The Great Divide

The Lyell Highway traverses Tasmania from Strahan on the west coast to the capital city, Hobart, in the south. Driving the 300km through the West Coast Range and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park along the tortuous route is both tiring and exhilarating. On an unusually straight stretch of road, about 75km past Queenstown, we noticed a couple of cyclists taking a break at a small roadside rest area and stopped to investigate. We learned from the information board that this was the point of The Great Divide. Tasmania is divided into two distinct regions when it comes to climate, geology and vegetation and this divide is known as Tyler’s Line (named after Peter Tyler, a Tasmanian limnologist). The west has higher rainfall, poor acidic soil and the strong westerly winds of the Roaring Forties. The vegetation comprises rainforest, moorland and wet sclerophyll along with rugged mountain ranges.

1.westward2.westward

Frenchmans Cap is the highest peak in the West Coast Range, named because of the similarity to the shape of the Liberty Cap worn during the French Revolution.

3.Frenchmans Cap

To the east of the divide, conditions are much drier and warmer with lower rainfall and more fertile soil. From our vantage point, the King William Range rose majestically on the horizon, similar in shape and geology to the more famous Cradle Mountain.

4.King William Range

Made up of three separate peaks, named Mount King William I, II and III,

5.Mt King William I6.Mount King William II7.Mount King William III

the King William Saddle is equidistant from Tasmania’s three major cities – Hobart (190km), Launceston (186km) and Devonport (193km), each one a three hour drive. Fortunately, we were only 10km from our destination of Pumphouse Point.

Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden

Leaving Steavenson Falls, we had hoped the rain would abate for our visit to Bruno’s Art & Sculpture Garden in Marysville. It didn’t. As we pulled into the car park, the gallery was obviously closed but we discovered an honesty box for the $10 entrance fee to the garden. Grab your umbrella and come for a walk while I tell you more.

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Bruno Torfs was born in South America and moved to Europe with the family in his teens. After training as a sign writer, his talents evolved through many trips to foreign lands and he made the transition to a full time artist. Oil paintings and sculptures, reflecting scenes and faces of his journeys, were sold in exhibitions at the family home.

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Bruno and his family moved to Australia and in 1996, found the perfect setting to create a permanent sculpture garden in the sub-alpine forests of Marysville. Hand crafted from clay and fired in a kiln onsite, there are now around a hundred and twenty pieces on display.

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The path diverges in all directions through the forest and everywhere you look, there is another character waiting to delight.

On 7th February 2009, the bushfires of ‘Black Saturday’ raged through Marysville, claiming lives and decimating the township. Bruno’s home, gallery and gardens were completely destroyed. For two months, no-one was allowed in the town and when Bruno finally returned, he set about rebuilding his home and restoring his garden.

There are pictures on the website taken the day Bruno returned after the fires. Next to this installation, there is a heartbreaking photo of Bruno carrying all that remained of The Lady of Shallot from the stream.

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Some figures emerge from the remnants of the woods, melding nature’s work with man’s.

Bruno’s courage and dedication has resulted in a wondrous fantasy land, an opportunity to escape for a while in a surreal environment.

As we left, the remains of Bruno’s 1960 BMW R27 motorbike jolted us back to reality with a reminder of the devastation wrought by the fires of Black Saturday.

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Black Spur

The Black Spur Drive is a thirty kilometre stretch of road between Healesville and Marysville in the Yarra Ranges. The meandering course, with sharp bends and gentle gradients, promises spectacular scenery along the way. Towering mountain ash trees rise above a lush forest of tree ferns.

1.Black Spur

Unfortunately, our scenic drive didn’t go quite as planned thanks to the weather gods, although the rain and mist didn’t dampen the beauty of nature.

2.Black Spur3.Black Spur

Originally known as ‘The Blacks’ Spur’, the road follows the route taken by displaced indigenous people to Coranderrk Aboriginal Station in the late 1800s.

4.Black Spur

Horse drawn coaches also carried miners and settlers to the goldfields along this section of the old Yarra Track. It became popular for tourists and photographers and a bus service, operating two twelve-seater Buick charabancs, was introduced in 1916.

5.charabanc courtesy of australianmountains.com

Photo courtesy of australianmountains.com

We resisted the suggestion in the tourism brochure to, “roll down the windows and experience fresh crisp air any time of the year”, and had to settle for photographs through the car window.

6.Black Spur

Our destination of Marysville is home to one of Victoria’s highest waterfalls, nestled in native forest in the surrounding mountains.

7.Steavenson Falls

Steavenson Falls are named after John Steavenson, the Assistant Commissioner of Roads and Bridges who first visited the site that is now Marysville, in 1862. Opinion on the actual height of the falls seems to be divided, some claim 122 metres while others suggest 84 metres. Either way, there are five cascades, the last one descending 21 metres into a small rock pool.

