Nelson Falls

Half an hour from Queenstown, along the Lyell Highway, we parked at the start of the Nelson Falls Nature Trail. The falls are located within the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, four and a half thousand square kilometres of World Heritage listed wilderness. It’s an easy walk along a well maintained track

1.Nelson Falls Nature Trail

that follows the course of the Nelson River.

2.Nelson River3.Nelson River

Majestic forest trees edge the path,

4.Nelson Falls Nature Trail

ancient species including myrtle, leatherwood and sassafras that thrive in the cool, temperate climate of the Nelson Valley.

5.forest

I’m not sure what happened here, perhaps a glitch in the camera that hasn’t happened before or since. Or has the lens captured the magic of the place?

8.magic

The ferns are magnificent, at least seven species flourish here dating back millions of years to a time when Tasmania was part of Gondwana.

9.ferns

At the end of a summer, the 30 metre high falls were still impressive.

10.Nelson Falls11.Nelson Falls12.Nelson Falls

I like the description of being shaped like an inverted wine glass.

13.Nelson Falls

The water was so clear,

14.Nelson River

we could see freshwater burrowing crayfish foraging among the rocks.

17.Freshwater Burrowing Crayfish

I noticed they had one claw smaller than the other. Apparently, this can happen naturally or it is the result of losing a claw and a new one regrows. Fascinating.

We retraced our steps along the river, leaving the coolness of the forest to continue our journey on the highway.

18.Nelson River19.Nelson River

TarraWarra

I recently spent a wonderful week in Victoria with my very special friend who I met many years ago in high school (she now lives too far away in Darwin). We arrived on flights within an hour of each other (quite a feat from opposite ends of the continent), collected a hire car and drove a circuitous route to our destination, Healesville. After a short visit to a couple of wineries (a little too early in the day for tasting, even for me), we stopped by for a look at TarraWarra Museum of Art. Philanthropists Eva and Marc Besen began collecting works of art in the 1950s and realised their vision of establishing their privately funded museum with the opening of TarraWarra in 2003. The elegant building is the result of a competition between five of Melbourne’s outstanding architects. Allan Powell’s winning design hugs the contours, complementing rather than imposing on the landscape.

1.Tarrawarra Museum of Art2.TarraWarra Museum of Art3.TarraWarra Museum of Art

The scenery is sublime, adjacent to the TarraWarra Estate vineyards

4.TarraWarra Museum of Art5.TarraWarra Museum of Art6.estate

and further afield to the ranges.

7.view

We wandered into the current exhibition, The Tangible Trace, immediately awestruck by the light and magnitude of the gallery. There were numerous glass display cabinets (I now know they are called vitrines) containing stones, tiles, bits of brick and cubes of termite clay.

8.Domino Theory, Simryn Gill

The materials have been collected by artist Simryn Gill from around her studio in Port Dickson, Malaysia, near one of the world’s busiest trade routes, the Strait of Malacca. The pieces are traces of the movement of capital and power and the title, Domino Theory, refers to the Cold War concept that if one country fell to communism, others in the region would follow like dominoes, a policy used by the U.S. to justify its involvement in the Vietnam War.

An abandoned seaside motel in Port Dickson was Simryn Gills inspiration for Passing Through. The series of monotypes were created by placing coloured inks on the small white tiles of the former dance floor and imprinting onto paper.

14.Passing Through, Simryn Gill

The distorted, partially collapsed outline of Australia, Shilpa Guptas Map Tracing #7 – AU, was somewhat disturbing. The copper pipe has been manipulated to change the shape of the border, inviting us to consider the, “porous relationship between inside and out”.

16.Map Tracing #7 - AU, Shilpa Gupta

The large concrete slab covering the floor nearby, another of Shilpa Guptas creations, is engraved with the phrase, “The markings we have made on this land have increased the distance so much” in English, Hindi, Arabic and Chinese. The slab was smashed into fragments on site with the intention that the audience will each take away a piece and at the end of the exhibition, only a trace will remain.

