Dayna's Blog

Holidays, walks and who knows what


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A Winter Holiday in Hobart – June 2015

Many Melburnians escape winter by flying north, desiring sun and sandy beaches on their too-short escapes from our traditionally cold and wet weather at this time of year.

Suttons Beach, Redcliffe, South-East Queensland

Redcliffe, actually – just north of Brisbane. The best I could lay my hands on right now, but you get the point.

Eh.

We travelled south for a holiday of fire and ice.

Fire Organ en flambe at 'Dark Park' during Dark Mofo

Fire Organ en flambe at ‘Dark Park’ during Dark Mofo

An icy morning in South Hobart

An icy morning in South Hobart

And it was awesome!

To contrast our summer holiday in Hobart, we thought we’d return to experience winter. Happily, our holiday almost perfectly coincided with this year’s Dark Mofo celebrations (we arrived the day after they started), so we were once again out on the streets with many Hobartians enjoying the festival atmosphere – just somewhat more rugged up now compared to how we’d been dressed 5 months prior.

Dark Mofo is what you make of it. Feasting? There were five nights of gorging available this year. Entertainment? If you were too full to waddle or groan your way over to ‘Dark Park’ (aka Macquarie or “Mac” Point) or participate in the numerous other Dark Mofo events happening around the city, then there were entertainers circulating at the Winter Feast.

However, making that effort to wander over to Dark Park was definitely worth it, even if we didn’t get to see everything…

But aside from the Dark Mofo events, which were mostly run of an evening – what did we do in Hobart for 10 days?

We visited the Cascade Female Factory and learnt what life was like for many women who were sent to (or chose to) come to Hobart. The re-enactment tour called Her Story really brings this period to life, but both this and the pure historical tour are worth doing.

Cascade Female Factory is run by the same organisation who runs the Port Arthur Historic Sites. We have been meaning to visit Port Arthur for quite some time, and I can finally now say I’ve been – albeit possibly on the coldest and wettest day of our holiday!

I found the ballroom at Hobart City’s Town Hall which is gorgeous, then did a tour of Australia’s oldest theatre, the Theatre Royal on Campbell Street.

Having taken our Bromptons on holiday with us we were keen to explore Hobart’s bike paths – and found we were staying right next to the Hobart Rivulet track; a very convenient and safe way to either walk or ride into town from South Hobart – better than braving either Macquarie or Davey Streets as a cyclist!

Riding our Bromptons along the Hobart Rivulet Track into the city from South Hobart on an icy winter's morning

Riding our Bromptons along the Hobart Rivulet Track into the city from South Hobart on an icy winter’s morning

Although we had visited MONA on our summer holiday we wanted to visit again. Our first attempt ended with having lunch across the road and a ride home in the rain as we hadn’t checked ahead and only found out on arrival that MONA is closed of a Tuesday! Our second attempt was much more successful – and worth the re-visit for the new exhibits and permanent features we missed last time.

Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (TMAG) was also on the list of places to re-visit as we didn’t finish exploring it in summer. This time, the Central Gallery was lit with red lights in celebration of the winter festival, lending a slight macabre feeling to the space, but it definitely fit in with the tone the that surrounds Dark Mofo. We made sure to explore the Bond Store Galleries – another fantastic old building, brilliantly fitted, maintained and suited for the displays contained.

We rode along the Intercity Trail to the Tasmanian Transport Museum in Glenorchy; admired their collection, saw some volunteers hard at work, and discovered a rail line (still in use) in the north-west that we hitherto knew nothing about.

Exploring the Salamanca Market is always on the cards when we’re in Hobart of a Saturday morning. On this trip we both wanted to buy more Mongrel Socks, but we picked up a range of things from a number of stalls; from apple liqueur to fresh passion fruit, fudge, a hand-crafted silver thistle broach for my floppy breton (cap/hat), and Tasmanian-themed screen-printed calico shopping bags.

Even in winter Salamanca Market is bustling by mid-morning

Even in winter Salamanca Market is bustling by mid-morning

The Farm Gate Market on Bathurst Street in the CBD is open every Sunday morning. If you think that Salamanca is too touristy, then this is probably the market for you. It’s definitely the farmers market to go to for local, fresh produce direct from the grower/maker that you can walk to from your city-based accommodation.

