All About Trey

Life, Travel, Adventure


Australia 2001 (Part 6)


I leave Melbourne in a driving rainstorm.  Apparently before I got there they hadn't had any rain in like 4 months.  So I'm sure they need the rain.  But this is MY holiday.  And I want nice weather.  I mean, it is ALL ABOUT ME, isn't it? 

The rain meant that my flight was delayed a bit.  And I wasn't flying Ansett this time, but one of their regional affiliates, Kendall.  Now it was a jet, but it was so small that it couldn't pull into the gate.  So we had to walk to the plane, in the rain (but not in Spain?  Never mind?)  Now the cool thing is that they gave each of us umbrellas for the walk out there.  For some reason, I can't see this happening in the US, but it was very cool.   The flight was pretty uneventful and I made it to Hobart in Tasmania with no problem.  Caught a shuttle to my hotel.  And I've come to realize that no matter where I am or where I'm staying, I'm always the last one on the bus.  Well my hotel was the Customs House Hotel right on the waterfront in Hobart. It was one of the many pub-hotels (or pubtels) that I've stayed at.  Not bad and the price is right.  I wandered around Hobart a bit for the rest of the afternoon, but it was overcast and kept threatening rain but it was good.  I had a great meal at the hotel and called it early for the night.   

The next morning I was on a tour bus trip to Port Arthur.  I can't do these bus things anymore.  The TBN is rough and scares some of the fellow passengers.  Port Arthur was the main penal colony in Van Diem's Land (the early name for Tasmania).  It was a secondary prison, so you went somewhere first and then you got sent to Port Arthur.  It was very harsh.  On the bus before we got there we got a card that corresponds to a prisoner.  My card, the ace of spades = Robert Goldspick.  A shoemaker from London who received 7 years and "transportation" for stealing aloaf of bread.  You have to know the historical background for all of this.  It was the beginning of the industrial revolution and there were masses of people who were unemployed and couldn't make ends meet.  So many resorted to petty theft, or poverty theft as they refer to it in the museum.  The upper classes didn't recognize (or didn't want to recognize) the economic factors causing all of this and thought the "lower" classes just had a pre-disposition for crime.  So they jacked up the punishment laws.  "Transportation" equaled being sent overseas from your family to serve your time.  In reality, it was exile as very few prisoners managed to serve their time and return to England.  The whole story of Port Arthur is just sad.  So many men who lived there and the way they were treated.  And just down the shoreline from Port Arthur was Port Puer.  It was the boy’s prison.  The youngest was 9 1/2 years old.  So he was probably sentenced when he was 7 and then sent over to Tasmania. Just awful.  Most of the buildings have been destroyed in one of the bush fires, but some of them remained and they were pretty impressive.  The shell of the hospital remains on top of a hill.  Now you have heard of a cat of nine tails haven't you?  It's a metal rod about a foot long with 9 strips of leather attached to it.  Each of the strips of leather has multiple knots in it and then it is soaked in salt water and then dried.  Apparently it's like being whipped with barbwire.  Common punishment usually meant between 10 and 100 lashes, with the average in the upper 40s.  The prisoner was brought up to the hospital where he was tied to a wooden tripod like structure.  His feet were tied apart while his hands were tied together above his head.  It was determined that this flexed the back muscles and brought them closer to the surface for the punishment.  If a prisoner fainted during the lashing, he was untied, taken into the hospital, thrown into a salt-water bath until he regained consciousness and then returned to the tripod for the rest of his lashings.  Nice huh.  After Port Arthur, we did stop for a quick photo op at the Tasman National Park.  That night I tried to have an early night, but the pub had a band playing and even my earplugs couldn't help me. 

