Tasmania Pt 2

LINK TO PART 1

We pick up the story on a very wet day’s drive to Stanley virtually on the north-west tip of the island. The world at 5:30am all started out quite rich in colours and views. Lots of reds and pinks, which as the sun rose higher, gave way to golds and the inevitable super-green of the cultivated fields and also the wilderness.

But by 9am, as the weather deteriorated, the rain obviously spoiled a great many views, but at the same time it made some other stuff a bit more spooky and perhaps a bit more awesome. Queenstown is definitely complimented by rain.

But back between 5:30 and 8am we kept wanting to stop for breakfast but nothing was open. We passed a quaint place called Hamilton and then Ouze (which naturally necessitated a bunch of gags) and then at Derwent Bridge it still wasn’t even 8am (when stuff was meant to open).

So no shop or skerrick of business that might serve food was apparent. We did pass a totally self-service automated petrol station. Bizarre.

The west of Tasmania is pretty undeveloped (apart from the north). At Derwent Bridge, we pressed on despite a sign saying 86km to the next petrol opportunity – which also meant a chance at getting food. We had about 1/3 of a tank left, but only about 5% in our bellies. But we had no choice food-wise and I figured the Micra could smash that distance and you’d barely notice the gauge moving.

Our “Mighty” Micra has been through a bit. It got smashed by falling branches and wood stuck under its undercarriage, plus massive potholes that sounded like oblivion when we hit them. All on gravel and sandy roads which we weren’t insured for. Then at Mt Field we felt the bottom of the car scrape the dirt below a few times. Not a very inspiring sound. The car looked pretty wild by the end of day 3.

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The Micra had other surprises. For the first four days we didn’t realise it didn’t have central-locking. So effectively the car was abandoned with every door except the driver’s unlocked a big bunch of times with all our stuff in it.

But this rain gave the car a super wash and it looked decent again.

After a reasonably fair breakfast at Queenstown — a place which I can’t work out is horribly ugly or kinda beautiful in it’s own little way — we headed for another old mining town called Zeehan. Zeehan rivalled Hobart and Launceston in size at one point and once had 20 pubs on its main street. And somehow I think Mark Twain visited here on his 150 date Australian tour.

But then disaster struck. We took a wrong turn and drove for ages on a road that was heading north — the direction we needed to travel — but it lacked any semblance of civilization attached. We saw no other cars, no houses, just a deserted factory. Eventually the road ended at a lake and in front of us was this dam wall – about 100ms long – with a tiny single lane road across it. A sign said we were now entering “private property” and to drive on this crossing was “at our own risk”. We were instantly freaked out and did a hasty u-turn and headed back the 36ks to Zeehan. Again we saw no other cars. It was so eerie.

Thankfully back at Zeehan, Dee and I swapped driving duties. It was all rain and winding roads for the next 30ks and then after that — a pretty bland highway all the way up to the top coast. When we suddenly got some views of the Bass Strait it was particularly arresting. We had been driving now for almost 6 hours and it had been about 7 hours since we had set out.  Soon “The Nut” – a massive volcanic plug rising almost 150m mostly surrounded by ocean was visible in the distance.

Here it is pictured the next day, a hell of a lot closer, and when things cleared up.

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It still looked pretty cool from 40ks away. Dark and crazy.

Our next B&B was actually quite awesome. We had the upstairs pad — all to ourselves — and the wind and rain were still Nuts (pun intended). This made us quite a bit scared to go outside so we waited and soon there was a break and we scrambled up the track to the summit. Of course it was stupidly steep, and we were dressed for dinner, but there was a  handrail and the weather was kind and soon we were back down and at the pub waiting for our 6pm slot for meals.

When we got home later that evening we were told there were ACTUAL PENGUINS sleeping in the backyard. Slightly incredulous we stumbled down the back stairs and into the darkness of the garden. We each lit up our iPhone torch light and suddenly they were everywhere. So freakishly cute. I tried my hardest to take a pic but failed. I was also a bit conscious not to freak them out so we left as soon as we could.

