The Mountains are Calling & I Must Go: Travels in Tasmania, Pt.1

“When you go out there you don’t get away from it all, you get back to it all. You come home to what’s important. You come home to yourself”
– Peter Dombrovskis

It’s a rainy, windy Melbourne morning and it seems as though it’ll stay this way for a few more days. I find it hard to believe we’re already at the end of December, harder still to believe we actually had better weather last week in Tasmania. After two weeks of working with some preps at a nice school in Melbourne, it was time to take off a few days shy of the school holidays for Tasmania with some new friends I’ve made along the way. Melissa, a friend from home,  and Jen, Erika, Camilla (teachers with my agency) and I all took off for a week road-tripping around Tasmania. We landed on a Friday afternoon, warm and sunny. To our dismay, our flight had been delayed by nearly two hours, so from the start we were already making changes to our original plans. Luckily, everyone was fairly laid-back, and we all had one common goal: see as much as possible!

Jen organised our rental car from the airport and we stopped in first at our Airbnb. It was a cozy, cottagey-feeling place, and a good, central location for exploring Hobart. I love Hobart, but in truth, there isn’t a lot going on. Hobart is a good base camp if you are an outdoorsman (or woman); from there, you can drive to innumerable breath-taking places for beaches, mountains and hikes, and this is what we did. We decided our first night would be spent simply enjoying the downtown area. Salamanca Market is beautiful, if not a little expensive too. We were reeled in by the sweet strumming of live music at Jack Greene, so we decided to eat there as well. Jen and I got adventurous and had an 18$ wallaby burger – more costly than I’d like, but it tasted like pulled pork! Add that to the list of weird foods I’ve eaten…

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Salamanca Market
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Trying local beer flights
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Hobart waterfront

A few years ago I met a guy named Dan from Hobart, who still works there as a PT, so he joined us for a few drinks. Erika, Mel and I explored “panookie” desserts at Honey Badger Dessert Café and then checked out Preachers for a cider before they got tired and called it quits. I spent some more time catching up with Dan then it was back home for a good nights’ rest before a big day!

Saturday was definitely one of, if not the longest day of the trip. We headed back to Salamanca to explore the market, sample some lotions, grab some snacks, etc., before heading out of town and up to our first pit-stop. Jen had found an attraction called the Tahune AirWalk, where you can hike in rainforest and meander on suspended bridges hundreds of metres above the forest floor. With a beautiful river running in the area, we almost forgot the pounding rain when it came in sporadic bursts through the trees…

From Tahune, we commenced the big drive up to Waratah where Mel had booked us accommodation for the night. Backtracking through Hobart and up to the Huon Valley, it felt a bit surreal for me, as this is where I first attempted farm work three years ago. I don’t believe anyone listened to my incredulous babbling, but it was strangely both peaceful and odd to make a stop at a nearby dockyard to check out some boats in the water. I believe this is when I first started realizing this would probably be my last visit to this corner of the world. The drive from Huon Valley up to Waratah was beautiful, but isolated. Much of the west coast of Tasmania is protected reserve area or national park, and the towns (if you can call them that) seem to be mere traces of the workaday mining world that existed a hundred years ago. Sometime around 7pm, near Tarraleah, we received a beautiful surprise – snow! At first it came lightly, but soon the snow had littered the ground, and Camilla HAD to get out and dance. She was most excited of all! So, yes, we may have had a blistering Christmas, but once upon a time, we had snow.

 

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We got snow in Tasmania!
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Isolated views on lake Burberry

Another small but beautiful memory for me will be parking our car on a bridge over Lake Burberry. It was fairly dark at this point, but with no cars in either direction, and alone  save ourselves, the place felt eerily magical. We snapped a couple shots, but also realized that we had a dent in the car… Tasmania unfortunately seems to have a lot of roadkill, and when we were driving earlier, a car in front of us had shot up one such thing right at our car- BAM. We didn’t realize this could damage the car, but if you’ve ever seen a wombat, I guess it isn’t hard to believe. We had a laugh (at the situation, not the poor animal) then set back on our way.

The winding drive into Queenstown made me think of those Hot Wheels tracks my babysitter’s son used to have growing up. The town only has a few hundred people, but it seemed a colonial town frozen in time, made weirder still by the fact no one was around by 8 pm. With its quiet streets, its one pub, and tiny library, it had me wondering about the lives of its residents. Ever since I started taking the greyhound bus to visit mom in Northern Ontario, I’d look out the window when I couldn’t  sleep at night and wonder about the people who still had lights on: who were they? How did they end up in these small towns? What was their story? I know, I’m weird, but I wonder these things.

