Page 11 - The Lakes Region

Geeveston is another centre of the saw milling industry, and is also the starting point for excursions to the Hartz Mountains where there are six small lakes, stocked with fresh water prawns, and in vicinity kangaroo, wallaby and duck shooting can be enjoyed. These lakes are only 11 miles from Geeveston, and the Kermandie Falls can be visited en route. The beautiful bay at Port Esperance, land-locked by three islands-named Faith, Hope and Charity — across its entrance, is a great place for yachting, and there is also good rod, net and line fishing. Visitors who are not afraid of bush walking can enjoy a charming excursion to Adamson's Peak (4017 feet high), about 7 miles from the township, of which 4 can be made by a vehicle. The view from the summit will repay the fatigue of the ascent. Southport is a great resort for boating, fishing and shooting. The accommodation there is comfortable and reasonable. The Ida Bay limestone caves are only 5 miles distant, 3 miles of which can be covered by boat, and a guide can always be obtained.

I am not writing a guide book of Tasmania, though many I hope will follow me as a guide to this charming island. For more minute particulars as to short and long journeys from Hobart I refer my readers to Cook's Agencies, where he will also obtain guidance as to visiting the lakes. The elevated plateau occupying the central portion of Tasmania, known the Lakes district, will at no distant date, when the colonists wake up to the pecuniary benefits of encouraging tourist's traffic, prove the greatest attraction, next to its climate, possessed
by the colony. The theory of Mr. R. M. Johnston and other scientists of the formation of this plateau, where the lakes lie at an elevation of over 2000 feet above sea level, and the greenstone capped mountains tower above them for another 2000 or 3000 feet, is interesting. A trifle of some 3,000,000 years ago, when the depressing eucalyptus and mournful sheoak were unknown in Tasmania, then forming part of what subsequently developed into Australia, the site of Hobart was at the bottom of a lake about 100 miles inland. The forests of oaks and araucarias were roamed by a kangaroo as large as a steer, and a wombat that could give odds in weight to a prize Berkshire hog. Apparently out of " pure cussedness"— like the explosion of the Morris geyser in the Yellowstone Park, a short time, ago — volcanoes broke out, upheaved and distorted existing strata, and covered the land with acorite and ashes and with enormous eruptions of lava, which cooled into " greenstone" basalt. Subsequently, when a new flora and fauna had become acclimatised, say 500,000 years ago, a second and more partial produced the basalt which, through decomposition now furnishes the richest agricultural soil on the island. In the interim (geologists are not particular to a few centuries) the Antarctic Pole wandered in this direction, and glacial action ground out basins in the elevated centre of volcanic disturbances, which filled up with water, and are now called " Tasmanian Lakes." These may be classed in two groups:— (1.) Lake St. Clair and its surrounding sattelites, Lakes Petrarch, Marion, Laura, Ina and Lemona. (2.) Lakes Crescent and Sorell, the Great lake, Wood's Lake, Arthur's Lake, Lake Echo and some fifty minor lakes.

For picturesque beauty and attractive surroundings, Lake St Clair is the queen. But it is 114 miles from Hobart, and the visitor must be prepared to devote a week for the trip, though a month might be pleasurably employed in exploring its surroundings. The journey thither breaks into the third day, 60 miles being done by rail and mail coach, the balance by vehicle. Mr. Geo. Ellis, of Dee-bridge, arranges to take parties from the Ouse to the lake and back at about £5 per head, all found. At the lake the Government has recently erected a four roomed cottage, with conveniences for ladies, and boatshed, in which are two boats. Lake St. Clair is 2409 feet above sea level, is roughly speaking 10 miles long by 2 miles wide, its depth being variously stated at from 600 to 900 feet, and is surrounded by ranges and peaks rising to a height of from 3000 to 4700 feet above sea level, at the feet of which nestle miniature lakes and tarns, giving rise to streams falling into Lake St. Clair, or serving as tributaries to the noble Derwent, which has its source at the southern end of the lake. English brown trout are numerous in the lake, but, probably through good feeding, ignore the efforts of the angler. The Derwent and its principal tributaries — the Clyde, Ouse, Shannon, Dee and Nive— are well stocked, and the angler may obtain good sport by a few days sojourn at Hamilton, the Ouse, or Dee-bridge, comfortable accommodation being obtainable at all. From Lake St. Clair there is a horse track, along which runs an overland telegraph wire to Mount Zeehan. Accommodation huts have been erected at Mount Arrowsmith and the Redan Hill ; there are hotels at Mount Lyell and the Queen River. The distances are Lake St Clair to Mt. Arrowsmith, 8 miles ; Arrowsmith to Redan Hill, 25 miles ; Redan Hill to Mt. Lyell, 18½ miles ; Lyell to Queen River, 8 miles ; Queen to Strahan, 22 miles ; total, 81½ miles. From Strahan there is a railway to Zeehan and Dundas silver fields and weekly steamer communication with Hobart.

No. 2 group of lakes is more easily accessible, the surrounding country being utilised as cattle runs and summer pastures for sheep, a large portion being in private hands. Lakes Sorell and Crescent, which are united by a small rivulet (now bridged) are only 20 miles from Parattah railway station, and 13½ miles from Tunbridge station, and at both arrangements exist for the remainder of the journey. The visitor can leave Hobart at 8 a.m. and reach Interlaken boarding house (on the strip of land between the two lakes) by 2 p.m. without fatigue. These two lakes, which united represent some 50 miles of shoreline, abound with picturesque nooks and bays. On the western side of Lake Sorell is Diamond Beach, so called from the quantity of quartz, cornelian and agate pebbles found there, and a little further on a jutting point called Dog's Head are the ruins of the hut built by "Meagher of the Sword," of '48 fame, where John Mitchell and John Martin, and Smith O'Brien used to visit him.

