Fan-TASSIE-tastic time in Tasmania with new found and fabulous friends!
May 18th. OK then.. and now for the next part of my Australian experience, I'm off to the beautiful island of Tasmania. Arrived in the capital Hobart, around 11ish. Perfect timing to get to my hostel - Allports in North Hobart, throw my bags down and get out and explore as I usually do. So what happened this time? Oh yes, I went for a wee afternoon nap.. sorry to disappoint you folks, but I am officially admitting defeat.. and the fact that I'm an old fart!
BUT once I had my 2 hour power nap, I was raring to go and explore Hobart! And what a surprise! Not sure what I expected but it's a really cool, hip place.... funky restaurants as far as the eye can see, with everything from Indonesian, Mexican, Turkish, Moroccan, Indian, Thai and of course tons of seafood restaurants including one called FISH 329 (that I checked out later for dinner - fantastic! All of these restaurants wouldn't look out of place in New York or London, never mind in the main street of a sometimes forgotten island off the coast of Oz (no offence, Tasmania, I personally don't think you should ever be forgotten!!)
So now for a little info on Tasmania. Affectionately dubbed "Tassie" by most Australians.. this island state is home to some of the country's most mind-bending coastal and inland wilderness regions, with a quarter of it filled with wildlife national parks; many of them designated World Heritage sites.. seriously, everywhere is so quaint and beautiful; even tiny wee towns in the middle of nowhere.. very little tackiness to be seen I have to say! The island was originally known as Van Diemans Land until 1856 when its name changed to Tasmania. Then in 1901 with the federation of the states it became an official part of the country of Australia. From Cradle Mountain to Wineglass Bay, from the capital, Hobart to the Nut (a huge flat-topped circular headland that dominates the historic town of Stanley) it's true what they say - the friendliest people really ARE here in Tassie. Hobart itself has a population of about 128,000; it is backed by towering Mt. Wellington (1,270m high), and is quite different from the rest of Tasmania, with its modern city vibe! Did you know there was a Cadbury's chocolate factory here - now how on earth did I miss that? Too busy with the outdoorsy and culture part.. but missing chocolate - not like me!
May 19th. So got up this morning and took the advice of Murray, a lovely boy working in the hostel, to do a day trip to beautiful Wineglass Bay (perfect curve of white sand, crystal clear sea and blue skies, that was voted one of the top 10 beaches in the world by Frommers in 2006!). It was either that or Port Arthur, another key tourist attraction here in Tassie that was used to house over 12,000 convicts in the 1800's.... oh, well you can't do everything!. So I picked up the bus at 8:30am and off we went. Quite a long trip but so worth it! Wineglass Bay is part of the Freycinet National Park and we visited it after checking out Coles Bay, a small township dominated by awesome 300m high pink granite rocks called the Hazards! Had a lovely time with our wee group, Pepe from Italy, Ajantha from Sri Lanka, 2 girls from Japan and of course Leigh, our 105 year old but very cute guide who had been doing this for approx. 80 yrs and loved it!! (ok slight exaggeration here!). On our hike to the lookout point, we found a very funky, hand made wooden chair - funny place to leave it?....and once we arrived, the view was certainly worth it! On the way back down, i saw my first kangaroo - well, officially it was a wallaby although Leigh says technically they are all the same species just different varieties (everyone else I've spoken to disagrees but hey, he was the guide that day!). Back to the hostel and packed up my stuff as I was meeting my new friend Mardy tomorrow at 10:30am - in case we missed each other, I had said I would have the overbearingly giant green backpack so she couldn't miss me!
Have I told you about my connection with Mardy yet? Well, I met two lovely boys in Mendoza - Brett and Dave - from Tassie, and they said, "Stef, if you ever go to Australia, you have to go to Tassie and we will hook you up with some of our friends." Very nice of them i thought. So Mardy and I started emailing and one thing led to another and then I was meeting her... outside Target no less.. how exciting! I knew as soon as we said "Hi!" that we would get on great! One of her daughters, Adelyn, was there too, and we stayed to watch a Highland pipe band for a bit (which Mardy told me she put on for my arrival - a nice touch i thought - teeehee!).