17.engraving on concrete, Shilpa Gupta

The huge paintings of Carlos Capeláns Implosions series filled the walls of the next gallery.

21.Implosion series, Carlos Capelán

Upon entering the gallery, we were asked not to touch the curtains in the hallway as they were, in fact, an art installation. Sangeeta Sandrasegar has created five panels of Indian khadi cotton over-hung with silk organza, hand-dyed with indigo and Australian native cherry. What falls from view covers the windows in the Vista Walk gallery, changing the Yarra Valley landscape outside as the material wafted gently in the breeze.

22.What falls from view, Sangeeta Sandrasegar

The picture framed at the end of the hallway showed nature at her best.

23.view

What could be more beautiful than autumn hues in the morning sunlight?

24.autumn colours

Tramonte Trails

On an overcast morning, we set off to explore the walking trails around the Villa Boccella estate. The Old Tramonte walk follows part of the old road from Ponte a Moriano to the village of Tramonte.

We passed the main villa

3.Villa Boccella

and as we continued up the hill, the views would have been spectacular on a clear day.

4.Old Tramonte walk

I don’t know what was in the cute stone shed but it looked as though the firewood was well seasoned.

We stayed on the main path with an Acacia forest to our right

7.Acacia forest

and pine walk to our left.

8.Pine walk

Sporadic wildflowers added colour to the verdant setting.

The last thing we expected to find in the Tuscan countryside was bamboo.

15.Bamboo walk

We followed Bamboo Walk until, eventually, the woodland changed as we descended along Valley Walk.

16.Bamboo walk

20.Valley walk

Beautiful irises bloomed sporadically in the sheltered lowland.

The track led to the road, Via Tramonte, at the edge of the estate

and we could see the main villa

25.Villa Boccella

and Limonaia Piccola through the gates.

26.Limonaia Piccola

We followed the stone walled boundary of the grounds,

27.stone wall

past a patch of magnificent wild poppies,

28.poppies

to the entrance that would return us to the limonaie.

31.Via Tramonte

There was another walk that would have taken us across the river

32.River walk33.bridge34.river35.bridge

but lunch time was approaching, it would have to wait for another day.

Pumphouse Point

We recently ticked another item off the bucket list with a much anticipated weekend at Pumphouse Point. Here is a bit of history; Tasmania has relied on hydro-electricity since the early 1900s. In the 1930s, Lake St. Clair, the deepest freshwater lake in Australia, became the focus of a new pumping station. The water would be pumped from the lake and stored, to be fed to nearby Tarraleah Power Station as needed. Construction began on a 5-storey pumphouse, 900 feet out in the lake, to house four huge water pumping turbines and was completed in 1940. Sadly, after all this effort, the site was never used and after being decommissioned in the 1990s, was placed on the Tasmanian Heritage Register for its significant industrial heritage. Parks & Wildlife Service were appointed caretaker and thoughts turned to tourism opportunities. After unsuccessful tenders by two different developers, Simon Currant, a man with great vision, secured the lease in 2004 and a decade of hard work saw Pumphouse Point brought back to life in 2015. Our first glimpse of the pumphouse was thrilling, the imposing edifice was minified by the expanse of nature.

1.the pumphouse2.the pumphouse

Lake St. Clair is as pristine today as it was when Europeans first arrived in 1832. The original inhabitants, known as the Big River Tribe, called the lake Leeawuleena, meaning ‘Sleeping Water’.

3.Lake St.Clair

We were greeted at the reception lounge with the question, “would you like a glass of Tasmanian sparkling wine?” Not a difficult decision to make. Our bags were then loaded onto a ‘flume buggy’, similar to a golf cart, and we were driven the 240 metres along the flume to the pumphouse. The drivers reverse all the way along (there is nowhere to turn around at the end) and we sat on the back with a perfect view of the approach.

