Tasmania is Australia’s smallest state, just 380 kilometers long; only 200,000 people live here. It truly is somewhere else. Scientists feel that once upon a time all the continents were one giant continent. Over time Australia broke away and New Zealand and Tasmania broke away from it. As glaciers retreated from Tasmania at the end of an ice age they carved a rugged landscape and it still has a far cooler climate than the rest of the country. Aussies come here for a breath of cool clean air. Plants that died off as the rest of Australia became hotter and more arid, still flourish here. It also has animals such as the tasmanian devil that are found nowhere else. The aborigines that lived here were also racially different from those on the mainland. They had brown curly hair rather than the black straight hair of their brethren and were finer featured. About 150 years ago many of them succumbed to white men’s diseases and the rest were all herded on to one off coast island. Within twenty years they were all dead.
If memory is correct Teddy Roosevelt created Yellowstone as the first national park in the world. It’s spectacular scenery made it a truly special place and is has been preserved as such with minimal interference from man’s activities. Europe thought that national parks were a good idea, but it was pretty much built out by then, so even though you can find national parks in Europe, you will also find people living and working within their boundaries. As a young country Australia jumped on the national park bandwagon and designated huge masses of land as national parks. Using our Yellowstone standards, many of them do not have the spectacular beauty that we expect, but they are special places for other reasons. Cradle Mountain National Park is one of these.
The mountain itself is the centerpiece of this park and is only visible about fifty days a year. Even though the weather at the coast was sunny with bright blue skies, as we drove toward the national park we drove into fog. We could see the topography and plants, but that darned mountain never did appear. We gambled and lost today.
The park was developed by an Austrian named Gustav Weinsdorfer and his Tasmanian wife. The countryside reminded him of his homeland, but it did not do the same for me. This park had palm trees that can tolerate cold weather and gets occasional snow that doesn’t last very long. There are dead tree limbs everywhere coated with the green mossy vegetation typical of rainforests. I didn’t feel like yodeling. Cradle Mountain is a UNESCO protected world heritage site because of its unique flora and fauna. An extensive boardwalk system allows hikers to visit the fragile ecosystem with minimum impact and campgrounds and lodges encourage a longer visit than we had time for today.
As an isolated area Tasmania has struggled to make a go of it at times. The most uncooperative and incorrigible convicts brought to Australia, ended up here. Fruits and vegetables that cannot be gown in the mainland’s hot climate are exported from the Burnie area, which has a large container port. The logging industry has been a big money maker and has caused great conflicts between the greens who want to keep everything totally natural and the lumber jacks who just want to make a living. These days trees are cut down in a careful, systematic way and replaced with new plantings in an effort to keep the land green. However, the whole question may become moot. Our guide said that due to the downturn in the economy, the demand for paper products in Asia has declined drastically and the whole operation was about to shut down. Mining is still a money maker and we tourists can be mined as well, but Tasmania could fall on harder times than the rest of the country if this comes to pass.