A Train Ride Across the Highlands of Sri Lanka

Previous Post: Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains & the Hike To World’s End

Sri Lanka’s ultimate train trip runs 290 kilometers from the capital all the way east to Badulla. The man in Seat 61 says that it is “a classic journey that’s easily the best train ride in Sri Lanka”.   Along the way it is possible to interrupt your journey with connections to the old capital of Kandy and the hill station of  Nuwara Eliya, two of Sri Lanka’s most attractive towns.

The best part of the ten-hour trip takes you from Nanu Oya to Ella across the hill country and past tea plantations that sometimes come up right to the rail tracks. Cloud forest and the highest altitude rail stations in the country – 1800 meters higher than Colombo –  await!  On the Google map below the green line indicates the route –

We had spent the previous evening in Nuwara Eliya and in the morning drove by bus to Horton Plains National Park  and the World’s End Trail.  Then, our easy-to-walk World’s End circuit done,  we returned to Ambewela and waited for our train.  The memorable ride would take us to Ella over a two-hour time span.

Ambewela Train Staion window

Ambewela Train Station window

Ambewela at 1828 meters a.s.l. and nearby Pattipola at 1892 meters, are the two highest train stations in Sri Lanka and among the top 20 in the world. The line was built by the British during colonial times to haul tea from the highlands down to Colombo; now it carries tourists!

Ambewela - Train Timetable

Ambewela – Train Timetable

Ambewela Train Station - passenger wait for the train east

Ambewela Train Station – passengers wait for the train east

As we waited a number of trains passed by; they were all heading north and west to Colombo. A train aficionado would be able to identify the engines and the carriages and their respective vintages; I had to content myself with noting their various colours!

train pulling into Ambewela Station

train pulling into Ambewela Station

While the Sri Lankan government owns the rail lines and runs most of the services, there are a couple that are privately run – the Exporail Car and The Rajadhani Express.  The cars below date back to 1970 and as the image below shows, they are looking a bit tired.  And, if getting photos of the views is your mission, it sounds like you’d be better off on a regular train like the blue one we were waiting for.  Here is what the man in seat 61 says about the Rajadhani –

The Rajadhani car dates from 1970, so externally it’s older and grubbier than their website suggests.  But it’s easy to book online, it’s very comfy, well air-conditioned, has effective WiFi  – if you correctly enter the world’s longest WiFi password, that is – and is very popular with tourists.  On the downside you are sealed in behind small and very grubby windows, making it a poor way to experience the journey.  Taking photographs of the scenery is almost impossible, so you are better off in regular 2nd class.  source: here

The Rajadhani Express pulls in to Ambewela

The Rajadhani Express pulls in to Ambewela

a train heading to Colombo

a train heading to Colombo

In the image below a tourist watches me as I include her in my photo of the observation car.

ambewela-train-stop

Ambewela train stop – a Chines tourist in the first-class observation car

More cars heading west, more colours …until finally our blue train, known as the Udurata Menike – a Sinhala translation of the original English “Highland Lass” – arrived.

The blue Chinese-built trains were the newest ones I saw; they were introduced in 2012. We had reserved second-class seats and, best of all, it was very easy to take pics.  I am almost certain that the windows open so dirty windows were not an issue.  I am not sure why I did not use my Sony DSLR for any of the pix in this post; all but the last were all taken with my with my point and shoot – a Canon Elph 330 (aka Ixus 255).

our train finally arrives at Ambewela

our train finally arrives at Ambewela

The car below looks like it might go back to pre-independence times!

old rail car sitting near Ambewela Station

old rail car sitting near Ambewela Station

And then we were on our way – taking in the fifty shades of green often covered in a shroud of mist. Every once in a while we would enter a rock face through one of the 44 tunnels of the route and views would be replaced by the sound of screeching wheels on the rails.

the blue train on its way to Ella -

the blue train on its way to Ella –

Going through Tunnel #26 at Km 233

Going through Tunnel #26 at Km 233

passing through the cloud forest of the Sri Lankan highlands.jpg

passing through the cloud forest of the Sri Lankan highlands.

cultivated fields in the Horton Plains cloud forest

cultivated fields in the Horton Plains cloud forest

Tamil women picking tea leaves - Sri Lankan highlands

Indian Tamil women picking tea leaves – Sri Lankan highlands

Historically there are two Tamil communities in Sri Lanka. There are the Tamils who were brought over to the island by the British in the 1840’s to work on the tea plantations; they are referred to as the Indian Tamils.  There is a much older group- the Sri Lankan Tamils – who have been a part of the history of the island going back 2000 years.  For some of those years they actually ruled parts of it. Tamils make up about 20% of the population of the country – and while they are more numerous to the north and along the east coast, they are also very much a part of the hill country that this post describes. (See here for a map indicating ethnic group distribution.)

One of these years I hope to return to Sri Lanka with my bicycle, take the train up to Jaffna, and then travel down the east coast of the island to Trincomalee and beyond to experience another aspect of a beautiful  island with a fascinating, if somewhat painful recent history. As I high school teacher in Toronto I came to know a number of students from Sri Lanka, some Sinhalese but mostly Tamil. Beginning in the early 1990’s many had arrived as refugees from the civil war going on.  Outside of Sri Lanka, Canada is the home of  the single-largest number of Tamils.

Sri Lanka tea country - flower bed on the side of the rail tracks

Sri Lanka tea country – flower bed on the side of the rail track

Common in Sri Lanka are trilingual signs like the one below at Haputale. The top row has Sinhala letters and the middle has Tamil.

Haputale - trilingual sign

Haputale – trilingual sign

passengers disembarking at Haputale

passengers disembarking at Haputale

more tea plantations east of Haputale.jpg

more tea plantations east of Haputale

flower bed - Diyathalawa station

flower bed – Diyathalawa station

a view of Diyathalawa from the train

a view of Diyathalawa from the train

Heel-oya Station platform

Heel-oya Station platform

As the photos of the various train stations and the countryside show, buildings and surroundings are mostly well-kept and tidy.  Garbage and litter are rarely seen and the smell of sewage – one of my overriding impressions of travelling the top half of  India – is thankfully absent.

Kithalella Station -

Kithalella Station

Ella Station - packpackers on the platform

Ella Station – backpackers on the platform

We got to Ella at about 5:30.  We had set off from Nuwara Eliya at 6:30 a.m. for Horton Park and had been rewarded by a nice ramble in Horton Plains Park and then this train ride.  After we checked into our Ella hotel, my roommate and I walked down to The Grand Hotel for supper. Behind the hotel is a garden with a fabulous view of Ella Rock and the Gap.  The next morning we would hike up to the Rock and look back at the hotel! Here is the Rough Guide reivew of Ella –

Sri Lanka’s most beautiful village, offering verdant walks amongst the surrounding tea plantations and a marvellous view through Ella Gap to the plains below.

Next Post: Hiking The Hills Above The Hill Station of Ella

the view of the Gap from the gardens of the Ella Grand Spa and Resprt

the view of the Gap from the gardens of the Ella Grand Spa and Resort

Related Links:

The Man In Seat 61‘s write-up on the Sri Lanka rail system is an essential source of information if you are planning to use the train to get round the island.  This site – not a commercial venture but the personal site of Mark Smith –  has everything you need in terms of timetables and reviews of the different trains. As well, it provides historical background on the various trains you would see pass by.  Click on the title  –

I did this tour – The Highlands of Sri Lanka – with Exodus Travels, a small-group travel country based in the U.K. there were 12 of us in the group, a mix of older Brits and a couple of Canadians. I’ve used Exodus at least a dozen times when the organized trip option makes the most sense.  I always come away impressed with the guides and the way that everything on the logistics side just falls into place.

A Fascinating Journey, a review of a book written by Hemasiri Fernando titled The Uva Railway: Railway To The Moon appeared in The Sunday Times Sri Lanka (May 1, 2016).  It gives a brief  summary of the author’s detailed treatment of the history of the line and may well lead train buffs to getting the book itself. A search for the book at Amazon.com unfortunately did not come up with it; a Colombo book shop may be the place to look.

Lou Wilson uploaded to Youtube some video of his 2012 train ride from Kandy to Ella.  He captures the spirit of the journey beautifully.

 

Sri Lanka’s Horton Plains & The View From World’s End

Previous Post: Hiking Sri Lanka’s Knuckles – To Meemure and Corbett Gap

a view of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya

an evening  view of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya

We were out of our hotel in Nuwara Eliya and on the road by 7:00 a.m. the next morning.  Our destination for the day: the hill station of Ella about 60 kilometers to the south-east with one major diversion – a short hike in Horton Plains National Park.

from-nuwara-eliya-to-ella-via-horton-plains

The early start would hopefully allow us to get to the viewpoint at World’s End in the park before the clouds started rolling in from the south and hid the spectacular views. We gained a bit of altitude as the switchback took us up to the plateau.  Down below the mist hung in the valley and created an enchanting scene.

on the road to Horton Plains National Park from Nuwara Eliya

on the road to Horton Plains National Park from Nuwara Eliya

Down in the valley I spotted the dozen windmills of the Ambewela Aitken Spence Wind Farm. It gave the scene an unexpected futuristic look.

a dozen windmills in the valley mist south of Nuwara Eliya

a dozen windmills in the valley mist south of Nuwara Eliya

Following regional highway B582 to Pattipola, we then continued on toward  Horton Plains National Park entrance. There was another surprise – looking west over the valley  I spotted Sri Pada‘s distinctive profile on the horizon.  Total distance – about 35 kilometers!  Sri Pada’s 2,243 m (7,359 ft) height and the lack of any other peaks of similar size nearby means it really stands out!

sri-pada-to-great-worlds-end-drop

Two evenings before we had climbed up the pilgrimage mountain with thousands of Sri Lankan Buddhists keen to get close to what believers say is a sacred footprint left by the Buddha on one of his three legendary visits to the island.  Sri Pada would also be given the name Adam’s Peak by visiting Arab traders to fit with their Muslim stories.

