Friday, August 31, 2012

When I grow up...

I am currently reading ‘Raising girls’ by Gisela Preuschoff in which she mentions the inequalities that still exist in this supposed enlightened 21st century. Apparently in 2003, only 8.8% of executive management positions in Australia were held by women. Granted this statistic is nearly 10 years old, but I can not see it having moved anywhere near the 50% mark in that time.

I started thinking about what sort of future lay ahead for the short one…what ambitions she may strive to achieve…what aspirations, we as parents, hold for her…what qualities, we as a family, hope to impart and nurture.

I would hope that the short one continues to blossom into an independent, caring, nurturing, confident and intelligent young lady. I would hope that she has life goals and strives to meet them. I would hope that she embraces her strengths, as well as her weaknesses. I would hope that she celebrates a life of love, security and resilience. I would hope that she will be happy.

With this in mind, I asked the short one today the age-old question, ‘What would you like to be when you grow up?’

There was a distinct pause in the conversation, so I gently prompted by suggesting a raft of potential career choices, being ever so careful not to select only female stereotypical professions…a firefighter, a police officer, a doctor, a nurse, a teacher, a computer fixer, a mechanic…

Clearly, I was way off track. Each suggestion was met with a very definitive, ‘No.’

What does she want to be when she grows up…

A butterfly, of course!

Thursday, August 23, 2012


The time had come for us to take our leave of the sleepy seaside town of Strahan and head to Tasmania’s capital. Our route took us via Queenstown, a mining town at the gateway to the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Overnight lows prevented us tearing along the windy route, with black ice dotted along the roads where sunlight rarely settled.

En route we took a pit stop in the small township of Tarraleah, described in Lonely Planet as a surreal town. Originally settled to accommodate the many workers at the hydro station, it has since become little else other than a bizarre settlement. 

Several buildings dot the top of the mountain overlooking the massive hydro scheme infrastructure, built in the 1930s. The town itself has no residents now, but is home to Australia’s highest altitude golf course! A multi-million dollar makeover has since homogenised the township giving it its odd theme park feel. 

Driving through the town's few streets, there was a genuine ghost town atmosphere. This place was a dead cert for tidiest town – no cars, no people, no mess. 

The entire township has been completely restored and one could be forgiven for thinking you had just been time shifted to the 1930s. Accommodation is readily available, with the lodge providing meals and a cafĂ© providing coffee, cake and little else. Asking for a vegemite sandwich for the short one required a staff conference of two to ascertain: 
a. could it be done 
b. what it was and 
c. how much to charge...

Perhaps we had landed in some parallel universe.

If you are ever down that way, it is most certainly worthwhile taking the short bypass to check out this bizarre little place!

Tarraleah's resident geese

Hydro scheme 
Hydro scheme, Tarraleah lookout

Tarraleah, tidy town

Thursday, August 16, 2012

West Coast Wilderness Railway

Discovery of copper in Queenstown in 1896 precipitated the need for an efficient means of transport to move the minerals to the port at Strahan. Surveyors and engineers quickly trounced the idea of building a railway through the wilderness. Equally as quickly, the mine owner adopted the motto Labor Omnia Vincit – we find a way or make it.

With a gradient of 1:20, no steam train was able to climb such terrain. That was until a rack and pinion system (or Abt System) was invented in 1885. Small cogwheels under the loco engaging with teeth on a middle rail enabled the train to climb gradients like never before. Now, I am no train enthusiast, mathematician, nor engineer. Saying gradients of 1:20 means absolutely nothing to me, but I was assured it was steep - both ways!

The railway officially opened in 1897. Known for its incredible feats of labour, human tenacity and impossible engineering, the railway was built completely by hand. Cuttings through rock faces along the King River were made leaving just a whisker on either side. At times you catch yourself breathing in, as you weave your way along the steep banks. The line travels for 22 miles and has 42 bridges in total.

