Published: February 18th 2009February 14th 2009
We made it down to Tassie - Tasmania. Tasmania is the peninsula off the southern coast of Australia, and was one of the original convict colonies. It is suggested that you tour Tassie if you are into tramping (trekking, or overnight hiking staying in fairly primitive cabins along the way) or for a taste of the convict history. We went because not a lot of tourists go there. That appealed to us. We flew to Hobart, one of the two larger cities. Our immediate thoughts recognized a similarity between Hobart and Seattle or Vancouver - minus the high rises. The green hills rolled out surrounding the city with small two story single family homes and bungalows leading to the rivers and bays. It was cold and overcast with grey clouds adding to the aura of the city. The town itself is very small, and our YHA was set outside the city center in “New Town.” Now, each of our hostels has had something we loved, i.e., free wireless, rooftop deck in Melbourne, great air conditioning, etc. The Adelphi YHA had, well, none of these. It reminded me of a 1960s retreat, ala Baby Houseman in Dirty Dancing, but without the hot
Eric at Tessellated Pavement
Slightly cooler than Sydney and Melbourne
dance instructor, and the lake. For Eric, it reminded him of an insane asylum. It was very dated, with wood paneling, ancient linen, brown tiled bath, and no tele. It was the common room that sealed the deal, with high wood beams and white ceilings. There was an eclectic mixture of donated living room furniture, ancient books on the shelf, a ping pong table, and an easily 30 year old box of backgammon. The peace de’ resistance was the tiny tele, suspended from the ceiling, with no remote control and bad reception. One night a German crime drama was on, and Nurse Ratched was nowhere in sight to change the station. The natives were getting restless, at least the ones that did not speak German. Yes, it was very One Flew Over the Cukoos nest. We made several jokes about serial killers breaking into the courtyard at night, until we realized we were staying there during Friday the 13th, and the joke started to hit too close to home.
We only spent two full days in Tassie, which we knew going in was too short. Everyone recommended at least a week or two, to hike out on the west
of the island and really get a feel for it. We knew we did not have that much time and we would only be dipping our toe into Tassie. We had two day trips in mind: (1) Tasman Peninsula; and (2) Bruny Island. Our first trip was to the Tasman Peninsula, about an hour drive north and east out of Hobart. It was beautiful country, really making us feel as though we were in the middle of nowhere. It was overcast, with the grey clouds occasionally melding into the dark waters. We saw the Tessellated Pavement, which are large flat rocks that jut out into the water that have a crisscross, almost checkerboard pattern etched in from the erosion. We also saw a blowhole, that was not really blowing, and some other large cliffs that were once blowholes, but have lost their blow due to erosion. We planned on doing a short hike, but after lunch in the parking lot decided against it. A good thing because about 30 minutes later the skies opened up and it began pouring. We also skipped the Tasmanian Devil sanctuary and the Port Arthur historical sites for cost purposes. Considering how far out these
sites were, they should be paying us to see them, not charging $30 a person for each. We headed back to the city, grabbed Indonesian for dinner, and settled in for a night of fun tele in the common room.
Adventure Bay and the Tech Junkie
Our second day trip was out to Bruny Island, which was like night and day from the Tasman Peninsula. First, it was a bright blue sky and the temperature had warmed, making it immediately more pleasant and welcoming. That made a huge difference in the day. We drove about 40 minutes south of Hobart to Kettering to hop a ferry to the island. The ferry departed every hour and twenty minutes. We, of course, were about 10 minutes late for the early ferry, leaving us to spend about an hour on a dock with a small café called, surprisingly, the Mermaid Café. I ordered a Flat White and we sat on the deck overlooking the marina. The sun was shining so bright that the water glistened like diamonds. It was still a bit cool, but breathtakingly beautiful. Once on the other side, we followed the map down to Adventure Bay.
Tom V. Traveler having a Flat White at the Mermaid Cafe
There was really no choice in the matter, there were only two main roads that snaked their way around the island, which were marked in red on the map. I was not sure what the other roads - yellow trimmed in red - were like. They were marked on the map as “lesser roads.” Our first stop, the Penguin Rookery, was after some red road, and then a bit of lesser road. Turns out, lesser road means unpaved, which worked out quite fine in our little Hyundai Getz rental car. Not only did the road turn to dirt and gravel, but we passed what was marked as the “airport” on the map, which was an unpaved landing strip, before the road narrowed onto the isthmus or neck of the island. The road was now barely wide enough for two cars, and on either side of the road was a small green strip of grass and weeds before the sand and water. We made it to the Rookery, which apparently is a breeding ground for small penguins and other birds. Of course, none were mating when we were there in the middle of the day. The constantly open attraction at the
Mermaid Cafe View
The marina in Kettering where we caught the ferry
rookery is a lookout point offering 360 degree views of the island, up an ancient rickety wooden staircase. There were 238 rickety steps in all, and well worth the climb for the beautiful view of the beach, sea, and the shallow water that spread from the isthmus.
