Category Archives: Tasmania

Waking up with Cape Tourville

Sometimes as travelers, you can tend to think that once you’ve seen one sunrise or sunset, you’ve seen them all. The will to wake up at 5 a.m. for a sunrise might diminish after seeing some of the most renowned sunrises around the world, but for me that is always that pang of guilt (re: Catholic school) of not doing something you feel like you should.

Feeling Free in Freycinet National Park

Port Arthur had had us spinning toward our next destination, Coles Bay/Freycinet National Park. It was only about a three hour trip, and we were pumping with energy from what turned out to be an awesome morning.We made the drive down to Freycinet at around 5 PM after making a small pit stop to check out a Tasmanian devil reserve about 15k down the road from our caravan park in Port Arthur.

Tasman National Park: Dolphins, Killer Whales and Cliffs

The morning was glittering with sunlight – always a promising start for a day planned out on the water. Dane and I had booked a boat cruise with Tasman Island Tours, which runs a three hour ecocruise along the Tasman National Park in Southern Tasmania, and it was a spectacularly done trip. (Those of you planning for Tasmania, just remember: It’s the company with the yellow boats!)
After slyly maneuvering my way to the front of the boat to secure us the two best seats (I went unnoticed…talk about stealth), our boat took off on cerulean blue waters light up from rays of sunshine and excited touristic smiles. The breeze was warm against our skin, the beauty of the ocean refreshing our minds and bodies and gearing us up for some excellent fortune. We glided along the water, circling the large rocks walls that soldiered out of the waters, almost 300 meters above our heads, strong and fierce and ready to take on any battle. We ventured into the depths and darkness of caves, echoes ricocheting off the walls and the water blow-holing left and right around us. We tilted our heads back in amazement to gaze up at the cave ceilings arching above us, water dripping down on us and providing a momentary relief from the hot sun beating down outside.

We made a stop to see some floating sand dunes (pictured above), peeked around another cave, and then it happened. It was like we were at some kind of magic show. Our boat picked up speed and darted out for the middle of no where, an Albatross soaring in the stretch of blue above us, flaunting its magnificently wide wingspan giving it that incredible grace and elegance of flying that we could only dream of.
The area around our boat suddenly became a playground of dolphins. They frolicked in our wake, racing ahead of the boat, doing flips and jumps and swimming around like acrobats. I felt so overwhelmed with happiness and curiosity and freedom and excitement – all I wanted to do was jump in the water and play with them. They had this sparkly playfulness in their eyes that electrified your soul. I felt like they were looking right at us, as if they had been waiting patiently for us all day to arrive. It swear they were smiling and laughing along with us.
I remember thinking in that moment that all those times of doubt – when I find myself wondering whether I should be at home writing my way up to the likes of the New York Vanity Fair or National Geographic or Rolling Stone or any of the other publications I dream of being a part of – that I do absolutely love my life. I cannot for one single second take any of these experiences for granted. I’ve done more things with my 25 years than most people could comprehend. Those “aha” moments of awe and pride and amazement only continue to strengthen as your travel and experience the world.
The dolphins put on a quite a show for us, keeping up with us as if it was a race to the finish. I think their speed is what most amazed me – their speed and their agility was just so smooth and easy.

You can see all the marks on the fin and along the spine of this dolphin.
An albatross, which can have a wingspan of up to 4 meters/12feet.

We were brimming with elation and were absolutely drunk off life. I just wanted to get in there and swim with them – how I wished I could be scuba diving in that moment. After about 10 minutes or so of playing around with the dolphins, we bid them adieu and headed off to see what else was awaiting us in that enormous ocean sprawled out infinitely in all directions.
It’s funny. There are certain things I can remember from when I was younger, and I am not just talking about general memories. I can remember my own dreams and wishes and what I had imagined when I was just 6 years old so vividly it’s as if it was ingrained in a part of my brain.
I LOVED the movie Free Willy, as did every child I’m sure. I remember at the end of the VHS there were two things: Michael Jackson’s music video, which I used to “sing” my heart out to, and an advertisement to adopt an Orca whale like Willy.
Now, I thought it meant taking it home with you like you would when you adopt a dog. I can distinctly remember envisioning an above ground, circular pool in my tiny Brooklyn of a backyard. Naturally, this pool would serve as the home to my pet killer whale. I look back on it and laugh because in my wildest dreams and imaginations, I remember that the whale had barely enough room to even move – I made it as realistic as having a whale for a pet could be. My killer whale was as long as the pool and would just float there and make a splash every so often.  I remember thinking that when I was young. I thought it could happen and I wished for it every single day: A killer whale kept as a pet in an above ground pool in Brooklyn.
Clearly that never happened. (Note: I agreed to a hamster that I named Ralph S Mouse – slight difference.) I can’t recall if I have ever even seen a killer whale anywhere but in this film — until our trip to Port Arthur.
There was heaps of seals on the rocks, sun bathing, fighting, going for a dip and enjoying their day while we snapped as many photo ops as we  could. These were New Zealand seals, and though they were of a different breed they were still as curious as the ones we saw in Stanley.

