I can’t recall the last time I felt so tired. I also can’t recall the last time I felt so content and happy with myself.
I was anxious in Melbourne and uneasy. I had a wonderful time celebrating the holidays but I was unsure about actually living there. Finding work in Melbourne was part of the original plan, but to be honest I really did not put much effort into finding a job. For some reason my heart was just not into it. Perhaps it is because I just was not yet ready to commit to one place. I could have stayed very easily. I had friends that were willing to let me stay for awhile and another friend whom I met while travelling and that I had become quite close with. But my heart was not happy. So I decided to think about what did make me happy and at peace with myself. Of course, as always one word came to mind...nature. So I booked a trip to Tasmania, as flights from Melbourne are quite cheap at the moment (thank you Jetstar airlines). I had 3 goals in mind: to be healthy with proper eating and exercise, to clear my thoughts and heal my soul, and to stay away from men because they have just complicated my life too much recently. I have been a bit unhappy the last month in Australia because my soul has been uneasy and restless. I was hoping that Tasmania would help solve the problem.
I booked a 10 day camping tour through a company called Tasafari which promised to take people into the bush on intense hikes and then camping in places that you could not get to on your own. The tour was a bit expensive but I figured it would be okay because I would get away from distractions and just enjoy myself. For me, deciding whether to do a tour or not was a hard decision. I had a feeling that I might be able to meet backpackers once I got to Hobart and hire a car with them, but I was also nervous that this would not happen. Little did I know that there are tons of backpackers looking to do ride sharing and I will tell any traveller in the future not to do a tour because it is cheaper and more fun I think to do it yourself. But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.
I arrived in Hobart in the evening and it was pouring rain. Not really a surprise considering it was raining quite a bit in Melbourne. In the hostel I met a very nice guy named Jimmy who lived in Launceston (about a 3 hour drive from Hobart) but stayed at this hostel during the week while he went to university. We hit it off pretty well and I ended up sharing a 6 pack of Fosters with him. Can you believe that? It was my first time ever drinking Fosters and I had it with an Australian. How cliché is that? He is the first Australian I ever met who liked it as most Aussies I know either have never had it or hate it. I was happy that I was able to actually meet and hang out with someone who was from Tasmania.
The next day my tour started at 6:30 and it was still pouring rain. This tour was unlike any I had ever done because there were only 3 of us and a guide. The other two people consisted of a middle aged man from England and a 65 year old German woman named Karin. The tour only lasted for 4 days as it got cancelled halfway through because there weren’t enough people signed up for the second part. To be honest, I was quite happy because the tour was just okay. I did get to see some amazing sights on the East Coast of Tasmania including the Tasman Peninsula, Freycinet National Park, the Bay of Fires, and Wineglass Bay, but I felt that for the amount I paid I would have gotten more. We camped in the middle of nowhere and had campfires every night. I had a lot of time to myself to listen to my music as I watched the Tasmanian country side fly by. It rained hard for the first two days which was unfortunate because you could not see the gorgeous aqua colour of the ocean. But, the weather did add a mysterious mist and fog to the area that reminded me of Scotland. Thankfully the weather did clear up the last few days and we got to see gorgeous beaches and also trees so wide that they can only compare to the redwood trees in California. I got to do some walking with our group but unfortunately they were quite short and not as challenging as I would have liked. There was a lot of sitting and driving going on and I did not feel myself getting any healthier.
The tour ended early by dropping me and Karin off at the Art House hostel in Launceston. We agreed to meet the next day to talk about possibly seeing more of Tasmania together. I had one thought on my mind: to have fun in town with Jimmy. So we hung out. He took me to the Cataract Gorge where we saw wallabies jumping around and then to a dam where we watched the water rage by from all of the recent rain. He drove me through town and I instantly fell in love with the look and feel of it. I liked how old some of the buildings were and it felt like a small European town to me. We then went to his home and drank James Boag’s beer (Tasmanian) on the porch. His home is up on the hillside and we could see the lights of the town below. I couldn’t get over how beautiful this area was and how lucky people are to live here. And to someone like Jimmy this is all something that you see every day and thus is used to such beauty. It was a nice evening but I couldn’t help but get upset with myself for breaking my goal to stay away from boys. We made an agreement that perhaps we would go camping together that weekend.
The next day I had to deal with Karin. She was quite concerned about getting the money back for the part of the tour that didn’t run. I kept trying to calm her down and then eventually arranged for the tour operator to come meet with her. She was able to get her money back. Karin is a very sweet woman but she tends to worry too much and thus kept asking me about what she thought we should do next. At that time I was interested in exploring more of Tasmania but was not too keen on being with just her, seeing as she sometimes drove me insane with her broken English, loud voice, and constant request to have me repeat myself.
