Diary of the six days Tasmania Tour

Travel diary of the six days Tasmania Tour with Lost in AustraliaOperated by Under DownunderFrom Tuesday 28/01/2014 until Sunday 02/02/2014By Stefanie Victor, 28yrs old, German, traveling alone

Day 1: Hobart to Mount Roland

G’Day everyone,To discover the most of Tasmania I only had one week. Therefore I decided to do this 6-day Tasmania Tour with Lost in Australia. I got some recommendations from friends for this tour and the itinerary appealed to me as it covered the most-known attractions and the route got you through many National Parks. I arrived in Hobart the day before the tour started and at 7:20am the next day I got picked up with four other travelers right in front of my accommodation by our tour guide Renate. We shuffled our luggage into the trailer and climbed onboard the bus. Some tired-looking faces greeted me friendly as we drove around Hobart for another 40 minutes to pick up five more people until all 21 seats of the bus were filled.

Finally we set off for our adventure through the Derwent Valley while Renate gave us some information about Hobart, the town she grew up in. She is a true Tasmanian Woman who would give us some more valuable stories and tipps about the wildlife, the nature and the history of Tasmania in the following days. After a stop to grab some sandwiches in a bakery in a small town we arrived at the Mount Field National Park in the land of the giants, named for its gigantic trees. Renate’s advice to put on some long-sleeves turned out to be a very good one as the tall trees cut out the sunlight and it was quite cool inside the forest. We went for an easy and beautiful walk to see the Horseshoe Falls and the Russels Falls. Unfortunately it hadn’t rained a lot in the past days, hence the waterfalls were not as impressive as they could be but they were still great to look at.

We even came across a Pademelon on the way! Along the way I spoke to some of the other passengers, a good mix of young and elderly people from all over the world. Everyone without exception was absolutely friendly and happy to speak to me. So do not be afraid to join this tour when you are travelling on your own. It is very easy to make new friends. Renate picked us up at the bottom of the valley.

After another hour of driving through some windy roads (if you get sick easily, sit in the front, the best seats anyway) we arrived at our lunch stop at the Lake St. Clair, the deepest freshwater lake of Australia. I joined two Dutch girls for a walk partly around the lake as we only had one hour there. On this sunny and very warm day the lake gave us lots of opportunities to take pictures and take in the mountain scenery around. As we gathered at the meeting point at 2pm Renate informed us that a bushfire broke out just on the route which we wanted to head through to Strahan. She was constantly in contact with her office and other sources of information about the proceedings of the fire. So we settled ourselves for another hour to wait for more information. During this time I talked to some more passengers and we exchanged our travel experiences around Australia and the time passed away very quickly.

During this time Renate arranged the change of our overnight accommodation as we headed for an alternative route as safety comes first which we all agreed on. We had to drive back a part of the route we came and then head North past Miena to the Gerwie Park at the foot of the Mount Roland. On the way we stopped at the Great Lake, the Pine Lake and some lookouts for some short walks to stretch our legs and have some nice views of the area. We stopped at a supermarket to grab some ingredients for dinner and at 8pm we finally arrived at our accommodation. Well, it was not the best accommodation but for an emergency stop with the great view of Mount Roland it was good enough for a quiet sleep. I stayed with two other very funny Asian girls in one room. After this first long day we all went to bed very early after dinner.

Day 2: Mount Roland to Strahan

The next morning Renate had breakfast ready for us from 6am to 7am. Tea, coffee, a good range of cereals, toast, some jams, peanut butter and vegemite, even yoghurt and fruits were available. So with our stomachs filled properly we headed off at 7am to a fairly long drive towards the west coast of Tasmania. We stopped in between to grab some sandwiches for lunch to take with us and at a lookout. It was very windy and cool there but the view was stunning and worth the shivering. At the next stop we changed into our walking boots to walk through another ancient forest to the Montezuma Falls. Renate gave us some serious advice on how to deal with snakes that we might encounter. She told us some stories of her father and herself who got bitten and how she ended up in hospital and how lucky she was. That was quite scary and we all looked out carefully while we walked the easy but very muddy ascent to the Montezuma Waterfall. This one was much more impressive than the ones we saw the day before and worth the 1.5 hour walk. We got up close to the waterfall and with two adults maximum at a time on a very wonky bridge construction we all proofed to be brave enough to cross it and get an amazing view of the fall.

