Tasmania Pt 2


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.

Screen Shot 2014-10-06 at 3.28.00 PM

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.



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.


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


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)


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



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


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.


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:


Here is Cath and Earnest:


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


The stairs down to the bar section of Ethos



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:


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!


Tasmania, Part 1


It had already been a long day by the time we got to Hobart-central having taken the only direct flight. (We had to be up at 4:30am to catch it). And so we found ourselves in a pub just across from where the MONA (ROMA) ferry leaves called the Customs House Hotel. It had those so beautifully old sandstone block walls, hand-carved — presumably by convicts — pock-marked with a billion hits by horribly ancient tools. A bit like this, which I took a day or so later: IMG_5337 Then after lunch I’m in the toilet doing my business at the trough — obviously with my back to the door. And then I hear the sound of two guys coming in and they instantly started debating something — saying stuff like, “Can we do this?” And they seemed to be just hanging about waiting for me. And so I thought, “What? I know I joke around about Tasmania being a wild place — but am I about to get beat up? Really?” So I quickly finished my business and turned around to find these guys were not stooping over me like they were intent on doing harm — they were actually more worried about themselves. See they were tethered together in a rather complex (and perhaps beautiful) chain of plastic cable ties. They looked at me a bit sheepishly and I broke the silence by asking if they were on a bucks night. “Yes” they replied — a little bit relieved. And now the lumbered up to the facilities and it looked like they were going to attempt to each do their business giving the other party some attempt at privacy. So I said, “good luck!” meaning not just for whomever of the two was actually getting married. Trying as best I could to throw out that thought of these two goobs trying to pee it was time for some CULTURE. At the MONA ticket office (just a re-purposed shipping container) Dee convinced me to get the “posh” tickets. She might have even said, “YOLO”. I dunno — but we ended up in the massive forward section with only one other couple for company. But they did give us lots of drinks and awesome nibbles. IMG_5149 MONA was fantastic. A real credit to the state — and I would propose — our nation. Apparently the owner is losing $6 million a year. When we were deciding on this holiday we thought about New Zealand or WA but MONA was the deal-breaker. IMG_5191 Of course I did lose my brand-new, super expensive sunglasses in the “Madonna Room”. UGH. Highlight of MONA: Dee excitedly asking the attendant at the door — “Where is the POO MACHINE?” Apparently it is a bit controversial to Tasmanians. Of course there’s some that, “Don’t get it.” It has crucial bits in it that are purposely confusing — not just confronting. Even the entrance is obscure and a bit of dig at Tasmania. I guess Tasmanians feel the brunt of so many jokes, it’s hard to suffer just one more — even if it is for art’s sake. It’s like Tasmanians are saying, “At last we are being taken seriously!” only to realise the inherent jokes at their expense after the fact. IMG_5172 THOUGHTS ON B&Bs (and HOBART, Day 2) I am not sure why the B&B thing is so prolific. Apart from the fact you sometimes feel like an intruder in someone’s home, there’s that weird awkward breakfast party, each and every day — with a bunch of strangers, one of which (I bloody guarantee you) will be a total goob. And it should also be said: I am not even really good at breakfast. Until recently I didn’t even eat breakfast, let alone do it with random company. And for our first Hobart dawn this breakfast-party was epic. The entire table was full with couples, but thankfully, one of them were roughly our age. Anyway — we got through it despite suffering the American dude who was a bit too knowledgable and bit too chatty and obviously loved the sound of his own voice. Mount Wellington is the focus of Hobart. It’s so massive and as a mountain — even scary with those sharp dolerite columns. It’s the first thing all the Colonial painters brushed out and it just looms. I bet about 50% of homes in Hobart get a view of it rising so gloriously from some aspect of their property. I have driven up it so many times. But this time I wanted to climb it on my own. To make things a bit more even, Dee agreed to pick me up at the top. She dropped me off at The Springs and so I headed of. The walking track is quite direct and thus steep, and relentless. Of course there was no one else here stupid enough to do this. I smashed a bit too hard at the beginning and felt a bit shit towards the end when it got quite exposed but I made it. To be honest, I would not recommend this activity. About half the photos I took that morning are ruined because I sweated all over the camera lens. Here are two that were half decent. (I must stress that tower looks small — but it is like 10 storeys high). DSCF6008 DSCF6009 Later that day we did the gratuitous Salamanca Markets and had lunch at one of the 50 or so pubs in Tasmania that claim to be the oldest (this one was called Hope and Anchor) and then we went to the museum/art gallery — which was pretty damn fantastic. Highlights: IMG_5233“Hunter” — a TV series I loved as a kid IMG_5235 IMG_5239The story of the extermination of the Thylacine was unbelievably tragic. IMG_5246 IMG_5247 HOBART, Day 3 After our awkward breakfast we were soon driving south towards the Huon Valley and ultimately the Hartz Mountains. After we left civilisation and turned onto Forestry roads we were quite alone. About 20ks of complete wilderness ensued with the wind steadily increasing in intensity. On that dusty uphill trek we saw no other cars. At the top where the walking trail began we finally saw some people. But they promptly jumped in their car and disappeared. We had the entire park to ourselves. This might have been cool, but I was a tiny bit scared at that prospect. A bunch of worries entered my head. The wind was getting crazy. Like, really crazy. I remembered what happened on the ride back from Killarney earlier this year. “What