I’m kind of in love with north-west Tasmania. My first taste was a whistle-stop tour of the area with my partner and her mother, when we whipped through in a rental car on the way to Cradle Mountain, guided by a GPS with a New Zealand voice which urged us on with the promise of “a mean steak and cheese pie”.
While the promised pie remained elusive – mean or otherwise – we found plenty of other delights to warm our imaginations along the way.
Certainly those delights were not related to food. Our stomachs and our taste buds had to make do with a few scabby toasties that a lone Queenstown greasy spoon joint was selling after 1pm on a Sunday.
And we were glad to get them, particularly given the landscape surrounding Queenstown looks like a bombed-out moonscape thanks to the gold and copper mining there. The local football team plays on a gravel oval – talk about a home ground advantage. And in 2017 they even toughed in out by playing through a hailstorm.
But behold! The delights:
- Shorty’s Private Museum of Minerals, Mining Relics and Bush Craft Oddities. It was the best $2 I have probably ever spent, which allowed me a glimpse of naughty driftwood, masonic light fittings, uranium glass and a stuffed racing pigeon.
- Dr Frankenstein’s Museum of Monsters. Basically a big Colourbond shed where Gail made plush monster versions of her friends and fellow residents, to the embarrassment of her husband (who she also made a monster out of – take that!).
- TUT’S Whittle Wonders. It had sadly closed down by the time we went through, possibly because some of the things Tut had whittled were so large he had permanently damaged his whittling hand.
Australia has plenty of room for the weird and the wonderful, but there seem to be few places in the rest of the country where the eccentrics are as dense as they are in Tassie’s north-west. It’s like there’s a permanent convention of eccentricity here, and anyone with any interest is very welcome – almost suspiciously so.
And while all those nouveau arty types like David Walsh and Co. have moved into Hobart and made it cool with his Bond villain art gallery built deep into the sandstone over the Derwent, there is absolutely nothing cool about this part of the country. You won’t find any young Sydney socialites down here doing duck faces for their Instagram accounts (that’s a good thing, by the way).
But what it lacks in cool it makes up for in authenticity. It’s authentic as fuck, baby – so authentic that the sign on the road to Paradise is riddled with bullet holes. Seriously…as in, there is seriously a place called Paradise and it is seriously full of bullet holes (see pic to left).
On our second journey, our friends Jen and Julie played tour guides. We stayed at a strange place called the Round House in the hills behind Mole Creek, which was completely powered by renewable energy and kind of beautifully mad and wonderful. The views of the forested hills were stunning. The owner kept sneaking in during the day to turn the fridge up when we were out, as I suspect the micro hydro plant and solar panels weren’t kicking out enough juice to keep the beer cold, given it was cloudy and the creek wasn’t running. No matter.
The pub with no beer – for more than 40 years
So from this trip the first place I’d like to highlight is The Mole Creek Hotel. One of the quirky things about the Mole Creek Hotel is that it didn’t serve alcohol from the time it was finished in 1908 until the 1950s. The reason was that that one of the conditions of sale of the land from some bloke named Henri Reed is that no-one was allowed to serve alcohol on the premises until the property had been sold three times, with each tenure being at least 25 years. The first owner George Lee towed the line. He also had 12 children, so was probably a bit too busy to be distracted by liquor licensing issues.
But in the early 1950s the place was bought by a chap called R.P. Furmage, who went round to his solicitor’s place and said: “Screw this Reed chap for a lark. Get me out of this stupid deal”. And so the first license was granted to George Furmage. The good people of mole Creek seemed pleased to have anywhere at all to wet their whistle, which is one of the reasons it is still there today. We stopped for a round in honour of the first person who decided Henri Reed was being a bit of a git. And after all he was long dead, so what was the harm?
The hotel now seems to be the centre of the quest for the Tasmanian Tiger. You can tell this by the many newspaper clippings that adorn the walls about the last tigers alive and the occasional sighting in the woods around there. You can also tell this by the unconvincing Tasmanian Tiger statue that is perched atop the Bullshit Corner bulletin board. And you can especially tell this by the painting of the topless Tasmanian tiger women doing mickey flips into the lake while two Tasmanian tiger bikies on Harley Davidsons rev past while giving the tiger girls admiring smiles. David Walsh and his MONA boners can sod right off back to Hobart – THIS is the kind of art they go for in these parts.
I quizzed the bartender about the tiger sightings, hoping to get some big cat stories. But really the only thing he said was: “Some folks around here take it pretty seriously”.
Next stop: Tazmazia and the Villlage of Lower Crackpot.