Day 19 (November 27, 2017 – Hobart, Tasmania, Australia): “The Tasman Tour”
I awoke to my alarm at 5:30am. When I looked outside our window, it was still wet and very cloudy, but it appeared to not be raining as heavily as it did yesterday (at least at the moment).
Knowing that Julie would be making breaky when she woke up, I just made sure that I had adequate water to do the waterfall hikes before returning to the apartment. So by skipping early morning breaky, I got in the car at 5:45am, and it wasn’t a moment too soon as it started raining again.
I anticipated a wet and soggy hike, and it was definitely raining when I headed west in the direction of Huonville. At first, I had the GPS routed for Snug Falls, but somehow I missed a turn and wound up going in the direction of Huonville (I guess I didn’t trust the GPS on one critical turn), and I eventually headed towards the town of Pelverata.
Given all the rain, I suddenly thought that perhaps I should give Pelverata Falls a try since I knew that my recollections and my writeup for that falls was not very good considering it was 11 years ago (when I was still learning how to write decent posts).
So I wound up taking some narrow C road towards the town of Pelverata from Sandfly. I saw that there was a cheap gas station at that town and so I made a mental note of it in case I wouldn’t find something better when I would come back to Hobart after this hike.
During the drive, I had all the reasons to be pessimistic as there remained dark ominous clouds and rain. Then, when the rain stopped, there was some fog, which made me worried about visibility if the fog would stick around, especially in the valley containing the Pelverata Falls (and the Slippery Falls on the opposite side of the head of the valley).
By about 6:30am, I finally made it to the Pelverata Falls after passing through the rural farming village and finding the turnoff for the falls just on the west end of the hamlet. Then, I took the last 1km of unsealed road to the familiar trailhead, where there were a pair of gates blocking further access (since they led to private farms).
There were still some fog hugging the nearby hillsides, but the trail already showed signs of mudflows as the initial few steps were in mud before the trail then skirted one of the private farms on more conventional dirt track.
The track was slightly uphill as it continued to go around the private farm to the right. There were now plenty of these blue poles with arrows on them ensuring that I wouldn’t stray onto any private property.
Eventually at 6:55am, I would reach a sign pointing the way to Pelverata Falls, where I knew that from this point forward, the trail would be considerably narrower and flanked by bush and trees.
Aside from a brief slightly downhill stretch, the trail continued to gently climb while being flanked by thick vegetation of ferns and trees. I heard breezes and branches swaying at the top of the trees, but down by the trail, it was actually getting humid for me so I was working up a sweat despite the relatively cool morning.
By about 7:25am, I got far enough on the trail that I had returned to that familiar rocky traverse that I had remembered from last time. In this section, I was on a ledge interrupting a rocky slope. Most of the rocks on the ledge (as well as those on either side of the ledge) were loose, and I’m sure over the years, this part of the track would be prone to change as well as erosion.
It wouldn’t be long before I started to get my first clean look at the Slippery Falls again, which was further on the opposite head of the valley. This time, I was armed with a flexible 18-200mm zoom lens so I was able to at least bring that waterfall much closer than I had in the past.
Then, after continuing on the trail, I would reach a tricky and slippery rock scramble near an orange arrow. At first, I thought I had lost the trail as it had disappeared on me, but an orange arrow nailed onto a tree at the top of the rock scramble pointed the way.
Even though I had the aid of knowing to go there, the scrambling obstacle was still steep and potentially very dicey. I was pretty much on all fours when I made this traverse to ensure that I wouldn’t have a real bad slip and fall.
Shortly after the obstacle, I’d continue to get good views of Slippery Falls, but then it didn’t take long before the track started to make a real steep descent. I didn’t remember anything about a steep descent the last time I was here.
However, when the descent ended and I walked onto the viewing deck at 7:40am, looking up at the Pelverata Falls remained as familiar as ever. So I guess this was yet another example of how lossy memory can be.
So I took the next 15 minutes or so documenting as much of this falls as I could. It was too bad the view of Slippery Falls from this lookout platform was only partial and not particularly good.
Once I had my fill of this spot, I then hastily made my way back towards the car park. The hike back when very quickly as it was now mostly downhill.
