It occurs to me that I haven’t actually written anything ‘travelly’, in this travel blog. So let me amend that now. Jot has actually been writing a daily diary. Well, once a week she remembers, panics and we go back through our phone photos to remember where we’ve been and what we’ve done. The journal is written in actual Jot-ism and I encourage anyone who can get their hands on it to give it a read. We’re going to read it to each other when we are old ladies so we can remember our adventures when our memories fail us. Just like in the Notebook, but sadly without Ryan or Rachel.
So here we are in Tasmania. And actually we are now back in Devonport as we take the ferry back to mainland Australia tomorrow after three and a half weeks exploring this weird and wonderful island.
This was the state that I was most looking forward to visiting. I felt that once we set sail of the Spirit of Tasmania we would truly be ‘travelling’. Out in the wilderness, in completely unchartered territory for us. Unable to race back to the safety of our friends couches if the going got too tough or if we ran out of money one week. (Thanks Sam and Craig for having us and sorry if we left our arse imprints in your sofa).
We’d travelled down through NSW, but mostly to places we’d been before; Central Coast for Christmas, South Coast just past Wollongong, Jervis Bay for New Year. The far South Coast around Pambula River was new to us but we knew we were on our way to a friends house. It didn’t matter too much if we were running out of clean clothes. Especially as our definition of clean has changed to if there are no visible marks or powerful odours escaping.
Victoria we whizzed through because we had a deadline of the ferry ticket. The areas around Lakes Entrance delighted us. Beach walks and boat hire a plenty. As someone had broken the toilet (me with my brute strength as a result of all my PT sessions) we had to stay in places with public loos, that were free, and from where you could see beautiful sunsets. Fortunately at Lake Tyers we had all that in the camp spot out the back of a pub that had been recommended to us by someone on Instagram. From there to one of the many Australian towns that time has forgotten, Walhalla, an old mining town about 2 hours away from Melbourne in the mountains of Mount Baw Baw. We rode the old mountain train, we had the best Devonshire tea ever with extra cream – well Kath and Anne did of course. We climbed a mountain and only had to stop three times. We chopped and sawed wood with the help of a 9 year old boy and lit it with the help of his toothless and terrifying mother.
Then our mini break at Sam and Craig’s in Melbourne that was meant to be for two nights but we accidentally stayed for 4 as they looked after us far too well with their fancy foods and massive tele. Finally tearing ourselves away from their place we shot up to Lake Daylesford for a night by the lake outside a fancy hotel that does amazing food – we know that from looking at their pictures on Instagram. The closest we got to the hotel was on our runs around the lake on the track past the hotel grounds. Daylesford got a big tick from us. A small town that had choices of restaurants, cafes and bars. A gay flag flying from their Town Hall, a gorgeous lake and only an hour outside of Melbourne – this is the place we’ll be retiring to, or at least returning to when we are working again and can afford to eat inside one of the restaurants rather than our sandwiches outside them. (The sandwich part was a joke, as if I’d eat carbs!)
After a short drive the next day (she says as the eternal passenger) we found ourselves shoving fruit into our mouths under the watchful eye of the dock inspectors at the Spirit of Tasmania ferry terminal. Who knew that you couldn’t take fruit from the mainland to the island of Tasmania. Not us, but we didn’t bother to read the 37 page PDF they send you to read before departure. After admitting defeat we then had to breathe in and look nonchalant as we handed over our tickets at the check in. Our bus was actually a meter longer than we’d booked and paid for because of the scooter strapped to the back. Either the lady didn’t notice or she didn’t care enough to say anything. Which was fine by us. We were full of fruit and needed to lay down. The crossing was reminiscent of childhood trips to France on P&O or Britney Ferry. Swing by the restaurants for a look at what they serve (oysters), before tucking into the packed lunch you pre made to save money. Then we were off to bed on the top bunks of cabins that we’d shotgunned in case our cabin mates weren’t as young and spritely as us. An error we realised when the boat started lurching about in the night, and when we needed our old lady night time wee’s at about 3am.
