I was away, as you may have noticed, for a short while, on the Big Island to the North to see m'beloved son in whom I am well pleased, and to enjoy a sea journey. I drove up-State to Devonport to load my car on the Spirit of Tasmania for an overnight sailing, calling in at Westbury to speak with a new Priest there (whom I did not get to see, as it turned out). But the drive and the sailing were pleasant and without hassle.
|The Knight and the Heir.|
I enjoy the occasional travelling to the mainland, making the trip at least every two years to see the Airshow and Avalon.
This year m'lad had organised fine grandstand seats from which we had an unimpeded view. Not that we stayed there all day. There was much to see on the ground with a superb array of civil and military aircraft to look at, sit in and join the long lines of people to walk through.
Would that I could share it all with you, but here are a few minutes that give the sounds, even if the smell of the avgas is missing.
Time was taken to travel through the Dandenong Ranges where I had spent some previous life. If you ever get the chance to visit, you must take that delight too. We had a fine dining at m'lad's, with his Lady being one of the best chefs in the State. Heck, she even had 'awards'.
|On the Spirit, Enjoying the comforts.|
Then it was time to leave the comforts of m'son's modest Palace and go back across the sea to my Island. That feeling of 'coming home' is always pleasant and the ferry trip is very comfortable with a variety of things to do aboard. I now faced more travel.
The North-West country is mountainous, stunningly beautiful with an almost rugged 'european' feel to it, especially where it has been tamed, with the first section dominated by Mt Roland. It was the first thing I saw of Tasmania the very first time I came here, deep in the winter, many years ago. Everywhere was covered in snow and Roland could be seen from 40 miles at sea. Now it was just stark and majestic in the early morning. And so I drove, through the hills, past lakes and cliffs and green country.
And so to Strahan; and the great Macquarie Harbour.
It is the second largest in the southern hemisphere and has no great ports or industry: it has this small, tidy, well preserved fishing village that delights everyone who finds it. (Oh, and some fish-farms.)
And it is near the dreaded entrance: Hell's Gate.
Hells Gates is the name of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour on the West Coast of Tasmania. It is a notoriously shallow and dangerous channel entrance to the harbour. The actual channel is between Macquarie Heads on the west and Entrance Island on the east (the main length of the harbour runs southeast of Hells Gates). There is a wider area of water between Entrance Island and Macquarie Head, but it is too shallow to get a boat over. A sand bar. Even a small boat has trouble.
The name of the channel relates to the original convicts' claim that it was their point of 'entrance to Hell', their Hell being the Macquarie Harbour Penal Station on Sarah Island and the outlying surrounds of the harbour.
On the tide, the waters rush through the narrow channel, far too fast for navigation. The Southern Ocean is merciless most of the time, aided and driven by the Roaring Forties. This day it was quite mild.
Sarah Island was rarely mild. The prisoners there - in the days past - were recalitrants, given to escape and further crime. Escape was deemed impossible although there were attempts.
It was the Oz Alcatraz.
Getting across the water was hard enough only for the escapees to be faced with impenetrable forest.
Perhaps I shall say more about Sarah Island another time.
Meanwhile....I did have a guided tour of the penal area. Here is someone else's rendition. The boat I mentioned in shown early on. This was taken/made just a few weeks and a year ago. The weather was very much the same.
I stayed a few days in a comfortable place run by a gentleman with whom I had a shared history. He was in the Far East at the same time as I, although several hundred miles to the North in Malaya. He now operates a hostelry, and I a pub !! We never met at the time, but had much to share in anecdotes and memories.
If you are in Strahan, I recomment his place to you. Kitty's Place. It was excellent.
The trip back to the Tavern was an all-day bizzo across the island. More mountains. More miles. More stops along the way. More beautiful Tassie countryside.
But tiredness and eagerness to be back in the Tavern is upon me and I have pints to pull and tables to wipe.
I hope I have given a taste of my trip to Hell and back.
Have a drink.