It was yet another beautiful day, so not a moment to lose. We followed the narrow, hilly little roads around to Launceston’s biggest feature – the beautiful Cataract Gorge, where the Esk River cuts through sheer cliffs to reach a low, flat basin. Although everywhere we had been was very green, everyone kept talking about how dry the summer had been, and the river was very low. Signs posted by the Launceston Council spoke of the dangers of swimming in the water, as the blue-green algae levels were dangerously high. The gorge is very picturesque regardless of the water level, though, so we strolled to the Alexandra Suspension Bridge, wandered around the shores of the basin for a while and enjoyed the beautifully peaceful scene. There is a chairlift that goes across the basin but I didn’t much fancy the look of it and declined to participate.
For lunch we stumbled, quite by accident, upon one of Tasmania’s treasures. The Elephant Pass is a narrow mountainous area near Bicheno, which we had passed through on our way to Swansea. There is a famous pancake café there, which we hadn’t had time to stop and sample. Fortunately, there is now a branch restaurant in Launceston. The food was quite wonderful – golden coloured pancakes, as light as a bubble of air, filled with anything you could care to name. It was wonderful.
That afternoon, for the first time since reaching Tasmania, we split up. Denis would tour the Boags Brewery and I, who already knew more about malt than I really wanted to, would visit the Waverley Wool Mill. Waverley is a short drive from the middle of Launceston so after dropping Denis at the brewery I made my way there. It is the only completely independent wool mill left in Australia – all the others send their products overseas for at least one part of the manufacturing process. I spent quite a lot more money than I really should have at the mill, buying blankets, rugs, wraps and yarn. It was wonderful.
I picked up the very happy Denis outside the brewery, then listened politely to a lengthy description of all the beers he’d tried. We had one more important thing to do in Launceston and that was our next stop.
The National Automobile Museum of Tasmania is somewhat confusingly named, but it is an excellent setup. It’s a large tin shed with cars arranged on the lower level and a small mezzanine for motorbikes. They were having a ‘Chevrolet – Pride of America’ display in the front area. The rest of the room was given over to a somewhat eclectic mix of European, British, Australian and American cars. The Japanese were somewhat under-represented but it was still a very worthwhile exhibition. One of the most beautiful cars was the very rare and very special Porsche 356B; one of the original Porsches. And upstairs in the motorbike section was a beautiful selection of BSAs. Given the family connection with the BSA label, we had to spend quite a lot of time up there. However, it was furiously hot in the shed and pretty stuffy as well so it didn’t take too long for me to want to go and sit in my own car, which is air conditioned.
It had been a long day and with the end of the trip looming ahead of us, we were both pretty tired. A pleasant dinner at a seafood restaurant down by the river and we fell into bed.
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