However at 8:20am, I encountered a local walking three dogs on the trail saying that this waterfall was dry most of this year. So she was pleasantly surprised to hear that I did indeed see a flowing Pelverata Falls. She also seemed genuinely happy that I knew about this place.
That said, she asked if I had gone all the way down to the river, and that surprised me because I didn’t know it was possible. Oh well, maybe next time. But in any case, I wished her a happy hike and she did likewise to me.
Eventually at 8:50am, I returned to the car park where there was a second vehicle pulled up next to mine. That car must have belonged to that lady walking three dogs that I had seen on the trail.
In any case, blue skies were becoming more dominant and I even started to see the sun peaking out from the dark cloud edges.
It was getting late in the morning, and I didn’t want to keep Julie waiting too long, so I proceeded to get into the car and take what I thought was a longer but potentially quicker route via Huonville instead of backtracking to Sandfly Point.
In Huonville, I filled up on gas (which also using a Wooly’s receipt discount) before continuing the quick drive back towards Hobart. By about 9:50am, I finally made it back to the Somerset on the Pier in the Hobart Waterfront. And when I re-entered our room, Julie had refrigerated the breaky she made for me because she had ate her breaky back around 9am.
Regardless, after I was done eating and cleaning the dishes, she was trying to use the washer and dryer to wash our clothes. That took quite a bit of time, and it wouldn’t be until after housekeeping cleaned up our room and we ran the dishwasher, that we were finally able to put the clothes in the dryer (after Julie accelerated the job by taking out the third washing and spin cycle). Only then were we finally out the door at 11:10am.
The drive out to the Tasman Peninsula was non-trivial as the signs had indicated that it was nearly 100km from Hobart to Port Arthur. We figured that we would do the historic site after we did the obligatory stops to Waterfall Bay, Tasman Arch, and the Blowhole.
Eventually at 12:25pm, we finally made it to the dead-end by the Waterfall Bay Lookout. The last 4km of the Waterfall Bay Road was unsealed, and there happened to be a family of hikers that were at the lookout when we showed up. So I reckoned that they must have done the walk from the Devil’s Kitchen area.
We didn’t do Waterfall Bay last time because we figured that with the drought, it wouldn’t be flowing. I had higher hopes that the falls would flow this time around, but when we rocked up to the nearest lookout, we saw that the waterfall at Waterfall Bay was only a stain on the cliff with the trickle or thin falls if we looked more carefully.
Even a sign here asked, “What Waterfall?”, which was a clear indication to us that it was not a reliable waterfall if even signage posed this question.
Still, the views were superb as we were checking out the churning Southern Ocean below the nearly vertical sea cliffs. We even noticed a tour boat cruising around down below though I’m sure for paying customers, the lack of a waterfall at Waterfall Bay must have been a disappointment.
I managed to check out two more views looking towards Waterfall Bay before walking a little further down the track towards a fourth lookout. But that last lookout faced more eastwards towards what appeared to be gaps in the cliffs in the distance.
As much as my curiosity compelled me to keep walking along the track to see what was there, I had to stay the course and return to the parked car, where Julie was already waiting. We really didn’t have the luxury of time given our late start.
At 12:50pm, we then took off and drove towards the Tasman Arch. We’d eventually get there 15 minutes later, where we scored one of a handful of spots remaining as this stop seemed like quite the popular one.
Right by the car park, there was the Tasman Arch, which looked as imposing as ever. Given its very tall span, it was difficult to get it all in one shot though with my wide angle capability of the 18-200mm lens, I was able to get it. Perhaps the more difficult part was reconciling the contrast between the light and shadowy zones as well as the colors.
After having our fill of the Tasman Arch from the parking lot, we then walked a track that went around the sea cliff depression before reaching a fork. We kept right to keep going towards the Devil’s Kitchen, and when we got to the end of that track (instead of driving to the last car park), we clearly saw that there was a very vertical sea cliff stretching to an extent that it was awkward trying to take photos and get too many things in the frame at once.
Next, we then walked to a lookout where the line of sight traced the rugged coastline looking in the direction of Waterfall Bay way in the distance. By this time, the sun was definitely out, and the colors in the water were really coming out.
