Day 18: Philip Island to Albury
4071 km, 67 hours 9 mins

When in Melbourne I had a bit of a change of plan for my trip and swapped a second night in Philip Island for a night near Lake Hume on the NSW VIC border. This meant I didn’t have an 8.5 hour drive one one day and I realised that apart from the penguins there wasn’t too much on Philip Island to warrant a second day there.

So I efficiently packed up the tent all by myself, and managed to get it back in its bag! The lady from the caravan park even complemented me on how quick and efficient I was which made me feel rather smug. The drive was super boring, back west, around Melbourne and then north for 5.5 hours in total. A lot was freeway so very dull, even with my awesome playlists! I even stopped for a power nap to relieve the boredom!

I camped by Lake Hume and although the water looked temping with the weather a balmy 26 and stark contracts to the mornings’ 16 degrees it was a bit muddy so I gave that a miss. After masterfully performing surgery on the broken tent pole with a mallet, concrete block and a lot of tape I went to see the dam. It’s right by the campsite and very big. It’s in a scenic area with lots of trees downstream and if you walk across you can cross the state border to Victoria the other side. The footpath was closed or I’d have been tempted. I cooked some pasta by the lake as the sun went down which was very scenic, although the wind meant the stove took forever!

Lake Hume Dam

Lake Hume Dam

Day 19: Lake Hume to Snowy Mountains
4415km, 72 hours 17 mins

The next day I drove the windy and scenic Alpine Way up into the Snowy Mountains in the Australian Alps area. They are part of the great dividing range. I stopped at a couple of lookouts on the way and in the village of Threadbo to pick up a pass for my car and some leaflets about the area. Threadbo is a very pretty village which is a major skiing centre in the winter as it’s right up in the mountains. There were chair lifts and chalets aplenty, along with lots of places to stop and out on your snow chains along the road. On the way I went past one of the big sites of the Snowy Mountains Power Scheme, a giant hydroelectric power system with multiple power stations.

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

Snowy Mountains Power Station 1

30km further I reached Jindabyne and had lunch by its giant lake while lots of people came and launched boats and jet skis for some hooning about. The final campsite was about 15 minutes north from there, 5 mins inside the park boundary. After chucking the tent
up again and a nice cup of tea I went for a drive the other way up the valley into the mountains and ski area. I went through Perisher with its giant, empty, potholed car park and static ski lifts and on to Charlottes Pass at the end of the road. You used to be able to drive on a lot further but the area was getting damaged so they shut the roads. At the lookouts to Mount Kosciusko I saw actual snow again! There were quite a few bits of it this time and it certainly felt a chilly 13 degrees at the pass (1900m elevation). The views of the mountains were good, although they were the quite vegetated rather than totally rocky variety. There were lots of white snow gum trees – lots of them had lost all their leaves, maybe fire damage, I’m not totally sure. Apparently the gum tree is the only tree which exists in deserts, alpine environments and the bit in between.

Charlottes Pass View - with snow

Charlottes Pass View – with snow

On the drives around there were a lot of birds including a massive flock of flying cockatoos (over 60 I reckon) and red and green lorikeets too. On way way back to the camp in the evening I saw a group of kangaroos, and some more at the campsite who had been hanging out earlier in the day at the adjoining fields. I had a BBQ for my dinner and headed to bed.

Day 20: Mount Kosciusko
4510km, 73 hours 42 mins

My main reason for coming to Kosciusko was to go up Mount Kosciusko, Australia’s highest peak at around 2230m. The walk started from Threado so I headed back there for about 10am. The walk is billed as 13km and 4-6 hours from the top of huge chair lift which takes you to about 1900m. This was half the amount of up from the Cradle Mountain walk and they classed it as moderate!not hard, so I figured I’d be fine. To do the walk from the village is another 4km and 2 hours as it’s very steep. I always planned on getting the chairlift down because of my dodgy knee which breaks going down hills. The return pass for the lift was only a fee more dollars than the single so I figured I’d get the lift up too. The lift ride itself was very scenic, although chair lifts do scare me slightly as you can just lift the bar up!

