Tasmania by keralaguest


									Tasmania, Australia – April 5 -19, 2011

I am going to start by quoting from the book “In Tasmania” by Nicholas
Shakespeare, winner of the Tasmania Book Price 2007, who, inspired by the
tales of Tasmania’s exceptional beauty and its remote location, decided to
travel there, and soon realized this was where he wanted to live.

“The size of Ireland… separated from the Australian mainland by 140 miles of
the treacherous pitch and toss of Bass Straits… the end of the world… known
for women with blond hair and big t…”

I stumbled on this book at Hobart International Airport, and once I started
reading found it hard to put down.

Our self-drive journey which began in Hobart, the capital city, brought us to
Strahan in the west coast, Cradle Mountain in the north-west, Launceston in
the north, Coles Bay in the east coast before returning to Hobart to catch the
flight home. We arrived at the beginning of the third week of autumn and for
the most part the weather was glorious with day temperature of around 17C
and night of 9C. The Cradle Mt was around 14C high and 4C low.

We came with high expectations, we were not disappointed. In fact it wasn’t
difficult to fall in love with it. If you are one who loves nature this is the place to

Hobart, pop 128,600 is Australia’s second oldest city. Salamanca Place, where
our hotel is located, is a row of beautiful sandstone warehouses on the
harbour front, a prime example of Australian colonial architecture dating back
to the whaling days of the 1830s. They have now been tastefully developed to
house restaurants, cafes and shops selling everything from vegetables to
antiques. The place is most beautiful after dusk when the lights are switched

The Cadbury chocolate factory visit 15km north of the city is a must for the
sweet-tooth. We were entertained by a humorous presentation of how
chocolates are made. We got to enjoy samples and bought low priced
products at the completion of the presentation. The tour is in two parts – the
coach drive with commentry through the suburbs, to the factory in the morning
and the Derwent River cruise after lunch.

The following day we were on the Bruny Wildlife Adventure Cruise, on board
the Peppermint Bay II, a luxury catamaran. On reaching Bruny Island we were
transferred onto a state-of-the-art coastal expedition vessel, The Adventure,
and began our 50-km accelerating high-speed adventure along the rugged
coast line, gliding beneath towering sea cliffs, weaved among dramatic rock
formations and sea caves, occasionally within less than 2 meters from the
Experienced encounters with wild life in a world of soaring sea eagles, diving
sea birds, the ever graceful dolphins and a colony of hundreds of fur seals.
Get to watch these amazing creatures beneath the waves from the
Adventure’s undersea cameras. Came lunch we were served on land Bruny
Iceland Pacific oysters and some of Tasmania’s finest cheeses, and indulged
in a delicious individual lunch platter of fresh regional produce.

On the last day in Hobart we drove south to Huonville. We stopped at
Woolworth supermarket to top up our provisions for the rest of our stay in
Tasmania before boarding the Huon River Jet Boat, for a crazy frantic jet boat
ride. We then drove on to Geeveston to stroll along the very popular Tahune
Forest AirWalk, nearly 600 meters of horizontal steelwork suspended at an
average height of 20 meters above the forest floor.

On the 5th day we drove 300km along a winding, narrow and lonely road to
Strahan on the rugged west coast. At one point we were not sure weather we
were on the right road, and I had to go behind a big tree to answer nature’s
call. It took us 6 hours plus a one hour stop at Tarraleah, an out of nowhere
beautiful mid way resort, as the road was temporarily closed for a car rally.
This was our longest drive. The rest of the travels to our destinations were
around two-and-a half hours.

The following day we were on the Gordon River Cruise. The Macqarie Harbour
is reputed to be larger than Sydney Harbour and it was used during the days
when the area was inaccessible by land. This led to the establishment of a
brutal penal settlement on Sarah island in1834 to cater for the worst of the
colony’s convicts. This was eventually closed down and the Macquarie is no
longer being used as a harbour as it is too shallow for modern ships.

Strahan’s habourside is undeniably attractive but the town’s appeal, however,
lies in the natural and historical attractions around it rather than the town itself,
and as such it draws droves of visitors seeking the wilderness-in-comfort, a
romantic little place to walk and watch the sunset.

Today is the 7th day and the two-and-a half hour drive to the Cradle Mountain
is a pleasant one. Upon arrival we were fresh enough to take a conducted tour
of the Cradle Mt. This is Tasmania’s best known national park, a superb 1,262
sq km (twice the size of Singapore island) World Heritage area, of spectacular
mountain peaks, deep gorges, lakes, tarns and wild moorland, one of the most
glaciated areas in Australia, including Mt Ossa (1,617m)- Tasmania’s highest
peak and Lake St. Claire, Australia’s deepest (over 200m) natural fresh-water

The Cradle Mt is able to maintain its pristine due to very strict controls. You
are required to walk only on designated tracks. One sign says, “Plants grow by
the inch and die by the FOOT”. The speed limit is strictly 60km/hr.To ensure
no speeding the roads narrow to a single lane every kilometer or so, and for
the entry to the Dove Lake area you have to stop for the bar to go up for you to
drive through. We did not see motor bikes or mountain bikes. For the time you
spend in the Park you need to purchase the Park Day Pass.

