Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Tasmanian Holiday

I just got back from a five day trip through Tasmania, that little island that sits off the southern coast of Australia (and isn't a separate country). D and I sailed overnight from Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania, which turned out to be a lot of fun. Something about sailing away on a boat makes you feel like you're headed off on a grand adventure, and luckily the Bass Strait was nice and calm for the crossing- it has a reputation for rough seas. After that, we landed in Devonport and picked up the rental car, a ridiculous bright yellow Hyundai (or Hee-un-dai if your initials are AV) soon dubbed Mellow Yellow for its reluctance to accelerate. We then headed south to Hobart- the whole island only takes about 3 hours to drive across and it's still very sparsely populated- the main highway is a two lane road, passing mostly through farmland. Hobart is a cute little city on the waterfront, and opposed to Melbourne, which is flat flat flat, Hobart is surrounded by hills and a small mountain, Mt. Wellington, looms over the city.

We toured the Cascade Brewery, where beer has been made since 1824, making it the oldest operational brewery in Australia. The building itself is impressive and like many other structures from the 1800s, it was built by convicts. (My new slogan for Tasmania: "Built convict tough." I should have gone into PR.) The tour was a lot of fun- you have to wear safety glasses and a neon vest, and you get to see the entire facility, including the Laverne & Shirley bottling machines. And there's beer at the end!

We hit up the Salamanca market on Saturday morning before a scenic drive and a wine tasting adventure that led us down a dirt road to encounter a strange man who makes wine in his garage and tests it with pH meters and the like. After Hobart, the next destination was the Freycinet penninsula on the east coast with a brief stop at the Freycinet Vineyard, which was a more high-class operation than chemistry set man.

Freycinet National Park lived up to its tagline of "rugged and beautiful," although when you're staying in heated cabins and dining on oysters at the lodge, it's not quite so rugged. We did spend a day hiking out to Wineglass Bay, which ranks among the world's top ten beaches (according to a few travel magazines) and is only accessible by boat or by hiking in on fairly long and steep trail. It was indeed lovely even though it's too cold for swimming at the time of year. Well, that and intimidatingly massive waves.

While on the Freycinet Penninsula, I did encounter some of our furry friends- wild wallabies were all over the park (and notably in the parking lots) and some possums came a callin' on the porch one evening (and left their calling card as well). Fact: Australia possums are like a zillion times cuter than North American ones. We stopped by a nature park to check out their Tasmanian Devils and they did not disappoint, especially at feeding time. The staff feeds them what appears to be hunks of roadkill carcasses and the devils snarl and get all feisty-like. Good stuff. They're pretty cute when they're sleeping, though, and much easier to photograph. Overall, I had a great time in Tasmania and only wish I could have stayed longer.


Frances said...

Wow! It's so beautiful there!

Dean said...

Here's the video I took of the Devils playing tug-of-war with a possum carcass. Enjoy! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZWaVCjQvnw

Jeff said...

I learned from the latest Radio Lab that Tasmanian devils transmit tumors between them in part because they bite each other so often and they are so inbred.

eileen said...

Yeah, we actually read a paper about that during grad school- it's the only known example of contagious tumors. Bad news for the devils, though, because the disease is usually fatal.

carmen said...

they are so cute! what great things you have been able to do there. jealous