The walk itself was either metal boarded or had a well defined path, so wasn’t particularly hard. There were lookouts along the way including of Australia’s highest lake (Cootapatamba). Along the way there were lots of granite boulders, wild flowers, crows and several deposits of snow. One was just a short walk off the path to touch but I decided to resist the urge to feel snow again and stick to the path like the signs said! The views along the walk and at the top of the great dividing range were great and it was nice and clear too – they went on for a a long way! It was a good temperature for walking with a nice cooling breeze too. Along the way there were various signs including about the Aboriginal peoples use of the area as a sacred place where lots of different spirits live.

Lake

Lake Cootapatamba

In the end I got to the top in 90 minutes, spent half an hour there eating lunch and admiring the scenery and then got down in about 80 minutes. The walk wasn’t particularly strenuous and I did feel slightly cheated as I’d expected it to take a whole day. If I’d have known that I probably would have walked for the bottom! You can do it from Charlottes Pass too which is 18km and 4 hours each way (allegedly) so if we come back I think we should try that.

After the walk I had some tea at the highest cafe in Australia as I wanted a brew and the views were better than at the one down the bottom!

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

At the top of Mt Kosciousko

Day 21: Home time!

So after a 3 week holiday it was finally time to drive home. The trip back to Sydney was about 6 hours and pretty unremarkable!

So all in all in our trip we drove a whopping 5009km for 79 hours and 7 minutes (although some of this was looking at views and faffing rather than driving!) That’s an average of 238km a day and 3 hours 45 mins a day. It was an excellent holiday with a lot of variety, especially for me with the extra week. Three weeks is long enough to totally forget about work so going back is going to be really strange!

Day 12: Fortescue Bay to Freycinet NP
2759 km, 47 hours 17 min

We woke up too a wet morning on New Years Day, but also without a hangover having not had the chance to drink a lot because of the penguin spotting. We managed to pack the tent down in between the drizzle spells and headed to the shelter round the corner from the campsite, by the bay to cook some bacon and egg rolls for breakfast (woo!)

We drove up the east coast to Freycinet NP where we drove on our first Australian dirt roads. I liked these better than gravel as they were generally smoother and nicer to drive on, and probably better for your car too without tons of stones hitting it! We stopped for a picnic lunch at Honeymoon bay by which time the weather had cheered up quite a bit.

After lunch we did the hours walk to Wineglass Bay lookout. It was very scenic with a curve beach shaped like wineglass surrounded by big hills each side. Stories vary about whether the name comes from the shape of the bay or the water which is clear like a wineglass. On the way to the campsite we took a quick detour to the lookout and boardwalk at Cape Tourville lighthouse which again had good coastal views.

Wineglass Bay

Wineglass Bay

We couldn’t get space to camp in the NP as it’s very popular and booked out months in advanced so we camped just up the road in Bincheno. After finishing the remaining Hunter Valley Cab Sav with dinner we went for a night time walk to see the town and coast. They have another penguin colony there and we were lucky enough to see them! A group of about 20 were on the rocks near the see waiting to waddle up to their nests. I managed to sit about 8m from them and watched them hop over a ledge, make their way up the rocks and then huddle about for a while. I thought they were going straight up the beach but then they started penguin faffing and not really going anywhere which our guide the day before said they don’t normally do. I thought my e I we in their way so I moved really slowly up the bank. They came forward some more but then seemed to change their mind and want to head at me again so I shuffled round some more. I think by this point, after about 15 mins of good penguin watching Matt got bored and came to see me! which scared all the little penguins into the pool near where they were waiting. We headed back to the campsite and heard lots of them chatting on the way back and even saw one waiting by the wide of the the road. We could even hear them at night from the campsite. Hopefully they all got back to their nests OK.

Day 13: Launceston and Port Sorrell
3031 km, 51 hours 50 min

I woke up and actually felt awake oddly early, about 7.30, when the sun warmed up the tent so decided to get up and get on with the day. We were back on the road before 9am, heading towards the second largest city in Tasmania, Launceston. Launceston is inland but does have a big river and gorge which is where we headed for. After a quick ice cream we went for a walk around the gorge and saw lots of climbing routes which Matt obviously got excited about. The gorge was wider thank I thought but still impressive and looked like a mode spot for a swim. We opted out of the sedate cable car ride but did go on the comical free ‘Inclinator’ which took you up and down some steps in a little pod, very slowly!

