Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Tasmanian relief - PART 5

(Return to - PART 1, PART 2, PART 3, PART 4)

The next day we stopped at the Donaghys Hill walk to see the
Frenchman’s Cap. If you skip any of the other walks, make sure you do this one. Don't always believe the time estimates to complete these walks or judgments of difficulty levels on the signposts; they seem to be random. Quite a strenuous walk but well worth it for the view. Money back guarantee.

Nelson Falls. Very nice. I loved it. Excellent walk through the forest to get to it too.

Queenstown. Looking down into this town from the lookout before attempting the fearsome switch backed curves before us showed what a blasted ruin our descendants had made of the environment way back in the early 1900’s. Mother Nature is still struggling to recover from the waste and pollution the huge copper smelters churned out. The area has been continuously mined for over 100 years. We were told the steep descent into make people car I just cut all the corners for the comfort of my passengers and no one got sick or killed so no problem for our troop.

We'd booked a couple of tours around Strahan and made it our base for a couple of days. We stayed at Aldermere Estate. It was quite expensive but delivered the goods. The whole top floor was a second bedroom with en suite so it was perfect for two couples.

The next day we went on the West Coast Wilderness Railway. The extra money we paid for premier class immediately got us a glass of champagne on arrival. I don't approve of drinking vinegar that early in the morning so I threw it down to be polite and refused seconds. Besides, when beer is unlimited and included in the price of admission, what are you going to do? Eric and I started to lighten the rear wagon. Be warned, there’s no toilet on this trip until the next station.

This trip could be described as one of those once in a lifetime experiences that you should try to fit in. The construction of the railway is an astounding tale. They used no explosives so cuttings were dug to very fine tolerances. We squeezed through each one with nothing to spare. Warnings about swift removal of stuck out heads and limbs were taken literally. It rained all the way but had no bearing on our situation. Our first class wagon was well catered for with blankets, pillows, too much very good food and endless beverages. I think they served water and soft drinks although not much of that was getting about.

I did spare a moment to think about the deprived people in coach class. They had to brave the freezing wind and rain in their unheated wagons with permanently open windows. Their seating consisted of lovely period-faithful wooden slat seats. That's what you get when you’ve got kids and can’t afford to upgrade.

By the way, you know how old people are always going on about how young people are so annoying? You do? Well our wagon was filled predominantly with the older vintage person and they seemed to be having a really good time. There’s nothing wrong with this but I think they were half cut before we even got moving. I'm sure Nita and Eric won’t behave like that when they get old.

We had to swap locomotives halfway through the trip. An ABT System Locomotive is required to climb the steep grade ahead. The ABT System is a set of gears slung underneath the loco that meshes with a rack bolted along the middle of the track. It was really steep going so Eric and I redoubled our beer consumption to lighten the load even more. Jules helped a bit Nita concentrated on cleaning out the dining car. That poor loco powered on gamely until a tree fell on the track in front of us causing a sudden stop. (I didn't spill my beer so three cheers for the engineer.). With a bit of light-hearted vocal encouragement from the passengers, the fireman drew the short straw and got out with a chainsaw to cut it away.

The trip had to come to an end eventually and we get a bus ride from hell back to Strahan from Queenstown to sober us up. It must have been a wild ride down the mountain but I fell asleep, with a few of the other old people, and missed it. We were just plain tuckered out from all the excitement.

(Like it? See - Tasmanian relief - PART 6).

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