Day 5 – Sunday 18 March

In what was to prove a very ambitious day of travel, we started at ‘crack of sparrow’s’ and hit the southern highway for Tahune. We travelled for a good hour and a half, through pastoral countryside and into the more heavily forested Huon Valley. On the banks of the Huon river an extraordinary edifice raises its head above the forest. The Tahune Airwalk is a real miracle of engineering and intelligent ecotourism. It is a long structure of girders, guywires and a narrow mesh walkway suspended 30m above the forest floor. It serves the dual purpose of allowing tourists to see the magnificent forest and also protects the forest from the tourists, who don’t tramp about compacting the soil and leaving rubbish around. The Huon valley has an amazingly tall ecosystem – sassafras and blackwood fight with stringybark and leatherwood to be the highest, competing for what sunlight there is. It was cold and overcast with high winds while we walked it, making some of the nearby trees sway alarmingly. The most precarious point is called the cantilever – a long metal platform suspended out over the forest with nothing underneath to support it. It sways and wobbles in the wind, making photography rather difficult – but such a view! Out over the Huon river, through the forest and to the hills beyond. Quite amazing.

Although it would have been nice to spend a whole day there, we had other plans as well and drove back to Hobart then straight on across the river to Sorell, where we headed along the Arthur highway toward what was to prove to be rather disappointing – Port Arthur. Neither of us were especially keen to see the old settlement. It would have been interesting to have a wander round and maybe look at some ruins, have a cup of coffee and then leave after half an hour… but the admission charge was $25 a head and that seemed to be ridiculous. So we took some photos from the platform just before the paying kiosk and left it at that.

It was not a waste of driving, however, since the main reason we’d come this way in the first place was yet to come. The area known as Eaglehawk Neck which separates the main body of Tasmania from the Tasman Peninsula is a treasure trove of rock formations. The Tasman Arch is a wonderful wild rock archway, caused by the roof of a sea cave collapsing, leaving only the entry-way intact. The sea rushes in and out of the channel under the arch; a forbidding and dangerous looking place. Being able to park immediately in front of the arch is another help for those who have recently done the Wineglass Bay walk and are feeling sore in the calves! A pathway looped around the hole, across the arch and to the edge of the cliff, where lazy blue waters swelled gently in the sunshine. It was superbly beautiful.

After the Tasman Arch, there were still more rocks to observe. The Devil’s Kitchen is an open channel where the sea gushes in and out of a mostly underground gulf. Swiftlets darted back and forth on the air currents, catching flies and midges in the afternoon breeze and retiring occasionally to their rocky nests in the cliff wall. A little further down the coast is the Blowhole, another arch but this time more violent. The sea rushes down a narrow channel, crashing roughly against the walls and roof and ending in a cleft in the rock. Spray and foam fly with abandon as the waves beat endlessly against the rocks. Although it looks terribly destructive, photos on a panel at the site show how little the area has changed in 100 years.

Back down the highway a little further is the Tessellated Pavement. It is an ordinary beach with a broad expanse of white sand, and at one end an amazing geological curio. The rocks have fractured into squares and in many areas have formed ‘dishes’ – a raised lip of rock around a flat square pan. Absolutely remarkable. We regretted having gone to Port Arthur at all, not having enough time to sit and really enjoy this extraordinary, beautiful landscape.

The drive back to Hobart was yet another long one, and after a quick wash and change of clothes we found a nice Mexican restaurant for dinner. This was to be our last night in Hobart. Although we had spent three nights here, I wish we had spent more of our time actually in the city. I feel that we missed out on some things.

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