Launceston Gorge

Launceston Gorge

As the cafe was full we went for lunch in town (Mexican) and then took poor Jeffrey through the car wash to remove all the filth we covered him in from gravel and dirt roads. We headed on no the hour after that to Port Sorrell on the north coast just east of Devonport where the ferry goes from. We indulge in a B and B for the last night, so we didn’t need to pack away the tent before getting the ferry early in the morning. I was hopeful of free port like we had in the Gampians with Phil and Rhiannon (the only other B and B we’ve been to in Oz). Sadly no free port, but we got a wonderfully w arm reception from Rosemary, also an expat who moved from Selsey in the 60s via a 30 day boat trip! The. B and B was in lovely gardens and we spent the late afternoon drinking tea and playing a couple of very close tactical games of chess in the upstairs area overlooking the garden. To regain some cool father that we went to eat take away pizza on the beach!

Intense Chess

Intense Chess

Day 14: Devonport to Melbourne ferry ride
3031km, 51 hours, 50 mins

The ferry ride back was 9 hours and we boarded an hour before departure. The time actually went pretty quickly, something like this: play Ingenious, read book, drink tea and eat Tim Tams, read book, feel a bit sea sick, play Tantrix, go to cinema and watch Eden surrounded by kids, eat lunch, read book, play cards, look round shop, read book, provide tips on Tazzie to my boss, eat hummus, write blog posts on iPod, the end!

We stayed in St Kilda to the east of central Melbourne, on the cost with it hits own Luna Park and scary clown, but more about that in the next post!

Tasmania overall

Overall in Tasmania we had a great holiday. It’s mainly rural with lots of lovely countryside, cool geology and outdoors things which we always like. There is good food and wine to be had and some fun roads although not much opportunity to overtake if you’re stuck behind slow people! Most of all I liked the amount of proper wild wildlife we saw. Included in the count were loads of pademelons, wallabies and possums, about 40 penguins, about 20 wombats, 3 echidnas, a probably harmless snake and a platypus!

There would be plenty more to do and see on another trip including some longer walks, climbing for Matt and of course spotting a wild Tazzie Devil. But first, next year we’re thinking of a winter trip to the centre and the Barrier Reef in November time with our next lot of visitors.

But our holiday this time didn’t stop in Tasmania! We had most of a day in Melbourne and then I carried on the trip by myself with my extra weeks holiday so stay tuned to hear more about Philip Island and the Snowy Mountains!

 

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Day 10: Hobart to Fortescue Bay
2506km, 41 hours 49 min

On the drive to Fortescue bay we passed through Sorrel which is a big fruit producing region. Having missed out on this in the Huon valley we decided to swing by a fruit farm for some weird sounding berries. When we got there the business model didn’t really stack up for us. We only wanted a small amount as we had no real way to keep stuff properly cool no just wanted a taster really. It was $14 per person including a giant punnet of whatever you picked, and there was no negotiation on sharing. We decided to give the picking a miss and bought $6 worth of cherries and strawberries from fruit market down the road instead which was more than enough.

After that we headed for the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Centre on the Tasman peninsula. Sadly a lot of the devils are affected by a facial tumour disease like cancer (TFTD) and population numbers have really fallen in the last. 20 years. It’s really contagious, fatal and they spread it easily when feeding, mating and generally interacting with each other. As the peninsula is only joined into mainland TasmanIa with a 100m wide stretch of land (Eaglehawk Neck), the centre are doing a lot of work to keep out infected devils and contain a healthy population on the peninsular which seems to be working. The centre is mainly conservation focused and also included some birds, kangaroos, an albino possum and an awesome talking parrot (helllloooow!).

I’d only seen a Tasmanian devil before at the Australian reptile park north of Sydney and although that one got fed, it was by itself. When there two together they are pretty different and more like the cartoon! The pair we saw first were chasing each other around their enclosure pretty much continuously like right little rascals with a fair amount of grumpiness and teeth baring to boot. They had a proper tug of war over their lunch! They were really nice to see and pretty cute when they were trotting around in the sun being friendly!

