I've been flying back and forth between Launceston and South East Queensland again, and, as before, what I see out of the window as I fly over Australia reveals humanity's vast effect on the landscape.
This flight takes me across an immense fertile plain in the middle of New South Wales and Victoria. Most of this 1500 kilometres of landscape is co-opted to serve humanity – it’s just one big machine for feeding and clothing humans.
Mount Arthur is one of several high mountains near Launceston, in northern Tasmania, which I've mentioned in a previous post. I've been thinking about climbing Mount Arthur for a long time, since my house-sit here two years ago; and this time I've got around to doing it.
You can see Mt Arthur from all around Launceston, so I knew from regular observation that it commonly has its head in the clouds.
I've bushwalked on the Trevallyn Nature Recreation Area, near the Launceston CBD, many times while house-sitting here.
I thought that I’d pretty much covered all of it; however, I've realised recently that there is one bit of track there I may have never walked on. That track is the South Esk track, which runs along Cataract Gorge, above the South Esk River.
18th-century Britain’s answer to America’s slave trade was convict transportation, and Tasmania has a substantial convict history – convict labour built much of the early infrastructure here.
During Australia's convict period the colonial governments allocated convicts as free labour to landholders, allowing them to develop their estates to become substantial and impressive.
In my previous post, I introduced some of Launceston’s historic buildings, including a few of its commercial historic buildings.
Launceston also has a large selection of another sort of historic commercial building: churches. So much human skill, design, effort, and community wealth went into old churches that they are nearly always beautiful complex, and highly decorated buildings.
I am back in Launceston, Tasmania, again for another house-sit, a long one this time – about two-and-a-half months.
Launceston is the ‘capital’ of northern of Tasmania. It's a medium-size town with a long European history, set in a beautiful rural and natural setting. Launceston has most of the facilities of a city, plus the countryside and natural world within walking distance of the CBD.
We’ve just visited Injidup Natural Spa, which is a naturally occurring spa pool of foaming and bubbling water set in a chasm in a rocky headland, in south-west Western Australia. As Indian Ocean waves pour water into the pool it foams and bubbles, creating a spa effect.
It’s winter now, so there was no one in the spa pool, but I can imagine how inviting this bubbling pool would be on a hot summer’s day!
Our house sit is near the southern end of the Cape to Cape Track, a well know walking path which runs for 135 kilometres between the lighthouse on Cape Naturaliste and the lighthouse on Cape Leeuwin, in south-west Western Australia. Many people walk this track, usually over about seven days. We aren’t planning on doing this, but there is access all along the track, and we have sampled it at many places along its length while we’ve been staying here.
I went for a swim at Augusta’s most popular swimming beach this afternoon, at Davies Road in Flinders Bay.
Like all the coastline around here in the south-west of Western Australia, it’s a very beautiful spot. The weather here seems to be endlessly perfect, too, with mostly warm windless days and clear blue skies while we’ve been here, as it was today – perfect for swimming and admiring the scenery!
South-west Western Australia has a long association with the timber industry. Before the European invasion this corner of Australia was covered in a huge ancient forest of Karri, Marri, and Jarrah trees. Timber was being cut here 130 years ago and exported all over the world. As is usual with the timber industry, the cutting was rapacious and pretty much all of it was cut down.
We’ve done a walk through Boranup Karri Forest near here, but it’s only re-growth forest (although, at 130 years old, the trees have made it to a good size); so we decided to head out to find some real old-growth forest.
Here in Augusta, we are on the edge of the Margaret River Wine growing area, and we see vineyards whenever we travel around the region.
I’m not big on doing the winery crawl, but I don’t mind doing the occasional tasting, as I did when house-sitting in the Barossa Valley eighteen months ago. And it's always entertaining to watch and listen to the verbal convolutions as dozens of irrelevant adjectives get manipulated into the service of describing wine. For example: I tried a ‘muscular’ wine the other day!
Augusta, where I’m currently house-sitting, is on the estuary of the Blackwood River; it’s a huge and very beautiful body of water, and I haven’t had an opportunity to get out on it until today.
The Royal Freshwater Bay Yacht Club (from the Swan River, between Perth and Fremantle) brought two St Ayles skiffs, ‘Ripple’ and ‘Dotsie’ down here today to promote these boats, and to see if they could kick-start a local interest in them.
Here in south-west Western Australia the coastline is always beautiful – it seems that wherever you find your way to the coast it's stunning and unspoiled.
This area is the Margaret River Region; it’s well known for a few things and one of them is excellent surfing. (Some of the other things are great wine and great white sharks.)
We dropped into Cowaramup bay for a look, and found it to be yet another beautiful place, and a surfing hot-spot with nice waves pumping.
I'm house-sitting in Augusta, in the Margaret River Region, in the south-west of Western Australia.
