Saturday, March 24, 2007

Orange, NSW

Going back (finally a computer that can upload the pictures) to the Snowy Hydro Scheme with one of the huge generating stations; this one can feed 5 high voltage 3- phase power lines, which connect to the grids of NSW, Victoria and Tasmania. But only 2 generators were working when we visited due to lack of water.

Many trees in the burned forest survive and regeneration occurs in many different ways; here we see many green shoots coming out of the bark (enlarge photo by clicking on it).

Just west of Canberra we found several farms that were reduced to dust; here are over 1000 sheep surviving only on the feed the farmer supplies. When we stopped the car to look, many came running thinking that the diesel sound of the Landcruiser meant food was going to arrive...
It was very sad to see but "the rain makers" that we have been ever since we left Perth, it took only another 24 hours and several showers arrived which must have meant heaven to the sheep and the farmers as well!

At one of the highest spots just into NSW on the Barry Way; the scenery is not nice with all the burned forest, but nature is restoring itself slowly.

The kids will remember this spot in Jyndabine, right next to the lake; only this time it was nice and warm!

The Carcoar Dam near Blainey turned out to be a beautiful spot with free overnight, rain water tanks, (cold) showers and decent toilets; we found this spot with a million dollar view. The water in the dam was less than 20%, even after recent rain. Te lake is also used for rowing, but due to the low level there were warnings of bacteria and swimming was banned. The water is used for irrigation and we were surprised to see so much green with cattle and sheep.

Friday, March 16, 2007

A few cold nights

Note: still having problems uploading some pictures, will try again later.
BTW, we have a new mobile phone which is supposed to work in the CDMA regions (mostly used by farmers, has better coverage) and in the USA as well....but not in the desert, I suppose.

We thought that we picked the seasons right for the trip, going anti-clockwise. But we have had a few cold nights (socks, track suits, beanie and hot water bottle) near Cabramurra, the highest village in Oz at 1488 m. The town was created during the construction of the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme, which has a multitude of dams and hydro power stations. The construction took more than 25 years and saw around 100,000 people employed, most of them very new immigrants, who could often not speak English. Italians, Yugoslavs, Polish, English, Irish, Scottish, they were all there, a few with their families and they did all the hard work in atrocious conditions. 125 died on the job. It was also the introduction of the Toyota Landcruiser to Australia at the initiative of Thiess, who then became the first Toyota Dealer later on. The Landcruisers turned out to be much more reliable than the Landrovers and American trucks they used first.
Hydro is also the main source of energy in Tasmania, but the recent (couple of years now) lack of rain has caused Tasmania to import power (electricity) from the main land for the first time and Victoria and NSW are trading power as the need arises. We wonder about climate change and the wisdom to invest so much into hydro power while sun energy appears to become more appropriate.

Through the Snowy Mountains

Hmm, an unstable rock wall on the right and 500 m down on the left, no guard rail, no bitumen, no room to pass another vehicle and steep enough for first gear...., this road caused some concern; good thing it was not raining! A 4-WD coming from the top was so nice to reverse and crawl against the rock face on the wrong side of the road, so that we could pass over the edge........

Up and down for hours and hours, some very lonely places and then the signs such as: Ha Ha Creek or Seldom Seen Creek.

"The fires were so intense that a thunderstorm formed above the rising column of heat; the clouds known as pyrocumulus generated lightning which reportedly started 5 new fires near the Victorian border; the fire was like a tornado (30.1.03). Two fires were pushed together and the rising heat became a massive, unstable air column with gale force winds burning 100,000 ha in one day".
We have driven through burned forests for days on end; it is very sad to see all these trees destroyed, but somehow nature recovers and we can see new green appearing from underneath the bark. Some of the trees that died are now cut and transported on log trucks on a massive scale, with trucks coming from Queensland to rush the timber to the mills before they turn "blue" and become useless for furniture or chipping.

Despite the fires and drought, this tree is still showing flowers. We are near the Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme area, which included opening new roads to an otherwise inaccessible region (NSW).

Oi, what happened to the car and trailer? No worries, we were camped next to a creek and it was great to hear the water
rushing over the rocks at night. Only two other campers were nearby. Thanks to the off-road capabilities we were able to get so close to the water, which came from a natural spring further up.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Tasmania, NW

More pictures of Dismal Swamp.

Some plants looked very scary down there, as if someone was watching us......
Here is the rest of the Big Tree. At Freycinet National Park (on the east coast) the sea pounds the rocks relentlessly.

From Corinna northwards there is a very scenic, long, dirt road going north to Arthur River. Steep at places (1st gear!) and dusty all the way: white powder looking like cement! We also visited Dismal Swamp, near Stanley. It is a 70 m sink hole with fascinating plant and animal life at the bottom. It is the only sink hole that has not been drained and it has its own ecosystem with tiny crayfish that burrow and make small chimneys which aerates the soil. The Black wood trees love the moist atmosphere. Descending to the floor of the sink hole can be done by slide or walking down a ramp. Here is an example of the lifetime history of one of these trees.

Lake Dove at Cradle Mountain was still as magic as always; we were lucky with good weather and walked the 2.5 hours around it.

Near Scottsdale we met a Taiwanese biker who was a illustrator artist and he showed us his diary with daily notes and drawings; we had a meal together with him and he left us with self designed post cards. Jeff has travelled many places in the world. On the right is a 400 year old stringy bark tree with a base of 16 meters and a height of 62 m.

Stanley in the North is one of the oldest towns in Tasmania and lots of houses are still in original condition. The "Nut" is a volcanic hill (152 m) right next to it with beautiful views when you use the cable car or walk to the top. When they wanted to make a new harbour they used enormous amounts of dynamite and when the big bang came, nothing happened...... Until 12 years later when 400 ton of rocks suddenly dropped off the side into the ocean!

The area has been used for sheep and cattle and flies are around in great numbers. On the very NW corner of the Island there are huge wind generators, each one 100 m high; they make use of the "roaring forties", strong westerly winds that come all the way from Cape Horn in South America. Each generator is good for the supply of electricity to 1500 homes. The private company that runs the generators and the cattle country is called Woolnorth. Not sure why this track near Coles Bay was named like this.

The Pancake House survived a very nasty huge fire not long ago.

If you want to cross the Pieman river at Corinna, there are some interesting instructions nearby. The Tasmanians have a great sense of humour!

Looking at the spot where we camped in 1990; the site is only for tents now.

NW and N of Tasmania

When driving over the Elephants Pass near St.Marys, we have to stop for a taste at the famous pancake house and find an interesting sign:

The Bay of Fires, on the NE coast, it was a little paradise when we visited Tasmania in 1990 with the kids. The sea, the dunes and the lagoon, we stayed then for a whole week and there were no other campers in sight. Now the lagoon was very low and dirty due to lack of water. The road is bitumen now and there were lots of campers. We camped at the next beach for two nights.

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