if the road is blocked by a fallen tree?” I thought. “What do we do then?” But I kept my concerns to myself and we headed off. Pretty soon we were met by a freaking bizarre contraption right in the middle of the track. It was a device to clean your shoes to protect the delicate ecosystem from, I guess, “city problems”. DSCF6052 Then we struggled up to the alpine plain with the maddening wind all around. At a few points it was difficult to not get blown off the half-a-metre-wide duckboard track — and if you fell — you were almost guaranteed of ending up at least shin-deep in water. DSCF6048 DSCF6064 SCREAMS About 20 minutes into our little adventure Dee was leading the way. But suddenly she was screaming and dancing and jumping about and before I could process anything this tiny snake went between her legs and then I too was hot-stepping-about in total fright. Just to make things even the snake also snuck it’s way between my shaking legs and then off the thankfully spilled over the boards and down, away, into the heath. We dashed ahead a few metres and I desperately asked Dee, “Did it bite you?” Thankfully not but I was a little bit sure the creature actually touched my shoe. Holy shit. It was too small I am figuring to be much of a danger but apparently ALL snakes in Tasmania are deadly. Just saying. The wind was now fucking ridiculous. I have never experienced anything like it. We were at an altitude a bit over 1000m and when we got to Lake Esperance I knew it was time to turn around. On the way back in the car the road looked like a mess. I mean it was a dirt road already, but now it was covered in broken branches and leaves and at one point we had to doge a fallen tree. The car kept getting smacked by stuff and at two points we snagged some branch that got trapped under the car necessitating a stop to physically slide under the car to dislodge it. And in the Huon Valley we were intending to stop at the Wille (Nelson) Smith Appleshed but conditions outside were apocalyptic. At one point, I shit you not, with branches flying horizontally across the road — it looked like we had stepped into a scene from the movie Twister. IMG_5253 ALABAMA Back safely in Hobart we met up with the amazing Imogen (or Immy), a friend from Brisbane who had just moved to Hobart this year. Oh my god – we had the best time! Immy is incredible. Dee had never met her before but instantly they were besties. After a coffee at Providore, Immy took us to this semi-boutique hotel called Alabama that had a bar attached. Immediately I was enamoured. The co-owner was serving at the bar so naturally I had a massive gush about how awesome the place was and incredibly interested in how it all worked. So the rooms all featured art (from local artists) and every guest has to share facilities (which personally just maybe might be a deal-breaker for us). She even gave us two keys and let us have a sneaky browse of two of the rooms which was really nice. After that somehow I mentioned I rode bikes and suddenly she was saying, “Are you by any chance familiar with the bike polo scene in Brisbane?” And then she was showing me her guest book and sure enough — there was Dom and Clancy and Handsome Rob. Amazing! IMG_5327 Here’s Ssome pics of Alabama: IMG_5312 IMG_5319 IMG_5322 IMG_5330 IMG_5328 MT FIELD The next day he headed again for the deep heart of Tasmania. This time for the very first National Park in Australia. It is actually called “National Park” on the map at ground level. Up in the wilderness it is called Mt Field. Afrer paying our $60 national park pass, we started the drive up. The road was of course just ruddy wet sandy-dirt and hopelessly narrow. And on the left side was almost always a massive cliff with certain death if we strayed over. For some amazing reason, we only dealt with one car coming down while we were going up. And thankfully there was room and we each exchanged a very hearty “country wave”. At the top the wind was still crazy. It was so much uphill on the walk part. Quite steep. And obviously Dee was unimpressed. After climbing about 200m in altitude, then some more, Dee was a bit flushed and over it. I sent her back down to the ski village part while I smashed up ahead to the Lake Seal lookout. DSCF6087 DSCF6103 DSCF6090 Back down the track Dee was a bit more civilized. We stumbled down and naturally I found myself about 20 paces ahead. And then I heard some voices obviously coming the opposite direction. So I stopped to let Dee catch up. Mostly so we didn’t look like we were some disfunctional couple. but at exactly that point a massive snake, black and really scaly, slithered away just centimetres from where I stood. I jumped over to the other side of the track and stood like a statue. Meanwhile our new hiking companions arrived just as Dee caught up. I explained how I had just seen a massive snake and the female portion of our new friends was utterly horrified. “I was just saying how I didn’t think there would be any snakes on this walk!” So then we did a more civilized walk to Russell Falls and I experimented with that camera trick of letting the shutter stay open a bit so the falling water looked like snowy mist. BUSHY PARK Our bed this night was another B&B, but of the EXTREME variety. It was run by these ancient Scottish Mormons — lovely ancient Scottish Mormons it should be said. But we didn’t realise this potential complication until we had arrived and saw all this weird religious paraphernalia about. And this B&B was a more like staying in your grandma’s spare bedroom. The whole house, apart from their bedroom upstairs, was free range. We instantly wondered what they would think if we wanted to have some booze. We looked at eachother in bewilderment. “We should Google that.” But there was no reception and so we just had to suffer. At least there were puppies for Dee to pat and upon wandering the land we saw some Scottish Coo. As it turned out it was totally cool and we had some beautiful Tasmanian wine we had sourced from one of the (awkwardly titled) 9/11 chain of bottleshops in Hobart. All in front of one of those “roaring fires” in our own personal sitting room. We were the only guests that night which made things a little more like we were intruding and so it was quietly decided that we would skip breakfast, and smash north on the morrow. A 5:30am start to the deep northwest of Tasmania ensued. (More on that in Part 2!) DSCF6114OMG — this place was connected to the NBN! DSCF6120 DSCF6133 DSCF6145They cooked us dinner! DSCF6130The view out the front door TEASER PICS FROM PART TWO (coming soon — featuring snow, and wombats, and thrones, and puppies, and apples and a lot more IMMY! YESSSS) IMG_5503 DSCF6207 DSCF6327