We walked back the same way we came to the bus and ate lunch at the picnic tables. On the bus almost everyone fell asleep and Renate left us to it until we arrived at the Henty Sand Dunes. Due to the rough winds on the west coast these dunes change their shapes every day and even for her who comes here every week it is every time a new walk to get to the ocean. Tracks of 4WD jeeps were visible in the sand. The sand was so purely white, it was absolutely beautiful to walk along the dunes and feel the ocean breeze. On a very steep dune we followed Renate’s advice and example and run down the dune. At first you are afraid to fall over and roll down the dune but then the adrenaline kicks in and you enjoy yourself running down with your feet completely covered in the fine sand. This is a once in a lifetime experience, you have to do it!It was 3pm by now and the plan was to drive straight to Strahan. But Renate met a policeman she has spoken to weeks ago. He rediscovered a lake in the forest and had promised to show it to her. It really was not easy getting there in the bus and we had to walk the last ten minutes. Some of us changed into swimwear and took a dive. It was quite cool at first but once you are in it was just wonderful! A couple from Switzerland had a ball and a frisbee with them to enjoy the time in the water on this very hot day. Only a few people know about this lake, so this is a truly special lake to see.

At 5pm we arrived at the Strahan Backpackers. Some of us joined the longest running play in Australia about “The ship that never was” while the others got ready for the BBQ which is included in the tour. Renate prepared beef sausages and chicken, vegetarian burgers for those with dietary restrictions and different salads and sauces. Together with a beer which we purchased from a bottleshop nearby we really enjoyed this evening and got to know each other much better. This BBQ was actually planned for the first night but because of our detour due to the bushfires we had it on this second night. The hosts of the accommodation were very friendly and the facilities like the kitchen and showers absolutely fine. I would stay here again.At 8:45pm we walked five minutes to the beach and watched the sunset before we got to bed as the next day we would start again very early. We stayed in comfortable 4-bed-dorms for the night.

Day 3: Strahan to Launceston

On our third day of the tour we were back on the initial route and left Strahan Backpackers almost on time at 7:08am. We were able to sleep a little bit more on the bus as Renate had to drive for 1.5 hours to Tullah Lakeside Café where we enjoyed the beautiful view of the lake while we waited for the custom-made sandwiches to take with us for lunch. As good as the sandwiches looked I wished we had stopped at a shop with ready-made sandwiches instead. Because we only had some limited time of three hours at the beautiful Cradle Mountain. On the way there Renate explained the different walks and the history behind this place and how it became a National Park thanks to the Waldheim couple who have spent their honeymoon there. Renate dropped us off at the Lake Dove and most of us did the two-hour walk around the lake. Some others went for the challenging hike up to the Marian’s Lookout or to the less challenging but still steep climb to Hudson’ Peak. Along the way down to the Visitor Information Center some shorter 10 to 30 minute walks exist as well. And at Roony Creek in between the eucalyptus trees you have the best chance to see wild Wombats and Echidnas.

I grouped up with two Swiss girls and a French girl to walk around the lake which was very easy in the first half and a bit challenging on the second half walking up a hill and down through stones. We had a very good time taking lots and lots of pictures of the lake and the surroundings and even saw some small black lizards and a Tiger Snake in the grass! AHHH! So definitely lots of wildlife in the Cradle Mountain National Park to explore. We took our time around the lake but had to speed up a bit at the end. We took a Cradle Shuttle Bus back down to the Visitor Information Center, enjoyed a Hot Chocolate on this cloudy day while we waited for Renate. Back in the bus everyone showed around their pictures of wildlife. As we did different tours everyone had other impressions and absolutely everyone agreed that we should have had more time in the Cradle Mountain National Park. But it was still a fair bit of driving to Launceston and Renate had more planned along the way.

After an one hour drive where we all felt very tired from the walks and hiking we arrived in a small town called Sheffield (all these British town names confuse me, are we really in Australia?), the town of Murals. Murals are paintings on houses. We stopped for one hour to wander around and look at the Murals or grab a freshly made ice cream which tasted delicious. But this was not the end of some Tasmanian Food tasting as we stopped one hour later at the Ashgrove Cheese Company for some cheese tasting. They had about eight different cheeses displayed and I was honestly very surprised by the good quality of the cheeses. I definitely did not expect anything like this. Even the Swiss girls agreed that this was some great cheese.

