June 26, 2004

No Tasmanian Devils Were Seen in the Making of this Entry

We only had six days to explore Tasmania -- known around these parts as "Tassie" (pronounced "Tazzie") -- but it seemed worthwhile to make the trip while we were close by in Melbourne.

As a result of our schedule, we didn't see too much of Australia's island state (sorry to Launceston and the entire north and east coasts!). We flew in and out of Hobart, spending a few days in the city, and ventured out into the South and South-West wilderness areas of the island. Huge swaths (almost a third) of Tasmania are protected in National Parks and World Heritage Areas, in large part a legacy of the successful 1970s environmental fight to protect the Franklin River from damming. The Franklin campaign represents, by general consensus, the birth of the Australian environmental movement.

The Franklin River now runs through much of Franklin-Gordon Rivers National Park, part of the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area which we visited. We stayed in some cabins at Lake St. Clair, one of the two endpoints of the even-more-famous Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, home to the world-renowned Overland Track (with only six days in all of Tassie, this 5-10 day track is on the list for "next time," unfortunately).

Our trip out of Hobart got off to a good start when we locked our keys in the trunk ("boot"!) and discovered to our horror that the trunk-release on our car was broken. Thankfully we were still in Hobart, so we only had to endure embarassment at the hands of Hertz.

The National Parks were impressive, although it's clear that we didn't even begin to scratch their surface. You can see what we did manage to see here. Part of the problem was the weather. The weather in Tassie can turn on you unexpectedly all-year round, and we were hit by a massive blizzard on our way to the Lake St. Clair area. Very surreal (this was mid-May).

Blizzarding snow

The cold and wet weather persisted for a couple of days, so we didn't manage any longer walks. We did, however, do a bit of an environmental pilgrimage to see the Franklin River, and we walked about 15 minutes of the Overland Track in the snow, as part of a circuit near Lake St. Clair. We also saw a fantastic waterfall. Well, let me clarify. We squinted at a fantastic waterfall, because it had swelled enormously with the rain and snow, and the wind was gusting every which way, and ... well, it was hard to look at directly, that's all I'm saying.

Then we skipped town a day early to head to Mt. Field National Park a little bit further south. Here the weather was nice and we saw wallabies and pademelons, which are extremely small macropods (the kangaroo family). The best part about pademelons is the way you say their name, which is "paddie-melons". The park ranger who told me that made my day, let me tell you.

Pademelon (macropod)

Before returning to Hobart we did a self-guided tour of "the Styx". Our exploration of the Styx, an old-growth forest slated for logging in the next couple of years, deserves its own entry (coming soon!). The Styx, along with the Tarkine forest further north, is becoming the centrepiece of the next major environmental battle in Tasmania.

Hobart, where we spent a relaxed two days overall, was quite nice. We took it pretty easy, exploring the neighbourhoods (including classic Battery Point), window-shopping, and eating (including pies, of course).

Hobart: Near Salamanca Place      Hobart: Battery Point

Our trip to Tassie was strange in a way. Although on the surface of it we saw very little, what with the weather and all, I actually felt as though we got to know some of what makes Tassie tick in a deeper sense.

Posted by anatole at June 26, 2004 01:43 AM

Hobart looks like fun... there's a lot more there than I suspected. Are there more photos of that pedestrian mall?

Posted by: madhava at June 26, 2004 04:01 AM

Re: Car-lifting kangaroos... I didn't think kangaroos could muster that kind of forearm strength, but I guess they lift with their legs (as we all should).

Posted by: Alasdair at June 26, 2004 04:50 AM

Madhava: There's only one more photo of the pedestrian mall, but there's a few more of Salamanca Place and Square, which also look like pedestrian malls. :) Will dig them up as soon as possible.

Alasdair: Nice. :D

Posted by: Anatole at July 6, 2004 04:08 PM