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From Strahan to Bronte Park

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Nelson Falls where we stopped and took a walk to see these falls

Getting away from the caravan park at Strahan took ages. People came from everywhere to talk making hitching up a slow process. This is something we find quite common. Everyone seems fascinated with our little home.
At many places we stop, even briefly at the roadside, people comment on the van. This is largely because of the paint job, thanks again to Wayne. They all want to know if we’ve renovated it. We tell them it’s been in the family for 30 years and we only needed to add a few things to be able to work on the road and the odd “Mod Con”. Apart from this the van is original and has already been around Australia once. People seem fascinated by this and want to examine it more closely. We don’t mind at all. We’ve met some really wonderful people like this.

After finally getting on the road we proceeded on the slow drive to Queenstown where we were two days ago.
It was slow because of the steep, narrow and very windy roads. As usual, the van and the car produced a faultless journey up this precarious piece of the country.

On and on we went past the wonderfully diverse scenery we have grown to expect from this state. We encountered near deserted towns, open windswept planes, towering trees in rain forests, farms, gullies, rivers, landmarks of great historical significance and always as a backdrop the wild and rugged mountains sometimes towering into the turbulent cloud and other times opening the full extent of their ruggedness to us against a clear blue sky. Our most commonly used words as we continue our journey are endlessly repeated clichés like “Wow, look at that”, or “Isn’t that amazing”. So often we can only say “God, thank you for letting us view your gallery of indescribable wonder”. One of the unique parts of this whole journey is being able momentarily to enter and become part of a community that has been going about its business long before we even knew it existed and will continue long after we’ve gone. Suddenly we are involved.
We experience their daily lives for a fleeting moment and then we’re gone maybe never to return. Sometimes we see what they see in their chosen home. Sometimes we don’t. Mostly we do understand what drove the earliest visitors to decide to carve the future story of their lives in their chosen place. It was usually either the magnetic hold they would have felt by the sheer beauty of the place or their vision of a successful enterprise based on the abundance of natural resources they discovered.

As we wound our way through the timeless National Park we came across a sign pointing to Nelson Falls where we stopped and took a walk to see these falls that others had told us about. The walk rendered us entirely speechless!

We wandered through the dense rain forest with a fast-running, crystal clear stream running through it. Huge trees towered above, their trunks covered in the moss of the most stunning green colour and adorned with ornaments of fungi with the most unique shapes and colours. Massive ferns fill in the spots where there is no tree and a mix of foliage fills the gaps under the tree ferns. Secretive birds hop about causing the only movement in the forest except for us. It’s been exactly like this for thousands of years!
In the distance, you hear the sound of tortured water falling from a height and the sound gets a little louder as you walk.
Suddenly the forest opens up to the sight of quite indescribable beauty.

High above you towers a sheer cliff over which crystal clean water is cascading, plummeting to the forest floor.
As it plummets to the forest floor it passes over and around ancient ferns growing out of the cliff face and over the same vibrant green moss. Other ferns seem to hang their leaves down the cliff. Some huge logs sit at the bottom covered in moss. Their journey here from the forest where they once grew would have been caused by the river high above where we stood, raging to capacity from the snow that feeds it regularly. Their journey over the fall would have made a spectacular sight as they plunged hundreds of feet to here, to the final stage of their journey where they will decay down over the next couple of hundred years till they vanish without a trace. All we could do was gape in speechless amazement at the beauty before us.

On we drove stopping occasionally at places just too attractive to pass by without a contemplative stop. We eventually came to Derwent Bridge. Kerrie had always said she wanted to stop here and see “The Wall”. I was keen but not as much as her. After the natural sights, we had seen how good some wood carvings be. A surprise was in store. The Wall is a wood carving still in progress by artist Greg Duncan, who moved here with his family to this isolated and lonely hamlet where on the outside, only a few houses exist to qualify it as a “place on the map”. There is a hidden splendour about Derwent Bridge but I’ll tell you about that next. In the middle of nowhere this artist builds himself a large studio; you can’t even see it from the road and sets about his vision of building a living from it.

