The bus pickup was listed as 7-7.15am, so come 6:55 I was downstairs and ready, as was another gentleman. However, I discovered later that Under Down Under seem to expect their bus to pick up EVERYONE in that 15 minute period. Something that even I can tell is impossible with the distance and one way streets of Hobart. As such I wasn’t picked up until 7:20, and some of the travellers were waiting up to 40 minutes. They really need to reorganise how they arrange that.
Our driver and guide is a woman named Jerry, and explained that she’d be taking care of us for however long we were on the trip. Some people are only here for 3 days, some for 5, some for 6, and a handful of us would be with her the whole 7. She was determined to learn all our names too, and started coming up with clues or hints to remember (this was a lot harder with the large Chinese number of travellers, although many of them just gave her their ‘English’ names to make things easier).
My opinion on Tasmania hasn’t really changed since I first arrived – it really does look a lot like Scotland. Especially the Highlands since there’s tons of hills. Jerry says travelling Tasmania is like taking a ‘Fifty Shades of Green’ tour, because every hue is available out here.
After a few hours of driving, we arrive at our first stop, Mount Field National Park, home of the Horseshoe Falls. Since we have a small bus, we can go to the top and walk through the rainforest rather than just go see the falls at the bottom. The trees here grow to insane heights, anywhere from 50-100ft, and pretty much grow until they tip over. The forest is also home to snakes, echidnas, wallaby’s and pademelons – one of which we happened to spot, along with its joey!
It takes about 20 minutes to walk down to the falls, which get their name from the shape, but reminded me more of a tiered wedding cake with the shape of the rocks and water. It’s got a really ethereal quality though, one I haven’t seen on the waterfalls in mainland Australia.
When we were back to the bus, we headed out and along to Lake St. Clair, which is also in the National Park. There’s a small resort here, along with a rather pricy restaurant that those of us who hadn’t bought lunch earlier, had to frequent (I misunderstood Jerry when she said we’d be stopping by a supermarket for food – she meant later). Bought the cheapest thing I could find on the menu (potato wedges for $9) that I thought would fill me up, and sat down with the better English speakers of the group. Jan was an Englishwoman visiting her son and taking a few weeks to travel, Julia was a German student on a gap year, while Katrine of Switzerland was just having a short holiday.
Once we ate, we had enough time to walk down to the Lake and have a look at it. I’m sure it’s very beautiful, but at this time of year the wind was bitterly cold – I had flashbacks to when my grandparents lived on an island in the middle of a lake and had to boat out to them. Everyone else who came to the jetty quickly fled, and I could only handle it a few minutes. We stuck to the shore after that and wandered, until deciding to head back towards the bus.
Jerry managed to fit in one more waterfall before we reached our next destination. Lady Barron is just as impressive as the first, and equally as mystical, and is only a ten minute walk from the road. Both of them are part of the ‘Top 60 Walks in Tasmania’ which we’ll probably be hitting quite a bit this week. Though I can see why most people want to take their own car, you pass an awful lot of walking trails traveling in the bus.
Finally, after driving along a road essentially carved out of the mountainsides, we come across our first town since Hobart, Queenstown.
We’re not stopping here – apparently the locals aren’t that nice, but there’s a supermarket, and after tonight, we’re on our own for lunch and dinner, so have to fend for ourselves. Katrine, Julia and myself band together and get ingredients for pasta and salad wraps, and then split up to buy snacks for ourselves (which costs a lot more than dinner and lunch!).
Our home for the next few nights is the YHA in the town of Strahn, a very little village on the Western shoreline that can get cut off from most of Tasmania in the winter due to the weather. As such its got a rather strong dependence on tourism, and hosts a lot of boats and activities for those coming through.
The YHA itself is run by a man called Cue, who happens to have the most adorable labradoodle puppy that took up much of my attention that evening. The rooms are very basic – AND COLD – but do come with a heater that does manage to warm the room reasonably well. The WiFi unfortunately, is only available outside and around reception.
Tonight, as a welcome, Jerry is cooking a barbeque – which consists of a collection of salads, a beef patty, and 2 sausages, one beef and one chicken. This becomes problematic when it turns out at least 2 people don’t eat beef but never bothered to mention it, despite Jerry asking several times for people to tell her if they have food restrictions. One would think if it was a barbeque, people would realise to mention that. As it was, they either had to have beef, or wait until the end and hope the chicken sausages had leftovers.
Tomorrow, we had a choice of a hike to another waterfall, or an optional cruise along the river into the National Park. The cruise costs $80, which was something I didn’t really want to pay, but everyone else talked me into it – just have to skip lunch or dinner a few times to make up for it.