Tasmania Tour

As we cross the Bass Straits on the ferry, Spirit of Tasmania, I wonder, “how is it we have left our comfortable home aboard s/v Ariel in the Brisbane River and ended up in a full blown gale?” Sailing south from the harbor in Melbourne, already a storm has caught us with 50+ kt winds, horizontal rain and our huge ship is rolling side to side. But we are happy campers. Our little Toyota is loaded with camping gear, safe below decks... we hope! We are headed for Tasmania on the last 2 months of our land touring in Australia. But… we hear there are nothing but very poisonous snakes and spiders and even Tasmanian Devils! Will we survive the last of our 6 months living in a TENT???
Leaving our cruising friends and my old traveling friends from years ago back on the ‘big island’ was hard. They offered us their berths, beds and sofa’s as we stopped for a last farewell before heading to the furthest most points we will venture on this journey. Next stop the South Pole. No, we will not venture that far although Tasmania is the jumping off point, and it does feel a bit like the South Pole for the first couple weeks. Lucky we have our fleece jackets, electric heater for the tent and my favorite…. the electric tea kettle. That is until one morning waking up freezing in our sleeping bags, Steve tucks the kettle under his arm and heads off to make my tea. He stops for a kiss and as he bends over me the cold water spills out of the kettle into my bed!!!!! We are back to basics…isn’t life wonderful?
We love Tasmania even with its ever changing weather. Sometimes we get 5 changes in ONE day. We are not complaining. We hear the weather on mainland Australia is the hottest in 100 years since records were kept. Poor Ariel! Christmas Eve day in Hobart, our tent was flattened again in a raging storm that blew in off the Southern Ocean. These storms are fast and furious and this one left the entire campground half submerged in mud and water. Many lost their bedding and presents were scattered in the wind. All ended well when a double rainbow appeared, the sun came out and many of us got to take refuge in on-site caravans. When Santa arrived on a fire engine, sirens blaring, tossing candy and bringing good cheer, we all gathered around like one big happy family.
So too was Christmas day when we had a chance to experience a real Aussie Christmas with a family we meet camping in the Outback. We had a huge salmon dinner ending with summer pudding smothered in fresh raspberries. Afterwards we had a game of cricket on the lawn overlooking the bay at Battery Point. The rest of Australia shuts down for the holidays while everyone heads to the beaches with their boogie boards, a six pack of 'stubbies' under their arm and fires up the ‘Barbie’ for a feast of BarBQ prawns. Remember it is mid-summer in the Southern Hemisphere!
At the same time in Hobart we enjoy the big food and wine festival aptly named the ‘Taste’ while the Sydney/ Hobart yacht race begin to arrive. S/v ‘Wild Oats’ wins this year and the celebrations on the wharf continue for days, each boat arriving with great fan fair, champagne flowing faster than the current. ‘Buskers’, entertainers performing for a few coins, kept everyone amused with music and amazing tricks. New Years Eve fireworks, food, entertainment and continuous celebrations finalized our week in Hobart.
Back to the road trip….. our little Toyota took us on a counter clock wise circumnavigation around the entire island of Tasmania. From Devonport, where the ferry disembarks, we headed west for Penguin, a small town with huge penguin statues on every corner. On to Burnie and Fernglade Park where a rainforest walk along a river looking for platypus only found us a big black poisonous snake under the picnic table! Also in Burnie a tour through a paper mill and a gallery with life size people made of paper mache. In Waynard we stayed at the Leisure Ville Caravan Park for $19AUD which included a dip in the hot tub and a great meal at the Buccaneer Restaurant famous for its great seafood meals. Stanley, a beautiful quaint village on the far NW shore found us at the ‘Nut’ a huge rock with spectacular views across the Bass Straits. The drive here along Rocky Cape was awesome as we left in a morning mist on back roads criss-crossing past fields of flowers and a tulip farm to a lighthouse where we watched the fog rise exposing green fields of grazing sheep, cows, alpaca and miniature horses. We found quaint beach towns on two lane coastal roads where the little houses with gingerbread gables were painted bright colors. The dark reddish brown streams full of tannin ran down past snow white sandy beaches to meet the turquoise sea. At the port, brightly colored red fishing boats were bringing in huge king crab, some up to 14kilos, king prawns selling for $26Aud a kilo and lobster at $39AUD a kilo.
