Once and for all disillusioned with the overly industrial profile of the north coast of Tasmania, we cut our way south.
In a few kilometers, we return to remote rural areas of the island, made of patches of plantations interspersed with pockets of old forest.
We drive along a narrow, winding dirt road, subsumed under vegetation and crossed by kangaroos, wallabies and wombats.
Gradually, always along roads with natural names – Mersey Forest Road; Lake Mackenzie Road and the like – we ascend from the countryside in the heart of the island to its heights.
Passing through a village so immaculate and bucolic that the residents dared to call it “Paradise”.
We climb higher and higher.
This last road ends in a dead end stop.
There is a wooden walkway and signs that warn of the risk of falling.
We parked, inspected them. We followed the trail, curious as to where they would take us.
Devil's Gullet – a Diabolic-Magnificent Tasmania
Three hundred meters and a few steps later, the walkway deviates and reveals one of the most magnificent scenery we have found in Tasmania.
Between vision and dizziness, the huge cliffs and glacial valleys of the Devils Gullet towered ahead, with a deep apex in the bed of the Fisher's River.
Only and only when we venture to the threshold of the platform, the Roaring Forties, icy winds that circle the Earth at this latitude and blow furiously there, almost making us take off. They give reason to be the warnings of danger and require us to have firm hands on the railing rail.
At our feet, hundreds of meters below, with an almost biblical dimension and immensity, stretched the capricious geological domains of the Walls of Jerusalem, so-called allegedly because several of its rocky outcroppings reminded us of the walls of the city of God.
From there, only after going back a few miles on the map, would we get somewhere. We cross again the enigmatic forest of Mersey and then the River Forth. Around Mount Roland Regional Reserve, we turn west.
What we were looking for in the west of this extreme territory was Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
The park borders one of Tasmania's beloved wilderness areas, decreed UNESCO World Heritage Site especially because it constitutes one of the last expanses of temperate forest on the face of the Earth, in an area of gorges and gorges that resulted from a long and severe glaciation.
PN Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair: The Geological Heart of Tasmania
It is proven that Man already inhabited this region for at least 20.000 years.
Even at a time of obvious global warming, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one of the regions of Tasmania (and of course all of Australia) that receives the most snow as winter takes over the island.
It also hosts the popular Overland Track.
Extending 80.5 km, this walking route that connects Cradle Valley to Cynthia Bay attracts thousands of adventurers from the closest Australian states of Victoria and New South Wales, but increasingly from the four corners of the world.
For five or six days, hikers who face him wind through the region's inhospitable mountains and lakes.
On the other side of the Bass Strait, in the great mainland Australia. the mere sound of their names makes you shiver. "Cradle Mountain? Overland Track?” They're freaking awesome, mate!” comment, without hesitation, Ian and Kate, two brothers we met in Melbourne.
To our frustration, we don't have time to get involved in such wanderings.
Instead, we took a peek at its iconic places, highlighted by the edge of Lake St Clair overlooking the Cradle Mountain.
At the precise moment when we admire and photograph it, perched on a granite pebble, a kayak that used to roam the lake emerges from its meander.
End the afternoon tour on the fine gravel beach next door.
We didn't take too long either. We left the lake behind. And then the national park.
In Search of the Strahan Dodge, in the Far East of Tasmania
We head to the sandy and windy coast of western Tasmania.
We traverse it from north to south through an immensity of mystical forest alternated or merged with stray sands and imposing dunes projected from them.
On the verge of the great Macquarie Estuary, the forest gives way to a drenched plain and, for the most part, the sands appear covered with shallow vegetation.
Strahan, the secluded coastal village we were looking for, turns out to be shy at last under the protection of the small port of Macquarie. We found it surrounded by an immensity of woods and its allied bogs.
There, we still see fishermen entering and leaving the village's dock.
Those who live full-time in the village and fish on board trawlers.
And the more affluent that arrive with summer from other parts of Australia and set sail on million-dollar speedboats for moments of recreational fishing or contemplating the seals and resident sea lions.
