Where are we living now? Launceston, a lovely town in the north of Tasmania. One of the joys of this travelling lark is that we get to meet so many interesting people from various places and have the opportunity to live in lots of different locations. Every time we move to a new home we are always pleasantly surprised just how comfortable we feel within minutes of arriving and meeting our new hosts. Without exception, all of the Airbnb hosts we’ve met so far have been friendly, interesting and very helpful. Some have a constant stream of visitors staying in their homes and others are more selective but they have all made us feel as if we are the most important visitors they’ve ever had. Quite a knack I think, and marvellous for us.
So Launceston then, staying with Rosa and David in their hidden away private home overlooking the Tamar River. We weren’t in the main house but had a small unit at the top of the garden which was so quiet and peaceful that we always felt a little reluctant to leave. When we did though we were always checked in and out by Jessie, the last member of the family, who spent most of her time laying on the doorstep in the sunshine. She wasn’t the crazy old lady from next door but Rosa’s adorable dog. I have to admit that even I had a soft spot for her.
One of the reasons for hiring a car and coming up to Launceston was that we really wanted to explore the National Parks and coastlines of northern Tasmania and there is no way that you can do that by public transport. Our first big trip was to the West to visit Cradle Mountain in the Central Highlands area in the Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park. It was a fairly smooth three hour drive that started on a two lane freeway on the flat and finished on a single track mountain road. Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great but I suppose that stopped too many people venturing out for the day and meant the park was a bit quieter.
It is possible to drive all the way to Cradle Mountain from the National Park entrance but they don’t recommend it, so we jumped on one of the shuttle buses and took a bumpy half hour drive to Dove Lake at the base of the mountain. Amazingly, as soon as we got off the bus the clouds lifted from the mountain tops and we got an incredible view across the lake of the whole range. All of the peaks were still snow covered and there was even some ice and snow in areas on the ground as we set off on a short lake to the west of the lake.
It was cold and windy but the views were incredible and we were absolutely awe-struck looking at Cradle Mountain across the icy blue Dove Lake. We would have loved to have done the two hour hike right around the lake but it was just too windy so we headed back. Now we weren’t kitted out like Sir Edmund Hillary when he climbed Everest, but we were wrapped up against the wind and impending rain. The lady passing us on the footpath in a slinky chiffon top and fashionable flip flops however wasn’t! And the other women in high heels wobbling their way along also looked a little out of their comfort zones. The funniest thing we saw though was the sight of a middle aged Asian guy who was walking with his two young sons. They both had coats with hoods up and gloves etc but he didn’t. All he had on was a light sweater and jeans. He might have been cold if it hadn’t been for the big hot water bottle that he was holding against one side of his face! Just one side. We couldn’t help but stop and stare I’m afraid, even his children looked embarrassed. Never seen anything like it.
We finished with a short hike around to the famous Dove Lake boathouse before heading back to the bus stop. Incredibly, minutes after we started our return the clouds dropped over the mountain and the rain charged in. We had been so lucky as suddenly there was just no Cradle Mountain to be seen at all. The bus trip back passed Wallabies and Echidnas on the road sides and fluffy Wombats everywhere.
The Magic of Railton
Driving back home we passed through Sheffield (crazy eh?) and then the strange but interesting little town of Railton. Our navigational skills are fairly good but we completely missed our turning in Railton. Bad mapreading? Not a chance. We got distracted by the topiary!
Now we had noticed the ‘Town of Topiary‘ signs as we entered Railton but hadn’t taken a lot of notice. It was only when we noticed a full size elephant sitting at the side of the road that we took it in. Then there was a giraffe, then a giant spider. Finally the hedge man posting a letter in a hedge letterbox pushed us over the edge. They were everywhere. A line of hedge soldiers next to the war memorial, a hedge man on a hedge horse, a hedge hippo …. the list goes on and on. So we missed our turning completely due to ‘hedge rage’. Amazing, crazy and a little disturbing. Railton, the Town of Topiary.
Almost across the road from our lodgings was a beautiful valley called Cataract Gorge. It’s a local tourist attraction that we couldn’t miss so we wandered down to explore. The sun shone as we had a fantastic walk down the Kings Bridge Cataract Walk, a narrow walkway on the northern edge of the gorge.
The gorge eventually opens out into a large basin where there is a swimming pool, funicular railway, pinic area, coffee shop, and the longest single span chairlift in the world. So obviously we sat for a picnic on the grass in the sun doing some Olympic class people-watching. Excellent. Such a wonderful day as we walked for hours along rocky cliff paths, up steep twisting tracks, and over Indiana Jones style bridges. A perfect day finished with a perfect Tasmanian ice cream in the company of a friendly wallaby and a couple of not so friendly peacocks.
Scary Monsters and Super Creepy Things
Our cosy little unit at the top of Rosa’s garden suited us down to the ground and had everything we needed, apart from a toilet which was in the main house. Not a problem at all as it was just a hop skip and jump away but as you know I am at an age when night time restroom visits(NTRV’s) seem to have become compulsory. So I’ve completed the NTRV at around 2am and am returning up the garden to our room. Using only my phone torch to light the way I carefully made my way up the steps. Very dark and very quiet. Looking up I stopped dead in my tracks as a pair of bright eyes stared back at me from two feet away! These situations are not good for my heart so I breathed deeply and stepped backwards. This lit up the branch overhanging the path and the big possum that was on it. I tried to shoo it away and flashed the torch wildly but it wasn’t moving. Just seemed happy to sit there and totally freak me out. With no option I just ducked and ran underneath it hoping it wouldn’t decide to jump on for a ride. Jo wondered what on earth I’d been up to when I raced in slamming the door and breathing deeply!
That wasn’t it though. The next evening we were laying side by side on the bed reading quietly just enjoying the silence and the relaxing atmosphere when I happened to look up at the ceiling. We’d heard all the scare stories about deadly Australian spiders but hadn’t seen a single one until now. There it was, an enormous orangey brown body right above us. Did we move quick? Yes slightly. Then began the debate on whether to whack it or catch it and to be honest it just looked too big to whack so I grabbed a big glass and went for it. Massive. After much ghashing and wailing and anguish, us not the spider, I managed to imprison the beast. Took it down to Rosa and she informed us that she’d never seen anything like it before. So she took a photo and sent it to the museum for more info. We don’t know what it was but it was nasty!
After a week in Tasmania we’ve seriously fallen in love with the place, it is just an amazing island packed with character and with incredible countryside. Hoping for more jaw dropping experiences in the next week so don’t go away.
27.11 – 29.11.2015