Our second night at Corinna was very clear. The temperature was mild and the stars in the sky shone like diamonds. I managed to get a reasonable photo of the milky way between the trees near our cabin.
Going back inside, I spied a number of little wallabies eating the grass and some possums sitting on the verandah rail by the front door. These were brush tail possums – large and furry. They didn’t seem to be at all afraid of me as I illuminated them with my torch and photographed them, At one stage, I was a bit worried that they might jump towards me but as I didn’t have any food I don’t think that was really a problem. They did look to have very sharp claws though. I kept thinking about the story that bushwalkers used to tell about the famous possum named ‘Black Pete’ who resided at Pelion Hut on the Overland Track (the six day hiking trip through central Tasmania). I think he was a myth but the story inspired us to ensure that all our food was stored securely in our packs each night .
That day, I had spent the morning along the Whyte River Track doing some photography. This is a short walk loop along the Pieman River and then along one of its tributaries, the Whyte River. It normally takes about 1 1/4 hours but I just pottered along taking photos and enjoying being on my own in the very quiet and tranquil forest. I was away for about three hours and found some beautiful scenery and some more fungi.
After lunch at the pub, we made an arrangement with the hotel that would enable us to drive down to Granville Harbour, some 30 kilometres to the south, to take some sunset photos. To cross the Pieman River, you need to take the ‘Fatman Barge’. It operates from 9.00 am to 7.30 pm in Summer and only from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm in winter. It costs $25 per crossing. The barge can carry two cars and operates by hauling itself across the river on a cable. The people at Corinna were kind enough to allow us to return in the dark after sunset. I calculated that sunset was at 5.45 pm and we would take an hour in the dark to drive back to the river. Our arrangement was that we would wait on the other side of the river at 7 pm with our headlights on and they would come across to meet us. Sure enough, after a few minutes of waiting, we could se a figure walking towards the river with a torch and then the orange flashing light on the barge started as it came slowly across the river to pick us up.
Granville Harbour was originally opened up as a soldier settlement after World War One. It was one of those heartbreaking places where soldiers were given free land that was almost impossible to earn a living from. (There were also some development proposals after World War II). There was one cattle property that we could see, but apart from that there really wasn’t much in the way of agriculture. The area has now become a popular fishing destination for locals and a holiday destination for miners from both Queenstown and Zeehan. The road into the harbour was quite reasonable and I expected to find a remote bay without much habitation. Contrary to this, there were dozens of holiday homes (all looking very neat and well kept).
We drove around (on the only two roads) for a while trying to pick some good places for taking photos. To the south, there was a rocky granite headland where orange lichen coloured rocks formed a jagged foreground to the three metre waves that were breaking on the shoreline. I clambered around taking a few photos and then walked back to the car, avoiding a number of local people who were hooning around the area on quad bikes.
We ended up positioning ourselves at the northern end of the bay for our sunset photos. Here, there were a number of small coves with a lot of rocky outcrops that would create some foreground interest in our pictures. The rocks by the shoreline were covered in deep levels of rotting kelp and it was hard to keep my balance as I moved through the rocks and kelp to take photos from different angles. The sunset wasn’t spectacular, but the sky did light up with enough colour to enable me to think that the afternoon was worthwhile.
Just by the barge crossing, there are two pioneer graves that are well maintained and they present another perspective on the history of the area. On one hand, this seems to me to be a very lonely place to be buried, but on the other hand, these two people are dead, so they are not going to know much about it.
On our final day, I visited Lovers Falls which are located a kilometre downstream along the Pieman River. They are only accessible by boat and you reach them by climbing some steps and walking along a boardwalk that leads in from the river. Because it has been so dry, the falls are trickling over their 30 metre height and the water in my photos is hardly visible. Not withstanding this, they are in a deep rainforest gulley that is populated with huge tree ferns. Some of these are 10 metres tall and they were more spectacular than the falls.