From the Rookery, we headed to Adventure Bay. I should note that we had no access to internet at Nurse Ratched’s Holiday House in Hobart, which would not be a problem other than our lack of transportation to our next destination. After Hobart, we flew to Cairns, with a stopover in Melbourne. Cairns airport is about one hour south of our final destination, Port Douglas. We hoped to find internet to confirm with our next hostel that they arranged the shuttle from the airport. The gentleman manning the information desk at the Mermaid Café in Kettering told me there was internet at the Penguin Café in Adventure Bay and in the town of Alonnah. These are the only two towns on the island, which has population of 500 permanent residents. When we approached Adventure Bay, we see a Wombat Café, but no Penguin Café, so we kept driving a bit before we
Eric and the Getz waiting for the ferry
realize that must be it. As we approached, I noticed the sign “formerly known as the Penguin Café.” The sign also should have read “formerly an internet hotspot.” But, they assured us, the Adventure Bay General Store just next door has internet. After popping into the general store and patiently waiting our turn to ask about internet, we were told the network went down a few days before, sorry. I tell this story not as a big city snob who is so addicted to tech that she can’t spend a day on an island without internet. Frankly, if did not need to book our transportation from the airport, I would have been happy during our entire stay in Hobart with no internet. I tell it because of what happened when I suggested we drive through Alonnah on our way back to the ferry. It was only 4km off the main road. Eric humored me and hooked a left towards Alonnah. The Let’s Go book said the internet access was in a building on School Road. We were unsure where School Road was (it was neither a red or yellow and red line on the map), but we saw a sign
View from the Ferry
The sun off the water was brilliant. More so than watching all the jellyfish in the water below.
notifying us we were in Alonnah, the Bruny Island Fire and Rescue Building, and a school. We pulled into the school driveway, and at the end of the gravel drive, there was a small white building with an “@” sign on the front. Bingo! We park the car and Eric went to see if it was the internet site. There was a sign warning you to lock your car, so he returned to lock the car. Do as the sign says. As we pulled the door to the @ building, I realized it is locked, and there is a schedule on the door. The internet building is generally manned by volunteers each day. On Fridays, the volunteer mans the desk from 6-9pm. We were on Bruny Island on a Friday, in the middle of the day. I know I spoke before I left the States about the withdrawal that would occur with no mobile, no blackberry, intermittent internet access, etc. But, here, I felt a little like an addict checking into rehab.
Despite the minor set back, our stop in Adventure Bay was the highlight of the trip. After passing the General Store, the road ended at a small beach,
View from the Penguin Rookery
Still amazing, even without the penguins.
with an even smaller car park. We parked and gobbled down lunch.
I should note that our new breakfast, or brekky as they call it, or favorite traveling lunch consists of a loaf of bread, a knife, and a jar of Nutella. We have spent serious time with Nutella in Europe, but have not considered it such a staple until now. Now, on our budget, a loaf of bread for less than AUD$1.50 and a $4.00 jar of Nutella that lasts us for about 3 lunches plus a few brekky or snacks. And, the loaf of bread is amazing. We have been buying the super soft, which has a consistency of a sponge even several days after we bring it home. We are addicted.
Sorry for the digression, but after our Nutella sandwiches, we took our first official hike of the trip. It was only about an hour and a half roundtrip, but it was beautiful. The start of the walk took us down this small beach and at the end we had no idea which way to go. We saw a small path that was barely noticeably from the beach and wound our way through the trees,
We are still out of shape fat Americans, but getting better each day.
keeping the water to our left. At the end of the path we felt like we were at the end of the world. There was a stone clearing overlooking the bay. We walked to the end of the clearing, and found a large boulder to sit and enjoy, and watches the birds, and listen to the waves. We finally figured out what was unique about Tasmania. Prior, we could not put our finger on it. I think it is the combination of the deep green forests on the hills, combining with the farming, and ending into a beautiful tropical beach with the sun glistening off the blue waters and the clean white sand beaches. It was simply magical.
On our way back to the ferry, beyond our side track into Alonnah, we made one more stop. After the airport/landing strip, and off the unpaved lesser road, we saw a sign coming in advertising fresh oysters. The old Amber and Eric never ate oysters (until New Orleans) let alone eating oysters on the side of the unpaved road. But, we saw the oyster beds in the water as we pulled up to “Get Shucked” oysters, which was a small white
Water is much colder than at Bondi - Look closely at Eric's face.
trailer selling oysters and t-shirts reading “Get Shucked … Fuel For Love.” We ordered just a half dozen, at AUD$6 (about USD$4), but he charged us only $5 when he could not make change. No sauce, just some pepper and a wooden spoon to help them off the shell. We sat for a few minutes at the one picnic bench with another couple to down our six oysters. Amazing. It was incredibly tasting the brine of the oyster while still smelling the sea air where they came from. From there, Eric raced to catch the next ferry, where we were back to Kettering, back to Hobart, and off to Queensland.
There are more photos below