Hellyer Gorge, Petrol Problems and Winding Roads

It was a worry, and one that I didn’t foresee, stupidly. I had longed to do the Tasmanian Western Wilderness trip since I had arrived in the state. Last month, on a break from farming work I found the time to road trip it, all on my own.
The plan was spontaneous and began just after I finished working planting pyrethrum (more on that at some point) in Don, south eastern area of Devonport. I decided the best route would be Devonport – Stanley – Strahan, making a few stops along the way and doing anything random and unpredictable.
After leaving Stanley and doing “The Nut”, I did a quick stop in Dip Falls nature reserve and Mawbanna, before heading on my trip down to the western wilderness. I took a right hand turn in Somerset, just before the city of Burnie, which was the main road down towards Strahan, on the west coast of Tasmania. This was an A Road, the A10.
I expected some hazardous road surfaces and a bit of zig zag, but expected to be there in a few hours, assuming there to be no other cars in sight and a fairly easy road to navigate. I was totally wrong, and it was some experience.
The road was constant zig zag for a start. You couldn’t accelerate. As soon as you thought you had a straight bit, you got another sharp turn, which meant burning up a lot of petrol going round the corners.
There was nowhere to stop and it was a dangerous stretch of road. I had passed by numerous petrol stations between Stanley and Burnie (notably at Wynyard and Somerset), but didn’t fill up, deciding to wait till I got to less than a quarter and fill her up completely, so as not to do lots of different petrol stops.
The problem was, once I left that main road from Burnie, it was almost bang into wilderness. I passed a few farms, and places classed as settlements. These were Yollah and Henrietta. Neither appeared to have a shop, let alone a petrol station. I had just got below the quarter mark at Henrietta, and my car uses a fair bit of petrol, especially when in the lower gears, revving up and turning corners.
There were no other cars on the road, I was at ease with my only CD on the car stereo – Oasis’s 1995 album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? and like some of the songs, I had to roll with it, all the roads I had to drive were winding and I would have to make sure I didn;t look back in anger.
Finally, I came to a point where I could stop (before this there were not even any laybys or pullover points by the road on either side through the cliff faces!). It was a nature reserve area known as Hellyer Gorge. I had my lunch there.
I parked and noticed a few other vehicles and people. I thought of travelling next to Waratah, mainly because after it there would be no other towns or villages until Tullah or Rosebery on the western wilderness route. I thought I could at least get petrol at Waratah, and then head back onto the A10 down to Tullah. From Hellyer Gorge, I think Waratah was about 30 kilometres away, yet Tullah would have been 70 kilometres.
And with such a low petrol level, I didn’t think I’d make it to Tullah. Then I went over to ask a guy about it. There were four people there having a picnic, they had two separate cars. The guy I spoke to was called Tim, and his advice coming up was to be spot on, and saved my day.
I told him I was very low in petrol, and was heading to Strahan. I said that I had wanted to risk taking the turn off to Waratah, as it was the biggest town within 50 kilometres of me and I had assumed there’d be petrol there. I didn;t feel it was much of a risk, as to divert myself to Waratah would have been around 28 kilometres there and back, from where the junction was (I was about 10 – 15 kilometres north of that). But straight away he said “Don’t risk it. Waratah is a very small town and may not have a petrol station open. You could end up driving there, and then having to drive back onto this road and may not make it down to Tullah.”
At first I wasn’t sure to trust him, because I didn’t really believe I’d make it as far as Tullah. But as this guy had just come from the West Coast, he was a fair bit older than me, he was Australian and he looked like a seasoned traveller, it was obvious. I had to stop believing in myself and believe in him. Respect and listen to your elders, I thought. Tim told me that they had filled up in Zeehan, but that there was guaranteed to be a petrol station in Rosebery, the larger town. He wasn’t sure if there was a petrol station in Tullah, but it seemed the only risk worth taking, as at least I’d be in a decent sized town, and within reaching distance of guaranteed petrol at Rosebery.
So it was onwards in search of petrol. I drove slow, nobody was behind me for the most part. I took a right turn past the Cradle Mountain junction. I saw the sign for “Welcome to The West Coast” and petrol was flashing and flickering. I was some 50 kilmoetres north of Rosebery, my guaranteed petrol point, and Tullah was now just 34 kilometres away.
I passed a live wombat by the side of the road, I admired the amazing landscape and took in the beauty of this incredible wilderness journey. My mind had drifted away from the horros of a low petrol tank. I arrived in Tullah and looked long and hard, left and right until I saw my saviour – a road side petrol station.
I pulled over and filled her up. $65 I put in. It was some relief. I was in Tullah and was savouring my first glimpse of this wilderness. The journey continued for me, firstly in Tullah and then on down to Strahan…
As a Footnote – By the way, last week I actually did run out of petrol, here in Devonport. The car stopped, and I had pulled her over on a main road with the last drop of petrol. I was opposite a petrol station! So I filled her up (thanks to my friend Pierre for supplying me with a tube to transfer the petrol from the can to the tank.) and bought a spare petrol can, which will now always be in my car. I may never need it. But it’s better to have something you don’t need, that not to have something you need. Believe me.
Only in places such as the Western Deserts, Alice Springs and Northern Territory will I be exposed to such a lack of petrol again…
I’ll always rather spend extra money on petrol beforehand than risk running out. It ain’t worth the hassle!
Drive – From Mawbanna to Somerset. Then from Somerset to Hellyer Gorge
Petrol Stations I Passed – None
Sightseeing – A few lookout points on the way, Hellyer Gorge, Amazing Landscape, Animals (I saw only wombats and wallabies, but probably a lot more at night)
Key Song – ASH – PETROL:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

CommentLuv badge