Our captain got a call, told us all to get in our seats and he swerved the boat around like we were in some kind of James Bond film. There were two – not one, but two – killer whales swimming about, making their way toward the oblivious seals so they could get a mid-morning snack.
We waited patiently as ever for this rare sighting of the whales. Everything was saturated with silence. The boat rocked as the waves rolled their way across the waters. And then suddenly there it was.
First we saw the fin, and then we saw the tail. We never saw either of them breach, but to be honest that doesn’t matter. I still got what I consider to be a pretty solid photo given that I was shaking with disbelief and excitement.

Hands down, Port Arthur will be one of the most memorable and exhilarating trips. I can still feel that surge of excitement and that rush of absolute wonder circulating through my veins as I tried to get as many photos as I could of the dolphins. It’s a high that will never fade, and it’s the kind of high that keeps me going on my unmapped journey all over the planet.

Category: Australia, Quotes, Tasmania

History and Beauty in Hobart and Port Arthur

As I said in my first post, Tasmania appears to be much bigger before arrival; however, once you’re there, it’s a quick and easy drive  to get from one end of is the island to the other.
We were lucky enough – or should I say I was lucky enough – to go on this trip as part of Dane’s work in sales for one of the branches of his father’s companies, Garden Decor Australia. The stores were more inclined to buy products off the truck, as the shipping and freight fees were eliminated and the holiday season is heating up with buyers on the loose for the perfect presents.
Our Sunday in Stanley was followed by a couple of days of making sales on the road, which I am happy to report were successful beyond comprehension. Each day the van was basically swept out of the products we were toting around, and that meant extra luxury for us with some bigger bedroom space.
We made a trip through Hobart, which is Tasmania’s capital city and sits right on the water, and I spent some time wandering (re: shopping) around its overflowing streets. The sun was shining and people were buzzing about everywhere – it had an energy I had yet to feel since we had arrived in Tasmania. It reminded me a lot of the small town/city vibes like those of Burlington, Vermont or Providence, Rhode Island. It was just lit with this contagious energy that made your eyes smile.
Unfortunately Dane couldn’t enjoy Hobart as much as I could, as he was making calls around the city making sales calls and gave me the “day off”.

A park in Hobart where I sat and read my National Geographic Traveler magazine, compliments of my iPhone
Hobart at night, compliments of Google

There is loads to do around the Hobart area if you have the time to do it, most especially a visit to highly-talked about MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art, a delicious trip to the Cadbury Factory that most likely would have added an additional 3 kilos to my already added 3 kilos (holiday = food-a-cation) or a retail-therapy Saturday spent at the Salamanca Markets.
From Hobart, we headed to an area called Port Arthur, which I really didn’t know all too much about and had no idea of what to expect. I felt like that for a lot of Tasmania, like I went in having read a bit about it but yet had no general idea of what Tasmania would really be like.
Australia was first claimed and settled by the British, and the land down under originally started out as a penal colony.
Port Arthur was a penal station established in 1830 that transformed into a timber-getting camp for government projects to a punishment station for repeat offenders from all of the established Australian colonies. The Industrial Revolution in Britain sparked prison reform and eventually took hold of Port Arthur as it became “a machine for grinding rogues into honest men”, which used methods discipline and punishment, religious and moral instruction, classification and separation and training and education to reform prisoners.
We visited the site of Port Arthur the evening we arrived in the town and walked around what are beautifully well-kept grounds right on the water (not the worst place for a prison I guess?).
We walked through the penitentiary, where the prisoners slept, which was divided into three floors. The bottom two floors were small cells for the prisoners of bad character and the top floor was a large open space with bunks for the better-behaved prisoners.

The inside of the penitentiary, with the cells for the poorly behaved prisoners on the first floor.