Sorry, no photos are allowed to be taken of the wall – perfectly understandable as the artist relies on tourists and books etc. to make his living.

The place is under snow often and there is nothing here save a small shop a few kilometres down the road and a few cabins. In spite of this, the vision of this artist has come to reality with astounding success. The drive to bring that vision to reality and what must have been an unquestioning belief, support and motivation from his wife have created something utterly unique. To enter this “studio in the wilderness” is first to be hit with the unmistakably rich aroma of Huon Pine that hangs heavy in the air. Everything is built from Huon Pine or other local timbers. Polished timber of great beauty surrounds a giant fireplace made of iron and steel salvaged from local buildings long decayed. In the corners and walls of this huge room are the artists’ works and the reason for his resounding success. His works are sculptured timber pieces, mostly in Huon Pine but carved in such a way as to be jaw-droopingly unique. The first thing you see is a coat and hat hanging on the wall.

Honestly, you could just take the coat and slip it on and place the hat on your head, except the whole thing is carved from a single piece of Huon Pine! There are a set of leather gloves thrown carelessly over brickie’s trowel. The gloves are creased and worn with constant use and show the marks of hard yakka except they too are carved from a single slab of Huon Pine. Then there is a leather stockwhip obviously roughly coiled by the owner and almost thrown on a wall hook, probably after a hard day’s cattle drive. You guessed it; solid timber, from a single slab! There is a reconstructed science lab with specimens under glass cabinets that look for all the world like real embryos – all solid timber.

Then you move to a huge long high room to discover the Pièce de résistance. It is a wall of solid Huon Pine panels 3m x 1m each. 100 meters of them, carved with characters, animals, machinery and men and woman depicting the carving out and the building of Tasmania by the pioneers and workers who have made this great state. The carvings are in various stages of completion but they are a true wonder to behold. The technique used by this craftsman and artist makes the figures look like you could shake their hand and have a conversation with them. Every one of the many visitors, (where did they all come from???), had the same reaction – Astounded. For us, this was a major highlight of Tassie so far, not only in the astounding works of art but in the story of how one man succeeded in bringing a vision to reality that defied every bit of common sense thinking outside of the vision.

A drive back to Derwent Bridge took us on a detour to Lake St Clair and again we were to be treated to a sight of sheer magnificence. God, I hope this feeling of awe never gets to be commonplace with us! Stretched before us was a magnificent lake of water so clear you could easily see tiny pebbles on the lake floor.

All clouds had disappeared and the deep blue sky which framed the surrounding heavily forested mountains and caused the warm sun to turn the lake surface into sparking diamonds. This was a scene that we truly believe could not be bettered anywhere on earth.

We didn’t want to leave this place but were forced to move on. We came upon a place off the beaten track a bit, called Bronte Park. Stopping to investigate we found a tiny village where we decided to spend the night. Bronte Park is about Fishing! Salmon and trout fishing from the many surrounding lakes and lagoons bring people here. In the bar, people walk around in chest-high boots and the shop is inundated with all sorts of fishermen adorned with boots, landing nets and a whole arsenal of personal fishing regalia. The photos of fish caught here are fascinating with one salmon taking 5 and 1/2 hours to land!

After setting up the van we drove around finding a lovely couple from Brisbane free camping beside yet another stunning lake. After a long conversation, we drove on, finding a “town” of unique shacks built beside the lake.

Driving back to Bronte we decided to stop at the bar in the Park where we were staying mainly to experience the roaring fire. We met the managers, a lovely young couple from Broome who had accepted the challenge to “tidy the place up”. The hard work these people had put into the place over the 7 months they have been here being a tribute to them. The huge roaring fire, the $2.00 a glass pot of Boag’s beer, and the in-depth conversation with the managers and another lovely couple from the Redlands, made this a really special evening.

We also have a great couple of neighbours “next door”. What a journey! What wonderful people there are around! What a magnificent part of the world. Sorry to rave.

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