Hobart, via many great places in Tasmania, Devonport.
Highlights: Fires, mountains, “non-crap” bread, hospitality, wombats.
Day 371-372 – Jan 10-11 : Arrived in Taz
After a long night in the airport we were on autopilot when we picked up the rental car. The rental company told us they didn’t have many available cars since they had forty stuck on the Tasman Peninsula because of the bush fires. After a quick drive into Hobart we arrived at our friend Fi’s parents’ house and from the word go experienced their great hospitality.
Rested and fed on non-crap bread, the next day we went for a little drive south around the peninsula via funny named settlements like ‘Snug’ and ‘Egg and Bacon Bay’.
On the way back we hit something that caused the car to behave oddly, and I soon realised we had a flat tyre, something neither of us had much experience of! The hardest part of changing a tyre on a car is to find all the tools and the spare wheel, otherwise it is pretty easy.
Day 373-374 – Jan 12-13 : Market and mountain
Every Saturday Hobart has the Salamanca market, which is packed with craft and food stalls. Hobart is a very pretty with many old buildings next to the water and below Mount Wellington. We were also treated to folk music and gymnastic show.
Sunday morning we took delicious packed lunch, made with fresh baked homemade bread, to the foot of Mt Wellington for a walk. This track started at the hotel, which burned down three times in 30 years so the gave up rebuilding it after the last time. We hiked up past the pipes and up the Zigzag Track which gave us great views over Hobart and the many bays in the area. We could also see the still going fires on the Tasman Peninsula.
A brilliant quote from the top : The pinnacle is easily marked by a square pile of logs, which can be easily climbed by men, and without much difficulty by any ladies who are anxious to feel that they have done the Mountain thoroughly.
Day 375 – Jan 14 : Maria Island
We drove out of Hobart via Sorell where we could smell the smoke from the peninsula. You can understand why the fire had spread that fast since the countryside was all dry and brown.
Driving up to Triabunna we spotted a few cycle tourers and at the harbour too, which made us rather jealous.
We got on the ferry over to Maria Island, an old prison camp. The ranger was very helpful and jolly when booking us in, even giving us a crash course in how to deal with snake bites, and we walked over to the campsite. On route we passed a wombat, a funny little creature, furry and stockily built, like a rock, and some geese with very green beaks.
Before dinner we headed out to the Painted Rock since low tide was just about to turn into high tide. The rock pools were full of funny animals and the painted rock, sandstone, had a range of colours from bright red to almost white.
The night started out very cold, but we wrapped up warm. We were woken by some little creature, possibly a wombat, who had decided to pay us a nocturnal visit. Even with the stars out we were nice and warm (almost too warm) in our tent.
Day 376 – Jan 15 : Mt Bishop/Clark
We got up early to be able to do a hike and get back in time for the afternoon ferry. This was the second time we discovered that what the various tour guide leaflets and the signs on the track were not in complete agreement with each other regarding the suggested walk duration. I think we found at least three different times.
We dumped our extra gear at the old commissar office and went past the cemetery and then fossil bay. 290 million-year-old sea shells that they found when digging for cement.
The next bit was easy walking along the open cliffs, from where we saw a dolphin playing around the the waves. Then into the bush/forest which was rather thick at times like walking through a jungle. Then the walk kicked in, up and over a rock slide where Peli saw a snake running away to hide. Nothing to worry about, only three species of snakes on Tasmania and all are venomous.
The next bit went over big boulders and we had to do some rock climbing to get to the top. Where we were treated to a splendid view over the island and the bays below.
We found that we were the first on the summit this morning. As we walked down the mountain we were often asked how far to go and how long would it take.
We walked into Darlington to look at the old prison, which was more like an working farm. The more upper class prisoner had a little cottage, where the other had bunk beds. The island had a weird ghost town feeling to it but yet not scary.
On the back we got treated to a pod of dolphins following the wake of the ferry, a amazing show.
Day 377 – Jan 16 : Mt Field National Park
Loaded up with a packed lunch from our wonderful hosts we headed towards Mount Field National Park. We would have liked to have hiked in the high country but this part of the park but was closed because of the nearby fires.