The railway ceased operating in 1963. Locals campaigned long and hard to get the railway up and running again as a tourist attraction. It wasn’t until a $20M Federal Government grant in the late 90s was forthcoming that their dreams were realised. In 2003, the Abt Wilderness Railway was officially reopened. A number of the original locos has been restored and they have been commissioned into action once again, taking tourists along the same incredible tracks built all those years ago.

The romance of steam...a truly wonderful day.

Rotating Loco No. 5
Mount Lyell Loco No. 5
West Coast Wilderness
Keen passengers
Walking in the wilderness

Passenger carriage

Rail bridge

Rail bridge
King River
King River
Disused mine shaft
Rack and pinion test track 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A promise well kept

After a day of snowstorms and gentle snowfalls, we thawed out in the peaceful lodge in front of a crackling fire. With that mulled wine now firmly in hand, I was able to appreciate all that we had seen during the day. What spectacular and varied landscapes, made all the more special with incredible wildlife such as the pademelons and currawongs at every turn. Wombats, echidnas and platypus also frequent the park, but sadly they were not to greet us on our brief visit.

The next morning brought with it a very different story. No snow to be seen. The winter wonderland had all but vanished. What a difference a day makes! Someone was looking after us, as we left for our next journey to the seaside town of Strahan. Our one full day in Cradle brought with it a promise kept and kept well.

Pencil Pine Falls walk

Pencil Pines Fall walk

Pencil Pines Falls

Knyvet Falls

Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge

Icy roads lay homage to the low temperatures over night, making for a slow trip off the mountain and across to the coast. Strahan was to be our seaside hideaway for the next couple of nights as we ventured onto the West Coast wilderness railway.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Snow flakes on noses

What is it with snow? 

It seems to have this magical, mystical effect on people. It just makes you feel alive. Like the warmth of a crackling fire, a dancing snowflake just makes you feel good.

Aside from creating her very own snow storm, all the short one wanted was a snow flake on her nose. 

Catching a snow flake was another matter altogether. Walking through the gentle snow falls, like a feather drifting on the wind, a snow flake danced down and landed on her nose. 

What excitement, albeit a brief moment in time...until the next, and the next, and the next, until we were just covered in the stuff!

Childhood memories are made of this.

World Heritage Area

Kate's Hut


Melting snow flakes

Enchanted Forest falls

Enchanted Forest

Cradle moss and lichen

Mossy log

If these lips could talk...


Winter wonderland

Stirring just before 6am, I anxiously stumbled to the front door to look outside. What greeted me was a sight so beautiful I almost cried…with relief. Gently waking the family, we excitedly looked out to see a blanket of snow at our doorstep. 

Early morning snow fall
A promise kept. 

With three smiles all a mile wide, we made our way through the falls to the lodge for breakfast.

Blizzard over Cradle Mountain
On today’s agenda was a trip into the world heritage area of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. Pass in hand, we left the visitor centre and entered the park via the National Park's shuttle bus. Taking us as far as Dove Lake, we drove through a winter wonderland, a beautiful blanket of white transforming the landscape. Bravely stepping off the warm bus we were left at Dove Lake to be amazed at the scenery…that was if we could see it. It was at that point in time that a blizzard hit. Snow driving in horizontally with a strong wind behind it leaving us somewhat underprepared for the elements. 

While the short one and I took refuge in the shelter, Dad thought better of it and walked down to the waterfront to find the historic boatshed.

Boat shed, Dove Lake

With shuttle buses leaving every 20 minutes, it was my endeavour to get on the next one with or without him!  Fortunately, a darkened figure appeared through the white out to reveal a somewhat wet and worse for wear Daddy just as the shuttle appeared.

Once aboard we started to thaw out a little, while all I could think of was Mawson and James Scott. It was about now that Paul asked the driver about the next stop. Whilst I was all for the fireplace back at the chalet, with a mulled wine in hand, he apparently had better ideas.

