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Published: February 9th 2010
'It is acknowledged even by all the rival colonies that of all the colonies Tasmania is the prettiest… may be said of the small island that, go where you will, the landscape that meets the eye is pleasing, whereas the reverse of this is certainly the rule on the Australian continent. And the climate of Tasmania is by far pleasanter than that of any part of the mainland... Everything in Tasmania is more English than is England herself.'
(Australia and New Zealand, by Anthony Trollope, 1873)
This is why Tasmania was always on my list of things I definitely wanted to see when arrived in Australia. I’ve since discovered other interesting things about the place:
• Mainland Australians use Tassie as the butt of all jokes, namely they are a bunch of red-necked, convict-bred, incestuous simpletons. I wanted to find out if it’s true and if it’s not why they’re so jealous.
• Tasmania is the roughly the size of Ireland, Sri Lanka and the West Indies.
• Tasmania was colonised in order to prevent the French from claiming it.
• Charles Darwin visited Tassie in February 1836 and loved it.
• ‘Tis the land of swashbuckling and all-round dirty philanthropist Errol
• ‘Tis the land of the Tasmanian Devil and the extinct Tasmanian Tiger.
• Tassie has the second and third oldest European settlements in Australia, Hobart and Launceston - after Sydney.
• Murder suspect and disappearing act Lord Lucan
apparently lived in Tassie in 1992.
• The future Queen of Denmark is a woman called Mary Donaldson from Hobart and who married the Crown Prince. I was clearly looking for other Tassie women to take home to my kingdom.
The flight from Melbourne took about an hour and I arrived in Launceston at about 8 am. As soon as I had gotten off the Virgin Blue aircraft I noticed the light. It had a strange clarity to it and was very clear and completely different to anything I’d experienced before. The hole in the Ozone Layer above us was clearly contributing.
My Tassie adventure began the next day so I dumped my stuff at the Art House hostel - which was possibly one of the nicest hostels I’ve been to. Think a wooden Victorian house with a tower and wood floors and staircase. I spent the rest of day in Launceston - named in honour of the village in Cornwall where Philip King
the Governor of New South Wales was born. The town was small and so I went walk about, visiting the Queen Victoria Museum & Art Gallery and the Launceston Cataract Gorge
- which included a pleasant hike along the river.
The next morning I was picked up from outside the hostel by Gary, a rotund , friendly-faced fella from "poofta town", aka Sydney. Gary was the owner of the tour company so we not only got the best Land Rover (and trailer) but also a guide who was sure to give us what we wanted! I was joined by two other folks, Maja from Poland and Jenni from Brisbane via South Africa. And that was it for five days until we were joined by another group in Hobart.
Our first stop was the Marakoopa Cave
in Mole Creek Karst National Park. Lots of stalactites that hung from the ceiling as well as stalagmites rising from the cave floor. Interestingly, we got to see Australia's largest display of glow worms but no pictures thanks. Other species we saw were the Tasmanian cave spider before heading back to the 'Rover. Our next stop was Dove Lake. Overlooked by Cradle Mountain, it's a very
beautiful place and so we went on a long hike around the lake itself noting how different the flora was to Europe and how colourful it was. The person instrumental in making the area a national park, shared this passion. Gustav Weindorfer
, an Austrian who in 1909 enthused about the Cradle area, describing it as a “veritable Eldorado for the botanist”. He came back and built a wooden hut where he lived with his wife until he died in 1932 . We visited his reconstructed hut. Oh, and spotted our very first wombat. We chased it around but is one of those animals that knows to look away at the last moment.
That night we camped at Gary's property out in the bush. Dinner was prepared by Gary and his other tour guide with his group who had stopped there. It was my first time using a swag and I found it really comfortable looking up at the stars hoping Tassie Devils or possums wouldn't come licking my face in the night.
What I’m reading:In Tasmania by Nicholas Shakespeare, 2004
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