Note yellow arrow off the southern coast of Australia - we arived in Hobart, Tasmania at 6:30am, home of the Tasmanian Devil and listed as one of the top 10 destinations in the world. This Australian State is relatively small - 200 miles from north to south, and approximately 175 miles from east to west with a total population of 500,000. The city of Hobart is the largest, with a population of 200,000. The forecast for the day was projected north of 100 degrees, so at the last minute we signed up for a tour in the mountain regions and very glad we did - it proved to be one of the more interesting, educational, and beautiful tours we've taken.
We picked up our harbor pilot around 5:30am to help guide us through the channel and eventually our berth. It was still dark so our sail-in was uneventful – just lights from the city itself. I woke Cheryl…just in case there was something to see. I think she wants me to be more selective in the future – city lights aren’t very exciting! As we approached the pier the sun started to rise, and you could see a row of warehouses lining the waterfront. We later learned these are from the 1830 sandstone era, & that today, they are now restored to house shops, galleries, restaurants, and nightspots.
Breakfast was skipped entirely. The evening before, Cheryl and I had dinner at the Canaletto, a specialty restaurant on deck #8 featuring Italian. I took a bottle of red wine with us – a bottle purchased in New Zealand. They allow you to take unopened bottles of wine with you to any of the restaurants and bars, but charge you a $15 ‘corkage’ fee to open it. Since the dinner itself was ‘free’, I was OK paying the $15 but normally, I open the wine in our room and just carry it from one event to the next. I know that sounds tacky, and some folks frown on it, but $15 is $15 – c’mon! After all, why pay somebody $15 to pull a cork out of a bottle when I can do it myself in less than a minute?! Anyway…by the time we ate appetizers, soup, and warm garlic bread, we were both stuffed…and here come two huge plates of Lasagna! We ate less than half on our plates – we were miserably full. The evening show in the main theater was featuring an opera singer – and you know by now we both loathe opera…so I carried our half-consumed bottle of wine back to the room and lights were out by 7:30. We both laid there whimpering…”why did I eat so much?”
So again, no breakfast. We were on the tour bus at 8:15am & headed for the mountains. We went through downtown – Battery Point, near the city’s historic center was the former gun battery for the Guardhouse – also the oldest building (1818). The adjacent neighborhood was a very colorful sailor’s village along with its eclectic architecture reflecting the diversity that characterized that era. While we didn’t stop, we went past Arthur’s Circle & St. George’s Anglican Church – especially noteworthy – very beautiful. As we left the city, we began seeing several large cherry & apple orchards. The valley is also a wine region, and at the town of Berriedale, riverside Moorilla Estate is one of the largest wineries. They only produce varietal whites here because of the climate – no reds to speak of. Neither of us have a taste for ‘whites’ so we passed on the winery tours. Ninety minutes out of Hobart and about 2,000 feet above sea level the landscape began to change and we were surrounded by lush ferns and huge, towering trees, many challenging the great redwoods in California. We were now in the Tahune Forest and about to begin a 2-hour hike known as the Tahune Air Walk. As its name indicates, you literally hike through these giant trees (Swamp Gum) by way of a series of suspension bridges or ‘hanging sidewalks’. You begin your ascent gradually, weaving between these enormous trees until eventually, you are 300 feet above the forest floor and river below. The sights and scenery are amazing, but I must share with you, walking on a swinging platform that high is a bit unnerving for me. Cheryl’s fine with it – doesn’t bother her in the least. Me…well…I look at those two little cables – the only lifeline between me and certain misfortune (death) – I keep looking forward and never look down!! And then…you have a few 300+ pound folks who haven’t missed a meal since leaving Ft. Lauderdale – they start waddling & bouncing – the sidewalk starts swaying back and forth…back and forth…farther & farther…I just KNOW those damn little cables are going to snap! Many people have already turned back by now. Cheryl just keeps going. Eventually, toward the top, I work up enough nerve to look down and just about lose my dinner from the night before – OMG! Of course, I CAN’T let the people next to me know I’m ready to spew…so I just keep muttering, “Oh yes, you’re right, isn’t this just beautiful?” All the while I’m thinking…get me the hell down!!
Our local tour guide was probably one of the best we’ve ever had – seriously. He was very articulate, knowledgeable about the area, had a pleasant voice, and knew how to use the microphone on the bus. It was like listening to Marlin Perkins on Wildlife Kingdom – great guide – and I even told him so at the end of the tour as did many others. Once we were back on the bus for the trip back to Hobart, he said he didn’t mention anything about the snakes & spiders purposely because he didn’t want to scare us. He said…”You know, here in Tasmania, we have one of the deadliest spiders in the world…the Funnel spider…they borough in logs and when they detect vibration, they jump out and bite with a deadly venom.” He went on to say that the Funnel spider lives in the Tasmanian rain forest (where we were) along with four deadly snakes – he said that’s why we were broken up into small groups with two guides to keep us in the middle of the dirt pathways before we started climbing. Whew!!
I mentioned the apple orchards earlier. On our trip back to Hobart, the tour guide was kind enough to make an unscheduled stop at a roadside apple stand – the local crop had just been harvested, and for $3, you could buy a bag of freshly-picked Granny Smith apples – about a dozen. Several of us got off the bus and made a purchase. Both of us had worked up an appetite by then, so we each enjoyed a couple of cold, crisp, very tasty apples on our return trip…along with a can of Pringles Cheryl bought at the Gift Shop in the forest.
It was 2:30 by the time we got back to the ship – all aboard time was 3:30, with a sailaway party scheduled at 4:00. The winds had picked up and by the time we started pulling away from the pier, they were blowing so strong we decided to leave. The Captain informed us of a storm front moving in and said we would probably have some angry seas for several hours. As I write this 12 hours later, we’ve had a little bit of rain and some wind, but the ocean isn’t bad at all. Maybe there’s more coming our way later today?
We’re now heading toward Adelaide, Australia, scheduled to arrive at 10:00am tomorrow morning, and we’ll be there until 11:00pm.