Tasmanian Devil

Tasmanian Devil

Devil lunchtime

Devil lunchtime

 

We camped at Fortescue Bay, a bargainous $13 a night. The site was 12km down a gravel road right on the bay, just setback from the beach in the trees. The camp itself was fairly basic with two female loos, a shower which sort of got hot if you had a token and a BBQ in the day use area next door. Before our veggie burger BBQ dinner that night we went to see some local geology including the remarkable cave (not that exciting!), blowhole, Tasman arch and Devils kitchen, which were all cool coastal features.

Day 11: Port Arthur and Totem Pole
2723km, 46 hours 6 mins

I made the effort for an early start the next day so we could fit in both the Port Arthur historic site and the 4 hour walk to Cape Huay where the candlestick and totem pole climbing areas are.

From the mid 1800s some of the worst convicts from the UK and the rest of the Commonwealth were sent to Australia. Of those, the worst were sent to Tasmania (or as it was called then, Van Diemens Land). Of these bad guys, the seriously bad bad guys ended up at Port Arthur. It even included a boys prison for kids as young as 9. For $33 we got the basic bronze pass which included day entry to the site, a 20 min boat ride past the boys prison (on its own island) and the Isle of the Dead where the buried convoys are, and a 40 minute guided walking tour. This was pretty good value as the site is big and there’s a lot to see. You could easily spend a whole day looking around all the old buildings which included the penitentiary, governors house, church, asylum and separate prison which was added later. The site had a couple of big fires in its history and was neglected for a while, so only about 1/3 of the buildings remain. A lot of them had exhibits inside to look at which were interesting and it was nice to see some history as there’s not always a lot of old stuff here in Oz. The prison focused mainly on seriously hard graft, education and religion at first. Later on when the separate prison was added the focus moved to confinement. Men were kept in their cells 23 hours a day in silence, doing work like making shoes. They had one hour exercise each day, again in isolated separate yards. We saw the punishment cells where they could be kept for up to a month for talking or doing anything else wrong – these were about 2m by 3m, had 1m thick stone walls so they were totally sound proof and 4 doors to get in so they were also totally dark. Lots of men broke here and hence they ended up building the asylum next door! After just a short time with the door shut I can see how it would be deeply disturbing!

Port Arthur

Port Arthur

Eventually the prisonwas shut down, the site abandoned and Van Diemens land was renamed Tasmania to try and break free from its convict past. Of course when they realised the tourism potential it opened back up again!

After some lunch we headed back to the campsite for the walk to Cape Huay including the Totem Pole and Candlestick (sea stacks) which both have climbing on. Matt had been reading a book about these from the library and was very keen to see them first hand. The first half of the walk was mainly bush! with good coastal views for the second half. We saw some climbers on the candlestick and Matt scrambled down for a better look (which did have me pretty worried when he didn’t come back for over 40 minutes – grrrr!).

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

Climber leaving the Candle Stick (left), past the Totem Pole (centre)

As it was New Years Eve we broke open our $50 super tasty 1996 Cabernet Sauvignon for the Hunter Valley with dinner. Then we couldn’t resist a free guided spotlight tour run by the national park staff which promised night sightings of animals including penguins! Our guide was very knowledgeable and we were lucky enough to see a group of about 20 little penguins (also called fairy penguins or blue penguins) head up the beach to the their burrows, as well as some smaller groups and one penguin in its Ernest right by the path. It was very strange to see them hopping over rocks and then nesting in grassy areas, I still can’t get over thinking penguins need to live in ice!

We spent longer than planned watching the penguins (which was totally worth it), so by the time we got back it was a bit dark and cold to be getting on with the wine and we didn’t make it awake until midnight!

Day 8: Southport to Hobart

2298km, 36h, 47min

In the morning we took the short drive to Hastings cave and went on the first tour of the day. The tour guide Laura was very knowledgable explaining about all the different formations and giving us some broken stalagmite out hold. The cave itself was very impressive with lots of different formations including stalagtites with horizontal bits coming out the sides called helictites. I’d not seen these before and scientists don’t agree how they form, maybe capillary action.

