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Tasmania, the last trip in Oz

Finally a trip somewhere. Down Under of Down Under: Tasmania. Part 1: Hobart and the Cradle Mountains

Irene’s brother Alex, just like his best friend Tony, could not resist the lure of Australia and decided to come and check it here. With the same energy with which she’s managing and running her “cleaning services business”, Irene turned into a travel agency and organized for her brother a monumental trip to Australia. In 21 days he will see “everything”, flying and running around like crazy. He will manage to pack into those 21 days almost everything that I have seen here in 7 months. And because seeing Melbourne, Sydney, Byron Bay & around, Uluru, Cairns and Great Barrier Reef didn’t sound like enough, he also wanted to see Tasmania.
And so, inspired by his wish me and Irene decided to join him in the trip to Tasmania. For me this would be my last trip in Australia, and by going to Tasmania I would make my collection of Australian places almost complete, with a (major) exception of Western Australia. Anyway, I always wanted to go to Tasmania. The Down Under of The Down Under – the remote piece of remote Australia. I remember that as a kid I wanted to move there (knowing nothing about the place), probably simply because it was so isolated far away from Slovakia :-)

After Alex spent 2 days in Sydney, he flew from there to Hobart, where me and Irene met him at the airport. There was whole lotta sisterly-brotherly love going on when they met here, far away from their home in Aranjuez. Later Alex is going to Byron Bay to see us there, but this was the first time Irene met him on his Aussie adventure.

As our time for Tasmania was extremely limited, because we didn’t want (and couldn’t afford) to take too many days off in the work, we rented a campervan, so that we could move around Tasmania quickly and sleep anywhere we please. Irene and Alex had just 3,5 days in Tasmania, I decided to stay 2 days longer, to make the trip to Tasmania a bit more worthy.

It was clear already from the plane: Tasmania is much warmer and much less mountainous than I have imagined it. The landscape 10 kilometers beneath the airplane was full of golden fields and small rolling hills.

We started off in Hobart, with just one late afternoon/evening to kill. It’s not a big place, but it has a lot of charm. And bits of European look and feel. Historic sandstone buildings evocated an English town, so did the atmospheric harbor. Houses and villas stretching up on surrounding hills, also added a nice background to the town. Finally a town which does not lie on never ending flatlands. My eyes, being long separated from my hometown, could even spot some hints of Bratislava, in those houses in the hills :-)
After some walking around we went to a Irish Pub, which seemed completely appropriate in this place, got a few beers and went to sleep in the campervan in dark and quiet streets of one of the neighborhoods.

Next morning we hit the road and spent most of the day driving to Cradle Mountains National Park, Tasmania’s most famous national park. Since Tasmania’s roads are small and windy, it took us loooong time to get there and we arrived too late to do some normal hiking on that day, so we just went to see a small nearby waterfall. But it was not a day lost in the car. As we crossed a huge portion of Tasmania, we stopped in few small towns and beautiful viewpoints, visited a nice sort-of-historic town and saw a piece of proper rainforest covered by those prehistoric ferns. It didn’t take me long to make my judgment about Tasmania: while it may be less wild and exotic than I expected, I think I like it much more than Australian mainland. But it may be just my longing for Europe talking. The rolling hills and golden fields looked completely like parts of Slovakia or south Czech Republic. Windy roads leading through small villages with stone buildings(most of Australian buildings are made from timber), tiny historic churches, willows growing along calm rivers flowing through small towns – it all gives Tasmania a distinctly European feel. And most of all, there is a town or a village every few kilometers. It’s not like Australia, where in the Outback it takes you hours and days to reach next petrol station, not to mention town :-)
I think that Irene and Alex were not very impressed, and my own feelings about Tasmania would be surely very different if I had arrived there straight from Europe - probably I would consider it inappropriate attempt to fake European charms – but as I am, more than a year separated from the Old Continent, by eyes delighted in this slightly Europe-mimicking place.

Alex was really lucky, on during his first day in Australia he managed to spot kangaroos, wallabies, a wombat (it was the first spotting of a living wombat also for me, I had only seen hundreds of dead ones lining the roads) and we have even seen an echidna. (Apart from being lucky, he is also happy. I’ve seen only few people in my life who would smile more often than Alex).

Next day we did a make into the Cradle Mountains. Considering desperate flatness of Australia, these Cradle Mountains are considered among Australia’s highlights, although they reach “only” as high as 1600m (which is pretty good for Australia). According to tourist information that I had read, this area is considered as one of the last temperate wilderness areas remaining in the world, and much of Tasmania is protected as UNESCO heritage.

The hike was very nice and extremely windy. Of course, the Cradle Mountains can stand no competition with what I had seen in Himalayas, but anyway I was very excited to be in the mountains and to hike. It’s been only my second proper hike in Australia in all those 7 months I have spent here!

One more highlight to mention, was literally High-Light. The stars. When we went to sleep in the van, somewhere on a side road near the headquarters of the national park, I was amazed by the night sky. This is what I had expected when I was in the Outback, but finally I found it here in Tasmania. Lot of people promised phenomenal night sky in the Outback, and while it was surely nice there, here in Tasmania, maybe also thanks to the elevation, the stars were simply mind blowing. You could see stars right on the horizon, the visibility was that excellent. And the Milky Way hovering above our heads, was stunning. I don’t know how to describe it, but this was like looking through Hubble Telescope! Pure beauty.

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     MARCEL STRBAK | www.strbak.com | www.facebook.com/marcel.strbak