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Arrival Sydney, Melbourne, Headed to Tasmania


While still in Christchurch getting ready to leave I noticed that fashion here has not changed much in three years as far as kids are concerned. They still think they are goths and many go around with studs and piercings, boots, and tattoos. How their parents allow this sort of crap is beyond me. One thing that is different is that the girls like to wear pants with almost no waistline therefore their pants hang very low on their hips exposing quite a bit of flesh. Of course, I am not complaining but there are some girls that really should re-consider doing this as one can only take seeing so much exposed fat.

Been trying to resolve a problem with my hostel reservation in Sydney. This could get ugly as I do not like arriving in another country without at least a place to stay the first night. Not much I could do as I was restricted to the whims and vagaries of the internet for communication.

Got to the airport early and had an uneventful flight and landed about 1645. By 1730 I was out of customs, had called the hostel, and was on my way! Now THAT’S quick!

Temps were balmy and about 80 degrees. Hot compared to Christchurch. Arriving Sydney I felt like I was arriving back in Tampa. Lots of water everywhere and harbors dotting the landscape. The city center, however, was like being in NYC. Lots of non-Europeans driving taxis, busses, running small shops, etc.

Sure are a lot of Orientals here, too. Public transport is pretty good but you'd have to expect so considering anyone making over $500 US per week pays 47% in taxes! Holy shit, say what you want about our tax system but I sure would not want that sort of burden on my back. And if health care is supposedly so great here I wonder why I see so many adverts for health insurance? Government has a heavy hand in everything here.

On a more pleasant note, it’s really a wonder to live in this digital world. People go around glued to their cell phones, getting confirmations of reservations for cars and hotels and restaurants and flights on email or text/voice messaging, flitting from one place to another, always on the move and making changes on the fly. Just for this little trip I booked air fares, ferry, bus, hostel, and car reservations all online.

This would have been unheard of 10 years ago. Where are we headed? What’s the next big move in how we live our lives?

Arrived at Millet’s Oz Hostel which is centrally located in Sydney but I am not impressed with the staff’s knowledgeability on local matters. Basically they are stupid and don’t know shit. I ended up in a room with 4 gals and one other guy. Two were Danish, 2 possibly Kiwi or Ozzies, with the guy being an unknown factor. None were over 25.

Put my stuff away and headed straight out to check out the harbor/docks area a mile or so away where the Opera House is located. While there the pleasure cruise ship "Aurora" was in dock. What a beast! It was huge! People were crowded all along the edge of the docks and filling all the dining and eating establishments in the area. It was only when I took a couple of minutes to think about it that I realized it was a Friday night. We’re talking serious crowds here.

On the way back stopped in at a Woolworth’s to do some grocery shopping and finally made it back to the hostel by 1030 PM.

One thing I noticed right away---Ozzie women are much prettier than Kiwi. Is it immigration? The blending of genes? Not sure but I suspect that is the case. The Kiwis seemed UK-stuffy and a bit inbred for my tastes.

My intention the next morning was to get up early to go to the Quay and snap a few photos at sunrise. However the forecast called for rain so when 6 A.M. rolled around I just rolled over. Up at 730, though, and took a stroll out to Oxford Street. I'm walking along thinking this area is "very interesting" and then realize I am smack dab in homosexual territory.

One flamer was out there all mascara’d up, mincing around and prancing back and forth. His friend showed up so he turns around with his back to his friend and starts to unzip his leather trousers (which had a zipper in the back, no less) all the while making faggoty coquettish-type remarks. Very strange. Headed back the other way.

To while away the time I bought a day tripper pass which allowed me to take either busses, trams, or ferries to get around. What a great deal! I used the hell out of mine and went to Darling harbor via the ferry where I saw the Dragon boat races and found an IMAX theater showing a movie about Shackleton. Then I took another ferry back and used the buses to get back to the hostel.

Back at the hostel I took a shower and headed to the quay again to watch the buskers and other entertainers (jugglers, mimes, didgeridoo players, steel drum bands, etc.)

In the evening I went on a sunset cruise of the harbor and as we were sailing out got to see the HMAV (Her Majesty’s Australian Vessel) Bounty depart on its dinner cruise. I’d wanted to go on it but realized this whole business of cruises on vessels like that are wholly dependent on chance and luck—the chance you can get booked and luck that it does not rain.

