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AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 7 February 2009 | Views [1787]

The beautiful view of the Hazard Mountains enjoyed by Coles Bay residents.

The beautiful view of the Hazard Mountains enjoyed by Coles Bay residents.

After a fond farewell to our Canadian duo, we high-tailed it out of Hobart leaving a Hansel and Gretel like trail of money behind us. We planned to cover the state in four days and were aware most of that would have to be spent in the car. Luckily enough, the Tasmania countryside is so beautiful and varied that each day of driving presented so many interesting things that just driving made the trip worthwhile. And other than fuel costs, it minimised our contributions the state's economy.

Whenever we did stop, one could feel an impending rip off waiting at the next decision to do or eat anything. First of these stops was Coles Bay, a divine piece of the bluest ocean sitting beneath the imposing pink granite Hazard mountains. Someone more adept than me at beach evaluation had listed the nearby Wineglass bay as being on of the best in the world. The $11 I paid for a foccacia lead me to believe my lunch would lay claim to a similar title. It didn't, and was almost as bad as the microwaved salad foccacia containing only avocado and tomato I had eaten the day previous. Admittedly, the 3 hour walk to Wineglass Bay scared us off as much as the cost of admission to the park but the futility of this expensive detour continued to sour my opinion of Tasmania.

Nothing of particular interest aroused our curiosity on the east coast beyond the attractiveness of the coastline itself. It was by no means exceptional though, and a Melbourne-esque change in the weather made me think more highly of similar beaches in the north of Australia not blighted by such an unpredictable climate. We stopped for the night in St. Helens out of fatigue and saw the best the town had to offer while reading the brochure and getting pissed at the hostel.

Rising early against the infliction of a hangover, we took a detour to the Bay of Fires as it was also in the mix when it came to best beaches in the world. Counting against it was its southerly position, and again adverse weather removed the gloss from what would be a beautiful place in prevailing conditions. Another detour got marked down as a waste of time and we headed over to Launceston through some bucolic farmland that looked unchanged by the ending of the 19th century, let alone the 20th.

Seeing as the whole of Tasmania could be seen as a sleepy little backwater, it wasn't at all surprising to find virtually nothing open on Sunday in Launceston when we arrived. We could only find one shop open for lunch, and they made the most of the absence of competition by charging me $9 for a salad sandwich that was mainly egg! Egg? A standard salad item? I don't think so. Lonely Planet's cartographer must moonlight for Tasmania tourism as all the free maps got us hopelessly lost trying to find Cataract Gorge. That was mildly interesting but we spent most of the afternoon checking out the Japanese Macaques in City Park as it was a free form of entertainment.

Final destination was Cradle Mountain, the hoover deluxe of money siphoning. A single bed in a dorm cost $40, and by not letting you keep the bed, coverings or wall fittings, the place claimed the title of most expensive hostel I have ever stayed in. A $15 a night hostel was available 20 minutes down the road, but no one told us about that because everyone benefits from us spending more money in Tasmania (pronounced Tas-money-a). Budget 2 minute noodles took a 300% hike to become $2 noodles, a frozen McCain pizza was the same price as a store bought made and cooked fresh pizza and I didn't dare inquire about the price of alcohol for fear just asking may have cost me something.

The only kitchen we were allowed to use had no utensils, so we pretended we were convicts and stole some from one of the kitchens reserved for tours. None of the white goods worked either so we just pretended we were renegade members of the tour group and used their kitchen to prepare all our food.

The only bad weather we were to see for the entire week came on the day we had set aside to do some of the famous Cradle mountain walks. Morning fog reduced visibility to zero and afternoon rain reduced motivation to more than zero. We took a two hour drive to Devonport to find cheap groceries, well aware of the irony, and brought a debilitating amount of alcohol for half of what it would have cost at Cradle Mountain.

The next morning we sped through the plains of the central midlands and would have just kept driving to another state had it been possible. Touring around unseen lands is always rewarding, but never have my travels been so rewarding for the local population. Tasmania is undoubtedly a beautiful state but I won't be returning until I have so much money that it has lost all importance to me. Or more exactly, I've seen more than enough of Tasmania and I'll never have enough money to convince me to invest any more in that budget black hole of a state.

Tags: misadventures, on the road, sight seeing

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