Morning came and we rolled off the boat and were in Tasmania. The first place we went was the Coles car park near the ferry port where we waited for it to open so we could replace the food we’d had to ditch at the terminal on the mainland and could eat some breakfast. And of course it was pissing down. Our first impression of Tassie was that it was a cold, grey, basic place, but I guess that’s inevitable if you hang out in car parks. After a three hour nap under the “2 hour parking” sign like the homeless people we are, we were on the road again headed for the wilderness that is promised of the North West of the island. And we found it. The first five days we spent exploring the rugged coastlines, up old volcanoes, to the official ‘end of the world’, at Arthur River. Then to Cradle Mountain which was full of boardwalks around lakes where you expect to bump into dinosours, rainforest walks that made us think we were in the Forbidden Forest around Hogwarts (we’re listening to the Harry Potter audio books as we drive), amazing views at every turn and new kinds of jumping animals in the wallaby family called pandemelons. I timed my evening runs with when all the marsupials were coming out to play which was a little bit special. Of course I could barely see them as sweat kept dripping in my eyes as I was running up 30 degree tracks at the side of the mountain roads. Annoyingly we paid $40 for the Cradle Mountain campsite one night but the next evening found us in the library of the Peppers Mountain Lodge drinking red wine and reading by the fire. The bus was hidden behind a bush in the car park and we ran back there after an evening pretending we were hotel guests.
From the mountains down into the caves of Mole Creek. Where it was actually even colder. Without a jacket between us we’ve had to sleep in most of our warm clothes at night during our Tassie time, refusing to invest in cold weather clothes as we are only here for a month. We know that when the bus becomes a sauna and we are sweating like fat kids in a candy shop in WA and NT, we’ll look back on the cold nights and regret moaning. You can always put more clothes on but there are only so many you can take off before you get arrested.
Australia Day crept up on us and we spent it parked out the back of a small town pub listening to their live music which was a guy singing the most Australian songs ever written. To support local businesses and celebrate Australia Day as we are on the cusp of getting our citizenships through we had pie and chips with ciders in the pub garden.
From there to Hobart. And we did what you should never do. We picked ourselves up a couple of hitch-hikers. Two young Italian boys chatted to us as we filled the bus up with water at a petrol station. Thinking they were just being friendly I told them “yes, we are headed to Hobart”. Then shook my head, appalled when they asked if they, their bikes and all their camping stuff could fit in the bus. A few minutes later as we passed them on a hill we realised we were awful humans and pulled over and put them and their gear on board for the rest of the journey. Their lucky shell was their offer of payment to us but I politely declined as it seemed like they and their legs were the ones who needed luck for the rest of their trip.
Up Mount Wellington, down Mount Wellington, along the Huon River and into the forest. A rainy day later and we were up in the trees bounding along the swing bridges and tree top walks. Well Jot bounded, I wept, strangers laughed and called me a sook, and she had to come back to rescue me.
Kath and Anne mode then took over as we had three days of culture. First at MONA, which until then was the name of a D character in Friends and a bad girl in Pretty Little Liars. Now MONA is my favourite art gallery. Mostly for the random but wonderful building, then because it has it’s own vineyard and brewery, and lastly but not leastly (that’s an expression), for the art.
Next stop was the historic town of Port Arthur. Not happy with just the one day looking at the old prison village Kath and Anne really made the most of their two day passes. The passes that had only been purchased after a lap of the grounds confirmed there was no way to sneak in. I guess if we are going to be breaking into tourist attractions they are unlikely to be old prison buildings.
Then the east coast. I should mention here that nearly two and a half weeks had passed since we had been in Tasmania and I was yet to eat an oyster. Or try any of the wines. The east coast is known for both those things and my inner Gert was overpowering Kath and she was hungry. Along the coastal roads signs tell you of approaching cellar doors, oyster shacks and berry farms serving Devonshire teas. Its a very good job that I wasn’t driving otherwise we would have gone in every single one. I tried my best to convince Jot that we should stop and buy things to support small businesses but she was quick to remind me that we don’t have an income. And people without jobs can’t spend their days gobbling oysters.