For a few minutes it looked like we were going to have a nice evening but then all of a sudden clouds moved in and lightning made an appearance. It was splitting the sky towards downtown Sydney and China Town. As a result, no great photos were possible but I was able to sneak one in of the Opera House. We did, however, get to see the Governor General’s house and the Prime Minister’s house, too. As we were motoring by it looked like PM Howard and his family were outside looking at us (at least that’s what I thought having seen several people on the veranda looking our way.)

It’ll be interesting to see if Oz women outside the big city of Sydney are as pretty as these metropolitan chickies. The low waisted pants with underwear peeking out all over is a big hit here, too. Who knows, this could end up like my cross country bike trip: all the pretty ones are found in metro areas.

The big news scandal here involves the brouhaha over the treatment of illegal boat people sailing to Australia. It’s called the Tampa incident as that was the name of the boat. Seems the boat started to sink and rather than give the people asylum, the Aussies put them in camps in the outback. Human rights groups have their panties in a wad. The PM says they are illegal and have to go. Who will win? Who knows?

The other big mess concerns the government not jailing a priest/bishop? In a sex case involving boys. Wow! Big hue and cry over that. On all the talk radio shows!

Speaking of government, it’s funny to watch socialism at work here. Unions have a strong voice and one of the examples that I could only assume is a function of union activism is the size of rubbish bins and garbage trucks. They’re both small. The result of that? More trips are required meaning more trucks and more operators. The union considers this good as it results in more jobs but at what cost to the taxpayer?

Considering tax rates and social programs available it makes one wonder why so many bums (or as the elite left calls them—homeless people) are still around in Australia. Surely by now they should have found jobs? Government is not the answer to this nor any social ills. That’s the role of neighborhoods and churches but has been usurped by government. Bums live like they do by choice.

It sure makes me wonder how these folks tolerate their tax burden.

One thing is certain, there is lots of money in Sydney. So far I’ve seen Rolls-Royces, Ferraris, big Mercedes. And not just one or two. Expensive shops are everywhere and people keep them packed.

American TV is a plague as is the music. Cars? Sure thing—Chevies, Mustangs, Ford pick-ups, Camaros, etc. You gotta love it. They bad-mouth us but can’t help watching our TV, listening to our music, and buying our cars.

My second full day in Sydney I surprised myself by getting up at 8AM even though I went to bed at 11. Fully expected to have gotten up earlier. So I stole out of the room quietly and headed to the kitchen area to have breakfast and re-pack my backpack. Wandered around until the stores began to open and contemplated buying a bunch of souvenirs. I was dissuaded when I realized I’d have to lug them with me everywhere I went.

I deferred the decision until later and headed to the bus station and Melbourne. Lo and behold I run into China Town and Paddington Market. The market is HUGE and sells all sorts of souvenir stuff. Much of it better and cheaper than downtown. Fortunately I was carrying my backpack and once more made a smart decision to not add to my weight. Maybe I could find something similar in Melbourne? If so, I’d have a rental car and could lug it in the boot. In any case, I noted the days Paddington was open and planned accordingly for my return trip to town, three weeks hence.

Had a late lunch and boarded the bus for the next leg of my adventure.

All in all the bus was not too uncomfortable. The only problem was that my seat ONLY reclined. I could not get it to stay up. Oh, well. The bus comes equipped with a VCR and we got to watch a movie. The driver, though, seemed surly. Must be socialism at work again.

About 2 in the morning we stopped to get something to eat. There were three choices and two of them were McDonald’s and KFC. Once again, people around the world bitch about America but can’t stop consuming what we put out there! I love the irony of it.

I didn’t get to sleep well as my air pillow sprung a leak. DAMN!! Wearing a short sleeved shirt did not help either as I was cold all night. My backpack was buried in the baggage hold so I was screwed and could not get a jacket. I did, however, get about 3 or 4 hours of shut eye., albeit restless.

At about 4 the drivers switched and the second was just as surly as the first.. No people skills whatsoever. For the most part the trip was made in cloudy weather until we got to Canberra and then it cleared up.. The stars were beautiful.

My seat mate did not say 10 words to me last night and I volunteered none. Weird, eh?

