[ << previous | index | next >> ]
Rhododendron Gardens, Lalla.
We packed the car and drove off for the day's activities. First stop was Lalla where we checked out the WAG Walker Rhododendron Gardens. The rhododendrons were huge tree-sized bushes, but not in flower so not very impressive. Better were the exotic deciduous trees in early autumn colours - Japanese maples, elms, oaks, etc. There were also stands of holly with lots of red berries.
We continued a short way down the road to the Brown Mountain Nursery, hoping to see displays of bonsai. We got out and strolled around the nursery plants but didn't see any bonsai, so we asked at the desk. The couple who owned the nursery told us at great length how there hadn't been any bonsai there for at least 5 years - how the woman who did the bonsai had moved to Launceston and sold the nursery to another guy who then closed up shop without telling anyone or taking down any of the signs. For years people used to stop in hoping to buy plants and found the gates locked. Then eventually he sold it to the current owners, who re-opened the nursery and have been slowly rebuilding it to its former reputation and glory - but with no bonsai. After learning all this we eventually managed to get free and continue our drive to Launceston.
We stopped in the centre of Launceston to buy some film and bread rolls for lunch. We found film, but out parking meter was running out so we left and bought some bread rolls on the way out through the suburbs at a Roelf Vos supermarket.
Our next stop was Ben Lomond National Park, which involved a gravel road climb uphill to a series of steep switchbacks known as Jacob's Ladder. After climbing these in the car we pulled over for lunch on the Ben Lomond plateau, with sweeping views of bare granite rock formations and the plains below. We didn't continue on to the ski village (although we could see it not far away) because we were starting to run low on petrol and there wasn't any to be had on the mountain. With luck we could make it back to Launceston, which seemed to be the nearest petrol station.
After lunch and some photos taken quickly in the cold high-altitude air, we started the drive back to Launceston. With the fuel light coming on intermittently for the last 20km or so, we were really thinking we might run out of petrol. But finally we managed to pull into the first petrol station we saw, only to find that every pump had a "pump not working" sign attached to it! An attendant came over to point this out to us, explaining that the tanks were currently being filled and checked and this would take another hour or so. We asked how far the next petrol station was. He poked his head in the window to see how much fuel we had and saw the needle on empty and the light shining, and said, "Oh, nother 15 minutes down this road... no, maybe 10 minutes..."
We drove off hoping to get there without running out and managed to make it ok - phew!
We drove into central Launceston and found a parking spot across the road from Airlie B&B, our accommodation for the night. Checked into the pleasant terrace house at about 2:30pm. Had a bit of a relax then went for a walk to explore central Launceston a bit. Checked out some restaurants along the way and decided on a Mexican place called Montezuma's for sinner. Before that though we came back for another relax and some TV. Michelle bought me a chocolate praline hedgehog to eat.
Then it was out to dinner. Montezuma's had an interesting decor - mirror tiles on the walls and ceiling, striped with carpet that extended from the floor up the walls. Looked exactly like a 70s disco, except no mirror ball. The food was good and in large portions. I had a huge helping of mudcake with cream and ice cream for dessert to celebrate my birthday. Then finally back to the accommodation to sleep it all off.
[ << previous | index | next >> ]