But I did get up early and pick up the rental car and then headed north along the coast.  The weather was nice and the driving fairly easy.  My destination?  Freycinet National Park.   When I had been in Melbourne, I had found this Tasmania information store and had picked up a brochure on the 50 Great Short Walks in Tasmania.  So that was my goal at Freycinet.  I arrived there around 11 and parked the car at the trailhead.  Since it was so nice, I changed into a singlet (sorry that’s Aussie for tank top) and decided to ditch my backpack and just carry my  camera.  So off I started, up the hill. Freycinet is on a peninsula that pretty much points south.  There are two large mountains, called the Hazards, on the peninsula separated by a low-lying isthmus.  My walk was to climb the first Hazard.  The hike was good and the trail in great condition.  Up and up I went for about 30 minutes where I was then rewarded with a spectacular view of Wineglass Bay. It's this perfectly shaped crescent bay with gorgeous white sandy beaches.  It was just amazing, and where I was going next.  Down the mountain I went through a variety of eucalyptus trees and low growing shrubs.  It was nice and warm by the time I could hear the pounding surf and I emerged from the forest onto the beach.  There were maybe 20 people here and it was just so nice.  Wineglass Bay is on the ocean side and the surf was pretty intense. Very decent size waves that kept crashing onto the beach.  The water looked really inviting,  but the surf was a bit intimidating, so I decided to continue my walk and see if Hazard Beach might be a better place for a swim.  Crossing the isthmus was pretty easy.  Again the walk took me through these huge trees and all sorts of shrubs.  And I'm walking by myself with no one around so it seems like I'm the only person there.  I left the forest and then climbed a sand dune and then came down onto Hazard Beach.  Where wineglass bay beach was white, hazard beach was almond color and just as beautiful.  The water was calm and so blue and clear.  It just looked inviting.  So I wandered down the beach a bit.  I wanted to swim, but the water was a bit cold.  But as I walked along the edge of the beach with my feet in the water, I sort of got acclimatized and was definitely ready for a swim.  Okay, now I have issues.  Do I swim au naturale or in my skivvies? There are people nearby, so au naturale is not a good option.  Swimming in my skivvies means either wet underwear on the walk back (another 2 hours) and that could be very painful or I could go commando.  Well I get to the end of the beach and there is a rock jutting into the water and I climb that to get a better view and then sit and think about myoptions.  Now as I'm sitting there, a wallaby jumps out of the scrub growth scaring the s$%t out of me.  It's no more than 12 feet away and has absolutely no interest in me.  Of course, I've got my camera out and snapping like 20 pictures.  It was really cute and really didn't care if I was there or not.  After my photo op, the wallaby just hung around and I went back to my swimming dilemma.  Now on the other side of my rock was a small little crevice/valley before the next big rock.  But this little crevice had a sandy access to the water, so I decided to go for it.  So I stripped down to my skivvies (what were you thinking?) and jumped into the water.  Okay, when diving into sea water wearing boxer briefs (sorry if it's all TMI {too much information}, but deal) it is imperative to hold onto your shorts.  I almost lost my "suit". The water wasawesome though.  It was sunny out and the water was clear and it was just the best time.  I'm not sure how it is with you, but there are certain times that I just feel good, alive, and happy, like the universe is right for just a short span of time and I wish I could tape record that moment and relive it over and over again.  And those moments don't come often, so you want to treasure them when they do.  It was one of those times.  I was swimming in the crystal clear and cool waters off a perfect sandy and nearly deserted beach while a wallaby watched my clothes.  And I was just happy.  Could it get any better?  No.  Eventually the wallaby wandered off and after about 20 minutes, I decided to head back in.  I quickly got back into my clothes, yes commando, and hiked back to the trailhead.  The return hike was good and I was pretty tired and thirsty by the time I got to the car.  I drove to a small town called Swansea on the coast where I had reservations and then showered off the saltwater before heading out of a great fish dinner at a local restaurant.

