.  We set a course and made it as far as Richmond.  This was a good wake up call as to the difference in driving.  Here vs. The Outback.  Her have gotten accustom to driving 110 km/h on straight roads.  We are now on roads that say you can do 100 but there is no way to do this in “The Beast”.  We frequently are going 20 km/h less than the speed limit or even less than that.  We make frequent stops to let other people by as the roads are narrow, winding and change altitude frequently.

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These are some of the mountains we drove through.  It also got darkish while driving.  Thankfully we arrived in Richmond before true nightfall.  That would have been some crazy driving.

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Australia day 32 – Finding Roland in Tasmania

Day 32 – it has officially been over a month since leaving Canada.  This morning we landed in Tasmania.  After taking the ferry across the Bass Stright we had an early jump on the morning.

 

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Leaving the ferry at 6:30 am

 

We headed straight for our first destination but we were hours early.  We also quickly noticed that our phones had no signal.

 

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Roland continues to work on his photography skills

 

Chatting with a local at her store, we got directions to WOOLWORTHS and I got new prepaid cards for Telstra and some much-needed groceries.

With all that completed it was time to see some TRAINS!

 

 

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Of course, Roland found the toy trains first.

Today we visit the Don River Railway http://www.donriverrailway.com.au/

A hodgepodge of tracks, station, and various trains, members and volunteers have lovingly restored and collected everything you see here.  This was such a great place for both little kids and us adults.

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Our scenic train ride

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Scarlet’s first train ride.

 

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After leaving the trains we headed inland to find a Honey Farm.

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Along the way I noticed that like us in Canada, they have a changing of the colour of leaves.

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We spotted some wild turkeys.

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This is a very special mountain. Or, at least, we think it is pretty special.  This is Mount Roland!  A magnificent mountain it stands 1234 (no I did not make up that number) meter tall and is part of the Mount Roland Conservation area.  It is also near the town of Sheffield, who is going to project a film about the area on the face of the mountain this year.  The movie will be the largest in the world.  A movie about Mt. Roland on Mt. Roland.  (How many times can I work the name Roland into one blog post?)

So with the Honey Farm closed and being able to see Mt. Roland from miles away, where to next?

There is appears to be “Nowhere Else” to go…ba-dum-dum…

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So we headed off to the town of ROLAND of course!

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There we learned about the Roland Railway.

 

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The sign reads:

Turning of the first sod for the Roland Railway took place at Railton on 26 2 1913 by the governor of Tasmania, Sir Harry Barron.

Construction of the 12-mile branch like commenced in Sept 1913 by the Public Works Dept. & completed Nov 1914 at a cost of £88888·6·9d ($177,776 · 69c)

Officially opened Nov 6, 1914, by Hon. J.A. Lyons.

A mixed goods & passenger steam train service between Roland & Railton commenced Nov 7, 1914.

In 1923, Roland became the terminus for the railmotor service.

The line was built to transport farm produce, stock, timber & minerals & to provide a daily passenger service.

The railway became uneconomical & was closed permanently on Dec 1, 1957.

This information board has been sponsored by the family of George Hays – Driver of the last train from Roland.

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This was in interesting sight.  From far away we could see smoke rising and touching the bottom of a cloud.  A unique sight to say the least!Day 32

 

It turns out that it was a controlled burn being done.

Off we headed for some dinner at the  Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm Cafe.  Unfortunately (or not) they were only serving sweets as it was close to closing time.  We got Roland some pancakes and Dan and I shared some scones.

Scarlet had some baby appropriate snacks and wooed every person working there.

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243 km later we booked into a Big4 campground in Launceston for the night.

Crossing the Bass Stright to Tasmaina

This is our last stop in Australia and it was a 429 km trip and we didn’t have to drive a single bit of it!

We ended day 31 by boarding the ferry and traveled overnight to get to Tasmania.

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Our next mode of transportation.

Getting on board

 

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Not a lot of space

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Umm…on the boat?

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I finally got to see a Tasmania plate!

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How I remember where we parked

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Our Room Number ( I had to look this up a few times)

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4 beds, private bath and a cot for Scarlet

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The sun is set before we get underway.

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Touring the boat

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Always good to know where the lifeboats are

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More lifeboats

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Kids play area

The Kids play area was great!  It was all soft and squishy with netting so you don’t fall off in rough seas!

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There was a TV of course

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Roland and I play Sonic!!!

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They have a movie theater on board!

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Cool light up chairs.

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Interesting info

We all had a relatively good night sleep (except Scarlet was super hungry and didn’t want to sleep for long periods.

We had to get up at 5:30 so we could grab a FAST breakfast and be back in out vehicle by 6:30 sharp for disembarkment.

The advantage of having boarded early was that we got off the boat super early too.

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We arrive just as the sun rises.

We have arrived in Tasmania!!!