‘We are here to see the snow and do snow storm. Snow storm we will do.’ Dragging the family off the bus at Ronny Creek, the official start of the infamous overland track, he did at least think better of us doing that walk. Considered the holy grail of bushwalks, taking 5-7 days, walkers trek from Cradle Valley through to Lake St Clair. So popular, this walk has now become strictly regulated, with walkers limited each day and charged a premium price. Why anyone would want to do it in this weather was beyond me.

Waldheim Chalet
Instead we were to take the somewhat easier  and shorter route up the hill to Waldheim cabin (German for Forest Home). Gustav Weindorfer was an Austrian immigrant who first came to Cradle Mountain in 1910. He and his Tasmanian wife, Kate, fell in love with the area and worked hard throughout their lives lobbying successive governments to declare it a National Park, for all to enjoy. Fifty years after his death in 1932, their goal was finally realised for their beloved country.

Whilst the original chalet burnt down in 1974, it was rebuilt after much community pressure. Using similar traditional carpentry techniques, an exact replica Waldheim once again rose from the alpine landscape as testament to all that the Weindorfers represented. Though it proved a somewhat easier task than the one in 1912, when Gustav and Kate were only able to reach within 15 kilometres of their new home by horse and cart. The rest of the journey had to be made by foot and packhorse, carrying various building materials and supplies.

The somewhat protected roadway to Waldheim Chalet
The gentle walk to Waldheim

Climbing the gentle rise of the road, one was privy to just a mere glimpse of the climatic hardships that these pioneers must have endured. But deter us, it did not!

We had some snow storm to do!!

PS Sadly, no photos exist of us doing snow storm as the conditions were so camera unfriendly...but snow storm we did do!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Big Rock Candy Mountain

Any stay at home mum with toddlers would be all too familiar with the iconic opening bars of …There’s a bear in there…

Play school has become an institution for decades of toddlers, bringing with it a line up of presenters for which any casting agent would fight. And then there are the presenters for which any SAHM would continue... to wait at home.

Joining the ranks of late has been the ever popular, Jai Laga’aia. Star of the little and big screen, and father to eight; he most certainly comes from a busy lifestyle. Little wonder he had time to record his latest CD with Catherine Britt.

Big Rock Candy Mountain is an interesting sidestep for Jay and his usual MO. I had never considered him alongside the likes of Glen Campbell, Kenny Rogers or Johnny Cash. This CD instantly took me back to that unforgettable scene in The Blues Brothers, where Elwood asks the bartender what kind of music they usually have there, to which she cheerily replies in that Texas drawl, ‘Oh, we got both kinds, country AND western!’

Teaming up with Catherine Britt (who sounds hauntingly like a younger Dolly Parton), this CD has a play list that is vaguely familiar, if not strangely yee har! I am sure you will remember the words to She'll be coming 'round the mountain or Swing low, sweet chariot just as soon as the tune hits the speakers. 

To be honest, it’s not me, but neither is Chad Morgan – but for those true devotees to both types of music, you are guaranteed to love it!

This product review purely expresses my opinion and is not influenced by any form of remuneration.
A copy of the CD was provided for review purposes only.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Snow storm

Guess how much I love you’ has been a well loved children’s book for over 18 years. Recently animated and shown on the ABC, the short one quickly became a fan. 

With an incredible sense of the circle of life, I remembered Little Nutbrown Hare accompanying me on a long journey overseas, after he was secreted away in my suitcase by my mum. Now here I was, nearly 20 years later, secreting a digital copy onto the iPad for our trip. 

This proved to be a wise move as it quickly became favourite viewing throughout our many long drives. This may have proved to be our nemesis though. Little Nut Brown and his dad live in the snowfields and delight in creating snowstorms through their legs with their raking hands. Perhaps foolishly, we promised the short one that we would see snow in Tasmania. She was somewhat disappointed to not see it the moment we stepped foot on the tarmac. There was little we could do to convince her that we were in fact in Tasmania and hadn't detoured to some place devoid of snow.

