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Hobart, Port Arthur, Mt. Wellington, Cradle Mountain

World Trip Two

Thursday, May 14 2009: Melbourne-Hobart, Australia

A little bit of England.

It was a travel day most of the day. We drove from South Yarra to the Melbourne Airport then flew south to Hobart in Tasmania. The weather forecast was predicting rain, but we did not see it when we arrived, just clouds and wind. We drove our rental car to Hobart and located our accommodation in a converted Wool Store.

Then we made a short walk of the old historic part of town. Hobart's old town is very reminiscent of Mother England, with its Victorians, and terrace homes. But what a fantastic ambiance it created as we walked the tiny streets under the overcast sky and next to the quicksilver bay. It is fall in the southern hemisphere. The golden colors of the leaves on and around the trees added to the atmosphere. We particularly enjoyed visiting Battery Point which overlooks a bay filled by the Pacific Ocean. The thought of the next stop being Antarctica made me remember my visit to the frozen continent.

Friday, May 15 2009: Port Arthur, Australia

The fire destroyed remains of the prison at Port Arthur.

On our drive to Port Arthur we saw the most amazing rainbow. The weather was blowing through quite fast and some of it was rain. The rain moving past us landed in patches all about. I think this caused the strong, and very beautiful rainbows we saw about us.

We kept taking the wrong turns as we tried to leave Hobart; we missed our turn twice in a row. Eventually we got it right and were on our way. The road was windy but as there was not much traffic; once we left the city area we made good time.

Graves on the Island of the Dead.

The virus I had picked up in Melbourne had taken hold of me this morning. The only symptoms I had were tiredness and some soreness of my throat. It was not enough to stop me from visiting the infamous Port Arthur Penal Colony.

Once there, we made the walking tour of the grounds and took a boat tour to The Island of the Dead, which is a small nearby island used as the colonies" graveyard. On paper this all seems quite gruesome but in fact the place is a natural wonderland with a very colorful history to say the least. Just to add to its history on April 28 1996, a madman shot dead 35 tourist and others. Even though the place is full of natural beauty it seems to be forever stained by human suffering.

Saturday, May 16 2009: Mt. Wellington, Australia

Snowy Mt Wellington.

We looked out of the window and saw Mount Wellington covered in snow. I think we are certifiably insane as immediately upon sighting this frozen landscape we decided to head to the mountain for a hike.

A giant grabby gum tree.

Clouds, rain, sunshine and rainbows appeared and disappeared above us as we headed up towards the snow. When we arrived at the parking lot for our hike it was covered in snow, and snow was falling thickly around us. At the last moment we changed our minds about climbing up further towards the summit in such unpredictable weather conditions. Instead, we headed down below the snow level and set out in the pouring rain along a trail lower down the mountain. Amazingly, we stayed dry, and it seemed the thick, dark forest sheltered us from the worst weather. It continued to vary second by second as we walked; gusts of wind followed by rain clouds, then blue sky, then pelting rain.

Mt. Wellington is covered in trails. I fantasized about staying there for weeks and hiking daily in the ancient forest filled with eucalypts and ferns. I had read there's a tree in Tasmania That's 3,000 years old. It seems unbelievable. Yet, standing in that ancient forest among enormous trees spilling over granite boulders I could easily accept the age of such a tree.

Another enchanted forest.

It's great to be able to step into wilderness and then leave in the comfort of a warm car. Ours seemed particularly wonderful and warm as we headed towards the bay and Wrest Point, the first casino opened in Australia. We arrived there to witness the Tasmanian Sci-fi convention filled with Darth Vaders and Supermen and a multitude of otherworldly beings perusing booths in the casino.

On our way in I got bitten on the leg by an unidentified Australian critter. I tried to dismiss from my mind that this country has the top 10 most poisonous critters in the world, but could not help feeling slightly anxious as my leg continued to bleed from a single deep puncture. It's now several hours later and I am still functioning well and hungry for delicious Tasmanian seafood for dinner, so I think I will survive.

Hobart Video

Sunday, May 17 2009: Hobart-Cradle Mountain, Australia

Lush forests, a lake, and snow covered highlands.

We had nothing but good weather as we made our drive from Hobart to Cradle Mountain. It was a long drive but it took us through some magnificent countryside. Tasmanian forests are not as lush as New Zealand forests, but much more lush than Victoria's.

A lonely dirt road in the middle of nowhere.

The Tasmanian hinterland is dry, but nowhere near as dry as Victoria's drought stricken wilds. The road climbed slowly all day until we reached an inland plateau where we encountered snow on the ground. It looked like it had snowed here just the day before, probably at the same time it snowed on Mt. Wellington back in Hobart. We passed a vast lake and then the paved road became a dirt track for several kilometers. We continued on at times without seeing any signs of civilization for hours. Eventually, the road became paved again and began to lower us from the highlands much faster than we had climbed. The landscape changed from low and sparsely treed to heavily forested.

After a lovely Thai meal at lunch we continued through farm lands and a road that once again made a slow accent. Farmlands were soon replaced by sparsely treed forests with many dead trees standing like lonely gray monoliths, or perhaps tombstones. It turned out that early foresting activities in the area had caused the water table to rise up and this killed more trees after the logging was over. Still, the now partly dead forest seemed to point our way to the highlands of Cradle Mountain just beyond.

Wally the wombat.

We arrived at the lodge and were soon checked in with daylight to spare. We found our way to the information office and then wandered onto a short hike. It was very cold and we wearing all of our cold weather gear that we have slowly collected during our time in the southern hemisphere.

