Day 2 – Thursday 15 March

Groggy and tired, we packed ourselves back into the car and took a very long time to get back on to land, having to pass through quarantine on the way (including adorable beagle in official jacket!). A Tourism Tasmania operative thrust a handful of advertising paraphernalia at us which included a breakfast place just next to the pier. This was just the ticket.

Fed and a little more lively, we hit the highway for Launceston. I know Muma grew up in Devonport but its highlights did not seem to be too many, probably mostly nostalgic, and we moved on fairly quickly.

Launceston is surprisingly close to Devonport. In among all the bits and pieces we’d collected, both on the ship and from the TourTas person, there was a lot of material about things to do around Launceston. It was a fairly easy conclusion to come to that the nearby Mt Ben Lomond would be well worth a look. Ben Lomond is in the middle of Tasmania’s ski country and is in a very steep part of the state. The road up did not initially look very steep, but after the turn-off on to the gravel road it suddenly got rather precipitous. From a fairly dry plain we were suddenly in an area of scrubby green, with short heath bushes everywhere. The mountain itself is quite remarkable – endless dolorite columns with big piles of fractured scree underneath where they have broken off. It’s rather alarming to think of some of these rocks (very large ones) falling for no more reason than gradual accumulation of rain, snow and wind.

Ben Lomond is also home to a completely terrifying road called the Jacobs Ladder, which zig-zags up the side of the hill. It is a mostly single lane road with a very sheer drop on one side and a sheer cliff on the other. It has to be seen to be believed! Denis didn’t want to let the opportunity go begging so up we went. The view from the top is extraordinary – the view from halfway up enough to curl the hair. The top was also extremely windy, so taking photos was a little difficult. We persevered.

Back down the mountain and back to Launceston for lunch. Nicole lived in Launceston for about a year and was very disparaging of its charms but we found a very pleasant café/bar sort of thing that served lovely food. It is a very pretty little town. We scouted out where we would be staying when we came back this way then hit the road for Swansea.

The Tasman Highway is one of the main roads in Tasmania and I had therefore foolishly expected that it would be a large thoroughfare, dual or triple carriageway most of the way and well sealed. It isn’t. It is a single lane, often not wide enough to pass a car going the other way, and it winds through steep and somewhat dangerous terrain. The scenery was absolutely amazing, with noticeable differences in ecosystems as we travelled from the coastal area toward the more mountainous north east, then back down again toward the sea. The road had made my time estimates rather fuzzy and we pelted as quickly as we could through St Helens and Bicheno and eventually found ourselves in Swansea at Redcliffe House, arriving just before six.

Redcliffe was absolutely beautiful. The part of the house that we were staying in was one of the original convict-built buildings, made of slat timber and dating from the 1830s. Jim the proprietor welcomed us and showed us to our room, and helped out even more by booking us a table at the nice restaurant in town. This restaurant, called Banc, is in the old Commercial Bank building, which I am sure was once a thriving business. It’s now a thriving business of a different sort – the food was divine and the service excellent. After a long day of driving we didn’t have the energy to go out and sample the nightlife of Swansea (such as it is) and drove back to Redcliffe and fell into bed. Denis commented as we dozed off that it’s ironic that we go to bed much earlier when we’re on holiday than we do during the usual work week.

Day 2 photos
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