4.the pumphouse

Our room on the middle floor captured the afternoon sunlight

and had everything we could possibly need. The kitchenette (with two fridges and a coffee machine) was laden with sumptuous Tasmanian produce, beer, wine and cider, all at very reasonable prices.

Hidden behind what at first appeared to be a mirrored wardrobe was the ensuite with industrial tapwear, all natural Australian products and the biggest shower head I have ever seen. We discovered when we turned on the light, the mirror wasn’t a mirror at all.

10.ensuite

The three floors of the pumphouse have four rooms on each, as well as options for lounging. The ground floor lounge has a bar and wood heater, one of the original turbines is visible through a glass panel in the floor. For some reason I didn’t take a photo so have procured one from the website.

13a.ground floor lounge, pumphouse

The lounge on the middle floor was right next door to our room, almost an extension of our private domain. The walls of rough sawn Tasmanian Oak boards added to the cosy ambience,

14.lounge, middle floor pumphouse

it was difficult to concentrate on reading with so much beauty just outside the window.

15.view from middle floor lounge

On the landing between the middle and top floors, there is a small library of books and board games.

16.library

There are another six rooms in the Shorehouse.

17.The Shorehouse

Formerly used as the substation for the facility, the art deco exterior has been preserved

18.The Shorehouse

and some of the original features have been blended with the contemporary furnishings.

There is no shortage of seating in the ground floor lounge, all with stunning views across the lake. A perfect place to relax with a purchase from the bar.

21.The Shorehouse22.The Shorehouse23.The Pumphouse

There are no bar staff, it works on an honesty system. You select your preferred tipple, write it on the list and settle the bill on departure. Once again, we found the prices surprisingly reasonable, certainly not the over-inflated dollars you find in a hotel mini-bar. A stylish extension to the Shorehouse sets the scene for a superb evening dining experience

26.dining room, The Shorehouse

and, of course, another view of the Pumphouse.

27.the pumphouse

Dinner is a wonderful opportunity to meet fellow travellers, tables of six or eight are filled at random and conversation never wanes. The menu differs each day but always fresh Tasmanian produce from Coal River Farm. We started our Friday feast with pumpkin, roast capsicum & paprika soup with thyme & parmesan flatbread. Soup and dessert are served individually, main course is a shared table experience. I was otherwise occupied, choosing another bottle of wine, when main course was served so you will have to imagine braised Cape Grim beef shin with rosemary & orange jus, confit baby potatoes, broccoli gratin and Tasmanian hot-smoked salmon with crème fraiche & capers. My apple & brandy cake with salted caramel walnuts came with a special embellishment and a rousing chorus of ‘Happy Birthday to You’.

Relaxed and replete, we strolled back to the Pumphouse under a clear, star-filled sky.

31.The Pumphouse at bedtime

I could happily have stayed in bed and watched as the rising sun created an ever changing palette across the water

32.morning view from room

but breakfast beckoned. A self-serve affair, there was plenty to choose from including home-made baked beans, crispy bacon and a range of cheeses to make your own toastie. Or you can cook your eggs just the way you like them.

On the subject of food, you can order fresh crusty bread any time of day. We had a loaf delivered to our room for lunch which we devoured with cheese and olives while watching the world go by from the lounge.

36.house made fresh sourdough

After lunch, we set off to discover some of the walking tracks around the property. Why walk when you can ride a bike?

37.bikes38.view from Frankland Beach

Across the bridge near reception,

39.bridge

the trail leads to Sunset Seat, a secluded spot with a rustic bench to sit and enjoy the sunset.

40.Sunset Seat

We were a little early for that but had a great view of the Pumphouse from a different angle.

41.the pumphouse42.the pumphouse

Further along the trail, we found Basin Seats, another lovely spot to sit and contemplate,

43.Basin Seats

overlooking Derwent Basin to Manganinni Island.

44.Derwent Basin & Manganinni Island

On the eastern side of the basin, a pontoon sits at the end of the track in St. Clair Lagoon. We had intended taking a dinghy out on the water but the wind had picked up and we weren’t too confident of our rowing prowess.

