Spasmodically visiting the island state over the last fifty years to film our Leyland Brothers TV series, we came to love the pristine wilderness that is so abundant here yet becoming so rare in most parts of the world. Tasmanian residents are extremely friendly and in all, it is a compact region of great versatility. For a photographer such as myself it is brimming with magnificent scenery just begging to be captured forever. The untamed parts of this island are almost as nature created them. Wild, beautiful and rugged; but still accessible. International scientists recently declared that the air in the north-western parts of Tasmania is the most pure and unpolluted on the planet.
We couldn’t hope to cover all there is to see in just two instalments of this magazine so we hand-picked a few of our favourite spots. High on our list was the Dove Lake circuit track at the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake Saint Clair National Park. On the drive there we took in several other must-see attractions along the way. First was Brickendon, a fine example of an early farm. It was established when William Archer migrated from Hertford, England in 1826. The colonial farm village complex took several years to complete with the use of convict labour. Free settlers were granted land provided they constructed a “substantial” brick dwelling. More than 300,000 bricks, made on the farm from local clay went into the main house. It is 96 squares and of elegant Georgian design.
Visitors are allowed to wander about the six-hectare parkland garden and investigate some of its substantial buildings. An impressive number of exotic trees from around the world, the gardens and the fine examples of pioneering architecture have earned the property a listing on the National Estate register.
Our meandering journey into the mountains enabled us to stop for a tour through Marakoopa limestone caves. There are about 200 caves in the region but only a handful of the most spectacular are open for tourists. Millions of years of flowing water have created the caves by slowly dissolving the limestone, thus turning tiny cracks into massive caverns and lowering the water level of the original creek some 150 metres into solid rock.
The highlight of our trip to the high country was a chance to re-visit the Cradle Mountain- Lake Saint Clair National Park.
This is where the 60 mile Overland Track sets off south and is considered by many to be one of the best wilderness bushwalks in the world. Every year thousands of visitors travel to Australia to tick it off their “bucket list” of must-do experiences. Laraine and I first tackled this track in 1972 when filming an episode of our “Off The Beaten Track” TV series with my brother Mike and his wife Pat. Back then the track was not so clearly defined. A few posts protruding from the moss fringed swamps were the only sign of the walking trail in many places. We were totally self-contained with small hiking tents, dehydrated food packs, sleeping bags, heaps of very heavy 16mm cine film and loads of youthful enthusiasm. It took us fourteen days to make the trek but the film was enormously popular.
We have been back numerous times since but have never completed the whole track again after that first truly rugged, wilderness experience. Just after Christmas I led my daughter Carmen and her son Rex (our grandson), on a one-day hike to give them a taste of the whole grand experience. Luckily the weather was overcast so the temperatures were not too high.
To read the full story on Rex and Mal’s hike, see Issue 25 of ROAM