Saturday, 19 April 2008

Day 2: Hobart to Tarraleah, Tasmania (19th April 2008)

It's 6.00am and I'm sitting in the dining area of Pickled Frog Backpackers having a cup of coffee (I need my morning jolt) and bread as I await the taxi to pick me up. Photos taken at breakfast:



My morning began at 5.30am and not exactly the way I expected it to be. I was minding my own business, brushing my teeth in the communal ladies bathroom when a random guy stood at the front door (the door into the communal bathroom was wide open) and threw his room key on the floor near where my backpack laid. I thought, "This is random - perhaps it was for the woman in the shower", and didn't think much of it. Turns out, wasn't the key of the woman who came out from the shower when I told her about it so left the key where it was. Some 15 minutes later, random guy came back, walked in to pick up the key, stood back at the front door and threw the key again near my backpack! What the hell??!!! That was weird, not to mention, somewhat creepy at this early hour. I'm getting out of here!

Eew, creepy! That guy just walked past me and gave me a sly grin!!! Brr...makes all my hair stand...Where IS my taxi???? Thank god it's here!

The taxi from Taxi Combined Services took only 10 minutes to get me to Hobart Tower Motel, the tour pick-up point. Cost me AUD10 for the ride. As if my morning wasn't crazy enough, the driver drove at speeds of 70kmph through the suburbs to my destination!! I don't think THAT was the allowed speed limit...What a crazy morning!

I had booked myself on the 7 Day Tassie Explorer with Connections through Flight Centre for NZD1350 which included a guide/driver that takes a small group around Tasmania, breakfast and 4 dinners, multishare accommodation for 6 nights, and entrance fees to some of the national parks and places of visit in the travel itinerary. I had initially planned to hire a car and drive myself around Tasmania to save some money but I'm really glad I didn't go for that option - too much planning involved and I don't have the head space to do so as work had been so busy. It's good to be able to sit back, relax and let someone else do the planning and driving :)

At 8am, John, the guide from Connections, came to pick up everyone on the tour. There were only 6 people on the tour (I was expecting like 15 of us!): Niek & Ilse (couple from Belgium), Louise (UK), Kate (Sydney) and Quentin aka Wratty (NZ - that makes 2 of us!), and not forgetting John (Tasmanian of course!). And so our adventure begins for the week ahead as we travel together around Tassie...

Today we will be travelling from Hobart to Tarraleah, some 150kms apart with many stops along the way. First stop, the Salamanca Market on Salamanca Place. This outdoor market is held every Saturday from 8.30am to 3pm - lots of stalls selling fruits, food, veggies, woodcraft, clothes, painting etcs. Lots of colour, flavour and people as we strolled down the street. I had to try The Smallest Pancakes in Town - the stall caught my attention! How small was it? About the size of a flatten golf ball. For AUD4.50, I got a plate of 12 small Dutch pancakes drizzled with apple syrup and icing sugar. Nothing different from homemade pancakes, just made into smaller portions. But it was good to warm me up (it was about 12-13 degree Celsius)! :)

Bumped into Wratty amidst the crowd and we walked over to the harbour for some photos before hopping back to our shuttle bus at 9.45am. John then drove us around the suburb of Battery Point, one of city's more prestigious suburbs, before heading to Hunter Street to photo the First Settlers' Memorial and its row of beautifully restored stone warehouses once Henry Jones' empire (Henry Jones was Australian businessman who was important in the development of industry and tradewas a well-known entrepreneur in Tasmania).

You know, I've only ever used a shuttle bus for short distance travel from the airport to home and vice versa - can't imagine what it'll be like travelling on this vehicle for the next week, driving to mountains, beaches etc. Could it be a 4WD??? Photos taken this morning: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604776247331/detail/

Next stop, Mt Field National Park, one of Tasmania's oldest and most loved national parks. From the tall forests and waterfalls, the park encompasses an amazing diversity of mother nature's skillful handiwork in a tranquil setting. Activities you could do here include walking, picnicking, skiing (not yet), birdwatching and you can even camp here if you wish. This was the first of our many walks/hikes in the itinerary - oh, I hope I can cope as I rarely walk long hours!