We return to Lyell Highway pointing inland. Forty kilometers of this A10 road later, in the middle of an unexpected and zigzag descent, everything changes from day to night.
Instead of the sometimes bucolic and sometimes lush immensity we were used to, we were faced with a semi-lunar panorama made up of mountains and valleys devoid of vegetation, more than sculpted by erosion, excavated by man.
We see them in a rich palette of tones: ocher, magenta, greenish and others with brightness that fluctuates as the sun shines.
Queenstown's Lifelong Mining City
The route ends in Queenstown, a town of appearance and atmosphere western that traded an era of lucrative but erosive mining for tourism.
Around 1870, prospectors discovered alluvial gold in the vicinity of Mount Lyell. In such quantity that, in 1881, the finding justified the creation of a Mount Lyell Gold Mining Company. As if that wasn't enough, after eleven years, the company detected silver.
People flocked to the area from all parts of Australia and beyond. This population influx gave rise to Queenstown, a village that has been equipped with foundries, sawmills, brick kilns, among several other infrastructures.
For more than a century, Queenstown has remained the operational and logistical center of the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company.
The city's ascendancy and decline – including that of its population – unfolded according to the performance and fortune of this company.
At the turn of the XNUMXth century, the city and the surrounding valley were still heavily forested.
The intense cutting of trunks needed for mining, smelting and kilns, for the construction of homes, hotels, post offices, churches, schools, shops and many other essential undertakings for the life of its more than ten thousand souls led to a dramatic desertification.
As we descend to those towards the historic center, under a blue sky only possible in the height of the Tasmanian summer, we are surprised by the somewhat alien scenarios.
Finally, the meanders of the asphalt end. We complete the final slope on a Bowes St.
We entered straight onto Orr St., the city's open central street.
From the Victorian-Mineiro Past to Today's Mostly Touristic Days
Until the 90s, Orr Street preserved functioning banks, hotels, offices and other lucrative businesses, built in the same Victorian architectural style that survives there on two very different levels: the shelter of the arcades on both sides of the bitumen. And the elevation of the colored facades above them.
After a period of uncertainty and anguish after the Mount Lyell Gold Mining Company having sunk, the most resilient inhabitants readapted.
The extraction of silver remains in the hands of an Indian group, now without the financial significance of the city's prosperous era. Queenstown took another path.
O tree Tasmanian tourist and the historical, architectural asset and its eccentricity made life easier.
Visitors like us, with time to discover the great Tazzie, include it in their itineraries. Peek out the secular post office, the Empire Hotel and the theater art deco paragon.
When the heat and fatigue get tight, they cool off in the pubs with an old and peculiar atmosphere that serve Orr Street, like the parallel and perpendicular ones.
Another attraction that we are keen to take a look at is the old train station.
It has been preserved under the Rack & Pinion Steam Railway museum, part of the much wider West Coast Wilderness Railway that crosses Tasmania from Cradle Mountain to the Strahan coast via Queenstown.
And through centuries of history, a journey of 151 km, even if by steam, completed in just over two hours.
The Wilderness of South Queenstown
The day and hours we explore Queenstown do not coincide with the train's passage.
Accordingly, we limit ourselves to admiring the local station and the patience with which some of its older visitors, possibly still from the culmination of the steam era, study and photograph it in the smallest detail.
The map confirms that for a good few hundred kilometers south of Strahan and Queenstown, Tasmania is so untamed that it remains devoid of real roads.
O Franklin and the Gordon there stand out among several other furtive rivers. They plow through almost impenetrable forests and submit to deep gorges that make their streams riotous.
If there was a top for the intrepid people of the world, the ozzies would emerge, always first.
Despite the harshness of the region, every year, hundreds of them give in to the challenge and adopt it as a kind of amusement park where they are dedicated to the trekking and Rafting ultraradical days on end.
Passionate about the drama of the scenarios, dependent on adrenaline, they return again and again.
Adventure as you like in these island confines of your beloved Australia: no rules or limits.