Well, there it was and here we were – looking at it from the Horton Plains!

a shot of Sri Padas from the moving bus on the way to Horton Plains

a shot of Sri Padas from the moving bus on the way to Horton Plains

On to the park, still named after a British governor of Ceylon from the 1830’s. (The Sinhala name for the area is Maha Eliya.) We would spend the next three hours on an easy circular hike that would take us past the three main attractions.  The sign below lists them.

trail sign at Horton Plains National Park.jpg

trail sign at Horton Plains National Park

There are other hiking trails in the park but this one is by far the most popular. The yellow line indicates the trail.  Beginning at the park entrance at the top right-hand side, we walked down to the World’s End at the bottom and then came back via Baker’s Falls. Total distance: about 9 kilometers with perhaps 90 meters (300′) in altitude gained or lost on the way.  The terrain is a mix of cloud forest and grassland and the trail is well-worn thanks to the many visitors.

Horton Plains Park's most popular walk

Horton Plains Park’s most popular walk

google-earth-image-of-hiking-trail-at-horton-plains

I found the above GPS track uploaded by  Miriup at wikiloc;  check it out here Using the slider on the elevation chart, you can walk the trail and get a feel for its ups and downs!  It really is an easy half-day walk.  We were definitely the exceptions with our hiking boots, trekking poles and, for some, even full gaiters!  Shorts and running shoes seem to be more typical!

hikers getting read at the Horton Trail Y

hikers getting read at the Horton Trail Y – pointing my camera into the sun was not a good idea!

In the above image we have come to the initial Y in the road and everyone is getting ready – sunscreen lotion, water bottle, camera, sun hat!  To the right the trail takes you to Baker’s Falls; to the left it goes to Mini World’s End and World’s End.  Given that views tend to be better earlier in the morning before clouds have moved in from the coast, a clockwise direction is advisable.  Unfortunately, there are no guarantees!  We found the view clouded over as we passed by Mini World’s End.

a view from Mini World's End

a view from Mini World’s End

What the trail does is take you along the edge of a cliff that plummets 1000 meters from your 1800-or-so- meter vantage point to lowlands just below.  Supposedly on a clear day you can see all the way to the south coast of the island.  We would not be so lucky!

the-worlds-end-elevation

 

a bit of mist obscures the view at Mini World's End!

a bit of mist obscures the view at Mini World’s End!

Mini World's End - the-photographer-gets-photographed

Mini World’s End – the photographer gets photographed!

Mini World's End - mist, forest, and grass

Mini World’s End – mist, forest, and grass

A bit further on from Mini World’s End is World’s End itself. We arrived there to find the view even more clouded over than the one we had left.  W e walked into a group of walkers already sitting there on the platforms and gazed into the thick fog.  While it wasn’t what we were hoping for, it had a beauty of its own.

World's End view - Horton Plains

World’s End view – Horton Plains

panorama of World's End with mist down below

panorama of World’s End with mist down below

I thought of Mount Fuji and a Bonzi tree as I framed the shot below!

World's End view - mist below Horton Plains

World’s End view – mist below Horton Plains

And then it was back to the World’s End platform for one last look before taking the trail down to see the twenty-meter drop of Baker’s Falls.

the loookout at World's End in Horton Plains Park

the lookout at World’s End in Horton Plains Park

As the image below shows, we would lose some altitude as we went down to the river that flows by.

down to the foot of Baker's Falls in Horton Plains Park

down to the foot of Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains Park

It is the  Belihul Oya,  a tributary of the Walawe.  (The Walawe Oya is one of three rivers (along with the Mahaweli and Kelani) that have their headwaters on the Horton Plains plateau. See here for a map.)

walking to Baker's Falls from Wrold's End in Horton plains Park

walking to Baker’s Falls from World’s End in Horton Plains Park

We spent some time at the Falls, framing a few shots and inhaling the oxygen-enriched air.

viewers' platform at Baker's Falls

viewers’ platform at Baker’s Falls

Baker's Falls in Horton Palins Park

Baker’s Falls in Horton Plains Park

fellow traveller getting the shot just right

fellow traveller getting the shot just right

a view on the walk back from Baker's Falls

a view on the walk back from Baker’s Falls

We knew that our morning walk was done when we saw the trail marker down below. Its well-worn look gives the impression of something left behind from colonial times seventy years ago!

the trail sign at Horton Plains

the trail sign at Horton Plains with distances to the various attractions

On our menu for the rest of the day – lunch at a local rice and curry restaurant and then a train ride from Ambewela to Ella, where we would spend the next couple of days hiking in the hills above the town. The train ride is perhaps the most dramatic in Sri Lanka, taking you through cloud forest, tea plantations, and the highest-altitude trains station on the island. The next post will take a look at the scenery!

Ambewela Train Station/Horton Plains National Park

Ambewela Train Station/Horton Plains National Park

Next Post:  The High-Altitude Train Ride from Ambewela To Ella

Toronto’s Main Street In Transition – Yonge From Dundas To The Harbour

See Also: Toronto’s Main Street In Transition – Yonge From Yorkville To Dundas

yonge-from-dundas-to-the-harbour

It is a bit more than a mile (1700 meters) from Yonge and Dundas to the Harbour. This stretch of Yonge, perhaps because of its proximity to the Financial District in the Bay/King area, has fewer of the dilapidated and shabby buildings that still exist north of Dundas.  We’ll begin our walk at the intersection of Yonge and Dundas.

dundas-and-yonge

Standing on the NW corner is a turn of the 20th Century building that first saw life as a bank. A series of clothing chains have filled the space in the past twenty years. I’m looking from its entrance across the intersection to Yonge-Dundas Square, created in the 1990’s with the removal of a ramshackle collection of two-storey buildings that filled the corner space. (It included my favourite roti shop, Coconut Grove!)  As the satellite image above shows, it is not exactly a square! Dundas takes a funny turn northward just as it approaches Yonge.  Perhaps to define the space, what looks like the remains of a highway off-ramp runs down the north side of the public space.

As the satellite image above shows, it is not exactly a square! Dundas takes a turn northward just as it approaches Yonge.  Perhaps to define the space, what looks like the remains of a highway off-ramp runs down the north side of the public space.

Yonge at Dundas - view from the NW corner

Yonge at Dundas – view from the NW corner

The square’s main feature is the water fountains – ten or so in all that, when working, create an oasis-like feel amid the concrete. Listening to the waterfall you can forget for a moment that you are at the busiest intersection not just in Toronto but in all of Canada. The development of the Ryerson campus in the immediate area over the past twenty years has only added to the number of people passing by.

Dundas and Yonge - looking NW over the square

Dundas and Yonge – looking NW over the square

One Sunday morning I went downtown to find that Yonge Street from Bloor to Queen had been turned into a pedestrian mall.  In the square were a number of food carts and – finally acknowledging our city’s multicultural composition – they were offering more than the usual hot dogs and fries!

food trucks on the edge of Dundas Square

food trucks on the edge of Dundas Square

Above the square on the NE side is Milestones, a third-floor restaurant with a fabulous view of the streets below. The fact that it was 10 a.m. on a Sunday with no cars allowed on Yonge meant I got the neighbourhood at its quietest!

looking down Yonge from Milestones on the NE corner of Dundas/Yonge

looking down Yonge from Milestones on the NE corner of Dundas/Yonge

Yonge Street and Dundas Square on a traffic free Sunday

Yonge Street and Dundas Square on a traffic free Sunday

looking south on Yonge from the Milesonte Restaurant on the NE Corner

looking south on Yonge from the Milestones Restaurant on the NE Corner

looking W on Dundas past the Eaton Center North Tower

looking W on Dundas past the Eaton Center North Tower

east side of Yonge across from the Eaton Center.jpg

east side of Yonge across from the Eaton Center

I continued my walk south on Yonge from Dundas.  On the west side the Eaton Centre stretches all the way down to Queen Street. You would have figured that this massive development of one side of the street in the early 1970’s would have resulted in more of the same on the other side of the street.  The image above shows the reality – a row of two-storey brick buildings from the 1880’s that have been “beautified” with fake fronts.

Massey Hall on Shuter Street - a half block from Yonge and the Eaton Center in the background

Massey Hall on Shuter Street – a half block from Yonge and the Eaton Center.

At the corner of Yonge and Shuter I had to turn in to see Massey Hall, Toronto’s historic music venue.  From Procol Harum to Leonard Cohen to Ray Davies to Gordon Lightfoot to Sigur Ros – I too have my Massey Hall memories! Until Roy Thomson Hall was built for them it was also the home of the Toronto Symphony.

street art near the corner of Shuter at Yonge

street art near the corner of Shuter at Yonge

As you walk down Yonge along the outside of the Eaton Centre the two following buildings – Greco-Roman temples – come into view.  They go back to the Victorian era when the Classical look was all the rage and the fronts of public buildings and banks all over town were adorned with all the right touches – from the ornate Corinthian columns of the building on the left to the more severe Ionic look of the other building.  Behind these buildings a new tower is being constructed – glass is all the rage these days!  But the temples will be incorporated into the new structure and from street level at least things will look the same.

east side of Yonge N of Queen.jpg

east side of Yonge N of Queen

All you have to do, though, is look up to see what is happening! At the corner of Yonge and Queen is another facade saved from the wrecker’s ball. (In Toronto over the decades that has meant Teperman Wrecking Inc.)  Behind the facade is the glass tower of the Maritime Life Building, at 347′ high a mid-rise building which went up in the early 2000’s.

NE corner of Yonge at Queen

NE corner of Yonge at Queen

NE corner of Yonge at Queen - view from the south

NE corner of Yonge at Queen – view from the south

On the south side of Queen as you walk down Yonge is the old Simpson’s main store; it is now is owned by Cadillac Fairview and houses the downtown Bay store.

