Our journeys around Australia

For our next stop we had a choice, we could either stay at Strahan on the west coast or Queenstown about 40kms inland. Strahan is on the mouth on an inlet called McQuarie Harbour which leads into the heritage area. Boat trips are available from Strahan as is a scenic railway that runs to Queentown. We didn't want to go on the boat so chose to stop in Queenstown and catch the train down to Strahan.

Queenstown is an interesting place, it a mining town and the town is dominated by the copper mine and smelter. Well actually the town is dominated by the barren landscape that surrounds it caused by pollution from the smelter. The hills are devoid of plant life. The smelter plant has been cleaned up and the hills are starting to recover but it's going to take some time.

The barren hills around Queenstown

Barren hills around Queenstown
Polluted river near Queenstown There is a river running through the town which looks a bit polluted as well.

The town itself is a real mining town and some of it hasn't changed much for the past 50 years or so. There are some interesting buildings that could have come out of a Wild West film. Needless to say, the World Heritage Area seems to skirt around Queenstown on the map. You don't need to travel far outside the town before you are back in fantastic countryside again.

Lake Burbury

Lake Burbury
Queenstown Railway

We booked up to take the scenic train ride to Strahan. The track runs through the wilderness area and we were advised to get a seat on the left for the best views.

The railway at Queenstown

We were just about to jump aboard when the station master told us that the train would not be running 'cause the engine's broken! It travels up some steep gradients and has a rack and pinion system and it was something to do with that that had broken. Well it saved us a couple of hundred dollars and we drove to Strahan instead.

Strahan was a bit of a disappointment, just a row of posh café's and a quayside. There was an interesting place selling the local hardwood and things made from it. (I managed to get away with Ali just buying a couple of off-cuts for $1. The $200 dollars we had saved on the railway wouldn't have gone far here!)

Huon Pine

Huon Pine
Pine Workshop

The timber on sale was beautiful. Some of it was over 1000 years old and included Huon Pine, Sassafrass, King Billy Pine, Myrtle and Celery-top Pine. Some of these only grow in Tasmania. The yard where they cut the wood was a bit 'rustic' and reminded me a bit of our friend Dave's workshop.

What would the HSE think about this place?

The note attached to this slab of Huon Pine says

'This tree had taken root in the King River Valley about the time Hannibal was taking elephants across the Alps. It was about to be drowned under the rising waters of the hydro electric improvement at Lake Burbury when piners salvaged it'.

Ali thought it would make a good worktop for the kitchen but it would have stretched our 20kg baggage allowance a bit and the $5000 price tag might have stretched our budget a little as well.

A slab of Huon Pine
Back near Queenstown we drove out to a hydro station which is part of the Lake Margaret Power Scheme. The station, which is open to the public, was built in 1911 and uses wooden pipes to carry the water from the dam. The pipes are made of King William Pine and are 4ft wide and up to 1.5 miles long. They are built with staves in a similar fashion to barrels. The pipes have worn over time and some have been replaced but it's an indication of how good the local timber is.