So my wonderful tour of Tassie with my personal tour guides began....first stop, Mount Wellington - freezing but beautiful views of Hobart and beyond.. but definitely brrrr... as you can see from the pic. After having lovely tea and pastries with Mardy's sister Sara, we headed off to pick up her other daughter, Holly then drive the 2 hours back to Penguin (brilliant name eh!) where they live. They were in Hobart for Holly's football as she is in the State team - and pretty darn good! Our trip back was fab - lotsa chats and popped into some gorgeous wee towns (some of which were built by convicts!) - Ross, (famous for its bridge and sheep museum), Oatlands and Campbelltown. As we arrived home, we saw a beautiful sunset! Headed off to a bonfire party then back to the house for the night! Can't believe quite how lovely these girls are considering I'm a complete stranger. They are so incredibly warm and friendly and treated me like one of the family - can't say enough good things about these wonderful people!
May 21st. Up today - busy schedule (as always eh!). The girls had football (Holly is Adelyn's coach!) so Mardy dropped me off in Penguin to potter. Hilarious - I decided to check out the local Anglican church (hey, it was Sunday folks ...and i couldn't find the Catholic church!).. Hmmmn, couldn't really leave as when i entered they rushed to give me a seat and I realised of the 8 people in church, no-one (and i mean no-one) was under 80! Betty at the organ with her fingerless gloves was def. off-key today and Ruth (the organizer at the back) kept tutting about the extra verses she was playing! Everyone shook hands with me and welcomed me into the church, also got an invite for tea and pancakes after...you could tell they thought they had some fresh blood so i made a quick exit! Checked out the famous Penguin market - pretty impressive with tons of organic products! What are the chances .. ran into a girl from Ohio (selling elephant pastry ears - big in that state apparantly!) and a lady from Lurgan, Northern Ireland who knew my friend Deirdre's dad - both married to Tassie men! Small, small world! Had a coffee and rhubarb cake (yum) while waiting for the gang... and then we were off again. Visited Boat Harbour (where Brett lives), Stanley and the Nut, and Elliot where I met Mardy's mum and dad (lovely people)! On the way home met Mardy's son, Dylan.. what a lovely family... and all so incredibly sociable. Very impressive Mardy!
May 22nd. My last day with the girls.. bummer! Where has the time gone in Tassie? Another incredibly lovely day... blue skies, blinding sunshine, and NO rain (yah - this is a big deal as most Aussie's don't visit here due to the stinky weather!). Out the door by 8am, and we were off, for the "piece de resistance" - Cradle Mountain! Pic of me with the Caterpiller hat in honour of Dave and Brett (they work there!) with dramatic peaks, deep gorges, sublime lakes and wild moorlands... this is the place to go to be at one with nature! Unfortunately we didn't have time in the day to hike to the top of Cradle (1,545m) but we did go pretty high, past Dove Lake, to Marion's Lookout (where views of Cradle were gorgeous!). The girls were so excited as they had only seen snow once or twice before... check out the action shot of Adelyn throwing a snowball at us! Here is where the infamous "Crunchie vs Violet Crumble" taste test took place - to the curious stares of other hikers! These two chocolate products are quite similar in texture and overall look, with Crunchie being the far superior tasting product! BUT speak to most Aussie's and they prefer the VC - a poor rip off in my opinion!! So of course we put it to the test! And Crunchie won hands down - we had such a laugh ....blindfolded and munching away, people thought we were mad! Headed down via Crater Lake and Wombat Pool! The views were stunning! Had lunch at the Cradle Cafe then started heading for Launceston, where i would pick up the bus to take me back to Hobart for the night (I leave tomorrow for Melbourne early in the am!). Can't believe we all only met 2 days ago - we have literally laughed non-stop since I met these fab girls! One last stop (after seeing Sheffield, the town of murals...) was the Raspberry Cafe! Fab place where everything is rasberry based - and this brownie was so good! Seriously - the girls even bought me raspberry scented aromatherapy socks - that smelled deeeelicious! Then off to the bus station - where no surprise, I got all emotional saying goodbye! The amazing people i meet on my travels.....have a great fondness for Tassie after this trip - the scenery is amazing, but the people just blow you away!!! Lots of love and thanks to all of you - Mardy, Holly and Adelyn - for everything! And remember you must come visit Boston when i get back! Final nail on the head about Tassie being so great. The bus driver - when i told him where my hostel was - said, "dont worry love, its not directly on the route and its too far for you to walk"... so he drove me there, out of his way, after he had finished work! I mean really - how nice can you get! As the website says "Tasmania.. Island of Rejuvenation" and i feel quite that way after this fabulous trip! Thanks for everything Tassie!