The next day I was up early and on the road by 730, or so I thought. Australia "fell back" remember the seasons are reversed so they are just entering their winter) and no one told me, so it was actually 630.  Well I got to Lake Saint Clare, my next destination after about 3 hours of fun driving and this is when I got the clue about the time.  My plan at Lake St Clare was to take the ferry out to Narcissus Bay and then walk back, ahike of about 5-6 hours.  However, there was a small problem.  The sky was overcast and windy and rain was forecasted.  In addition, with sunset coming earlier, I wasn't sure if I could catch the 1230 ferry and make it back by sunset.  Being on a trail in the dark and probably rain was not a good thing, so I ended up taking the ferry to Echo Point, the half way point. About ten minutes after I was on the trail, the rain started.  It wasn't a driving rain, more of a drizzling rain.  And at first it was kind of cool. I mean, I'm walking in a temperate rain forest, of course it's going to rain.  I've got a windbreaker/rainslicker on and it's doing okay.  The forest is beautiful with all sorts of trees and just hundreds of types of ferns.  It was just so cool.  At first.  Then it got old.  And cold.  The trail got very narrow and there were times I was pushing my way between these fields of ferns. Ferns that had collected the rain on its leaves and were only so glad to dump it on me as I went by.  The front of my jeans were just soaked by the end of the first hour.  But I kept walking, I mean, was there an option?  The trail itself wasn't too bad.  It followed the shore of the lake and climbed no more than 100 feet at any one time.  However, with the rain and some steep parts I did run into a problem.  Walking up a steep and slippery slope I fell.  Face first.  Toward the mud. The only thing that saved me from a face plant was that I managed to get my hands in front of me.  So I ended up doing a sort of push up as my hands sank to my wrist in deep dark mud.  Now I'm REALLY happy.  It was only about 10 minutes before I found a small stream I could wash my hands in.  Now don't get me wrong,  I liked the hike, but the rain was starting to get to me.  Plus I was concerned about my camera gear in my backpack.  So I started to pick up speed.  I was going a pretty good clip toward the end.  And it could have been worse.  The last 1/2 mile was along the shore.  There I got the full force of the wind and the rain and I started to get really cold, like my fingers went numb cold.  But the lodge was in site and I was so happy to get out of the rain.  My hotel was only a five minute drive away and I was just dreaming of a warm shower.  The hotel was decent and I ran into some guys who had done the Overland Track.  It's a hike that takes you across the park from Cradle Mountain to Lake Saint Clare.  It took them a week to make the crossing.  So I really couldn't complain about my hiking problems, you know what I mean. 

The next day my plan was to drive along the west coast north to Cradle Mountain to do some hiking around there.  I left Lake St Clare in the drizzle rain and I did stop to do a quick 20 minute walk to see the Nelson Falls.  Quite spectacular with all the rain.  But as I drove north, the
weather kept getting worse.  I made Cradle Mountain around noon in the pouring rain.  And then I decided that while I'm not the smartest guy in town, I'm not stupid.  I'm not going to hike in the driving rain.  I'm healthy again and I don't want to get sick.  So I decided to cancel my hotel
reservations there (in the Cosy Cabins!  Don't ask) and headed to Launceston.  I dropped off my rental car a day early and then tried to get a hotel room.  The hotel I had originally booked couldn't move my reservation up a day, so I ended up in . . .  Lloyd's Hotel.  I kid you not.  $45AD, ensuite.  That's about $22.50.  It was another pubtel and it was just a block away from the Boag's Brewery.  I called and changed my airline flight and got my hotel in Sydney a day early so I could escape the cold and rainy weather of Tasmania.  Beaches here I come.   

Now staying in these pubtels, I've become fairly “piss fit”.  What you ask? Piss fit.  It's a lovely Aussie term which means that you can hold your liquor, that you don't get pissed, that you have a high tolerance.  It's such a lovely word, isn't it?  And let's talk beer, shall we.  Fosters is
not Australian for beer.  That's marketing crap.  Foster and XXXX are Queensland beers.  Each of the states has their own beers.  Tasmania's was Boags.  Victoria has VB (Victoria Bitter). New South Wales (where Sydney is) has Hahns.  So when you go to a new state you have to try their beer.  I mean, what's a tourist to do.  I wouldn't want to insult the locals. 

I did manage to do a bit of sightseeing in Launceston.   They have a really cool gorge just on the edge of the CBD.   So I went over to it and actually did a nice little hike along the gorge until you get to a small lake that is formed by a dam. It was quite pretty. Launceston reminds me of NZ’s South Island. There is NO nightlife. At all. Which is just as well, because I was flying back to party central, I mean Sydney, the next day.