8.Steavenson Falls9.Steavenson Falls

Residents first cut a track to the falls in 1866, it is now an easy walk from the car park to see natures wondrous display. The weather wasn’t conducive to walking to the viewing platforms below or above the falls, I’m sure it would have been spectacular. The falls are floodlit until 11pm each night, a turbine driven by water at the base of the falls generates the power. What a lovely place to spend a summer evening.

10.Steavenson Falls

glorious garden

Three weeks ago, we attended the official opening of the flowering season at Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. A glorious spring morning was a wonderful surprise after a number of inclement days. Enjoying delicious sandwiches and scones, we were entertained by David Turner while taking in the view from the balcony across Lakes Grebe and Pearl.

1.Lake Grebe2.Lake Grebe & Lake Pearl3.Lake Pearl

Edgar the emu dressed for the occasion.

Following a welcome and introduction from garden manager, Geoff Wood, and an entertaining speech by Bill Lawson AM, we set off in the sunshine to explore.

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Though still early in the season, there were some spectacular blooms.

The main gazebo was just visible through the foliage.

19.main gazebo

We passed the colourful Chinese Pavilion

24.Chinese Pavilion25.Chinese Pavilion

and crossed the Japanese footbridge

26.Japanese foot bridge

to the ceremonial teahouse.

28.Japanese Tea House

It would be a lovely setting for a picnic,

on the edge of the tranquil Sea of Japan.

30.Sea of Japan

The path to the Japanese covered bridge

33.Japanese Covered Bridge

was edged with more floral delights.

The bridge overlooks the Sea of Japan, an island affords a peaceful haven to enjoy a spot of fishing.

44.Japanese covered bridge

41.island, Sea of Japan

Across the lawn, a stone pathway leads back to the tea house.

45.Japanese Tea House

The lawned area adjacent to the covered bridge is a popular wedding venue, it’s easy to see why.

46.Sea of Japan

A few cherry blossoms were blooming in readiness for the Cherry Blossom Celebration on 19th October.

47.Cherry blossom

The American Gazebo rests sedately on the shore of Lake Pearl.

We returned to the tea rooms

50.Tea rooms

around the edge of Lake Grebe,

52.fountain, Lake Grebe51.Tea rooms

across Olympus Bridge.

53.Olympus Bridge57.Olympus Bridge

As if the day hadn’t already been perfect, we spied a platypus cavorting in the lake. These elusive creatures are not easy to see in their natural habitat and equally difficult to photograph.

If you haven’t yet visited Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden now is the best time, until the end of November, to see these magnificent blooms.

Maroondah Dam

The day we had planned for a scenic drive from Healesville dawned wet and windy but, with limited time, we forged on regardless. Ten minutes down the road, we parked at Maroondah Dam and braved the elements to explore the beautiful gardens. Landscaped in the early English style after the completion of the dam wall in 1927, exotic and native trees cohabit. Some had shed the last remnants of their autumn apparel

1.Maroondah Reservoir Park

while evergreen stalwarts proudly displayed their verdure.

2.Maroondah Reservoir Park

The Rose Stairway, constructed in the 1940s, was so named because the stone steps were originally flanked by roses. For some reason, they were replaced around 1980 with Golden Pencil Pines.

3.Rose Stairway

We ascended the stairs to the small rotunda at the top and,

4.Rotunda, top of Rose Stairway

following a signpost to the dam wall, passed another of the five rotundas in the park, the Bell Rotunda.

5.Bell Rotunda

The path led across the dam wall to a lookout on the other side but we weren’t willing to challenge the ferocious wind.

6.dam wall

With camera in one hand and inverted umbrella in the other, I ventured far enough to catch a glimpse of Maroondah Reservoir. The 26,000 acre catchment area is entirely eucalypt forest and no human activity is allowed on the water.

7.Maroondah Reservoir

Risking life and limb, I was determined to get one shot of the temple-like outlet tower.

8.outlet tower

The impressive 41 metre high concrete dam wall is arched to withstand the pressure of the water upstream.

9.dam wall

We beat a not too hasty retreat down the Rose Steps, hoping to avoid spectacular slippage,

10.Rose Stairway

stopping to admire a very late or very early Azalea bloom.

11.Azalea

The towering dam wall is even more dramatic when viewed from below.

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The valve houses have stood the test of time and are even more beautiful wearing nature’s adornments.

14.historic valve house

Seemingly a serene lily pond, the compensation channel is the point where water released from the reservoir flows back into the Watts River.

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Spring would be the perfect time to explore the park, stroll along the walking trails and perhaps enjoy a picnic. We will just have to return one day.