Time flies when your having fun. It can also be said time flies when one tries to cram seeing as much of a state as one can in a week.
Tasmania is a beautiful place, and while it the smallest state, not counting Canberra, which is a territory, there is still a lot to see. I had no idea till we arrived how beautiful and varied the landscape is.
We began our trip in Hobart. It is the biggest city on the island and contains around half of the total population. The more of them I see the more I have come to realize that all cities look similar in many ways, its all just a matter of scale. The CBD was busy, full of small shops and restaurants, and the traffic was a bit of a pain. There is less of it all then larger cities, but still pretty much the same. We got our rental car around 3pm and immediately headed out of town. I was later told by a Tasy native that Hobart has a great live music scene, though we never had time to actually confirm this.
We spent the night at a campsite in Mountfields NP. The site was nice. It had a lovely little river running through it and we took full advantage of the showers. The next day we did a thirty-minute return trip walk to a lovely little waterfall located at the visitor center across the road from the campsite. We then headed up to the top of the mountain with the intent of doing a longer hike. The weather had other ideas though. The rain started up seriously as soon as we reached the top. Steady rain and a stiff wind are not my type of hiking weather, especially when the only rain gear I have is a cheap emergency poncho that is little more than a trash bag with a hood.
Courtney and Laura, however, were committed to doing some walking so we parked the car by a nice looking boardwalk and headed off. Twenty minutes later we were all soaked and quite cold, so we turned around, headed back to the car, and decided to head for warmer pastures. We had things to do later that day any way.
After our not so successful hike we headed to Launceston in the north where we had arranged to experience a true piece of Australia, Footy. Laucenston is a lovely little city with an old yet vibrant feel, largely due to the well-maintained buildings that have the look and feel of times gone by. We had a delicious pizza dinner at a little Italian place before we headed to Aurora stadium to bear witness to a preseason friendly between to Melbourne based teams, Hawthorne and Collingswood.
Tasmania is too small to support its own team, so they have adopted the Hawthorne Hawks as their home team, so the team now plays some of its home games at the Oval in Launceston. Our adventure buddy Laura is a Hawks fan, and we are already used to rooting for the Hawks, so we decided to climb on their bandwagon for a night. Even though Hawthorne lost it was a lovely evening. For a full review see the post titled Australia Rules.
After enjoying some of the larger towns in Tasmania we headed out to the country. Much of the lowlands are pastureland, and the green and brown paddocks and grazing cows and sheep made for a wonderful drive. We also pass some hops farms, which I had never seen before. We stopped at the information center in Deloraine, did a little food shopping, and then headed to the Mole Creek caravan park. Mole creek is a quaint little farming town of 300 located on the edge of the Great Western Tiers. The area is well known for a couple very large cave formations.
The afternoon we arrived we took a two-hour walk to another beautiful falls, the name of which I forgot to note. It was a fun little walk through the forest and the waterfall at the end was very picturesque. We took quite a few photos and after getting rained out of our last walk, this little jaunt was just what we needed. After the walk we stopped at a small cave on the way back into town and spent a good forty minutes exploring and goofing around.
We slept in the Saturday day so we were late getting started. On our agenda for the day was an attempt to climb as close as we could to the “Walls of Jerusalem.” The park, of the same name, is usually done as a two or three night hike, but forecast was not looking good, so we just decided to see how far we got and be happy with that. We got a bit past the trappers hut before the rain and wind started. We had lunch at the trappers hut, then high tailed back down the mountain to the car.
Though our luck with the weather was not good, we were blessed with a different opportunity upon arriving back at the caravan park. The pub in town was having its yearly live music festival, and the whole town appeared to be there. The booze and beer had been flowing all day and quite a few people were in top form. The people watching was fantastic and Courtney and I had quite a few laughs at other expense. I can truthfully say that the mullet is not dead in Tasmania.
We showed up for the final act, The Wolf Brothers. They are a country rock outfit from southern Tasmania, and they had been the headlining act for a few years running. The band put on a lively set and, despite the rain, quite a few people, including ourselves no shame to say, let loose and cut a rug. The energy was great, people were friendly, and we all had a great time. I love little towns!
