Sunday, March 2, 2008

Under Down Under Tour - Day 1

Well, on the first day of our tour, I woke up at about 7:00 so we could be picked up by the bus at 8. I met the other people (besides the 3 girls) that I would be spending my next 2-5 days with (the number of days on the tours varied from 3-6... I was on a 5 day tour while some were on a 6 and others were just on a 3). It was actually really nice, there were only 10-12 people on the tour at any one time... small group tours are so much better. You end up getting to know everyone really well!
Our tour guide was on his first tour in Tasmania - initially he had been a tour guide for 10 years in the deserts around Alice Springs and Uluru... (my next tour!) so his enthusiasm was really great... it was much better than being with a tour guide who was already bored of what he was doing!
Everyone was really friendly and excited to get started, and after breakfast we headed off for our first stop... the historic town of Ross! It was a pretty quick stop, we looked around a bit at the old stone buildings and churches... and had a cup of coffee (or I did at least). It was a fantastic little town, but very quiet. Good for visiting, I think, but maybe not living in...

On the way out of Ross, we stopped to see a bridge that was built by two convict stone masons many, many years ago. They were released after they completed it because the governor (or mayor? I don't know, the person who was in charge of them) was so happy with their carving work on the sides of the bridge.

Perhaps he should have looked a bit closer at the pictures though... because apparently they carved his face in the bridge, in a very uncomfortable fiery background. I wasn't sure which one was his face, but when I get home and can look at the pics more carefully, I'll see if I can find it. Below is a bit of a closer look at some of the carvings...

And here you can see an even closer look at one of them.

I really loved the carving on the inside of the bridge... we definitely don't use roman numerals enough!

Well, after the bridge, we all got back into the bus and headed to the postcard-perfect beach at Wineglass Bay. Normally, people just do an hour hike up to the main scenic views of this beautiful beach, but we were lucky enough to be able to do the five hour trek before getting to the best part. I am NOT being sarcastic here either... it was a really great hike. I haven't been hiking since college, and this was just fantastic. We started the hike off going through a bunch of wooded areas...

And there were some really neat rock formations at random spots along the trail. Tasmania, I have learned, is quite the rocky place.

We saw a few wallabies in the woods (wallabies are like smaller versions of kangaroos) and they didn't seem to be afraid of us at all. I can only assume that people who were hiking, were feeding them, which is actually pretty sad... animals should really have a healthy fear of humans. We can be pretty bad.

Anyhow, after a bit of walking through the woods, we came to a couple of really fantastic beaches. Here is a pic of the first (smaller) one we came to.... it was here that a wave managed to get me while I was taking a bit of video of the ocean... and I had to walk the next couple of hours with damp sandals!

We spent a little while walking along the second beach and looking at the neat things in the sand... I found a nice blow fish that I had for lunch...

Hey, when you're a backpacker, you take your meals wherever you find them!

There were also a few really huge starfish lying on the beach. Just so you know how big they were... I put my foot next to it for scale. And as we all know, I have very big feet. Please, pay no attention to the fact that I have a sandal tan and my feet were just a little bit dirty from walking in the sand. You may, however, pay attention to my pedicured toenails. (Kaz/Karen and I had a pedicure before I left for Tasmania!)

So, after our fantastic walk along the beach, we went back up to the wooded area of the trail. The trail was pretty high up from the beach, certainly higher than the tide would have come in, but we noticed that there were tons of shells up there... and we were trying to figure out how they had gotten up so high. The shells were too big to have been dropped by fish-eating birds... and it seemed like too many shells to have been just brought up by hikers who found them on the beach and then just tired of them... Turns out, the Aborigines (native Australians) were big shell-fish eaters, and the shells had probably been there for years, discarded after a nice meal of clams or oysters. (Do you guys like how I force you to learn when you're reading my blog? HAH! Suckers! Learning when you aren't in school!)

Anyhow, the end of the hike was the HARD trek uphill, climbing rocks, about 25-30 minutes of JUST uphill climbing... until we reached the lookout of wineglass bay. JEEZ was it hard... my heart was pounding so hard by the time I got up to the top, but I did make it... and the view was SO worth it. Well, a picture is worth a thousand words so...