The region is defined by Cape Leeuwin in the south, and Cape Naturaliste in the north. There’s lots of limestone here, with a huge limestone ridge running virtually from one cape the other. As I’ve noted in a previous post, limestone creates interesting landscape features. The limestone dissolves into the water that permeates through it, leaving cavities under the ground. With enough time those cavities enlarge to become caves, and this whole area is riddled with them – more than one hundred are known.
Our house-sit in Augusta is only a few kilometres from Cape Leeuwin, which is the south-west-most point of Australia. It's a wild place at the junction of the Indian and Southern Oceans.
As an east-coast Australian, I grew up with the dominating presence of the Pacific Ocean; I haven’t seen much of the Indian Ocean, so it’s exciting to be visiting its shoreline!
I'm house-sitting in Augusta in south-west Western Australia. This time we are looking after couple of dogs, a cat, and a couple of galahs (large Australian parrots).
We were in this area twenty years ago, so we're following up on some of the attractions that we saw back then. One of those attractions is Boranup Gallery, which exhibits handmade timber furniture mostly made from local Western Australian timbers jarrah, karri, and marri.
I'm flying from Canberra to Brisbane today for a house-sit. As always, I've got a window seat, and, as always, when I look out of the window, I'm struck by the humanisation of the land: this trip is 950 kilometres, and it's mostly flying over farmland.
The huge area of Australia is mostly modified (some of it heavily) for human use, except for some of its deserts – it’s a vast machine that serves humanity.
We are house-sitting in Mountain River, in Southern Tasmania. Our temporary pet this time is Kaya, the Alaskan malamute.
Mountain River district is in the Huon Valley, and it's named for Mountain River, which flows from the alpine plateau of Wellington Park. The main peak of Wellington Park is Kunanyi/Mt Wellington, which forms the dramatic backdrop of Hobart.
It’s a very beautiful area – a rural and wild valley surrounded by beautiful high mountains.
We visited Ben Lomond today, just outside of Launceston. Ben Lomond is one of three large mountain that we see in the view from our house-sit at Trevallyn.
The weather was perfect, and the scenery was dramatic and beautiful with views of the many mountains to the east, the Central Highlands to the west, and Bass Strait to the north.
We have moved to northern Tasmania for our current house-sit – we are in Trevallyn, a suburb of Launceston. Trevallyn is on a high ridge to the west of the city, and we are on top of that ridge. Launceston city itself is just a few metres above sea level, but up on the ridge we are 130 metres up, so we get great views of the city and the mountains to the east. It’s a great location; and we are only thirty-five-minutes’ walk from the city centre.
We went into the Launceston CBD today, and we parked near City Park. City Park has a macaque monkey display, which I’ve described in a previous blog post. As always when we are going by, we stopped in on them to see what they were up to, and to catch another revelatory glimpse of their evolutionary connection with humans.
It was a quiet time of day for them, and, in a sense, they weren’t really up to much; but, as always, they do everything, including nothing, in an entertaining way.
We’ve been house sitting at Beaupre Point, at the end of the Huon Valley, south of Hobart. Beaupre Point is at the confluence of the Huon River and Port Cygnet, so there is plenty of water around. As with our house-sits in Cazorla, Spain, and Marcoola, Queensland, this property is an accommodation business The property has kayaks for the guests to use, and the owners are letting me use one while I’m here, so I’ve taken one out to check out the local waterways.
I'm house-sitting in Cygnet, Tasmania, again. This time I'm on the hills looking across Port Cygnet and the inlet. The dominant feature of my view is Mount Cygnet, the summit of a long mountain ridge. You can see Mount Cygnet from all around this area, so, by implication, the view from the top should be extensive. I’ve been eying Mount Cygnet off as a bushwalking destination for a while during my various house-sits here in Cygnet, and I’ve recently worked out how to do it!
I grew up in sub-tropical south-east Queensland, where there's not a lot of snow, so snow is something of a miracle to me – it's like it's out of a fairy tale. I've been hoping to get to do some bushwalking in snow before this winter is over. I have returned to Tasmania in the early spring, and there's still quite a bit of snow around at high altitudes, so this is my big chance to fulfil that dream.
Canberra is Australia’s capital city, so while I’m housesitting here I have the opportunity to visit Parliament House to watch our parliament in action – and that’s not always a pretty sight. But before I go into that, I'll give some context: a quick reminder about what our parliament is. Australians should already know about this – although I have my own slant on it – but they probably don’t; and non-Australian readers will need this tiny bit of background before I talk about my visit to our federal parliament.
Do you want to read more? There's more blog posts on The Journey and the Destination than the ones on this page – all of the blog posts are listed in the archive on the right-hand side of this page (or below on a mobile device) – or you can find them using the menu tabs at the top of the page!