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SNOW & WOMBAT DAY

The next morning I took the opportunity of this super fine day. While Dee was finishing breakfast, and generally getting ready, I did a quick smash up The Nut. I did the 2km circuit and the epic views over the indian ocean were appreciated.

Dee picked me up at the base and we drove over to Wynyard for supplies and fuel. Of note, we stopped at this little service station and drove over one of those cords that ring a bell. OMG – a “Full Service” petrol station. These bad-boys still exist! Just as I got out of the car a dude was ready to help. It was a tiny bit weird but we had a conversation about where we were headed etc. The dude pretty much convinced me to take the safe route to Cradle. We then ventured into the IGA and felt like lepers. Dee commented that no matter how dressed-down she was, she still looked like a foreigner.

About 50ks down the road our tiny Micra was smashing up a hill and had to overtake a truck. Just after that we noticed a mountain over to the left had snow on it’s summit. “Cool!” we thought.

A bit further down the road I commented to Dee. “Um, is that snow on the side of the road?” And she looked over and although it took a while, we collectively decided it was indeed snow. We were suddenly ecstatic. Buzzing. And to our surprise the snow got incredibly more prolific the deeper we drove on.

Another 20ks later when we turned left towards Cradle we were catagorically in a winter wonderland. We stopped at the 930m “summit” of the Cradle Mountain Development Road. Despite just being in t-shirts and light clothes we then jumped around in the freezing snow like crazed maniacs. Our feet got wet through our shoes (despite me double-socking) but we didn’t care.

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A bit further down we made it to our place — our own “spa-cabin” at the Wilderness Village. On the drive-in Dee was like, “I want to see a wombat. I REALLY want to see a wombat. I really don’t care about anything else.” Immediately I felt a bit under pressure. So I made it a bit of a mission to ask the lady at the counter where we could possibly see one and she was saying about 4:30pm was the start of the best time and at a place called Ronny Creek.

A quick change of clothes to more appropriately deal with these conditions ensued. Neither of us had any idea snow was on the agenda — in October for fuck’s sake!

So I mounted a fresh set of socks, triple-sock-style and Dee did her best. She was pretty much under-prepared. It was super hard to put on my shoes, but it turned out to be solid on the super-wet Dove Lake walk where the track resembled a creek on most occasions as the snow-fall of this morning rapidly melted.

We headed around the lake but about 2kms-in when the weather took to being shit – we turned back. I had forgot the other wet-weather jacket (for Dee) so it was turn back or potentially suffer absolute misery.

And then something amazing happened. Almost at the Dove Lake carpark I was (as usual) about 20 paces ahead and I saw these Asian tourists stopped and as I stepped around them I froze. There, right on the track, was a wombat. A fucking WOMBAT! It was as big (or bigger) than Fatso from A Country Practice.

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I turned back around to find Dee in my eyeline and motioned as best as I could to quietly demonstrate the gravity.

And now we had this horribly placid furry-marsupial-cute-monster at our feet and it just wandered about and then while everyone was gushing it started eating the jeans of this small female Chinese tourist. (See pic above) Her partner freaked out a bit and stomped on the ground to frighten it. I was a bit horrified. In my head I thought, “If if wants to eat your jeans, well, let it and get new jeans.”

All I could say was, “It’s cool. It’s a vegetarian.”

Anyway, it wasn’t scared of the stomping nor me labelling it a vegetarian and just casually wandered off into the bush towards the lake. It was truly magical.

We just couldn’t believe our luck. Just like Dee I have never seen a wombat in the wild. It was in her absolute wish-list on this trip to Tasmania. You get to see all these “look out for wombats” signs, but not much of the real thing – unless it is roadkill.

But just when we were just recovering from all this awesomeness and when you thought it couldn’t get more amazing, then it started snowing. I shit you not, it was like a Disney movie. We were just dizzy with wonder.

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The next day was started raining and most of the snow quickly disappeared. We had to do something so we decided to get wet and ventured up to Crater Lake. Dee looked a bit like a cone-head in the process unfortunately.

