We planned a trip to Australia in February 2011. I badly needed break from my office’s hectic and stressful schedule. It was more than a year that I took any vacation.
We went to Tasmania for 8 days. We experienced raw nature, literally inhabitant terrains and pristine beauty. Our first stop was Launceston. We flew from Melbourne to Launceston early morning. The moment our plane entered the island, it was a great view from the top. The information center at Launceston airport had a huge set of brochures about tourist attractions in and around Launceston and also about Tasmania in general. We grabbed a few copies of the relevant information. We had booked with Avis car rentals. We upgraded to Nissan XTrail, white color. We also took GPS and child booster seat. Our destination in Launceston was Tamar Valley Resort. We reached there around 11:00 am, took rest. It is a huge resort with nice fountain, a small bridge surrounded by flowers at the entrance. We got apartment at first floor and unlike India, there was no one to carry our luggage to the first floor and no elevators as well. We were tired of getting up early in the morning and then journey in plane from ML to Launceston itself was never relaxing. Thought of carrying the luggage ourselves to 1st floor made us a bit rustier. Nevertheless, we had no option. The serviced apartment was ok. The heater was only in the living room, which makes rest of the apartment very cold in the night.
We went to see Lavender farm outside Launceston and reached there after a bit of struggle to find the way, courtesy to GPS. The farm is a nice place surrounded by hills but it was not a Lavender season so could hardly see any Lavender. No one told us that this is not the season of Lavender. This is a big area of improvement for the Tasmanian Tourism that all the information should be given to the tourists including season and timing. The print media, brochures do not mention at all about season and timing. Nevertheless, the farm people have a good shop to buy various products made of genuine Lavender and a gallery to showcase Lavender farm.
Tamar Valley is a great place full of greenery, plenty of open spaces and all lush green. They had a small pond where we could see Tasmanian ducks. Sound of ducks in such a quiet place was so sweet. In the night, sky was so clear and transparent that we have never seen in our life. We could see millions of stars, so bright and seems so close. It was like a well crafted sheet of twinkle twinkle little stars just above our head. We were coming from Gurgaon where sky is always hazy full of dust and pollution all the time. So it was an astonishing experience for us. We also saw rabbits and wallabies in the night in the Tamar valley and all of them were at an arm’s distance from us.
GPS in Tasmania is not fully updated with new roads. So there is possibility that GPS might suggest you longer routes and sometimes even misguide you, but still you cannot survive without GPS especially in the city. All the highways are very well demarcated with very good signage. Still GPS is handy on highways but it is ok to switch off GPS on highway and save some electricity. The best way to travel in Tasi is to buy a roadmap (approximately 7 dollars) together with a GPS, and then you can’t get lost and with some due diligence, get best of the both.
Next day we went to Liffy falls. The moment we went off the highway into the forest, GPS went out of his mind. It was the time to switch off the GPS and we started following sign boards that took us safely to the falls. It was our first experience to see tropical forest. More than the fall, we liked the pathway to reach the falls. The whole track was about 20-30 minutes walk inside the forest having some extra-ordinary fauna. We were amazed to see the abundance of greenery, tall trees and the variety of plants stalking us all through. Excited with joy, we started rating our trip as success. Falls were beautiful. On the way back to Launceston, we had dinner at an Indian Restaurant, “Taaj Indian”. Food was good though expensive. Service was just ok. Indians are used to have onions, lemons, mint sauce etc. To our surprise, in whole of the Australia, every such small thing is chargeable. I had spent 2 years in London and visited n number of restaurants. There these things are complimentary and many times, come by default along with the main course. Anyway, every country has its own culture and way of hospitality. We spend the night back in the Tamar Valley Resort. We had opportunity to see wallabies and rabbits in the night, once again.
Next day we checked out from the Tamar Resort, said good bye to Launceston and headed towards Cradle Mountain. The terrain was awesome but it was through mountains with lots of turns. I have vertigo and fall sick quickly whenever travel through hills. I did feel nausea but it was manageable. It took us close to 2.5 hours to reach our next destination which was “Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village” right on the cradle mountain road. What a place it is!!! For next 2 days, we were in different world. The landscape was so mesmerizing as if some artist has painted it.
