We woke up, well the alarm went off, I’m not sure either of us … Or others in the park slept too well last nite .. I did hear peg work happening after I got into bed so I didn’t feel too bad for the noise I had made. Tentatively we shone the torch on to the floor of the camper .. yep even at 7.30 it was still nearly pitch bl**day dark and yes !!!!! Success, my hatchet work had done the job, well almost a small puddle was far less than we were expecting. So out of bed we climbed, breaky done into town we headed to join our cruise down through Macquarie Harbour, along the Franklin Gordon rivers, onto Sarah Island and Heritage Landing.
The morning was looking OK weather wise but were prepared for the worst with our wet weather gear.
The trip out to Hells Gate was pretty wet and windy but almost like clock work just before we got to Hells Gate the weather cleared everyone was out on deck getting a good look, feel and taste of the treacherous waters as we dipped and rose over the waves. Then again almost on cue as soon as we had u-turned and were back through the gates, down it came again.
Hells Gates is the name of the mouth of Macquarie Harbour. 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. 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. Between 1900 and 1902 the Macquarie Harbour Entrance Works involved the building of a breakwater and the channel was dredged. Parts of the breakwater can still be seen despite the passage of time – it really is quite amazing, the captain today pointed out that still today that wall assists in keeping the channel open and the movement of the channel to a minimum – what great minds and ability people had back then and without all our fandangled technology.
From Hells Gate it was off to Sarah island for a wonderful narrated guided tour of the very mysterious and interesting times of being a convict on Sarah island. Sarah island operated between 1822 and 1833. The settlement housed mainly male convicts, with a small number of women. During its 11 years of operation, the penal colony achieved a reputation as one of the harshest penal settlements in the Australian colonies. The penal station was established as a place of banishment within the Australian colonies. It took the worst convicts and those who had escaped from other settlements. The isolated land was ideally suited for its purpose. It was separated from the mainland by treacherous seas, surrounded by a mountainous wilderness and was hundreds of miles away from the colony’s other settled areas.
Convicts were employed in the shipbuilding industry. For a short period, it was the largest shipbuilding operation in the Australian colonies – just one of the mysteries of the island, how do malnourished, escapists build the largest ship building business in the country in one of the most remote places in the country?? Chained convicts had the task of cutting down Huon Pine trees and rafting the logs down the river. Eventually the heavily-forested island was cleared by the convicts. A tall wall was then built along the windward side of the island to provide shelter for the shipyards from the roaring forties blowing up the harbour.
As we left Sarah island for the calmer tranquil waters of the mighty Franklin Gordon rivers you have to pay your respects to all those that fought so hard for so long to ensure that this place wasn’t cleared dammed and destroyed forever. As we floated down the river a beautiful buffet lunch of Tasmanian delectable delights awaited us … oh wow this holiday stuff is getting harder by the day !!!! Again the weather cleared and we were able to enjoy the walk around Heritage island and the different trees that reign through the area, namely the mighty Huron of course but also the lovely sassafras, blackwood, leatherwood, myrtles and many many others. One of the Huons that has fallen is over 3000 yes old, but don’t be too sad, in an area where there is less then half a metre of soil the fallen trees provide a home and nutrients to all the new growth, so one falls and many many more grow, its really something special.
Arriving back into Strahan we are dropped at the sawmill, still operating from the same shed since 1940 with the same saws and many of the same practices. Oh the smell of Huron pine, until you have smelt it you can’t describe it and even when you have you still can’t its different to other pines, stronger sweater perhaps but very addictive, I could stand in that shed or shop all day long! We did however resist the temptation to buy anything, well that is until Tash spot o’d the ice cream shop, don’t worry that she has four layers on, yep its ice cream time … and maybe some home made coconut rough, hey it is Easter after all, and our Easter bunny got blown to the Antarctic last night and didn’t find us!
We had a wander through the village than headed back for a lazy afternoon. We contemplated a sunset, but it was too flamin cold and the rain was headed back so we opted for an early dinner instead.