Yonge at Richmond - NE corner

Yonge at Richmond – NE corner

Now I’m down at Yonge and King, looking NE at a heritage 10-storey building on the corner. Across the street at One King W. is a condo hotel completed in 2006 when, as a Wikipedia article on the property notes, a tower was added to the heritage Dominion Bank Building (1914), itself an early 12-storey skyscraper.

Yonge at King - NE corner

Yonge at King – NE corner

Down another block to a quiet side street – Colborne Street – that reminded me of Florence and the swarms of scooters on that city’s streets and parked like this.

looking west toward Yonge from Colborne Street - a side street S of King

looking west toward Yonge from Colborne Street – a side street S of King

east side of Yonge at Wellington

east side of Yonge at Wellington – old and new side by side

At Wellington I deked west from Yonge Street to get a shot of what must have been warehouses back in the day and are probably lofts or offices now.

south side of Wellington just west of Yonge

south side of Wellington just west of Yonge

In the photo below I am approaching Front Street.  The distinctive shape of the L-Tower draws my eye; it is a Friday afternoon and the street is busy.  Vehicles are heading down to the Gardiner and an escape from the downtown core.

down Yonge to the L Tower at Front

down Yonge to the L Tower at Front

The L-Tower’s shape makes it recognizable even from my neighbourhood vantage point on Broadview Avenue by the Rooster Café some three kilometers away! It will probably soon be hidden from view by taller buildings that will sprout up around it. On the north side of the L-Tower with its main doors on Front Street is what is now called the Sony Centre For the Performing Arts. I have been around long enough to remember it as the O’Keefe Centre. I do remember being confused when it was renamed to the Hummingbird Centre in the 1980’s. It was the previous home of the Canadian Opera Company.

I still remember a soul-numbing performance of Death In Venice – a birthday gift from my wife!  Listening to the mopey hero going on and on about his miserable fate in life I remember thinking – “Man, quit your moaning and groaning! Die already!” I actually left the performance and went out for a smoke or two and met back up with an annoyed Laila when the performance was over. We stopped going to opera after that.  On a more positive note, the Elvis Costello concert we attended at the O’Keefe was fantastic!

currently the Sony Center on the SE corner of Yonge and Front

currently the Sony Center on the SE corner of Yonge and Front

On the NW corner of Yonge and Front is the old Bank of Montreal Building. Its ornate  Beaux Arts style made quite the statement when it opened in the 1880’s.  In the early 1990’s it was transformed from a bank into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In the image below you can see its east face.

looking S towards Front and beyond.

looking S towards Front and beyond.

Behind the Hockey Hall of Fame building, still standing after 130 years, massive changes have taken place. An entire block from Yonge over to Bay has been redeveloped and is now a complex of two towers, the dramatic Allan Lambert Galleria, as well as the Hall of Fame. This satellite image shows the development –

yonge-and-front

ne-corner-of-yonge-at-front-historical-plaque

Across the street from the Hockey Hall of Fame I noticed this historical plaque. It notes the visit of the already-famous Charles Dickens in May of 1842.  He spent two nights at the American Hotel which stood on the NE corner until the late 1880’s.  What he would find now is an edifice twice-removed from the one he stayed in.   The image below shows the current building – put up in the 1980’s – with its mirrored facade. Across the street sits the old Bank of Montreal building.  The old reflected in the new – a tale of two cities!

the north side of Front Street at Yonge

the north side of Front Street at Yonge – Hockey Hall of Fame on the left

the Hockey Hall of Fame on the NW corner of Yonge/Front

the Hockey Hall of Fame on the NW corner of Yonge/Front

At Front I looked back up Yonge Street I could make out the CIBC logo on the top of the building at Yonge and Bloor. It is 2.75 km (about 2 miles) away. The fact that I had exchanged my wide-angle zoom (15mm- 24mm) for my 55mm-210 mm Tele zoom lens explains the compression of space!  I’d shoot a few more with that zoom set at 210mm before putting it away as a few of the pix below will show.

looking N on Yonge from Front Street

looking N on Yonge from Front Street with  two Floor Street towers visible

Forty years ago there was no reason to go south of Front Street; there was little there. The concrete of the Gardiner Expressway acted as a kind of wall – physical and psychological. This is also where the rails come through on their way to Union Station on the west side of Yonge on Front. By 2016 thanks to massive development projects – mixed commercial/ residential condos, hotels, the Harbourfront Centre –  the lakeshore area has been transformed and more dramatic change is on the way in the next decade.

looking N on Yonge at Lakeshore

looking N on Yonge at Lakeshore

looking-up-yonge-street-from-queens-quay

one of my first shots with my iPhone – a gift from Laila after she upgraded to her iPhone 7+!

looking up Yonge from Queen's Quay

looking up Yonge from Queen’s Quay

One of the stories that first drew me to revisiting Yonge Street was the one about the massive development planned for One Yonge Street. I knew it as the address of the Toronto Star Building but couldn’t really picture it. So off I went for a bike ride to The Star Building.  it is visible in the satellite image below.  While it will remain, around it a major complex of high-rises will fill the entire block that it sits on the corner of.

the foot of Toronto's Yonge Street - satellite 3D view

the foot of Toronto’s Yonge Street – satellite 3D view

redevelopment-of-1-7-yonge-street

The redevelopment of 1 -7 Yonge Street

Toronto Ferry RoutesQueen’s Quay is the street where Yonge Street begins.  Across from the Star Building is the Harbour Castle Westin- the place with the revolving restaurant.  At least it did a full 360º spin around – and more! –  the one time I had dinner there in the 1970’s thanks to my buddy  Roy. His father was in town for some geologists’ convention and decided to treat us young lads to a fancy meal!  (According to this Wiki entry it stopped spinning in 2001.) Immediately below the hotel is the ferry terminal for rides over to the Toronto Islands.

Yonge Street meets the harbour!

Yonge Street meets the harbour! More condos!

another-shot-of-the-condo-at-the-foot-of-yonge-street

the west side of the harbour at the bottom of Yonge

the west side of the harbour at the bottom of Yonge

My multi-day visit to Yonge Street was an attempt to capture Toronto’s “main drag” in the midst of the massive transformation it is currently undergoing.  It provided a focus for my camera lenses and made for an enjoyable project that I am sure reflects my history-teacher approach to things. I can also see that my concern for a disappearing Yonge Street perhaps reflects the concerns of a 65-year old who is grappling with his own impermanence!

Useful Links:

Doug Taylor, a fellow history teacher and fellow blogger, has a website Historic Toronto that is a goldmine of information on Toronto as it was. He has individual entries on all of the old buildings of Yonge Street – and a whole lot besides.  You may start off with one building but a half hour later you’ll find yourself a few streets away, reading about another building you have always wondered about.

The website Urban Toronto is all about the Toronto that is being built of glass and steel.  It has the latest news and a handy map that highlights all the current and proposed projects that are transforming our city. See here for the map.

January 2017: Prepping For Hikes In Argentina’s Lakes Region

Click on the More options prompt on the top left of the map for a full-screen view.

In a month from now I will be in Bariloche area of  Argentina for three weeks of hiking and volcano climbing.  It is located in northern Patagonia on the east side of the Andes in an area known for its volcanoes and sapphire-coloured alpine lakes. The Chilean side is just as spectacular!

After flying down from Toronto to Santiago de Chile and then on to Puerto Montt, I’ll spend the first three nights in Puerto Varas as I find my feet and my castellano! After an easy first day checking out Puerto Varas, I hope to bus over to the  Volcan Osorno (2,652-meters) for a walk to the top – it will make a nice warm-up hike. There is a cable lift which takes you up part way; I think I’ll get a lift ticket!

from-puerto-montt-to-san-carlos-de-bariloche

From Puerto Varas,  I cross the Andes into Argentina and the resort town of (San Carlos de) Bariloche. See here for the Cruce de Lagos website.

puerto-varas-bariloche-crossing

It promises to be a scenic bus/boat trip even if a bit pricy at $280. U.S.  The Google map above shows the much cheaper bus route but I think this splurge will be worth it!   It will take me past Volcan Osorno again as well as across Lago Totos Los Santos from Petrohue to Peulla.  It takes 12 hours to  get to Bariloche.

cruce-andino-mapa

A couple of years ago I spent $320. US for a spectacular 45-minute balloon ride over the Plains of Merit in Pagan, Burma so I have had practice in rationalizing  seemingly ridiculous expenditures.  See Ballooning Over The Plains Of Bagan for my thoughts on that extravagance!

four-refugios-hike-cerro-tronador

I’ll be spending two weeks in the area, a few days in town getting organized and one on a rented bicycle saddle doing the Circuito Chico, a 60 km ride along the lakeshore to the Hotel Llao Llao.  I’ve already booked a room for three nights at the Hostel 41 Below in the downtown area. A  selling point was the vegetarian meals served at lunch and dinner.  It can be difficult sticking to a vegan diet while travelling.  This should make my stay in Bariloche  somewhat easier!

Most of my time in the Bariloche area will be spent on the hiking trails to the west. I have two hikes planned:

  1. the five-day hike from Cerro Catedral to Refugios Frey, Jakob (San Martín), Laguna Negra (Italia), and Lopez before coming down to Colonia Suissa and a bus ride back to Bariloche.  I’ll have my tent – but if the weather is really bad a space in the refugio is an option.
  2. a hike up to Refugio Otto Meiling  from Pampa Linda.  Once there I hope to find a guide who can get me to the top of Cerro Tronador (a 3,470 meter high extinct volcano) – or at least to Pico Argentino. It is the peak accessible from the Argentinian side.  Glacier melt over the past decade or so means that the actual highest peak is a dangerous undertaking.  It would be a ten-hour slog starting around 3 a.m. to takre advantage of the  harder snow.   I will bring along my crampons and climbing harness; I may be able to rope in with a group that is already going. I did find a guide service which offered to do it for $650. for the day but have to believe that it can be had for much less. Time will tell!

