Sunday 9 January 2005
Joshy wakes before 5am: luckily today that works in our favour as we have to be at Station Pier by 7:30 in the am and need to leave home by 6:30. Miraculously we leave home at around 6:35 - an almost unprecedented punctuality...
I'm driving this morning. Deborah has had her Learner's Permit for a week and a half now, and we toy with the idea of having her drive into the city. Luckily we decide not to go with it, as loading the car onto the ferry is kind of scary. The bloke telling me where to go says to stay in the inside lane. What does that even mean? Left or right? It makes sense to me that it would be the right lane which is closest to the middle of the road, but I've heard it said that it means the left. Sigh. Why not just say left or right?
We're on the Spirit of Tasmania II today. Hopefully we'll be on the SoT I on the way home - I want to see whether the lame Children's Playroom is any different. By which I mean that the room is lame, not that it is a playroom for lame children... though I'm sure they'd be welcome... I'm actually being quite unfair. Jesara loves it, and when we try to take her away, we are rewarded with screams of "slide, slide!" emanating from her. Yes, it has a slide; and one of those mats with roads and stuff printed on it on which kids can play with their cars; and ... no, that's it, apart from a telly that's not turned on. But as I say, Jesara loves it, and that's the important part.
We wander around lots when we can drag Jess away from the playground. We go outside for a bit and get joyfully buffetted by the wind, and even get some sea-spray so high up. I get a chance to read my book sometimes too. I'm reading a condensed version of "The Color of Hope", and plan to release it into the wild of the ferry a la BookCrossing.org but by the time I finish the book we're almost at the end of the trip. It's too late now for someone to pick it up, and the cleaning staff might just toss it into Lost Property or something. Never mind, I'll leave it somewhere.
By the way, in the picture, Joshy is not actually eating that snack bar! Though I'm sure he would have been very happy had he been allowed it.
I look at the vastness of the sea, and try not to think about how it must have felt to have travelled from Europe to Australia by ship in days gone by. The Bass Strait is a tiny body of water in comparison. So much water, and so blue. It looks like a tanker full of blue dye has sprung a leak nearby. We've seen no dophlins - nor their close cousin, the dolphin ;) - on our trip, which is disappointing. The trip home will be an overnighter, so it's unlikely that we'll get a chance to see any on that trip.
Jesara has behaved herself beautifully, considering it's a nine-hour ferry ride, plus time waiting to load the car in the first place. From the time we leave home to the time we drive into Devonport, it's around twelve hours all up. Joshua's been pretty good too, as you'd expect really given that he's been attachent-parented all day in the Baby Bjorn. That thing's great, but hooeeee, does my back hurt by the end!
Once in Devonport, we find our way to our motel. We do have to stop and ask, and we get a map of the area. Hmmm, do we buy the $29 book of maps, or get the free sheet? Difficult question. ;) Once we're semi-settled, Nathan and Jesara go for a drive in search of dinner. They come home with marinated chicken drumm- and wing-ettes, plus some supplies for lunch and breakfast. Self-contained rooms are a beautiful thang, b/c we get to save a fortune on meals as opposed to eating out three times a day for a week.
Jesara's going through a non-eating stage. We manage to coax her into eating a couple of bites of chicken, but she absolutely refuses the vegies. Not to worry, she'll have another growth spurt soon enough, and then she'll eat us out of house and home again. And tonight she decides to be difficult with the sleeping too. I end up going in and sleeping with her until it gets too uncomfortable for me. Luckily by then she's out to it and doesn't wake up when I leave the room. Joshy is asleep in his carry-cot at the foot of our bed.
Monday 10 January
Another early morning from Joshy. This time a little more civilized though; it's just after 6am. I give myself a nasty fright when I realise that the blankets piled up at the foot of our bed could have toppled off and smothered him. But let's not go there! Rather I shall learn from my mistake and NEVER DO THAT AGAIN. Okay, move on. He's alright.
Once we get ourselves organised, we check out of the motel (Budget Motels' Glasgow Lodge) right on 10am. Nathan drives first, to The Nut in Stanley. It's a large hill kind of thing at the end of an isthmus. We take the chairlift up to the top. Jesara sits with Deborah, and to our surprise does not scream "fright" all the way up; nor indeed at all I think. The top of The Nut is an ocean of long grasses and trees. We do the scenic walk. Thirty-five minutes they say. HA. I'm sure we took longer than that. At one point the track starts to descend. I get nervous, because I know that what goes down must come up. Well, at least I'm not pregnant this time, like the time we were in the Grampians before Jess was born. Once again, we get knocked about by the wind. Pity we don't take a photo of our hair flying every which way. We do however take several photos of the lovely view from the top...