Later in the morning, we again crossed the river on the Fatman Barge and drove down to the mining town of Zeehan. This region has one of the oldest histories of any part of Tasmania. In 1642, Abel Tasman sighted this part of the state. It lay quite uninhabited by Europeans until the mining boom of the late 1800’s when it became a town after the Zeehan-Dundas silver-lead deposits were found in 1882. Mount Zeehan Post Office opened on 1 August 1888 and was renamed Zeehan in 1890. The peak period for mining was up to the First World War, though lead mining continued on up to 1963 at mines such as the Montana and Oceana. The population of Zeehan-Dundas peaked at 10,000 about 1910, over ten times the current population. With a main street over three kilometres long, it also boasted over 20 hotels. It now has a population of just over 700 people.
We spent a couple of hours at the wonderful museum which is located in the old School of Mines. It also includes the Gaiety Theatre which in its heyday saw famous artists like Dame Nellie Melba and Lola Montez perform there. A poster inside the theatre shows that in 1904, people paid £1 to see Dame Nellie. That would have been about $160 in today’s money. I was thinking that would be a small fortune but maybe its not so bad – that’s about what it would cost today to see a world leading artist. At that time, Nellie Melba was the most famous singer in the world and she was able to demand a high fee for her performances. On the other hand, it only cost 6 pence (5 cents) to see the Corrick Family. They were clearly a rubbish act!
For lunch, we found the Pitstop Cafe where we could buy a pie and sauce along with a coffee. They even had an espresso machine! There is very little open in this town at the best of times, let alone on a Saturday. Apart from the friendly ladies who ran the cafe, they had two remarkable things. The first was a bundy clock where the staff clocked on and off for work. I don’t think I’ve seem one of those in a workplace for fifty years. This second was a jukebox with up to date songs from Burl Ives and Jim Reeves. To play one record cost 6 pence (5 cents) and two plays cost one shilling (10 cents).
On our way back to Corinna, we stopped to have a look at Trial Harbour. This is a 30 minute drive from Zeehan along a good gravel road through rain forest and button grass plains. The town of Remine, that sprung up at Trial Harbour in the 1880s, was named after the native name for Blandfordia (Blanket Leaf) which grows on the hillsides surrounding the town. In 1891 it’s population was 214. All buildings were constructed of wood and iron, with brick chimneys, many of the bricks being convict made. There were two hotels, a general store, restaurant, blacksmith’s shop, post and telegraph office and a police quarters, along with houses, tents and camps around everywhere.
The Harbour was named after the small vessel “Trial “, which was driven ashore one night during a gale. A newspaper reporter arrived on the following morning asking the name of the boat on the beach. They raised their mugs of spirit and proposed the toast: “Here’s to the health of Trial Harbour “. So the spot was named Trial Harbour and has carried that name since the 10th March 1881.
Transport from Trial to Zeehan was by packhorses along a very rough road. The need for the port to Trial disappeared when the railway opened in 1892 between Zeehan and Strahan. It was used for a few more years after this for the supply of rails for the Federation mine. What did remain of the township was devastated by fire and was not occupied again until the early 1900s. Today, there are 46 dwellings, which are mainly used as holiday homes, with a few permanent people in residence.
We had ben lucky with the weather and it did didn’t rain until were in the car driving back to Devonport to come home. It was very misty and foggy all the way back to Waratah but we did manage to see the waterfall in the middle mod the town. From there, it rained almost non-stop until we reached the airport.
To fill in a couple of hours before our scheduled departure time, we deviated a little to the west through Helleyer Gorge and then on to Somerset. The closest place for lunch was in Wynyard – a small back-water town on the north coast of Tasmania. There wasn’t a great deal on offer, but we stopped at an appropriately named ‘Bruce’s Cafe’ along the esplanade. We were stunned at the quality of food and wine they served. Bruce has set a new standard for us in Cafe’s and we will be lucky to find anything as nice in other places that we will visit in the future. We both had the Seasoned Calamari with a Vietnamese Salad. The meal was light, tasty and refreshing. The glass of Tasmanian Chardonay was superb. Fancy such a nice meal in little town like Wynyard! Some wonders will never cease.