I must have looked quite upset because I was then approached in the hostel common room by a beautiful young Chilean girl who also has the name Karin. She wanted to know if we were interested in hiring a car and going to Cradle Mountain with her. We accepted. I set it up so that after Cradle Mountain I would go back to Launceston to see Jimmy and she would continue on with German Karin to see other parts in Western Tasmania. It was a hard decision, figuring out where they would go and car prices, but it all worked out in the end. I was happy because I was getting a cheaper ride to Cradle Mountain, seeing that tickets were almost 60 dollars one way by bus from Launceston.
The next morning I drove. By the way, I am becoming quite accustomed now to being on the other side of the road! About a month ago I was so nervous about doing it and now I find it quite enjoyable. The land that flew by was gorgeous. It is very different than driving through other parts of Australia. The mountains loomed above and I was so excited to climb some. We passed many pastures with sheep and cows and drove through several small towns. It was only about a 2 and a half hour drive to get to the park and our accommodation for the evening.
Finally we got to hike! We did about a 4 hour walk around the lake and the base of the looming cradle mountain. It felt so good to be in the crisp fresh air. At first the mountain was covered by clouds but as we went on it burned off. The path was quite rocky and strenuous. I got to know Chilean Karin a bit as we walked. She is actually quite similar to me, almost to the point where it is scary. She is also 28 and was an English teacher in Chile. She too quit her job and decided to try a working holiday in Australia with a possibility of extending her stay. She has been away from home for about the same time that I have. Heck, we even both had long term relationships that started when we were 17 and have struggled to find another successful one since then. She loses things often and can be a bit clumsy as I am. She has an extremely kind and good soul. She is very interested in self healing and holistic medicine and I can’t help but be reminded of how I used to be and feel before I left for this trip. She possesses qualities that I have forgotten in my travels. Being with her has motivated me to find my inner peace again.
German Karin was good company because she kept us in line. She pushed us up the mountain. She is an amazing hiker for a woman of 65. She has travelled all over the world, often on her own. For some reason she took quite a liking to me, often asking me what I thought about things. She called me "Laurie" and I am not sure if either she couldn’t pronounce my name or if she just had it wrong but I didn’t have it in my heart to correct her. Any time there was a decision to be made on the trail she would always say "what do you think, Laurie?" in her thick German accent. I find it interesting that she valued my opinion so much, considering I found her to be much wiser. She also exhibits qualities of my personality. She worries all the time about everything. On the trail it was about having enough time to get back home. Her mind is always thinking and is quite restless. Like I said, she drove me crazy and I think it’s because part of her reminds me of qualities in my personality that I don’t like. However, you can’t help but smile every time she sees something she likes and says "oh, how be you ta ful!" in her accent. So, in a sense I did this hike with two extremely different parts of me, almost like the devil and angel on my two shoulders. We did feel quite accomplished after our hike.
Today we hiked to the top of Cradle Mountain. It was at a height of 1500 metres. It was probably one of the hardest hikes I have ever done. It took a few hours to get to the base. Then we had to climb over jagged rocks for a good hour and a half over very steep cliffs. If we were to fall we would get seriously hurt. But once we got up there the views were just amazing. I felt like I was on top of the world. And at the summit I experienced a quiet that I had never heard before. There was no wind at all at the top and no animals. There was literally no sound as I looked off at the mountain chains below me. We were so high up that we could see the ocean far off in the distance. Then we hiked back. Over the span of the day we spent probably around 9 hours hiking. We fell a lot, especially coming down the same steep way we came up. My ankle is currently shot and I have cuts all over my legs, but I don’t care. I accomplished something great today. My mind is finally clear.
It feels good to be backpacking again. I have been eating quite healthily on granola and peanut butter and apples. I have been eating lightly and saving money. I hope that I continue to stay in shape this way. I love travelling so much, always have and always will for these experiences. I am extremely blessed in my luck to have met the two Karins. And during these days of hiking I have decided to go on with them and not go back to Launceston for camping again. Being with these women have left me more happy than any boy could make me. I look forward to continuing on with our Tasmanian road trip of the west. I am very glad that I made the decision to come to Tasmania and continue on with travelling before I again try to find work in Australia. There is just so much beauty in this country I want to see while the weather is nice. I will keep you updated on how the rest of my road trip goes.