Jack’s trip to Penstock.
By Jack Windsor
A successful journey usually begins the day before; planning the food, clothing, accessories, checking that the vehicle has all the usual things loaded.
I always take my camera, tripod, wet weather gear, hat, gum boots, battery radio, jigsaw puzzle, books, spare clothing and don’t forget the toolbox.
As I live at sea level at Low Head, I always like to have a change of air now and again, inland and up. A few days in the mountain air I find is very invigorating and refreshing. Peaceful and away from distractions. The Penstock shack is adequate, with flush toilet, gas stove, wood heater and solar lighting system.
At Penstock, there is good mobile phone reception, so if one must, one can contact home if necessary.
I usually like to set off from home around ten in the in the morning; this gives me a bit of time to shop on the way and travel at a dignified speed so as not to stress the old Mitshibisi van too much. She is now twenty-seven years old and is starting to show her age a bit. She has only done 425,000 kms, but still performs very well; she takes the big hill at Poatina in her stride and will out- perform younger vehicles if pressed.
I have now had her for ten years, and when I first got her she was a bit neglected. I cleaned her up and fitted a carpet, a very comfortable bed, a small gas stove, water tank with pump to a small sink and a food locker. She has racks for my fishing rods and electric lighting.
At my age, I find that this old van is a far better proposition than one of those swag things or a small crawl in tent. No creepy crawlies and up off the wet stony ground, and snug from the rain and wind.
She is fitted with a front and rear trailer tow-ball as well as trailer light plugs.
The drive up to Launceston takes about three quarters of an hour at about 90 kph, which is a nice comfortable speed for me. After Foster street, I find that the Launceston traffic becomes a bit aggressive, especially near the traffic lights. What a relief it is to conquer the southern outlet, keeping to the left hand lane, I amble along at about 90 again, letting those maniacs rush along at their 110.
The Breadalbane multi lane roundabout is a bit tricky coming from Launceston, I find that if you go slower it is easier to navigate. Once around, the first bit is uphill, and then near the top, there is a twiddly bit to access the new bypass road now under construction. I cannot see where it will eventually join up with the highway the other side of Perth, which it is supposed to bypass.
The turning to Longford is a bit tight; and then I follow the old shortcut out to the flying mile.
The Longford roundabout demands a bit of care, but it is not too bad.
Across the railway line, up past the meat works, and Browns IGA super- market, the old English cemetery, and then onto the Cressy road.
My mother grew up in Longford, and I have many memories of the lovely old place, and many maternal relatives in that old cemetery.
The next town is Cressy, where I have discovered the old bakery, where I stop for a coffee and a party pie.
After that I hit the road again, cross Brumbies creek bridge, and on out to Poatina, here I encounter the big hill, with its hairpin bends, not having power steering, I must slow down to work the steering, which is a bit heavy for my ageing arm muscles.
She does best if I leave her in second, and just quietly let her wind up at her own pace, whilst I keep an eye on the temperature gauge.
Arriving at the top, I just continue along at about 90 again.
It always seems a very long way to go before reaching the Lake highway junction. Lovely alpine terrain with stunted gums and lots of rocks, nice views of Arthurs lake and flat alpine meadows.
Waddamana turnoff and only ten ks, to go. Past the old farm with its many interesting out buildings and the old split paling homestead.
Sometimes, if you are lucky, there has been a bit of rain and the gravel road is not too dusty, a few corrugations and loose edges, and then the turnoff to Penstock. Along this road I often see some wild deer crossing.
Eventually it is necessary to open the Pulford gate which is not locked, but must be opened and shut again once through.
To us non- farmers, this chore of opening, going through and then closing of gates seems to be an old- fashioned nuisance, but this is a grazing property, where people earn their living, and stock control is a very necessary procedure.
We must remember that it is really a privilege for us to be able to cross their land in this manner.
Next, we come to the second gate, which is locked. There are several padlocks on this one, and one of them is the clubs. Again, the chore of opening, going through and then closing and relocking. There is still one more to come, similar to the last one.
The old van does not like all this stopping and starting, and nor does the driver, but this is a special place, only accessible to a privileged few. We must treat it with respect, and remember all of the past members of the club who have spent many years creating it.
After jiggling along over the potholed track through the bush, we come to the shack site, and what a site.
A beautiful place amongst the trees, over looking a lovely lagoon, surrounded by old gum trees. Many tired and stressed out mainland city business men would give their back teeth to have such a place to escape to away from the maddening throng.
Having parked on a nice nearly level spot at the back of the shack, behind a nasty old tree stump, I got out the key once again, and after unlocking the gas and turning on the water, unlocked the shack door padlock, re locked the padlock in the safe position, and then inserted the key into the light switch.
One of the first things to do was to boil the kettle and have a cuppa.
At my age, I cannot sit down on the old time expired arm chairs, because they are too low for me to get out of, so I have to use the kitchen chairs instead.
I would gladly contribute towards getting some better, more suitable furniture for the shack if the committee sees fit to accept.
Next came the unpacking of the grocery bags and planning what to have for tea.
It was getting rather late to go out fishing now, so it was time to settle in for the evening.
The heater warmed the place up, and then John arrived with his trailer boat.
We poured the tea and lit the heater, I got my camp oven from the van and set about cooking a meal.
I put the pot roast in the cast iron oven and placed it over the gas to cook. I peeled the vegetables and set them on the stove in a saucepan. The heater warmed the place up and we soon had a delicious roast meal with boiled vegies.
After washing up we sat around discussing several topics of interest until bed time.
John settled down onto his favorite bunk in the west wing and I retired onto my very comfortable bed in the van.
He is an early bird and was up and out long before I was awake in the morning.
He came in fish less as usual but happy, we made breakfast of bacon and eggs, tea and toast. He again went out and I settled down with the jigsaw puzzle.
He disappeared once again in his boat and I never saw him until lunchtime, he had a very nice brownie of about three pounds.
Leftover meat and vegies for lunch. He again went out, and I settled down with my jigsaw puzzle again.
My shoulder was still sore from the nasty fall that I had had last year and wasn’t ready for the fly rod just yet.
I love that place up there, with the black jays, the swans and musk ducks. The old, old trees, the beautiful sunsets over the water and the comfort of the shack.
Our stay, like all good things came to an end all too soon, and it was time to go home.
We packed up our things, tidied up the shack, re locked all the padlocks, turned off the gas and water and set off together. It was a bit easier at the gates with two people doing the opening and shutting.
John followed me to the crest of the Poatina hill, where we stopped for a breather.
He went off before me, and I used the gears down the long descents.
I again stopped at the Cressy bakery and bought some lovely raisin bread for my tea.
I called at the Longford tip on the way, and checked it out for handy stuff for my workshop.
After that I made it home in good time and I felt very refreshed from a couple of days up there in the alpine air.