On the way to The Nut, Deborah regales us with the story of the time she took a school trip to Sovereign Hill, and the teacher driving insists that he didn't get lost; he'd taken the students the scenic route. Not long after relating the story, she "recognizes" a landmark at which they'd stopped on the school trip. Now that's some kind of scenic route! Going via Tasmania - across Bass Strait - on what should have been a two-hour drive! As soon as she's finished saying the words, she realizes that it can't be the same place, but she's not going to be allowed to forget that gaffe too soonly. ;)
After The Nut, Deborah drives us to Wynyard. She's doing very well, especially considering how recently she got her permit. There's one frightening moment when she takes a corner way too fast. Luckily the car we've borrowed has ABS so that she doesn't lose control of it. In Wynyard we get some nourishment and I take over driving to Cradle Mountain. Thank heaven Deborah's not driving - those are some kind of twisty roads, though at least they're in very good repair.
We arrive at Big 4's Cosy Cabins (Cradle Mountain Tourist Park). They must be very new - our cabin still has that smell of newly cut wood about it. We get some frozen pizza for dinner and cook it without a tray. For one, using no tray gives a crispier base, but more tellingly, there is no tray provided in the cabin. I'll have to make sure I clean it once I'm done here. It almost seems sacreligious to drip cheese in that lovely new oven.
Jessie wants Deborah to read Mr Nonsense for her bed-time story - uh oh, we seem to have left that one behind in Devonport. It was just new for Christmas, too. Luckily Fox in Socks seems to have filled the void.
Tuesday 11 January
We prepare for a day of bush-walking. We take our sweet time today, as we're staying in the same cabin tonight. We get to leave our stuff strewn everywhere. We get to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre around noon-ish. Weather's not too good - I'm bummed by that particularly, as I had left my jacket and those of the two little ones on the loungeroom floor at home. What a terrible thing to leave behind for a trip to Tasmania! We are rugged up quite nicely though, in spite of the lack of coats, and as it turns out, the weather's almost perfect for a long trek. Well, 6km (around 4 miles I think) may not be long as far as hikes go, but when you have a pre-schooler and an infant, then yes it's a long walk. Joshua is in the Baby Bjorn, and I have one of Nathan's jackets zipped around us both. We have also brought along Jesara's umbrella-fold stroller. It turns out to be sometimes useful, and sometimes an extra burden, but the times of its usefulness far outweigh the hassle.
We walk the Dove Lake Circuit. I am amazed by how well Jess is doing. Six kilometres is a long way for such a little pixie to walk. She has her moments of being carried, and sometimes we push her in the stroller, but she walks - and runs - an amazingly large portion of it. The walk is supposed to take one to two hours, and we plan to take the twenty-minute Enchanted Walk afterwards.
When we start out, there is so much fog that the lake is almost indistiguishable from the sky. (Can you see where the lake ends and the sky begins?) I can imagine punting a barge through the mists and ending up in Avalon. A short distance into the walk we come across some stone steps promising the way to Glacier Rock.
It's a very beautiful view from up there, but very exposed, and once again with the wind. I can't stay up there long as Joshy is not a fan of high winds. So we continue our walk. The track is excellent: there are stretches of pebbly rock, and some board-walk areas. Sometimes on an incline the steps are wooden, and sometimes carefully-placed rocks. The description of the walk mentions "one moderate climb"; we are more likely to describe it as "several excruciatingly steep climbs interspersed with some that are slightly less steep". After what seems like a very long time walking, we come across "2km" painted on one of the board-walk planks. We hope that means that there are only 2km to go, rather than already travelled. But the sight of the lake still stretching ahead of us tells the true story. We are only one-third of the way around.
Deborah with Jesara; and Nathan on Glacier Rock
At last we come to the far end of the lake. We stop for a bite to eat, and argue about whether or not we have reached half-way. I am happy to believe Deborah's assertations that we have passed that point, but not long after we resume our walk, I spot the plank proclaiming that we have come 3km. I blanch. It's slightly less than 2 hours since we started this "one to two hour" walk, and we're only half way.
By now the weather has improved vastly. We can even tell the sky from the lake, and we have taken off a layer of clothing or two. We push on, and I start to look out for the 4km sign. Imagine my delight when I find that I missed that one, and we have come to the 5km mark! Jesara's still full of beans, which I find difficult to comprehend considering how little she's eaten the past few days; but I won't look a gift-horse in the mouth. How'd it be if we had to carry her this last kilometre now that the stroller is out of the question? For a little while we do put her in the stroller and drag it behind us over the sand and rubble, like a princess' litter.
