Travels in Tasmania
05.03.2009 - 05.04.2009
Charming country towns are scattered between sprawling, eucalypt-dotted pastures. Colossal sandstone cliffs shelter sparkling bays and white-sand beaches. Vast primordial forests conceal giant tree ferns, hot springs, and spectacular waterfalls. There is nowhere in the world like Tasmania, and you can’t help but fall in love with it.
Waterfall in Mt Field National Park, Tasmania
After six weeks in the complete isolation of my field site, autumn found me footloose and more than ready to hit the road. You hear little about Tassie on the mainland, and even less about Hobart, so I really wasn’t expecting anything special. Coming from the airport at sunset, however, I was shocked into open-mouthed wonder as a glowing panorama unfolded below me. Nestled in a valley on the glassy-calm bay, Hobart is a relatively small, sleepy city, but hosts some gorgeous scenery, excellent food, and fun local pubs.
While in Hobart we stopped to visit the Sea Shepherd’s Steve Irwin (circa Whale Wars), docked for repairs after a season of chasing Japanese whalers around the Antarctic. The crew was kind enough to give us a tour onboard. It was fascinating to learn about this radical approach to conservation, but I don’t think I’ll be joining up anytime soon. Though the Sea Shepherd does important work in drawing attention to the unsustainable slaughter of marine mammals, I would prefer to stick to conservation methods that don’t endanger my life or the lives of others (including the whalers).
My favourite part of road trips is taking random detours. For example, who can see “Trout Fishing Museum” on a map and not feel inclined to prove its existence? Or resist a sprawling model of Old Town Hobart, in miniature, for that matter? Certainly not I.
Those gems aside, the true treasures of Tassie are the extensive and pristine native bushlands. Our journey took us through the lowland rainforests of waterfall-studded Mt Field National Park, home to descendants of some of the world’s first tree-like plants, the tree ferns. They make the landscape feel so ancient and foreign that I wouldn’t have been the least surprised to find a velociraptor lurking behind one.
From there we made our way to the southernmost point of Tasmania (and Australia), where we camped and took a day bushwalk along the South Coast Track to South Cape Bay, another remarkable vista.
In a way, Tassie's hidden beauty reminded me most of home in Oregon. You can't go without being shocked and amazed that the rest of the world isn't clamoring to get there. You want to share the wonder of it, but at the same time you hesitate to let the secret out and lose the wonderful sense of solitude that these still-wild places grace you with. I suppose it's a bit late now to lie and tell you what a terrible place Tasmania is. Awful. Horrible. Ugly. Full of snakes. You don't want to go there. Well, the bit about the snakes is true, anyway.