Adventures in Tasmania

A few months back, a group of friends and I decided – what the hell – we’ve all never been to Tasmania – let’s go! No kidding, that was basically the discussion. We booked some flights, a room at the YHA (a hostel), and basically played the rest as it came. Without much ado – our tour de Tassie…

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Image courtesy www.forestrytas.com.au

A little background: Tasmania is an island state of Australia that lies just to the Southeast of the Australian Continent. Like Australia, it was originally occupied by Abroriginal tribes, then colonised by the British. The British, like in Australia, used Tasmania as a penal colony. It wasn’t until gold was discovered in Australia that the British figured out there was value in the land and they stopped using Aus and Tassie it as de facto prisons.

These days, it’s a quaint little island state with 500,000 people. There are two main cities: Launceston to the north and Hobart to the south. Hobart is the state capital and where I began my adventure.

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I should also mention that Tasmania is known for other things too: extremely clean air and water, salmon and oysters, craft beer, fine wines, gourmet markets, more wildlife than you can shake a stick at… and our friend Taz.

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But more on that later…

My buddy Bryon ,who I flew down with, had a few business meetings (it was Friday) so I was left to wander around Hobart and take in the sights with my friend Cattie. She’s very photo shy – so you only get pics of me. At least they aren’t all selfies this time…

Our touring began at the Tasmanian Museum which features a history of Tassie from prehistoric dinosaurs, history of peoples and also history of the local wildlife.

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In the middle is a stuffed Tasmanian Devil.

Like Australia to the north, Tasmania has unique biodiversity and species like the devil and others survive here partly due to the lack of natural predators. Since the extinction of the Tasmanian Tiger, the devils have no distinct natural predator.

After the Museum, it was a walk along the waterfront and up to the Tasmanian War Memorial.

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Drunken Admiral – my kinda place.

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The War Memorial commemorates the participation and losses of Tassie citizens to conflicts worldwide.  It even includes mention of The Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Across from the Memorial, you get a glimpse of The Tasman Bridge which connects the main part of Hobart to the Eastern Shore.

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Back in 1975 an ore carrier struck the bridge causing sections of the roadbed and support pylons to fall away. The loose concrete sections fell upon it and eventually sunk the ship. Due to the channels depth of 115ft, the wreck and a concrete slab of bridge remain submerged still today. The wreck killed 7 of the ships’ crew and 5 motorists when their 4 cars plummeted over the edge.

Since it was such a beautiful day we decided to check out the Hobart Botanic Gardens. They feature the endemic plants of Tas as well as have some themed areas.

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Above are some water features including the conservatory.

Being mid-week. This place was desolate.

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I particularly enjoyed the Japanese Garden which has several koi ponds and rock gardens.

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Even the sunflowers were happy.

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The next day was a travel day. We were headed the 3 hour drive north to see Frecinet National Park and Wineglass Bay. We traded off driving, with each of us displaying our different driving styles…and abilities…

Once you leave Hobart, it’s pretty much just empty open 2 lane roads. After leaving the hustle of Sydney it feels at times like no one really lives here.

We did a quick bio break on the side of the highway and lucked upon a gorgeous beach.

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I’ve been to some white sand beaches in my life, but this was the most crystal clear water I’ve ever seen.

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The drive up continued to be gorgeous as we wove back and forth through coastline and forest. Arriving at the parking area we had a bit of a climb to reach the Wineglass Bay lookout.

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 Up and up we went with little peeks of the land spreading out before us.

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The walk was well worth it  once we reached the lookout and took in the sights of Wineglass Bay.

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Wineglass bay is secluded and reachable only by water or by a several kilometer hike. It’s also rated as one of the top 10 beaches in the world and one of the most photographed beaches in Australia.

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Me, Bri and Liz taking it all in.

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We took our time on the way down.

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And stopped along the way back to see sunset over the rocks and crashing waves.

The next day was our final day in Tassie and we had lots to do.

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I realise I haven’t said much about the food in Tassie yet. Well, simply put, it’s incredible. Being in the middle of nowhere wedged between a country with only a few people (23m – Aus) and Antarctica (population – penguins…) there is little pollution. Meaning, the food is clean and mostly organic. Boy do the locals know what to do with it. Seafood – amazing. Bakeries – amazing. I’m glad we did some hiking otherwise you would have needed to roll me back to Sydney.