Turning inland the countryside changed from pastures to forest as we reached Cradle Mountain/Lake St. Clair National Park. After my cold morning splash from the underarm kettle in the little $30 Alpine Hut we braved the cool temperatures and misty rain to hike up the famous ‘Overland Track’, an 84 kilometer trail. We did not get the $100 permit to do the entire trail but rather walked the first part as far as Marion’s Lookout, a good climb up near the base of the mountain. The view of Dove Lake below was spectacular. The rain cleared as we descended and we spotted a mother wombat and her baby crossing our path. Later we warmed up with a cup of tea and scones in front of a huge roaring fireplace at the Cradle Mountain Lodge.
We spent a night in Strahan, a little town on Mcquaire Heads an inlet from the sea. Here you can take a boat tour out into the Southern ocean but we chose to travel inland to Hamilton where we camped along a bubbling stream at a FREE camping site away from any thoughts of sailing the high seas. But our Vodafone cell phone which connects us to the internet on the laptop computer does not work out here, or anywhere in Tassi, other than near the bigger cities.
Day trips out of Hobart kept us busy. We drove up to Mt. Wellington, took a ferry over to Burny Island and visited the Wooden Boat Center in Franklin where they still teach the art of building wooden boats. The Saturday Salamanca Market in Hobart was a must as were all the galleries and historical walks. We met friends of friends and spent days getting to know the life and times of the people from its convict past history in Port Arthur, to the present. We never did see a Tasmanian Devil !
The last two weeks we took our time driving up the east coast following a route I had taken when circumnavigating Tasmania 18 years ago by bicycle, even up over ‘Bust Me Gull Hill’ on the way to Richmond to see the oldest bridge in Tasmania built in 1823. South of Swansea we camped at the Mayfield Bay Conservation area in a beautiful spot near the beach for only $2 a night, roasted hot dogs on an open fire and walked the beach at sunset. The east coast of Tasmania has some of the most beautiful shoreline.
We did several day hikes in National Parks, having bought a special Parks Pass for $50 which we found to be a great savings. In Freycinet National Park we hike up and down to Wineglass Bay to see 6 yachts anchored in a beautiful bay with white sandy beaches and turquoise water. Were we sorry we did not bring Ariel? No, not after watching several yachts yanking and pulling at their moorings like bucking broncos in Coles Bay. Here we actually tied our tent to a fence as winds howled and we heard they had to shut down the ‘Taste’ in Hobart with 100kph winds and 215kph on Mt. Wellington.
The weather did get better the last two weeks when we enjoyed sunny days and cool nights. The hikes around St. Helens at Peron Dunes and Binalong Bay were spectacular. We headed inland to the’ Pub in the Paddock’ where I had stayed in my biking days and found it had changed little. That was what was nice about Tasmania, a country like feel, driving along on two lane roads with very little traffic and stopping at local markets for fresh berries and fruit in season. The Sunday Evandale market was our favorite along with the Salamanca market in Hobart of course. We made camp for several days at Longford Riverside Caravan Park (a favorite) centrally location for day trips north along each side of the Tamar River to see the Seahorse Farm and peer out across the Bass Straits from Low Head historic pilot station. At Port Sorell we walked along the quiet inlet where old wooden boats were tied to dilapidated wooden piers. In Latrobe we discovered an amazing shop called ‘Reliquaire’ that captivated us for hours with rooms of bizarre, magical and whimsical items. Not to be missed!
Our 8 hour day sail on the big ferry back across Bass Straits was smooth and uneventful. It gave us time to reflect on the beauty of Tasmania with its flowering lavender farms, salmon and berry farms, winery’s, chocolate factories, unusual waterfalls and the most friendly laid back people. We can not begin to mention all there is to see and do.
Back on the mainland we met up daily with fellow cruisers or old friends. In an old gold mining area we met up with ‘cruisers turned bicyclists’ and spent two days bicycling on a paved railroad ‘rail trail’ from Bright to Wangaratta. Then more cruisers joined up to enjoy the Tamworth Country Music Festival and witness ‘up and coming stars’ performing for free on the streets and in venues. Never mind we got flooded out again in our tent when a fierce storm front moved through. It was cool and refreshing as temperatures soared into the 90’s as we headed north. It was nice to be back in phone range where I did not have to put up with boiling my morning eggs in a hiking sock lowered into the infamous electric kettle. (Does anyone need a 220 volt electric kettle?)
Now back on Ariel, still moored in the Brisbane River, it is “BLOODY HOT”!! 

After 10,380 kilometers (over 6,250miles) of driving this trip, including the Great Ocean Road on the mainland, with a total of over 30,000k (18,750 miles) in all, we feel it was a good break from the sailing life.


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