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January 10, 2005

Tasmania: West Coast

Well, all my concerns about the tour were totally unfounded, because it was excellent. I had a really good time, got to see so much, and met some great people. There were 21 of us, all different ages and nationalities, in a van with a small trailer for luggage, driven by our guide, Adam. There were quite a few Japanese people, some of whom had limited English abilities, so Adam often spoke in this weird kind of pidgin which cracked me up. He had a random CD collection and was the DJ on the bus as well as tour guide, driver, cook, English teacher, etc. I remember doing one of those career tests at school which are meant to tell you which occupation you'd be suited to, and mine said I should be a tour guide. I actually looked into it a year or so ago, but you have to have the patience of a saint and the ability to deal calmly with obnoxious people- so that counts me out.

We started off early in the morning and drove to Russell Falls, where we walked through rainforest and got to see some pademelons, which are dinky little wallabies with beady eyes. In actual fact, it was just me and Julie who got to see them at close quarters because we were leading and inadvertently scared them off for everyone else. But at least some of us saw them and that's the main thing, right?

We had a barbecued lunch next to Lake St. Clair and went hiking in the mountains. Tasmania is Australia's second most arid state (after SA) and there is a difference in rainfall and weather on either side of the mountain range. We stopped at Nelson Falls and then drove onto Queenstown, which used to be a big mining centre but is sparsely populated now. You can see the minerals and ores in the surrounding rocks, but it's like a barren wasteland. Apparently the local council made an effort to plant trees but they were vandalised because the inhabitants liked it the way it was.

We spent the night on the banks of the beautiful Rosebery Lake in Tullah in a nice chalet style building. There was a log fire and bar, and we had a strange but edible dinner. The next day, we went to the Henty Sand Dunes, where Natasha and Julie and I walked to Ocean Beach. It didn't look far, but turned out to be a long way through the fine white sand in the heat. There were lots of animal tracks along the way and the water was coloured brown with tannin from the buttongrass. It was strange to look out at the ocean knowing that the next land directly ahead was South America.

In the afternoon, we went canoeing on the lake and in the evening got talking to some guys who were fixing power transmission cables. Apparently, they repair the lines from helicopters, which means they don't get earthed and so can handle 20,000 volt currents (in Faraday suits). Who knew? An older chap told us about a family he knew of who are famously incestuous (Tassie has a bit of a reputation for keeping it within the family) and a little "special" as a result. One of their children died and they buried the body without telling anyone. When the police or social services eventually found out, they told the family that in future they must notify the authorities. When the grandmother passed away shortly afterwards, family members carried the body all the way over to the police station, left it on the lawn, and went in to tell the police. Officers came out and discovered that granny had been gutted like a fish - apparently so that she would be lighter to carry. I heard this from an old man in a pub so it must be true.

We hiked around Dove Lake the following day which is meant to have amazing views of Cradle Mountain, but I'll have to take it on trust as it was so misty that you couldn't see much at all. We spent the night in Devonport, where the ferries arrive from Melbourne, and then headed to Launceston (pronounced 'Lon-sess-tun') to see the Cataract Gorge, which appears on James Boag labels. The brewery is nearby and apparently people in the north of Tasmania drink Boag's, whereas those in the south prefer Cascade. I drink them both.

Posted by Rowena on January 10, 2005 09:07 AM
Category: Australia
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