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Have I spent enough to own part of Tasmania?

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 7 February 2009 | Views [2632]

The special effects in Hastings Caves removed the need for a camera flash.

The special effects in Hastings Caves removed the need for a camera flash.

The Apple Isle. A tasty destination if ever I heard one. But as delicious as it sounds, the only people licking their lips were the people catering to / cashing in on the tourists. Towns are so small and devoid of business competition that they can advertise prices that cunningly disguise the fact that they only apply in low season. That was the two weeks of the year when the weather was hospitable enough for non-Eskimo types. While the mainland baked through a century long record breaking hot spell, Tassie was serving up balmy days and mild nights for its brief high season.

The idyllic conditions came at a price though, and my weeks budget was blown in the first two days. Instead of paying an extra $8 to fly with more than just carry-on luggage, I spent $65 in Hobart buying the things I wasn't able to bring. Shane had lured me onto this trip by offering to cover car hire costs but the festive season had haemorrhaged his bank account worse than even mine. Returning home wasn't an option, pouting and arms crossed in stubbornness was ineffective but thanks to the dole, the trip was tax payer funded anyway. Before I get arrested for that statement, let me say that Shane and I were keen to find work here and have been making the necessary enquiries to achieve that end. Seems gigolo's aren't in demand here either.

The very bottom of the range Lancer we all hired together threatened to stall constantly and ended up blowing more smoke than what I had been responsible for lately. Instead of compromising our budget further, we were offered a free upgrade to an Elantra ten years younger and ten properly functioning features closer to being road worthy. Bargain Car Rentals gets a free plug from me for making our trip feel more like the luxurious holiday making that we were paying for to enjoy a simple backpacking lifestyle here in Tasmania.

The Lancers last gasps had lasted long enough to make two trips up Mount Wellington, one of those to see the city at night while lightning lit up the horizon. It also made a quick trip to the Huon Valley and got us and two lovely Canadian girls to Port Arthur (See next post). The Huon Valley boasted an elevated walkway through the jungle that didn't sound exciting enough to justify the $20 admission price. At $24 the Hastings Caves hardly offered better value but we had to see something to make the trip worthwhile. A swim in the nearby thermal springs was part of the deal so we hurried in to make the last tour of the day.

Our guide was the scientific nerdy type who constantly derived absolute wonder out of certain natural phenomena that provided only temporal interest to the average smuck. We weren't allowed to touch anything in the cave lest the 'death wax' on our hands harmed the delicate crystals. This was repeated to us ad nasuem while we wandered along massive brick tiled pathways and concrete stairways under flood lighting more at home in a hospital ward. Obviously the same rules hadn't applied when they fitted the cave out like an amusement park.

Unfortunately our boffin of a guide spent too long waxing poetic about the synergies of chemicals and the environment, rare headless cousins of a spider and any historical figure to have played a role in changing the cave from undiscovered to over-exposed. The thermal pool was thus closed by then, but being of bigger interest to us than the cave itself, no eight foot locked gate was going to stop us from getting maximum value for our $24. Sneaking into the compound like sly ninjas high on red cordial, one could imagine our disappointment in finding something resembling the sort of poor man's in-ground pool common in most backyards these days. The water was luke warm at best, with the attached kiddie pool being only slightly warmer thanks to bladder heating. Gone were the visions of a bubbly spa bath nestled amongst the rocks and fern trees, and the initial thrill of petty trespassing soured to a cookie jar raider's remorse.

So not much pleasure had been derived from that trip but a major short coming in Tasmania's road management almost provided enough adrenalin invoking action to make up for it. Straight roads are harder to find than bargains, and signs detailing approaching corners are even rarer. That's fine with big sweeping deviations, but heading into a tight hair pin turn at a decent pace often sent a spray of gravel out further than my obscenities went. With half the country covered by the most circuitous routes know to man, sign posting every corner would stretch any federal budget. Lucky for the government, there would be plenty of tax paid on the tourist money being extorted by all the small scale business monopolies.

Tags: misadventures, on the road, sight seeing

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