6 April - Tasmania, and now it suddenly gets verbose...

I knew I'd enjoy Tasmania even before I arrived - I got chatting to my neighbour on the flight, and before you could say "can I scrounge a lift into town" I'd been offered a lift into town.

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..

At the crack of dawn the following day ( I lie, dawn was still some way from doing her stuff - it was that early) I hopped on a bus for my very first week-long tour with Adventure Tours. I'm not generally a fan of potted-tourism, but I'm beginning to warm to the concept as you benefit from travelling with guides who know exactly where to go and what to do - and this is a fair measure of compensation for sticking to what must be a fairly well beaten track. I've spent months doing my own thing in a hire car, but I've lost count of the number of times I've struck off into the wilderness for the day only to find on my return that I missed the eighth wonder of the world by a hundred meters, because I didn't have the right guide book with me. Anyway, enough boring philosophy and in with the gossip...

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.

After Hobart and the dreaded pedestrian light torture we headed West to Mount Field national Park for a spot of walking  which included a pretty dry Russell Falls and a bunch of really tall trees - Swamp Gums - that are, we were informed, the world's tallest flowering plant. From there we passed lake St Clair, Queenstown, and ended up at a very cramped Chalet at Tullah on the shore of Lake Rosebery.

In the morning we found out that we were the only people staying at the Chalet complex, so three to a tiny room was really unnecessary, and also that the Rosebery was second only to the lake on our bathroom floor in terms of size and depth in the area. This didn't however stop us from taking out canoes and attempting to spot platypuses in the pre-dawn . I thought I'd missed them all, but it turns out that you are looking for a small sock floating on the surface, and maybe leaving a small wake, and not the scurrying riverbank animal that I was scanning the banks for, so I actually saw a few without realising it.

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).