Little Nutbrown Hare and his dad
Reading the BOM forecast feverishly each day, we were quietly optimistic that the snow would come the weekend that we were to be in Cradle Mountain.

Driving into Cradle Mountain Lodge, we checked into a charming alpine cottage complete with fireplace. 

Still no sign of the white stuff... but there was always tomorrow I said, with fingers and toes crossed.

Tucking the short one into bed, I placed a kiss on her cheek with the promise of tomorrow being another day.

Launceston to Cradle Mountain

With breakfast in our sights we made our way to the Stillwater Restaurant by Cataract Gorge in Launceston, overlooking the water. What a treat! The view was magical over the foggy waterfront, the building historical, the fare delectable! Well worth the visit. The venue is the wonderfully renovated Flour Mill from the 1840s and as Lonely Planet attests, it is one restaurant that shouldn’t be missed.

View from Stillwater restaurant

After checking out what else Launceston had to offer, we then made our way to Cradle Mountain, our next destination. Taking the Meander Highway, we headed west, bypassing the main highway. Travelling through quaint country towns, we were making our way to the salmon farm, 41o South. While off the beaten track, locally grown and smoked salmon and fish feeding enticed us into the valley. 

Back on the road we made our next stop at Ashgrove Cheese Factory. Set in picturesque dairy country, Ashgrove is renowned throughout Australia as producing some of the finest cheeses next to King Island. Sampling their fare, we treated ourselves to some cheese and with a bread stick and a whole smoked salmon in hand, we were all set for a great impromptu picnic lunch. Stopping in quaint Railton, town of topiary, we enjoyed our lunch surrounded by elephants, corkscrews and kangaroos, all cleverly trained and contained!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Cataract Gorge to Beaconsfield

It is incredible to think that such a spectacular natural beauty is set right in the heart of a city. Cataract Gorge meets Launceston. The impressive South Esk River meanders its way towards the city centre cradled by the incredible cliffs of the gorge.

Cataract Gorge
One of the advantages of travelling in winter, is that things are relatively quiet and the pace is that much slower. Far more conducive for that much needed break. Finding a park anywhere is a breeze and what’s more it is likely to be free. Coming from one of the most expensive places in the world to park, this was a rare, unexpected treat!

Parking just along from the Gorge, we meandered along the ever popular walking track, nestling the cliff face. What an amazing sight at every turn.

Moving from here we headed up the East Tamar to George Town, then backtracked to the Batman Bridge to cross to the West Tamar. While no evidence, past or present, of any DC characters were evident, the structure itself was impressive.
Meredith and Lily, Cataract Gorge

Beaconsfield was in our sights. A little town of which up until 2006, very few had ever heard. The world had seemingly stopped and turned their ever-watchful eyes towards the fateful events that unfolded in this sleepy mining town on that fateful ANZAC Day.

Seismic activity created a land fall at just below 1000 metres below ground, killing one miner and trapping two others. Through incredible ingeniuity, courage, persistence, patience and bravery, these two miners were finally rescued 2 weeks later. While two miners were trapped in a cage crushed by fallen rock, in a space which only just accommodated their two bodies, Australia sat riveted to their TVs.

Media from all over the world converged on this small gold mining town that through tragedy and bravery ended up on the map.

Brant and Todd's uniforms
Seeing in the flesh the actual cage lift, clocking in/out board and the iconic A frame mine shaft brought back many memories of that fateful day. Climbing into a simulated space in the Heritage Centre brought it all too close to home.

Beaconsfield Mine lift and shift board

The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre is well worth a visit. An impressive museum with several items for children to play with on their journey through. A hide and seek game throughout the museum also stimulates interest and is rewarded with a small piece of quartz and gold sample from the mine.

Lily trying out ink pen in old school desk
For a complete change of pace, interestingly, Beaconsfield was the first place in Australia to add fluoride to town water, back in the 1950s. The trial set up by one man was such a huge success that it provided the support and evidence to fluoridate water supplies throughout Australia.