Walk of Life: Tasmania (Part Two)

Sometimes in the course of my travels a relatively minor event will occur that i intend to include but which I forget about when it comes to writing the blog (even though I try to keep daily notes). Part of the reason I decided to write this was because I wanted to keep a record of my travels so that once I’m back in the UK I can try and use it to remind myself of how I felt at certain times. The highs and the frustrations. I also wanted to record my observations of different places and people and to add a bit of personality to my various adventures so that it remained interesting. An example of an omission was my experience when I arrived in Hobart and the blog has been updated to include this.

Thursday 19th December
Having spent the night in Launceston and not really seen any of the town at all we were up early so we could do a short walk through Cataract Gorge. This is where the South Esk River enters the Tamar River and our walk was from Kings bridge to the first basin. It was looking to be another nice day, in fact we had been told it would reach a high of 27 degrees which apparently is impressive for Tasmania.

Tasmania is bigger than I expected and on most days as we had a lot of ground to cover we needed an early start to ensure we covered the itinerary however it also meant the first activity was met with slightly less enthusiasm. The walk itself was therefore nice enough but I was still fairly tired from another early start and I don’t think I maybe appreciated it as much as I could have done and it wasn’t particularly memorable (and that isn’t meant to sound blasé).

There was a nice garden and a number of peacocks walking around one of which blocked the path in what appeared to be a desperate attempt to get our attention as it showed off it feathers. It seemed to work. Carrying on alone I saw a wallaby bounding up the steps towards the suspension bridge and I expected to see it again when I got to the top but it appeared to have vanished when I got there. I crossed the bridge met up with the guide and we waited for the others.

Our next stop was the Bay of Fire which was named because of the red/orange coloured rocks on the beach. Unfortunately what had started a very sunny day was now becoming a bit cloudy though it was still warm enough to go in the sea and we all had a lot of fun climbing over the big rocks. There was a little outcrop of rocks just off the shore and I was able to walk to them because I found a “path” through the sea where the depth was relatively shallow. I guess this is why we had been told to be careful because the beach wasn’t even.

Leaving the Bay of Fire we continued our journey to Bicheno where again we had opted to have another $5 own cooked meal together in the hostel. Before lunch a few of us felt we hadn’t been as active as some of the previous days so we went on a short walk to see a blow hole. The weather was calm and as a result there wasn’t really a lot happening. I decided to get a better look by climbing down on to a ledge and the back of me got a bit wet when a freak wave came up from the side. If only someone had got a before, during and after photo.

I had been a bit reluctant to decide whether to participate in the penguin parade at Bicheno. I’d only just seen the ones on Phillip Island and wasn’t sure I could justify doing something similar again. This was meant to be a more personal experience and because the majority of the tour were taking part I decided to join, mainly because of the FOMO phobia (fear of missing out).

The guide provided more information for example the little blue penguin (Australia’s only penguin) is a species which is around 45 million years old. It is the smallest type in the world averaging a height of 45cm. The Emperor penguin (the tallest) as a way of comparison has a height of up to 130cm. The little blue penguin is walk half a kilometre when they return from the sea, where they have been swimming and fishing all day, which is the equivalent of me walking 15km after work.

I’m glad I joined, it may sound a silly reason but for a start the moon was spectacular and appeared to rise out of the ocean. I don’t recall every seeing this before and when it had “risen” it provided a faint trail through the water. Obviously the penguins were just as cute second time round and this time we were allowed to stand on the actual path used so one ran up to my feet before deciding to pass through Eric’s legs instead. We also had the opportunity to see inside some of the nesting boxes to get an even closer look.

Returning to the hostel some had stayed back to play monopoly but there was no I chance of a winner because no one was prepared to sell. I tried to help Luke make a deal but this was rejected and the game ended with each claiming they were the winner. The “jump tour group” who were on a similar circuit returned after us having been to the pub and decided to do some drunken cooking but luckily this time a fire engine was not required.

