Tuesday, 16th October – Strahan

Relatively early start for us, as we had to be quayside by 8 a.m. for our journey on the catamaran \”Spirit of the Wild\”. Check-in trouble-free, and a very handsome lounge awaited us. Breakfast, mid-morning canapes and a really nice lunch also formed part of the experience.

The boat took us out through Hell\’s Gate, a very narrow and shallow entry to the Southern Ocean.
It then turned round, went back through Hell\’s Gate across MacQuarie Bay and to the mouth of the Gordon River, one of the major waterways of Tasmania (it\’s 200 km long). We proceeded down the river in a tranquil fashion – the boats are not allowed to exceed 5 knots so as to avoid erosion of the banks due to the wash. Very peaceful, but not exactly exciting scenery as it was all rainforest. However, this is a very important world heritage site, with quite a history of popular uprising against a major dam project, which went the way of the environmentalists, thank goodness.

The boat then moored up at a short boardwalk through this rainforest, with lots of information about the types of vegetation in these parts. One in particular is the huon pine, which has properties which make it particularly suitable for boatbuilding. This was a resource much treasured by British maritime organisations, for obvious reasons, and was exploited for many years in the early to mid 19th century.

Yet more examples of the diversity of this incredible island. Temperate rainforest. It was indeed temperate – around 22 degrees – and there was a bit of rain around as well, unfortunately. Very overcast and gloomy all day.
Next stop was Sarah Island, a penal colony in MacQuarie Bay designed for those banished forever from British shores for reoffending. Yet more tales of extreme brutality. It is actually a fascinating story, based on the shipbuilding skills acquired by the convicts whilst they were \”imprisoned\” there. Another Wikipedia reference may fill in some of the gaps:
 The guided tour was led by an extraordinary guy who acted several parts as we walked round. He really brought it to life in a way I\’ve never experienced before. 

Back to Strahan on the boat in the same tranquil manner, the tranquillity added to by the complimentary fizz and wines provided as part of the package……
We were exhorted, as part of the presentation, to view on our return to Strahan \”the longest running play in Australia\” (25 years), also dubbed as \”The Ship That Never Was\”. This was to be delivered in a mini-theatre on the Strahan quayside. I confess that I was rather cynical about this, but we went anyway. 
Possibly unsurprisingly, the lead actor in this was the same guy who\’d done such a fantastic job in presenting Sarah Island to us. It was all about the last ship to leave Sarah Island before the colony fell into complete disrepair. It\’s a fabulous story, and despite myself, I was laughing fit to bust. Really well done in a knockabout comedic fashion, almost anarchic at times, and definitely \”interactive\”. It sounds like hell on earth, but it really, really wasn\’t. We both enjoyed it immensely.

Only time for a snack at the pub on the way back to our room – we were both sated after the food on board ship – then to pack and prepare for our departure to Cradle Mountain tomorrow.

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