The carpark where the Frenchman’s Cap track starts is only 55 kms from Queenstown on Tasmania’s west coast. Not far to travel. Should be quick to get there? No. Not so. The tortuous Lyell Highway over the last 20 or so kms almost always feels like torture- certainly for the driver. However, before reaching these final kilometres, the wonderful open sweeping road around the large Lake Burbury presents delightful scenes of water and landforms.
Then the endless narrow curving highway sections extend from the old town of Linda almost into the centre of Queenstown.
If you have the stomach for it, watch this video to appreciate what the experience might be like on a motor bike.
While Jeanette focused on keeping the car on the road and not colliding with the occasional traffic travelling around corners, I scanned the special landscape which is unique to the Queenstown district.
From 1895, copper smelters in Queenstown began to emit sulphur during the process. Tasmania’s west coast has a high annual rainfall and rain falls often; sulphuric acid resulted, timber was felled and acid killed the remaining vegetation, soil was eroded down the steep mountains and hillsides, so that the hills and mountains nearby became rocky monuments to man’s careless intervention. As a little girl, it was suggested to me when I saw the denuded hills and gullies that this must be what the surface of the moon looked like. Remediation programs have been established and nature will prevail. Since then, the vegetation has been gradually returning but older photos show the effects; refer here and here and here . However, the complexity of vegetation that was natural in this environment will never be restored.
Once in Queenstown, we parked near the West Coast Wilderness Railway Station, then wandered over across lush green grass to the Station to sit munching our packed lunches, talking to locals, and looking at views including the historic Empire Hotel over the road and defoliated Mount Owen in the distance (still stripped of its vegetation after all these years).