The cradle mountain is the fantastic place. I could never think even in my wild imaginations that there can be a place on earth so beautiful and so serene. For nature lovers, it’s no less than heaven. We stayed at “Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village”. This cottage here was truly great and full of wilderness. It must be very tough to build such a luxurious cottage in the heart of the forest and on the top of the mountain. There are couples of other resorts nearby and on the main cradle mountain road itself. We reached there around 13:30 and went to the information centre straightway after dumping our luggage in the cottage. You have to buy national park pass to enter the cradle mountain national park. The pass is available only at information centre. We parked the car there, bought the pass and took the bus that takes tourists deep inside the national park. There are various meticulously designed drop points where you can get down. There points are the start of some of the famous walks. Every inch of the entire region is full of scenic beauty. We went up till the last point which is Dove Lake. What a place it is? I don’t know how to describe it? Landscape around is mind blowing and water as clear as mirror. The lake right in the lap of the cradle mountain is as calm as a sleeping angel. As the darkness starting dawning, we left the place but we never wanted to. We saw a small wombat and kinda while waiting for the bus. In the night, we went out in our XTrail to see wallabies and wombats. We could see a few of them. The experience of driving our own night safari in the national park and looking for wild life is itself amazing. And when we looked up in the sky in the night, it was once again a fairy tale like experience. The sky seemed so close to us that we thought we can touch the stars. It looked as if an artist has painted the sky by dropping millions of shining dots in some unknown but magnificent pattern. Next day, we tried 3 more short walks. All of them were different and unique experiences. In the night, when it was pitching dark and utterly silence all around – two possums jumped into our balcony. We got frightened, came inside and closed the door quickly. It was our first experience to see Possums from so close. We could see their eyes – blood red. They are trying to crawl inside the cottage and were desperate to find the way. We had our towels hanging in the balcony. The Possums bit the towels, probably in search of food. After a while they started to walk away from our balcony and we were disappointed. We could call them back by making some animal sound and started enjoying again. But finally after around 15 minutes or so, they left our cottage. It was truly wilderness and thrilling experience.
Next day, we headed for Hobart. It was a drive of 4.5 hours approximately. On the way, we stopped at Raspberry form. The landscape was very captivating through out the drive. The high lands of golden brown grass and with delectable trees all around, each having spread out delightful branches as if dancing and speaking something. We have seen this in Hollywood movies only.
We stayed at Strickland apartments, south of Hobart. Though it was only 15 minutes drive from Hobart CBD but location was a bit odd. It was a steep downfall from the main road to reach to the apartments. It was not visible from the road at all. Our GPS kept saying you have reached the destination but we left wondering for quite some time. It is only when we got down, decided to hunt down the destination ourselves – then we could find it. The apartment was duplex but a bit congested. Wi-fi was also not working. We were disappointed especially after having stayed at places like “Tamar Valley” and “Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village” – this Strickland apartments were far below the standards in terms of being spacious, luxurious and location itself. We had dinner at Annapurna restaurant on the Elizabeth road. It was a bad experience. The service was too poor. Ambience was less than ordinary. They claim to be specialized in north Indian cuisines but it seems they have no clue of north Indian delicacies. They have another branch in Hobart where we tried on our last day and it was a better experience than this.