We toil up some rocky steps. Nathan has Joshy, and I'm carrying the stroller. We step aside to allow some faster walkers to pass us by, and a man offers to take the stroller for me. I gratefully accept, and he promises to leave it for me at the top of the steps. Good people definitely still exist; maybe we aren't so close to the end of the world as some direfully (is that a word?) predict.
When we get to the end of the trail, I feel a strange moment of affinity with the Pope - I feel like I could kiss the ground. It's three and a half hours since we set off around the lake, and I don't think we'll be doing the Enchanted Walk after all.
We decide it's time for "lunch", even though it's nearly 4pm. We go to the Cradle Mountain Shop in search of pies, while Nathan checks his email at the Visitors' Centre internet access. As it turns out, the shop is out of pies, and all other similar fare, so I sadly emerge with a packet of vanilla peanuts. Ah well, they tide us over until we get back to our cabin for a snack of toasted cheese, and then we prepare to go out for dinner. Nathan's internet sojourn tells me I have won a double jogger pram on eBay, but I don't yet know the final price.
Jesara eats! She accepts our offers of steak, fish and chicken, and she eats well from the side bowl of steamed vegetables we've ordered. Surprisingly she's not so interested in the chips. I suspect she's going to enjoy hiking in years to come. I'd better get fit so I can keep up with her! I'm pretty sure she's a country girl at heart, and today confirms that.
Now that we're back in our cabin, and I'm showered and in my jammies, I'm glad we did the walk, though there were moments of doubts while we were there. ;)
Wednesday 12 January
Another early morning, and we make our way east from Cradle Valley to Bicheno. I've estimated a 4-hour drive, though we plan some stops along the way so who knows how long it will actually take. We had discussed earlier the possibility of stopping at some caves, but decide to go to TasMazia instead, as I'd like to get to Hastings Caves in the south later in the week. TasMazia is in a little place called Promised Land, and it has mazes - of course - and a pancake parlour. Our main objective is the pancakes, and the tasting of some gourmet honeys. A word of advice here: one dish per person is too much. We would have done far better to have gotten two between us. The pancakes were delicious, though perhaps a little dry, but we were unable to finish them. And spending over fifty dollars on morning tea for three (and a half) is a little beyond the pale.
We do some honey tasting, and Nathan buys a small pot of Lavender Honey, and one of Grand Marnier Honey. We plan to collect some Tasmanian food on our trip, and organize a picnic with the hamper on our return to Victoria. I hope to be able to nick some of Nathan's honey for the feast.
We decide against the mazes, as we won't be able to spend enough time in them to justify another forty-five dollars, so we push on to Launceston where I have planned to meet up with a woman I "know" from BabyZone.com, an internet parenting community. We meet Kate and her little girls at the seaport, and have coffee with them. Well, if I'm to be exact, it's actually hot chocolate of which Nathan and I partake. Kate's elder daughter is not long past her 3rd birthday - about 6 months older than Jesara - and the little one at 14 months is 10 months older than Joshua. The two pre-school girls spend quite some time looking shyly at one another, and finally work up enough courage to start to interact at about the time we have to leave. They both enjoy going to the edge of the boardwalk to peek over the side at the river, hastening the greying of my hair, and Kate's too I think. In the photo, it may look like they're perfectly safe, but there is quite a gap between the fence on which they're standing, and the walkway thing.
Deborah drives us around Launceston for a bit while we try to get to the Safeway (or Woolworths as it's known here). When you've only had your learner's permit for a fortnight, it's difficult to change lanes on a busy road. We're finally in the Woolies carpark, and I reduce Deborah to tears when I evidence my rattled nerves. We pick up a few supplies, and this time it's my turn to drive now that I've undermined Deborah's confidence in her driving. I'll have to make sure she gets back onto the horse, but I'll do that when we have the hope of some straightish roads.
On the way to Bicheno we come across the Tasmanian Gourmet Sauce Company. We stop in for some tastings and the purchase of a few more items for the picnic hamper. I choose a small pot of Strawberry Chilli, a small Pepperberry Mustard, and a jar of Summerberry Jam. Pepperberries are native only to Tasmania, we learn. Nathan gets some Plum and Pepperberry Chutney, and a Cumberland Sauce.
We arrive in Bicheno about 8 hours or so after we left Cradle Valley. We don't have the time to go to Freycinet Peninsula today, which was our reason for visiting Bicheno, but we can do that in the morning. Besides, this holiday isn't just about the destinations, it's also about the journey.
