Rediscovering Freycinet part 6 of 7

After breakfast on day three, our next destination was the track to the Wineglass Bay Lookout. Neither my friend or I had any serious inclination to clamber up to the Lookout – we had both made the walk before although a long while ago. We were simply curious to see ‘developments’. And developments we did see! Acres of car parks layered with bitumen and painted lines to indicate parking spots for cars and camper vans. This was a site developed for massive tourism. An extensive array of information boards preceded the new fine gravel track.

I was entranced by the large metal sculpture representing a whale. This was a reminder that the early Europeans culled whales by the hundreds in the nineteenth century. Wineglass Bay was a centre for such activity, so much so that the Bay was coloured like a glass of red wine. Think back to my photos of that summery aqua green water that is typically to be seen in the Bay these days.

We set off on foot towards Wineglass Bay.

We walked along the track in wonder. Perfectly suitable for prams and wheelchairs. A veritable ‘highway’ for tourist ‘bushwalkers’.

With increasing elevation grander and grander views were spread before us.

The native Tea trees were flowering and young bottlebrush flowers stood tall.

The sheer volume of people was astounding – this is still the Covid era when many locals and nationals are not yet travelling often, and the impact of allowing international tourists into Australia was yet unknown. It was impossible to stop for five minutes and listen for birds or quietly enjoy the landscape; a constant stream of people were plodding or rushing past, albeit with friendly hellos. The day was bright bringing out the pleasant social character of all. After  the gentle rise of the path we reached the start of the steeper section. We started walking up the well-built granite stone stairs but, like the images of lines heading up Mt Everest in mind, I looked at feet in front of me and felt heavy breathing from behind and knew I was not interested in ‘discovering’ this new track to the top. Jeanette’s photo below shows some customised steps – for a moment without people.

In turning back, I realised I was glad to have seen this new creation. However because I prefer immersing myself in landscapes where few if anyone else is around, I won’t be returning although I recognise that this level of comfort and safety is what many crave.

Back to the carpark. Now where to go? Having seen the Cape Tourville lighthouse from the boat during the cruise, we set off to approach it from land.

The road was well signposted and the carpark smaller, with fewer tourists in sight.

Once on the top of the Cape, I had a sense of immense space. After the claustrophobia of our eco cabin set within a tight Tea tree (melaleuca) forest, and then too many people on the Wineglass Bay Lookout track, I relaxed into the pleasure of clear views to Wineglass Bay, Mt Graham and Mt Freycinet at the southern end of the Peninsula, and then who knows how far I was seeing to the north.

All around were more sensationally dramatic cliffs, and a big wide sea under a massive blue sky.

The locked lighthouse was introduced by an information board.

With time to wander the paths leisurely and quietly, large fat native lizards ran across the dry stony ground, and could be examined closely.

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Rediscovering Freycinet part 5 of 7

The third morning the day started with a stroll along Richardson’s Beach, a sandy arc that extends between Coles Bay and the Freycinet Lodge.

Across the sand was evidence that thousands of crabs had burrowed into the sand at the edge of the high tide water line.

Over time middens have been exposed by weather and people. These are the ‘rubbish’ tips containing the shell refuse after indigenous people had collected crustaceans as an important food source, that were created before European settlement. Oyster shells were clearly in sight.

Before leaving the Freycinet Lodge domain, but on the way to the start of the track leading to The Lookout (at the top of a ridge between Mt Amos and Mt Mawson), my view included three of the boulder shaped peaks of the Freycinet Peninsula.

Another gorgeous day.

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Rediscovering Freycinet part 4 of 7

I had booked a 5 or so hour trip on one of Pennicott’s Wilderness Journeys, the Wineglass Bay Cruise. The upstairs Sky Lounge option was chosen with the expectation of the best of service from staff, and their expert knowledge about the flora, fauna and social and geological history of the Peninsula and Schouten Island. That we would imbibe some of the best of Tasmania’s wines and fresh produce would be a bonus. And so it was. Faultless. Fascinating. First class. Fundamentally fantastic. It is trip for those who prefer a comparatively sedate, sanitised and less adventurous travel process – contrast this with the raw thrilling trips by the Pennicott team to Tasman Island and on the east coast of Bruny Island. However there is room in my world for both types of excursions, and this cruise to Wineglass Bay and more, remains a different but specially remembered adventure.

