From crackpots to cradles and queens

Breakfast! You can’t start a big day without some food in the stomach. Well, I can and have, but it doesn’t make for a happy family experience. So off we set down the streets of Central Launceston to Bryher.

Outside another patron’s huge St Bernard cheerfully greets every curious passer by. Inside the small cafe we order eggs and a rarebit (cheese on toast). Nice, but like the meal of the previous night it takes a long while for the food to appear and we are in a hurry.

On the way back to the motel we pass a shop with old Apple Macs in the window, piquing interest in Alex and memories of university days for B and I. She first met me over a Mac back when she was studying in Tasmania.

Checking out of the hotel we set off into the countryside towards Tasmazia and the Village of Little Crackpot in Promised Land near Sheffield. Yep, that’s a helpful description. Let’s just say that Google Maps had us traipsing through winding, hilly rural roads past cattle, haystacks and a set of portable traffic lights, all against a dramatic mountain backdrop. Very pretty!

After almost an hour and a half we arrive at Tasmazia and enter their high hedged maze. Around every corner is a quirky sign or building. The Three Little Pigs village, a punishment stockade, a pitch black ghost house. Then we emerge into their Village of Little Crackpot, a miniature painted concrete village of insanity.

More mazes await where the goal was to find the centre, not easy to achieve! With more than a little frustration each challenge is solved under the gaze of the the hot sun in a clear blue sky.

The World Embassy section is another crazy little town full of puns and plays on names or situations. I love Bel-gym and the Tardis in the intergalactic embassy.  There are also memorials to whistleblowers and refugees who perished at sea.

Beyond that is a field of lavender, buzzing with bees.

We have a simple, yet delicious, lunch in the cafe before returning to the car for our next destination, Cradle Mountain.

Our route takes us along Cethana Road behind a wide loaded truck which necessarily has to take up the entire road along the steep and sharp switchbacks. When we reach Cradle Mountain Road the scenery changes to a rolling alpine landscape with the odd lonely farmhouse and no fences for livestock.

Cradle Mountain is possibly Tasmania’s most famous site. We park our car at the visitors centre, pay the national park entrance fee and catch the shuttle bus all the way to the final Dove Lake from where you can see the iconic views of the park.

We are fortunate that it is a clear day, for the rocky peaks of Cradle Mountain are fully visible behind the serene Dove Lake. Though it is already past two pm we decide to do the six kilometre Dove Lake circuit, turning left at the entrance.

Six kilometres per hour is a reasonably normal walking speed, but the circuit takes us the indicated three hours to complete. It is not just the stepped hilly sections, but the multitude of sights along the way. The track passes through a range of vegetation types, from flat alpine grasslands, to gnarled trees coated with moss and lichen and even rainforest. We stop on the white pebbled beaches to take in the view of the mountain and waters brown with tannins lap gently at the shore.

The rocks, from tiny pebbled to huge outcrops, are all white quartz, though some are stained red and pale green with lichen. Like the rocks of Cataract Gorge, the bare peaks of Cradle Mountain, towering over one and a half kilometres above sea level, are dark grey dolerite. I can tell there are great geological and biological stories to be told about this landscape.

We are absolutely exhausted by the time we complete the circuit, but it is well worth it. The landscape is magnificent and well worth all the superlatives that are published about it.

It is fortunate that the days are long this far south at this time of year, for we still have almost two hours of driving to do and it is already past five pm.

At first it is more alpine plains, then forests, but then as we approach Tullah the scenery becomes more mountainous. Driving along the B28 we are treated to some magnificent scenery. It feels like we are riding along the tops of the mountains, glimpsing the massive outcrops of the Granite Tor Conservation Area, then the windswept bare mountains around Lake Plimsoll. This is incredible, it feels almost like we are in New Zealand’s South Island, especially with the Fellowship of the Rings playing in the background.

Coming into Queenstown we are confronted with the shattered bare hills mined for their mineral wealth. We are tired, hungry but awestruck by the landscape.

This quiet town doesn’t seem to have much to eat and we are directed to the historic Empire Hotel. Like the night before, there is a wait for a table and an even longer wait for food. We eventually eat steaks and chicken at almost 8.30 and by the time we are finished the pub is closing for the night.

Outside we are accosted by Gerard, an older software developer who insists on showing us his photos of a face and crucifix on the mountain face. Friendly, a little drunk or a God-botherer I’m not sure, but the human capacity for recognising the non-existent is well known.

Opposite the pub is the Queenstown terminus of the West Coast Heritage Railway, and that is our destination for tomorrow.