Inside Hastings Cave

Inside Hastings Cave

At the visitor centre are also Thermal springs which average 28 degrees, and entry is included in the ticket. We went for a look but rather than natural looking springs the water is pumped into a fairly small swimming pool which was brimming full of families with kids and inflatables, so no chance of any actual swimming. I dunked my toe in and the water didn’t feel especially warm so we decide to give them a miss and head straight into Hobart.

After a bit of parking faff we managed to make it to Hobart in time for the weekly Salamanca market with over 300 stalls. There was lots of jewellery, wooden products, local food and crafts. I managed to escape with just 1 pair of earrings. It had elevated up to a toasty 28 degrees so I was a bit warm for any proper browsing.

Over the Christmas period the Taste of Tasmania festival was also on right next to the market. It was held in one of the giant wharf sheds with stalls outside too and food vans near the entrance. There were loads of local foods and drinks on offer including wine, beer, juices, oysters, berry products, cheeses, ice creams and international foods too. It was incredibly busy being a warm Saturday afternoon so we opted for a bacon and gruyere potato rosti outside, followed by a nice cream sundae dusted with sherbert which Matt wasn’t quite expecting and made him cough!

After a quick trip to Treasure Island camp site to put the tent up and a mince pie, we went back into Hobart for the evening. Mainly by coincidence and a bit of internetting we were lucky to catch the end of the Sydney Hobart annual yacht race. We saw the winner Wild Oats XI come in through the harbour from a prime spot and they then sailed (motored) right past us to moor up for their prizes. Being by the harbour we were obliged to go for some fish and chips after that from one of the floating fish and chip stalls. We pieced the one shaped like a fish! Matts chip box had an unfortunately collapse due to too much vinegar which bought the circling Chip Vultures (seagulls) very close! Out of spite at their incessant annoyance he picked them up and put them in the bin in the end! For pudding we went back to the Taste festival and had ice cream sandwiches – locally produced ice cream sandwiched between two freshly baked warm cookies – yummy!

Wild Oats 2

Wild Oats 2

Day 9: Around Hobart.
2406km, 39 hours 15 mins

From early on on our trip we had two key activities for Hobart planned out – the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) and Putters mini golf! We picked up a leaflet about Putters on the ferry. Not only did it have an indoor and outdoor course, the leaflet also entitled us to a free fries and soft drink so we really were obliged to go. Of course we signed up for both courses ($22). The first one was outside with lots of water features which were both scenic and hazardous to my playing! Along with the sand traps they caused me a lot of penalty points and I lost by quite a lot. But having won the earlier pirate mini golf, that made it one all.

Inside we played the decider with a lot of friendly banter. This time the course featured a lot of wood and tubes and tunnels to transport the balls up down and around to different parts of the holes. My game was match improved, and I even did some decent putting from longish distances which normally I’m rubbish at. I totally psyched Matt out and won by a massive 12 points in the he mend, which took me to 2-1 up including the Pirate golf! We had our free fries which were massive and tasty with Cajun flavour salt. The frozen raspberry fanta was just weird though so we won’t be having that again!

Mini Golf Round 2

Mini Golf Round 2

As the sun was mainly out we decided to make another trip up Mount Wellington to try and see the views of Hobart. The top was cloud free with excellent views although totally freezing. It was only 4 degrees and with a lot of wind it definitely felt below freezing. There was even a small amount of snow left on some of the big rocks at the top.

Back on top Mount Wellington

Back on top Mount Wellington

After lunch half way down we headed to MONA. Unfortunately it wasn’t free like my book said but the lady took pity on us and let us in for the concession rate of $15 instead of $20. The book was also wrong about the opening times and it was shutting at 6 instead of 7 so we had just over 2 hours to look around. MONA is bit, over 4 levels set into the hillside by the river, so we were a bit rushed looking around. They had a thing called the O Device which you use – its an iPhone with info about all the exhibits loaded on including audio so there are no signs. Matt loved it, I personally found clicking through and all the searching ruined my experience of wandering about looking at art and made it too disjointed. Maybe i’m too old fashioned!

Matt and his O Device

Matt and his O Device

Some of my favorite bits were a gigantic metallic head with robotic birds and moving bits inside, sculptures by Hubert Duprat and a giant Buddha. It is made using a giant mold with incense from temples in Nepal so it smelt nice too. Unfortunately its head had fallen off (!!) but I thought this made it more interesting.