Friday 20th December
We had another very early start as it was hoped the weather would be nice enough for us to walk Mount Amos in the Freycinet National Park home to a mountain range known as the Hazards. Unfortunately because it was so early there was a lot of sea mist and cloud cover so the lookouts didn’t really provide any view of Coles Bay or Wineglass Bay on the way up.

In some ways it was nice because it gave the surrounding mountains a mystical appearance however it was also rather damp and under whelming. Despite a bit of rain and being eaten alive by mosquitoes we carried on walk down to Wineglass Bay itself and my spirits were raised when we saw a mother wallaby and its joey. The walk down was quite steep (meaning it would be another painful walk back up) and when we go it the bottom some of the mist had lifted and there was a patch of blue sky. It was however far to early to even consider going in the sea and as there wasn’t much to do me and Vik started the climb back up before some had even reached the bottom.

We passed the baby and mother wallaby again whilst also still being eaten by mosquitoes and made our way back to the top in less time than we had expected. We carried on back up to the lookout. Whilst it still wasn’t that great in terms of weather some of the cloud had lifted and we could see the land mass on the other side of the bay.

We arrived back in the car park much earlier than expected so I decided to do 15 minutes along the Mt Amos track because the cloud had lifted off the peak and I fancied seeing the mountain more clearly. On my way I saw a Bennett wallaby that I named “Gordon” who seemed particularly at ease with visitors. I saw the same wallaby on my return and soon after the rest of the group returning from the beach walk had caught up and Gordon (the) Bennett received a lot of attention.

We briefly stopped at a small town where the population was probably lower than Dagnall but it somehow seemed more active called Coles Bay. This was to get some supplies (if needed) for the journey back to Hobart though we did stop again at Ross where one bakery claimed to sell “world famous scallop pies” and the other claimed to sell the “best vanilla slice in the world as voted by vanilla slice experts”. How exactly do you become a vanilla slice expert? Is it a self proclaimed title? Either way if it was the best in the World I won’t be having one again for it was my first and apparently it can’t be bettered even though my reaction was a mere “it’s alright I suppose”. The scallop pie however was quite nice, mainly because of the curry flavoured filling, even though when I ordered it I knew I was taking a big risk because I don’t normally enjoy fish…

We arrived back in Hobart and had a meal at a fish restaurant called Mures. We weren’t really sure where to go out but had heard the Salamenca area was quite good. A few of us were also still hungry so went in search of a taco van that was roaming the streets though I gave up deciding to join Duncan for a liquid supper instead. Unfortunately because he was wearing thongs/sandals he wasn’t allowed in to “Irish Murphy’s” so instead we headed for the pub next to the hostel where they were doing karaoke.

Some of the other group members joined us and there were two groups in the bar totally wasted and too sober for the event with us all sadly probably falling in to the latter category. I wanted to have a go because well I thought I couldn’t be any worse than those already on stage (I probably was worse) but no one else was keen. I managed to convince Noelia to do a quick duet of Summer of 69 and it got the crowd going more than the other songs but by then some of the group had left and with another fairly early start the rest of us left once we’d finished the song.

Saturday 21st December
Today was the final day of the tour and it was amazing how quickly the time had gone. We started off by driving to Richmond which is famous for having the oldest road bridge in Australia still in use. The bridge like most of the buildings in the town/village were built by convicts. After a brief stop and walk around we carried on to Port Arthur the old penal settlement which had replaced Maria Island.

The Tasman Peninsula was almost a natural prison as it only had a narrow strip of land connecting it to the mainland and it was therefore remote. Port Arthur was therefore for those convicts that had re-offended once they were in the colony and it was a place of hard labour and to be feared (the emphasis was on breaking the prisoners spirit).  The sun was shining and the somewhat poignant remains of the Gothic buildings making up the settlement were nicely juxtapositioned against the surrounding landscape. It is true that some may visit and be surprised that a prison island could have such natural beauty.

