Heybridge, Stanley and Nocturna

OK so it went like this,
“Time for our long weekend break.”
“Brilliant, lets go.”
“Aw it’s over now, time to go home”
“What if we stay out a bit longer?”
“Brilliant, lets go!”
“Aw it’s time to go home now.”
“Oh look! What’s this thing I just saw?”
“Brilliant, let’s go!”

It’s worth mentioning that there is a prequel to this trip. Jenni and I had planned a 2 month trip to NSW and Queensland for some important family reasons but Covid happened, again. So a long weekend was arranged as a bit of an alternate break.

100,000 kms together and still travelling

We had booked an Airbnb in Heybridge on the north coast of Tasmania for 3 nights, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

On the drive to Heybridge we passed another epic milestone. 100,000 kms on the road together in the Mazda 3. Of course we recorded the event.

99,999 kms
100,000 kms
Me looking very pleased with myself.

Heybridge

The place we had chosen was an old fisherman’s shack on the banks of the Blythe River in the tiny hamlet of Heybridge just outside Burnie. It had been turned into an extremely comfortable haven by the owners. It boasted a wood burning fire and an expansive view of the river.

Cottage kitchen
Wood fire

They reported there may be road noise but it was minimal.

View from our cottage at dusk. The road over the bridge was very busy. Lots of trucks with interesting light trails could have happened. However I lost patience as none of the shots I took had the amazing truck lights. So here is what the light trails look like with just cars. Note the tide is out, next high tide 12:07pm.

The place also boasted a row boat as part of the deal. Well, of course, we had to give that a go! Being beside the river in a fisherman’s cottage set our intent to do some fishing. We had borrowed some gear from friends Sandee and Brian and were hoping to catch something for dinner. When the sun rose it was low tide, so no boating till midday. We grabbed our rods and headed for the river mouth.

Jenni casting off

For bait we had chicken sausage and bread. Jenni said Huckleberry Fin used bread so it was in our bait box. I managed to attract a little teeny weeny fish that nibbled the chicken sausage off the huge hook I was using. I could see it nibbling away in the clear waters. It ate all my bait on the first two tries but didn’t snag. (Geddit!) So I switched to bread. It ignored the bread. Huckleberry Finn is just fiction. I went back to chicken sausage and it ignored that as well. I think it was full. I switched positions, still no luck. Despite being a better fisher person Jenni didn’t catch anything either.

Jenni, looking pretty professional while still managing to not catch anything.

On the walk back to the shack a local, seeing our rods and lack of fish, informed us we were fishing at the perfect time but wrong spot. “Should have been on the other side or the river” he said. Local knowledge is vital.

As it was now high tide we got the small tin boat out. I was first up to row. I realised that my rowing style means the boat turns 90 degrees every 3 strokes. So I was rowing round in circles. Well not quite circles, more spirals as the current was dragging us along. I worked out we would have made more progress if I’d stopped rowing.

Jenni took over.

Jenni amazingly rowing in a straight line, something I considered an impossibility just a few minutes earlier.

Thankfully this meant we were able to make progress up the river. We had a great time exploring the river. Some of the little cottages on the river bank looked fabulous. One even has a family of ducks living under it.

Duck cottage

We rowed the tin boat back to our own cottage. When I say “we” I mean I had another go and then handed back to Jenni when we were getting farther away.

View of our cottage from the river, show the tin boat back in place

Jeni and I were chatting on our last night in Heybridge as we were packing up and decided, as were enjoying the trip so much, we would like to stay away a bit longer. We were back at work so needed somewhere we could do our day jobs from. Stanley was only an hour away, why don’t we see if we can get in there? A quick bit of internet browsing later and we booked another 3 nights in Stanley in another cute cottage.

Stanley

Stanley

We have visited Stanley a few times and blogged about it before in previous blogs.

https://walliganstravels.com/2018/12/24/stanley/

And so it was with a smile on our faces and a spring in our steps we drove to Stanley and checked in at Port Cottage. Stanley is dominated by the giant hill called “The Nut”. In all the times we had been here before we had never climbed The Nut and set ourselves the goal of getting to the top this time.

The Nut

This picture of Stanley and The Nut and the following description are from Wikipedia

The Nut was discovered by George Bass and Matthew Flinders when they circumnavigated Tasmania in the sloop Norfolk. It is 143 metres high and made of fragments of basaltic volcanic rock from a volcano which was active approx 25-70 million years ago.

The origins of its name are speculated to be from the Tasmanian Aboriginal name, “munatrik” (moo-nut-re-ker), or because explosives were unable to dent it during the construction of a breakwater.