Incense Buddha

Incense Buddha

That evening we took the main opportunity of the holiday for a meal out and went to a curry house called Annapurna. It’s one of the highly rated places in Hobart and according to their sign also Tasmania’s best curry house 2013 (out of how many we don’t know!) After the tasty meal we went to see some more of the boats that had arrived from the yacht race and ate some more ice cream sandwiches from Taste of Tasmania for desert.

 

 

Russell Falls

Russell Falls

Day 6: Cradle Mountain to Mount Field National Park

1496 km, 22 hours 38min

We left Cradle Mountain in the rain for the bendy scenic drive to Mount Field NP past rainforest, rivers and mountains. We had a quick stop at Lake St Clair for lunch, which is Australia’s deepest lake at 167m. It’s also the end of the Overland Track walk, a 6 day epic across Tassie from Cradle Mountain.

En route in two different places we saw two wild echidnas crossing the road! They didn’t seem bothered by the car at all and luckily we did to hit them or we might have had a nasty puncture!

We camped by the river at a self registration campsite amongst the giant Pencil Pines. Before dinner we went for a short drive and walk through some epic rainforest scenery to Junee cave where a river comes out the cave mouth.

For dinner we invented a new tasty camping meal, kangaroo red pasta splat. This is pasta with tomato sauce, peppers, leftover kangaroo meat from the Summermas BBQ and of course cheese (because every camping meal is better with cheese, except possibly some breakfasts!)

Because we were quite far south it stayed light until gone 9pm. We took the opportunity to do the short walk from the campsite to nearby Russell Falls and on up to Horseshoe Falls for some long exposure photos. Russell Falls is a cool 2 tier waterfall with a giant tree in the middle between the two tiers.

On the walk back there was a glow worm trail but it wasn’t quite dark enough and we were being eaten by the local mozzies. We did see lots of other wildlife though including a lot of brush tailed possums and more pademelons including ones with babies.

Day 7: Mount Field to Southport
1956km, 30 hours 11 mins

British Style Bacon!

British Style Bacon!

We started the day with some exciting ‘British bacon’ sandwiches. Bacon here in Australia is weird and not translucent. It looks like a cooked ham but it isn’t cooked. There must be something different about the way the cure it. It’s still tasty (bacon always is after all), but just looks plain wrong! Over breakfast we were also lucky enough to see a platypus swimming in the river near the tent!

In the morning we drove up to Lake Dobson in Mount Field NP and did a walk around the lake amongst the rainforest and snow gums. We then made our way down the Huon Valley to Southport via the edge of Hobart.

We took a detour up the road to the top of Mount Wellington over Hobart. It was cloudy but the book suggested often there is an inversion you can see from the top so we drove up anyway. From about 1/3 up there was total cloud cover right to the top. In some places visibility was down to about 4m which made for an interesting drive! At the top it was so cloudy I struggled to find the toilet! We stopped on June way back down for a picnic in a shelter amongst the clouds.

We carried on our drive along the Huon trail, past lots of places selling apples and berries and camped at Southport behind Australia’s most southerly pub, where of course we had to go and have a drink. After putting the tent up we took the drive down the southernmost road in Australia (24km of gravel) to Cockle Creek (population: 3!) for a look at the beach.

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

View of Hobart from Mount Wellington!

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Giant Penguin in Penguin

Day 4: Devonport to Cradle Mountain
1,459km, 21 hours 4min

After getting woken up by the ferry staff at 5.10am for our 6am arrival, a quick quarantine check and recovering our camping gas from the firearms man, we headed for a swift bacon and egg roll (with cheese, it’s a thing here). Then, still a bit bleary eyed we headed for our first exciting stop – the town on Penguin on the north coast. Not only does it have a cool name, in Penguin is a giant 3m high penguin! And he was all dressed up for Christmas! There was also the Penguin Pharmacy and the slightly concerning Penguin butchers!

On the way to Cradle Mountain we stopped at the scenic Guide Falls for some long exposure photos. Being 8am there weren’t a lot of people about!

