( Note to you loyal readers, if we still have any: Sorry this blog post is so long, but we have a lot of ground to make up.....as always, we'll try to do better next time!!! )
We were driving along one country road when we came across unusual farmlands.....acres and acres of fields surrounded by barbed wire security fences.....obviously meant to keep intruders out, not critters in. Every few meters there was a sign.....
Turns out that Tasmania grows about 50% of the world's legal opium poppy crop, used by major pharmaceutical companies to produce morphine and other opiate derivatives.
The west coast of Tasmania is wet and wild, a rainforest much like the Olympic rainforest in Washington state. Much of this half of the state is national park and forest, some with a mining or logging history, and some seemingly so dense it felt unspoiled. We headed there first to explore.
|View from "the Nob", on Tassie's north coast|
A 4wd vehicle was recommended for the west, and Deb & Don's campervan was 2wd (and the rental company said it wasn't insured on these roads), so we agreed to meet up a few days later. Tasmania is small, so no part is more than a few hours drive away.
The drive starts out along the beautiful coast before heading inland into the bush.
|We decided to give this track a miss, after seeing the photos of rigs swallowed up by quicksand a few k's in.|
|Tojo crosses the river aboard the single car ferry at Corinna|
|Base of Russell falls|
We really enjoyed Mt. Field National Park, and spent a few days there hiking and checking out the sights. The hikes were beautiful, though we saw more snakes here (and in Tassie in general), than we did in all of the rest of our time in Oz. There are 3 species of snake found in Tasmania, the tiger, the lowland copperhead, and the white-lipped snake. All are poisonous, though the white-lipped snake has never been recorded to kill a human. We weren't checking lip color, but I think we were just seeing the tiger and copperheads, both of which pack a lethal dose of venom. Makes walking through the high grasses a bit of a nerve wracking way to get exercise!!!
|Pademelon, a small marsupial that we saw all over Tasmania|
|Cindi inside the "Cave Tree", an enormous hollowed out live tree|
The park was the site of a worldwide protest in 2003 to keep from logging the ancient old growth Eucalyptus (gum) forest for paper. Protesters camped in the tree for weeks, bringing international pressure to bear on the logging companies. Eventually the area, the Styx River valley, was incorporated into the park.
|At the base of Gandolph's Staff, the tree at the center of the 2003 protests.|
Eventually it was time to head to the town of Hobart on the east coast, where we reconnoitered with Don and Deb at the Australian Wooden Boat Festival. The festival, held every two years, is one of the largest such shows in the world, and attracts boat builders, sailors, steam engine geeks, and wooden boat afficionados of all types and stripes from all over. It was total immersion in the art of wooden boat building.....we loved it!!!
|Boats gathering for the start of the opening parade. Friends Graham, Diane, and Kerri hitched a ride on the beautiful ketch Laurabara in the middle!|
|The parade begins its sail into Hobart town|
|Laurabara careful not to spill the champagne!!!|
|Don sharing sea stories w/ the Laurabara crew|
|An 8-meter crew ready to race......looks like yesteryear!!!|
|Tassie crayfishermen making pots|
|Cruise ship presented a bit of a wind shadow for the little skiffs racing in the bay!!!|
|4 mates, a bunch of beer, and a classic century old boat.....what could be sweeter???|
|The Lyle Hess pontoon looking ship shape!|
The Festival proves a great cross roads for yachties and boaties everywhere to come together, and we were thrilled to run into several old friends we've met along the line. Jeff and Kathy (s/v Beatrix), Rich and Cindy (s/v Legacy), and of course Graham and Diane (s/v Maunie of Ardwall), as well as making new friends among the crowds.
|Good times in old Hobart town indeed!!!|
Finally the 4 day show was over, and we saddled up Tojo for the next leg of the journey, out the Tasman peninsula SE of Hobart. As most know, Australia in general, and Tasmania in particular, was largely settled by convicts sent over in the 1700's from England. Tasmania was home to several notorious prisons, and Port Arthur on the peninsula was the best known penal colony of the lot.
|Prison building at the abandoned coal mines.....a harsh sentence to serve in the cold Tasmanian climate.|
|Solitary confinement prison. Exercise yards in center, a cell door on the left. Harsh indeed.|
Leaving Port Arthur, we headed over to the Huon River Valley, known mostly for its huon pine, a fantastic rot resistant boat building wood, much like the kauri from New Zealand.
|We were told that the materials for this pretty little guy cost around $12,000NZ.....ummmmmm, maybe next time!!!|
We also caught a great night of music at a local theater. Headliner act was a bluegrass band led by a Japanese banjo player, Montz Matsomoto. Eclectic, you say? What's eclectic about a Japanese banjo virtuoso playing Lou Reed's "Take a Walk on the Wild Side", bluegrass style, in Tasmania!!! What's not to like!!!