At the start of the climb

The path to the top is steep, only 150m or so long but climbs 143m in that time. My legs were feeling it by the time I got to the top.

Obligatory selfie half way up. I really only stopped to catch my breath.
These little guys were all over the path on the way up.
Close up of his face.
At the top. Leaning on the sign is not for show.

The wind was howling but views from the top were spectacular. The loop walk around the top of the nut is 2.4kms and is dotted with many lookout points all the way round. Here’s the view from a couple of them.

Port Cottage, where we are staying, is at the base of The Nut.

I can see your house from here
Port Cottage, you can see the ‘Private Bathtub” clearly on the back deck.

The wind at the top of The Nut is fierce on a good day, but there was more ‘interesting’ weather to come.

The walk back down was no easier, my thighs were burning. Time for a pint I’d say.

Stanley Hotel

Now our favourite spot for drinks is Michael’s fabulous wine bar, Tasmanian Wine and Food. However it was shut for some refurbishment, and so to the Stanley Hotel we hobbled. Despite having spent many nights in Stanley this would be our first time in the pub. It is great! Roaring fire, friendly locals and Seven Sheds Kentish Ale on draft.

The bar in the Stanley Hotel
The roaring fire, just like the cast of Friends and the sofa we snagged the seats by the fire every night we went there.
Seven Sheds Kentish Ale

I blogged about Seven Sheds Brewery and Kentish Ale in this one – https://walliganstravels.com/2018/11/03/burnie-and-sheffield-echidnas-and-crackpots/

The Stanley Hotel Vault wine cellar

Storm

Stanley is renowned for being windy, we even courageously camped in a storm here one time, however, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast a massive weather front heading our way the next day. We surmised this time, as we were in a house we were very confident in being able to keep working. Wrong. We woke to no electricity. The entire town was out. A tree had taken out the power lines.

Had we been Vagabonding proper it would have not been any sort of inconvenience. We would have unleashed our solar generator and camping stove and got on with making breakfast and keeping everything running. Even though we didn’t have our backup gear we did have our wifi hotspots and about 4 hours or more on the laptop batteries so work was not affected.

Instead of making breakfast we went out looking for a breakfast place with a generator. We found one at the local supermarket.

2 coffees and a toastie later we were on our way back to the cottage. We stopped by the harbour to drink our coffee and eat the toastie. The local seagulls were suddenly very interested in us.

Hungry cheeky Seagulls

Power was restored about 3 hours later. I guess they are used to this sort of thing up here. We did hope to get back up to the top of The Nut again but it never happened.

We also had some interesting lodgers on the property, a Rabbit and some Fairy Penguins

Cute bunny
The sign says No Entry Penguins Only. There are Fairy Penguins living under the tin bath, We never saw them though more’s the pity.

On our final night in Stanley, which was a Thursday, Jenni saw an Event on Facebook for Nocturna. A Dark Sky festival organised by Beaker Street Science that was on on Saturday. It sounded like fun and a bit of internet activity later we had extended our stay in Port Cottage one more night, booked a room in Orford and bought tickets to Nocturna. Our long weekend was turning into a very long weekend.

In the morning we filled the car up with petrol at the local supermarket (yes the same one that saved our lives with coffee and toasties during power outage) and set off on the four and a half hour drive to Orford. The drive was beautiful and uneventful, we did have a stop at a most ornate public toilet facility in Westbury.

Westbury public loos, very up market.

We arrived on time to check in at the Orford Blue Waters motel with plenty of time to relax before being transported to Nocturna. That means I had a nap so I could stay awake to the end.

Nocturna

Description of Nocturna from the web site

The Beaker Street Festival finale, NOCTURNA combines intriguing scientific talks with ample live music, hands-on workshops, East Coast food and drink, and plenty of wonderful people to share in the merriment!
Tasmania is home to some of the largest swaths of pristine dark skies in the world, but this precious natural resource is under threat from light pollution. The increasingly widespread use of artificial light outdoors not only impairs our view of the universe, but also adversely affects our sleep, our mood, our environment — and the many nocturnal species that inhabit it.
NOCTURNA is a celebration of the fragile beauty of the cosmos — embracing our long winter nights, taking the time to gaze skyward, and gathering around the warm glow of open fires with a whisky or mulled cider. It’s also an opportunity to learn more about the Dark Sky movement and the simple steps we can take to preserve one of Tasmania’s most prized and imperiled resources.

Dark Sky

This event was intriguing, music, food, science and booze. Perfect!

Spring Bay Mill

The event bus picked us up at our hotel bang on time and took us to the event location, Spring Bay Mill. This is a really interesting place. It’s an old timber mill transformed into a sustainable event space. It was purchased by a few local environmentalists and business people.

