The sun is up around 5.00am even with daylight saving so no time for slacking off or sleeping in. Breakfast is a simple toast and cup of coffee so that we can get on the road. Today we are going east to Burnie # Burnie (formerly known as Emu Valley # Emu Valley ).
Leaving Wynyard we encounter Cam River Reserve #Cam River Reserve. Its mid week and there is no one around so we drive to the top of the park area to see the waterfalls that make this a special place to visit. The track commences with a long stair case into the valley. After some trek down the stair case we come across the Cam River and the top falls (as opposed to the other falls below it). Perhaps not as spectacular as other falls we have visited but unique in that it looks like a curtain decorating the rock wall over which it flows and pleasantly refreshing – although not hot it has been humid in Tassie and the spray from the waterfall hangs in the air dampening your face as you approach.
The path follows the river as it flows through a rather narrow valley filled with lush undergrowth and very tall gum trees. As the path takes us lower into the valley we get a better view of the falls appearing as a curtain of water tambling over the sheer rock face. I tried to improve our picture taking vantage by walking out on a ledge and obtained two for one.
We went back to the track and soon found ourselves amongst the tall trees we had seen as we entered the Reserve. It is down here where the river slows and spreads out that the swimming hole appears and the usual recreation facilities like the loo can be found. It was far too cold for swimming so we returned to the car heading to the Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden #Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden. This means walking up the hill to the car and getting an overal view of the valley.
You may recall that Burnie was originally named by the settlers as Emu Valley. Althought the township has changed its name Emu Valley still appears on the maps of north west Tasmania.
The garden is not far from the reserve aolong the valley giving it its name. The Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden was conceived by three men and their passion for the genus Rhododendron in 1981. In the begining the site was a scrub and blackberry infested hillside. Emu Valley Rhododendron Garden (EVRG) is a private garden, owned by it’s members, which has acquired significant international acclaim in recent years.
The garden is divided into various spaces identifying each part of the world in which rhododendrons grow in the wild, and each was named accordingly. Plants which originated anywhere from the icy Himalayas to tropical New Guinea and across the Pacific to the Americas adapted willingly to their new hillside home in Emu Valley. Subject to seasonal variations, the huge large-leafed rhododendrons flower during August and September. This is followed by the main flowering period which peaks in mid October and finishes in December. Vireya rhododendrons flower all year. Autumn colours shown by the deciduous companion plants are spectacular during April and May. The Garden covers 11 hectares with over 24,000 plants already planted, and plans for future development embracing many more.
We spent hours wandering through the various gardens – I don’t know whether we were amazed or just lost. Of course there are other plants – companion plants -throughout. The work to maintain this garden and keep it looking like a garden rather than bush must take an army of volunteers.
The day turned warmer than anticipated so by the time we had trekked through the garden we needed to recuperate with an ice cream under a tree.
The next place to visit was Hellyers Rd Distillery. Now we had visited the Spirit Store on Bruny Island last time we were in Tassy and I had bought a bottle of the peat smoked Helleyers Rd whisky. Good for Xmas plum pudding and not much more I am afraid. So our visit to the distillery was with apprehension on my part.
Located at 153 Old Surrey Road on the quiet hilltop of Havenview in Burnie, the distillery sits on the original Hellyers Road that once crept through the Emu Valley. A breath-taking landscape on Tasmania’s northwest coast – a corner of the world more accustomed to building things, growing things and milking things the site had been a dairy farm.
Trying to find the cellar door was a little challenging with this impressive cellar door (see below) being hidden behind some very ordinary industrial sheds. The Building is on the summit and stretching away below are lush green fields leading to the timbered tree tops and ploughed fields on the surrounding hills. Inside the cellar door is a well presented cafe with views of the surrounding hills and a bottle shop presenting an array of local produce and the whisky. The visitor centre brochure advertised tours of the distillery and despite my opinion on the quality of the whisky we decided to join the next tour.
After a short wait a well dressed middle to late aged man walked up to us and introduced himself as the general manager of the distillery and announced that due to staff shortages he was taking the 2.00 o’clock tour – and that was just us. He asked if we ahd tasted the brand and I told him my opinion. He was not surprised and agreed they had not got that product right but promised a surprise when we got to the tasting room.
We went to the barrel room (not ordinarily on the tour) where they still held some of the first whisky they had distilled. He explained that the company that owned the distillery had orginally been a dairy company and they decided to diversify and that was the reason why they had a whisky cream product. At the tasting room he produced a barrel which was a blend of 10 of their oldest whiskeys making the finest of its kind (or so he said) and to taste it he was pretty spot on. We tasted a number of wishkies matured in various type of cask and a ten year old single malt and I was impressed by the single malt. So after the tour we visited the shop and purchased the bottle into which I poured the whisky from the old barrel. This is a numbered bottle and only 500ml but it was an experience bottling my own whisky and sealing the cork in the bottle with hot wax. I also bought a bottle of the ten years old for my drinking pleasure and a whisky cream for Kerry’s drinking pleasure. there not much of the whisky cream left I might say.
We finally got to Burnie. Viewed from the hills behind it, it is very well established and quite large. We drove down to the town to find a very industrial town and port. It was late in the afternoon so we decided to go for a stroll along the foreshore and then onto the penguin rookery beside the University of Tasmania #University of Tasmania campus on the waterfront just on the edge of Burnie CBD. These are the typical little penguins that inhabit Port Phillip and they live almost in the town itself coming and going with the tides. We watched two of them hiding in their man made burrows for some time but it was too hot for much activity from the little guys even at 7.00pm so we found a pub along the foreshore for dinner. Not a meal to write home about but it did the trick and we felt our bed calling.