Though we did have a good walk via Russell Falls which included a climb up a stair case with 239 steps.
We also saw two cute little wallabies in the bush and some tall gum trees.
Tasmania is stunning and lives up to what we had been told in New Zealand. Everyone told us us that we would like it and we honestly did. It sounds a bit bad and somewhat punchy for the lack of a better word to say that we are getting a bit bored at looking at nice scenery. We are becoming numb when we see something stunning, the wow factor isn’t there any more. There are only so many waterfalls, glaciers, mountains, animals, rivers, forests, churches, old houses, beaches, bays, lakes, cemeteries, volcanoes etc that you can look at and still be amazed. We think it is because we really haven’t had the time to process the last year and haven’t time to think and remember our wonderful travels.
Day 378-379 – Jan 17-18 : Fires
The road to Port Arthur have been open for a few days after the fires and we decided to give it a go. We drove trough kilometres of burned out bush before we got to Dunalley which was a very sad sight. The fire had totally randomly burnt down houses to the ground, nothing left and missed others. Seeing it on the telly don’t really put the point across but seeing it ourselves made it a sombre journey.
We had planned to have a walk around and our packed lunch, did I mention the yummy bread, in Port Arthur. But as soon we got out of the air-conditioned car Peli’s asthma, even on extra strong drugs, told us to do a tactical retreat.
So we went to the Devils Kitchen, Blowhole and Pirate Bay because they all were on the coast and had fresh air. We could see the smoke coming from the fires hanging over the forest on the peninsula.
The next day was used to watch the interview with Armstrong, let’s just say that the hard hitting American interview skills used by Oprah is weak. No pushing, no follow up and let the interviewee dodge the questions. They should have had BBC’s Paxman conducting the interview and we wouldn’t have had this “oh I’m so sorry/I understand your hardship/poor Lance” soft interview. But I’m glad that he finally said he was a liar, bully and a drug cheat. Now we just need a clean up in the ranks from the riders to the bosses of the various cycling organizations who clear knew what is going on but is turning a blind eye.
The rest of the day was spend planning the week on Tasmania with a route that would make the best of the weather, hikes and avoid the fires.
Day 380-381 – Jan 19-20 : Lake Sinclair
The plan was to get up early and set of, but the comfort, company and hospitality we have endured over the last week was impossible to say goodbye to. Packed with a yummy lunch we drove via the supermarket to Lake Sinclair to be ready for a walk up Mount Rufus the next morning.
Lunch packed with crap bread and breakfast eaten we set out to do the Mount Rufus circuit around seven hour walking and 600 metres climbing.
The first bit was through bush, at times very dense, with gum trees and ever so smelly tea trees. When we got above the tree line we got great views of Lake Sinclair and the surrounding peaks.
Peli then started to talk about herself it’s always me, me, me on our walks. Wonderful, stunning and beautiful was the words she muttered.
On top of Mount Rufus we had 360° views of the national park with only a light breeze and the odd fluffy cloud. We then descented down pass some fantastic rock formations onto the broad walk. A wood track through the swamp and later rain forest.
Seven and a half hours later we staggered into the campsite rather knackered, but we really enjoyed the walk.
Day 382-384 – Jan 21-23 : Cradle Mountain
We fuel up with petrol and food in Queenstown, a funny little place. It was easy to see that the town haven’t changed much in years somewhat stuck in some bygone heyday. The landscape bears the signs of open mined mining, which we hear the town folks wasn’t too keen on planting over, so it still looked like a moon scape.
We enjoyed two real short walks one was up a view point and the other was to some waterfalls. We arrived in Cradle Mountain National Park late afternoon an pitched up in the campsite next to the main parks office and car park. After a brilliant warm shower we cooked up in the very big and nice kitchen, two big fires and benches with a long ceiling to floor window out to the bbq area.