Julia leapt backwards on the boardwalk trail and grabbed my arm exclaiming "Is that a Tasy Devil!" Julia's eyesight is far superior to mine, so try as I might I was unable to see the critter. "No, no! Right in front of you!" she continued as she saw my vacant gaze and straining eyes. Then I saw it, a few feet before me, it was a small brown wallaby eating something from under a log. Great find considering we had just taken a short stroll minutes from the information office. We continued and were greeted by a kookaburra laughing at us in the background; another stroke of luck. On we went and then just as we were about to complete the short stroll Julia spotted a wombat eating something intently in an open area. By jingo, what an amazing stroll this was! To finish off Julia spotted two more wallabies on our way back to the lodge. Thank Darwin for these amazing animals.

Cradle Mt. Video

Monday, May 18 2009: Cradle Mountain Summit, Australia

The mirror of Crater Lake.

Today consisted of a most amazing hike to near the summit of Cradle Mountain and back. The sky was big, unclouded, and bright blue all day long. In fact it was the best weather we"d had in Australia since we arrived. The first part of the hike took us from the Waldheim car park to Crater Lake.

We walked along boardwalks through low marshlands covered with unidentified domed plants. Then we came upon a river and waterfall where the scene changed to rainforest. After a short but steep climb we arrived at the Crater Lake boat shed, which is a very ancient shingled building, set in the most picturesque landscape. A mirror-like lake was held in the center of rugged vertical granite cliffs. A glacier carved wonderland. From here we climbed slowly to the rim of the crater, and then finally scrambled up the last 200 meters to Marion's Lookout. The view from here was extensive and gave us vistas of Crater Lake, Lake Lila, Lake Dove, and Cradle Mountain.

Just below the summit of Cradle Mountain.

We continued on the Overland Track through a vast plateau of, snow, ice, and water covered peat. The going was slow as traction was always a problem. The walk let us down slowly until we arrived at the Kitchen Hut, a well placed shelter from the normally extreme weather. After exploring the hut we continued up to the summit of Cradle Mountain.

The view from Crater Peak.

Our walking poles were very helpful for the first half of this walk but became useless on the second half. This was because the second half was rock scrambling, and finally low grade rock climbing all the way to the summit. We got to within a 100 meters of the summit but gave up our attempt. During the rest of the rock scrambling and climbing the grade had not been too steep; if we had fallen on this part of the climb we would have been hurt but not killed. However, on the last 100 meters the grade became so steep that if we had slipped we would have been killed by the sudden stop at the end of a very long fall. Keep in mind that the rocks were covered with ice and snow so this added to the difficulty. We were both disappointed about turning back, but when we turned around and saw the view our disappointment turned to glee. We took two photos, one looking up at what stopped us, and one looking down below us. We had a long way to go back down from our high perch.

Eventually we descended from Cradle Mountain and returned via Horse Track; a different route than we had taken in the morning. This route had us climb a steep snow covered peat hill for quite some time. The going was slow again because of the lack of traction. The track leveled out and with one short climb we arrived at Crater Peak. From here we stood at the highest point overlooking Crater Lake. The view was splendid. Now we continued on Horse Track down, and down, and down over very rough trails. We descended from the peat fields, through rain forest, and finally back on the open marshlands. Just a little more walking over boardwalks and we were back at our car at Waldheim car park. What an amazing walk. From 9:00am until 4:00pm, over 15 miles, through some of the most technical walking we had ever done; but boy was it worth it.

Cradle Mt. Summit Hike

Tuesday, May 19 2009: Dove Lake, Australia

The illusive Cradle Mountain summit.

We made another 15 mile hike today. But this time it was mainly on boardwalks and mostly on level ground; no rock climbing. We walked out of the lodge to the information office and picked up the trail there to Dove Lake. The walk took us through some very beautiful frost covered marshlands, past rivers, and waterfalls. Eventually we arrived at Ronny Creek car park and were greeted by two Australian native bush hens.

We continued onto the Overland Trail across the marshy expanse once again, but this time we turned at the Cradle Valley boardwalk and headed to Dove Lake. This boardwalk was in very bad shape and was almost impassable in spots. But we pushed on and made it to Lake Lila. This was a small but stunning lake. From here we continued to Dove Lake and the Boat Shed where we stopped for lunch. What a tranquil place to eat your cheese sandwich. After lunch we made the walk around Lake Dove which was rough in places but mostly well maintained boardwalk. The views on this part of the walk were priceless. We could see Cradle Mountain from many differing viewpoints and finally said goodbye to it for this trip; but we will be back as this place is worth a second look. At the Dove Lake car park we walked down the access road back to Ronny Creek. From here we returned to the lodge via the boardwalk and route we had taken in the morning. Along the way, as the sun got lower, we spotted two wombats and two wallabies. Truly, this was a terrific hike.

Dove Lake Video

Wednesday, May 20 2009: Cradle Mountain-Hobart, Australia

Not the pub we ate lunch in.

We drove all day from Cradle Mountain to Hobart through some magnificent, frosts, and rugged countryside. However, we drove on the longest stretch of bendy roads both Julia and I have ever encountered. The hairpin bends seemed to be endless and at least went on for hours.

We stopped at Queenstown for lunch which is a very rustic old mining town, and has been a mining town since they discovered copper there hundreds of years ago. We ate a fresh cooked meat pie and it was very good. After lunch we continued on for a total of eight hours of driving, much of it on bendy and narrow roads. We were sure glad to drop off our car and check into our hotel at the Hobart Airport. Tasmania is a very special place and, just as with New Zealand, you must put it on your list of places to see.

Trip stats

Miles Flown: 9,297

Miles Hiked: 145

Miles Skied: 2

Miles Driven: 3,806

Miles Sailed: 89


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