Melbourne

Early in the morning we pull in to Melbourne and I wandered around a bit looking for a hostel. Leaving the bus station I headed off in what I thought was the right direction but after 3/4 mile I had a vague feeling I was off the mark. Looking for the sun I realized I was headed north instead of south. Luckily I was near a tram track and hopped aboard to make my way to the city's center. Another bit of good luck was that the payment machine was broken so I rode for free. That morning the transit police were doing what they called a "blitz" to catch people not paying their fares and they saw it was not working so didn't ask anybody for their passes.

I guess it's a big to-do here with this blitz business as the city decided to do away with ticket checkers/sellers on the trams and now many of the machines do not work properly. Ahh!! Gotta love a stupid government decision.

Finally found a backpackers right smack downtown called The Flinders, dropped my stuff in my room (it only has 3 beds as opposed to 6 in the one at Sydney plus I get a bed on the floor level as opposed to a top bunk), the kitchen facilities are huge with a walk in fridge, lounge, laundry, Internet, etc. All for $11 a night. My roommates were already gone even though it was shortly after 7 AM. Turns out they are here on visas and are trying to find work to enable them to stay here legally.

Took a shower and headed to see the sights. Melbourne is almost as large as Sydney and has many "green" areas. Public transport seems efficient and plentiful. One tram goes all around the city center for free with a day pass for other transport costing $5 or so Australian. The network is large so the money goes a long way.

Visited Cook’s Cottage which was transported here intact from England in 1934. Homes sure were small back then!! He’d lived in it sporadically from 1755 on until his last journey where he got killed by natives. It is now the oldest building in Australia! HA! Need history? Import a building!

Also saw Don the plumber, from the Ice. What a small world. He left February 1st and here it is 17 days later, 40000 miles away and I stumble across him.

It is now evening and I am one beat puppy. I almost fell asleep doing the dreaded laundry. Hurried out for a coffee but I doubt I will last much longer.

Found some interesting tax statistics from here. More or less, anyone making between $3K and $10K US pay 17% in taxes. From there it is 30% on earnings up to $25K US (not including deductions for medical care!!!)

1The next morning I sat down to compile a short list of questions that are typically asked on arrival at most hostels:

- what's the weather forecast

- where's the nearest grocery store

- where's the best internet cafe

- where's the nearest market -how public transport works and what kind of passes are available

- how many rooms with 4 or less bunks

- any rooms facing away from traffic and noise?

Slept like a rock all night and got up at 7 AM. Went to bed before 9 PM, too. I guess I needed the sleep. The problem with these hostels in big cities is that they are located in areas that are extraordinarily noisy early in the morning. Trash trucks, police, fire, etc. All the noises are magnified and shot up to the rooms.

Had a quick breakfast and headed out to the Victoria Market. Lots of cheap fruits and vegetables (in some cases half the price of any of the stores I've been in.)

It was very similar to the flea markets in the states in that there were many vendors selling all sorts of bargain-basement merchandise. But it was fun to see what they sold and how it compared to what is sold in ours.

A couple of other observations: I've seen very few dogs in the two cities I've been in and no squirrels in the parks. But lots of pigeons, though.

Have come to the conclusion that I do not like to backpack through big cities. A real pain in the ass to find a place to put the backpack while one travels around and does the tourist-thing. Maybe if I pack a LOT lighter it'd be OK. I'll have to see what I can do in that regard.

Found out my roomie is named Billie. Smelly little fuck who rarely washes his clothes. Room smelled like a high school footlocker. He’s from California and been in Oz several months doing the illegal immigrant thing. He gets under the counter jobs at bars which pay $8-10 AUS per hour. He’s also done a lot of fruit picking but says it does not pay well. Probably because he does not work hard as fruit pickers earn based on weight collected. Right now he’s involved with some rugby team and is trying out for the Melbourne team. Basically a loser.

I got smart that evening and inserted earplugs at 6 AM due to the noise from traffic and assholes banging doors, I slept quite nicely. Should have thought of the earplugs thing sooner.

Having left my backpack at the hotel’s locker, I went grocery shopping at the local market. Sure did not feel like lugging that beast on my back for 10 hours.

By 4 PM I was on board the Spirit of Tasmania. It holds 315 cars and carries over 1000 passengers. Cost me $68 US to Devonport and includes dinner, hostel type bed and breakfast. Plus some entertainment in the lounge and cheap drinks, too.

