IT'S lunchtime and workers from the construction site that will become the Dilston bypass are filtering into a cafe on the East Tamar.
We've armed up with coffee, pie and milkshake to fortify ourselves for an uphill wander on Mount Direction, just a few minutes down the river.
The new highway is within sight of the old but the bypass will remove much passing traffic from the Windermere Cafe, owned by Maree Wakeling and Kerrie Schapel.
The cafe acts as a cellar door for Native Point vineyard at nearby Swan Bay and Ms Wakeling says they are about to gain tourism accreditation to emphasise their place on the Tamar Valley wine route.
The owners also handle bookings for the bed and breakfast next door, Amble Inn Cottage.
We drive on to the start of the two-kilometre Mount Direction walk and learn that the ruins on top of the mountain are comparable to convict buildings on Maria Island and Port Arthur.
There's also information about the semaphore system that operated between Launceston and Low Head. Semaphores were the internet of their day and there were serious plans in the 1800s to connect Launceston and Hobart by signal stations _ a Midland information superhighway (one lane, apparently).
In a mirror of the dual-gauge problems that haunted Australia's railways, and a mirror of the tetchy North-South relations that survive today, Hobart and Launceston used different signal codes and the system was never built.
The walk up the mountain on a broken shale path is gently graded to knock out any steep sections. Early on there's a bridge to cross the railway line and from then on a steady rise through dry sclerophyll forest. The sun's out (something of a novelty this December) and although I keep expecting to see a snake, lizards are the only ground creatures on the move.
The noise of crickets and what sound like bellowing frogs are loud enough to drown out the highway traffic - it's almost as if the bush is competing with the road in a decibel competition - but as the path eases along both sounds diminish.
Benches are dotted along the track to give walkers a break and occasional views open up across to the West Tamar and a little later, east towards the Pipers River valley and down the river to George Town.
Without stopping too often, I make the summit in 30 minutes. A huge cairn stands before the signal pole and then the bulky remains of the signalman's quarters. Here is a six-room building of stone and brick, with no roof but walls still standing above head height.
There was a small community on the mountain top in the salad days of semaphores from 1835 to the late 1850s, when the electric telegraph took over. In 1848, for example, it housed the signalman, his wife, their six children and one convict. Other wooden buildings nearby housed 13 free settlers and five convicts.
Vegetation has been kept low in a line of sight to the signal station on George Town's Mount George. To the south, the sightline to Launceston is also clear but I struggle to make out Windmill Hill, where messages about arriving ships would be received and relayed to the Launceston Port Office.
The trip down Mount Direction takes about half the time so the walk can be neatly packaged into an hour, from car park to car park, but it's better to allow yourself more time for a mooch around the interesting aspects of the summit.