We set off from Coles Bay and motored over to the Freycinet Lodge jetty to collect more passengers.

Once everyone was on board, the Cruiser headed off southwards with rich silver clouds throwing a strong light across the sea.

A rocky outcrop offered a safe resting place for dozens of Pied Cormorants. In the surrounding waters we watched these birds straighten their necks before diving deep for fish.

To our right, Schouten Island loomed larger every moment, so that I realised what a huge land mass this island was. We motored through the gap between the island and the bulk of the Freycinet Peninsula.

On our left, small beaches could be seen from time to time.

Then the captain drove close to shore in order to point out an enormous white sea eagle’s nest high up in a tree half way up the hill (refer the dark shape within the red circle that I have drawn is the nest in the next photo). Elsewhere, a similar nest has been created for tourists to gain some understanding of the large size of these nests.

The coastline, with its dramatic granite boulders and edifices, was stunning. My photos show rocks, but what I saw was tempered with salty smells, the cries of gulls, the swish of the water, and the light which changed from moment to moment. This was theatre in its most majestic form.

Imagine you can feel the warmth of the sun and how, despite your polarised glasses, you have to flinch and squint against the power of the light on the sparkling sea. Feel yourself swaying a little as the boat lurches forward; as you grab a rail or unexpectedly catch the arm of a fellow passenger while he tries to save his glass of bubbly from washing over the lip of the glass. Feel your head swivelling as you want to look up and down and from side to side but the changes are all too fast; there is too much to see and you know you can’t process it all. You alternate between desperately trying to cram in each split second of the experience so you can revisit later, and languidly letting the experience wash over you. At times you glaze over under the effects of fresh air and the intoxication of a few too many glasses of sparkling wine. Then someone alerts you to a low flying albatross so your peer across the ocean and see it dip and rise with the air currents. And you feel glad to be alive.

Seals ahead! We motored towards a low lying rocky islet to see big fat sleeping giants humped up onto the warm rocks. Others re-positioned themselves or slipped into the ocean to swim amidst the long strands of tough kelp.

After passing beneath the Cape Tourville lighthouse, we turned southwards again and anchored in the clear waters of Wineglass Bay. Lunch was passed around. The next two photos show myy vegan plus seafood dish first then the regular dish with meat and real cheese etc. All fresh and way too much to eat. But appreciated.

While eating the sumptuous lunch, I watched tourists and walkers discovering the clean white sand along the sweeping arc of the beach. In the distance I could see Mt Freycinet and Mt Graham on the southern end of the Peninsula.

Understandably this beach and landscape is a drawcard to locals and travellers alike. A number of yachts were at anchor in the Bay.

The drop between Mt Mawson and Mt Amos is the ridge where the famed Wineglass Bay Lookout waits for walkers: 650 steps up from the far side and 1000 steps down to the beach.

Initially the cruiser moved us southwards from the township of Coles Bay and through the gap from Schouten Island before heading out into the open sea. We turned northwards late in the morning, continued past Wineglass Bay until we reached Cape Tourville. We turned around, travelled southward to Wineglass then, after lunch, motored back to Coles Bay to arrive mid-afternoon.

As the light and angles changed I had fresh new views of the cliffs and inlets and seals and other birds seen earlier in the day. On at least three occasions pods of common dolphins playfully entertained us either side of the boat, leaving us when presumably they felt bored by our ‘slow’ craft. We were no fun to race. Despite our cruiser shooting along at a fast pace, the dolphins are always faster. It doesn’t matter how many times I see dolphins I remain in awe of their intelligence, understanding  and skills.

Although a gusty westerly wind blew white tops from the waves (next photo courtesy of Jeanette) as we returned to Coles Bay at the end of the day, and the boat rocked and rolled, no one was ill. For me it was the perfect end to a terrific trip – just a wee bit of drama in the seascape.

