Sunday, March 27, 2016

Exploring the North East – Day 4 Eddystone Light and Mt. William National Park

Eddystone Light (1888) at the most easterly point of Tasmania - looks pretty impressive. Can't understand why Australian Geographic left it out of their recent feature on lighthouses, unless it had something to do with the road
Although I promised my van that if it lived, I would never, ever make it go on unmade roads again, it wasn’t long before I broke that promise.  With more people arriving at the Bay of Fires, I decided to go further north. Friends who had had a shack at Musselroe Bay had long waxed lyrical about that area, although they had since sold the shack.
There was a kind of Hobson’s choice from here. Do 52 km over unsealed roads or do approximately 97 km over sealed roads via the main highway to Gladstone and then 23  km of unsealed roads, though the map wasn’t at all clear on the mileages in this area. No points for guessing which one I took. In my defence,  I will say that the C 843 was partially sealed at the St. Helens end and ever the optimist, I rather hoped my map was out of date and the road had been sealed since it was published. Besides, according to one Mt. William National Park website “…for those prepared to travel on "less than perfect" roads, a wonderful stretch of unspoilt coastline with some glorious and beautiful beaches…” awaited.
Though my optimism was slightly dented by the sight of a large Land Cruiser that had obviously come the other way, shipwrecked at the side of the road and having its tyres replaced, for the most part, this road was no worse than other country roads in Tasmania – some unexpected potholes, stretches of corrugation, loose rocks and a bit of rough ground near the creeks.
 
The real bone -shaker was the 12 km detour I made to Eddystone Light which was rough and badly corrugated all the way.  I would thoroughly recommend this road for immediate resuscitation and have lots of wobbly footage to prove it, should any statutory body or a bloke (or female for that matter– let’s not be sexist here) with a bulldozer and a couple of hours to spare, be interested.  It’s a shame really, because Eddystone Point is not only historic and scenic, but the most easterly point in Tasmania. I particularly wanted to see this lighthouse because both it and the one at Bruny Island had been omitted from a recent feature on lighthouses by the Australian Geographic.
Not as isolated as one might expect
Despite the hellish drive, Eddystone Point was far from deserted. It was heavily populated by boat people – not the kind who risk life and limb in leaky boats to escape persecution, but the kind who  tow expensive cabin cruisers around on trailers. Since it was now hot and sunny, I had hoped for a swim, but I couldn’t find a parking spot, much less a bit of shade.  After a few happy snaps of the lighthouse – no selfies, thanks, - I resumed my journey on the C 843, now passing through parts of the Mt. William National Park.
Compared to the Eddystone Point road, the unsealed 23 km to Musselroe Bay was bliss having apparently been recently graded. This sleepy fishing village straggles along the shores on two sides of a point and seems to be populated by birds, fishermen and holiday visitors in that order, though I saw very few of the latter. Although there was free camping here, the site wasn’t particularly attractive with no trees and just sags underfoot. Instead, I paid camp fees to stay in the National Park along Stumpy’s Bay where there are four camping areas bordered by beaches. You need a Parks Pass as well for this.

Pelicans and powerboats  at Musselroe Bay- I saw very few people
 All the good spots closest to the beach were taken at the first site. The second was like a goblin forest - all dark tea trees and with no one else in it. I was beginning to feel like Goldilocks. I didn’t look at the third, but the fourth, three kilometres further on, had BBQs, a shelter, a big tank and toilets nearby, and only one or two other campers tucked away in the trees. Perfect!

View from Stumpy's Lookout from which you can see the chain of islands which were most probably the route Aborigines used to pass between Tasmania and the Mainland until  sea levels rose about 10,000 years ago
Miles of untracked beach on the ocean side

Although I had been looking forward to a swim all day, I was too tired after the day of hard driving. I just cooked myself a meal and settled down for the night. However, I didn’t sleep well at all. It was too hot and there was a constant buzzing like swarms of angry bees.  I had heard it earlier at Stumpy's Lookout on the way here. Although I could also see the lazily turning arms of the new Tebrakunna Windfarm (visitors welcome) on the northernmost tip of the island, the noise didn't seem to be coming from there either, and since it was still going at night, I knew it couldn't be bees. It turned out that that incredible racket was probably being made by armies of frogs which had taken up residence in the many lagoons.

It was certainly the place to see kangaroos. The road in is called Forrester Kangaroo Drive and there were plenty of those on the road. Just drive slowly! A little joey and it's mother (most likely a Bennetts Wallaby) stayed close while I cooked dinner - not in that begging way, as they do in some places where they have come to look to visitors for food - which is very bad for them by the way, but in that totally unselfconscious way that animals have, when they haven't had a single bad experience with humans.

My little dinner companion

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