45.dinghies, lagoon

It would have been the perfect way to spend an hour or two, drifting around in the peace and quiet.

46.lagoon47.lagoon48.lagoon

Back in our room, we realised we could see Sunset Seat across the water.

49.sunset seat from pumphouse

We returned to the Shorehouse for a beverage before dinner where we were, once again, presented with fabulous fare. Starting with chickpea & swede soup with parsley oil and thyme & parmesan flatbread. We shared plates of Coal River Farm pork belly with spiced apple puree & cider reduction, baked cauliflower with caramelised onion, tahini & sesame seeds, green beans & Coal River Farm feta and pressed Cape Grim beef terrine with green peppercorns & crème fraiche. Finishing with dark chocolate, raspberry & cocoanib crunch with raspberry ice cream.

We farewelled Pumphouse Point after breakfast the next day, vowing to return and experience the wonder in winter snow.

53.the pumphouse

Blarney Castle

After spending the night in Cork, we fortified ourselves with a substantial breakfast and headed for Blarney Castle.

1.Blarney Castle

The walk from the car park, crossing the River Martin, warmed us up a bit.

2.Blarney Castle

The castle presented a stunning backdrop for the burnished autumn foliage.

3.Blarney Castle

Across a bridge over the river,

4.Blarney Castle5.Blarney Castle

we stood looking up at the north wall. The original Blarney Castle, a timber hunting lodge, was built in the 10th century and replaced by a stone construction in 1210. The existing castle, built on the edge of a cliff, was completed in 1446 by the King of Munster, Dermot McCarthy. The castle changed hands over the centuries, to Oliver Cromwell in 1646, back to the McCarthys fifteen years later before they lost it again in 1690, then sold to the Governor of Cork in 1703.

6.North Wall,Blarney Castle

The rather elaborate windows, halfway up the wall on the right, are not the romantic bedchamber embellishments one might imagine. They are, in fact, garderobes, the medieval answer to the ensuite.

7.garderobes

We followed the path past the guard tower

8.guard tower

and well-worn steps that led to the dungeons

9.dungeon stairs

before starting our climb to the top of the castle. Our ascent was frequently interrupted to take in the spectacular panorama through the windows.

10.Blarney Castle

13.view

There wasn’t a lot of breathing space in the passages, I can’t imagine running along them dressed in a suit of armour.

14.Blarney Castle

The narrow, spiral stone steps finally ended at the top of the castle. Looking down, we could see where the three floors would have been in the main living area.

15.standing over the main room

The pigeons are the only ones on lookout these days.

17.pigeon lookout

At the top of the tower is the infamous Blarney Stone, believed to give anyone that kisses it the gift of eloquence. At one time, anyone wishing to kiss the stone would be at risk of plunging from a great height but there are now railings to hold on to and some underneath to break the fall.

18.Blarney Stone

Even so, we didn’t join the queue to bend over backwards from the parapet, there is only so much blarney one needs in life. Besides, the Blarney Stone has been named the most unhygienic tourist attraction in the world.

19.Blarney Stone

The magnificent view from the battlements was well worth the climb.

20.view from the battlements

Once back on terra firma, we discovered Rock Close, a garden landscaped in the 18th century around existing stone monuments.

21.Rock Close22.Rock Close

It’s easy to believe the tales of Druids and Fairies in this mystical place, the senior Druid Priest was reputed to have lived in the Druid’s Cave.

23.Druid's Cave Rock Close

We would have liked to spend more time in this enchanted garden but time was ticking on.

Legend has it that there is a witch who will grant wishes to those who can walk up and back down the wishing steps with eyes closed (I didn’t get a photo of the steps, nor did I try this). In exchange for this gift, she is provided with firewood for her kitchen. I didn’t get a photo of the kitchen either, but we did see the witch stone. Some believe it was the Blarney Witch who told McCarthy about the power of the Blarney Stone but it remains a mystery how she became entrapped in the rock.

27.The Witch Stone