Since it was cloudy most of the day I did not hold out much hope for a fair start. I was not disappointed. Just as I got to the tram stop and got on board the heavens opened up, the temps went from 30 C to 18 C in no time at all. Actually a bit of a relief from the stuffy weather. It was pouring when I got to the port.

Made me wonder about the quality of the passage. I’d heard it could be rough.

Heading to Tasmania

I was the first to get to my cabin so I took my time putting my junk away, took a shower and then began exploring the ship. I am on K deck, below the water line and about mid-ship. Am having visions of the Titanic. Pretty funny, really.

As I write this I am sitting in the Tiger Bar drinking a not-so-great coffee but I do have a great view at a window seat. As people board they make a beeline for these seats and I watch them hovering around, scoping things out, waiting for someone to leave so they can pounce on the vacant seats. I smile inwardly.

So far I have yet to discover much wildlife unless one includes the types in the hosdtels or the street bums. Not sure what I expected but considering I’ve ben in cities , well, DUH! I suspect that drought will end quickly in Taz.

Next morning: Oh, what a trip. Left Melbourne about 7 PM (an hour late) and it took about two hours after that to finally lose sight of land. Dinner was not too bad (a buffet) and I had my fill but not too much---just in case!! The boat was very steady and smooth.

After dinner I popped down to the lounge and listened to this guy play lounge lizard music. Hey, it was better than nothing else which was going on.

I ran across a woman several times in my crossing back and forth getting the lay of the ship and after dinner she joined me for a chat. She was on her way back to Hobart from Brisbane to stay with her Mom who is not doing will.

We discussed jobs, immigration, the US, Oz wages, taxation, etc. She is a classically trained voice teacher and hopes to start a business in Hobart. Until then she plans to do singing acts as her brother runs a company that sponsors musicians in town and he does their set ups and equipment.

So when we discussed wages she described how they are pretty fixed here and when I asked for an example in department store sales she said they make about 15 an hour and 30 on Sundays and holidays. Also described the difference between a casual worker and part time and full time. Casuals get on benefits so therefore would make more than a part timer or full timer. Part timers get benefits just like full time but do not get as many hours. However, they must get the same amount of hours every week unlike in the states where part time can fluctuate.

The casual worker has to take care of his or her own superannuation (retirement) package and get their own health benefits. She thinks that taxes are too high and that people should be able to keep more of their money. But by the same token she thinks government, and not private enterprise, should do education and health care. I wonder why she even bothered to bring it up as it gave me an opening to go on about capitalism and how it is better for people than government.

All of a sudden she "had to leave."

I found it hilarious yet disturbing that she could not engage in a good debate. It’s not like I was trying to impress her or anything. I guess I knew our chat would be doomed from the start when she mentioned she knew an American in Brisbane who read poetry to her and caused her to go out and buy $100A in American poetry books among which was as poetry from Alan Ginsberg the 60’s radical beat poet. That should have been a huge red light for me but I could not help myself.

Then again, maybe it was the motion of the ship after it passed the last bits of land that caused her to leave. This baby was rockin’ and rollin’, heavin’ and jumpin’. I finally had to go to my bunk for fear I’d be ill. Having been lulled into a false sense of security from the calmness of the ride I did not take my Dramamine. Even in the bowels of the ship we were pitching so hard the ship would slam back down into the water after cresting big waves. Metal would creak and crack. My sleep was fitful.

My bunk mates were already sacked out by the time I got down there and sitting on the floor, ominously, was a barf bag. I was hoping it had not been used as I’d have had to ralph right there in sympathy. It was clean.

I really did not sleep well and remember waking many times trying not to think about what the ship was doing.

By 630 AM things were smoother as we approached land. The area we crossed used to be part of a land bridge until 20,000 or so years ago so it is not really too deep. The swells are created by deeper water hitting the shallow bits and driven by a westerly wind.

Tasmania


Arrived Devonport at 9 AM and had my car in hand soon after. Spent a relaxing hour having lunch and pumpkin scones at the Scottish Scone Shoppe in Sheffield. The place used to be called Flo’s and has been known for these scones for years.

Sheffield is known as the town of murals. The idea was to find something to call attention to the town to spur tourism and put it on the map so in 1986 people started painting murals on the walls of buildings. It has now spread to lots of other places but the ones here are spectacular. Virtually every large vertical surface of the town is covered.

