20 Ghost Club Tour of Tasmania 2008
Christine Fry

Ghosting through Tasmania

ROGER and I went on the 20 Ghost Club Tour of Tasmania. We were fortunate to borrow a 1926 Phantom I from Andrew and Margaret Bayley. They are good friends, and neighbours of Keith and Robyn Drew. The four of them were the organisers of the rally. Andrew and Marg are the new owners of Con Keogh's 1921 Silver Ghost. There were 29 cars and about 58 people in total.

Roger Fry and one of his own coachwork creations, reunited at the 20-Ghost Tour

We left Hobart on Friday the 15th February 2008, to drive to Devonport along with Keith and Robyn, who drove a 1923 Silver Ghost, Roadster with Andrew and Marg in their new acquisition. The other members, who were driving a variety of prewar Rolls-Royce motor cars, were arriving on Saturday morning after crossing on the ferry "Spirit of Tasmania " from Melbourne. The ferry came in earlier than expected and so there was a little bit of confusion.

Keith had to rush from the bed-and-breakfast because the arriving members didn't have their full tour instructions at that point to know where to go. We all met up at the High Tide Restaurant for breakfast and had to get re-acquainted with club members, who we hadn't seen for quite a while. The first morning didn't start off well for Bill and Jacquie Hall. Bill decided to get fuelled while waiting for Keith to arrive, but in the meantime Keith arrived and everyone left for the restaurant not realising Bill and Jacquie were missing. When Bill got back to where everyone had left, he drove around a bit but couldn't find us. They knew the first day we were going to Strahan, so they headed off in that direction. They got as far as Burnie about 45 minutes away and Jacquie realised that her handbag was missing. Panic set in, and she remembered leaving it back at the petrol station, so they had to retrace their journey and luckily the handbag was still there. Members had tried phoning them, but Bill had forgotten to pack his mobile.

The rest of us set off for Strahan going via Burnie, Tullah and Zeehan. We stopped for lunch at Tullah Lakeside Chalets on Lake Rosebury. This was a picturesque setting overlooking the lake, and it reminded me very much of Nova Scotia in Canada, where I used to live. We drove on again heading for Zeehan. This town was named after one of the Dutch seamen, on Able Tasman's ships. The town, in its heyday, was once known as the "Silver City", and boasted a population of 10,000 people, 26 pubs, and was the third largest town in Tasmania. It has a wonderful Pioneers' Memorial Museum, which was well worth a visit. David and Christine Prince had if your problem with their 20 hp and had to be towed into Zeehan. The next step was Strahan, where we were to spend the next three nights.

Strahan is set right on the waterfront overlooking Macquarie Harbour, an absolutely beautiful spot. Saturday night was an organised dinner at the View 42 Restaurant. On Sunday, the 17th of February, we went on a boat trip up the Gordon River. What a fantastic day it was, perfect weather and breathtaking scenery, as the Gordon River winds its way through the highest rated World Heritage area on earth. The river was like a mill pond, and we passed numerous fish farms and tranquil scenery. We stopped for a stroll at Heritage Landing and strolled past trees more than 2000 years old. There were ancient Huon pines, Blackwood and Sassafras trees, and we also saw a black snake sun baking! We enjoyed a very nice lunch on board. Another stop was Sarah Island, a formal penal settlement, which predated Port Arthur and was regarded as "Hell on Earth", by Tasmania's hardest convicts.

On the Monday, we went for a train trip on the West Coast Wilderness Railway from Strahan to Queenstown and then caught a coach for the return trip. The railway linked the mining town of Queenstown to the Port of Strahan. The pioneers built the railway more than 100 years ago. The rack and pinion track is the only one of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. The rail link has recently been reconstructed and has some of the world's steepest rail inclines and declines. We went over timber trestle bridges, crossed the King River and marvelled at the ancient rainforests and huge tree ferns. Having three nights there was wonderful because it gave the driver's time to do any small repairs that were necessary or simply have a break from driving.

On Tuesday the 19th of February, we set off for our next stop at Tarraleah via Queenstown. Queenstown is a mining community and sits among stark hills, stripped of vegetation by decades of mining. The hills look like a lunar landscape. We drove across the mountains, heading for the old hydro town of Tarraleah, which has recently been rebuilt to accommodate tourists and anglers. We had lunch at the hotel on the Derwent River. After lunch, we stopped at a wood carving place called the "Wall". The artist, Greg Duncan, is creating a stunning sculpture to commemorate those who helped shape the past and present of the central highlands of Tasmania. It is made from rare Huon pine and the panels stand 3 m high; when finished, it will be 100 m long.

We arrived once again at our accommodation and checked in. Unfortunately, luck was not on Bill Hall' s side. He unloaded his luggage to his room and then went to move his 1912 Silver Ghost to the parking area. When he re-started his car, it burst into flames. He jumped out and ran into the hotel shouting " Has anyone got a fire extinguisher?".