Next day we went to Bruny Island. The ferry took us and our XTrail to the island. It is a short ferry of only 15 minutes from the ferry terminal, outside Hobart. Our first stop was the neck at adventure bay where we could see two oceans bisected by the road. Both oceans were of contrasting nature. One was very calm and the other one so wild. We enjoyed the every minute of this majestic experience, drawn our foot in see and had good walk on beach side. The sea was having soothing blue water. My son was a bit was terrified, it was his first live beach experience. We first time saw hairy sea-shells. It looked as if, someone has implanted long African hairs inside the shells. Of-course it was all natural. Then we went to Strawberry form. We had strawberry milk shake and ice-cream. The taste was delicious and awe-inspiring. We also saw strawberries hanging from low bush like trees. There was option to choose your own berries. After that, we went to a short forest walk. It was again a nerve-wrecking experience. The million years old rainforest untouched and inhabited. The trees engulfed among each other as never ending web. We saw all shades of green, next to each other. The plantation was so overwhelming and enchanting, I am sure we cannot see this kind of plantation outside the Bruny Island. But soon our walk started turning into dreadful experience as there was no signs of end of the walk and it seemed that we are going and going very deep inside the forest with no other human being around. The path was narrowing as we go on and we were walking almost on uprooted trees. We were not sure if the road has ended or are we lost. It was dull inside the forest because there was no sun at all, trees being so tall and huge, preventing every ray of light to reach us. Suddenly thought of being attacked by an animal, heavy rain, tree slide etc. frightened us. We stopped our photography, puts cameras inside pocket, took u turn and quickly strolled back. We were really scared and wanted to get out of it as soon as possible. While rushing back, I recalled a serial of discovery channel “I should not have been alive”. But it was not that horrifying. We knew it is a matter of few minutes and we will be out of it. Soon we came out and hurriedly got into our XTrail. It was a gravel road. Our next stop was Light house. We reached there at 4:45 pm but alas; found it gets closed at 4:30 pm. We took some photographs there and saw some wonderful stunning views of the ocean. Again, it was enticing experience. After spending a few minutes, we rushed back because the last ferry to leave the Island was at 7:00 pm. We reached safely and well on time. We bidding fare well to the island, we were thinking how people survive and earn their livelihood on this raw terrain with population of only a few thousands. We had food at Taaj Indian restaurant. The owner gave us warm welcome. He was from Delhi. The food was really good and service was also good.
One thing that we observed through out Australia is that most of the attractions are glorified in brochures and their web sites. No doubt all of them are good to very good but sometimes while referring to web sites or tourist magazines, they may raise your expectations. Another point is that detailed information specific to the place is not available unless you reach there. One classic example that misguided us was Freycinet. All of the brochures at Hobart and web sites (including official sites) said it is one day excursion from Hobart. Even information center at Hobart said so. But we feel, its not. None of the brochures, website and even staff at information center said that its 3 hours walk to reach the wine glass bay at Freycinet. Imagine someone first spending 3 hours driving from Hobart to Freycinet, must be tired enough that he can not take 3 hours walk to reach the wine glass bay. It’s clearly written on the map (available from i at Coles bay) that some parts of the walk is steep and difficult. It’s even tougher when you are travelling with family. Then there are couples of other places in that area to see. And then drive back to Hobart for 3 hours in the evening or night where 50% of the journey is through the mountains and weather can go bad anytime. So in our opinion, Freycinet is not a one day excursion from Hobart at all. All the sources of information are missing a vital piece of advice/caution that you can’t take car straight up to the wine glass bay but you have to walk 3 hours (round trip) to reach this famous attraction. Had this is known well in advance, you can prepare better for the day.
Next day we went to Cadbury’s factory. It was a very different experience. They charged us EUR 7.5 per person as entry fees. The knowledge gained and the chocolates given were worth more than the fees. We got to know how choco beans are fetched from the fruit and then processed in various forms. There was a small live demo followed by presentation. They have Cadbury’s store to buy variety chocolates. They also have a café for some refreshments and hot beverages. We thoroughly enjoyed the visit. We had dinner at Annapurna Restaurant at Salmanca Place. We heard that Indian cricket team used to have meal here. It was a nice and well decorated formal ambience, but expensive. Quality of the food was good.
It was our last day at Hobart and our memorable experience has come to an end. We all were thinking if we could have stayed longer. We dropped the car at Avis center at airport. The XTrail did a great service to us, comfort and convenience. The Hobart airport is very small. Our flight was delayed by 30 minutes. We flew back to Melbourne and reached around mid night.
The trip was very hectic and tiring and tested our physical limits to stretch ourselves. There was a constant struggle between heart and mind. The island’s mesmerizing beauty always touches the heart and propels for excursions day and night while mind says take rest.