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Tassie

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 21 February 2011 | Views [410] | Comments [1]

So long Melbourne, it was time to head even farther south, by way of overnight ferry. After a short nights sleep aboard the Spirit of Tasmania, we stepped off the ship, rented our second car on the wrong side of the road, and found ourselves some breaky (breakfast of course). Tassie has a population of about 500,000 people with almost half of them living in and around Hobart, the "big" city. So to say that Tassie is lightly populated and rural would be a gross understatement. After we stocked up on groceries in our port city, we hit the good old country road. We didn't see much else besides cows, sheep, and an occasional house. The towns we passed through were small and adorable and all had berry-picking farms and local chocolate. We plan on coming back and doing a B&B tour of all these small towns when we are gray nomads (a local term for retirees with an itching for travel). 

After some very narrow windy roads with lots of camper vans to keep us company, we arrived at Cradle Mountain National Park. We purchased our park pass and were taken into the park on their courtesy shuttles. They try to keep the animal disturbances to a minimum by offering these instead of having cars and camper vans driving in and out. They run every 8 minutes! Fortunately, the majority of the people who pack these vans full every 8 minutes walk about 500 meters, get their picture, and head on back. We decided to brave the park and go for a walk, and perhaps even brave a hike.


By the time we left the park two and a half days of hiking later, we had hiked every possible trail they had to offer and in case you didn't already guess, we had most of the trails to ourselves. It was pretty darn good. We hiked on trails around lakes, up to lookouts over even more lakes, and up a few small mountains (almost up the 5,000ft). We walked along an 8.5 km board walk, all of which was immaculately kept and maintained aside from the frequent piles of square wombat poo. A funny little creature. They are hard of hearing and are therefore quite easy to sneak up on and watch. Pretty darn cute. At night their other friends would come out too causing any vehicle on the road to drive at a crawl and still the roads were littered with roadkill! The animals here have no predators so are perhaps a few bricks short of a full load when it comes to self defense. They become victim to cars over and over again by trying to scavenge last nights roadkill and becoming roadkill themselves. This is fine at home when it involves skunks, rabbits, or raccoons, but here the animals are so cute it is just so sad! No one wants to see a Tasmanian devil or a cute little pademelon squashed, but more often than not they do.

Fortunately, you also get to see most of these creatures alive too. The cabin we stayed at was named after the pademelon. We had a little pademelon family that would come and visit in the mornings and evenings. We also saw wallabys, echidnas, and a few other animals that we hadn't learned about at the zoo yet.  You might have to Google them to see for yourself what the heck they look like. 

Having exhausted our hiking opportunities at Cradle Mountain, we moved onto our next National Park, Freycinet. The drive there was through small towns of course, but the scenery was spectacular. Sheep farms, rolling fields with cows grazing, fruit orchards, vineyards, and rain forests, all along the narrow windy roads that take you through Tassie. Point A to point B may not be that far, but everything takes a long time here. Never knowing the speed limit, we were also a bit wary. They post the speed for the zone that has just ended so it is hard to know what you are entering. Sneaky.

Freycinet was on the east coast of Tassie. We were told the kayaking here was great, but our good weather from Cradle had left us and we had some colder rainier days that we could easily hike through but would be less excited to kayak through, so off we went. As with Cradle Mountain, there were swarms of people, but they were easily left behind as soon as the pavement ended. We hiked straight up steep slippery rocks to the top of a mountain that no one else was on. We got perfect views of the bays below us, one of which is called Wineglass Bay which according to National Geographic is one the top 10 best beaches in the world. We believe them too now.  After slipping down the mountain, Victoria's favorite thing to do, we walked down even further to the bays and along the beaches. A few brave soles were swimming, but we kept right on trucking. 

Our final stop in Tassie was the city of Hobart. We got there just in time for the Saturday market and despite the rain, there were plenty of people out and about. It was like our Boulder Farmer's Market but 4x the size and full of arts and craft vendors as well as amazing food stalls. It was right along the water in an older part of town with cute little houses lining the streets.

We had met a family in Halong Bay while kayaking who we had chatted with over a lunch, discovering that we had been on nearly the same path for the last month and a half through SE Asia. We had a great time talking with them and as we were departing they offered us a place to stay in Hobart. So, we took them up on it. They live in a cute house in a quiet neighborhood on a hill above the city. We spent our visit with them chatting about our mutual travels, what they had missed, and avoiding the rain. Maybe it was just the rain, but Hobart felt a bit like Tacoma. Sunny one minute, rainy the next. It was a city on a hill over a harbor that spread out in all directions. There were really cute neighborhoods to run and walk in and a moderate climate that allowed flowers to bloom and the grass to be green year round.

Our hosts took us to a newly opened art museum in town created by a man who made his fortune gambling and then collected art. The museum was of his personal collection and there were 4+ floors of it! Odd to say the least, but someone called it all art and it was all his. Among other things we saw a poo machine that "ate" food, digested it and pooed it out, and plenty of other very strange things along those lines. It was culture all right. People were pouring in and every single visitor was given an iPhone as a guide that would figure out your location and give you information about each piece. Amazing! And it was all for free.

We visited the botanic gardens and found a Japanese Garden, and herb garden, a veggie patch, a rose garden, a fuchsia garden, and a sub-antarctic garden that was very cold! If only our cities back home had these things for free!  Now if only we could find the same price for internet.  We took a scenic drive up the nearby Mt. Wellington which is 3,000ft straight above the city and had snow on it the morning we flew out (remember it is summer down here).  At the top was an amazing view but we had to fight the gail-force wind that made our rain coats look like parachutes.

The final highlight that was totally a fluke was bumping into a formal Speed-walking competition along the waterfront.  At first we saw folks jogging around in bibs, spandex and numbers and thought we might see some kind of race.  Well we sure got to see a race alright!  What a goofy sport, and make no doubt these folks were athletes but somehow have not taken the evolutionary step to actually running. 

Tassie was wonderful and a place we could easily have spent more time in, but alas we will have to wait for our return another day.  And we will no doubt hit the Cadbury Chocolate factory that was closed.

Now off the the place where almost 25% of the entire population of country lives: Sydney.

T&V

Comments

1

Victoria and Travis: We've been loving your travel journaling. Ready to visit Tasmania! We got your post card today...Feb 28...fast! Thanks for thinking of us...we just bought our plane tickets to VT a couple of days ago! Happy Birthday Trav...your Mom and I hiked on your birthday!
Sharon and Dobber

  Sharon Dobson Mar 1, 2011 11:02 AM

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