The final delayed instalment to the Flinders Island exploration.
“Were’s Lonely Planet!?” asked Steve, sweeping his arms across our surroundings, which were made up of granite boulders, pristine beach, crystal clear water, sunshine and not another human to be seen, “it’s better than the Bay of Fires and no people!” We had indeed stumbled upon another top Tasmanian spot, which Steve immediately pronounced as superior to the Bay of Fires on Tassie’s East Coast, which was named the world’s “hottest travel destination” by Lonely Planet in 2009. Well, we thought Palana was flying under the radar as an equally top destination.
We started the day with a trip up to Walker’s Lookout, to get a literal birds-eye lay of the land. We wound our way up the hill and then stood, looking out at the mountains and hills, with a huge eagle circling overhead and we could once again appreciate how open and undeveloped and brilliantly untouched so much of Flinders still is. Long may it last!
Before we made our way to the white beaches and turquoise water of the coast, we started with a trip into history, with a drive to Wybalenna, a place that marks a shameful chapter in Tasmania’s history. When Tasmania (or Van Diemen’s Land as it was named by the European arrivals) was colonised by the British, the government sought to deal with the Aboriginal “problem” by essentially trying to get rid of our indigenous people. Many were killed, many died from introduced disease and what was seen as a small group of “the remaining ones” were sent to remote areas such as Oyster Cove and then Wybalenna on Flinders Island. This policy of course didn’t succeed and we have a strong and proud community of First Nations people in Tasmania, but our history includes the attempts to remove them physically and, in some ways, to also remove their story. We visited Wybalenna to see the place that was part of this story and to visit the cemetery where some of those sent here now lie, one of which was Mannalargenna, one of the most known and significant Aboriginal leaders, who died at Wybalenna in 1835. The cemetery sits near a small church, surrounded by hills and open grassland and we could stand there, taking in the peace that now surrounds it and reflect on lives lived there in the past.
A short drive up the road took us to the Furnaeux Museum, a small museum that was definitely worth the visit, for the stories it told. Here’s one that I found particularly memorable, from the time when ships found themselves in difficulty and shipwrecks were an unfortunate occurrence. This one told the story of Lieutenant Griffiths and his actions during one such event. Here’s a section of the information board provided at the museum:
[Lieutenant Griffiths was on a ship carrying convicts]. After the ship struck the reef, when the convicts battered down the doors to their holding area, in a panic and gained access to the deck, rather than react with anger or fear and risk escalating an already precarious situation, Lieutenant Griffiths greeted them calmly, imploring them to go back below decks so as to avoid crowding and confusion. He gave them his solemn word that he would see them all leave the ship before disembarking himself. As the boats worked to ferry people from the wreck to the shore, on the deck of the rapidly decaying ship, Lieutenant Griffiths was moving between prisoners, striking their chains off with his hands (a task that usually required a blacksmith), ensuring that even if they couldn’t get to the boat, they still had a chance and wouldn’t be dragged to a watery grave by their shackles… When the ship finally collapsed and those on board were tossed into the sea, Lieutenant Griffiths was caught by a fierce current…his struggles grew weaker and weaker until the ocean overwhelmed him and he sadly drowned.
How’s that for a story! He does all that to save others and then doesn’t make it. Poor Lt. Griffiths.
After some history and learnin’, we headed north to take in some more scenery. Palana is right up on the northern tip of Flinders Island and I tell you what, it’s a little gem. Tassie’s East Coast has some superb beaches and here was an extension of that, only despite being the height of summer, it was deserted. So, here was a pretty close to perfect spot, with:
- Clean white sand.
- Clear as clear water.
- The colours of the grey and red granite boulders contrasting with the white and blue to create some extra scenery and also come in handy as heat traps to sit or lie about on.
- Nobody around! Yep, you can keep your crowded beaches that you have to walk onto with sharpened elbows to claim your spot and then spend the day too scared to leave your towel in case someone comes along and claims squatting rights on your patch of sand. No siree, here you could take a patch of sand, invite all your family and friends, play a friendly round of soccer / football / softball / ballroom dancing and still have room to spare!
Sometimes I reckon Tassie’s just about got it all!
Sun goes down…sun comes up on another day…
After seeing the speccy coast and beaches around Palana, the next day we decided to head for the spot on Flinders which is THE holiday spot. This is where locals have a shack or go for a holiday at the beach. If there was going to be a crowded beach, this would be it, but we figured we’d better go and see the place that had the pulling power for locals and visitors alike. Off we choofed to Killiecrankie. On the way though, we called in to Sawyers Beach, another fabulous, quiet, deserted, but top spot, with a long white beach, clear as crystal water and granite boulders dotted around.