We journeyed around through the Church and made our way about the grounds, eventually visiting the asylum, where Dane was able to look up family members of his that passed through Port Arthur. Turns out he’s got convict blood that I guess it’s ok, since I’ve got some mafia blood. Jokes, jokes.
Visitors can spend a full day at Port Arthur and still not experience all that this World Heritage Site has to offer. It boasts more than 30 buildings, a ferry ride to the Isle of the Dead cemetery (at an additional cost to the ticket price) and the Port Puer Boys’ Prison.
Unfortunately we arrived with only an hour left to explore before the grounds closed, though if I were warm-blooded we could have opted for the ghost tour that runs twice a night. We decided to sit down, have a meal, indulge on sweets and return to do a bit more wandering around the next day after our cruise to Tasman Island – the highlight of our trip.

Patiently waiting for his steak
Category: Australia, Quotes, Tasmania

Climbing the Nut in Stanley

We arrived on a misty morning with no direction and no motivational compass. We tossed up the idea of heading to a National Park and doing a hike, but we decided against it once we realized that an arvo (re:afternoon) nap was high on our list of things to do.

We sat at breakfast, and with each sip of coffee, my motivational momentum grew. I searched around and after suggesting we visit an area that was in the Northern Territory of Australia, which, for those of you who don’t know, is absolutely no where near Tassie, I picked up my game and made a great call (look at that play on words): We’d head northwest to Stanley, a small town famous for the once nearly-extinct Tasmanian Fur Seals that can be spotted with a boat trip offshore.
The drive to Stanley has a stunning stretch of coastline that glistens under the sun, and you just swell up with smiles. There’s this huge mountain off in the distance that juts out into the ocean and casts such an incredibly demanding presence that you can hardly take your eyes off it. All I kept saying to Dane was, “We have to go there. Where ever that is, we have toget up there.”

Our drive from Devonport to Stanley. The Nut is pictured in the distance in first image and larger in the third.

We arrived in only to discover that the touristic boat that runs tours to see the islands of seals wasn’t heading out that afternoon,so we wouldn’t be able to see them. Neither of us came all the way to this little town of 459 people and leave without seeing any seals.

After some asking around, we found ourselves a boat builder,Les, who took us out on his fishing charter for the same price as the company charges. He couldn’t take us out that day but would gladly meet us bright and early the following morning to give us an up close and personal tour of the seals.
The day stretched out in front of us. We had hours of sunshine and not a demand on how to spend them. It is a small town, so the options aren’t endless, but we made it count.
A quick arvo nap on the beach was all we needed to replenish our energy. Turns out that mountain I had spotted in the distance on our drive into Stanley was called “The Nut”, and it was a hiking trail. We decided to save it for sunset, as it would provide us with a spectacular vista of nothing but endless miles of ocean and rolling hills.
Dane found a scenic route we could drive along, and we took a bit of a ride through the Stanley countryside. We came across the most playful and loving horse and decided to have a photo shoot with him, as he loved posing for the camera and took some great photos.

We continued our drive before realising that it was almost 5 p.m., and we needed to decide what we would do about dinner if we were going to hike The Nut for sunset. )In case I had yet to mention it, the sun would set around 8:30 p.m. in Tasmania, which meant it stayed relatively light outside until after 9 p.m. The last time I can remember that happening was in Paris, when I was astounded at how long their summer days rolled on for.) Everything closed at 5, so either we needed to eat before our hike or buy some food for Dane to cook when we returned.
We made a really early head start and walked around the circuit at the plateau of The Nut. The ocean encompassed every square centimeter around us. I felt like we were at the top of the world – here I was in Tasmania, and the night was just dripping with wonder. It was like everything was all ours – no one else was around to disrupt the silence and stillness that settled at the top.

Views from the top of The Nut
Of course I was frozen solid and had a blanket wrapped around me.

Unfortunately, wound up not seeing our plan to the finish. The wind picked up, and dark clouds crept up on what had been a beautiful night sky. We figured we didn’t want to wait an hour in the cold for a sunset that probably wouldn’t happen, and so we made the trek downward, propelled by hunger and carried by the strong winds, back to the caravan park to eat some dinner.
It had turned out to be one of the most inspiring sunsets, the ones that make you come alive with hope and passion and love of life. I didn’t snap a photo, which looking back I now regret, but I do have another great sunset to settle this blog from the night of our cruise over to Tasmania.

Category: Australia, Tasmania