So far the weather has cooperated with sun, clouds, rain, sun, wind. I like it.

Interesting little snippet in the news: the 20th of February at 8:02 PM was called a palindrome. 20/02/2002, 20:02 The next won’t won’t be for another 110 years (21/12/2112; 21:12 hours) The last one was 11/11/1111 11:11 hrs.

Stopped at the Leatherwood Honey Factory in Mole Creek. The bees pollinate these trees deep in the forests of the west. They are so remote that harvesting the combs requires guys to go camping in the bush. No such thing as just driving in there and driving out. They pack it in.

I over nighted in Launceston and stayed in the Irish Murphy’s Pub and Backpackers. Nice rooms, clean rest rooms, nice kitchen facilities and living room. Parked the car and took a walk to Cataract Gorge. Beautiful natural gorge in the middle of town where the South Esk River drains into the Tamar River.

Quite a nice walk.

Paid an overpriced $6.50 AUS per hour for Internet at a local library but I needed to check mail so--what the hell.

Back at Irish Murphy’s I got to talking to folks about the latest scandal involving the Governor general (GG) and alleged sex abuse with a young girl years ago. The GG used to be an Anglican Minister. I mentioned how it is also a mess in the US what with priests and young boys. This young lady pipes up to say, "well, I am from Portugal…" and that’s as far as she got. The subject changed immediately. Her name is Joanna and she is from Porto. We spoke in Portuguese for a while and then switched back to English out of deference to the other people there. She’s a student and wants to stay in Australia. Fancy that!

Upon re-reading these notes in my journal and getting to where I stayed I could not visualize the pub or the hostel. But as soon as I got to the part with Joanna, all the memories came flooding back--her, the kitchen, the balcony, the living room, the pub, etc. How weird that a name can unleash such a flood.

Also heard on the new that one of the new measures going on in Taz is an effort to build up business and the economy. Along those lines there is a company here that wants to establish frequent scheduled air service from Taz to Antarctica. They figure there is pent up demand for it (not tourism but hauling scientists, etc.) and they figure on a couple of hundred flights a year to Mawson and other bases and Ice runways nearby.

By 8:30 on the second day I was on my way. First stop: Evandale, full of 19th century buildings. The whole town is very well kept up and worth a visit. It is home of the annual penny farthing bike race and I saw quite a few folks out riding their bikes. Very bizarre to see these people sitting about 5 feet up on a saddle with a monstrous front wheel and tiny rear wheel. The race was the following day which explained all the folks out and about.

Next stop: Ross. It is famous for its convict built bridge constructed in 1836. As such it is the third oldest bridge in Australia. Very ornately carved. I guess the prisoners had nothing better to do but get fancy on it. Talented guys!

The town strictly controls development and growth. Because of this it very closely resembles an old English village.

From there I headed towards Richmond. Almost did not stop but I am glad I did. At first I thought I’d just check out its bridge (also built by convict labor) but then took some time to tour the town itself.

The bridge was built in 1823 and is the oldest in Australia. It is not as ornate as the one in Ross, though. In town, there were quite a few older buildings which the Tazzies are all proud about. I then got to thinking about how these buildings are mere babes compared to ours and ours are mere embryos compared to the Europeans whose buildings are mere cells compared to ancient cultures like the Egyptians and Chinese..

I toured their old jail built in 1825. That is one place I would not want to be in. Anyone convicted and sent to jail back then was pretty much screwed. They’d be lucky to get out alive. And virtually any little thing would land you in jail. Any little offense while in jail would place you in solitary (basically a death sentence.)

Got to Hobart and found the Pickled Frog and accommodations for the evening. Not a bad place and within walking distance of downtown. I had to stuff the parking meters to keep from getting a ticket so it is best to make reservations and then arrive after 6 when feeding the beast is no longer required until 8 AM the next day.

I showered, ate, and went to town. The backpackers has a large multi-roomed lounge/TV room with a large kitchen. Lots of areas for people to cozy up and read or talk or watch TV. The bathrooms are large and clean and, most importantly, the beer is discounted to residents!! Not a bad deal!

Drove to the Shot Tower, a tall cylindrical building from which ingots of hot lead were dropped and in the process of free fall would take on the shape of a ball, hence the name, "shot" tower.