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Rediscovering Freycinet part 3 of 7

From our accommodation in the Freycinet National Park, we drove to the tiny township of Coles Bay. Time and again we looked back to the mountain-littered skyline in the distance and, for a while, we sat and marvelled at the crispness of the morning and the drama of the landscape. Below where we rested, a cluster of kayakers set out for a paddle.

Orange coloured lichen covered many rocks. In the distance we spotted the cruiser which would take us out to sea and around the Peninsula.

The rippling on the water was defined by the sunlight. Playful. Placid.

After filling in time and genuinely loving the early morning, we headed off to board a Cruiser.

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Rediscovering Freycinet part 2 of 7

The drive from Hobart to Freycinet was punctuated with stops to walk on beaches, to spread our eyes over the expansive sea, to follow the skyline shapes of Maria Island, Schouten Island and the mountains of the Freycinet peninsula. Collectively my travelling companion and I snapped hundreds of photos, as a record of the journey and of the way the landscape differed around each corner and over each hill.

Spiky Bridge is always worth a slight deviation from the highway. Well signposted, the left hand turn off when heading north leads to a tiny car park.

That part of the east coast of Tasmania is like none other in our state. Much of the land was cleared by convicts, sent out from England in rusting hulks during the nineteenth century, after acreages were granted to free men by the Van Diemens Land (the first name given to what is now Tasmania) government of the day – with no thought for the indigenous people who had lived on the land for thousands of generations. The poor soil quality meant little agricultural development except for sheep left to roam. In the past few decades, with access to water, enterprising farmers have now grown paddocks and paddocks of grapes, made wine and built cellar doors for tourists to pass by and taste their offerings. Some of these structures have won creative architectural awards such as the one for “Devils Corner”.

The further we drove north the sharper and more detailed the view of Freycinet Peninsula’s rocky granite mountains.

Once settled into our accommodation within Freycinet National Park, we looked out and up to a worn outcrop. In the freshness of a glorious next morning, more granite mountains were on show. These may have been Mt Amos (454 metres), Mt Dove (258m), Mt Baudin (413m) and/or Mt Parsons (331m) – all showing the effects of geological time.

As I walked to breakfast on day two, trees popped in shape and colour against the brilliant blue sky. A dramatic grass tree filled a large space between other native bushes and trees.

Near the jetty we looked back to the east coast of Tasmania, knowing later in the morning we would travel on that water with the expectation of enjoying the Peninsula from sea level.

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Rediscovering Freycinet part 1 of 7

Tasmanians know of Freycinet Peninsula, on the state’s east coast, even if they haven’t travelled or stayed there. In my case decades have passed between visits. Each time I have marvelled at the land and sea and sky and promised myself to return again soon. Promotion for the area from Freycinet Lodge, an accommodation option located within the Freycinet National Park, claims “The Freycinet Peninsula enjoys worldwide recognition for breathtaking scenery and walks; with stunning flora and fauna in proximity, it is a hiker and photographers paradise!” With the prospect of a big birthday number looming, and after two years of not celebrating because of Covid restrictions, I decided it was time to take the plunge, to leave home, and travel somewhere for pleasure, for learning, for entertainment and, overall, for a grand thrill in one of Tasmania’s iconic landscapes albeit a tourism hot spot.

The road from Hobart to the Freycinet Peninsula extends just under 200 kms.

Louis-Claude Desaulses De Freycinet (1779-1841), who sailed from France in Le Naturaliste, arrived off Van Diemen’s Land (later renamed Tasmania by the British) on 13 January 1802. With others, he surveyed around the D’Entrecasteaux Channel in the south east of Tasmania for more than a month before sailing north towards Bass Strait. He shared in this expedition with Nicolas Thomas Baudin (1754-1803) and their party aboard the three ships Géographe, Casuarina, and Naturaliste. For a while they anchored in the Derwent River near what eventually evolved into the city of Hobart that was established by the British in 1804. Together, the French men worked as cartographic surveyors and naturalists. The Freycinet Peninsula’s high point of , (2,011 feet [613 metres]), surveyed later in 1802 as they sailed north along the east coast of the island, was named by Nicolas Baudin the French captain, after his lieutenant, Freycinet.

