Having just returned from one of 20+ journeys since my dream of exploring Tasmania actually came true, it does still feel just that…a dream!
I told my good friend Cameron that I wanted to drive across the Nullarbor from Perth to Melbourne and ride the ferry across to Devonport. He loved the idea as much as I did but it would require 4 weeks off work for him. Somehow it all came together except for our planning of the actual adventure.
The two of us like to keep things reasonably free flowing without too much structure just in case a spanner is thrown in the works or we really like somewhere and want to stay longer. It wasn’t until we were only 4 days from Melbourne chasing waves somewhere in South Australia that I thought we better check if you need to book to get cars on the Spirit of Tasmania. Well, turns out it's usually a 4 week wait, we asked the girl if there’s other options and she directed us towards a courier company who will charge $700+ per car and you have to sleep in a chair. Not a good start when you’re short of time and spare coin. After many broken phone calls standing atop the highest sand dune we could find to use as an antenna we managed to lock our names into a standby list. If we were called up we had to confirm and arrive within 24 hrs. This saw the end of our reception-less week in South Australia and heading directly toward Melbourne.
My favourite days on the road are those exploring new places and the days where there’s no option to contact the world outside of the moment you’re living. Having to depart South Australia and head to a city would normally make me uneasy however the thought of unwrapping the mysterious land of Tasmania in my mind was far to exciting too care about much else.
We received a call the following day telling us we’d been accepted and need to be there asap for the night ferry the following day. After throwing the address in Google we had enough time for one more good bush camp.
We boarded the ferry and found our room for the night, we may have had a few too many drinks out of excitement, and so driving off the ferry in Tasmania we were definitely a little dusty. The cold air kept us awake. We drove around the corner to ‘Café Squire’ which is a must do when you get off the ferry. Big warm fireplaces, great service and quite the old hippy vibe. It was now time to make a plan; we hadn’t yet had one destination we’d like to go. After several coffees we decided we would head directly East, follow the coast South as far as we could go and then up the West coast en route back to Devonport. Oh, before we could even leave we had to put in new suspension in Cameron’s car as his blew out somewhere in SA, that was day 1.
Our aim on this adventure was to chase waves, camp in some incredible locations and put the cars to the test. I can safely say we did all of the above to a much higher degree than we first desired. The first night we found a really nice camp settled alongside a river in a valley leading towards Forth, it was bloody cold but very scenic.
Over the years of travelling I’ve found that the best way to work out where to explore on your next trip is to just get there, then get to a pub and ask the locals. Buy the bloke with the most character on his face a beer and set yourself in for 40+ years of great stories. After the cold night in Forth we did just that and this kicked us off for our first few locations. Everyone pointed us towards the highland lakes, so that’s where we went.
As we drove up the mountain we had a few people heading down saying that the police were telling people not to come up as a big storm was looming resulting in travellers being stuck up there. This is exactly what we wanted! As we drove further up the mountain the rain turned to sleet and then to snow, we were hooting and hollering on our radios about how epic it was to see snow on our adventure. We got to the top, a little area known as Arthurs Lake, which had nothing else besides a little glowing pit stop for food and fuel. Our tracks were the only ones on the ankle deep snowy roads so we pulled in to ask for any advice on camp spots nearby. The lady looked at us with disbelief when we spoke of sleeping in our swag and rooftop tent. “If you make it our alive and want to come in for an early brekky, I will be open at 5am.” This sort of local talk generally throws worry into the hearts of anyone around me, however this is what I really feel is adventure.
She said the camps up here are closed for winter but the gates aren’t locked so just nudge the gate with your car and it will open, so on we went to our very own campgrounds shimmering in a sunset snowy paradise. We spent 3 hours trying to get a fire going with everything we had, the wood was too damp and the temp was down around -7C with a ‘feels like’ temp of -15C so we poured diesel on the fire to stay warm and continued to do so until bed. We boiled water for the hot water bottles, popped several hand warmers and wished each other good luck. I woke after a very restless night's sleep to see 5+ inches of snow over everything including Cameron’s swag. The landscape around us was incredibly beautiful however our camp looked like we were inside of an esky so prior to calling out to Cam I was a little concerned if he’d answer back at all. The first comments were “that was the coldest night's sleep I will ever have in my life”.
We packed up our gear without any gloves, which was painfully cold. Once done, we made our way along the winter wonderland roads to the glowing pit stop for warmth and breakfast. We walked in with smiles ear to ear having just survived a night in the freezing temperatures, something not easy to find back in Western Australia.
Having our bodies slowly defrosting as we descended the mountains was a great feeling, we headed straight for the coast and to a pub with the biggest fireplace we could find. We decided to steer clear of the mountains for the remainder of the trip. It wasn’t too difficult when incredible beaches, hikes and warm local pubs surround you.
On this adventure to Tasmania we found that there wasn’t a huge amount of opportunities to venture off-road compared to mainland Australia. With a large portion of the island being National Parks the small tracks sneaking off to some amazing camp sites are limited, however the ones we did find will put any 4wd to the test. The Cooper ST Maxx handled really well in both snow and the extremely muddy conditions we found ourselves in.
We will get back there very soon to test out the new Land Cruisers, but for now it will continue to be just a dream.