Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Exploring the West Coast

Max enjoying a cappucino this afternoon.

'The Eagle' the boat which will take us on a cruise of the Gordon River tomorrow (the one in the background, not the cray boat!)

Max heading into the Mt Bischoff Hotel in Waratah.

Waratah then and now .... there are lots of buildings still in Waratah, but many of the old building have been pulled down.

We decided to head for Waratah, a small mining town on the West Coast, where Max's mother was born - along with her 13 siblings! Waratah, it seems, is famous for saving Tasmania from being annexed by Victoria. It was the discovery of tin at Mt Bischoff by James 'Philosopher' Smith that saved their bacon! It's star shone brightly for a mere 25 or so years, and the sputtered and all but died out ..... like so many towns in Australia, victims of the boom and bust years. We found the small council camp park behind the Post Office, and were given a key to the amenities, costing us $20 for the night. We had a walk around the town, and finished up at the grand old pub - I asked Mine Host if they had a beer garden, he answered drily that since it rains 330 days a year and snows the other days, they don't get much call for one!

Next morning (today, Tuesday 10th March) we set off for Zeehan, another boom and bust town. I actually lived here myself in a previous life, for 6 months with my first husband who was a diesel mechanic working for the Renison Bell tin mine. I can't say I got all nostalgic on seeing the town again after 26 years, life is tough on the West Coast -very isolated, and a climate as described above! Tourism has given the town, in fact the whole West Coast, a huge boost - I was pleasantly surprised to see how the major historic buildings have been spruced up and restored to their former glory, eg the Gaiety Theatre, scene of many enthusiastically received productions in the golden days. If you're interested, try googling Zeehan Tasmania, there's plenty to find.

We set off to have a look at Strahan, 40 km away, this afternoon. Found it bustling, fairly bursting in fact, with tourists. The big attraction is of course, the Gordon River cruise. We've booked on the morning cruise tomorrow, and looking forward to seeing for ourselves the site of the convict settlement at Port Macquarie, and Sarah Island, notorious prison for the most desperate of the convicts.

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