My little Suzuki Swift gets 38 MPG! Good deal. Better than what I’d get if I had rented a VW Bug (which is what I almost did.)

When I got to the harbor area the lighting was magnificent for picture taking so I went crazy snapping this and that. A replica of Ross’ Endeavor was tied up so I went over and chatted with one of the crew members. It is about to embark on an around the world cruise and periodically they seek out passengers to act as crew members for different legs of the trip. It sure would be interesting to go on one of those trips. I’d probably puke my guts out for the first 4 days, though.

Walking along trying to find photo ops I was walking alongside this group of 4 Ozzies when one of them was saying that another member of their group just loved to argue prompting the accused to deny it and begin to argue to defend himself. They all jumped on him for being exactly what he was trying to declare he was not. I chuckled. The arguer made a little comment to me and their friends razzed him about it. Before I knew it I was being treated to beer with them. All four were in town from the mainland for a wedding.

Their names are Scott, Andrew, Scott and Sophie. One works in agricultural sciences, one deals in commodities, one is a vet (guess which?) and another is a sheep herder.

They warned me about getting hooked up with a gin burgler (prostitute of low repute.) They also said Ozzies love Americans even thought they say they do not. He encouraged me to stay and leave my American dollars!! Said they desperately need our money and that the Tazzies were the sweatshop of Australia because of all the artisans here trying to sell things to tourists.

Day 3

A nice touch at the Pickled Frog is that they offer breakfast for the price of the bed. No great shakes but it's coffee, toast, cereal, tea, etc. No complaints from me!

I got an early start and headed out to the Salamanca Market. The weather was good and sunny and the photographic opportunities looked good.

The market reminded me of the ones in Portugal albeit a bit fancier. All manner of goods were for sale and I was tempted to buy a lot of stuff but could not because y backpack is already very heavy. Since I expect to get to Sydney on the afternoon of the 10th I hope to be able to stop in at their market and but the rest of the souvenirs I want to take back.

There were lots of musicians in the market and it seemed as if they were each allocated a certain amount of time because when I walked back to the same area I'd seen one group of tem they were gone and another took their place.

Spent a good 3 hours wandering around. One thing I notice around Taz is the absence of water fountains. Either I am looking in the wrong places or they are rare things in this state. Maybe it is some sort of socialist agreement to support some juice industry or water industry.

Bought some fruits and veggies at the market and headed back to the Frog to make lunch. From there I took off to take in the sights of the peninsulas. I had hoped to be able to go to Mount Wellington but ended up at the Talune Wildlife Preserve. Since I figure I will not see much of Australia's wildlife in the wild this was the next best thing.

They had wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, koalas, Tasmanian Devils and other creatures. The Taz Devil is a nasty little creature with a foul disposition and a bad smell. We were given a bag of food to hand out to the critters there and I had kangas and wallies eating out of my hand. Pretty lame, really, but what the hell. I only have 3 weeks here. Not like I can hang out in the outback waiting for them to show up.

It was hilarious to watch them when they were being fed. They are carnivorous and were thrown what looked like ripped up rabbits. They'd grab a hunk, run away growling and hissing (yep, they hiss like a cat but very loudly.) Even when there was enough food for all of them they'd run around stealing it from one another all the time growling. When they tucked into their food, though, all you'd hear is crunching of bones and snarfing sounds as they munch their lunch.

So far the weather has really cooperated and I am pleased.

At the Wildlife Preserve I ran across this family who was sailing around the world. Man, wife, and 4 kids. They'd been gone for 2 years and were going to stay gone for 2 more. The guy knew Dave Carpenter from the Ice and used to own his own yacht building business in Maine but the federal government, lawyers, etc. disillusioned him. He was one of those guys affected by the failed luxury tax of the 80s. We had a good discussion about the wealthy, their tax rates and their contribution to the economy.

Also found out his friend was willed a topless joint by his grandfather and had problems with lawyers and the Disabled groups who sued him to get wheelchair access to the stage (as if any paraplegic would ever be hired to work as a stripper!!) He said it as a ploy by the locals to run him out of the location he was in. He gave up and sold, too.

Day 4

Got an early start and headed out looking for tourist sites. Saw the Tasman Arch, the blowhole located nearby (no big waves or storms so it was not performing well) and also saw the Devil’s Kitchen. On the road I passed by what’s called the Spikey Bridge, constructed by (guess who?) and has upturned sharp stones imbedded in it. A novel way of decorating a bridge.