In Freycient National Park we of course did the walk to the Wineglass Bay look out. As the guide books promise it is a view to die for. Annoyingly about 100 other people were willing to die at the same time we were and we had to climb up even more rocks to get a picture of it without them in it.
This was also the place that we met the 60 year old version of me if I continue to live in a bus. Her short white hair, flannel shirt and Doctor Martins first made me wonder if our bus had somehow done a Back to the Future and I was meeting myself 30 years on. After we’d had a chat to her she was out of ear short for 10 seconds before Jot announced she had been thinking exactly the same thing, and told me in no uncertain terms that I’m not allowed to live in a bus for too long. Later that day Kate V2 came strolling towards our bus holding a massive squid on the end of a knife. She gave it to us on the grounds we would learn how to fish and that we would properly gut and prepare it. I made short work of that as I pulled out his organs and cleaned him up. We were so excited we accidentally went to the local bar and drank a bottle of wine and necked some oysters while we waited for our take away hot chips to have with the squid.
Further up the east coast and we were at the Bay of Fires. The bright red granite rocks meet the aqua sea and make for some epic views and pictures. We managed to score a free camp spot right behind the beach. When the tide came in at night the water was only a couple of meters from our tyres. It was my favourite camp spot so far only hindered by an injury to my leg on my daily run that had me limping back to the bus. Hopefully it is nothing that rest and cream eggs won’t sort out soon.
We then headed back to Launceston, which we had passed through on our way down but hadn’t properly explored. We parked up on some grass next to some other campers. After a stroll around the town we returned to the bus to find the area heaving. By pure coincidence we’d parked in the carpark of a three day wine, cider and beer tasting festival. After a scout around the fence to see if they’d missed any bits (they hadn’t) we paid our $20 each and found ourselves in heaven. We’d been planning on spending the next few days going to some of the wineries but short of walking miles between them and then sleeping in one of their car parks we couldn’t work out how to get to them as one of us would always be driving. Now here we are with all of Tasmania’s wineries, cider and beer makers in one park. And our bus meters from the entrance. We made short work of the lap of the stalls where they give you 3 or 4 tasters at each. I remember up until about 10 o clock where we had made friends with a random family. The mum had clearly taken to us as she made her husband keep buying us drinks. Pictures from our phone then tell us we imposed ourselves on our Winabago neighbours who we’d chatted to earlier in the day. We were too embarrassed to see them the next day and had to keep clambering over the drivers seat to get in and out of the bus. They waved goodbye as they drove off so we can’t have been too horrific.
A trip to a small mining town, and then back to Devonport. We have managed to avoid the Coles car parks this time and are parked up by the port. We’ve just seen the Spirit of Tasmania venture out into the Bass Striat and tomorrow we’ll be on board.
It feels like we are going home after a holiday. I was so confused earlier I thought the boat was taking us back to England. But onwards and upwards to the next state and next adventure. And actually it is a month worth of party time for us as we speed between festivals, weddings and concerts in Victoria, NSW and South Australia.
Tasmania is exactly how I thought it would be. There are more dead kangaroos on the road than other cars. Some of the roads aren’t actually roads but dirt tracks that go on for about 100k and connect one tiny town to another. People at gas stations fill up your car for you, probably just so they can have a chat as you’re one of about three customers for the day. Very often there is no phone or internet reception. Some towns seem to be deserted and there are For Sale signs on businesses and residential buildings everywhere. The liveliest places are often the fields out the back of the local pub full of free campers who’ve stopped for the night. But it is beautiful, rustic, and full of history. The people here have all been lovely and the old towns with their bakeries and coffee shops remind me of little French villages. But where are all the people?
Thank you Tasmania!