Background from their web site.

Once home to the world’s largest wood chip mill, this 43 hectare waterfront site in trayapana/Triabunna, lutruwita/Tasmania has been taken over by a bunch of provocateurs intent on charting a more sustainable path. Spring Bay is on the unceded lands of the paredarerme people and is a place of extreme beauty and stark, rugged landscapes.

We curate eclectic events across art, music, history, politics and ecology, providing a tranquil back-drop for pondering big problems and big solutions.

We’ve restored rusting industrial buildings into unique spaces to house events: intimate or spectacular. We’re restoring the natural landscape and growing wholesome, healthy food. We’ve added an assortment of accommodation from glamping tents to stylish eco beach shacks.

All the presentations were in the appropriately named Tin Shed

First off we attended “Welcome to Country” where we were informed that for once the whitey’s that invaded got the original name of the place right. Triabunna is the aboriginal word for the district we were in. After this we went down to the Amphitheatre for an eclectic music performance.

Firey Cymbals
The Contrabass Saxophone. Did you know the contrabass saxophone is the second-lowest-pitched extant member of the saxophone family proper. It is extremely large (twice the length of tubing of the baritone saxophone, with a bore twice as wide, standing 1.9 meters tall, or 6 feet 4 inches) and heavy (approximately 20 kilograms, or 45 pounds), and is pitched in the key of E♭, one octave below the baritone saxophone. Well you do now.
Some drums and a curvy flute/clarinet/horn hybrid thing
And of course, a culchie with a fiddle. (In fairness she may not have been a culchie, but I assume anyone at an outdoors events with a fiddle must be. It’s my upbringing)
Audience interaction was mandatory
The event was so eclectic, David Walsh of Mona was in attendance. He’s the chap with the grey hair and colourful clothes.

The Amphitheatre has this huge structure at it’s centre.

The cylinder with the big triangle sticking out

Took us a while to realise it is a giant sundial. There are marks on the concrete to show the time. One the wall of the Amphitheatre was a plaque with “seasonal adjustments” instructions.

It told you how many minutes to add or take off for each season Everything was lit by only the red lights by this stage.

Next we were back up at the Tin Shed for a session on the dark skies of Tasmania and why they are rare resource.

Dark skies in Tasmania

While Jenni was being edumicated at the talks (and drinking wine) I was attending an Astrophotography Session with two local celebrity photographers Cam Blake and Luke O’Brien.

Link to Cam’s page and Luke page here;
https://www.camblakephotography.com.au/
https://www.lukeobrien.com.au/

I left Jenni at the talk and made for the gathering sport for the Astrophotography Workshop. When we kicked off the sky was 90% cloud.

The Amphitheatre, showing the cloud cover just before the Astrophotography session

However the clouds did clear for about 20 minutes and allowed us to see the dark skies Tasmania is famous for.

The clouds cleared and the Milky Way appeared and we got some decent pictures with the help of Cam and Luke
Photography group go wild when the skies cleared.

After the photography session I found Jenni and we headed to the Bunker Bar down the fairy light path for a drink and a listen to some more music.

The path to the bunker bar..
which was, unbelievably, in a bunker.
It was a remarkable music venue though. The acoustics were resonant.

All too soon it was time to leave.

Giant machinery hid in the shadows as we walked back to the coach stop.
The fires kept us warm while we waited for the coach

The big bus came and took us back to our hotel where we spent the seventh night away on our three night short break. We really were going home the next day.

Orford and Spring Bay

We woke early as usual and headed out a dawn on the hunt for some breakfast.

The sunrise over the Prosser River was pretty, displaying all those golden sunrise shades that sunrises sometimes do.

Sunrise over the Prosser River

We walked along the banks of the Prosser River and over the bridge into Orford watching the sun rise, it was quite beautiful.

Orford across the bridge
Jenni with her, “None shall pass!” staff of power

With our bellys full we walked back to the hotel and checked out. Instead of driving the straight route back home I decided to try the back roads through Spring Bay.

It was along this road we found the most delightful, peaceful, beautiful little beach haven.

It had gorgeous views over to Maria Island and had perfect white sand. It was a real find.
It even had it’s own small Tessellated Pavement
It is quite a delightful little beach, we will return
Obligatory beach selfie. Notice our clothing, it was quite cold and people were in swimming. Not just one lunatic but about 20 of them. It’s like Cocoon, the waters here must have rejuvenating properties.

After our impromptu beach break we set off on the long way back home, which turned into the shortest, long way back ever.

Road closed, bridge out.

We retraced our route back to the sensible road and drove directly home.

We both agreed it was the best week long, long weekend we have had in a long time.

Till next time.

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