At 5:30pm we arrived at the Launceston Backpackers where we had to say Goodbye to some of our fellow travelers. I found that quite sad as a great group dynamic had grown during the past days but that’s the backpacker life in Australia. You get to know new people along the way but they have to go their own way and leave you at some point. The hostel was fairly big and the rooms were huge. I stayed with two girls of our tour in a dorm with one other girl who had nothing to do with our tour. The kitchen and the common room were huge as well and very clean. I was happy about this choice.

Day 4: Launceston to Bicheno

On the fourth day of the tour we picked up four new passengers before we stopped at The Cataract Gorge of Launceston for a very easy 45-minute walk around this beautiful relaxing scenery. We came across some more little kangaroos and then passed the world’s longest single chairlift span. At a café we rewarded ourselves with some Hot Chocolate before we jumped on the bus again. With this stroll in the morning to wake up we enjoyed the next three hours driving through beautiful forests and over lovely little hills with some lookout and coffee stops in between while Renate told us some more stories about the history of this particular part of the country. Not all the history is very nice but the government had made a great deal of effort to protect the nature and the animal in the past 20 years or so with some success. That’s the reason why nearly 40 percent of Tasmania is a National Park. At about 12am we arrived in St. Helens at the east coast of Tasmania for lunch. Just another 30 minute away from St. Helens we finally stopped for the massive highlight of the day: the Bay of Fires! Called after the cooking fires of Aborigines that have been seen when the first European Settlers arrived here. Renate drove us to her favorite beach along the Bay of Fires. After the long walks and challenging hikes the day before and with a perfectly blue sky and 30 degrees Celsius we rapidly changed into our swimwear and jumped into the ice-cold water. Although Renate told us that the weather is not as rough as on the west coast there were quite a few high waves which we fought and swam against. We stayed for an amazing three hours at this white beautiful beach, swimming, sunbathing and exploring the stony surroundings. If you are lucky you might see seals amongst them.Exhausted but happy we climbed into the bus again to drive to our final stop at the Bicheno Backpackers, a nice little fishing town with free Wifi, a blowhole and the main attraction: fairy penguins! For an additional fee you can join the Penguin Tour who will drive you to the rocks where the penguins return to at night for nursing their babies and to sleep. It is more than possible that some of them walk right in front of your shoes or even walk over them. The accommodation is designed with lots of wood inside which makes is feel comfortable although the rooms feel a bit small when you put your luggage in. But everything is very clean and lots of crockery available for cooking your own dinner. Restaurants are available as well as in every other place we stayed if you feel like going out.

Day 5: Bicheno to Hobart

Today we left at 7:30am for a very good reason. It was only a short drive to the Wineglass Bay where we had three choices: we could either do the very challenging hike/climb up to Mount Amos to be rewarded with a fantastic view over Wineglass Bay but the climb it very steep and slippery in some places and Renate checked the shoes and gave some additional advice on how to navigate up to the lookout. The second choice was to walk to the beach by walking over the hill with a beautiful lookout at the peak but the second half is very steep. Or you could drive with Renate to a nearby lighthouse to see Wineglass Bay from there. Six of us did the Mount Amos climb whereas some of the elder decided to drive to the lighthouse. I went all the way to the beach together with a few more of our tour and we really kept a high speed as we wanted to spend as much time as possible at the actual beach. The lookout was absolutely amazing but when we finally made it down within one hour to the beach it was quite emotional to reach this purely white beach. It was more than worth all the effort. We wandered around the beach and got into the ice-cold water. Lucky enough we even saw the kangaroo with its baby in the pocket that Renate told us about.

As we knew that we had to get up the same way we went down we left on time but still had to do some fair bit of walking up the hill. And as it was getting to 11am it got much hotter and more people came towards us. The lookout was absolutely crowded with people, so getting up early to do this walk and climb avoided the big bulk of people in our vision and in our pictures and the midday heat. At 11:30am everyone made it safely back to the bus and everyone was so glad about having seen the beautiful Wineglass Bay from whatever lookout, it was just amazing.A short drive away we got into a town called Ross which is located in between Launceston and Hobart and therefore has been an important stop in the past for travelers. We had lunch there and wandered around the streets before we drove for another hour to the next big highlight of the day: the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary! We were booked into a tour but as a big cruise arrived with lots of passengers they operated the park different. Instead of just getting one little pack of kangaroo food they provided big buckets full of kangaroo food and you could take as much as you want to feed the kangaroos. Great stuff! Then you were able to wander around and see all the animals and the caretakers would answer every question you might have. You were even allowed to touch a Wombat or a blue-tongued lizard! That was awesome. They have lots of animals like koalas, parrots, cockatoos, snakes, echidnas and many many more. It was really good. The most important animal is the Tasmanian Devil who are nearly extinguished in Tasmania but breeding programs are underway to increase the number of devils in captivity and in the wild. And they are successful. At 5pm the sanctuary closed and we headed Hobart.

