Strahan | Of Untouched Wilderness / by Those Fancy Gems

Some where this time last year, I took a trip down to Tasmania's west coast. The 4 hour drive from Launceston to Strahan was indeed a gruelling one with a lot of bumps and uneven road. I wasn't even the one driving, but it did seem like a drive which required some perseverance and patience. We saw the landscape change from short buildings into fields, from mountainous regions to heaps of bushes and trees, and eventually bodies of water, as we approached our holiday cabin near the Strahan port. 

I know it is very tempting to read Strahan as 'Stra-han', but really, it is pronounced as 'Strawn'.

Strahan is a small town on the west coast of Tasmania with a population of only 600 odd people. It is home to the longest running Australian production, The Ship That Never Was, which had been played over 5000 times. The play is a reenactment of a great escape from Sarah Island and it's happenings but in a more light hearted way. I give this play two thumbs up as it was fun and engaging and all the props were made by them! (just wow) They were very thoughtful to have also provided blankets, as the play starts in the evening and the weather gets cold pretty quickly. It is suited for all ages.

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Strahan is the base of where cruises go out to the lower Gordon river and nearby Island, Sarah Island - the penal settlement in Australia notorious for its harshness. My friends and I went for the Gordon river cruise which would bring us across Macquarie Harbour to Hell's gate, passing salmon farms, a heritage landing to see some extensive variety of rainforest species, Sarah Island, and one round around the lower Gordon river which had some magnificent views of lush greenery and exceptionally clear, still, water. 

Upon arriving on the island, we were greeted by a lady who turned out to be our guide. She gave us insights to the island, thoroughly challenged our imagination by describing to us how life was like there back then for convicts, settlers and soldiers. She sounded so passionate about her job and even mentioned that her father, like her, loved this island so much and have dedicated most of his life to finding out the history of this island. When he died, they scattered his ashes on the island which he loved most. It is amazing how people in this part of the world can still be working passionately for something they love, without much remuneration at all. 

It is actually quite common for Huon pine trees to topple over. Their roots are shallow and the rainforest soil is thin.

A walk through the island allowed us to see a species of tree native to Tasmania - the Huon Pine. They are very special because their seeds are water dispersed, and these seeds will grow new Huon Pines which are clones of itself. And even when they have grown so tall and fallen down, it still allows for other plants like fungi and ferns to flourish on its nice moist environment.

The fallen Huon pine may be down but it’s certainly not out. New life is springing from the old in many different ways. This ancient Huon pine can drop seeds. It can also grow new shoots from underground rootstock - each a clone of the parent tree. Where its drooping branches touch the ground, it can reproduce by layering.

About a decade ago a whole stand of Huon Pine was discovered to be about 10000 years old, located in the north west of Tasmania, near Mount Read. This tree had reproduced, and cloned itself so many times that it now covers more than a hectare. It is now also known to be the oldest tree on earth. 

These trees are heavily logged for it's preservative qualities. They also have really slow growth, resulting in it diminishing in numbers. Though it is on the low risk scale under the conservation status, I still hope that they can remain untouched, encouraging its growth and expansion as much as possible.

This cruise is a catamaran (dual hull, hence the stability) and is specifically built to suit the river, to reduce impact on the delicate wilderness environment of this World Heritage Site. 

This cruise is a catamaran (dual hull, hence the stability) and is specifically built to suit the river, to reduce impact on the delicate wilderness environment of this World Heritage Site

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Towards the end of the gordon river cruise, we were brought through the river, experiencing the pristine state of this very untouched, cold, and serene beauty of the west coast of Tasmania. I was blown away by how still the water was, allowing the reflections to be exactly like what was being reflected. It felt unreal sailing through this thick mane of trees, having the wind on my skin, taking all this stillness in. Soaking up every bit of this serenity.

This place is delightful beyond words. 

The Ship That Never Was | Strahan Visitor Centre, Esplanade, Strahan TAS 7468, Australia (Strahan Amphitheatre, next to the West Coast Information Centre) | Plays daily in Sep - May at 1830 | Duration: 1 hour 15 mins | Adults AU$20, Students AU$10

Gordon River Cruise | 24 Esplanade, Strahan TAS 7468 | Daily, departs at 0830 from Strahan | Duration: 5.5 hours | Adult AU$105 (seat options available), inclusive of a buffet lunch on board