The Pondering Frog

Tasmania is the smallest state in Australia, tiny in fact, only about the size of Portugal or Hungary and by Australian standards, that’s pretty small.

Lester and Collette are characters, a term often bandied about careless scribes in an attempt to attach a label to those who are difficult to box. In this case, I have no fear. How else to explain the eccentricity of a visit to Tasmania culminating in a quick decision to buy a roadside ice cream shack on ten acres, on a moderately used highway, in the north eastern corner, in a State that is already one of the most remote and least densely populated places on earth?

I for one, am immensely impressed and happy they did. How it became ‘The Pondering Frog’ is a mystery I never solved, but there were a lot of them. Frogs I mean.

Never did find out which one was the ‘Ponderer’ and what he was pondering. Perhaps it was why he was so bloody cold, that’s if he wasn’t a she and she was pondering, but I suspect that if it was indeed, she, she would have been pondering the same deep and meaningful question. I know I was.

One possibility, I suspect is that someone likes frogs for the same reason that I like frogs. Any creature that joins a large group in a  warm moist place to sing about sex has to be a likable creature.first-choice-5

In our ‘home sitting’ travels we have so far, only once had a cancellation and as always, this was opportunity banging on the door demanding admittance. Six months earlier, a very pleasant lady had arranged for us to look after her rented home in the suburbs of Hobart while she went on holidays with her husband. A few weeks later, hubby was transferred 2,000 kilometres north to the Gold Coast in Queensland. Unfortunately, she did not share this information with us.silly-woman

On the very day we embarked upon the ferry to Tasmania and barely eight weeks before we were due to arrive at her mansion, she returned my message to say that she was now living on the Gold Coast and they still planned on going on holiday so perhaps we could still look after their new home instead. She seemed surprised that we were almost in Tasmania, presumably thinking that we had planned to drive across 3 States and traverse Bass Strait, solely for the privilege of minding her house.

As the planned ‘sit’ was now only 2 months away, Julie did a quick search on the internet for someone who needed a hand and so we had the good fortune to meet Lester and Collette.

After  a wonderful period living in the beautiful village of Derby, early morning sunshine beach-walks in Hobart overlooked by the Mt Wellington snow cap and drives through the Huon Valley, all previously described in blog articles past, we set sail in our land yacht for Bicheno and the joys of selling gourmet, ‘blended raspberry, strawberry ice cream, some with chocolate on top’. In winter.icecream02first-choice-8

The original shack that was ‘Bicheno ice cream central’ had been modified considerably in the 12 months of their occupation and The Pondering Frog now presented a friendly face to the trickle of winter tourists. It was not big on accommodation as one would expect of what really was a largish garden shed.

Our sleeping arrangements were spread out across our diminutive camper-van and by comparison, the cathedral of a full size caravan. Room to spare.

Our hosts were having a convoluted ‘holiday’ with Lester away with family for a time, then both of them away together and then back and away again for a few days and sometimes home at night. This relaxed arrangement and minimal customers meant that there was plenty of time to get our hands onto helping with maintenance and site development, which I began by utilizing Lester’s spanking-new tractor to demolish the old wire farm fence.

Tasmania in winter is a bit chilly so frost, frozen pipes and broken hose fittings were the opening gambit of each day. Each morning at exactly 8am I would faithfully open the pearly gates (frozen water droplets to be exact) dry the dew off the furniture and generally help Julie to make the place cosy for tfrozenhe first customer of the day. Speaking of customers, the only customer we could really depend on was a fat wombat who lived close by and who, as wombats tend to do, ignored the world, including the ferocious winter wind that stopped by a few times. He was presumably, immune to the cold that froze water in the pipes and broke hose connections.

On one of those days, when both our hosts were in residence, we took the opportunity take a look at the nearby, world famous, Wine Glass Bay. This involves a drive into the ‘National money sponge’ aka ‘National Park’ where visitors get the chance to pay a healthy fee to the administration to view their own property. Fortunately for us, Lester’s car, which he generously allowed us to use, already had a pass sticker on the windscreen.

It was probably worth gritting one’s teeth and coughing up the $24 fee to get the chance to visit the Cape Tourville Lighthouse, a couple of kilometres into the park, but we would likely have taken the risk of not paying on principle. Or it could be that I’m just be a bit tight-fisted.first-choice-4

The views from the lighthouse base are spectacular and one can see the famous WG bay in the distance, not that it’s apparent in photos, but if you really want to look down upon the beach, you need to get much closer and there is a lookout for that too, on offer.

For reasons known only to the National Parks people, there is no road access to Wineglass Bay. If you want to walk the beach, there is a track that takes you along for several kilometres to see what is essentially just another beach.

If you’re happy to merely look at the beach or should that be the shape of the beach, there is a much shorter walk involved, a mere 1.2 kilometres. The catch is, it is also a kilometre vertically. Several thousand steps, a dozen ramps and many stops later, we gazed over the vista that was, well, very similar to the photos. first-choice-1At least we can claim to have done a climb that we had only achieved once before, some 30 years earlier. We really did it to show we were not old. We failed miserably in that regard.

A much more sedate and summarily more satisfying outing saw us arrive in Pyangana, a lovely village we had driven past on an earlier adventure. The area is quite beautiful as dairy cattle country tends to be, green and picturesque. While visiting ‘The Pub in The Paddock’ we made the acquaintance of the ‘Princess of the Paddock’ one Priscilla the pig. Or, we would have, had she not been having a little lie down.princess

Seems she a thirsty girl and likes a beer. Given the ratio of locals to tourists, it seems to me a large part of the pub’s beer sales goes to keeping the princess happy. At least she seemed content, no doubt sleeping off another big day on the farm.

We were by now mildly proficient in the art of selling ice cream and with some alacrity seized another interlude when the proprietors were in joint residence to steal away in Lester’s car to revisit the city of Burnie on the north west coast. Not much seemed to have changed in the last 30 years, or as our memories have it, but we did see something rather fascinating.

Unloading wood chip at the port involves clamping huge trucks with long trailers into a massive vice and raising the whole shebang into the air to tip the contents onto the deck. tipped-03One couldn’t help make some silly remark about the handbrake. It was off in the distance somewhat and access was restricted, but impressive none-the-less.

Some local sightseeing and a visit to an aquarium rounded out the two days and it was back to base. topiaryStrangely, it seemed hardly a week had passed instead of a month at the Pondering Frog and we were on our way again to yet another adventure. It’s a tough life.

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