6 April - Tasmania,
and now it suddenly gets verbose...
Launceston, my port of arrival, is pronounced in the
manner of an ignorant American asking for direction on the tube - I jest
not - It's pronounced "Lawceston" by all the locals, proving
that in some respects Australia is more American than British. Sorry. In
it's defence, the locally referred-to monkey park has a superb colony of
Japanese Macaques which are worth the detour (from pretty much anywhere)
all on their own. If you don't know me you can be excused for thinking
that I'm pretty fond of macaques, because I am. Where some people travel
with photos of their family and/or loved ones, I carry around snapshots of
my favourite monkeys, so Launceston is in my books a pretty cool place,
even if their monkeys do carry some pretty nasty diseases..
My tour part was divided into two groups, which I found out later to be an elemental feature of most such parties. It boiled down to those who drank, and those who didn't, or more succinctly, those who partied and those who didn't. My half consisted of Beth, Allison, and our Guide, Phil. And in case you're wondering, yes, we were the drinkers. Half the fun of such a tour is that it can, with the right people, become a very sociable event, and in our case this added a lot to my enjoyment of the trip.
We began our morning at the local Cataract gorge and then travelled on Eastwards to Bicheno where a visit to a wildlife park gave us an opportunity to cuddle wombats - I kid you not - this is great fun even ignoring all the other opportunities to hand-feed roos, ducks (mildly painful) and cockatoos (very painful). I read from the guide pamphlet that we then went wine-tasting (not very adventurous) and then got a guided tour of the Fairy Penguin sanctuary - the guys there really know their stuff.
On day two it was another mountain to climb - this time Mount Amos overlooking the spectacular Wineglass Bay. before travelling on to Port Arthur. I had heard a great deal about Port Arthur, but somehow found it a little disappointing. I guess I'm not that impressed by all the history of woe, suffering and injustice that go with the penal establishment, as I've seen enough of that going on first hand, and frankly the history leaves me cold as I get to see a lot more at home, but the one thing that has stayed clear in my mind is the palpable atmosphere of sadness that surrounds the site of the Port Arthur massacre, and this is what I think I'll remember longest.
From Port Arthur we headed west past Eaglehawk Neck and the delightful Dog Line (why didn't the dogs just eat each other?), towards Hobart, stopping off along the way at Remarkable Bay (good salesmanship there) and a few other sites that I've forgotten the name of as they clearly didn't employ PR agents of comparable calibre.
Hobart boast the loudest pedestrian crossing lights in
the world. I know this because for two night running I was kept away by
the incessant beeping from light fifty meters from my hostel despite the
best effort of my ear plugs. Fortunately it also boast a bunch of good
bars, as well a great Jazz Club, Temple Place, which is great as long as
you on no account try to eat there, as they achieve the rare combination
of poor service and lousy food that makes you wish you'd headed for McD's
before going out.
Leaving my laundry to dry I headed off for Montezuma Falls - the highest waterfall in Tassy, and a beautiful walk with mind-bogglingly large spiders, and then we pushed on to the dunes at Henty to try to make the Quads fly (possible, but it hurts when you land on your knackers).