The Tessalated Pavement was a great place to stop. It’s a formation of stones that cracked into hexagonal shapes thousands of years ago. The tops of it are at water line so depending on the tides you can walk out on them.

From there, on to Eagle Hawk Neck, a narrow spit of land between an old prison and the mainland which was guarded by 18 purposely underfed and very angry large dogs to keep convicts from escaping. A few managed, anyway, but most died in the attempt. Got to see the Officer’s Quarters nearby and they have models of the doghouses and chains nearby.

I wanted to check out Port Arthur but it cost a bit of money to enter the place. It’s totally preserved and there were loads of tour busses arriving. I passed on that one.

Along the road I saw a sign for Remarkable Cave. Had to stop., of course. Hiked down to sea level and there was a fence to keep yokels like me out. I jumped it and walked out towards the beach through the cave. If you stand back before going in and look through to the sea you will notice the outline of the opening is in the shape of Tasmania. Pretty amazing! Found a dead seal on the other side. YUCK!

Then I headed out to the Freycinet Peninsula and climbed up the path that led to an overlook of Wineglass Bay. Stunning!! There were over 600 steps built into the path and most of it was steep but not too arduous.

A somewhat long day of driving but eventually stopped at a place I originally not no intention of stopping at: Bicheno.

The hostel, off Morrison St., is very small and well fitted out. The landlady was extremely helpful and the place is quiet.

I took my stuff in, showered and found a pub with ocean views where I sucked down a cold one and had a great steak dinner all for under $10 AUS. Note: the Ozzies are like the Kiwis: they eat with the fork in the left hand and turned upside down. A piece of food is pierced and it acts as a dam from which more food is piled on behind it. I do not find it an easy way to eat.

The town supposedly has penguin rookeries but I did not get to see any. Wrong time of year, too, I was told.

Day 5

I had read about a place in the Lonely Planet guide book so I made sure I got there in time for breakfast. The place? The Elephant Pancake Barn. What an idyllic setting! If I owned a business I would want it to be like this one. They had lovely classical music piped in, good food, good coffee and plenty of it. Plus it was quiet.

I spoke with the owner, Lew, an ex-pat American, about Aussie tax laws and how they affect businesses. We discussed how even high tax rates can’t solve social ills like bums and street kids (he calls them feral children--I love it!!) He fears that if the left stays in power the Australian situation will worsen and spending will increase sending government into a huge deficit spending spiral. Even worse than the $750 Billion AUS it is already in. Consider, too, that ALL of Australia has a population less than Chicago, Illinois!!!!!!

Visited St Columba Falls, the 2nd tallest in Australia. Spend a nice couple of hours hiking down, down, down to the base and just sat there taking early morning photos. Then the school kids appeared with their raucousness, ruining the moment so I trudged up the hundreds of steps to the top.

From there I went to Weldborough Pass and checked out the rain forest. Only 11% of rain forests remain in Tazzie. The best times for it were about 8,000 years ago but now there is too much cold and interference by man in farming and lumbering.

Spent the night in Deloraine YHA. It is OK but no great shakes as far as amenities but the views from the porch are spectacular.

Typical of Australia I would drive by many dead wallabys on the road. Much of the route today was over serpentine roads up one mountain range a down another. I’d hate to have to cycle this area. The weather was magnificent and the drive stunningly excellent.

Day 6

Veering westwards I got to the site of Cradle Mountain. Debated internally whether to go in or not (it’s a pay site and the weather was overcast) and resolved to take a chance. I was not disappointed. Drove as far as I could and started hiking around the lake which provides awesome views of the "Cradle." The walk took 2 hours.

As I walked the weather cleared and I got good before and after photos. Lovely.

Went to Waldheim Cottage which was first inhabited by this guy who literally carved a place out of the wilderness. No roads, lousy weather. Not great a growing season, either. To get to town was a several day expedition over mud bogged trails.

The Tasman Tiger has a couple of interesting stories that come out of this area. The first deals with a woman who went looking for her kid and got lost in the woods by some falls in the area. She resorted to sleeping in logs and when she awoke the tigers were there, awaiting her death so they could feed.