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Queenstown to Waratah was the longest drive. Kudos to Jen for driving so long, and to Mel for belting tunes long enough to help keep Jen awake. We rolled in at about 1130 pm. Everyone was tired, so a quiet tea-time was enjoyed, then off to bed. Sunday was an exciting day – Cradle mountain! We’d all heard good things about the place, but we were not expecting how COLD it would be. None of us had proper coats, and poor Erika had 7 layers on from the beginning of the day… We decided on a 4-5 hour hike that would take us around Dove Lake, up to Wombat Pool and through to Clair Lake before coming down to Ronnie’s creek. To say the views were incredible is still an understatement; I always find my photos cannot encapsulate exactly how bewitching a place truly is. At the time I was (and am still) fighting bronchitis, so I felt a bit miserable, but I’m glad I soldiered on. The girls were saying they felt as if we’d travelled through so many microcosmic landscapes in one single day, and I agree. The cherry on top of the pie was coming upon a number of cute wombats chilling out on the hills near the boardwalk where the hike finished. Sublime! We made it to Launceston that evening and had some delicious Indian takeout in a local park. From there, it was off to Art House Hostel which I actually quite enjoyed. The building is quite unique and the place was quiet – just what I wanted after a long day!

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Hanging out in Cradle Mountain

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YES, we went to Wombat “Poo”

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Wombats!

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Monday, we got Melissa to a car rental agency where she picked up the car she’d use to take her back to Hobart. Melissa had decided prior to the trip that it was time to head back to Canada, and she was flying out the next day.  We formed a convoy and met up at Bridestowe Estate, famous for its lavender fields and products. This place was beautiful – the perfect spot to take lots of group photos and flower selfies. I bought a few items for a friend back home, then we topped off our visit with lavender ice cream…. Totally worth it. From Bridestowe, we drove up to St Helens to explore the Bay of Fires. I had been here three years previous, but the area is still worth re-visiting. We had lunch with Melissa before wishing her well and sending her on her way. This meant that we had more time to continue exploring some of the local beaches before continuing our way down the coast.

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I claimed that the west coast is uninhabited, but the east coast is just as known for its quaint towns and low population. It becomes quickly evident that tourism dominates the region, as main streets are littered with advertisements for hotels, motels, beach houses, holiday parks and cabins. Still, we struggled to find reasonable accommodation in some places so I recommend figuring that out ahead of time, if you can help it. We settled on a hostel in Swansea which, at 40/night, felt steep to us, but our options were fairly limited. It was clean, quiet, and in a good area, so we weren’t too fussed.

Tuesday -> Up early for a hike in Freycinet National Park. At first I felt hesitant, seeing as I’d already been once, but I feel like when I visited with Sini three years ago, we barely hiked! I only recall seeing the Wineglass bay lookout. This time, we hiked to Wineglass Bay lookout, and then on down to the beach itself. It was the perfect location for a lunch break, and then we followed another 3 hour track over to Hazards Beach and back around. As the day wore on, it got warmer, and I was extremely thankful I’d packed shorts. We were all happy we’d chosen to do the hike early as we finished in early afternoon. The one idea that came to mind was ICE CREAM – so off we jettisoned to the Pondering Frog Café. Minus the slight attitude the owner gave Erika for her slight indecision, this place was great. The desserts are pre-made, pre-frozen – but on a hot day, my chocolate-coated berry ice cream was UNREAL. I would go back…if it wasn’t thousands of kms away.

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Wineglass Bay

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It doesn’t matter where you go; it’s who you have beside you
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The fellowship

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From Bicheno, we continued the drive down to our next Airbnb in Dodges Ferry, which I was supremely glad we found. We had a modern, tiny house all to ourselves. There was a decent bathroom, nice kitchen, view overlooking the ocean, and I finally got to sit down and journal.

Well, if I add the second half of the trip, we might be here all day, so keep an eye out for that one in a few days. I’m extremely fortunate the trip worked out as it did, and can’t wait to tell more about it.

Happy holidays and new year, wherever you are,

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Much love from Melbourne,

Kristy

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