Following the Lyell Highway, in Tasmania, a drive of about 186 miles to Hobart took us past the turn off for the Russell Falls in the Mount Field National Park, where we drove through farmlands and vineyards.
On the last few miles of this detour we came across a hump in the road with a railway crossing sign. ‘Stop!’ It commanded. As there was no train in sight we bumped over a narrow gauge railway track and were rewarded by the unmistakeable sound of a police siren right behind us and red and blue lights flashing in the mirrors. As there was no other traffic on the road, I guessed the policeman wanted us to stop.
“Did I not stop at the crossing?” I asked as the policeman approached our car.
“Nah!” he said laconically. “There’s been no train on that line since 1990. Have you had a drink today?”
“Haven’t had a drink for about three days.”
“About the same as me, then. Where are you going?”
“Not on this road, you are not.”
I told him that we were going to see Russell Falls first.
“Okay,” he said. “Have a good day.”
That was my first encounter with the law in Australia.
The Russell Falls in the middle of the National Park was a fantastic sight even though, as the local people said, it was not going at full flow. The water cascaded like lace curtains into a large pool which foamed into the river and we could see, through the spray, white walls of water above and beyond. Accompanied by the roaring sound of falling water, we climbed up a long flight of wooden stairs through a forest, to Horseshoe Falls, and, breathless, saw the river tumbling over the first sheer drop on its way down.
Hobart, we found as we arrived at the city, is built on a gridded, one way system and can be quite confusing for a foreign driver. I stopped at a police station and asked for Bathurst Street where our hotel was situated.
“It’s right behind you. Turn right at the Shamrock pub.” There’s an Irish Pub in every town!
Our flight out was the next evening so we drove out of the city to the pretty little suburb of Richmond, which had the old jailhouse converted into a museum with some cells barely big enough for the two of us to squeeze inside. These cells had housed the female prisoners and it was all quite sad.
Away from the jail, set behind a shop, was a model of the city of Hobart in miniature, as it was in 1820, complete with river, buildings, small ships and various small models of people doing things, as they would have at the time. By now it was raining quite hard and the shopkeeper thoughtfully provided umbrellas for us to walk around the miniature city in relative dryness.
Then it was time to head to the airport and continue our nomadic tour, our next stop being Sydney, a mere 658 miles away.
by Terry Took © 2014
Terry Took was born in Yorkshire but has lived in Tynemouth for over 50 years. He spent 45 years in the Merchant Navy which included 27 years as North Sea Pilot. He then spent five years as a lecturer at the Marine Department of South Tyneside College.
He is now an Elder Brother in Trinity House and Marine Director.
If you have any comments or would like to contact Terry then please e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.