After that things are a bit up in the air.  I know I’ll be heading to the north end of Lago Nahuel Huapi to Villa de Angostura and then up to San Martin de los Andes but have no goal in mind other than to arrange a hike to the top of Volcan Lanín with one of the many agencies based in San Martín. A three-day $650. excursion looks like the solution.

volcan-lanin-on-the-chileargentina-border-north-of-san-martin-de-los-andes

I then loop back to Chile through the town of Osorno and spend the last two nights in Puerto Montt – I’ve pre-booked a room at the Hotel Seminario on a street above the downtown area –  before flying back to Toronto near the end of February.

I now have the month of January to up my fitness level a bit so that I can do all the above and enjoy it!  A couple of Saturdays ago I slipped on some black ice on my street while walking my dog Viggo and badly bruised my hip. I was barely able to walk the 150 meters back home, thinking all the while about what this could mean for my upcoming trip! Well, it is two weeks later and the hurt is all but gone. However,  my training program was put aside while I healed.  Now to get back to where I was!

My  January 2 activity  so far has  included a 1 hour 15 minute walk with Viggo and a more intense  45-minute bicycle ride on the city streets, which were clear of ice and snow. One more 45-minute walk with V and that will be it for today.  Tomorrow’s +6ºC is nice but the rain  will make a longer bike ride unlikely.

weather-forecast-jan-3-jan-9

If I can keep riding the streets it means  I won’t have to resort to the boring treadmill at the gym or to my Nordic Trak machine in the basement.  I may earn some aerobics points by putting in a jog or two through my Riverdale/Cabbagetown neighbourhood instead of cycling.

My resolution for January is to create a chart that indicates a string of days in the balanced and into the middle-third strained  level. It’s looking empty now – there will be lots more red in a week from now.

polar-flow-recovery-status

stats generated by my Polar M400 in the app Polar Flow – Recovery Status

I’ll update my chart next Monday.  Not that I need extra motivation – but perhaps knowing that someone is looking to see if I actually am walking the talk will get me to up my heart rate!

Week One:

week-oneI made a good start to my four-week cardio upgrade!  Viggo and I spent about two hours walking most days though the speed that we walk at rarely gets my heart rate above 110. I also took to my Nordic Track machine – twice for about 25 minutes each time. Boring!  Much better were two rides on my road bike; the one on Friday was my longest at an hour. It was perhaps -17º with the wind chill.  My Polar Flow app is telling me that today – January 9 – should be an easy day, given that my past training has pushed me to the very edge of the “strained” category.  A couple of walks with Viggo and a bike ride up to the Danforth to do some shopping and have lunch and that will probably be it for today.  I’ll get back at it on Tuesday with a visit to Riverdale Fitness for some strength training and perhaps 25 minutes on the elliptical trainer.

 

Walking Down Toronto’s Old Yonge Street – Before It’s Gone! Yorkville to Dundas

There are all sorts of reasons why Yonge Street dropped off the map of my Toronto in the past decade or two!

  • my music collection went the mp3 route,
  • all the bars and clubs with live blues, folk, and rock music closed their doors
  • my bookstore – digital as well as analogue – changed to amazon.ca
  • the restaurant meal I wanted to order had become vegan
  • the Danforth in my Riverdale neighbourhood had most of what I needed
  • I was not twenty-five anymore

While I remember with fondness that 18-year-old kid from a mining town of 10,000 walking down the freak show that was Yonge Street in 1969,  those days are gone!   And so – as the following pix will make clear to anyone over 40 – are an increasing number of the street’s tired and dilapidated buildings – and even some entire blocks.

downtown-t-o-from-broadview-avenue

 

Standing on Broadview Avenue across from Riverdale’s The Rooster Café I can look west over the Don River Valley and see the new buildings on Yonge that are changing the skyline.

walking from Jarvis towards Yonge and Bloor - with One Bloor East standing above all

walking from Jarvis towards Yonge and Bloor – with One Bloor East standing above all

I had some research to do at the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge near Yorkville Avenue – the street which back in the sixties was hippy central! –  and figured that afterwards  I would do something I hadn’t done in maybe fifteen years – walk down Yonge Street!  Along with my laptop I put my Fuji X20 in my backpack and walked over the Bloor Street Viaduct towards Yonge.

the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge

the Toronto Reference Library on Yonge

the inside of the Raymond Moriyama designed Toronto reference library

the inside of the Raymond Moriyama designed Toronto reference library opened in 1977

The Reference Library – Toronto’s third largest after the main libraries of the U of T and York – has been there for almost forty years, long enough for it to have a $40,000,000. renovation a few years ago! My research done – I think I was reading up on Ojibwe pictographs – I figured I would make use of the 4th floor vantage point for some shots of Yonge Street. Looking south toward Bloor Street here was the view –

looking S to the corner of Yonge and Bloor

looking S to the corner of Yonge and Bloor

Next year at this time there will be a  998′ high condo/retail tower filling the space where you see the sign The One – as in 1 Bloor W.  It will be about 150′ higher than the 1 Bloor E tower across the street. Here is a satellite image from two years ago when construction on the 1 Bloor E. tower was just starting.  Keep on scrolling to see what is there now!

yong-and-bloor-before-either-of-the-the-two-new-towers-went-up

the-promo-copy-for-1-yorkville

I looked west over the over the row of buildings that once included The Cookbook Store. It closed in 2014 after thirty years at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville.

While the front face of the buildings is still up there is a cavity behind that will eventually be filled by a 601′ condominium tower with 580 units.  The “heritage’ facade is staying! To the right is an image from the developers promo book. See here for the source.

looking over the 1 Yorkville site/corner of Yonge and Yorkville

looking over the 1 Yorkville site/corner of Yonge and Yorkville

looking south down Yonge Street from N of the Toronto Reference Library

looking south down Yonge Street from N of the Toronto Reference Library

One of my favourite bars on Yonge was the Morrissey Tavern at 817, just a few steps north of the library at 789. It was replaced with a condominium tower – the one at 20 Collier – in the early 2000’s.  Already a decade before I had quit smoking and hanging out in bars like the Morrissey had become a lot less desirable!

Dundas Square - not so public on this day

excavation stage of the site across from the Reference Library

The Cookbook Store at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville - only the facade remains.jpg

The Cookbook Store at the corner of Yonge and Yorkville – only the facade remains

the saved fronts of buidlings from Yorkville down towards Cumberland.jpg

the saved fronts of buildings from Yorkville down towards Cumberland

I talked briefly to a guy wearing a hard hat and holding a clipboard about the excavation going on behind the facade you see in the pic above. I asked him why they were bothering to save such a shabby stretch of brick work. Even creating a fake 1880’s facade would be easier than having to work around the original one. He said it certainly wasn’t the architects’  or builders’ idea and that sometimes you have to make concessions to get permits.

the saved facade at Yonge and Yorkville

the saved facade at Yonge and Yorkville

Looking S towards Bloor from Yorkville Avenue.

Looking S towards Bloor from Yorkville Avenue.

the NE corner of Yonge/Cumberland slated for development

the NE corner of Yonge/Cumberland slated for development

The corner building – the one with Pizza Pizza on the first floor and the “Live right here” sign on the second – is slated for demolition.  Safe for now is the Pilot Tavern, another favourite watering hole back in the day.  It is admittedly looking a bit tired too!

the old Britnell's Book Store just N of the Bay Buidling

the old Britnell’s Book Store just N of the Bay Building

Britnell’s was THE upscale bookstore in Toronto for decades but by the end of the 1990’s the current generation of the family decided it was time to move on to other things. Visit the Starbucks in the space now and you will see the same solid bookshelves and the eye-catching black and white tiled floor.

standing at Yonge and Bloor - NW corner.jpg

standing at Yonge and Bloor – NW corner.jpg

Bye, Bye Stollery's - the SW corner of Yonge at Bloor

Bye, Bye Stollery’s – looking at the SW corner of Yonge and Bloor

The other day as I walked by the Necropolis next to the Riverdale Farm I noticed a historical plague acknowledging “The Early Settlers”.  It mentioned that the remains of these early citizens of Toronto had been moved from Potter’s Field to the Necropolis in the 1850’s. And where was Potter’s Field?  I was standing in it at the north-west corner of Yonge and Bloor! Across the street was where Stollery’s – a conservative men’s clothing store – used to be.  I may have purchased a tweed jacket or two and a Burberry trench coat there before I devolved to Mountain Equipment Co-Op’s  “urban camper” style.

One Yonge Street - view from the west

One Yonge Street – view from the west

Formerly One Bloor East and now just One Bloor – it certainly is a dramatic addition to the skyline.  When 1 Bloor West – billed as The One on the sign board above – is up, they can argue about which is truly The One!

Later that week while I was walking along the Danforth – about 3.5 kilometers from the Bloor/Yonge intersection. From this distance you really notice how much taller than the CIBC Building or the Bay Building the newest addition really is.

a view of One Bloor from The Danforth near Carlaw Avenue

a view of One Bloor from The Danforth near Carlaw Avenue

Now the CIBC “Tower” is just a mid-sized high-rise that will soon – when One Bloor West is up – be even more overwhelmed.  Perhaps its owners are already calculating the feasibility of a teardown and rebuild more keeping with the space that Toronto haters across the country will say we think of the centre of the universe.

the first block south of Bloor - east side of Yonge.jpg

the first block south of Bloor – east side of Yonge

The House of Lords still stands!

The House of Lords still stands!

a-tired-stretch-of-yonge-street-near-irwin-avenue

looking south down a tired stretch of Yonge street near Irwin Avenue

Yonge Street as construction site!

