Well, the wind that threatened to rip the roof off our hostel has finally died down. The weather’s still not fantastic, but its looking marginally better as we drive off.
The first stop today is a beach that is ranked in the Top 10 Beaches of the world. Not entirely sure what number, but that’s still a pretty impressive thing for Wineglass Bay to boast. Sadly, it makes you earn the right to view it’s beauty – there’s no road, you have to climb over a mountain to get to it.
The walk to the lookout takes about 40 minutes – thankfully the pathway is mostly flat and has few loose stones so everyone could handle it. Along the way there’s also a few wallabies, who are completely at ease with us, and even keep us company at the lookout.
Wineglass Bay has its name for two reasons. One is the shape of the bay – it does look similar to a wineglass. However, the name was coined during its darker history – whales returning to Antarctica like to stay in the bay’s of Tasmania, and this is no exception. As such, the whaling industry was constructed here, and the blood of hundreds of whales killed in the bay stained the sand red – creating a red wine effect.
There’s no trace of that here anymore, except in the much lower number of whales that visit, but for us to set foot on the sand we still have a ways to go – a 20 minute trek down the mountain to the beach. This is a lot harder – its mostly loose rocks and sand and irregular footing. A few struggle to make it, and nobody is looking forward to the trek back up, but after about an hour of hiking, we make it to the sands.
It clearly earns its reputation – the sands are flawless, and the water insanely blue. Despite the freezing cold winds it actually takes considerable effort not to jump in. Instead we mostly make to the rocks on the left so we can get a wider view of the bay, and marvel at how clear the water is – I’ve seen murkier swimming pools.
Unfortunately, we still have a long day ahead, and it takes an hour to get back, so we only get about 20 minutes to enjoy the beach before we’re struggling back up the hill. It takes nearly twice as long to hike back up the steep hill, but at least the way down is easier.
We’re heading back to Hobart today, which mostly means heading along the rather beautiful coast, eventually stopping in a small town called Swansea for lunch. Jerry had been telling us that the fish and chips in this town were well worth the price, so I forwent my usual supermarket run and decided to give it a try. Ended up splitting an Oyster Bay Catch (2 prawns, 2 calamari rings and 2 pieces of fish plus chips) with another traveller, and couldn’t argue with her statement. Chips were so so, but the calamari and fish were the best I’ve had in Australia.
Our final stop was an hour later, about 20 minutes outside of Hobart – Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. Formerly a zoo, it was redesigned by new owners six years ago into a sanctuary for animals that couldn’t be returned to the wild, or required rehabilitation. Our tour guide first introduced us to Tina, a baby wombats whose mother was run over, and had been reared by the staff at the park. They have several wombats in pens at the moment, all of them orphans due to the road, but thankfully wombats are very easy to release back into the wild. Once they reach a certain age, they will start to reject their parents, and get kicked out to fend for themselves. When the babies at the sanctuary start showing this behaviour, they are released into protected lands so they can be protected for the rest of their lives.
The sanctuary’s biggest draw however, is it’s Tasmanian Devils. In general, the sanctuary doesn’t breed animals, but the devils are it’s biggest exception due to how endangered they are. Most people think of the Looney Tunes character when they hear the name, but in reality, Taz has almost nothing in common with the actual animal (except maybe some of the sounds). Real Tasmanian Devils are black, slow and generally lazy creatures, who are pretty poor hunters, instead scavenging what they can. This is sadly one of the main reasons why they struggle – they eat roadkill at night, and aren’t fast enough to get out of the way of cars.
Their biggest threat however, is a type of cancer that is spreading through wild colonies. It’s a type of facial tumor, which first appeared in 1996, and is unique in that it can be transferred through bites – something the devils do to each other a lot. It’s wiped out hundreds of devils, and researchers are frantically trying to come up with a cure – so far the best success has been a shot that gives immunity, though pretty worthless to those who already have it.
The sanctuary itself doesn’t do too much breeding, though they do have a few devils of breeding age. Instead, they contribute by having a large ‘retirement home’ for the devils that have been used in breeding programs. When zoos and other sanctuaries taking part in breeding have devils that are no longer of breeding age, they can be brought here, clearing up pens for new devils and allowing the older ones to enjoy the rest of their days in comfort.
The zoo also has a handful of animals that were born in captivity or ended up her through various means – several animals such as the kangaroos and koala’s were here when the sanctuary was still a zoo, and although the sanctuary has no intention of breeding and cannot rehabilitate them, they also wont kick them out of their home – although when these animals die of old age, they will not be replaced.
After being shown the koalas, we were allowed to walk around and have a look at all the other animals in the sanctuary, including parrots, an echidna who has lost a paw (and therefore wouldn’t survive in the wild), some quoll’s, most of whom have been run over or suffered brain damage for whatever reason and can’t be released, as well as the kangaroo herd. Fed kangaroo’s several times in Australia, but these were some of the smarter ones. Quite a few people got bowled over by some over eager adults when they were busy feeding the younger ones. There was also a 100 year old cockatoo, who was once the pet of a friend of the owner.
Finally though, we have to head on back to Hobart – and back to my original hostel which is our home for the next 3 nights (technically 5 for me). This time I’m on the first floor, which means I don’t have a ton of stairs to climb, but does mean I’m right above the pub and its incessantly loud music. The room also has a double bed though, much to the delight of the recently engaged couple I’m sharing with.