There was a nervous moment in British history during the Napoleonic Wars when England feared France might claim Tasmania and run up their flag. Their method of prevention was quickly to establish an English base in 1803 soon supported by convicts, near what became Hobart. Notwithstanding the occupation of indigenous controlled lands by British forces, a number of sites around Tasmania still retain French names indicating their presence in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The current lure of the Freycinet Peninsula revolves around long clean sandy beaches, walking trails over hills and mountains within the Freycinet National Park, oyster farms, cruises which may see passing whales, dolphins and all manner of sea birds, sea kayaking, air trips and vineyards with cellar door wineries. Accommodation varies across a wide area from tent based camping through all levels to extreme luxury resorts, and the eateries include every style from gourmet restaurants serving the best of Tasmanian fresh produce and wines, to easy grab and go take away.

I stayed at the Freycinet Lodge for two nights and enjoyed food from one of their casual restaurants and delighted in the food from the illustrious Bay Restaurant. That’s saying a lot – I only eat vegan plus seafood with foods low in saturated fat, and all the Lodge’s food outlets served me with many choices and no bother. In fact the menus assumed many guests could be vegan or, on any particular occasion, prefer vegan food. Such a relief.

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A special Ukrainian tomato

There has never been a better moment to reintroduce to you a variety of tomato, the Hurma Ukraine, which was mentioned in a 2019 blog post here.

Right now, I would rather forget any association with Russia.

Two years ago I bought a healthy plant from the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Garden’s annual tomato sale. After a good crop and harvest, I collected seed from a couple of outstanding specimens. By September last year every seed I planted had germinated (inside the house in my sunny front porch) and now I have a number of plants growing profusely in my garden. Their many arms keep spreading out, and my staking for support leaves a lot to be desired.

Whether because of climate change or simply a wetter end of last year, tomatoes in my neighbourhood have been slow to colour up. Almost begrudgingly the plants soften one fruit at a time and days pass before they start colouring up another. At the moment I have dozens of green tomatoes, and they are ordinarily unspectacular.

But it is worth waiting; the ripe fruit adds sunshine to my life. Golden, even orange, each one glows in the fruit bowl once picked. The flavour is not strong, but the firm flesh sits well when chopped in salads or sliced within sandwiches.

If you live around Hobart and would like me to collect seed for you in a month or so, please make contact.

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Zucchini Pickles prepared my way

Each year I preserve fresh produce in a number of ways. Recently a friend asked me for my recipe for the jar of zucchini pickles that I gave her at this time last year. I almost never follow a recipe and use my gut feeling (and I have a big gut so lots of feeling) to create concoctions. So, in order to see if I could produce a batch that my friend would value, I have made a few jars of pickle today following the donation of some plump zucchinis.

The ingredients were a medium/largish zucchini, one large onion, one garlic clove, whole peppercorns, whole cloves, apple cider vinegar, salt, dried dill, and two teaspoons of leatherwood honey.

The peppercorns, salt, dill, chopped garlic, and the sliced and chopped onion were dropped into a pot. I halved and quartered parts of the zucchini before slicing, then added them into the pot.

The next step was to pour apple cider vinegar into the pot but not enough to cover. I was working on the assumption that fluid from the zucchini would add moisture, and the zucchini would soften and settle.

On the stove I soft boiled these ingredients for approximately 5 minutes then added the honey and cooked the mix for a further couple of minutes, before turning off the heat. In this time, the colour changed from a fresh-picked-green to a muted softer green.

This quantity of ingredients was sufficient to fill three medium jars.

Now I have a perfect accompaniment for salads and sandwiches. The jars are labelled with all ingredients and one will be given to my friend for her taste test.

