After my serious dose of nature in Sherbrooke Forest, and my communing with my first-ever lyre bird, I headed up the Tourist Road to Mt. Dandenong and the William Ricketts Sanctuary.
Tourist information stresses filling the petrol tank before leaving. There are no service stations between Te Anau and Milford Sound and I know from this that I’m heading into serious wilderness. It’s a little daunting but I’m almost fearless, intrepid traveller that I’m becoming.
The morning after my visit to Skipton, I was having breakfast at Rosebud Cottage, my B&B in Haworth, when my host asked, ‘Have you heard of Wycoller Beck?’ I hadn’t. ‘Wycoller is the village and Beck is the river that runs through it. It’s a beautiful spot and has a Bronte connection, if you’re still looking for those.’ I was. ‘Turn right out of the driveway, then, and just follow the road. You can’t take your car into the village, though. You have to park and walk down the hill.’
Skipton is one of the towns connected by the Leeds Liverpool Canal. The canal was opened in 1816 and, at 127 miles, is Britain’s longest inland waterway. After spending the morning at Skipton Castle, pretending I was in an episode of Robin Hood, I wandered down the steep High Street to the quay.
If you want to know what heaven is, indulge yourself with hot chocolate made in a chocolate factory: pure liquid chocolate. Anvers Chocolate Factory is situated in a beautiful Californian bungalow, surrounded by cottage gardens, on the outskirts of Latrobe, in the north of Tasmania. I sat next to a window. The room was cold but the light morning sun shone through, emulating warmth. A waitress approached and I ordered my liquid heaven.
One of the places on my Tassie bucket list was the Styx Valley, near the entrance to the Southwest National Park. The car rattled along the last of the gravel road into the car park of the Styx Valley Reserve. I parked beside an archway created by giant ferns, seducing me to peek through.
While in Haworth, I decided to catch the bus to Skipton to visit the castle, seeing I’d missed it on my way through. In 1090, Robert de Romille, a Norman baron, built a fort here, but its timber ramparts were not much help against the frequent raids of rampaging Scots. He replaced it with a more formidable stone castle, setting it on top of a rocky bluff.
The Edge of the World. That’s what the sign said and, standing on the hill looking out to sea, that’s how it felt. Untamed and untameable: Arthur River, North-West Tasmania. If you sailed from where the river enters the sea and kept going, you would hit South America without touching land. This accounted for the vicious wind ripping through me and I was grateful for the knitted beanie a caring friend gave me on my announcement that I was exploring Tassie in the depths of winter.
My accommodation sat at the bottom of a steep hill, leading up to the historic village of Haworth, where Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, grew up in their father’s parsonage. It was here they wrote their poetry, short stories and novels. At the top of the hill, I crossed the main road, passed under an arched stone-covered alleyway and entered a tiny town square and another era.
The trouble with a brand new rental car is that there are no scratches already on it and so any I added couldn’t be blamed on the last person. I would have been happier with a ‘bomb’, as long as it kept going. Still, driving that Toyota Hybrid was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. It floated. There was not a bump or rattle, none of the normal sensations, certainly those associated with the cars I’m used to. I glided through the suburbs of Harrogate and out the other side.