The Park also controls the number of sleeping & eating establishments. In the
Cradle Valley, along the Cradle Mt Road, there are only five and only two with
licenses to operate restaurants, all within walking distance of the Visitors
Centre. In the Cyinthia Bay & Derwent Bridge there are only three. There is
one very small store, at Discovery Parks. You will need to bring warm clothes,
wet weather gear and food if you want to self-cater.

The Cradle Mountain Highlanders Cottage, our home for two nights, is a rustic
timber cottage in a beautiful setting, surrounded by forest trees, complete with
a wood-fired heater. On the first morning a wombat appeared from behind the
trees, as if bidding us welcome.

On the 9th day we took a pleasant 2 ½ -hour drive to our next destination,
Launceston. On the way we stopped at Sheffield, a pretty small country town,
for scone and latte. From there we proceeded to our Bread & Breakfast
accommodation at Launceston. It belongs to a Chinese lady and managed by
a delightful couple, Michael and Janine. Their hospitality made our stay a
pleasant one.

Launceston, pop 66,750, maybe Tasmania’s second largest city, but life here
is a relaxed big country pace. In recent years it has shaken off its weary, tired
image with plenty of social invigoration, tourist development and the opening
of sophisticated new eateries. West of central Launceston is Cataract Gorge, a
magnificent, naturally rugged ravine that is one of city’s major tourists
attractions. Near vertical cliffs lined the banks. We took the chair lift to across
the gorge and walked back via a suspension bridge. The sight of the raging
water rushing through the gorge is a sight to behold.

On the 11th day we drove south to Campbell Town, where we made a pit stop
near a children’s playground. There is a display of a huge log with a sign that
reads “DOGS PROHIBITED”. Someone with a sense of humour removed the
top part of the letter D to read “LOGS PROHIBITED”. We then turned east to
the beach town of Bicheno where my wife had scallops and I the lobster for
lunch. We can get lobster and scallops back home but they would not be as
fresh. After lunch we headed south to our next destination, Coles Bay, a resort
area on the northern border of the Freycinet National Park, situated on the
Freycinet peninsular.

On the following day, instead of taking the 3-hour walk to the famous
Wineglass Bay, which is reachable only on foot, we did the next best thing. We
drove and walked up the rest of the way to a lookout point to have a
magnificent view of the perfect crescent bay. For the more adventurous
visitors to the Park they can swim, boat, fish, snorkel, sea kayak and scuba
dive, or go climbing, abseiling, and mountain walking on the steep pink and
grey granite rocks of the Hazard Ranges. No, you don’t have to do these
things to enjoy staying in the Park. We took it easy, with short walks and just
enjoyed the picturesque scenery, fresh air and glorious sea food.

On the 13th day we headed south, back to Hobart to catch the flight home the
following day.

Australia is my favorite destination. The country is beautiful, the food is
gorgeous, the people are friendly, the level of personal safety is high, the
people’s civic conscience is admirable, and the road signage is superb.

Back home, on the front page of the Star Metro of 27th April, 2011 my attention
was caught by a picture captioned “Eyesore” – irresponsible contractors (it can
be anybody) discard renovation debris, household items (it can be anything) …
along the Klang River (it can be anywhere)…Over the years I have travelled to
all the states in Australia except the Northern Territory, and I never came
across this. Everywhere is clean and tidy. While travelling along the country
road we sometimes stopped to use the public toilet without any reservation,
because based on our experience they are always clean.

Driving is a pleasure because I could always rely on the signage and the good
driving habit of the drivers. To the Australian drivers driving on our roads must
be a nightmare. We also walked a lot both day and night including along
deserted streets and we felt safe – no Mat Rempit, no snatch thieves. Maybe
we were lucky but I am more inclined to believe that the chance of being
mugged in the streets of most Australian cities is remote.

During our stay in Coles Bay there was a loud music at around at 7.00 pm but
stopped at 9.00 pm. The following day when we had lunch at The Lodge,
where the wedding party took place, we were told that the party continued up
to 2.00 am. Apparently they brought the volume of the music down at 9.00 pm.
Back home the loud music would start at 9.00 pm and continued well past mid-

Raja Abdul Aziz

April 28, 2011

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