"Has anyone got a fire extinguisher?"

A couple of people ran to his aid, but by now the fire had really got hold. Victoria member, Neil Walker, really saved the car by spraying with an extinguisher through the radiator, as the bonnet was too hot to open. He was well and truly Bill's "hero". It turns out that the fire was caused by Bill not retarding the ignition levers when cranking the engine to start. The engine must have backfired into the carburettor, spilling petrol all over the hot engine. The back fire ignited fuel and the engine caught fire. It is all repairable, but such a terribly sad thing to happen. Bill had to arrange for a truck to take "Edwina" back to Sydney. They completed the tour in a hire car.

This particular day was the hottest day so far on the tour. It had rained overnight so by the next morning everything was quite cool. By now it was Wednesday the 20th of February, and we headed off to Hobart, where we were to spend two nights. After leaving Tarraleah, our next stop was for morning tea at a private historic home called "Lawrenny" and is one of Tasmania's oldest and finest properties. We were treated to a scrumptious morning tea and a tour of the gardens. We set off for Salmon Ponds passing through fine scenery and hop growing areas. Salmon Ponds is the oldest trout hatchery in the Southern Hemisphere built in 1861. There is also a museum of trout fishing. Some of us were lucky enough to have seen a platypus playing in one of the Ponds. We travelled on towards Hobart and that evening we had dinner at Mure's restaurant.

Wall-to wall Ghosts and Twenties.

On the Thursday, we were lucky to visit International Catamarans for a tour with the owner. It was amazing to see the construction of these huge vessels. After the tour, some of us visited the historic town of Richmond. It is said to be the best preserved Georgian village in Australia and was once a key military post and convict station. Australia's oldest jail is here and also the oldest bridge in Australia built in 1823 by convicts. After dinner that night, we were treated to a talk and slide show by John Matheson on the Peking to Paris Rally. We heard what really went on, on the Rally, very different to how it was portrayed on television.

On Friday the 22nd, the members left Hobart for the Freycinet National Park, where we were to spend the next two nights. Roger and I made plans to catch up with a friend from Western Australia, who now lives in Tasmania. The group travelled to Triabunna for a boat trip to Seal Island and Maria Island. On our travels to catch up with the tour, we came across Don and Sandy Young, parked at the side of the road. They were having trouble with the fuel pump on their 1939 Wraith. John and Sofija Virgo were helping them, and apparently they had been there for about three hours! Luckily in the boot of the Phantom, we had a short piece of hose. This enabled Don to blow into the fuel tank and pressurise it to send fuel to the pump. This is located midway along the chassis. (Apparently, all pumps are good at pushing fuel but not so good at sucking it)

We drove on towards our destination, and on the way went through a lot of very steep winding roads. This was a good test for the cars and the drivers.

We stopped for lunch at Swansea. This town is Tasmania's oldest historic seaside town, established in the early 1820s. Next stop was Freycinet National Park, arriving there late in the afternoon. We met in the Lodge for a lovely dinner and everyone had a good time and lots of laughs. The next day was a free day to either sleep in, check the cars, or go for a long walk etc. It was a beautiful peaceful area, with some beautiful beaches, one of which was called Wineglass Bay, one of the world's official 10 Best Beaches. The area was surrounded by huge granite peaks and azure waters.

A Twenty among the Ghosts

On the Sunday, we set off for Bridport, passing through St Helens and Scottsdale. St Helens is a picturesque fishing port and the East Coast's largest town, also Tasmania's game fishing capital. We stopped at Pyengana for lunch. We drove past lush green pastures, and in fact, we have never seen so many cows in one paddock before! Lunch was at the Holy Cow Cafe. Pyengana is known for its cloth bound cheeses and started cheese production in the early 1900s. After lunch, we drove up to St Columba falls, a real treat. We walked down to the falls, going past huge tree ferns and tropical forest, and you really felt at one with nature.

On the road again to get to our next stop, for the night at Bridport. We went through magnificent scenery, with lots of winding roads, tree ferns and just what the drivers' love. We all enjoyed our "Farewell" dinner at Bridport Resort, sad to think this was almost the end of our wonderful tour, jaunting around this incredible island in such wonderful cars. On the Monday morning, we drove to Devonport via Launceston, Panshanger, Deloraine and Sheffield. We all stopped at Panshanger, which is a historic working farm. We had our lunch and then had a tour of the property, which had lots of lovely gardens.

We then headed off towards Deloraine via Sheffield. Once more the scenery was forever changing. In the distance were various mountain ranges, and we encountered lots of steep climbs and simply breathtaking scenery.
By late afternoon, we all met once again at the High Tide Restaurant for nibbles and a few farewell drinks. A terrific rally had come to an end and I'm sure everyone had a great time.

Many thanks to Keith and Robin Drew and Andrew and Marg Bayley in putting together such a fantastic rally. Well done.

Christine Fry