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After that we had soup at the Cradle Mountain Lodge and saw another wombat.

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The next day I saw the forecast was for good weather. So I went to bed early and begged Dee to let me make an attempt on the summit. The plan was she would drive me down to the trailhead, drop me off, then drive back to our hut and get ready and eat breakfast and check out etc — then come back down to pick me up about 2 or 3 hours later.

So I set off much like these Overland Track hikers did. (I took this pick a bit later when I had come back down)

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DSCF6284If you look hard enough you can see a helicopter in the shot above.

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DSCF6300This little tarn had its surface frozen.

But there were complications which I had only started to think about when I was halfway up the mountain. The Cradle National Park has a strict quota of vehicles, not including shuttle buses. So there’s this boomgate thing where you get let in if there ain’t too many cars down there — but at busy times the boom gates make you wait until enough cars have left before you get your turn.

And I to back down from my little adventure about 20mins ahead of schedule. I expected Dee to be there as I trudged into the carpark — but the little Micra was absent. I waited and waited having stripped off to t-shirt level with all that effort climbing to 1250m. And as my body got colder after all that body heat disappeared I had to put all my layers back on. About 40mins later Dee arrived and I instantly new she had been caught at the boomgates. Oh well. At least it wasn’t a total disaster.

But on the way Dee got to see an echidna. This officially meant all our wildlife wishes have come true. Apart from a platypus, which I am guessing is near impossible to see, we have thoroughly got our monies worth and can die knowing we have some affinity with our wild cousins living here on this massive continent.

WILDLIFE SPOTTING: (in alphabetical order)

Echidna (1 – just dee)
Hawk (1)
Mountain Goat (2)
Pademelon (hundreds)
Penguin (at least a dozen)
Snakes [black?] (2)
Spotted Quoll (1)
Tasmanian Devil (quite a few, all deceased)
Thylacine (stuffed) (1)
Wombat (over a dozen)

DSCF6310Oatlands on the way to Hoby

HOBART

After a crazy night in Hobart were we sampled a few bars and had a decent pizza at a place called Amici we woke up early for our date with Immy and an amazing breakfast at a place called Berta at North Hobart. As well as Imogen we also were introduced to Cath and Lauren. I had a potato rosti with Bruny Island free-range bacon and Dee had corn fritters. It was all stupidly yum.

We then walked into town looking a shops then bought a paper and relaxed a bit until about 2:30 when we went to the Cascade Brewery for one of their taster paddles. At 3:30 we picked up Immy and pointed the Micra in the direction of the Huon Valley and the Willie Smith Appleshed. We sat on a rug on the grass smashing our ciders down because a wedding had booked the place for 5pm.

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IMG_5503All the Apple varieties grown here

Cath and Lauren and Earnest the dog (kelpie cross) soon joined us. Then we headed back to Hobart bound for Ethos — apparently the most classy and cool drinking/eating venue in Hobart — and a place where Dee and I had been barred from the night before (because they were too busy). This is Dee’s reaction that night:

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Here is Cath and Earnest:

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IMG_5468A wall of plastic milk-bottles at a place called the Westend Pumphouse.

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The stairs down to the bar section of Ethos

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GORMAN

Back-tracking a bit, Immy had this fabulous jacket with all this hyper-coloured fruit. It was functional as well as garishly awesome Imogen attested. “It’s so warm!”

I could not resist but try it on. It was indeed freakishly warm.

Then later back in Hobart as we staggered down Macquarie Street a car suddenly pulled up beside us and the passenger side window spun down and a woman was soon begging Immy to tell her where this jacket came from. “It’s a Gorman,” she replied like she had to do this all the time and was actually articulating a URL link in that phrase at the same time. TRUE STORY.

Here is a pic of me in THE JACKET:

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More massive party times happened later and we went to the Winston and saw a guy called Sam play and these kids get chucked out and we had a cheeseburger and lots of chips and more and more beer. And Cath and Lauren are such epic value. Yes! Can’t wait to party with them again!

GOOD TIMES

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