15.02.2011 - 24.02.2011 19 °C
Ben Williams has been a close friend of mine ever since we started at Worcester Sixth Form College, over two years ago. We were in the same law and history classes and have been on many Duke of Edinburgh and BELA expeditions together. So, when we discovered that we would both be in Oz at the same time, we had to meet up.
Ben is currently living and working in Adelaide but suggested a trip to Tasmania, so we got some cheap flights and off we went. Unfortunately the early flight meant Sonya and I had to be up at 4am – sorry Son!
We flew from Melbourne to Launceston (in the north) because it was cheaper; the plane was in the air for less than an hour. However, once in Launceston and after many frustrated phone calls, we discovered that the only company prepared to rent us a car (as under 21s) was based in Hobart (in the south). So, we had to get a bus from one end of the island state to the other. Only three hours, but would have been 15 minutes extra flying time and only a few dollars more to fly directly to Hobart. Talk about the benefit of hindsight!
The rest of that day we spent exploring Hobart. Tassie is often compared to England; its weather, landscape and colonial landscape give the place a very English feel. The state capital is a pleasant port city. It reminded me somewhat of Bristol, with the historic marina, old buildings and pedestrianised High Street, or ‘Mall’.
We had a dinner of fresh fish and chips from ‘Flippers’, a floating shop in the marina, and then set about trying to find a place to camp.
Eventually, after over an hour and walking several ks, we found a spot – in the corner of a park – out of sight… so we thought. (It ended up being right next to someone’s driveway, in plain view of their house. We thought that was pretty funny in the morning; the homeowner did too)
The next day we finally managed to get a car – an old Mitsubishi Lancer.
Relieved to finally have transport, we bought a road map and got under way.
This rural scene looks like home.
But with rather different wildlife.
We ventured down onto the Tasman Peninsula, in the far south east, which has many beaches and some impressive coastal scenery.
We camped that night next to a beach and were visited by many wallabies and possums.
In the morning, a short dip in the sea was very refreshing, and very cold! The Southern Ocean runs all the way down to Antarctica. Unlike the warm waters at Balnarring beach, where I was a few days previously.
Back in Hobart, we spent a couple of hours in the botanical gardens.
We both thought this looked like something out of a National Trust property.
This was a great place to camp. The reservoir is part of an extensive hydroelectric scheme which powers the state.
Typical scenery on the western side of the island. This side has very few roads and is mostly inaccessible and wild.
The few roads are very windy.
Another wild camp. After heavy rain all night, this place was flooded by the morning. The tent was actually floating… not cool.
Cascade Pale Ale – our decided favourite Tassie beer.
A swing bridge over the Franklin River, at the start of the famous trek to ‘Frenchman’s Peak’.
This area is rich in minerals and has a strong mining history.
Mineral colourisation of the rock.
The extremely windy road down to Queenstown.
Queenstown is an old frontier mining town. When we were there, there was hardly a soul in sight; like a ghost town. Quite a strange place, it must have been similar to the prospecting towns in the American Wild West.
We had both hoped to do the walk up to the summit of Cradle Mountain, Tasmania’s most iconic. However the weather was that bad we decided it wasn’t worth it. Freezing cold, low mist, heavy rain; there would have been nothing to see of the spectacular scenery – we saved ourselves the misery. Instead, we visited ‘Devils at Cradle’, a conservation centre for the endangered and very vulnerable Tassie Devils.
This centre carries out research into the Devil Facial Tumour Disease, a cancer which threatens to cause the extinction of the devils. One of the guys running the centre gave us a very informative, interactive talk about the disease and their work to prevent devil extinction. Basically, due to historic bottlenecking and subsequent inbreeding, the devils are very genetically weak. This means they are unable to produce antibodies to fight off DFTD; it is always fatal and is transmitted very easily. Conservationists have to take devils from different geographical areas, quarantine them to ensure no DFTD, then breed them to create generations of genetically stronger devils which will thus be less likely to fall victim to disease.
We also talked about other, sometimes contentious, conservational issues, such as the introduction of foxes and dingoes, and how to manage the problems these cause. Sonya will be interested to learn that this centre researches, and has a display of, thylacines.
Tassie devils are the largest carnivorous marsupial in Australia.
I think they’re cute. They sound fearsome – growling, screeching and yelping – however these noises are not acts of aggression but a means of communication; they are very intelligent. Ben and I both thought that we had heard similar sounds outside our tent at night a few days before, however not sure.
Due to the foul weather, we had elected to stay in wood cabins rather than camp. This turned out to be a very good decision as it rained almost nonstop for two days.
At one point the rain turned to large hailstones, the temperature dropped to around freezing and snow fell in the mountains. In the middle of an Australian summer! We’d never get such weather in August in Britain… Tasmania is so different from the rest of Oz. Still, the place we stayed had a lounge with log fires, so we remained indoors all day drinking tea and playing cards.
An ostrich and emus at a farm.
Cup of tea – a regular ritual.
Back in Launceston, we visited a gorge with a walk around it, within the city limits. I didn’t really think much of the city the first time we were there, but beneath the surface it’s actually very pretty.
The infamous Bendigo Bank, who’s ATM stole $200 of my money.
Lots of thylacine references here.
This building looked a bit art deco – like something you’d see in Napier.
Boags was our second favourite beer.
Back on the mainland, I returned to the Mornington Peninsula and to a meal hosted by Jo, Sonya’s daughter, with Chris F., Caiden, Liam, Martin, Max and Sonya. Chris Dobbo wasn’t there but I’d met him the previous week. So, more or less, I got to meet the entire clan – albeit briefly. Still it’s good to be able to finally put names to faces.
One of the things I enjoyed most about staying with Sonya was the wide range of interesting conversations we had, something I'd dearly missed during the times spent by myself. Even fellow traveler chit-chat rarely goes beyond just that. ("Hi/where are
you from?/Where have you been?/How was it?/Where next?" ... etc). Of course, not always; now and again found myself in deep, heavy
conversations with interesting people, but that's not the norm. It's a shame my time in Balnarring was so short.
Following all the hellos and goodbyes, I met up with Ben again in Melbourne.
The next day we both caught ‘The Overland ‘train to Adelaide.
I chose the train, rather than flying, because I wanted to see some of the countryside. The scenery changes quite dramatically, from mostly green, fertile land in Victoria to much drier scrub in South Australia.