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Back to that final day – lots to do comment I made…

Our first stop was Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Now, this isn’t a zoo. They are a sanctuary focussing on helping orphaned and injured wildlife. Tasmania is teeming with wildlife but they are still exposed to the potential for injury from other animals or human interaction.

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We showed up in time for the morning guided tour which began with a talk about wombats and display of a juvenile wombat.

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These guys are friendly when babies but once they reach adolescence they are territorial and can no longer interact with humans. For now though, I enjoyed petting him.

The tour continued with a talk about Tassie Devils – and a feeding.

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They are pretty interesting little animals. Full grown they only get to a bit larger than a house cat. They are native to Tasmania. I never knew that they are scavenger animals. They are not natural hunters but instead have an incredible sense of smell and in effect are vultures of the land. Since they are only located here they are facing problems with inbreeding as the gene pool is only so big. Also, a facial tumor disease is spreading rapidly among them which causes large tumors on the mouth and nose. Eventually, preventing them from eating or drinking which leads to death. Doctors have made progress on finding treatment, but the solution may be isolation and breeding in captivity.

Currently Bonarong has 30+ devils. Many of which have come to them from vehicle related incidents. Often Devils are the secondary victim of auto encounters. Meaning, they are eating roadkill and then get struck by an auto themselves. Many of the devils here were injured or babies who survived the accident but needed to be taken into captivity to survive.

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Despite being vicious, they are very curious and pretty cute up close.

After the devils, it was off to see one the other classic Aussie animals up close. The koala.

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Like other states, Tassie doesn’t allow handling of the koalas other than a light pat. They are only awake for a few hours a day and this guy was more interested in the eucalyptus than he was in us.

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Om nom nom…

Not all of the animals are ferocious like the devils and most are allowed to roam round on their own free will.

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Even safe around kids.

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And this big fella.

That is… unless they want to kick the crap out of each other.

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Which the big ones do on occasion. Even using their tails as a counterbalance.

Bonrong had a ton of native animals including birds, an awesome albino wallaby and many others.

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Well worth visiting on it’s own. Given the amount of good work they do for rescue animals, I feel its a must do for any visit to Tassie.

To find out more, visit http://www.bonorong.com.au/

The last stop on our Tour de Tassie brought us to the Museum of Old and New Art – or the MONA as it’s known locally. It’s the largest private funded museum in Australia and features antiquities, modern, and contemporary art. All of which come from the private collection of the sponsor, David Walsh, or though visiting exhibits.

David Walsh is a professional gambler who made it rich after developing a gambling system for horse racing and other sports. Yes, a quirky museum funded by a pro gambler who is a self admitted “raging Athiest” and, basically, a strange small-scale Richard Branson.

It commonly tops the Tourism Tasmania list and David Walsh refers to the Mona as “a twisted adult Disneyland”

I’ve left out the controversial stuff (most of the exhibits) since some of my nieces and nephews may read this. All in – it’s a cool place.

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The MONA – Photo courtesy TripAdvisor

On arrival you’re treated to expansive views of Hobart

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We opted to start at the on-site winery and brewery tasting room. You know, to get in the right mindset for the museum…

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The wines – delicious. The beers – strong.

You enter by descending a glass circular staircase.

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I love architecture so I really got into this.

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It’s almost eerie. I’d love to visit after dark.

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Inside it opens to multiple floors of exhibits with many rooms splintering off.

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Some lined with tall limestone walls.

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Others are down long velveted corridors.

Some exhibits were tame like this waterfall that read top news feeds one word at a time.

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Some were scientific, like this one that used chemistry to replicate human digestion – extruding poop logs from the end and all…

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And some were dark, like this one which focussed on death.

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Many were not child friendly, but that’s the point of this museum.

I loved it.

Exiting the museum takes to back up to daylight and the real world above. We opted to lounge around for a while enjoying some oysters and wine.

Well, that’s all for my Tassie trip. The moral of the story? Tassie is an amazing and unique place. One that you can only get a small glimpse of in a short period of three days. I will be back and for much longer.

Until next time…

JJ

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