After Franklin we were anxious to meet up with friends Graham and Diane aboard s/y "Maunie of Ardwall", who have been cruising Tasmania for the past several weeks. We arranged to meet them down south at Cockle Creek, the most southern point in Tasmania that can be reached by road. They (G&D along with friend Kerry, from s/y Sel Citron) anchored in Recherche Bay, right by our campsite.
|Cindi and Diane in a rare sunny moment|
|Cape Bruny lighthouse|
We headed up to Freycinet National Park, home of some great hiking and an iconic view from an overlook into Wineglass Bay. The hiking was terrific, and the views and camping (at Friendly Beach) were great as advertised.
|Hard to get oystercatchers to sit still for 3 second exposures!!!|
|Friendly Beach sunset|
|Wallabies weren't at all shy!!!|
|Wineglass Bay from the overlook|
(If you've made it this far in this overlong post, thanks for hanging in there......almost done!!!!)
|Feeding time (every 45 minutes, all day, every day!!!)|
|Good to the last drop!!!|
Our last stop in Tasmania was Cradle Mountain National Park, one of the best known places to visit in Tassie. The hiking is fantastic, and we had an uncommon clear weather window! Perfect way to wrap up our trip.
In the national park is a devil sanctuary, where they breed devils to release into the wild. The Tasmanian devil population has been decimated by an unusual communicable form of facial cancer, which is endangering the species. The rascals in this sanctuary are tumor free, so hopefully they will succeed in researching how to take care of the disease, which to date has eluded a cure. We had a great tour of the place by a zoologist who fed the devils while we were there. Pretty amazing little scavengers, carnivorous marsupials eat whole animals, including bones and fur!!! We watched 8 juveniles polish off a wallaby hindquarter, no problem!!! Per Wikipedia, the devils generate among the strongest bites per unit body mass of any extant mammal land predator. A nasty piece of work indeed!!!
The park also was a sanctuary for quolls, another unique carnivorous marsupial (carries it's young in a pouch).
OK, enough Wild Kingdom for now. We wrapped up with a great hike around Cradle Mountain itself. Like Yosemite Valley, the park uses a shuttle bus to ferry hikers in to the many hikes around the park, in order to reduce the traffic and it's impact on the wildlife. We chose a rather challenging circuit, but after a late start, had to cut short our climb of the peak short about 1/2 way up in order to catch the last bus out of the park. It was a beautiful day nonetheless.
At last it was time to head back to the Australian mainland. We drove 'Tojo' back aboard the ferry and hunkered down for the 12 hour crossing to friends Don and Deb's place in Melbourne. Since the original owners of our trusty Land Cruiser were no longer planning to buy her back, we quickly hustled to get her spiffed up, and needed some mechanical work to pass the Victorian "Roadworthy" inspection (none is required in South Australia, where we bought her). After a rather stressful week of advertising, she sold to a couple of young women who will be using her for a similar trek around Oz.......Tojo's adventures continue!!!
Saying our goodbyes to Deb and Don (THANK YOU GUYS!!!), we headed to the airport and flew back to New Zealand. We're now happily aboard Bravo, still in the boatyard. We enjoyed Australia so much that we have changed our plans to allow more time to explore the east coast and Tasmania by water. We'll stay in NZ until May, then sail north to Vanuatu for a few months. Then in Oct/Nov we'll sail down to Australia, looking forward to the start of the Sydney Hobart Race after Christmas, and the fireworks display in Sydney harbor for New Years, before heading down to Tasmania for a month or two. We'll work our way up the east coast of Oz, getting ready to depart Darwin by June, 2018, destination ????? Stay tuned, lots of adventures to come!