Driving in to Killiecrankie, it sure had the look and feel of a holiday spot, with lots of shacks and holiday homes lining the road. This spot is also known for its Killiecrankie Diamonds, which are actually topaz and people fossick for them in the rocks around the area. None were spotted by us though. We parked and headed down to the beach, expecting our beach walk to include some dodging and weaving and the occasional doh-si-doh to avoid the crowds enjoying a summer at the beach. We did see some people. About six of them. That was it. Some folks were enjoying launching some little sailing boats and going for a zip along the water, but other than that, we practically had the beach to ourselves. A few others cropped up along the way and there were a couple of kids having a splash in the water but we strolled along that long, long beach, without having to share our footprints with so much as a toe print from anyone else. I mean, how much better is that? A beautiful beach, a sunny day and peace and space to enjoy it in. Magic!
On the way back we detoured in to Marshall Bay and then a walk to Castle Rock. That was very speccy indeed. A huge granite boulder perched there on the sand, looming over everything, as a natural curiosity to marvel at, alongside yet another five star beach!
It had been an absolutely magic trip for our maiden exploration of Flinders Island, but it was time to make our way back to our “big island”, so the next morning we made our way to the airport and I began to psyche myself up for another trip on a very small plane and willed my scaredy-cat jitters to hold themselves in check. We donned our masks and climbed into the little plane, or in Steve’s case, bent, breathed in and squeezed himself into the little craft.
It was a scorcher and we sat and sweated / glowed as we waited for the little propellors to start turning. Our two young and friendly pilots eventually fired up the props and we taxied out to the runway…turned…the engines revved…then…
”Umm, we seem to have a slight problem up here, so we’re just going to taxi back to the terminal and see what’s going on.”
WHAT!? That’s not what a scaredy cat flyer wants to hear coming from the cockpit, spoken by the pilot! The little plane, now more like merely a small car, drove back to the terminal and we sat there, with this particular passenger feeling a most definite rise in blood pressure and heart rate!
“Well, we’re getting some interesting information up here and it seems we’re overweight, so we’re just going to do some Maths up here and we’ll let you know what’s happening.”
OK, so now we’ve got too much weight and I’m just hoping that our two fellas in charge of our little aircraft got top marks in Maths all the way from Grade 1 to Pilot Training School! Don’t forget to carry the one into the tens column fellas! Don’t forget the zero! There was also no door on the cockpit, so we could see through and I watched the backs of our pilot and co-pilot, bent over their calculations and instruments.
The voice from the front returned, “Well, it seems we need to lose some weight, just to make sure we can get off the ground, so we’re just going to sit here and burn some fuel until we get down to the number we want and then we’ll be off.”
Hmmm…”to make sure we can get off the ground…” is probably something your in-flight guests do not need to hear! Then I noticed the distribution of passengers. On the flight over, they’d sat the men up the front to put more weight in the nose, apparently “to help with take off”. There was no such distribution on the return journey and there were light weights up front and big fellas down the back. How can that help! Now we’re overweight and we’ve put the heavier folks down the back. Well, that’s just perfect! So we sat there and revved and apparently lightened our load via our aviation fumes and burning off fuel and then we began the slow taxi back out to the runway. The engine revved…the wheels started to turn…the power increased…we were moving..we were moving faster…we were powering along the runway…the nose went up…GO YOU GOOD THING! I screamed on the inside, while also telling myself “Calm, calm, you are perfectly calm.” GO! FLY! GET UP THERE! My inner voiced shrieked encouragement to the little plane, while a particular episode of the TV show ‘Aircrash Investigations’ came back to me about a small plane that went up and came straight back down again because it was overweight. KEEP GOING! UP…UP…UP LITTLE PLANE! I was sucking on my face mask like it was a hyperventilation aid and looked around me at everyone who seemed to be perfectly calm. I gripped the arm rest and gradually felt the little plane level out and we were up and cruising. Right, I thought, at least if anything goes wrong from here, we can glide!
We made it of course. We landed in Launceston and the co-pilot was giving everyone a cheery farewell at the terminal, so I asked him about the whole weight affair, which he explained as something to do with thick air and thin air and a hot day and needing the weight to be right to get through the thicker air. I didn’t understand it at all, but he happily explained it all to clueless me. I was just happy to be back on terra firma once again.
Well, another adventure in our own little patch of the planet we call Tasmania. We are still discovering parts of it that are new and taking ourselves to places we haven’t been. Each one has delivered in spades, with great scenery, friendly people, peace and umpteen opportunities to “feel the serenity.” While we can’t wait to be able to travel further afield again, whenever that becomes a possibility, for now we aren’t feeling too let down at all, because little Tassie has been giving us some magic right here at home. We’ve seen some amazing places far across the seas, but it always helps to see and appreciate our own patch through new eyes and be that little more grateful for the special place we live. Onya Tassie!
For a short video that captures the scenes of these days on Flinders Island, click here.