And of course, the classic tourist move... to put yourself in front of any kind of lovely scenery... (I was SO tired when this was taken, but we had just done a close to 5 hour hike, after all!)

After a bit of marvelling at the view, and catching my breath, we did the same 25 minute hard hike, only downhill this time. That was MUCH easier. We made our way back to the parking lot to get onto the bus, and right there in the parking lot, we saw a few more wallabies! They had NO fear at all... as you can see, the picture below showed a mother feeding her child (I think the child is almost as big as the mom... you'd think he'd be able to find his own food by now).

And we saw another mother and child right behind our bus. This time the baby was in the pouch... the mother got pretty close to us, begging for food no doubt. Those wallabies can be pretty crafty when it comes to handouts. But we didn't fall for those sad little wallaby eyes.

Anyhow, we all piled back into the bus and drove to the first hostel I would be staying at, in the town of Bicheno. It was a lovely little cabin-like hostel, with a real homey feel.

We walked to a fish and chip shop for lunch, and I had the flake... (which I learned a few days later is actually the term used in Australia to describe the flesh of a few smaller species of shark... usually Gummy shark. So, I guess I have eaten shark now! And it was DELICIOUS!)

After dinner, we walked over to a rocky area called the 'blowhole' where we saw... PENGUINS! That's right, there were actually penguins on the beach. It was night, so they were trying to sleep, and we tried not to bother them too much... Unfortunately, I couldn't get any pictures because these type of penguins had no eyelids to protect their eyes from the flash, and they could easily be blinded by bright lights. I had no desire to hurt the little penguins eyes, so I didn't bring my camera.

In case you were dying of curiosity, the blowhole was called 'blowhole' because of the way the water would shoot up from a particular part of the rocks when the tide was high and the waves crashed against it. I didn't take pictures of it at night, but you'll see pictures of it on my blog for day two because we went back there in the morning.

Anyhow, we went back to the cabin, all of us exhausted from the long day of hiking, and I settled down to watch an hour or so of the grammys. Or was it the emmys? I haven't a clue, I never usually watch award shows because they are boring, but my brain wanted some mindless TV to relax before bed...

OK guys, that was day one. And I have been at this computer for a while, so I will continue days 2-5 tomorrow... hopefully it will go a bit faster, but there are just so many pictures and so much to talk about!

Anyhow, I would like to end today with a joke that I learned here in Tasmania. (Nicola, I bet you haven't heard this one!)

Question: What do you do with a Wok?

Answer: You use it to get the wabbits when you forget your wifle!

(hah! Wok! Wock! It's funny, laugh!)


PMH said...

I want you to bring me home that blowfish and starfish. Do you think you could fit them in you backpack without getting stuck?

Tasmania sounds as wonderful as Kaz said it was. Guess I will have to move there.

Oh, BTW...did you ever think that maybe those shells were way up there because that was how high the water used to be on that island? Better run to high ground when the tide comes in...

Dad said...

What a fantastic post Karen. Just when I think you can't top your previous ones, you do. Your descriptions are amazing. You keep us wanting more. Thanks.
By the way. I believe blowfish are pretty poisonous. So I wouldn't eat too many.

Cheryl said...

The oscars. The oscars were on last week :P said...

yeah karen! havent you ever seen the simpsons episode w/ the poisonous blowfish that homer was supposedly dying from eating?
cool pic!!!
love all the pictures.
cant wait to hear more about taz!!
i will ask again...did u see any tazmanian devils?

Karen said...

Sorry mom, it is illegal for me to bring living organisms from one country to another... we could have an invasion of starfish or blowfish in our waters. It would be madness! Anarchy!

Lisa, you will find OUT about the Tas Devils, BE PATIENT! I only got up to day 1!

PMH said...

So then make sure it ISN'T living....hehe

Nicola said...

That starfish must have been HUGE cuz i know how large your feet are! Wowzers! Giant starfish...what a trip you are having.