We only had time for a day trip to Bruny Island this trip, so it was more in the nature of a scouting mission for next time. Crossing the d’Entrecastaux Channel from Kettering, my hopes of walking up South Bruny Island’s Mt Mangana were dashed when our fears were confirmed – the C Grade roads (maintained by Forestry Tasmania, not the local council) were far too potholed for our Mini to traverse. I don’t think even rental cars ventured much further than we did – and that’s saying something! So, like everyone else, we had to be continent with a walk up the big sand dune at the northern end of the isthmus which connects the two islands, as well as a couple of short walks on some gorgeous beaches around Adventure Bay.

The Huon Valley is renown for good food and bountiful harvests of apples! The Apple Shed at Grove is a scenic drive from Hobart. The museum cleverly tells the story of the family who now produce Willie Smiths Cider – indulging in a delicious treat at the cafe while you’re there is highly recommended.

The ‘new’ Lake Pedder was on my list of places that I wanted to see, and towards the end of our trip we thought we’d drive out there. Since Mt Field National Park is on the way, we thought we’d stop for lunch and stretch our legs on the short walk to Russell Falls. If you like fungi, this really is the place for you! Mt Field really is a mycological hotspot. (I’ll come back and name them properly.) Oh, and the falls were lovely, too.

Strathgordon is the township on the shores of Lake Pedder; it’s the last settlement on the road – 84 km of well-made, winding road along from the Mt Field NP visitor centre. Stephen had fun driving; I was amazed by the view out the window. The very end of the road is the Gordon Dam where you can park and climb down to walk along the top of the dam wall. When you’re done taking photos and playing with echos, it’s another 184km back to Hobart.

So that’s what we did. As for what we ate? Well!

Dark Mofo’s Winter Feast ran for five nights this year (we went along on three nights). Five nights of gorging on sensational dishes from the best local restaurants and businesses. There was plenty of red meat – Tasman Quartermasters‘ Wallaby Bites with Pepperberry Aioli were very moorish, and I’ve never had a better steamed beef dumpling than those by Written on Tea, but there were also stalls preparing seafood and vegetarian meals. Naturally there was local wine, beer, cider and spirits to go with the local food – and a better selection of warmed beverages I don’t think I’ve ever had the pleasure of trying. Gluhwein, mulled cider, a gingery hot toddy – what a way to celebrate mid winter! But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t also get ice-cream. The deserts were every bit as marvellous as the savoury dishes! Ashbolt Farm did a marvellous crumble (they also did the fantastic gluhwein), but special mention has to be given to Lady Hester’s sourdough doughnuts!  The three nights we attended just weren’t enough to taste it all; maybe if the feast was run over, say…10 days?, we just might be able to pace ourselves and have enough time to get to try all the stalls…

Ethos Eat Drink on Elizabeth Street is a perfect example of fine dining in Tasmania. With a set six course degustation menu that is completed in a more modest time frame than what you might expect when you hear ‘degustation’ and one that doesn’t leave you feeling like you’re too drunk to walk out, I highly recommend Ethos to get a taste of Tasmanian produce at any time of the year. (Reservations required.)

BarCelona was a stroke of good luck. We were hoping to eat at Smolt, but the wait staff seemed disinterested (on a Monday night we thought it’d be the opposite) so we tried the restaurant opposite to them in Salamanca Square. It’s a funky bar/restaurant with great lighting highlighting the sandstone walls of the old building. A warm fire (and adequate overhead heating) matched the warm welcome we received from the waitstaff. We weren’t overly hungry that night so we shared a tasting plate of (locally sourced produce) but succumbed to temptation and had a desert each. It was just perfect.

Le Provincal is a French restaurant one block away from where were staying on Macquarie Street in south Hobart. In summer we never saw it open (because they were on holidays) so we were intrigued. Turns out it’s a very well-known restaurant and it pays to make a reservation more than one day in advance! The dishes are expertly prepared and delicious which you expect from the reviews. It’s the murals on the walls that I was most entranced by! Extraordinarily well done, if we hadn’t been dining in winter and at night I would have believed that we were actually in a farm cottage in France in late summer! Beautiful ambiance and fantastically authentic food.

And sometimes you just feel like fish ‘n’ chips. Flathead Cafe was also just up the road from where we stayed. Since they’re a fish monger as well as a cafe, you can check for yourself just how fresh the fish is that you’re going to be eating. It looked pretty good to me (as you’d hope)! What’s more, it tasted great – not just the fish, which you’d expect, but the coleslaw too. A place that puts as much consideration into the preparation of the ‘side dish’ as they give to the main is a pretty good catch, I reckon. (Pun intended.)

