When I last left off I was sitting at a cafe’ in the Melbourne port waiting to catch the ferry for Tasmania. I’m happy to say that I made the ferry on time (those who know me well know that is an accomplishment in itself 🙂 and I made it to Tasmania with no issues…so welcome to Tasmania!
Before we jump into Saturday let’s finish Friday night on the ferry. I’ve taken several cruises and a few ferry’s in my travels so I knew what to expect. The first 2 hours were smooth sailing with cell coverage…it took 2 hours to leave Melbourne harbor. 🙂 I had a very nice dinner in the restaurant and just sat, sipped my mini-bottle of Shariz and enjoyed the view. But once we hit the open ocean…well, the boat stared rockin’ (literally). 🙂 I don’t know what the seas were (height) but we were pitching and rolling nicely. It made for some good times watching everyone “try” and walk around (including me) but hey, it’s all part of the fun of traveling. 🙂
After dinner I relaxed in one of the lounges where they had a lady playing guitar and singing a wide variety of music. She was good and I couldn’t help but to think of my good friend Candy Creamer. Candy, if you ever get tired of teaching I’m sure you can move to Melbourne and make a good living playing the rear lounge on the Spirit of Tasmania. 🙂 I turned in around 11:30 and rolled back and forth in my bunk with the pitch of the boat (I’m not kidding) for a few minutes before falling asleep.
The ferry ride from Melbourne to Devonport Tasmania takes about 11 hours and arrives in Devonport at 6:00 AM. For those who may not have experienced an overnight ferry or train (done that a few times in Europe) they start the day very early by making a “loud” announcement 45 minutes before the arrival. They are on a strict schedule and therefore need to get everyone off ASAP after they arrive. 15 minutes before the announcement one of my suite mates (who I never met) got up, showered and left. Then right on schedule, at 5:45 AM (those who know me know I don’t do well with anything before 8) they made a 10 minute announcement about unloading the cars, unloading passengers, what you can and cannot bring into Tasmania, blah, blah, blah. I of course rolled over and went back to sleep for another 30 minutes. 🙂
So to make a long story short (well, I guess it’s too late for that huh :-), I got up, showered, deboarded, got my rental car, spent 30 minutes trying to figure out how to turn on the NAV/media system (seriously), got brekkie (what Aussians call breakfast) at McDonald (along with 3/4 of the other people I came across with), stopped at Woolworths (remember from an earlier post that is a grocery in Oz) to get some snacks for hiking and food for dinner (more on that later), stopped at McDonald’s again for a second cup of coffee (Australian’s actually prefer McDonalds coffee to Starbucks) and finally got on the road for Cradle Mountain National Park. Whew, what a morning. 🙂
The drive to Cradle Mountain was only about 1:30 hours. It was a nice drive and I learned that the people in this area apparently take pride in having creative mailboxes. 🙂 I saw something else on my drive that was interesting…..my cousin Megan had asked for a picture of a Tasmanian Devil and unbelievably I actually spotted one on my first morning in Tasmania….
All kidding aside, i may have mentioned this before but unfortunately the Tasmanian devil population in Tasmania is decreasing at a rapid rate due to a mouth cancer epidemic. They have no idea what is causing it and (currently) no cure for it. So they are getting harder and harder to spot in the wild. 🙁
I arrived at the park and very anxious to hike I paid my entry fee and jumped on the shuttle to Dove Lake (Google
). On the ride up I read the map and selected my hike for the day. I decided not to do the Cradle mountain summit today as it was very cloudy, cold and misting most of the day (my Scottish ancestors would call it, “A fine soft day”) and the mountain was covered with clouds all day….so I’ll do it tomorrow.
Today’s hike was great! I started with a very challenging trail called the Marions Lookout Link Track. It is the most direct route to Marions Lookoutbut it is steep enough in several places that they have installed a chain to pull yourself up (Walt Fromm, NY state could learn a few things from Australia :-). I made it from the shuttle stop to the top in around 35 minutes and the view was awesome…
After that I continued on to the Kitchen hut at the base of Cradle mountain and turned right and continued on to Crater Lake overlook where I stopped to have lunch. From this point you are basically looking straight down on Crater Lake and it is beautiful…
While I sat eating my lunch and enjoying the view (and trying to stay warm) I had a new friend join me. Turns out that he, like me, really likes peanuts….
After “we” finished “our” lunch one of us flew away and the other continued the hike (I won’t spoil the ending by telling which one did what 🙂 Ok, it was me who continued the hike (I never was good at keeping secrets, just kidding). Although most of it from this point was downhill I still had several miles to go. I passed 3 or 4 more very beautiful lakes and walked through an area that looked like a tropical forest where the birds were chirping away….
Shortly after that I entered a large field and could see the shuttle stop far in the distance. I thought my day’s “adventure” was over but God decided to save the best for last. As I was walking through the field I came across a man taking a picture of something that I could not see. As I came closer I realized it was a wombat (Google
)! It was very cool. If you do not know a wombat basically looks like a giant groundhog (to me anyway) but much cuter in the face.
I began speaking with the man and it turns out that many wombats frequent this field about this time of day to graze. So we walked slowly looking for more. As we walked we talked about travels. He is from Canada, is retired and he and his wife basically spend Oct.- Mar traveling every year to get away from the Canadian winters. I told him about my situation and he said that he did the exact thing back in his career. He took a 9 month severance package and traveled, rather than going straight to another job. He said it was one of the best things he ever did and it worked out great for him. He encouraged me to continue to pursue this “dream” and trust that things will work out (hmmm, I’ve heard that before). We only spoke for 10 minutes or so and then went our on ways but needless to say it was a pretty cool conversation.
So while I was walking along several more wombats came to the field and began grazing and I managed to get some really cool pics and videos…
I spent about 30 minutes watching them and then walked to the shuttle stop. Again, I thought my adventure was over for the day, but I was wrong again because during the shuttle ride we saw two Wallabies (a smaller version of the kangaroo, Images) and an Echidna (Wiki,Images). These were the first Wallabies and Echidna I have seen on my journey….
As I was trying to get a picture of this little guy he all of the sudden just dropped down and rolled over and started scratching. Unfortunately it happened so quickly that I was not able to get the beginning but it was so funny (you’ll hear everyone on the bus laughing in the beginning). You can also hear the very Australian bus driver speaking in the video…G’Day Mate! 🙂
When we arrived back at the visitor center I drove 100 meters to the Discovery camp grounds and checked into the “bunkhouse” for the evening. For $33 AUD ($25 USD) you get a bed in a 4 person shared room and access to a kitchen for cooking (hence the dinner food referenced earlier). After finding my room I cooked/ate dinner and had some great conversations with an older gentleman from England, a young girl from Germany and a young guy from Brisbon AU who has been in the Cradle Mtn. area for almost a month.
All-in-all I think my first day in Tasmania was a roaring success! Tomorrow we climb to the summit!
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