*Tasmania and The Great Ocean Road.
I thought I’d better get down my experiences in said places. The Tassie trip was organised by Kevin: flight to Hobart, stay there for two nights, drive hire car north, sightseeing on the way to Launceston (pronounced lawn-ses-ton in Aus, in the UK the it’s pronounced lawnston). Then we fly back from there.
If you had said a year ago that I would be visiting Tasmania within a year, I’d have said yeah right, in the vernacular. But there we were queuing up at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport for the Jetstar flight to Hobart. It was a very early morning flight and it was very early doors out of the flat to get to the airport. Just over an hour later, we landed, picked up the hire car and I had my first taste of driving in Australia, albeit Tasmania, but its no different. After breakfast in a Salamanca Market (of which more later) cafe, we straight away went up to the top of Mt Wellington, which is 1270 mtrs. The drive up was ‘interesting’, and the climb made our ears pop. From the 26° in Sydney a week or so previously, we were now subject to snow and 5°.
Amazing sights of the whole Hobart area from that height:
Its like a giant Google map and gives a huge idea of what it feels like floating that high. We spent quite a bit of time up there, the local council have built an enclosed viewing platform and walkways leading to the best panoramic viewpoints. After our stay up there we drove down to the ‘hotel’, actually a backpackers hostel in the middle of Hobart.
We went down to the harbour area that night and although it was very crisp, it was a lovely evening. We had fish and chips in a very nice fish restaurant and made our way back to the accommodation. I had felt a little under the weather the whole day and was hoping the hotel would be warm. Unfortunately I was disappointed; the corridors were open to the elements, and the back packers area at their back of the building, so the rooms weren’t exactly cosy. I felt bloody awful and went to bed shivering like I had ‘flu. The next morning we went to the famous Salamanca Saturday Market in the middle of Hobart and looked around the 200+ stalls, selling just about every local produce imaginable. With busking musicians dotted around and an abundance of stalls selling a range of eats, it was a surrounding experience, full of colour, sounds and smells. We had scheduled the afternoon to go to MONA, the Museum of New and modern Art, which had opened 2 years ago at a cost of many millions of dollars. Part of the whole experience was to travel from Hobart harbour to MONA on the disruptive pattern painted catamaran which took about 30 minutes to get there:
There were some very interesting exhibits, like this ‘fat Porsche’.
Or this white room:
But don’t ask me to explain them….
It was a very interesting experience nonetheless, and one that’s not to be missed when visiting Tassie. After another cold night we were making our way to Boolorong Wildlife Park to see indigenous rescue animals in the flesh, including hand feeding kangaroos:
That whole visit was a whole new experience, I’ve never been that close to koalas, wombats and Tasmanian Devils, who incidentally get a bad press:
They are nowhere near as aggressive or manic as Looney Toons depicted them. They are nearly blind, only seeing a few feet ahead, but their hearing is excellent. Since they feed mostly on carrion, their reputation (enhanced by those cartoons), meant they were vilified by the locals because of the horrific noise they made while feeding, earning the ‘devil’ epithet. Another animal which supposedly became extinct in 1936 was the Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger, which was dog sized and shaped with tiger-like stripes over its hindquarters, had a long non-waggable tail and a marsupial pouch facing the rear. Like the devil, the Thylacine was wrongly blamed for culling sheep, when in fact it was a poor hunter and also fed mainly on carrion. Sheep farmers actively hunted them and wiped them out, but some Tasmanians insist they have heard them in the wilds of the island, although none have been spotted. The last living one died in a zoo in Washington DC.
We stayed in Launceston for one night, coincidentally in the same hotel that the town of Melbourne was formed by three businessmen, one of whom was called Batman, and this was originally what the town was going to be called, seriously. We looked around the town, specially the famous gorge:
Then made our way to the airport for the flight back, arriving in Melbourne about 5pm on the Monday.
The next day we set off for the GOR* in the borrowed Ford Falcon. I think Ford Australia missed a trick not exporting the Falcon to the UK, I thought it was a great drive. We booked our first night in the Grand Pacific Hotel in Lorne, and set off using the Sat Nav to get there, passing the Ford factory at Geelong. We stayed the first night here:
After a lovely drive along the GOR, with its swooping scenery and sheer drop cliffs alternating with twisting roads through heavily wooded hill sides. Breathtaking doesn’t cut it as a description:
This is Sinclair Falls behind Lorne.
We moved on towards the 12 Apostles, probably one of the most iconic images of Australia behind Ayers Rock, this is part if it:
…although it is split in two parts from the viewing platform, which itself is on a promitory sticking out from the coastline. This is the other side:
The more observant will notice that there aren’t in fact 12 bits of rock, but it depends on where you stand on how many can be counted. I got up to 7, which is the average. We got to the area of the Apostles along the GOR, experiencing the same swooping scenery as before, coming across small coastal villages and homesteads that had been set up where a flat inlet of land could be developed. We had booked ahead, online, accommodation in a small town, Port Campbell which is 10 minutes drive from the 12 Apostles. The weather had started to turn after some glorious days, and on the first day we visited it was pouring rain. Groups of tourists were queuing up to take the helicopter rides from behind the main parking area. We sat in the car with a picnic and decided to come back the next day and were rewarded with a sunny, but windy, day. When we booked into our cottage, we were given a bigger one by our host Sue, who looked after us very well.
Port Campbell, although small, had some nice eating places which we took advantage of, and we stayed a further night to explore the area more. The town along the coast was Peterborough, but was nothing like the Cambridgeshire town, it was a sleepy village that was closed, not a soul about: don’t bother going there. There are many other bays and features to see, the other main one being where the schooner Loch Aird perished in the late 19th century with two survivors.
Having explored the area, we were due to go back to Melbourne. We got to the GOR via the coast road, but there is a ‘highway’ the A1, which bypasses the coast and is a direct route back. We decided to go back via the A1 and via a ‘food trail’ which were places which produced locally sourced food and alcohol. We stopped at the Timboon whisky distillery and tasted their single malt, and other liqueurs and bought some to take home. We eventually got to the A1, which is surprisingly a single carriageway, and decided, since we had time to retrace our steps, to visit Torquay which we had bypassed on the way to the GOR in our haste to get to the coast. I’m glad we did, Torquay is a lovely little town and a centre for surfing, and especially windsurfing. We had lunch in a lovely ramshackle restaurant overlooking the sea, and made our back ‘home’, our daughters apartment.
So that was the end of our sojourn to Tasmania and the Great Ocean Road, a week of total contrasts, weather and sights. We now had 10 days left of our Australian trip, to spend in and around Melbourne. Watch out for the next installment.