Ferry across the Mersey

IMGP0404Words & organiser: Lawrie Pitt ■ Photos: Jill Steer, Lawrie Pitt, Alana McDougall

Uh Oh! The old favourite “U”-turn … again! This time high in the Mersey River valley in Tasssie’s Central Highlands.

Note: returning back along a great road though, gives another great road, but that is only a part of the story.

The theme of the first run after the lifting of Tassie’s COVID-19 restrictions by Premier, “Daddy” Gutwein, was to explore the Mersey River Valley – staying within the confines of the river valley, from high in the mountains to its eventual outflow into Bass Strait at Devonport, the home port for the Spirit of Tasmania, all without crossing any other river.

Questions were to be asked at the end of the day, so everyone was advised to stay alert and pay attention.

After convening at Deloraine Apex Railway Park, a pack of 16 snarling (well, purring really) MX-5s set out under a rather dull sky. With all of the crews being a pretty hardy lot, they
had the tops down. No doubt, all of the vehicles had their heaters on full blast, although no-one would ever admit to this. It was the middle of winter, but peer pressure is a marvellous thing. After all, they wanted a convertible!

The first river crossing was near Elizabeth Town, but alas, it was the Rubicon River, not the Mersey. So small though, it is little more than a drain at this point. No-one realised it
was a river, so event director, Lawrie, got away with this one. After the first bridge over the Mersey at Kimberly, the group turned towards Sheffield along the Bridle Track. Radio discussion considered it odd for wedding couples to have travelled this road enough in the past for it to acquire the name. Some bright spark reckoned it was something to do with horses. Duh!
Sheffield, the town renowned for its “Muriels”, gave our first rest break. Well-earned it too, as we had travelled a whole 35 minutes.

Out of Sheffield our little convey passed under the towering escarpment of Mt Roland before a sharp, challenging climb up to Bald Hill Lookout, part of Targa Tasmania’s mighty Cethana Stage.
Bald Hill gave a good photo opportunity. After a brief stop, it was back at it. We pulled on to the road behind a BMW Z something or other. Similar to the MX-5s. Following the Beema for about
20km or so, our speed peaked out about at 85kmh. Didn’t want to tear past it and blow it to the weeds because Chapter Captain Alana said we shouldn’t, so we couldn’t, and we wouldn’t. The roof was still up on the Beema, so it was suspected the driver was not too used to the car.
So, you all think this is all bad? But no, it was all good!

These roads have taken out their fair share of tarmac rally competitors. There are some damp, slippery corners under the gum trees and, at this pace, no-one was caught out by these treacherous suckers, so we avoided skidding off the road into the wilderness, the realm of the elusive Tassie Tiger.
Crossing the Mersey for the second time, the course took Ferry across the Mersey 15 us further up the valley on a road created during the construction of the hydro power scheme. They build
good roads, they do. Still, an occasional rock had tumbled down on to the black stuff, threatening 40 profile tyres.
At the end of the bitumen was the U-turn. Woowee!

This is near the iconic Walls of Jerusalem National Park, set aside for bush walkers and therefore of little interest to sports car drivers. Of little interest to four-wheel drivers, as well. Horses are OK though. This region is where the Tasmanian Mountain Cattlemen Association was founded.
At this point, being high on expectation but low on opportunity, it became apparent that a brisk dash was required down the valley to the “the conveniences” at Mole Creek.
Going up and back down the valley gave two more crossings of the Mersey, as well as filtered views through the trees of the glass-smooth Lake Parangana. By this time, it was a still, cloudless day. One of the joys of Tassie’s winter.

“Wrong Way” Darren managed to take a wrong turn out of the middle of the pack at a “straight on T-junction”.

A pretty fair effort. His explanation was convoluted and unintelligible … so it has been decided not to cause any further embarrassment by naming Darren.
Mole Creek was a busy place: another car club for a recently cancelled manufacturing brand, a pack of motor cyclists and heaps of other tourists.
(I think some of those chicky babes thought we were pretty cool). We moved on, crossing the Mersey again and the Gogg Range and dropping down into Paradise. Yes, it does really exist.
Skirting Sheffield the run continued down to Railton and the Mersey Lea flats. Here there is a new bridge across the river on the flats, similar to Melbourne’s West Gate Bridge,
only smaller. Chapter Captain Alana announced that the slippery, old wooden bridge had previously been washed away by floods, now possibly treasured driftwood on some distant shore.
At the end of the flats it was a short uphill run through some apple orchards, well, we are in Tassie, to Highway 1 and on to Devonport for a late lunch on the lawns near the Vietnam
Veterans’ Memorial and the Bass Strait Maritime Centre at the mouth of the mighty Mersey River.

Lisa won the prize for naming the river crossed but the question was incorrectly asked by the event director.
He should have asked, “Name all the rivers crossed”, which would have included two tiny little streams. The Dasher, crossed twice, and the previously-mentioned Rubicon, once. We crossed the
Mersey seven times.
So in the confusion there is no recollection of who were awarded prizes. Apparently Dale also received a prize, as well, for some reason.
So chaos ruled once again. And amongst the chaos everyone had a great run, including Tail-end Charlie, Nigel and Natasha. We poked a bit of fun at each other and carried on like teenagers while enjoying our mighty MX-5s.

Doing our part in creating a legend! Which can only mean we must be legends too!

To everyone’s family and friends, all MX-5 owners and Club members, especially in Victoria, stay safe and healthy and soon, we will all be out in our little cars … meanwhile remember, do not be afraid to make a U-turn.

More photos can be found here.