There are fields in Tasmania that have warnings on them that "Illegal use of the crops may cause DEATH". We wonder whether it's just a colourful way of warning that trespassers may be exec... er, prosecuted...yes, that's it...PROSecuted. But a closer look at the sign reveals that the fields contain poppies, so they mean the signs quite literally. Those fields'd be a sight to see when the buds are in flower, I'd wager.
Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, in Bicheno. Nathan and I take the little ones for a walk on the beach, and Deborah stays in the motel room (Budget's Wintersun Gardens) for a bit of much-needed alone time. She's long forgiven me for the episode in Launceston I think, but she hasn't had much time to herself this week, and she can get a bit claustrophobic at times.
Jesara loves the beach and would go swimming if we'd let her. It may be the middle of summer, but it's still too cold here, at least at this time of day, for such shenanigans, so we content ourselves with getting our shoes wet in the waves. We shall have to do some research when we get home - what are the creatures that seem to be spitting out worm-shaped sausages of sand from their hiding places buried under the wet surface?
When it's time to leave the beach, Jesara loudly voices her disapproval, but we eventually lure her away with the promise of barbecued sausage for dinner.
Thursday January 13
Well, well, well. Read it and weep, all ye disbelievers: it seems Tasmania can get warm - hot even! Who'd have thunk? The morning has dawned bright and blue, and we set off for Freycinet. It turns out that the carpark for the Wineglass Bay walk is full, but by the looks of it, it'd be too hard a walk anyway with two little ones.
We do a quick scenic walk to see Cape Tourville - pretty view, no? - and then hop back into the car to drive back to The Friendly Beaches. It's still part of the Freycinet National Park, but are a bit seperate from the rest. It turns out to be an excellent idea. There's very little walking, but all the same we are rewarded with white sands and beautiful green waves, the sea turning to deep blue further out. Jesara is beside herself with excitement. "Walk a beaches, walk a beaches" is her nag, until we are able to remove shoes and socks and take her into the surf.
We have a picnic lunch in which Joshy gets his first taste of solid food (avocado), and then we head off, amidst Jesara's complaints, to Port Arthur. She'll have to live somewhere where there are beaches as well as forest hikes.
Deborah has a chance to drive again. The road from Swansea to Triabunna is pretty close to what passes for straight-ish in this wild state, and she's still feeling confident enough at the end to drive all the way to Sorell. When we get to our motel - Budget's Mason's Cottages in Taranna - we rest up a bit before dinner. We remember that we have a date with a Ghost Tour at 8:45pm, so we rush through our meal and arrive at Port Arthur proper in narrow time for the tour.
I have no sensitivity to the "other-world", but I'd still hoped to have been able to feel some of Port Arthur's spookiness. Alas, it is not to be. The place is heavy with history, and I get sad thinking about what it represents, but I don't get to see the Blue Lady, nor the reverend in his house. Probably a good thing, really... I'm reading a book called The Exiles, about the First Fleet of convicts. It's a very fitting book, even though they went to Sydney and not Port Arthur; I think that reading the book at the same time as being in such a place has brought it all a bit closer. Driving through Tassie's wilderness, I feel transported back in time to the convict days. Oh, transported! I made a joke!
I still have hopes that one day I'll get to see the Tower of London, and will get to feel or see something spooky then.
Friday January 14
Today is the day we are going to my childhood home in Southport. We decide to forgo a daylight tour of Port Arthur, as our day is to be quite busy, and we won't be able to have long enough there. We drive into Hobart, and are luckily able to join a tour of the Cadbury chocolate factory. I can't remember why I didn't actually book, but we get into one even though they are booked up until next week. Thank you to those people who didn't turn up for the tour they'd booked. Free samples of chocolate - what more could you ask for in a tour? :) Once again Jesara is in heaven. We spend more than we ought in the shop at the end. We love our hair-nets, and Deborah wants to start a new fashion. After the tour, she rearranges hers a bit, and she looks like a 1950s housewife. Joshy was our little Tasmanian Tigger.
Out of town to the south, until we decide that we ought to get our motel key so that we don't need to rush back. Luckily Hobart doesn't have much suburbia, so it's no great hardship to turn back. That's my kind of city! :)
Once again we head south. The landscape so far is not familiar, though it has been a quarter of a century since we left the place so I suppose it's not too unexpected. We stop in Huonville for some wine-tasting at Elsewhere Vineyard, and Nathan buys a bottle of the Somewhere Else label.
At Geeveston, we turn off for the Tahune Airwalk. That's new since last I was here, twenty years ago. It's a walk along a bridge through the tree-tops. Jesara loves it. We've decided that she's quite likely to enjoy hiking and other shuddery stuff when she's older. Nathan gets a few bottles of fortified wine and of mead. We're all going to get schtonkered at our Tastes of Tasmania picnic!
