Tasmania – Part 1

Okay, this may have to turn into two posts, because a week’s worth of travel just doesn’t fit well into only a few hundred words.

 

Our plan consisted of flying into the major airport in Tasmania, renting a car, and driving a loop around the middle of the island, skimming along the eastern and southern coasts as we went and passing through both major cities. My trip started a few hours after everyone else’s. I traveled with the same group I went on the Great Ocean Road with, plus one other guy from our apartment complex. I had a lab that day, so I had to catch an evening flight and meet up with the group at our accommodation… where I somehow managed to leave my wallet the next morning. Huge mistake. But there were a few lucky things about that: it was in the only city we’d be returning to, so getting it wouldn’t be too much of a problem, and I was with amazing people who didn’t mind lending me money (especially since I’d prepaid for most of our accommodations, so they kind of owed me anyway). So travel hack no 1 here: always make sure you have your wallet. Just always. Any time you think about it. Or move. Or breathe.

Anyway, the rest of the trip was awesome when I wasn’t begging Jeanine for cash. My first full day in Tassie started at a wildlife sanctuary, my third one since arriving in Australia and by far my favorite entirely because of the keeper we met there. We timed our arrival to coincide with a scheduled Tasmanian Devil feeding, and we thought that was all we would get. But the keeper who took us around the sanctuary showed off several Tasmanian devils, as well as sugar gliders, ringtailed possums, bilbies, black swans, wedge tailed eagles, a juvenile wombat, spotted and eastern quolls, and I don’t even remember what else. He talked about the relative endangerment status of every animal, how it behaves in the wild and in captivity, personal experiences with them (including some awesome stories about nursing orphaned babies) and just did an incredible job of informing us about the animals in his care. I’ve wanted to be a vet for a long time, and a zoo/wildlife vet for a slightly shorter period, and he honestly reminded me why. He was so passionate about every animal he showed us, but he had a huge amount of respect for them too. I honestly feel terrible that I don’t remember his name, but that keeper is absolutely amazing.

Keeper-man feeding a Tasmanian Devil and telling us about how it can bite through bone… and can’t distinguish his fingers from the piece of meat.

We also went on a hike to a lookout over Wineglass Bay and got an amazing view – after we spent an appropriate amount of time watching a wild mamma wallaby sniff around the lookout. We actually saw her joey peek out of the pouch for a while, it was freakin’ adorable.

Mamma and Joey

The Lookout (we peeled our eyes away from the wallaby eventually)

After that we headed back to our AirBnB until just after sunset, when we drove to the beach to see the fairy penguins come ashore for the night! I don’t have pictures of this because a) it was dark and b) penguins don’t like flash. (It can actually kill them in a roundabout way). We almost stepped on about a dozen of the little guys because it was so dark we could only see the white on their chests, and then just barely. That was the second time I’d seen fairy penguins come in from the ocean, but it was honestly cooler to me, because I wasn’t at a tourist hub watching, I was just by a random beach near a town. I guess it felt more genuine, although the penguins were no more or less real than the last ones I saw.

The next morning we got up insanely early to catch the sunrise over the blowhole, an opening in the rocks along the beach where the waves can rush into a crevice, only to be forced upward and out the hole. I took sooo many pictures there, it really was incredibly beautiful. We just spent an hour quietly watching the sun rise over the ocean, not talking, just taking pictures and enjoying the sight.

The colors almost rivaled sunsets in western Oklahoma. Almost.

We followed that with a hike up to a lookout right next to our AirBnB. The lookout was disappointing though, so we found our own… on top of a massive boulder at the top of the hill the lookout was supposed to be on. Climbing up (and down) from there was probably the sketchiest thing I did in Tasmania, but man the photos were worth it ten times over.

Awesome view. Bad upload.

Then we headed on further south and west. We stopped briefly at a vineyard to sample some wine. I flashed back hard to Italy, and I realized that my taste for wine has not grown at all since that summer. It was still fun though, and interesting to try Australia made wine. The tasting was free too, which was even better.

