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Out the Door at Last! - Over the Central Highlands to Queenstown

Crossing the Nive River as you come down from the Central Plateau

Finally made it out of the house and had some lovely walks in the bush. The destinations, beautiful as they were, weren’t half as important as just being out in the fresh air, being awoken by bird song, wandering amid mosses and tree ferns, or breathing in the scent of wattle and eucalyptus. I love the early spring, when everything is fresh and clean and full of promise.

I drove a different way to the West this time – over the Central Highlands, despite a section of unpaved road. That’s the interesting thing about Tasmania. Even though I’ve now lived here for forty years, it reveals itself to you very slowly and just when you think you have seen it all, there’s always something new to discover. This time I wanted to refresh my memory regarding the location of the proposed windfarm and to see how badly last summer’s bush fires had affected this area. Given the way the van was being jostled around, perhaps a windfarm here wasn’t such a bad idea, so long as the eagles were adequately protected. On reaching Miena I turned left and proceeded south west down the aspirationally named Marlborough Highway. 

Here you could clearly see where the fires had left their mark - narrowly missing the pub, burning out what looked like it might have been a nice picnic spot near Little Pine Lake, a spot much loved by fishermen. I wonder how the animals are going. Are people still taking up drums of carrots for the injured ones? I should have asked. Being a creature of hills and forests, I’d always found the Central Highlands somewhat bleak and lonely, even before the fires, but this is boys’ own country  - big skies, big utes, 4X4 ‘s towing boats -a place to get away from it all and engage in piscatorial pursuits in one of its reputed 3000 lakes. Women fish too, but it’s the sort of place where practical skills count. You are judged not by how much money you make, but how many fish you catch, how well you can make a fire when the wood’s all wet, whether you can fix the carbie on the boat or know how to tie a decent fly.

Still, my son says the fishing community has its own stratification. There are the gentleman anglers, some of whom fly in, the more rough -edged fish whisperers, the quietly well –prepared, those with all the right gear, but not much of a clue, but all of whom appreciate the space and the solitude.  For all the appearance of freedom though, fishing is a tightly controlled activity – licences are required for all inland fisheries, there’s a limit on your catch, you must be able to identify your fish and know the size limits, the season and so on – this year it begins the first weekend in October, and you can bet that even here, the long arm of the law will find you, if you do the wrong thing.

Here are just some of the rules as posted for Lake Burbury, although they vary from place to place e.g.  Lake Burbury is open to fishers all year, whereas for most other inland waters the season doesn't begin until the first weekend in October.
NB: Note that no bait is used, only lures  (Use the slider to see more)

Snow still glints on distant mountains and lies in in little pillows by the roadside as I turn onto the Lyell Highway to continue my journey.  I’m glad it’s later in the day because by now there should have been enough traffic through to clear the road of ice. I still proceed carefully on the shady spots because I have been caught like that before. It is also better for our wildlife which tends to feed at dusk. I touch down briefly at the Franklin River, sacred ground for those who fought against more dams in the 1980s and helped to have this region declared a World Heritage Area. For me it's about being the start of temperate rainforest, the lush greenery, that lured me to Tasmania, all those years ago, then I hurry on without stopping at other favourite places such as the Nelson Falls.

The sun starts to slip behind the mountains as I reach Lake Burbury and that seems as good a place as any to call it a day.  It’s a cold night, with a stiff breeze that whips up whitecaps on the lake, but the drama of the mountains beyond it and the stars above make it OK. It also gets you up early in the morning.

The mountains are limned with gold as I head downhill towards Lake Burbury

PS:  Small update : The Germans it seems, are not so perfect after all. I heard from one friend where the garbage was being weighed when I was there in 2014. However, she says that had to be abandoned as it led to a lot of illegal dumping and people sneaking around at night and putting their rubbish into their neighbour's bins.