Late evening as the clouds started to pull in with some rain we had an animal literally drop in on us. We are not sure what it was, but we heard something scuffling around outside and climb up the sole tree next to the tent. To only a few seconds later use our tent as a trampoline and then run away, I wonder it was the animal kingdom version of Knock Down Ginger.
While we were cooking breakfast we spotted a cycle touring couple who had a pannier explosion on the tables out site. Good to see that we are not the only one who pack a lot and we spend some time comparing gear trough the windows. Though it was a bit hard to sit and look at, as the more we looked the more jealous we became, where are our bikes! When you spot someone with panniers you get chatting, so storied where exchanged with the German cycle tourers. They we on their way to New Zealand with a broken Hilleberg, yup they too reported a less than desired costumer service and a broken zip, which took them over two hours to sew in an replacement by hand.
We spend a fair time over breakfast and with the chatting, so when we were ready to go, the clouds had come in and rain had started, so the hope of seeing the Cradle Mountain was out. We took the free, after you paid for the National Park Pass, shuttle bus from the information centre to Dove Lake. Cradle National Park is the start to the overland track that takes around 3-5 days to walk to Lake Sinclair. Our second visit to the start and finish of a famous walk, one day we will do the whole thing.
Many of the walks in Tasmania are on wooden walk ways which at first we found that a bit like it would ruin the walk. They are put in so that the walkers ruin the land and also make it easier to cross the swamps and streams. Dove Lake walk took around two hours to do before we took the shuttle back to the campsite.
Early evening lived up to the weather forecast and started to clear up and we crossed fingers that the forecast would be correct for tomorrow.
Woke up early and as we were packing the tent down and having breakfast the last of the few remaining clouds departed and left us with blue skies. A quick trip on the free shuttle and we joined the overland track for the first bit. Climbed up to Maria Lookout and from there we could look over Dove Lake, rather different looking with blue skies than in yesterdays clag. From the lookout we could see the mountains and Cradle Mountain and nearly the whole park. While I had a breather Peli walked on for around 45min to stretch their legs, before we headed back via Wombat lake.
A short drive later we pulled up at Gowrie Park where the campsite offered free wifi. Which we at first were looking forward too, been a while since we had reported back to base and checked our email. Though the internet speed send us to sleep and we retired early. But soon we heard the wallabies chewing away on the grass around the tent and even sometimes stumble over our guy lines.
Day 385-388 – Jan 24-27 : Changing coast
We had a long drive over to the West Coast to the Freycinet National park, which we would like to see before we left the island. Having a car does have its benefits, this journey would be a good week on a bike and we wouldn’t have had much time to stop and look at things either.
Good news the forest fires north of the park were out but we could still smell them but not as bad as the ones we spotted near Port Arthur. The weather had come in so the walk around Wineglass bay was out of the picture. We had a quick run up to the lookout where we saw more rain than the sandy beach.
We camped out at a free campsite at Friendly Beaches at first it looked fully booked until we found a little gap in the bush and a perfect spot for our tent.
Cooking was done behind the car in between the showers before we climbed into our tent for the night.
The next morning we had a short walk on the very windy beach before we set off north and hopefully away from the dark heavy clouds to the south of us hanging over Freycinet National Park.
In between the heavy showers we managed to see some waterfalls and the pretty bay of fires. The red moss was really out in the grey light and we enjoyed the big waves.
In tourist booklet, Peli had found a free campsite for the night. But when we arrived it was a paid for campsite at a steep $6 a night, for that we got a brilliant shower and a simple cooking shelter that was very nice and clean. If you were lucky and near the river you could be lucky to spot a Platypus.
The following day was spend driving to Devonport to get the ferry to Melbourne. We had a quick walk up the Cataract Gorge in Launceston and a drive out to Low Head. We pitched up in Devonport just down the road from the ferry port. We haven’t planned ahead enough so we had to hand back the rental car in the morning and our ferry was due at 9pm. Lucky the staff gave us the remote to the TV in the waiting lounge. So Peli got to see some horses run about and then there was the final stage of the Tour de Down Under and then Andy “Tim” Murray played in the final of the Melbourn tennis cup.