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Colin and Sue’s Travel Diary

Saturday, 10 Mar 2007

Location: Tasmania, Australia

MapWe arrived in Hobart in time for the Friday night free outdoor concert in the Salamanca Arts Centre courtyard - a couple of beers and some decent music was a good introduction to Tasmania. Next morning we wandered around the weekly market - we were tempted by the lovely local wood products but ended up only buying some fruit and soap.

We had planned to start touring around on Sunday but we saw an advert for a Conservation Volunteers Australia tour, a mixture of sightseeing, walking and conservation activities, starting the following Sunday. We were quite tempted by this but had to wait until Monday before we could check availability and change our flights. Somewhat strangely after keeping to our original flights for 6 months we had just changed our flight out of Hobart to avoid the 6am flight - it had seemed quite acceptable back in England but far too early now. Anyway, we booked on the tour and changed the tickets for the 2nd time in 4 days. We couldn't book a car until we'd sorted our plans out, although we had made some enquiries. Unfortunately our first 2 choices were no longer available so we ended up with an older car whose previous owner must have been a boy racer - although this only extended to go-faster stripes and spoiler plus a refitted stereo system with big speakers in the doors so you could only wind down the windows a couple of inches! It struggled up every hill and the steering wheel vibrated alarmingly when we got over 100kph.

This change of plan meant we decided to stick to Southern Tasmania for the first week starting with a visit to the historic prison site at Port Arthur, where convicts who had re-offended in Australia were sent. We found 3 convict Rigbys in the records but no Armfields - draw your own conclusions! The site was quite interesting although had a slightly anti-English slant (eg signs talking about the Brits torpedoing the Tasmanian apple trade by joining the EU).

We then moved on to Mount Field National Park - we were shocked by the amount of roadkill - it seemed there was a dead wallaby / possum every couple of hundred yards. The locals' view was that this reflects both the numbers of animals around but also the effects of the drought here - causing them to cross roads to seek out water. The drought is really severe through most of Australia even in comparatively wet areas like Tasmania - there was a special "prayer for rain" event in Melbourne and the Salvation Army (The Salvo in Aussie speak) are running a big campaign for drought-stricken farmers. The grape harvest here has been terrible so it might be a good time to stock up on your favourite Aussie wines before the prices go up.

In an effort to see some live animals we went to an animal rehabilitation sanctuary - mostly for baby animals rescued from their dead mother's pouch. It was really nice to see wallabies, wombats and Tasmanian devils but the highlight was the wild platypus swimming in the river behind the sanctuary. After this we did actually see a lot of wild wildlife on our walks and around some of the places we were staying. We stayed in a lovely cabin near Mt Field and saw loads of wallabies bounding across the fields at dusk heading for the local river.

We had a really good walk at Mt Field and then moved on to Lake St Clair National Park. We spent the day driving through rain and hunting for accommodation ending up staying in a really basic cabin attached to a pub - a really friendly place where we chatted to the locals and Colin entered the weekly pool competition (unfortunately he came up against crack opposition in the form of Naomi the chef and was knocked out in the 1st round). Next day we had a brilliant long walk in glorious sunshine up to Mt Rufus - it was supposed to be an 6-7 hour walk but took us a bit longer with all the wallaby watching stops - wallabies not wombats are in fact the new capybara! Bennetts wallabies are especially cute with their black mitten-like paws. More sunshine the next day for great views over Hobart and the coast from the top of Mt Wellington.