“Oh, you are going to Tassie,” (as the Australians lovingly call their biggest island), “it is just the best, it is so beautiful…”
“Well, I have never been personally, but you will just love it.” This was a universal response when we told people we were heading for a week of travels in Tasmania. We actually have not met any Australians who have been to Tasmania, but we agree with all who told us it was beautiful and yes, we loved it.
There are many diverse, interesting and beautiful places, from moss covered forests with tallest tropical trees in the world, to trout stocked streams and rivers, cheerful vineyards and lonely lighthouses, but our perfect Tassi day was all along and up the East Coast.
After so much driving around New Zealand we were happy to base ourselves in Hobart, an easy decision for we had an open invitation from friends of a friend to stay with them. We worried about overstaying our welcome but we quickly made close connections with Peter and Jenny. How could we not, for we had a shared experience of raising three daughters and loving travel. Every night we lingered after dinner to all hours of the night comparing travel and parenting notes, chatting, discussing and solving world problems. Day trips to the farmer’s market, secret waterfalls or the (in)famous MONA museum in the company of locals are just the best way to learn about and experience the country.
But we knew we could not leave Tasmania without paying a visit to Port Arthur (you will surely hear about this place from Mirek) and the Freycinet Peninsula. Forewarned that a rain storm will hit sooner or later we jumped in the car and drove away chasing the sun. Our luck held, but as we approached the Freycinet National Park we realized the magnitude of the area (and the many stairs leading to the view points and beaches) and the long way we still had to go before the night. Luckily the perfect solution presented itself. A flight over the peninsula in a small Cessna was advertised on the side of the road and in a split second we made a unanimous decision to veer off and take a chance.
The young pilots in smart uniforms welcomed us with big smiles. Perfect day for a ride.
“Will the weather hold?”
“Most definitely. A plane just left, but will be back in 45 minutes. Why don’t you check out the Friendly Beaches down the road and come back in a little bit.”
The Friendly Beaches were indeed friendly. Or perhaps we should call them friendless as there was barely a soul in sight. There were miles and miles of the finest white sand, so fine it squeaked under our feet with every step we took.
One of the Friendly Beaches
Seagulls and seagrass
Excited, we returned to the plane and with some trepidation watched the young pilot push it into place.
Getting into position
“Um, how old are you?
“Twenty four, but don’t worry, I have 10 years of experience. I started flying at 14.”
And off we went into the still blue sky and soon our eyeballs were popping out of our sockets. One after the other the overwhelmingly spectacular sights of the granite rocks and the many beaches,
including the world famous Top 10 Beaches of the World worthy Wineglass Bay. What is so cool about this beach is that it will stay unspoiled forever; it will never have a hotel built on its sand as it is in a national park. It also gets very few visitors because it takes many hours of steep walking to get to it and then back again.
Wow, wow, wow!
“Do you ever get tired of the view?” we ask the pilot.
“No, how can you, just look at this! On a sunny day like this I am up here four or five times and I love it!”
We came back within half an hour and landed over a flock of elegant black swans. As we walked away from the plane a small echidna, a visual cross between an anteater and a hedgehog ambled across the grass.
After a quick reinforcement with a plate of oysters and a bowl of mussels we continued our coastal drive north to the Bay of Fires.
It got its name from the fires spotted by the first white explorers in the 18th century, but it might as well have gotten the name for the spectacular orange hued granite rocks strewn about. In the late afternoon sun they indeed glowed as ambers. The origin of the color is just a species of lowly lichen but in force it makes for a spectacular showing. We went from bay to bay, never tiring of taking photos.
Then the gathering clouds sent us a message to get going inland, for we were to spend the night close to Launceston, the second biggest city in Tasmania. But to get there we had to cross the Blue Tier Forrest Reserve with narrow windy roads.
Desperate for some sustenance we veered off our forrest course to reach a green valley of Pyengana. (Population 123). We might as well have stepped into a mystical Irish vale with a pub at the end of the road. We stepped out just as the sun broke through the thickening clouds to illuminate the cattle grazing far off in the emerald grass.
A stampede of four light chestnut horses took our attention away from the cattle. One by one they came to say hello and sniff our hand. Really, what else? A leprechaun?
The old Pub in the Paddock, licensed since 1880, was empty save for a couple sitting in the corner nursing a glass each. “The kitchen is closed,” announced the bar tender, “but you can always get a pint of beer.”
So we each got one and sat down.
“Would you buy one for our pig?”
“A beer drinking pig?”
“We actually have three now.”
“What are their names?”
“Priscilla I, Priscilla II and Priscilla III.”
“Like in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert?” (An old Australian movie and musical)
“Nah, Priscilla, Princess of the Paddock.”
So we bought a special watered down version of beer for the Priscillas and watered them before we left for the last part of our drive.
Priscilla I, II or III?
We got to our studio apartment at Jack’s B&B in the dark. Not a single place in the small town was open, except for the liquor store, but good old Jack, moonlighting as a local school bus driver, had our mini fridge and pantry stocked with all sorts of goodies. He waited up for us, warming up the kettle.
As we sat down to tea the skies opened and the rain pelted down and never stopped until noon next day.