When we get to Dover, the memories start flooding back. We decide to stop at the Dover Hotel for dinner, as we won't be making it back to Hobart at any decent hour. Well, it was about 3pm by the time we left there, and it's easily an hour or more to Southport, plus over an hour at Tahune Forest.
We drive down to the beach at Southport, and it is obvious by now that we have overshot the mark in our search for the property on which I used to live. We drive back, and I find the place. How very disappointing that there is a big padlocked gate across the driveway, and a sign warning off trespassers, in big unfriendly letters. I had hoped to be able to go up to the house and have a chat with its owners. I don't even know if anyone's actually living there at the moment; it's looking quite abandoned. I somehow manage to not cry. The house that daddy built can be glimpsed through the trees at the top of the hill, but not even enough of a view to ascertain whether it is still the same house.
Back to Dover and we partake of a delicious meal, and then look around my old school. I am almost drowning in the torrent of memories. I'm loving it. We look at the old playground, and is that...? It couldn't be, surely! It looks suspiciously like the same wooden fort-thingy I remember playing on a quarter of a century ago! I'd love to be able to go up the pine-laden hill behind the school and slide down over the pine-needles on a hessian sack as in days gone by.
Saturday January 15
*sniffle* It's our last day in Tassie. We pack everything up, making sure to pack a couple of small bags with everything we'll need for our overnight trip on the ferry home. We head out to check out the Cascade Brewery, but unfortunately it's not open on weekends. We do get to see the beautiful Cascade Gardens though, albeit only from the edge, as the two little ones are asleep and we don't want to get them out of the car.
We start meandering our way back up to Devonport, taking a small detour to see the historic town of Richmond. We get pizza for lunch (yum) from Anton's, and Nathan thinks that the man in there would become like Seinfeld's "Soup Nazi" if crossed - "No pizza for you!" [Only because of his appearance, not his manner - Nathan] We choose the more direct route up the state, though it is the less-travelled option. There is a stretch of unsealed road in a mountainous area near the Great Lake, so I suppose that's the reason, but it causes us no regrets. We start to worry that we haven't bought any cheeses yet for our picnic. Luckily we find Ashgrove Farm Cheese not far out of Devonport, open even now that it's pushing onto Saturday evening. We get a couple of cheeses - Gruyere, and a Bush Peppers cheese. We also pick up some Tasmanian shortbread, fudge, and a quince paste. We won't be able to make the whole of the picnic solely of foods bought in Tassie, but I think we have a fairly decent smattering.
We pass an area near the mountain region that rings some bells to me; I think we came up here for a wedding when I was a little girl. It's about 20km south of Deloraine - I shall have to ask my mum.
At about 6pm we arrive in Devonport. When we'd arrived in Tassie, we'd spotted a restaurant called Hawley's Gingerbread House, and today we go there for dinner, hoping also to pick up some two-headed gingerbread men sold there. Dinner is great. I have a seafood basket; quite the most reasonably-priced one I've ever seen, and up there in quality with those more expensive. Service however is painfully slow, but that's because there is a new woman there. It does get a bit scary when dessert doesn't arrive until 8:15pm, and we are supposed to be on the ferry by 8:30 for a 9pm sailing. And they have none of the two-headed gingerbread men. :( While we're here, I "release" The Exiles "into the wild" of the restaurant. Hopefully someone will pick it up, read it and make a journal entry onto BookCrossing.
Luckily though, the restaurant is very close to the ferry and after wolfing down our desserts we drive across to it. Even this late, we still have to wait before we can load the car onto it. So it turns out that it's good that the service was so slow. We finally get on, and go to our cabin. How exciting to have one! We'd asked for a cot for Jesara, but there are four beds in our cabin, so she gets one of those. Nathan and I take Jess and Josh for a walk so that Deborah can have some time to herself. I release The Color of Hope onto a table, but later I realize that the snack-shop near which I've released it won't be opening tonight. So, when the kids are in bed, Deborah and I take a walk, and I retrieve the book to leave it in a more populace area of the ferry.
It turns out that is the other ferry, and the lame playroom is exactly the same as on the first. Jess has no interest in going in there tonight, as there are some rambunctious kids. No dophlins to be seen this journey, either.
It's a wild night, and the crossing is a little rougher than last week. I make the mistake of looking over the barricade to the water, and imagine falling over. The blue waters of the daylight crossing have turned to black, and survival in such an event much less likely. We don't spend long outside...
As I prepare for bed, I reflect upon the lovely holiday week we've had, but all the same my thoughts wing gladly home.