Does finding a table for breakfast at 9:30am on a weekday morning in a South Hobart cafe sound tricky to you? We didn’t think so, but then we didn’t realise until we arrived at Ginger Brown that it is The place to go for brekkie in South Hobart. (Even so, you can still reserve a table! That’s unheard of in Melbourne!) So why is it so popular? Could it be because of the delightfully plump, giant marshmallow they serve with each hot chocolate? Surely it’s not for the jaffa accompanying your cappacino. No, my guess is that it’s the creative way they construct breakfasts. My house-baked crumpets were light and fluffy, Stephen’s crumble was equally delicious. We went twice (both times lucky just to get a seat in the window and not out on the cold footpath) and were impressed on both occasions.

Ginger Brown is a very popular cafe in South Hobart on Macquarie Street

Ginger Brown is a very popular cafe on Macquarie Street in South Hobart

Naturally we couldn’t pass up at least one brekkie at Jackman & McRoss at Battery Point. It was a cold morning when we rode in on our Bromptons, but there was enough room behind Stephen’s chair to put both and have them out of the way. The rooms aren’t crammed full of tables and chairs as you’d expect to find in a Melbourne cafe. On the other hand, you may need to wait to be seated. Since Jackman & McRoss are a proper bakery, their huge selection of baked goods to purchase and take away are all mouth-wateringly tempting – even after a filling breakfast!

Our accommodation this trip was once again Fireman’s Loft in South Hobart. The location is perfect, especially if – like us – you’re planning to use your accommodation as a ‘base camp’ and go exploring each day; the carpark isn’t a long walk from your room, you don’t have to tackle the city traffic and there are so many conveniences nearby like Hill Street Grocer, The Lost Sock (Laundrette), chemist, newsagent, postoffice, bakery, cycle shop – it’s a great little village along Macquarie Street. On this trip we also discovered the Hobart Rivulet Track into the city was just a stone’s throw away from the Loft. The Hobart Rivulet Track is a shared path that connects Collins Street in the city with the Cascade Brewery. It’s the easiest and most pleasant (and sometimes coldest) route into and out of the city, and the safest route for cyclists. Although it is a dirt path that can freeze in winter, I still feel it’s better than mixing it with the traffic on either Macquarie or Davey Streets – it’s a much easier gradient, too.

You can book to stay at Fireman’s Loft (upstairs) or Flourish (downstairs) through either Stayz or Airbnb, but why not contact Tracey directly via the Facebook links?

I aim to (eventually) write separate posts about each of the places we visited – as well as update my Tasmania pages – as we have plenty of photos and enjoy sharing our love of Tasmania. It’s a wonderful state to explore.

🙂

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Leura Forest, Blue Mountains – 10 September 2014

A spell-binding short to half-day walk for bird lovers, nature photographers, or people seeking Shinrinyoku*. Moderate fitness and an ability to cope with lots of steep stairs required for the walk as described below, however less strenuous options may be available from Leura.

Bathe (metaphorically) in an unbelievably green forest - a great place to practice Shinrinyoku

Bathe (metaphorically) in an unbelievably green forest – a great place to practice Shinrinyoku

*Thanks and credit to Jane for the word ‘Shinrinyoku’ that best describes my Leura Forest experience, and the link borrowed from her Mildly Extreme blog post.

Start/Finish: Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba

Distance: Approx 6.5km

Time: Approx 3hr 20min (Note: our ‘moving time’ was 2hr 40min)

Difficulty: Medium/Hard

Leura Forest Circuit from Echo Point - map and elevation profile - Katoomba, Blue Mountains

Once again, this didn’t turn out to be a fast walk. Not just because I had a camera in my hand (which is my usual excuse, true though it is), but because of (a) the birds and (b) the magic of Leura Forest itself.

I shall explain. (You saw that coming?)

Feeling positive after yesterday’s walk to Ruined Castle, we wanted to do a really awesome walk on out last full day here. But with so many walks to choose from it was hard to know which would tick all the right boxes. Stephen wanted to walk to the township of Leura, so we set off once more for Echo Point.

It was an early start – for us. We were walking by 8:10am which is very nearly unheard of on any holiday where we set our own schedule. Starting out along the Prince Henry Cliff Walk towards the Giant Stairway we spotted a White-browed Scrubwren (Sericornis frontalis) and a couple of Rock Warblers (Origma solitaira) hunting for insects in the leaf and bark litter by the side of the path. A good start to the walk.