Here we had to say Goodbye to some more of our fellow travelers as they would leave the tour here in Hobart. Some were even flying out of Tasmania the same day, so it was incredibly important to leave every stop on time and make it trough the traffic in Hobart. We arrived at the YHA Hobart which is located just a 2-minute walk away from the seafront. Everyone who stayed with the tour for at least one more day was invited to dinner at a fish restaurant there. I did not even know this was included on the tour. Everyone looked so different in their city dresses in contrast to the hiking clothing we were wearing the last five days. It was so funny! This dinner provided a perfect opportunity to exchange and reflect on our tour and all the impressions we gained and we also exchanged contact details to keep in touch. Despite the karaoke that took place in the pub below the hostel we all were able to sleep quite well and early enough.

Day 6: Port Arthur

This sixth day started late in comparison to the days before at 8am. Renate picked us up and drove towards the east of Hobart into the historic town of Richmond. She explained how this land formerly covered in farmland gradually mixed with townhouses as Hobart grew. The most exciting bit of information about Richmond is the simple looking bridge which is now the oldest bridge in Australia! Of course for Europeans a 200 year old bridge is nothing special but for Australia it definitely is. We got some coffee and salad rolls from the bakery to take with us for lunch and then headed further east for another hour of driving with a lookout stop over Eaglehawk Neck. This small stretch of land connects the peninsula with the mainland of Tasmania and acted as a simple patrol point in the past for soldiers who were on guard for the convicts of Port Arthur. We drove through Doo-Town with very funny names on their houses and arrived at the World Heritage Site of Port Arthur shortly before 11am. We explored the history of several convicts and how life must have been like while the prison was in operation. At 11:30am we joined a very animated and interesting Introductory Tour Walk around the grounds to get an overview of the buildings. The guide was very passionate about this place. After 45 minutes we were released to explore the prisons and other buildings or what is left of them on our own. If you are a fast walker you can explore the Separate Prison, the Welfare Area, the Penitentiary, the church and the Government Gardens before getting on the cruise at 1pm.

On this included 20 minute river cruise around the port they will give you more information about the Isle of the Dead and the first juvenile prison in the British Empire. The onboard commentary will tell you about the hierarchy within the prison system and about some more or less successful escape attempts. Very entertaining. Before Renate would pick us up again at 2pm you are able to go into some more buildings like the Junior Medical Officer’s House or stroll through the Gift Shop. You could easily spend the whole day in Port Arthur but we had other plans.Renate drove us to the nearby Tasman National Park where the cliffs are very similar to the ones at the Great Ocean Road. Limestone cliffs have built up over the last hundred years and are now shaped away by the wind and the water. This created caves and cracks which were given significant names like the Tasmanian Arch or Devil’s Kitchen. You are still allowed to go over the Tasmanian Arch but eventually the way will be closed due to the danger of the arch falling down sooner or later like it happened at London Bridge at the Great Ocean Road or like it happened at the Devil’s Kitchen. We walked around and took many pictures of this amazing coastline before we headed for the Waterfall Walk. This walk is very easy and Renate said that even flip-flops are alright. But she reminded us about how to deal with snakes. It took about 45 minutes to walk along the coastline with different lookouts over some bays until we arrived at the Waterfall Bay. Renate had driven the bus around so we would not have to walk the way back. Then it was time to go back to Hobart where we arrived at about 5pm. Here I had to say Goodbye to everyone as this is the last day of my tour.

It has been an exhausting six days as you had to get up early, took in so many impressions of the landscape, the nature and the history, we saw many wild animals, we did many walks through beautiful forests, spend quality time at some incredibly beautiful beaches and I met so many nice people along the way. You definitely get what you are promised on the website and in the brochures. So in the end, exhausting but absolutely worth it!