Years ago, in Richmond, Virginia, I knew a dark, pale faced man who first filled my soul with the glories of Tasmanian scenery. John Mitchell, like Thomas Francis Meagher, praised the treatment of the exiles. He said,

" In vain I try to torment myself into a state of chronic savage indignation ; it will not do here. It may be the elastic and balmy air of these mountains where I breathe vital fragrance, it may be the whispering tree tops, and bubbling streams.

When the heart is throbbing sores, there is balsam in the forest for its pain.

The slopes of the hills are covered with mimosa, the air is laden with the fragrance of gums, and illuminated by flights of parrots of the most glowing and radiant plumage."

John Mitchell joked on what he said should be the arms and motto of Hobart, a fleece and a kangaroo with its pocket picked, sic fortis Hobartia crevit, namely, "by fleecing and picking pockets." But I remember his distinctly pointing out to me that there were many deported to the settlement for actions which were looked upon as crimes 50 years ago, but which today would rank as mere faults or mistakes, or which the law of '94 might even justify. If the sweepings of the London gaols came out, so did a large leaven of stalwart countrymen whose only misdemeanor was trapping a rabbit, and shopmen who had appropriated a few shillings from a master's till under pressure of want. But besides these the island attracted immigrants of the kind which are the salt of the earth, and by which the great parent main land of Australia afterwards profited. Those of whom the country might be proud were the Chartist leaders, Frost, Jones and Williams. One could not call them convicts. The reforms they sought have since been conceded by English law.

John Mitchell's description of the scenery around the lakes cannot he surpassed. He gives one account of how he rode " straight towards a gloomy gorge of the Western Tier, as the colonists name the great ridge of mountains that run north and south through Van Diemen's Land. We passed some handsome houses of settlers on the plain, and at eight miles from the Sugar Loaf found ourselves among the mountains. Our guide, young Connell, now left us, and we pursued our way up a rude track, which climbs amongst rocks and huge trees. The mimosa soon disappeared ; shortly after the white and blue gum ; and a thousand feet above the plain we found ourselves amongst lofty, straight and gloomy stringy bark trees, a species which does not shed its bark like the other Eucalypti, and whose wood is very hard, heavy, straight grained and durable, so that it is much used in building and fencing. We still ascended, the mountain becoming wilder and steeper at every mile, until we were fully 2000 feet above the plain of Ross. Here an opening among the trees gave us a view over the low country we had left, wide, arid and parched in aspect, with ridge after ridge of rugged looking wooded hills stretching far towards the Pacific eastwards. High and grim towards the north-east towered the vast Ben Lomond ; and we could trace in the blue distance that valley of St. Paul's where we had left O'Brien wandering on his lonely way. We were now almost on the ridge, where our track crossed the summit of the western range ; we had dismounted, and I was leading the horses up the remaining steep acclivity, when we suddenly saw a man on the track above me ; he had a gun in his hand, on his head a cabbage tree hat, and at his feet an enormous dog. When he observed us be sang out ' Coo-ee !' the cry with which people in the bush make themselves heard at a distance. ' Coo-ee,' I shouted in reply, when down came bounding dog and man together. The man was Meagher, who had walked 4 miles from his cottage to meet us ! The dog was Brian, a noble, shaggy greyhound that belonged to McManus, but of which Meagher had now the charge. We continued our ascent merrily, and soon knew, though the forest was thick around us, that we had reached the mountain top by the fresh breeze that blew upon our brows from the other side. And now how shall I describe the wondrous scene that breaks upon us here — a sight to be seen only in Tasmania, a land where not only the native productions of the country but the very features of nature herself seem formed on a pattern the reverse of every model, form and law, on which the structure of the rest of the globe is put together, a land where the mountain tops are vast lakes, where the trees strip off bark instead of leaves, and where the cherry stones grow on the outside of the cherries ? After climbing full 2000 feet we stand at one moment on the brink of the steep mountain and behold the plain of Ross far below ; the next minute, instead of commencing our descent into a valley on the other side, we are on the edge of a great lake stretching at least 7 miles to the opposite shore, held in here by the mere summits of the mountain range, and brimming to the very lips of the rim or crater that contains it. A cutting of 25 feet in depth would at this point send its water plunging over the mountain to form a new river in the plains of Ross. At another part of its shore, to the north-west, a similar canal would drain it into the lake river, which flows along the foot of the mountains on that side. As it is, the only outlet is through Lake Crescent and the Clyde; and so it comes to fertilise the Vale of Bothwell and bathe the roots of our trees at Nant Cottage.

We pass the Dog's Head Promontory and enter a rough winding path cut among the trees, which brings us to a quiet bay or deep curve of the lake, at the head of which, facing one of the most glorious scenes of fairyland, with the clear waters rippling at its feet, and a dense forest around and behind it, stands our friend's quiet cottage. A little wooden jetty runs out some yards into the lake ; and at anchor near the end of the jetty lies the Speranza, a new boat built at Hobart Town, and hauled up here through Bothwell, a distance of 75 miles, by six bullocks. "

On the verandah we are welcomed by the lady of this sylvan hermitage, give our horses to Tom Egan to be taken care of, and spend a pleasant hour till dinner time sauntering on the lake shore. After dinner a sail is proposed. Jack is summoned — an old sailor kept here by Meagher — to navigate the boat ; the stern sheets are spread with opossum skin rugs and shawls; the American flag is run up and we all sally forth, intending to visit the island and sea how the oats and potatoes are thriving. For Meagher means to be a great farmer, and has kept a man on the island ploughing, planting and sowing. The afternoon, however, proves rough ; the wind is too much ahead, and when a mile or two from the shore, we give up the trip to the island and put the boat about. She stoops almost gunwale under, and goes flying and staggering home.