From there we went on to Port Arthur, the former prison island, now historic site. We took a guided day tour, but honestly, I felt like I got as much history from the ghost tour we took that night as I did from the short day walk everyone took. My favorite part was probably the harbor cruise though. When we first arrived we just managed to catch the last boat that took us on a lap around the shores of the prison area – they had two separate prisons: an adult prison that took up the main area of one shore, and a boy’s prison that was far less successful on the other side of the harbor. In the middle was a small island they used as their cemetery. The whole thing was a bit eerie, especially the Island of the Dead, as they called the cemetery. It was an oddly beautiful place though, for one that housed so many horrors. The place was a last chance prison, for horrible criminals, repeat offenders, and escape artists. It was the place they used as a threat at other prisons, where lashes were given as frequent punishments, and they even had a “Separate Prison” for the worst criminals, where no speech was allowed by anyone, and inmates were left in endless mute silence with no real human interaction for years. Shortly after it was established, they had to annex an insane asylum, as it was called at the time. Apparently it was common for inmates to get transferred from the first to the second.

Island of the Dead

Adult Prison area

I’ll end this one here since it’s long and description-heavy, but I’ll continue the Tasmania trip in my next post.

The Great Ocean Road

I finally got the chance to travel outside of the Melbourne area this month! It was honestly becoming really frustrating before we left. I got to see so many cool things before the semester started (see koala selfies and the like), but as soon as school began I just felt trapped. Everyone – including me – was too busy getting things under control to leave on any kind of real trip. But occasionally I still saw other exchange students making it out to other cities and areas, Sydney, Brisbane, and even as far north as Townsville and the Great Barrier Reef. I really felt like I was doing the exchange student thing wrong, just staying in the area around my exchange university all the time. But early in September I finally got the chance to get away from Monash and road trip the Great Ocean Road, one of the most visited tourist routes in Australia. Honestly it was really touristy, but so beautiful. We drove along the coast for two full days, stopping at lookouts and beaches along the way.

Bells Beach

We also got to see some awesome wildlife on the way, although sadly some critters weren’t interested in posing for any pictures.

Portuguese Man O’ War Jellyfish, these things were all over some of the beaches near the Apostles.

Our Koala buddy, not giving a hoot.

It was pretty cold and windy on our trip, and we even got rained on a few times, but we still got to see some really amazing sights, including a rainforest-like climate in the middle of the temperate southern hills, and just some really incredible lookouts.

Surreal tropical forest on the cold, rainy southern coast.

Teddy’s Lookout

The most well-known place we stopped at was the Twelve Apostles, a series of pillar-like land forms that stand out in the ocean a few hundred meters off shore. They each stand about as high as the cliffs that back the beaches, but they’re slightly misnamed now. When colonial settlers came across them there were still twelve, but over the last couple hundred years several have fallen, leaving only eight after the most recent collapse in 2005.

Just some of the Apostles. They’re scattered over several miles along the southern shore, so we had to drive to see each cluster of them.

We also took a break on the beach by our first Apostles stop to get some crazy group photos.

The most cliché photo I’d ever taken up to that point.

No, I don’t want to admit how many times we attempted this.

My favorite stop along the way was probably Thunder Cave, although the cave itself wasn’t my favorite. It is a cave worn into a gorge that creates a booming noise as the water comes surging through the gorge and crashes into the cave. It made for an impressive display of nature, but I think the looking down the gorge itself out into the open sea was my favorite view on the trip.

Thunder Cave

The view beyond (sadly, photo does not do it justice)

It was an awesome experience traveling with people I’ve met since I got here, and the short three day trip was a great warm up into longer trips further into Australia. I can’t wait to for my next journey.

 

 

Our very mature driver and copilot at our first meal break.

Side note: I was reminded on this trip of how much freedom is given by having a car. We could hardly bear to part with the tiny compact sedan that had us crammed hip to hip for hours each day.

Quite literally hugging the car behind. I dare say a few tears may have fallen shortly after this photo was taken.