The other story involves Waldheim, himself, who in a letter to friends was describing his loneliness after the death of his wife. He mentioned that his dogs had also died and he was utterly alone---with the tigers in the area. They were emboldened enough to enter his cabin through the kitchen and then trash it while he was in it. He feared for his life. Both survived.

The last tiger was spotted in 1938. Rumor abounds that they still live but chances are they became extinct shortly after the last spotting. Considering the size of wilderness and how inaccessible some areas are in Tazzie, (some have yet to see man’s footprints) it is not improbable that they may yet exist.

Went to Roseberg, an old mining town, where things are very expensive as the nearest large town is miles and miles away.

Can not recall the name of the town I stayed in but it is famous for its shearwater birds (muttonbirds.) Right around sunset I drove to the beach and the observation area to await their nightly migration to shore and their nests nearby. It was cold and windy but about a couple of dozen of us braved the elements. The sunset was spectacular.

At about 10 ‘til 9 they started flying in. they’d swoop low over our heads and the only real way to "see" them was this darker shade of black than the night itself would occasionally flutter past.

They fly over 11,000 km on a migration from the Arctic and breed only in Australia, mainly Tazzie. There are approximately 1 million birds that do this. They live about 38 years and mate for life using the same nest over and over. How they locate them in the dark I will never know.

The smart people who’d done this before brought along those big honking flashlights to catch them swooping around.

Day 7

Decided not to take the boat ride to see Sarah Island or the 2000 year old Huon pine tree. I figured $55 AUS plus lousy weather did not appeal to me. As for these pines, they are much prized and were originally found floating as debris in harbors and waters off the coast. Early sailors, retrieving the logs, cut into them to find that rather then being rotten, these were in perfect condition with a nice aroma. What appealed to them was the waterproof qualities of the logs.

It took 10 years of sailing up and down the coasts and various rivers before the true source of the trees, the rain forests of the Strahn, was discovered.

From that point forward it was all downhill for this majestic tree as furniture makers and ship builders clamored for it. Early in the 20th Century mechanization brought with it a greater ease to find the lumber to build ships and then clear cutting and the logging off of virtually all trees virtually did them in.

Efforts to stop clear cutting resulted in small areas being set aside with all cutting prohibited. Now the efforts are focused on recovering the trees felled by storms and fire. The forestry service estimates the value in many millions of dollars with enough wood laying around to last until the end of the 21st century.

The big issue the Aussies are all up in arms about continues to be the child abuse mess with the Governor General. Whereas the GG is not implicated in actually abusing anyone, people are questioning his leadership when he was in charge of his diocese and did nothing when the issue was brought before him..

Another issue is the rising cost of insurance premiums. The govt. approved a 7-9% increase (no increases in the last three years!) and people are fit to be tied. The liberals are spewing all over the media how Howard had promised 2 years ago that costs would go down. What no one counted on was the fact that, with government promising to pay 30% of the premium, many people who’d not had insurance jumped on board and immediately availed themselves of doctors, nurses, emergency rooms, etc. People began making clams for elective surgeries they’d been postponing and had been getting putting off by the government plan at the time. Well, DUH!!! I wonder who the rocket scientists were in charge of this project!

The Aussies are facing the same issues we face:

Finally got to Queenstown. Very industrial looking but with lots of homes and businesses for sale. I saw one 3 bedroom for $12,500 US. The town has the look of devastation about it due to denuded hillsides and forst fires. Much of the denuding is due to the method of mining used for decades. Of course, the weather does not help as clouds and rain are the order of the day for 5-6 days a week on average.

Headed north and out of the area bound for the northern coast and eventually Devonport. Along the way I stopped at Fossil Bluff for great views along the coast and then into Penguin, a quaint little village with a penguin motif (trash cans, meters, etc.)

I arrived in Devonport later in afternoon so as not to have to deal with the parking meter problem. Found they have a Target and K-Mart and Woolworth’s so it is considered THE place to go for shopping. Most all of them are also grocery stores. Amazing how America influences so much around the world. You gotta love the USA!

I stayed at Molly Malone’s Irish Pub and discovered the town basically rolls up the carpet about 6:30 PM. Curious habit here in the bars: smokers drop their cigarettes straight on the floor. I saw no ashtrays anywhere. Maybe it’s a worker’s rights thing to NOT clean ashtrays?!?!?!

Getting anxious to head home!!! 

 

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