John guided the group through the Tall Trees Walk, a 30-minute return easy walk through the forest of the world's tallest flowering plants - the swamp gums. Boy, were they tall! And huge! I can't put my arms around the trunk!! Just look at the photo taken of me standing inside a fallen tree and you would understand what I mean :)

The gang went back to the Visitor Centre to Waterfall Cafe where we had lunch and an opportunity to get to know a little more about each other. Ah, so Louise and Kate are both teachers in Sydney...

We continued on after lunch with another easy 10-minute return walk to the scenic Russell Falls though interestingly, the falls wasn't gushing with water as usual (drought perhaps?). Hmm, I'm enjoying the walks - easy and leisurely! I do strongly recommend wearing sturdy walking shoes or boots (Wratty had flip-flops on!) and bring along a warm, waterproof jacket (weather can be unpredictable and the mountains/forests can be cool and windy). Photos taken: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604791919877/detail/

Back on the shuttle and off we went to Lake Dobson for another beautiful walk. Ah, just being in the forest, listening to the rustling of leaves, chirping of birds and breathing the fresh air - so peaceful, so invigorating. I felt like I was in a different world, one untouched by humans. One that made me feel so small being in. Can't quite explain the feeling to you - you'll have to come here to feel it yourself!

I have to say, I'm quite impressed with the tour so far, especially with our guide/driver. John accompanies us on all our walks and is very knowledgeable of Tasmania and its history. And much like us travellers, he has an interest in taking photos too :) Photos taken on this afternoon: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8070917@N05/sets/72157604803264210/detail/

At around 4pm, we headed to Tarraleah where we'll be staying the night. Tarraleah is an old hydro-electricity township in the centre of Tasmania. Hmm, Tasmania looks very much like NZ, with farms, hills and windy roads! I'm real glad I didn't drive myself around Tassie - wouldn't recommend it if you're female and planning to do this alone. My NZ mobile doesn't work on some parts of Tassie (no reception)!

Oh my god! We've got a house to ourselves!! We checked-in to Tarraleah Highland Village this evening and was given a villa that was huge enough for 10-12 people - we could actually have a room to ourselves if we chose to! Built in the 1930's, the twelve villas here have been fully renovated in keeping with the original Art Deco design, featuring Tasmanian timber and craftmanship.

Haha, Louise was so excited and still had her backpack on as she zipped in and out of the rooms :) And John will stay with us too. How cool is that? Kate, Louise and I will be sharing a room tonight. Crank up the heaters - it's getting cold in here! Photo of my room:



We dropped off our bags and walked to The Highlander Arms Tavern in the village for dinner. Everyone bought their own drinks and went to our table (yes, it was all ready for us) where we were given a set menu to choose our meal for the night. We had 2-3 choices for entree, main and dessert but could only go for either entree + main, main + dessert or if you really wanted to, entree + dessert. I had the sweet potato and caramelised onion soup as an entree (mmm...) and a porterhouse steak for a main. Last night's steak was much better than this one...Here's a photo of my dinner:



We chatted over dinner and got to know more about one another. Turns out that Niek and Ilse are huge movie fans and hosts functions for actor signings in Europe. They have travelled to many countries and did movie set location visits during their travels. Wow! It was such fun listening to their stories of their travels and the artists they have worked with. They even have their own website (note to self to get the web address from them)!

We were enjoying ourselves when the lady from the next table stopped by to talk to Niek as she walked past. We thought she might want to join in our interesting conversation but to our utmost surprise, she actually told Niek off!! Very rudely told him that she has been listening to him talk for the last 1.5 hours and that he should 1) lower his voice and 2) let others have a chance to actually say something. :O I was shocked! Who did she think she was? How rude! Pfft! Niek, ignore her - we love your stories and are so fascinated by it. Don't stop!

We left the restaurant around 8.30pm to a warmed-up home. However, it was hard to get the right water temperature to shower in - either got too hot or too cold. I miss my shower at home :'(

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