Guide Falls

Guide Falls

We got to the Cradle Mountain visitor centre, and after a quick cup of tea and map purchase went on some of the short walks we got the shuttle bus as entry to the park by car is restricted to avoid traffic jams on the narrow windy roads and small car parks. We did the Enchanted Walk, King Billy track (with tall King Billy pines), Rainforest walk and Pencil Pine falls. We managed to spot a pademelons which looks quite like a wallabee and is only found native in the wild in Tasmania.

Our first two nights in Tasmania (Summermas Eve and Summermas Day) we stayed in Cradle Mountain in the north west. In a rare moment, Matt agreed rather than camping we could get a cabin so we had an actual bed and roof for some comfort in case the weather as bad for the festive season. The cabin was wooden, cute and cozy. The campsite was really well equipped and having checked about the cooking facilities in advance we made ourselves some yummy festive pizzas in the pizza oven and enjoyed then with some nice Tassie Pinot Noir, topped off with a mince pie.

Day 5: Cradle Mountain – Summermas!
No driving.

Last year we had a 30 degree Christmas in Wanaka, New Zealand with the Millis’s with kayaking and a picnic by the lake and dinner in t-shirts in the garden in the evening. This year we were lucky enough to have sunny weather again and temperatures of about 22 degrees. Apparently it’s only sunny in Cradle Mountain about 1 in 5 days.

After some tea and presents we set off fairly early to walk up Cradle Mountain for Christmas Day. Entrance to the park by car is restricted so we made sure to get there early so we could drive to the top car park and not have to faff with the shuttle bus when we were knackered.

The car park is about 900m and Cradle Mountain is 1554m, so it’s over 650m ascent and takes 6 to 8 hours depending on your speed and some route options. It’s made of dolerite and sits in front of Dove Lake and some smaller lakes too. The route we took went around the lake to start, steeply up the side of a hill to Marion’s Lookout after about an hour, along a ridge to Kitchen Hut for another hour and then a final hour up the mountain itself. The views were awesome and we met lots of happy people who we exchanged Christmas wishes with.

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

The last 45 mins of the walk to the top is some full on hands required scrambling over giant boulders which was good fun although seemed to catch some people out. I much prefer this to just trudging up a hill. Near the top we even saw some unmelted remains of winter snow – only about 5 square meters so. Of a lot, but enough to get me and everyone else we mentioned it too excited. White Christmas in Australia!

We did the walk in 7 hours 10 mins with half an hours lunch at the top. When we got back we had some well deserved celebratory ice creams and a Summermas BBQ with wagyu beef burgers and kangaroo kebabs. It did feel mean eating the kanagroo after seeing so many wallabies but it was tasty!

After the BBQ we headed out for some night time wild life spotting. We saw a lotof pademelons and about 12 super cute wombats, some very close up! Here’s a joke (made up by me):

Q: Why did the wombat cross the road? (Answer at the bottom)

At the top of Cradle Mountain

At the top of Cradle Mountain

 

Wild Wombat

Wild Wombat

A: Because Elly was chasing it with a camera*!

*Proven on at least two wombats!

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Spirit of Tasmania 1

Day 3: Wilson’s Promontory and Bass Strait
1276km, 17h 33min (plus 444 km and 9 hours on the ferry)

After surviving the big storm, we woke to a wet and cloudy morning. On the third day of our trip we explored Wilson’s Promontory National Park which is on the coast about 200km east of Melbourne. It’s a popular spot where hills meet the sea with lots if wildlife and cool views. Allegedly there are emus, kangaroos and wombats, but they must have been hiding with the bad weather.

We went to the main centre, Tidal River for a look around. You can camp there in summer if you enter a lottery draw 6 months ahead of time but it was packed out so we decided we wouldn’t have enjoyed it. We took a drive to near the top of Mount Oberon and had a walk on Squeaky Beach with very white squeaky sand and some cool boulders. The area is very scenic with wooded mountains heading down to the sea and a whole lot of wilderness.

After a lot of queuing, we sailed at 9pm on the ferry for a 6am arrival at Devonport in Tasmania. The ferry leaves from central Melbourne. If you go overnight you have to have a cabin or a reclining seat which is super expensive over Christmas. The cheap days and rooms sold out quicker than we got around to booking, but in the end we ended up with a 4 berth cabin for the 2 of us which was good. Unfortunately due to the quarantine rules we had to hastily eat some apples and dispose of the peppers and cucumbers we bought about an hour before, so I’ll remember that if we come back! We adopted the newest addition to the Short family on the trip, Derek the Tasmanian Devil – awwww!

