(January 1 2021 – written by Dave)
Happy New Year from Stanley, Tasmania – woohoo! Bring on 2021 and those vaccines and normal life. We can hardly wait! Be safe out there everyone and please get the jab when you can.
The pub in our hotel closed at 8 last night so that staff could have a normal NYE so no worries about loud music playing underneath us all night. Very odd for a pub to close so early, on NYE no less. We settled for dinner in our room and were ready to watch one of those dorky musicals that run on TV this time when we noticed that the wine bar across the street was open. Add to that, they featured Tassie Pinot Noirs and from our hotel we could see that they had a table facing the sunset. It took little convincing to get Nancy to head over. We enjoyed a couple nice drops and watched the sun set on 2020 – life is good (and will get better)!
The wine bar closed by 9:30 so we had little chance of making it all the way to midnight. In fact, we were asleep at the magical moment we entered the new year but were woken up by a few folks singing somewhere outside the hotel. Looking at TV images from Sydney, we didn’t miss much there as nearly all the venues were empty. It seems like empty is a good way to sum up 2020 in many cities.
An early night meant that we were up with the sparrows this morning. After a cafe brekkie, we headed over to climb The Nut. I think we might have been the first ones climbing. It was fresh, windy and bit cloudy but not a bad start for the year. The walk up is very steep but it only takes about 15 minutes to climb. There is also a chair lift going to the top but not for us. The chair was not running because it was too early and of course, we are super fit, athletic types (hahaha), so it’s walking for us!
The Nut is a 143 metre high extinct volcanic plug that juts out of the Bass Strait out on what is known as The Circular Head. Virtually all sides of The Nut are cliff faces that would be hard to scale without the chairlift or a steep trail. Our legs were burning which was not surprising when we later learned that the gradient reaches 30 degrees at points. The trail is concreted so it’s not slippery – but I’ll admit that we both switched to walking backwards half way up to change leg muscles – finely tuned athletes indeed.
The views on top of The Nut are quite stunning. There is a 2.9k track that circles the top with four lookouts that were super windy today. We had more sun than clouds and particularly enjoyed watching the easterly winds push the ocean waves up against the rest of the head. And of course, it was fun to have a look at Stanley from above. We can see two of the lookouts from our hotel room, so looking down naturally we got great views of town and our hotel.
We circled the top and came back off The Nut with enough time left to stroll a few more Stanley streets and still have time for morning tea. In some ways, it is hard to see why Stanley is here, other than to say it made sense when people first arrived and getting inland would have been hard for all the trees and bush. It has always been remote from almost everything. So remote in fact that in 1849, a cottage was built to serve as the home of one of King George IV’s illegitimate sons – that’s it, send him off to the end of the world to keep him quiet.
The port here opened in 1827 and the town was formally founded in 1843. It served as a whaling port for a spell and today it is still the main fishing port in North-western Tasmania. They catch a lot of Tasmanian crayfish (lobster) here. Today the main industry is tourism, and they’ve had a tough year. Interstate travellers have been banned from Tasmania most of the year (other than a few weeks when we happened to luckily arrive) and international visitors are still being blocked from entering Australia as of today. In Stanley, there are lot of buildings for sale and there seem to be quite a few clearly empty cottages/cabins with No Vacancy signs, seemingly no longer operating. If nothing else, us being here ourselves kicks a few dollars into the economy.
We took a break in the hotel mid-day, and then got motivated this arvo to find an early dinner. We wandered down to Hursey Seafoods on the waterfront. We were going to try takeaway but were surprised to find they still had an openings for the first seating tonight – we snagged a table. Hursey specializes in locally caught crayfish. They catch them here, bring them in live and keep them in tanks for the restaurant. It’s a little spendy but we don’t do this very often and live from the ocean is a real treat. I had the lobster platter, Nancy had the scallops. Everything was very tasty. We are calling it our special Christmas and New Years dinner.
Tomorrow we head to the edge of the world at Arthur River. More on that later but it shouldn’t take us too long to get there with tailwinds at 40kmp forecast. Wind that strong can be tricky if it’s not right behind you. But once we get passed Smithton, we are hoping that traffic drops off. There isn’t much beyond Smithton, except for the edge of the earth that is.