On Stage 14 of my walk from Granton to New Norfolk by the Derwent River, a car pulled off the road ahead of me at Sorell Creek. The female driver sat motionless. I plodded on and, as I walked past the car, she wound down her side window and asked for help. A farmer from inland NSW, she and her daughter were staying temporarily in Maydena (http://www.discovertasmania.com.au/about/regions-of-tasmania/hobart-and-south/maydena), a small town on the way to Strathgordon in south western Tasmania – a town where our shy native platypus can be seen in the fast flowing Tyenna River, the waters of which eventually flow downstream to help keep the Derwent River level high.
While her husband worked that day, she decided to take a drive in the car and look around to see more of the country.
When we met, she wanted to find a route to the convict penitentiary at Port Arthur (http://www.portarthur.org.au) without needing to navigate busy Hobart city streets. Her only map was a small abbreviated tourist map of Tasmania that showed the main highways and a few towns. I dragged out some of my maps, and we chatted amiably while many options were considered. Through these conversations I was clear that our road signage is designed for those who know where they are going, and not always for those who don’t know the terrain.
The thought of encouraging her to take the East Derwent Highway, come out near the Tasman Bridge and then need to cross three lanes of traffic immediately, filled me with dread. When you are driving and unsure of where you are and how to get there, many signs and endless traffic can be disorienting. I felt sure she would find herself in suburbia and never understand how to extract herself from there in order to be on her way to Port Arthur.
To take the Midlands Highway by crossing the Bridgewater Bridge, and travel towards Oatlands to find a cross country route, also seemed impractical. Once off that highway, narrow winding roads lead eventually to Richmond but this would not help her easily to get onto a road leading to her destination, without much more direction asking of locals.
We settled on the option where she would continue along the Lyell Highway, drive along the Brooker Highway towards Hobart city, before taking the left hand exit to the Tasman Bridge near Hobart, and then driving across the Bridge. I hope the blue airport symbol was posted liberally during that journey. If she followed that symbol, then once at the final roundabout to the airport she knew to drive straight on. We didn’t exchange contact details so I continue to wonder if she found Port Arthur without getting lost and without losing time.
At 12.15pm we parted company. I was glad to have had someone to talk with. Besides, she had been considering walking (http://www.bicentennialnationaltrail.com.au/) from the north to the south through Australia (a mere 5330kms from Cooktown in far northern Queensland to Healesville slightly east of Melbourne, Victoria). I wish her all the best.