Derek the Tazzie Devil

Derek the Tazzie Devil

It was ages since I’d been on a ferry (to France mainly) and I’d never had a cabin before. It started well enough and we even had our own en suite but it was pretty bumpy during the night and really hard to sleep with all the rocking about. I’m scared by the sea and drowning anyway so irrational terror of sinking kept me awake too! If we sail at night again I think I’ll take drugs or some medicinal alcohol!

We did survive though, check out the next post for more details of our first stop – a town called Penguin!

Summermas

First up, as Christmas here is weird in the heat and I struggled to get in the festive mood, I renamed it Summer-mas! Summermas has decorations, presents and holidays in the heat.

This Christmas Matts’ work had a two week compulsory shut down, and mine had three! We figured it was a good excuse for a holiday and decided on driving down the coast to Melbourne and catching the ferry to Tasmania and then travelling round there before heading back again. The Barrier Reef and Kakadu in Darwin are also high on the list, but as I’m still getting used to the summer heat and they’re both up north it didn’t seem like a good plan to head there.

As we’re had a big trip I’ve broken it over a whopping 9 posts so get ready for a bumper special with posts every other day!

After looking at options for flying and hiring a car or driving we decide to drive, so we could take lots of camping gear and do the drive down the coast too. Price wise it was pretty similar and Jeffrey (the car) also wanted an adventure!

Day 1: Sydney to Eden
481km, 6 hours 26 mins 

After horror reports on the Sydney Christmas traffic I dragged myself out of bed and we left by 7.30am on Saturday morning. The drive done to Eden was one of the longest on the trip but we made it in good time and hardly saw any traffic issues. In fact one we got out of Sydney there weren’t a lot of cars about at all. The drive was scenic with lots if trees and we stopped off regularly to swap over and grabbed some lunch in Batemans Bay.

We also dropped into the cheese factory in Bega, where Bega cheese comes from. We had some samples, watched a film and I ate a toastie! They also make tinned cheese which looks pretty nasty, mainly for export apparently. Matt was brave enough to sample it and decided it was rubbery.

In Eden we camped right on the edge if Lake Curalo and a couple of minutes walk from the choppy sea. We went to a couple of lookouts and last the Whale Museum which has the skeleton of Old Tom the giant killer whale, but it was shut so we didn’t go in. The town has a long whaling history – the killer whales used to help drive the other whales into the bay for the fishermen to hunt them in return for a share of the meat. After a few games, including our latest game, Ingenious (travel version) we went to bed pretty early after the long drive.

Pirate golf - yaaaar!

Pirate golf – yaaaar!

Day 2: Eden to Yanakie
995 km, 13 hours 3 mins (cumulative total, not in one day!)

Day two was another long drive down the coast to Yanakie on the edge of Wilson’s Promontary National Park. After about half an hour we crossed the border into Victoria and drove through lots of trees and then lots of fields. Again we made good progress, overtaking various caravans and campers on the way.

We stopped for lunch in Lakes Entrance on the edge of the big Gippsland lakes. Lakes Entrance is also on the edge of 90 Mile Beach which we cheeked out quickly although because of the angle you couldn’t see very far. There were some rock and roll (or evil) black swans chilling out in the river. The guide book mentioned mini golf, a Short favourite so we set of in search of the courses. We found two next to each other, one pirate themed and the other unthemed, so it was a bit of a no brainier. The course had boats, a whirlpool, light house, beach hut, mermaid and of course pirates! Surprisingly I actually won, and by a whole 5 points, woo! I reckon I must be better with the upside down gravity down under!

At the camp site I practiced putting up the tent myself successfully and we had a BBQ dinner. We camped right on the edge of the bay, near the beach again. About 15 mins from the end of a walk along the bay thunder started. My tent construction was tested to the limit with a big thunder and lightning storm and some serious rain, and proved good – woo! No leaks or collapses and we both had a good nights sleep!