Sunday, April 3, 2011

Tasmania in 5 days - Not long enough!

After a long wait for my flight to Tasmania, it ended up only taking 50 minutes to fly there. However, when we arrived at the airport, the transfer bus I had booked had failed to turn up.

I spoke with a security guard who worked at the airport and she had 3 telephone numbers for the bus company, but none of them worked. I ended up sharing a taxi into town with 3 Asian people who were in the same position as me. We didn’t know where we were going, but it turned out great as the taxi dropped us off right outside the hostel where we were staying.

Hobart is very quiet at night and after booking into the Hostel, I took a wander around and it took me nearly 15 minutes and a mile walking to find a bar that was open. I liked this place immediately. It just has an oldy worldly feel about it and is a lot more relaxed than big cities on mainland Australia

After a good nights sleep I got up and went for a run around the town. It was a lovely day and I spent a good hour exploring the city itself and down by the waterfront too, before heading back to the hostel and doing my laundry for the first time since I left New Zealand 10 days ago.

In the afternoon I took another walk around town and visited the bus office, where I managed to get my money back from the manager, for the bus not turning up last night. I had a lovely fish and chip lunch by the waterfront, surrounded by seagulls who waited patiently for me to drop any scraps. I eventually fed than a chip or two before leaving – They were the most polite seagulls I have ever encountered!!

I was due to leave on the 'jump' tour of Tasmania bus in the morning, so the evening was spent watching telly in the TV room - Top gear was on so it was a good night.

In the morning I was up and out by 7.30am, ready for the bus to pick me up at 8. I ran into one of the girls from the TV room yesterday and she was also on the tour for 3 days. She is called Nina and amazingly she studied in Maastricht for a while!! When the bus picked up up we drove around Hobart picking up a few people, including another Dutch girl (Corina), who even more amazingly was from Sittard – Just about 5 miles from where I lived in Brunssum. Its a small world. Also on the bus were a couple of German girls, an Irish girl, a welsh girl and a girl from Harrogate (Where I also lived for 2 years) plus a group of Asian students from Brisbane, but originally from Taiwan/Korea etc. There are only 3 blokes on the bus – that’s me, one Asian fella and Simon, the bus driver/tour guide. Its a good job that I am used to travelling with girls!!!

Our first stop of the day was at Russell Falls, where we had a nice chat and a walk through the forest to see the falls. They are really nice falls and cascade over a series of outcrops. Back on the bus we then stopped at a Hydro electricity plant in the middle of nowhere. It turns out that when it was built the houses that were also built had been left to rot, until a businessman bought them cheap and turned the whole village into a posh hotel, with the houses as the rooms.

Further on down the road we stopped in the middle of nowhere when Simon, spotted a Padamelon (a sort tof hedgehog animal, but unrelated to a hedgehog) that jhad just crosssed the road. We then stopped at Lake St Claire, where after lunch in front of a roaring fire, myself, Nina and Corina took a walk to a spot where we spotted a platypus playing in the waters of the lake. It was really interesting to see, even though it was by now raining quite hard.

On the next stage of the journey we saw the strangest ever rainbow. It wasnt in an arch in the sky like a normal rainbow, but was hovering just a few feet off the fround over a small hill in the distance. It was the strangest thing to see. Next, we stopped at a place where after a short walk we reached the top of a hill with a spectacular 360degree view over the surrounding valley and river. It was lovely up there, but we could see the rain heading towards us across the valley, so we got back to the bus before we got soaked again.

The last stop of the day was in Queenstown, where we bought some food and drink for the evening and for lunch tomorrow. Tonight we stay in Jump Tours own house in a small town.

It was a good first day on the tour and looks like being a good week. Its a shame that the weather isn’t better, but the girls on the bus are all nice and its been a fun day chatting and getting to know each other. We got to okow each other a lot better at night as we stayed in a house owned by th tour company in a small town called Tullah. The house has a kitchen and 4 bedrooms with bunkbeds in them all. We spent most of the night sat around the kitchen table playing daft drinking games, including the bottletops game I learned on Flying Kiwi. I nipped across the road to the pub with Simon, Nina, Corina, Nicky and Siw, where we had a lovely homemade lasagne for dinner and a beer in front of a roaring fire- again. Then it was back to the house and a final drink before bed. Well all except for Nicky, who couldnt take much more ofd the goon we were sharing and was sick in a bucket!

In the morning we all woke up wit thick heads and after a breakfast of porridge we hit the road.

First stop today was Montezuma falls. These are spectacular waterfalls that you have to walk about 5km to through the forest. We had a lovely walk and took about an hour to reach the 104metre high waterfall. It was well worth the walk as it is really a beautiful spot. There is also a little bridge that you can walk across and get a good view of the falls. I walked to the other end of the bridge and saw a sign stating' Only 2 people maximum on the bridge'. I waited till everyone was on the bridge then took back a photo of the sign to show them. Haahaa~! They all cleared the bridge as quickly as they could. We spent a while at the falls, clambering up on the rocks to get a decent photo taken before we headed back to the bus and a rest until we reached our next stop. This was the town of Strahan, where we had a spot of lunch in a fish and chip cafe by the waterfront.

The last stop of the day was at Henty sand dunes, where me and Siw had a quad biking tour of the dunes. It was more of a rally around the sand as we raced each other and was a really good 45 minutes. When we finished we caught with the rest of the gang who had been jumping around the dunes while we did the quad biking.