Yonge Street as construction site!

SE corner of Yonge/Gloucester demolition - Bye, Bye Aida's Felafels!

SE corner of Yonge/Gloucester demolition – Bye, Bye Aida’s falafel!

another-block-of-vintage-yonge-street-north-of-college-st

another block of vintage Yonge Street north of College St.

construction site between Maitland and Alexander

construction site between Maitland and Alexander

As I walked toward College Street I saw something I’d never seen before from Yonge Street – The Buddies In Bad Times building!  Taking out an entire block’s worth of buildings along Yonge can do that to the view.

an entire block between Maitland and Alexander - gone!

an entire block between Maitland and Alexander – gone!

To remind myself what had been there before I checked out the Google satellite view which helped a bit. What it shows is an entire nondescript block of vintage two-storey brick buildings.

Yong Street east side from Maitland to Alexander - before the demo crew showed up!

Yong Street east side from Maitland to Alexander – before the demo crew showed up!

A block further down and more demolition – the buildings at the SW corner are gone. The billboard on the scaffolding says Canderel. Underneath I see the phrase “Project of the Year”.

SW corner of Yonge/Grenville - one block N of College Street

SW corner of Yonge/Grenville – one block N of College Street

I turn to Google again to refresh my fading memory! While the satellite image predates the demolition, already on the doomed building is the tag “Condominium Residences”.

the new Canderel space on Yonge - before the demolition

the new Canderel space on Yonge – before the demolition

looking N up Yonge Street from south end of the old Eaton's College Street Store

looking N up Yonge Street from south end of the old Eaton’s College Street Store

the new look of the old Eaton's College store

the College Park Suites to the south of the old Eaton’s College store

Across the street from the College Park Suites is a parkette, created by closing the last twenty meters of McGill Street from Sheard Street to Yonge.  The result is a bit of empty space and a few trees on a bricked terrace right off Yonge Street. Across the street is the Aura,  currently the highest condo tower in Canada (but soon, I am sure, to be replaced by another Toronto tower holding the same distinction).

The McGill Street Arch and Parkette across from The Aura

The McGill Street Arch and Parkette across from The Aura

The McGill Street Arch historical plaque

The McGill Street Arch historical plaque

a-stretch-of-heritage-yonge-street

a stretch of “heritage” Yonge Street

a classic Yonge Street Building in the heart of downtown!

a classic Yonge Street building in the heart of downtown!

I can hear the arguments for preserving the historical facade of this slice of the old Yonge Street just north of Aden Camera. “It’s a part of our heritage!”

approaching Dundas from the north on Yonge Street

approaching Dundas from the north on Yonge Street

Yonge Street north of the Ryerson Student Learning Center

Yonge Street north of the Ryerson Student Learning Center

I looked across the street from the west side at a spot I spent hours at in my younger years. Given my obsession, it was almost like a weekly pilgrimage – sometimes on Friday nights, sometimes on Saturday afternoons.  No – not the strip club!

The Zanzibar Club and the Ryerson U's Student Learnng Center

The Zanzibar Club and the Ryerson U’s Student Learning Center

The Ryerson building sits were it used to be and even the iconic sign is gone but from my mid-twenties to my mid-thirties I spent more time than I should have leafing through the record bins at Sam The Record Man’s.  Occasionally I’d also visit A & A’s next door.  Now I just have to wonder – what was  I looking for?

The Zanzibar, A&A's and Sam's in the 1970's

The Zanzibar, A&A’s and Sam’s in the 1970’s – see here for internet source –  City of Toronto Archives

I walked up the steps of the Ryerson building and tried to guess if I was anywhere near the space that used to hold the blues and folk sections in the Sam’s store.  Memories of  walking into the University of Waterloo’s Campus Centre in 1969 as a first-year student flashed by  as I walked up these Ryerson steps, looking like a very securely tenured professor who was contemplating imminent retirement!

the view from the front steps of the Ryerson Student Buidling

the view from the front steps of the Ryerson Student Building

the empty lot across the street from the Ryerson building

the empty lot across the street from the Ryerson building – SE corner of Yonge/Gould

a-view-of-the-ryerson-student-center-entrance

a wall of advertisement across from Ryerson's Student Learning Center

a wall of advertisement across from Ryerson’s Student Learning Center

yonge-street-across-from-the-ryerson-building

Yonge Street across from the Ryerson Building

Just off Yonge on Edward Street was maybe The World’s Biggest Bookstore. In the days before Amazon and its massive online book selection which you can have delivered to your front door within days, The World’s Biggest  was one of the regular stops in my ongoing quest for interesting reading – along with BMV next door  and Britnell’s and Book City and a number of used bookstores along Spadina and on Queen.  Now it is that empty lot to the west of BMV.  Originally slated for development as a low-rise row of restaurants, revised plans have a thirty-storey condominium tower there with some retail on the bottom.

the empty lot that once was The World's Biggest Bookstore

the empty lot that once was The World’s Biggest Bookstore

A block down from the Ryerson building is Dundas Street and the north end of the Eaton Centre, a 1970’s redevelopment which profoundly altered at least the west side of the stretch of Yonge Street from Dundas all the way down to Queen and the old Simpson’s store (which was bought by the Hudson Bay Co. in 1978 and recently sold by them to Cadillac Fairview, the entity that owns the Eaton Center complex).

the-public-square-at-dundas-and-yonge

the public square on the SE corner of Yonge and Dundas

looking-north-up-yonge-from-dundas-the-milestone-restaurant-patio

looking up Yonge Street from the 4th floor Milestone Restaurant patio at Dundas

Dundas Square - not so public two days later

Dundas Square – not so public two days later – a large tent and barriers

I ended my day when I got to Dundas and hopped on the 505 streetcar back to my Riverdale neighbourhood. In the next few days I would return to Yonge Street to finish my walk down to the harbour.  While the stretch of Yonge from Dundas down to the lake always seemed to have more substantial buildings, there were still more surprises in store!

Riverdale view of downtown Toronto - from Bloor To Dundas

Riverdale view of downtown Toronto – from Bloor To Dundas

Check out the urban Toronto map to appreciate the level of redevelopment going on in the city. It helps make clear why Toronto over the past few years has equaled or surpassed New York as  #1 in North America for high-rise construction projects

Coming Soon: A Walk Down Yonge Street From Dundas To the Lake

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Bicheno To St. Helens

Previous Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Click on the More options prompt in the top left hand box to access the full screen view.

bicheno-st-helens

Day 5 on the road from Hobart – having covered less than 200 kilometers in the first four days!  This day would be more ambitious thanks to the fact that there really aren’t any great accommodation options before St. Helens!  In terms of ocean views it would also be the best single day as the pix below will hopefully show.  And while the elevation chart above may look rather daunting with all those jagged peaks, the thing to remember is the very narrow range in elevation – i.e. only between 4 meters and 73. It was actually a very enjoyable ride!

The beach at the Denison River Conservation Area, about ten kilometers north of my  Bicheno Holiday Park tent spot, was my first of a number of spots to get off the bike and go for a little shoreline walk.  The path going down to the beach came complete with a reminder to be aware that the immediate shoreline is a bird breeding area.

coservation-area-sign-above-beach-near-bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

path down to the beach north of Bicheno

beach view south of Bicheno on Tasmania's east coast

beach view north of Bicheno on Tasmania’s east coast

looking into the afternoon storm cluds near Bicheno

looking north into the afternoon storm clouds near Bicheno

Bicheno beach - Tasmania

Bicheno beach – Tasmania

Bicheno beach - Tasmania east coast

Bicheno beach – Tasmania east coast

I ended up spending a half hour at the most beautiful of the east coast beaches I had come across so far.  Back on the saddle I got to do a more inland stretch of the A3 before coming down close to the seashore again in the Chain of Lagoons area.

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno.jpg

the road to St. Helens from Bicheno – an inland stretch of the Tasman Highway

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

path to Tasmania east coast beach off A3

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

beach near Chain of lagoons north of Bicheno

Another stunning beach area – and perhaps due to it being autumn – like most of the others I has stopped at, I had it completely to myself.  I sat on the rocks below and had an apple and some sugared water.  A look at the map told me i could have lunch at Scamander within the hour so back up to road I went for some more eye-popping beach views before the A3 turns sharply west to the junction with the A4.

East coast Tasmania - beach scene

East coast Tasmania – beach scene near Chain of Lagoons off Hwy A3

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania's east coast

cycling right along the shore on Tasmania’s east coast

a3-runnning-close-to-the-shore-just-south-of-scamander

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

looking back at a nice stretch of the A3

Just north of the Four Mile Creek Conservation Area the road runs right along the shoreline for a couple of kilometers before turning inland to the junction with Hwy A4.  When I got to the junction the distance markers told me that I had cycled 50 kilometres from Bicheno since setting off four hours before. This was not the Tour de France!

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

the signs at the A3/A4 Junction on east coast Tasmania.jpg

As i cycled through Scamander I was looking for an eatery of some sort.  I finally found something just before I reached the bridge over the Scamander River. It was a takeaway with all the usual fast – and fried – foods.

Scamander News Agency and take-away

Scamander News Agency and Take-Away

Lunch done I had another 23 kilometers to do and I had some extra motivation. Some bad weather was coming in and I wanted to be settled in somewhere before the rain came tumbling down.  As I approached St. Helens, the first option I passed was the  Big 4 St. Helens Holiday Park.  It is on the south side of the town just across the bridge from the downtown area.  However, the thought of spending the night in my tent in a rain storm was an option I figured I’d pass on.

