Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Mt. Field National Park

Russell Falls

Tassie devil

botanical garden

fighting devils

floral clock

great view!

Ken in the fern grotto

mushrooms

owls

protea

Movie Clips - Playback Requirements - Problems?

(MP4 - 1.77 MB)

Tasmanian Devils

(MP4 - 15.59 MB)

police band

(MP4 - 6.72 MB)

Irish dancers


The weather can make such a difference. And the Tasmanian weather god was frowning the entire time we were here. I’ve already complained about going to see Cradle Mountain from Burnie and it being socked in under a thick layer of fog. While it took us about fourteen hours to cruise from Burnie to Hobart, it is only a four hour drive by car and the weather was just as dismal here. Sadly, the tours we selected featured great views from high places. When the high places are higher than the cloud layer, you don’t see much. Whine, whine, whine...

Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and an attractive town of about 200,000 about twelve kilometers from the sea on the Derwent River. We heard that about half the folks that live here work for the government. That must mean that everyone else is working to support them. A direction our country may be heading.

Cruise ships visit here regularly and the dock is right down town which makes exploring convenient and easy. However, the port security regulations were at a code red level suitable for New York City or London, not a little burg at the bottom of the world. When we returned from tours we had to show our ID’s three different times. Our driver had to idle for lengthy periods outside the port area waiting for someone to open the gate. He also had to open the trunk and hood for inspection while someone swirled a giant mirror on a stick beneath the vehicle. Somehow all this activity just didn’t make us feel all that much safer. But it did give a lot of people jobs.

On tour we visited the Royal Botanical Garden and saw familiar plants for the first time in weeks. The cooler climate here corresponds more closely with what we are used to at home. Then we headed to the top of Mt. Wellington for scenic views of the city. It was a twelve kilometer drive. We could see the top when we started the drive, but it was covered in cloud by the time we got there.

The next day we took a four wheel drive vehicle to Mt. Field National Park for a view of the series of interconnected parks that comprise about 20% of Tasmania. Ditto, ditto. We could see the top when we started the drive, but it was covered in cloud by the time we got there. We hiked to Russell Falls and saw typical rain forest fauna. With the help of the trained eyes of our guide we also spotted a wallaby and child. He told us that they have a specially adapted technique to maximize reproductive success that responds to the ebbs and flows of a challenging environment. While a wallaby is nursing her child she can become pregnant with the next one. The resulting embryonic egg hangs around in her pouch until she has enough to eat to start nursing two offspring at once. Each baby gets its own teat. The teat that nurses the older baby yields a milk specifically designed for a teen wallaby, while the other teat gives milk that gets the embryonic baby off to a good start. Amazing. We also saw a duckbilled platypus cruising a pond, looking for good critters to eat. The platypus sees and hears rather poorly and locates its prey through electromagnetic resonance through its bill. Also amazing.

Then we stopped at a wildlife park and trembled in our shoes when we got to the Tasmanian Devil enclosure. These football sized critters are incredibly irritable and give off the most blood curdling cries. The early settlers here must have high tailed it back to their boats when they heard the devil on the warpath.

While we are disappointed with our visit here, it was nothing that anyone could control. The people went out of their way to welcome us and the local police band came on board to give us a great bagpipe show.

And so we head back to Sydney to close the circle on this circumnavigation.

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