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Sunday, 7 May 2017

A First Visit to Australia - Part 2: Tasmania

The beach near Clifton, just outside Hobart.
After our visits to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney, we flew to Hobart, Tasmania, and prepared for a week-long hike in the wilderness between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. Among the highlights of our first few days were a trip out to Marias Island, once a penal colony. A climb to the highest point gave our legs a good stretch. - and tested my increasing discomfort with heights.

On our way to the highest point on Marias Island, looking back towards the  Tasmanian mainland

We were due to join our group at Launceston, and spent a few days there – more by accident than design. For all kinds of reasons – largely to do with being older than we used to be -  we had booked a fully guided hike with accommodation and meals included. We were driving along, the day before we were due to start, when I got a call from the company we had booked with to say that we had missed the bus – and therefore the hike. Checking the diaries, we realised that we had simply got our dates wrong. Not a good feeling. To our huge relief, the company gave us the option of joining another group which would be setting off a few days later. All we had to do was re-arrange our flights, miss out a trip to Adelaide, and hole up in Launceston for three days.

Launceston was a delight, a Victorian town of modest size, with some great examples of period architecture. I particularly liked this old newspaper office (above). The highlights was probably the art gallery, where we caught a fabulous exhibit, on loan from a museum in Le Havre, chronicling the Tasmanian voyages of the Frenchman Nicolas Baudin in 1800-1804 and displaying some of the works created by his on-board artists.
Art Gallery, Launceston

I don't think I have the will, or desire, just yet, to try to describe our hike. While I wrote over a hundred pages of notes on our vacation, I made none during the six days we spent in the wilderness. Some places do that to you: simply rob you of your descriptive capabilities. For the moment, all I can say is that the whole experience was a sheer delight, quite overwhelming. If I've done one walk in my life to compare with it, it would be our trek across the Arctic Circle in 2014 (see

A taste of what was to come

Snack-break after the first morning's climb

The lichens (above and below) tell you all you need to know about the air quality up there

At times it felt rather as though I were back in the American West 

We grew to love the button-grass,,,

...and the sunlight coming through the trees

The challenge on Day 4 was to climb Tasmania's highest peak, Mt Ossia. Quite a scramble - but I did it.

The huts we stayed in are supplied twice a year by helicopter: food in, waste products out.

The forests were joyous places, essentially unmolested since the last Ice Age, 10,000 years ago. We saw at least one tree that was 2,000 years old. 

Tasmania's flora was truly fascinating and utterly foreign to me. I never saw one plant that had a British relative I could think of. Certainly not this climbing currant.

You see eucalyptus everywhere in Australia. There are over a hundred varieties, each with its distinctive bark.


We were a happy group with two exceptional young guides. Here we are at the end of it all, disembarking after taking a boat across Lake St Clair.

A handy sign that does some of the work I have opted out of
This handful of pictures and the few scattered words really don't do more than hint at the delights of the Cradle Mountain hike. My fault, I'm afraid. I am still grappling with the experience. And, of course, I'm back in this 'real 'world now: trying to write the next book, planning a trip to the States in September-October, tending vegetable plots.
I'll round this off with a quick tour of Western Australia in a few days time.


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