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Thursday 24th February 2022 – RTBG

I am never sure what aspect of my Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) experience will thrill me when I volunteer, but I prepare, travel there, and then discover some freshness, vista, or collegial atmosphere that lifts my spirits. This week’s visit was no different. The produce continued to ripen letting some plants move on their path to death, the changing climate and weather lit the landscape with different colours and shadows, the people I worked with told new stories of ways of understanding the plants in their lives, and general visitors remained engaging – one way or another.

On arrival I was met with an array of boxes of tomatoes and a smaller collection of golden nuggets of pumpkin, cucumbers and beans. Later these wonderful vegetables were taken to a charity, Second Bite, for distribution to those in need.

In conversation with a casual visitor, we moaned a little about how we’d like everything to stop growing for a moment so we could catch up on our gardening chores – but, of course, plants are our reminder that we as humans are never in control and that change by the millisecond is the norm. When I see the harvests that the Food Garden of RTBG produces, they are remarkable affirmations of life. Clearly, managing the changing needs of our gardens is simply part of living.

For example, in order to get good apple crops, a nip or two of summer pruning is required. All day Neil worked at the archway trimming off the tentacles that sought more and more sunlight.

The vegetation around the secluded seating area through the apple tree archway had become overgrown – rather woolly – so that Pam and Trixie, later helped by Lesley and Meg, spent the day clearing. Coordinator Adam buggied away loads and loads and more loads of spent vegetation to the main Garden compost piles. Eventually the tools could be returned to the shed.

Nearby, Meg and Sandra cut horseradish and skirret down to size until they had a bonfire sized pile ready for despatch to the compost heap.

When I spotted dandelions, dandelion look-alikes and some other unwanted weeds trying to hide beneath strawberries and ground covers of thyme, I set to digging these up in order to leave carpets of wanted plants across the soil.

Elsewhere there were two types fruit trees that amazed me; every year they do so but it’s never less than amazing. The two varieties of quinces and the chestnut.

I was surprised to see sweet potato growing and thriving. This vegetable is not normally known for success in our southern climate. Undoubtedly the warm protection offered by the location of the RTBG Food Garden, is a great support.

How could a person not be moved by this collective largesse!

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A salutary tale – sequel to the gardening tools instruction session

Look before you leap! Then, if you look also think or, alas, your world may change irreversibly.

Inspired by yesterday’s demonstration of the ease with which one can clean and sharpen gardening tools, today I had a look at my own secateurs and my telescopic (failed function) bypass bush/tree lopper and thought I would work on them.

On the latter the nuts were clear so I unscrewed them – without looking at the reverse side, and therefore without thinking about the possible consequences.

The equipment was quickly and easily disassembled and with sandpaper I gave the parts a superficial clean. Then with an aged stone (when I left home to go to Art School over 50 years ago my father gave me a box of tools and the stone was one of its contents) and WD-40, I set about sharpening the blade. It wasn’t easy. One side of the stone had a well worn concave depression and was the wrong size, so I used the flat reverse. But it certainly wasn’t as easy as it looked yesterday. Eventually I cleaned up, reinserted the bolts and set out to tighten the screws. If only I had looked on the reverse beforehand.

The back of the bolt was a smooth slightly convex shape and this meant it was impossible to retighten the nut sufficiently because that end kept moving with each turn of the nut. There was no way to get a good grip on this to stop it moving as the nut was tightened. Consequently, I was never able to finish the reassembly and was left with a blade about half a centimetre apart from the other side – a useless gap.

Never again could there be a close bypass. The loppers were no longer functional so they have been consigned to the rubbish bin.

By the way, after extensive efforts to tighten the nut I fixed it sufficiently tight so as to not be able to undo and start again with a different plan of attack. Yes, I was stuffed!

It should come as no surprise that when I looked at the secateurs, I decided not to pull them apart and simply clean with sandpaper and with difficulty use the stone on parts of the blades. With the angles on the stone, and the size of the stone relative to the curves of the secateurs blades, resharpening was almost non-existent. Yesterday I had Lesson 101, maybe I need lesson 102!

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