Sunday the weather was better so we headed to Cradle Mountain. The park hosts the starting point to the overland track, which is a weeklong backpacking route that runs through the center of the state. We didn’t have time to do the whole deal but we wanted to experience a night out in the Tasmanian mountains. The hike in was very pretty. We passed numerous little lakes and had some great views. It did require a few very steep rock scrambles to get to the top and once there the wind was howling. The rain came back for a bit as well which made for a somewhat unpleasant half an hour.
All told the hike in took about three hours, even with multiple stops to add or remove clothing layers. The final hour walk through the alpine forest was lovely beyond words. Due to the area being known for drastic weather changes, they have built “huts” at many points along the trail to use as overnight shelter for hikers and emergency stops if the weather goes to hell. We spent the night at the Scott-Kilvert hut, played some cards, talked with fellow hikers, and enjoyed the view of the lake and surrounding peaks. We had a lovely sunset and watched a wombat and her baby foraging for a bit before heading off to bed. The loft of the hut was shared sleeping area and while it was better in many ways than being out side, it was still chilly and rather noisy.
For our return journey we decided to head a bit further out and then circle back along a part of the overland track to get a look at a different part of the park. The hike up the hill to the ridge was very steep, the Australians don’t seem to believe in switchbacks, and quite overgrown. Once at the top however the views from the plateau are breathtaking. The trail runs by Cradle Mountain, which is made up of a ridge of crumbling rock peaks, giving it the look a jaw full of broken teeth. It is a unique sight. The original plan was to climb to the top before heading back to the car, but after seeing the near vertical trail, we decided against it. The hike was lovely, though tiring, and despite the weather changes we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. Courtney and I both wished we had the time to do the full overland trail.
Tuesday quickly turned into a rest day. We drove to Fortescue Bay, near Port Arthur, and set up camp at a lovely little beach site. We spent the day napping and reading before heading over to Port Author for the famous prison ghost tour. The tour started at 9pm and ran for 90 minutes. It is lead by a guide who takes you and the rest of the group around to a couple of the buildings on the site and tells stories of supernatural experiences people have had and recorded at these buildings through out history. We did not see any ghost, but the tour was a hoot and we had a good time. After having experienced it, I would have rather gone during the day and had the time and light to be able to see more of the massive complex. It is a place one could easily spend 4-5 hours exploring while learning about the history.
Wednesday, our final day, dawned windy but clear. We packed up our gear and headed back to Hobart for our final adventure on the island. We chose, for our last hurrah, to see a piece of the more civilized side of Tasmania. The MONA is a lovely space located on a hill next to a little bay out in the suburbs. MONA stands for Museum of Old and New Art. We spent three hours wandering around the four level building enjoying the multitude of different exhibits. For the most part we loved it. There were amazing pieces of art work in forms ranging from massive installations and murals, to moving pictures and short films, to artistic taxidermy. There was even an installation reproducing the human GI tract, including the stink. It was strange, but rather funny.
The featured exhibit was beyond me in many ways. It was a strange combination of retelling of the fall of ancient Egypt paralleled with and fall of the Ford motor company and American Industrialism of that time. Both Courtney and I felt no connection to any of the work and spent most of or time looking at the pieces shaking our head and wondering what the hell it was all about. We both had the feeling we were missing out on important back-story that would have possibly helped it all make sense.
I personally rather enjoyed the space itself. The architecture was unique and the space was large and welcoming. There was a couple cool little bars, restaurants, and a lovely little café with an outdoor seating area that was perfect for laying in the sun and relaxing after spending a few hours enjoying often rather abstract art, which hurts my brain after a while.
All considered the trip was a great success. There was so much amazing nature to experience, the people were very friendly, and the cities have lots of history. We both left with the feeling we wish we had more time to spend exploring.
One thing I will say though. If you ever come to explore the mountains in Tazy, make sure you bring your wet weather gear.