Over the bridge there is also a Backpacker’s hostel on the main street – Cecilia Street.  It is also downtown and it would put me closer to restaurants and grocery stores. Off I went to the hostel – only to find that it was shut down and had a “For Sale” sign on it!  Yikes! What now?  Cycle the 1.5 km. back across the bridge and up to the campground?  Across the street from the closed hostel was the Bayside Inn.  It was already starting to rain as I pushed my loaded bike across the Cecilia Street.

st-helens-tasmania-satellite-shot

 

Within a couple of minutes I had my room at the Bayside Inn – not in the new addition but in the original 1950’s motel structure on the side of it. At $80.for the night I was not complaining!  My bike and gear and i would be dry for the night! I rolled my bike inside the room and checked the facilities – a shower, a small kitchenette area complete with pots and utensils, wi-fi!  It would definitely do!

St Helens - the Bayside Inn - shelter from the storm

St Helens – the Bayside Inn – shelter from the storm

St. Helens Bayside Inn - the original motel structure

St. Helens Bayside Inn – the original motel structure

The rain came down all night and it was still raining the next morning when it was time to set off for Scottsdale.  By then I had come up with a solution to spending a morning or maybe more cycling in the rain up to my next day’s destination – I would just put my bike on the bus and miss the rain completely!

On the next street over (Circassian Street) from the Bayside Inn is a BP station.  It also serves as the pick-up spot for the Calows Coaches intercity bus that goes from St. Helens to Launceston.  Putting bikes on buses in Tasmania is a remarkably easy thing to do – unlike here in Canada.

screen-shot-2016-12-06-at-2-00-01-pm

I even left on the front and rear panniers on the bottom side on the bike so the bike would be cushioned if the ride was at all bumpy. (I did put a piece of cardboard under each of the rented panniers so they would not get all scrubbed up and smudged from rubbing!)

map-of-tasmania

We left St. Helens at at 8:30 and at 11:00 I was in Launceston, Tasmania’s second biggest town.  Thanks to my revised schedule, I was also there a day early. Since  I already had the next night at the Backpackers’ Hostel paid for,  I figured my best bet would be to see if they had a room available for this day too. They did – and that is how I got to spend two days in beautiful Launceston, in some ways a more interesting town than Hobart to the south.

Next Post: Checking Out Launceston, Tasmania

 

Cycling Around Tasmania – Swansea To Bicheno

Previous Post: From Triabunna To Swansea

Overnight the clouds and rain moved through the area and the next morning the sun was back out.  I would have a pretty easy day of it.  Well, perhaps make that “morning”  since I rolled into Bicheno shortly after noon, having covered the 42 kilometers in about three hours of leisurely cycling.  I am enough of a obsessive-compulsive Type A personality that I do remember worrying that I was not covering enough distance each day and that I was spending too much time being a tourist. Noon – and dun? Ya gotta be kiddin’!

swansea-to-bicheno

Click here for the full-screen interactive view.

swansea-to-bicheno

The A3 on this day strayed far from the beaches and I recall cycling past long stretches of farm fields on fairly flat terrain.  Some of the pix below convey the overall scene. There was one bit of climbing to do; it came up near Apslaw just after the road turn off but even it – compared to the 600 meter gains in elevation I would be doing  a week later on the West Coast – was no big deal. And, of course, if you are hurting on the way up, you’ll have tears flowing out of your eyes as you bomb down the other side of the same bump in the road.

The point I eventually clued in to was that the bump on the graph above is not a 2-D representation of the actual hill but rather an indication of how much altitude you will gain in a set distance.  The  road can only be so steep; what you should really be imagining is an extended series of switchbacks that takes you up from, in the graph above, 8 meters to 183 meters, over a five kilometer distance. While it still hurts, it gets done!

heading north on A3 from Swansea

heading north on A3 from Swansea

bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

panorama – bales of hay on the side of A3 north of Swansea

road sign on the way to Bicheno

road sign on the way to Bicheno

Tasmania’s east coast and its incredible beach vistas!  Well, not on the stretch from Swansea to Bicheno!  It is only when you get to Bicheno itself that you are back at the water’s edge. Getting there shortly after noon gave me lots of time to ramble along the seashore after putting up my tent at the Caravan Park.

stretch of road S of Bicheno

stretch of road S of Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down more flat road on the A3 to Bicheno

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

looking down into a valley and an upcoming set of hills on the way to Bicheno on A3

bicheno-satellite-shot

See here for the Google map view of Bicheno.

Central Business District Bicheno

Central Business District Bicheno

I put up my tent on the cushy grass surface in the Caravan Park’s camper section.  I was surrounded by over a dozen fellow bikers – but these guys = and their wives – were motorcyclists who belonged to the Ulysses Motorcycle Club. Billed as a club for “mature riders” I was looking at a bunch of guys who looked like they were in the retirement phase of their life journey – kinda like me!  There is a motorcycle museum in Bicheno which may have been the draw for these riders from the mainland states.  Given their friendliness and generosity with beer bottles, their slogan “growing old disgracefully!” was a bit of wishful thinking!  Later on I’d shoot the breeze and sip on the supplied beer with some of them – but first I had a veg-friendly lunch to find a beachfront to explore.

my tent at Bicheno Caravan Park

my tent at Bicheno Holiday Park

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

bumper sticker collection of a Ulysses member

I would end up at Pasini’s, an Italian eatery with a lunchtime pizza that did not have cheese on it. In fact, it was so delicious that I went back again for supper and had the same thing!  Sometimes you have to take what you can get!

bicheno

Bicheno’s Foreshore Footway – my route from the campground

Along the shore is a path called the Foreshore Footway that provides some excellent view – all the way from the Blowhole at the south end.  I spent an hour or more ambling along and pointing my camera in various directions. Some of the pix are below!

Bicheno shore -

Bicheno shore –

Bicheno trail above the beachfront

Bicheno Foreshore Footway just above the beachfront

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

trail marker on the Bicheno shore

Bicheno's rocky shoreline

Bicheno’s rocky shoreline

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

tourists waiting by the Blowhole on the Bicheno shore

As I wandered back to the campground after my lunch at Pasini’s I passed by a shop selling water sports-related gear and supplies – but it had this unexpected item hanging in the window.  There were actually two of them – two dreamcatchers.  Long associated with Anishinaabe culture in my home province of Ontario in Canada, here they were! Okay, the hoops were plastic and not willow and the threads were plastic too and maybe the feathers were not eagle feathers  – but still!

It is quite likely that someone would be offended by this “thoughtless act of cultural misappropriation”.

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

an unexpected bit of Ojibwe culture in a store window in Bicheno

The next day would be my biggest day yet.  Not only would I do more cycling. I would also do more of it on a road closer to the shore than had been the case.  The next post has the pix to prove it!

Next Post: From Bicheno To St. Helens

The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake

dewdney-sketch-from-stone-age-painting-1965

Missinaibi Lake and nearby Little Missinaibi Lake are two of the more significant pictograph locations In northern Ontario. Both contain sites visited by generations of Anishinaabe shamans who created images (pictographs) painted with a mix of hematite powder and fish oil that they applied with their fingers to the vertical rock face, usually while seated or standing in their birchbark canoes. These images are an expression of their culture and its values; they offer an entry point to the traditional belief system of one of North America’s most widespread pre-European indigenous cultures.

Rapids run, the energy of waterfalls inhaled, moose and bear and eagles observed, majestic white pines embraced, sunsets oohed over, the sound of a loon call breaking the evening stillness – these are all highlights of a canoe trip on the lakes and rivers of the Canadian Shield. Often the most memorable highlight of all is the time spent gazing into the heart of Anishinaabe culture that we find painted on the rock face as we paddle by.

N.B. The drawing above is by Selwyn Dewdney and comes from his Stone Age Paintings, a brief study of Manitoba’s pictograph sites he did for the Parks Branch of the province’s Department of Mines and Resources. It was published in 1965.

Click on the View Larger Map prompt in the top left hand corner for a full-screen view.

In the summer of 2017 my brother and I plan to spend a day or two on Little Missinaibi Lake on our way to Fairy Point on Missinaibi Lake.   We will be entering the top of the lake (i.e. the south end)  at Lookout Bay, having paddled down the Little Missinaibi River from our put-in point at Healey Bay on Lake Windermere.

trip-overview

120 km. from Windermere Lake (Healey Bay) to the Missanabie train stop via the Little Missinaibi River, Missinaibi Lake, Crooked Lake, and Dog lake

Until we generate some gps co-ordinates and snap some photos to share,  I thought I would bring together what  information I’ve found on the pictograph sites of Little Missinaibi Lake  from various print and internet sources.  If the lake is at all on your radar as part of a potential canoe trip, this post  will give you a good idea of where to look and what you will see.

If you’ve already been and  have any images or information you’d like to

  • share by inclusion in this post or
  • provide the url link to your own web page

contact me via the comments section below or at true_north@mac.com  Images would be especially welcome!

missinaibi-1-cover

The 1:50000 topo map  (based on 1976 aerial photos!) ) put out by the Federal Government’s Department of Energy, Mines and Resources  includes the Little Missinaibi Lake area . It is the  042 B 04 Bolkow map.  (Click on the link to access a downloadable copy from the government website.)

If you’ve got the Google Earth app installed, its satellite view would give you a much more recent look at the area.  ChrisMar’s waterproof 1:50000 Missinaibi 1 map is also a good investment as it covers both lakes and provides all the usual canoe-trip-specific information.

Sources Of Information About The Pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake:

Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes

The oldest written source I’ve found on the Little Missinaibi Lake pictograph sites is in Selwyn Dewdney’s Indian Rock Paintings of the Great Lakes. (Click on title to access the book.)  The work represents the first systematic recording and analysis of the Anishinaabe rock paintings in the Canadian Shield area.  In the first edition, published in 1962, Dewdney very briefly covers the three Little Missinaibi Lake sites he  visited at the end of the 1959 season.   The sites are #74, #75, and #76 in the list of pictograph sites in the appendices.