It was then a case of Simon driving us back to the house we stayed in last night where we sat around the table again with a drink and had dinner.

Day 3 of the tour started when Simon came into the house and told us that he had reversed the trailer and damaged the back of the bus. We had a look at the dent, but it wasn’t too bad so we left for our days activities. First stop was a tour of cradle mountain – or so it was supposed to be. The clouds were really low and it was drizzling, so we took a walk around Dove lake instead, which is just below the look out point we were supposed to visit. It was a nice walk, even though we got wet wit the rain. After that it was to the town of Sheffield, where there is a quite well known mural competition every year and where the locals have pictures on the sides of their houses and shops. It is a nice little town with a lot of character and we enjoyed a great lunch before we had a look around the town. The last two stops of the day were at the honey factory, where we tasted about 30 different flavours of home-made honey and then the salmon farm, where we tasted and bought some really nice salmon and also tasted some ginseng vodka., which was really nice too.

We dropped off a lot of the gang in Perth as they were heading back to Hobart and leaving the tour. So there were only 6 of us left, including Simon the driver. We stopped for the night in a hostel in Launceston and the 6 of us headed out into a local Irish pub, where we had a few beers and a good chat over a pizza. There was a lovely open fire too, so it was nice and warm. We went home and had a good night sleep before, I got up early next morning to get some bread and cream cheese for our salmon, that we are having for lunch. We picked up a new passenger -Anneka from Germany, before we headed off for the day. It was a lovely sunny day and our first stop was a really nice lookout point overlooking a valley.

The next stop was really awesome. In a small town called Ledgerwood, there are a group of trees that were grown in memory of local people who as soldiers were killed in the First World War. In 2001, these trees were deemed to be dangerous and were due to be felled. But the local community got together and a local man, who carves wood using a chainsaw, said he could carve the trees in memory of the dead. Once permission was given he erected scaffolding and carved the trees into shapes, depicting the dead and their personal stories. It is a beautiful and very moving way to remember the local war dead. I liked it a lot.

Next on the agenda was the Pyengana dairy, where there is a dairy farm and the cows milk is used to make some great cheddar cheeses. They range from normal easy to eat cheese to all sorts of varieties with chillies, chives or other things added to give it more flavour. We spent a good while there tasting the cheeses and taking in the views of the pastures out the back of the dairy.

After a little shopping for some wine and plastic cups we headed towards the beach at The Bay of Fires. We found a lovely little bay where we spent a good couple of hours eating the salmon, cheese and drinking the wine that we had. It was great way to spend an afternoon and when we got back onto the bus we all fell asleep while Simon drove us towards our next destination at Bicheno.

Bicheno is al lovely little town and after checking into the backpackers hostel, we were given a lift by Simon to a blow-hole in the rocks. It was really funny waiting for the sea to come in and squirt the water through the small crack in the rock and soaking whoever was closest.

We then took a walk along the coast where we met up with Simon again. He had built a fire on the beach and we spent a while there taking photos and enjoying the sunset as well as Siw doing a spot of fishing. When it started to get dark we moved along the beach a bit and sat on some rocks and waited. Shortly after we were rewarded with the sight of 8-10 little fairy penguins making their way up the rocks. They were no more than 10-15 feet away from us. Its the closest I have ever been to penguins and it was ace to see them up close.

Once we had watched the penguins we sat by the fire a while longer and then headed back to the hostel for a shower, a drink and then to bed.

The last day of the Tassie tour started at 8 when we got up and ready to leave. Only when someone else mentioned that the clocks had gone back during the night did we realise we could have stayed an extra hour in bed! We spent the extra time looking around a small market/car boot sale and visiting a bakery for coffee and croissants.

Our first visit of the day was to the local Nature reserve where there is the opportunity to feed Wallabies and Kangaroo, geese, ducks and deer as well as look at some snakes and wombats. The highlight though was the Tasmanian Devils. They are really cool little creatures that look really cute but actually have a really strong set of jaws and teeth – strong enough to crush bones. We watched them getting fed and learned a lot about them before we boarded the bus again and headed towards Wineglass bay. This is a beautiful bay, that is an almost perfect oval shape. We stopped for lunch on an outlook overlooking the bay before visiting another couple of stunning and quiet beaches and bays in the afternoon.

We stopped in the small town or Ross in late afternoon. This used to be the crossroads of Tasmania and wherever you were travelling,m you had to pass through. In the centre of town is a crossroads with the Town Hall on one corner, an Inn on another, a chirch on the third and a jail on the last. People said that which one you went to determined your destiny. The inn for temptation, the jail for damnation, the church for salvation and the town hall for recreation. Also there is the 3rd oldest used bridge in australia, that was built by two prisoners from the jail. They were given freedom when they finished the bridge, but later on it was discovered they had put caricatures of the governor in the stonework. They were supposed to go back to jail, but were never caught.

After Ross we headed on the last leg of the trip, back to Hobart. It has been a great 5 days with some cool people – Corina, Nina, Nicky, Siw and Simon expecially. Tasmania is a strange place that is years behind the mainland Australia, but is better for it. Shops and pubs open when they feel like it and there is very little mobile phone or internet coverage – but it is a great place to visit and discover. I may well come back and have another look around in my own time. For tonight though we are all metting up again and having a night out, then maybe tomorrow we will have one last day visiting Mt Wellington and the Mona museum.

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