Rock Warbler (left) and White-browed Scrubwren (right)

Rock Warbler (left) and White-browed Scrubwren (right)

For much better photos, see here for Rockwarblers (sometimes spelt as one word) and here for White-browed Scrubwrens.

Another windy day meant Northface jackets on while we were on the ridges. Out of the wind and climbing down the Giant Stairway we definitely warmed up enough to warrant taking that layer off.

Reaching Dardanelles Pass Walking Track we turned left this time, heading towards Leura.

Setting off along the Dardanelles Pass Walking Track

Setting off along the Dardanelles Pass Walking Track

The beautiful forest, thick in parts with bird calls, just got more and more beautiful the further we walked. Right beneath the cliffs my Garmin was constantly letting me know it was having trouble finding satellites (so I’m surprised that there’s anything remotely sensible on the map above, even though that’s Stephen’s data again) but I didn’t really care at that point. The cliffs, so close and towering above are magnificent. The boulders you pass are a reminder that things larger than pebbles occasionally fall from the heights – although, by the extent of moss covering the rocks, there haven’t been any recent falls.

Walking along here I experienced feelings of utter bliss, awe, tranquility and harmony – that was probably aided a great deal by the fact that there was no one else around. I didn’t even know how far ahead Stephen was. I wanted to hurry to catch up – yet at the same time I wanted to slow down and savour this almost spiritual experience, too. The forest was so green! Slow down and watch the small birds on the forest floor hop over the logs and flit over rocks to hunt out insects. See the fungi helping to break down the dead wood and return nutrients back into the earth. There are plenty of lyrebirds too, who turnover the forest floor, like a gardener with a hoe, as they dig for invertebrates. It’s an amazing place, and we are privileged to be able to share it, as it’s part of a National Park. To be able to walk through it in peace and quiet was really something special.

Can you spot two white-browed scrub wrens here?

Can you spot two white-browed scrub wrens here?

There’s a picnic area – tables and bench seats – just before the path crosses Banksia Streamlet and starts heading up out of the valley towards Leura township. We crossed and walked on to the first set of stairs at the lower end of the Marguerite Cascades, where we stopped to watch another lyrebird before she moved on, and question whether we wanted to continue up to Leura or back via Federal Pass. I don’t remember exactly why now, but we decided to go back.

Federal Pass Walking Track drops almost immediately quite a bit lower down the hillside than the Dardanelles Track. It’s a very different walking experience; a more undulating track through a completely different habitat. Once again it was interesting to observe how different the forest can be just by moving a short distance away.

It was decision time again when we re-met the Dardanelles Pass Walking Track. I confess it was more Stephen’s decision than mine to climb back up the Giant Stairway, but the alternative choice of walking around to Furber Steps or Scenic World was something we’d already done, so up we went!

Stephen smiling encouragingly at the bottom of the Giant Stairway - but what choice did I have?

Stephen smiling encouragingly at the bottom of the Giant Stairway – but what choice did I have?

At the time, and even now, my first thoughts are thank goodness for the handrails! Yes, I was definitely using my arms to help pull myself up. But what if the lovely stairs and beautifully smooth metal handrails (that would have taken an enormous effort and cost a lot to put in) weren’t there? Well, I’m not sure it’d be open to the public. I’d like to think I’d give it a go if there was a chain or similar, as there are in sections of walks around Dove Lake in Cradle Mountain National Park, but since the stairs and rails are there, this is purely speculation…

The benefits of walking on a weekday and not during school holidays is the decreased likelihood of encountering other people – I was glad there wasn’t anyone coming down while we were walking up the 883 (per Stephen’s count) stairs. The first people we saw were at the bridge to the first Sister. There are plenty of people willing to walk the couple of hundred metres there from the Visitor Centre and get just a taste of the stairs.

It was good to be back at the top, even though it meant being blown by the wind again. We took a short detour to Spooners Lookout, just for completeness.

When we started that morning we were the only tourists at Echo Point; now the place was its usual bustling self. Do those people milling around the lookout have any clue about the wonders I’ve just seen and heard?

Given we had finished this walk so early (it was still morning!) we had time to fit in another walk that afternoon. It would turn out to be the most stunning of our walks in the Blue Mountains yet!

: )