Here is p. 90 of the text –

dewdney-p-90-of-indian-rock-paintings-of-the-great-lakes

In the early 80’s I paddled the Lake Missinaibi to Mattice stretch three times with my brother and other canoe trippers. On one of those summer trips we went all the way down to Moosonee; on the other we flagged a train at the Moose River crossing.  While we vaguely knew about the Fairy Point pictographs, the weather (usually the wind!)  and our own ignorance about their significance meant that we spent little time at the point.  Our manual-focus Nikon SLRs (if we brought them along at all) were not usually out during the day and few pix were taken. Just being in the bush and the thrills and spills of the rapids were the biggest draws to guys in their late-20’s!

wilsonIn 1994 Hap Wilson’s Missinaibi: Journey To The Northern Sky was published. It provided paddlers with essential information on rapids and portages that would ensure a safer journey down the entire length of the Missinaibi, still one of North America’s great remaining wilderness rivers.

Included in the book was a section on alternative routes to Lake Missinaibi, the river’s headwaters. As well as entry points at Michipicoten, Missanabie, and Barclay Bay, he detailed a route that begins at Boklow Lake near the Shumka siding,  a VIA stop on the CPR-owned rail line from Sudbury to White River. (See here for the timetable and  stops. ) This route takes you into Little Missinaibi Lake and the pictographs.

Wilson provides much more detail about the pictograph locations than Dewdney does in his one-paragraph treatment of the sites.  Also, Wilson notes four – and not three – sites on the lake. On his Little Missinaibi Lake map he locates various selected features from north to south.  The four pictograph sites correspond to the letters A, C, E, and F.

discovering-rock-art-cover_300x454The most recent print source of information on the pictographs can be found in Thor Conway’s Discovering Rock Art: A Personal Journey With Tribal Elders.  Published in the fall of  2016, it is a major revision of a first edition from the 1990’s titled Discovering Rock Art In Ontario’s Provincial Parks: Sacred Landscape of the Ojibwa and Algonkians. Included in the coverage of twelve Ontario pictograph sites is a chapter on Lake Missinaibi’s Fairy Point and one on the Little Missinaibi Lake sites.

As the sub-title suggests, Conway highlights the stories and explanations provided by Ojibwa and Algonquin elders familiar with the pictographs and with the traditional worldview and myths of their people. It makes for an engaging entry into their beliefs and values and provides the necessary cultural context for the rock images.

Conway begins the chapter on Little Lake Missinaibi with a retelling of an encounter he had with a group of American fishermen on the lake.  Conway and his wife were doing archeological work at a site on the lake.  The fishermen were staying nearby in one of the two fly-in outposts located on islands at the north end of the lake near the outflow (see the map below for the locations).  They were clearly surprised to see anyone else on the lake; Conway was just as surprised by how little they knew about where they were!  He could be talking about me in my youth!  He writes –

These fishermen did not have maps or any background information about the area. What a loss it would be to visit the historic Missinaibi countryside so ill-informed. We talked about our rock research, the provincial park, and the nearby Chapleau Crown Game Preserve.

little-lake-missinaibi-picto-sites

The Little Missinaibi Lake Pictograph Sites:

Dewdney on his visit checked out the three sites he had been told about. Wilson, thirty years later, notes the existence of four sites.  Another thirty years later and there are reports of further smudges and images. This post will focus on the four sites highlighted in Wilson’s canoe tripper’s guide.

We’ll start at the north end of the lake not far from the Air Dale island outpost. A trip report from 2000 posted at the Canadian Canoe Routes web site by Scott Warner describes the scene this way –

We pass the fly-in camp and begin to hug the right shore to look for the Pothole pictographs. You couldn’t miss them if you tried. The canoe easily fits into the pothole and we get lots of pictures…. Crossing the lake here we proceed to the next pictograph site which we find without a problem.

The Pothole pictograph site Warner is referring to is Pictograph Site #1 and #2 is the one they crossed the lake to visit.

Pictograph Site #1 (Site “A” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake): Also referred to as the Pothole by Wilson and Conway.  Wilson describes the site like this –

The most impressive rock site as all paintings are contained within a polished “pothole” depression, clearly depicted in the photograph.  (Wilson, p.51)

The photograph he refers to is on p. 52; it shows a small semi-circular cove with steep vertical rock wall. The photographer has scampered to the top of the rock to get nice shot looking down on the canoe with stern paddler sitting along the south side of the “pothole”.

With respect to the name of the site, Conway quotes an earlier visitor, the canoe historian Edwin Adney, who visited the lake in 1930  in the company of Cree and Ojibwa guides.

It was on the vertical rock sides of a natural perfectly semi-circular recess which the Indians proceeded to name in Ojibway and Cree, Rock Kettle and Little Kettle – Akikwabik (Ojib.) and Eshikwabish (Cree).  (quoted in Conway 231)

Dewdney’s brief treatment of the lake’s three pictograph sites included sketches of various images.  While he does not identify which of his three sites they are from – or if they are a composite made up of examples from all three sites – an examination of the images in Conway’s book leads me to conclude all of Dewdney’s image sketches  come from The Pothole.

dewdney-sketch-of-little-lake-missinaibi-pictographs

Dewdney, from p. 90 of Indian Rock Paintings of The Great Lakes

little-lake-miss-pictos-2

a lower section of the Pothole pictograph site at Little Missinaibi Lake – see here for image source at Hawk Air Fly-In Vacations web page on their Little Missinaibi Lake  outpost.

Conway discusses this site extensively in his chapter on Little Missinaibi Lake. In fact, it is the only site that is dealt with.

.  He draws on his conversations with various Anishinaabe elders across northern Ontario over the past forty years, as well as the time he and his wife Julie spent there doing archeological work in the mid-1970’s.  He provides a list of some 72 different pictographs although elsewhere  he does mention 64 as the number. The difference in numbers may be because of the remains of  images painted underneath later ones which he also notes.

Three figures receive special attention in Conway’s coverage of Site #1:

  • the hunchback figure holding a stick, said to be connected with the Ojibwe mythical figure Bokwawigan
  • the so-called Dancer and what is either an unrelated slash of ochre or one impressive penis!
  • The Great Turtle, Mikinak, who is associated with the “Shaking Tent” ritual.  The image on the bottom right of Dewdney’s page of sketches does indeed look like a turtle. It leads Conway to suggest an interpretation of the Pothole itself as a sort of Shaking Tent, given Mikinak’s customary presence as a messenger and go-between connecting the manidoos and the shaman who has come for guidance or answers.  Conway may be on to something – or not.
Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent

Mikinak (Turtle) and Shaking Tent – a painting by the great Anishinaabe artist Norval Morrisseau

Picto Site #2 (Site “C” on Wilson’s map of the lake) is a bit less than two kilometers south of the lake’s major site.  It gets this write-up from Wilson –

The second pictograph site, unusual and interesting as the paintings have been accomplished while standing on the rocks instead of the customary canoe perch. There is also a prominent “conjuring rock” or pillar that often signifies particular deities. One morph drawing is similar to the “sun-face” found at Fairy Point.  (Wilson, 51)

Wilson provides a sketch of the overall rock face and of eight individual pictographs, including  a canoe with three paddlers, a moose, three or four thunderbird images, and the”sun face” referred to above.

little-lake-miss-pictos

Conway does not get into any of the pictographs at this site. From a chat with someone who recently visited this site, I learned that the photo above captures only some of the images that can be seen.

Picto Site #3 (Site “E” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake)

The site is located on the south-west end of the island indicated in the overview map above. Wilson deals with it in a few words –

…typical west exposure and barren rock face. (Wilson, 51)

picto-site-3-close-up

He also provides a sketch of the rock face and of individual images.  There are three of them – a human figure with outstretched arms, a moose, and four oblique lines. The lines are often described as tally marks. A more recent visitor’s description included two moose figures and the lines but did not make mention of the human figure.  We’ll  see for ourselves when we pass by in July.

Picto Site #4 (Site “F” on Wilson’s annotated map of the lake).

Grave Bay is a 1.6 kilometer long and narrow bay at the south end of Little Missinaibi Lake. This coming summer it will be the first pictograph site we see as we paddle the first five kilometers of the lake from the mouth of the Little Missinaibi River. Wilson has this to say of the site:

The fourth pictograph site, barely visible under layers of lichen, is located at the entrance to Grave Bay. (Wilson, 51)

grave-bay-entrance-picto-site-4

And that’s it for Wilson’s  treatment of Site “F”!   There are no accompanying sketches to add to the words above.

A fellow paddler spent an hour last summer looking for this site on both sides of the small point on the west side. He came up empty.  Given Wilson’s cursory treatment of the site it is not clear what there is under those “layers of lichen”. If you’ve found something at this location and can clear up the mystery, let me know!

And that – for now – is what I have on the pictographs of Little Missinaibi Lake.  In the coming months if more information comes my way I’ll update or add to this post. And sometime in July as my brother and I enter the lake from Lookout Bay we will make sure to set aside a couple of days to savour being in a space – much like Cliff Lake or Mazinaw Lake – that drew generations of shamans and vision questers to  a place held sacred  in traditional Anishinaabe culture.

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Triabunna To Swansea

Previous Post: From Richmond To Triabunna

For a full-screen map view, click on the More options prompt in the box on the top left.

triabunna-swansea-elevation-chart

A sunny morning in Triabunna – my fortified oatmeal breakfast and two cups of coffee done, it was time to hit the road for the ride to Swansea.  I said goodbye to my Aussie neighbour who was off to Maria Island and then checked in with the American cyclist who had arrived late the previous evening and set up his tent near the entrance.  He too was off to the island – but he was taking his bicycle, which he had rented from the same Long Haul Tasmania bike rental service that I had. He said was on his way to St. Helens and I would amazingly bump into him two weeks later in Strahan on the West Coast!  It turns out that by the time he got to St. Helens he decided he had spent enough time on the bike saddle.  So – he had the bike rental company pick him and the bike up in St. Helens and he returned to Hobart where then rented a car to see the island in comfort!