Well, when we showed up to the car park for the Blowhole at 1:45pm, we saw that there was a food truck serving up things like crayfish rolls, giant prawns, and octopus salad, among others. The food wasn’t all that great except for the prawns, and they only took cash (the only cash only spot we had been to so far).
At least Julie got to eat her lunch even if it was so so. Then, we walked a loop hike around the Blowhole, which was just before (or after depending on how you look at it) a tunnel where the swells from the ocean would push towards the cove and hit the blowhole (which wasn’t very impressive like it wasn’t the last time we were here).
Still, the weather was better this time around so we gladly took photos, observed the blowhole, then went to the jetty where we took more pictures of the clear waters as well as some colorful shacks on the waterfront reminding us of some of the New Zealand bachs that used to be all the rage when we first went there back in November 2004.
We returned to the car at 2:40pm, where we then started the drive to Port Arthur for the last excursion of the day. I was still holding out hope of visiting Mt Wellington given the good weather on this day (who knows what tomorrow will bring?), but it was looking less and less likely as it was getting later in the day.
By 3:10pm, we made it to Port Arthur. Julie didn’t remember anything about visiting Port Arthur the first time, when it was on our very last day of our November 2006 trip and we were under pressure to wrap up the visit before catching an afternoon flight from Hobart to Melbourne, then a red-eye flight back to LAX.
At first, we were going to do the Harbour Cruise which was scheduled for 3:40pm. But as we walked around the premises, we felt more compelled to visit the penitentiary and the structures around it, and we wound up skipping our booking for the Harbour Cruise.
With the late afternoon lighting, the buildings had interesting colors. It was also interesting to see the conditions that the convicts had lived in whilst here.
Even though Port Arthur was a seemingly idyllic and beautiful spot (Julie thought it would’ve been a pleasant place to be a prisoner), it belied the hard life of living under strict rules with commandants and wardens controlling your every move.
After visiting the penitentiary, we then went to the commandant’s house, which was actually a pretty grand accommodation, especially compared to the cells. It was Julie’s favorite part of the visit because it involved seeing how life must have been like (at least for the guy running the show here), and they conveyed this by showing some of the furnishings and re-creations.
Then, we went over to the backside of the complex where there was a cottage and then the visitor centre museum. Adjacent to the museum was the additional prison, which was said to be for prisoners with one or more of four different forms of insanity. Of course, it could be argued that political prisoners were probably made to fit into one of these categories.
The additional prison included the cells themselves, a judgment room, and even a punishment room (basically a dark room with a heavy door).
Next, we checked out what was left of a church, and then we checked out an across-the-water view of the Port Arthur Penitentiary before we got tired and started heading back to the car. On the way back, I checked out some garden and remnant of the building where 35 people were killed by a gunman who went on a rampage in 1998 that wound up changing the gun laws in Australia.
Of course in the US, we still keep making the same mistakes as specific selfish interests that just so happen to wield a lot of money and influence over elected officials continue to let guns proliferate and mass shootings continue.
By 5:20pm, we were back at the car. We definitely got more out of this visit than the first time around. But with this turning out to be a very long day, we finally started heading back to Hobart.
By 6:40pm, we finally made it back to Hobart, but we had trouble finding parking in one of the free spots either designated for the hotel or one of the public spots after 8pm (the receptionist said after 6pm, but the signage didn’t seem to reflect that).
So we actually had to pay $3.35 for one of the further 2P spots before we could park with peace of mind. Even though closer spots opened up, we already paid the money, and I was going to get another early start tomorrow morning so it wouldn’t matter one way or the other. I guess I could see why some people who stayed at the Somerset on the Pier had complained about lack of parking. But this was the worst case scenario that I had feared given our late start to the day.
Anyways, we promptly went for a grocery run at the Salamanca Fruit Market, where we picked up some salmon from the butcher, some veggies, and fruits. Finally at 7:20pm, we were back in the room where we got to wind down the day.
As we were having our self-cooked dinner, we saw firsthand how quickly the weather could change as the clouds moved fast at this lattitude, but then it suddenly went from fair with blue skies to rainy with ominously dark clouds hovering over the wharf.
We sure hoped that the weather would cooperate tomorrow for our last full day in Hobart, but who knows what Mother Nature will throw at us?