August 25, 2011

Epic Road Trip: Tasmania

I've been travelling a lot lately - some fun, some not so fun. Let's talk about the fun stuff.

When I started researching my Masters thesis on the use of creative writing techniques in travel writing (for this read: excuse to read travel articles all day), I read something by Matthew Power about hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania. His story about the five-day hike, and the beauteous place that is this crazy island, made me fall in love with Tasmania instantly and permanently. Power talked about Lords of the Rings-style rainforest with dripping moss, moody skies, and jagged rocks. I found all that and so much more.

We decided to take our car over by ferry, which put us on the northern end of the island. For those of you unfamiliar with this part of the world, Tasmania is an Australian state located under the southeastern tip - it's on the same longitude as New Zealand, so we're talking lots of rain and semi-deciduous seasons as well as rainforests and nice beaches. Tasmania is known for its wilderness, but also for its produce and wines. So we decided to try and find some open wineries around Launceston - not ideal in winter. But we finally struck gold with Pipers Brook Winery, where we had some amazing whites and a pretty decent view.

We felt fancy, even though we were wearing raincoats.

And then we drove east to the Bay of Fires and camped out by the beach. This place was pure magic. The beaches are ringed with speckled boulders covered in bright red lichen, making them look like they've been stained with blood. As soon as we pulled up I was out of the car and taking these:

I don't actually know why the algae is red, but it lights up and glows when the sun falls on it. We set up camp in a bushy alcove and spent the night happily sitting by the fire eating sausages. There was a very brave wallaby who quite literally sat with us through dinner (and picked through our trash). They're notoriously shy, so this was a little weird. Especially when he sat creepily behind my chair and made scratchy noises, which I came him a talking to for. Not that he cared: he blinked at me and stayed where he was.

Then it was off into the historic center of the country for what we decided we needed: a little non-camping time. We stayed in the beautiful, tiny town of Ross in a heritage cottage:

It involved a log fire, a cute local tavern for dinners, and one of the oldest convict-built bridges in Tasmania. While the convict part's a little sad, the bridge itself is pretty impressive. At least Tasmania hasn't swept its colonial past under the underbrush like the rest of Australia, and I have to say I think it's better for it.

Then we wound through wilderness up into Cradle Mountain NP. We stayed at a pretty amazing Lodge were we got amazing massages, gourmet meals, and another log fire/king bed experience. But what we really went for was to hike through this:

This day of hiking was challenging, blissful, and the highlight of Tasmania for me. I couldn't believe I was finally standing on the Overland Track, the track I'd lusted after for so long. We even got to follow a wombat for a while, who was ambling down the boardwalk in front of us. The weather was kind to us, and as a result I had several of those moments of awe that you only get when surrounded by a natural setting so magnificent that you know you'll never be able to describe it. So I took lots of photos instead.

Tasmania is an amazing blend of good things: unspoiled wilderness, friendly people, sparkling coastline, good food and wine, and cosy country towns (to name a few).

It might be considered the end of the earth, but that only makes what you find there that much more outstanding.

August 17, 2011

Brisbane to Tas: the Epic Journey

I've been a terrible blogger. That's because I've been off adventuring in Tasmania and High Country Victoria for the past few weeks. We decided it would be fun and intrepid of us to drive from Brisbane down to Melbourne and take a ferry to Tasmania, camping all the way. And it was. It was a great opportunity to see the Australian landscape, but it involved an obscene amount of time in the car, which I wiled away by pointing Paul's iPhone at things (including one of the coolest wilderness events I've ever seen close up).

If this doesn't make you want to road trip with me, well... I just don't know about you.