Meanwhile I would spend the morning on an inland stretch of the A3.  Not a lot of pix from the first couple of hours.  It is only when you come out at Mayfield Bay – thirty-four kilometres from Triabunna – that you get some nice beach views. I took very opportunity to get off the bike and walk down to the beach.  While it is still not the open ocean crashing in on the sand – I was cycling along the west shore of Great Oyster Bay – it was still a scenic treat.  [The best single day of east coast cycling would have to wait for a couple of days until the 74-km stretch from Bicheno to St. Helens.]

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

my bike on the side of A3 as I set off to walk the beach between Triabunna and Swansea

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania's east coast

the beach at Mayfield Bay on Tasmania’s east coast

sand-and-rock-on-tasmanias-east-coast

tasmania-east-coast-great-oyster-bay

A bit further down the road from Mayfield Bay – a very nice stretch of scenic cycling – was the Kelvedon Beach Conservation Area. It gave me a reason to get off the bike and frame something other than pavement in my photos!

Kelvedon Beach sign - Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach sign – Watch Your Step!

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

Kelvedon Beach East Coast Tasmania

seashells on the seashore - Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

seashells on the seashore – Kelvedon Beach Tasmania

After Kelvedon Beach on to another conservation area – Spiky Beach.  There is a turn off that takes you down steeply a pot-holed gravel road to a parking lot from where you can walk there rest of the way down to the beach.  I cycled down and leaned my bike against a post and wandered down the water. Thanks to the 15mm wide-angle lens I used for the shot below, my rear wheel looks much bigger than the front one!

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania's east coast

bike park at Spiky Beach on Tasmania’s east coast

path to the beach east coast Tasmania near Swansea

path to  Spiky Beach on the  east coast of Tasmania near Swansea

swansea-and-great-oyster-bay-satellite-view

Like Triabunna, Swansea had a population of about 800 and its economy also  relies heavily on tourism.  I had planned to head for the Swansea Holiday Park and put up my tent but it had clouded over dramatically in the last hour as I approached the village. I figured that the Swansea Backpackers’ Hostel would be a better place to spend a rainy night – so that’s what I did.  I found it at the far end of town right next to the Barkmill Tavern and Bakery – convenient! After checking in and dumping my stuff in my room – it was a room with four beds but since the hostel wasn’t really busy I would have the entire room to myself. I also kept my bike in the room. Then I headed back “downtown” in search of a restaurant.

Swansea's main street

Swansea’s main street

Perhaps the end of high season is the explanation for the large number of local businesses with “For Sale” signs. Take a look at the following establishments – maybe one them will strike your fancy as an investment opportunity.  Even the Backpackers’ Hostel was up for sale! In fact, when no one answered my initial ringing of the doorbell i thought it might be closed. Someone did eventually come to the door – I was the first visitor of the day and a bit early!

I eventually found a meal at the Amos House’s High Point Café.  It was off-hour but the owner was good enough to make something – it may have been a pita sandwich with hummus and tahini.

swansea-ugly-duckling-closed-and-for-sale

closed and for sale

the-horny-cray-in-swansea-for-sale

For sale

swansea-bear-cottage-for-sale

swansea-all-saints-opportunity-shop-for-sale

another Swansea building for sale

another Swansea building for sale

Swansea's Amos House and Viewpooint Café - for sale

Swansea’s Amos House and Viewpoint Café – for sale

Swansea Backpackers - for sale!

Swansea Backpackers – for sale!

I cycled back to the hostel from the Amos House in the rain. Other travellers had arrived and I was able to put my German – as rusty as it is! – to use as I talked to a couple from Chemnitz and a guy from Hamburg who was motorcycling Tasmania. I would bump into them again a week or two later. Given that Tasmania as a total population of 500,000,  I guess it’s not that unusual!

my room at the Swansea Backpachers - with three empty beds

my room at the Swansea Backpackers – with three empty beds

It rained most of that night and I was glad not to be in my tent at the campground on the other end of the village.  By the next morning  the rain was stopped and I would have sunshine with a bit of wind as I made my way 43 kilometers up the coast to Bicheno and a tent spot at the Bicheno East Coast Holiday Park.

Next Post: From Swansea To Bicheno

Cycling Around Tasmania – From Richmond to Triabunna

Previous Post: From Hobart To Richmond 

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richmond-to-triabunna

Leaving the  Caravan Park around 8,  I rolled down Richmond’s main street and stopped at the one open gas station and bought a bottle of sugar water for the ride.  In my brief chat with the attendant I learned that the Prossers Road that I was headed for was not the  best choice; he recommended the somewhat longer but paved B31 to C350 (Fingerpost Road)  and then along C350 to the junction with the Tasman Highway (A3).  So that is what I did.  The pix below show the relatively flat terrain for at least the first hour of the day’s ride.

richmond-to-fingerpost-road-c350

the road not taken – Prossers Road – on the advice of the gas station guy!

b31-c350-junction-richmond-tasmania

B31/C350 junction north of Richmond, Tasmania

looking east down C350 near Campania

looking east down C350 near Campania

pastoral-scene-on-the-side-of-c350-on-the-way-to-buckland

pastoral scene on the side of C350 on the way to Buckland

I got to Buckland for lunch, having done what would turn out to be the two biggest climbs of my east coast ride to St. Helens. From the top of Bust-Me_Gall Hill it was a rewarding downhill roll to the Buckland Roadhouse and a veggie burger and fries.  As the pix make clear there is not a lot of paved shoulder for a cyclist to claim as his own.  However, I saw maybe a dozen cars until I hit the A3 .  I pretty much had these secondary roads to myself while the nearby A3 – the main highway – was undoubtedly much busier.

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

flat stretch of C350 on the way to Black Charles Opening and Buckland

the top of the day's first bump - Black Charles Opening at 296 m

the top of the day’s first bump – Black Charles Opening at 296 m

at the top of the second of the day's two hills on C350 north of Richmond

at the top of the second of the day’s two hills on C350 north of Richmond

After lunch I continued on the A3, known as the Tasman Highway.  It serves as the alternative coastal route between Hobart and Launceston, the state’s two biggest towns.  Finally, as I approached Orford, I got to see some major water!

Orford sits on Prosser Bay. As I stood there and looked east beyond the bay across the Tasman Sea,  I imagined New Zealand’s South Island, specifically the West Coast highway I had cycled down a couple of years ago.

orford-tasmania-to-new-zealand-south-island-west-coast

1800 kilometers or more separate the two coasts but as raw and wild as N.Z.’s West Coast is, Tassie’s east coast would prove to be tame and gentle. [Click here to access my  N.Z. “Down The West Coast” post.]

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my bike on the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

my first beach shot on Tasmania's east coast near Orford

my first beach shot on Tasmania’s east coast near Orford

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay.jpg

view from the side of A3 at Prosser Bay

My introduction to the beaches of the east coast would be short. From Orford the road cuts inland across a small peninsula before running along the west shore of Spring Bay to my target for the day – Triabunna (population: 800) . Given the dependably mild east coast weather and the scenery, it is a popular tourist destination as well as a retirement community. Triabunna harbour serves as the home dock for a small fishing fleet  as well as the departure point for the ferry over to Maria (Mah-rye-ah) Island, a national park and nature sanctuary.

Just off of the A3 is the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park. I would make myself at home under the tree you see in the photo below.  My fairly lightweight Kelty Zen tent up and my gear put inside, I went for a walk down the two blocks that make up main street. At the local IGA (a grocery store chain) I got some fresh fruit, bread, and other consumables

satellite-view-of-triabunna-tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park -east coast Tasmania

my tent spot at the Triabunna Cabin and Caravan Park

A couple of hours later  a solo motorcyclist pulled up and set up a hammock and tarp next to me.  He was from Melbourne and was on a one-week ramble in Tasmania and was headed over to Maria Island the next morning – without his bike, which he would leave at the Caravan Park.  We wandered down to the Fish Van; he oohed and aahed about the fried fish while I made do with an order of fries! It was slim pickings for a someone intent on being vegan in a fishing town!

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

Triabunna cottage on Main Street

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

warehouses by the Maria Island ferry stop at Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

Maria island Ferry dock in Triabunna

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

looking north down Spring Bay from the Triabunna Ferry landing

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite shot

Triabunna-Maria Island Satellite view

With more time – or without the commitments I had created by pre-booking my accommodation in a few of the upcoming towns – a visit to Maria island would certainly have been worth it.  Here is the enticing write-up in the Lonely Planet guide-book I had with me –

“Maria is laced with impressive scenery: curious cliffs, fern-draped forests, squeaky-sand beaches and azure seas. Forester kangaroos, wombats and wallabies wander around; grey-plumed Cape Barren geese honk about on the grasslands; and an insurance population of Tasmanian devils has been released and is thriving. Below the water there’s also lots to see, with good snorkelling and diving in the clear, shallow marine reserve.”

Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet   Tasmania.”

Sounds pretty neat, eh!   There is camping available on the island and bicycles (“push bikes”) are allowed. It looks like an enchanting spot to explore for a couple of days. Maria Island is just one of perhaps a half-dozen parks and nature preserves along Tasmania’s east coast around which you could fashion a fantastic two or three-week retreat. With your own tent and gear you’d be all set.  If you didn’t have a bike at the ready, the bus connections from town to town are adequate so there would be no need to rent your own vehicle.   It would only sit  around unused  most of the time!  Maybe there is another visit to Tasmania forming in my mind!

Instead, my next day to Swansea on the A3 would be a mix of coastal scenery, ending with a nice ride from the Rocky Hills to my room for the night at the Swansea Backpackers Hostel,  getting there just in time to beat the first rain storm of the trip. See the details in the next post!

Next Post: Triabunna To Swansea (51 km.)