After a brief walk to the old shipyard of which nothing remained and which I hadn’t realised before heading off I made my way to the church via the restored gardens. The gardens were particularly nice and almost looked artificial and modern due to the fact this had been a prison but apparently they were authentic and had been planted for the non convicts living on the island.

I made my way back to the visitor centre to join an organised 1 hour walk where the guide provided us with lots of information and gave us some ideas about where to visit during our remaining time. Luckily for me we finished near the separate prison which I had wanted to see. This building was isolated from the main prison with the intention that the prisoners spirit would be broken if they were not part of the comradery sprit. The prison also included one cell at the end of a passage reached by 4 doors to ensure no light got in. When I was looking around (the doors were open) Lenka shut the final door on me. I had expected this but after a while and it being silent outside I started to wonder if she had left. I felt along the wall trying to find the door when she suddenly opened it much to the amusement of a group of children. It was amazing just how dark it was and that was with 3 of the outer doors still open and it’s no wonder many of the convicts were later sent to the islands asylum – not that there was a link at the time.

We then made our way to the boat cruise where we saw the Island of the Dead, the resting place for the prisoners who died in the prison and the settlers that lived in the community outside the prison. We could also see Point Pier which was the boys prison and the guide explained how the intention had been to teach various crafts and skills. The views were very nice and we could see the passage out to the Tasman sea.

We had been given a playing card each and the idea was to go around a display in the visitor centre to find out about an individual who lived on the island. I had the 5 of clubs which belonged to Daniel Fraser a Scottish 19 year old male who had 7 years transportation for breaking in to a house and then received 7 years in Port Arthur for absconding from work and remaining at large until caught.

Leaving Port Arthur we travelled through the Tasman national park to a number of geographical features along the coast which included the Tasman Arch, the Devil’s Kitchen and another Blow Hole. The sea was calm and the views lovely but neither the blow hole or the devils kitchen looked as menacing as they must do on stormy days.

When we arrived in Hobart the tour was officially over and I’d made plans to see my friend Amy who I’d met in New Zealand. She had a few work colleagues over for pizza and beers and after that we headed to a pub called “the telegraph”. I hadn’t had an opportunity to visit Mt Wellington and there was a brief discussion about visiting for the sunrise at 4am but after the night out I was rather relieved I didn’t receive the call the following morning!

Sunday 22nd December
The weather had become rather bad over night and because it was Sunday most places were closed until at least 9am. I had hoped I’d be able to fit in a quick visit to the famous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) but realised my flight was to early. As with Melbourne I wished I’d just allowed that extra day because in hindsight it’s not really like I was in a rush to leave.

Instead I saved myself some money and did my own walk around the historic area though I have to admit the rain didn’t make me that enthusiastic especially when I reached battery point only to find it was a village and the mist that had rolled in prevented any views of the bay. Instead I consoled myself with a proper lamington from a local cafe which had jam in the middle and was much fresher and larger than the one I’d had on the “puffing billy tour”. It still wasn’t as good as mine though (joke).

I’d had a bad feeling there would be a problem with my airport shuttle booking because when I called the office had sounded very busy. I’d also been told to call 24 hours before I needed the booking and had accidentally given 48 hours notice and then lost the booking number. I’d contacted the company about 15 minutes before the pick up and there didn’t seem a problem. 10 minutes after and still no shuttle I called again and was told I was on the list for the day before. I had a minor panic even though I still had enough time and luckily there was a driver in the area (who I’d seen coming from the airport when I’d been waiting) that could take me there. The driver was very friendly and had just spent some time in Europe and we discussed various things on the journey including the cricket which I try to get out of the way quickly.

As seems to be the way with Jet Star the flight was delayed so with the extra time I completed a survey for the Tasmanian tourist industry. Next stop Christmas on Bondi Beach.

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