Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Roadtrip! (Tasmania Leg)

September 24, 2007

We took a late morning flight to Launceston. As we were flying over the north of the island, I noticed that the crops were grown in circles. That provided a new sight compared to the usual grids seen in Victoria and South Australia. Too bad I was too sleepy to take any shots of the 'round' plantations. We arrived in time to feel hungry for lunch.

In all honesty, I felt that even Launceston Airport was an experience in itself - you actually do have to get out of the building to collect your own luggage from the trailer. It's like those ulu airports in the mountain areas of Sarawak (according to a certain source). We collected our car from Europcar. They gave us a brand new Nissan X-Trail! When I say brand new, I really do mean brand new - it was only at 228km.

So, off we drove off in the brand new white 4WD in search for a signboard that said either "Freeway" or "M1". The area outside Launceston is very much like the rest of Australia - green, green and green. But, there are more sheep on this tiny island. Launceston is a beautiful hilly town but we did not stay for long. We continued on the M1 to head towards our first stop: Cradle Mountain.

Somewhere along the way, Dad decided to turn off the main highway to use the B road instead of the A road. From afar, we saw signboards advertising an award-winning pie shop. Listening to our hungry instincts, we stopped to have lunch. Wah, so yummy...

The drive to Cradle Mountain was not easy due to the windy and narrow roads. It was also slippery and misty as it had been raining. However, the scenery made up for all that.

Listening to all the 5 CDs I brought along helped with my motion-sickness and Mum was on a constant lookout for wild animals.

The forest nearer to the entrance of the national park where the mountain is situated was a sad sight. All that was left were black soot and burnt tree stumps. So sad........ but once in the national park, it was all green. As we were hunting for a place to spend the night, we came across a cute round four-legged friend - a wombat. It was SO CUTE!!!!!

We were getting a little worried that we wouldn't be able to find a room for the night - no luck with anything. In the end, we settled for a family cabin. It wasn't very cheap but it was better than nothing. When we saw the place, our initial reservations disappeared as it was much better than what we'd expected. It had a king-sized bed with cable TV, and 2 double-decker beds in one room. The bathroom was well-equiped as well. After placing our luggages in the room, we headed out to hunt for food. We had dinner at another hotel. The interior of the place was natural with plenty of timber and a snazzy fireplace.

Funnily enough, we ordered seafood. I had extra alcohol to help warm the body up. After dinner, we took a slow drive around the area with the headlights off. So many little friends were out looking for food, as well! We saw more wombats, two Tasmanian Devils, wallabies and pademelons!

September 25, 2007

You seriously have no idea how cold that place is. We had ice covering our windscreen and windows. We had to onion ourselves. There was snow on the mountain. Wah.... super freezing I tell you.... just recalling it feels cold... brrr..... Time was an issue so we did not sign up for walks but we took plenty of pictures of ourselves being all 'brave' in the cold wind. Also, we took shots of the vegetation found only up there, like the round button hedges!

Managed to take a few shots of the 'cradle' and then we started our journey back down the mountain. We were supposed to stop at Mole Creek to have a look at Solomon Caves but we couldn't make the tour times so we scooted off. Too bad we were there during the wrong season - most of the berry farms were empty and more or less dead so no berry-picking of any kind for me... =(

We stopped at a small roadside grocery shop for lunch and after that, headed down the road to visit the honey farm. Why of course, Mum is a honey bee herself. This place houses 50 over varieties of honey and everything to do with honey. They sell honey ice-cream, honey soap, honey candles, honey lotion, honey chocolate spread, bee puppets, bee kitchen towels, bee knobs, and everything else that you can think of! Just amazing! I was writing down a mental note to tell Shaun's mum about this place - she'll love it, too!

We had a small bickering deciding to either head south towards Hobart, or north up to where Mum's precious flowers were. Argh, we just had to detour up north to where I'd imagine it would be colder. I was reluctant to go because I was worried that we would not have enough time to head back down to Hobart. But, well, we were on an adventure so we might as well.

As usual, the smaller roads rewarded us with magnificent sceneries. It was here in Tasmania that I truly experienced serenity amidst Mother Nature.

As we drove on an unknown road, we passed some place colourful on the right - I didn't know what it was as I was driving. Mum went, "WAH! WAH! So pretty!!! STOP THE CAR!!!" I had to quickly turn off the main road onto a dirt road to let Mum admire the rows of colourful tulips.

I also figured that Tasmanians have plenty of time on their hands - so much so that they have to be creative even with their letter boxes. Wah..........

Have you heard of the alpaca? No? Well, what about the Llama? They are the same kind of animals. I think they even look the same. They were so friendly towards Mum as she walked up towards them to take a photo with them. But when I wanted to take one, they walked away. Hmph, so unfair. Then I asked Mum, "What is your sweater made of? Is it alpaca wool?" Her answer was affirmative and haha, that figured.

It was so hard to figure out where we were since we didn't know where we drove off to in the first place. Well, as long as we were driving in the direction of Burnie, it was fine. Haha... we were not all that lost as we managed to arrive at Burnie safe and sound. Burnie is an industrial town with cranes and huge containers and truckloads of coal or some mineral of some sort. Oh, and please, if you are planning to stay anywhere near Burnie, book a place in advance, or at least have some food with you. It more or less is DEAD at night. Just driving out to buy my can of gin and tonic took ages. Oh, but Mum was very lucky at the penguin observatory. She managed to catch a glimpse of three little fellows returning from sea. We very nearly abandoned the idea of going to the observatory as it looked deserted. It also shared a car park with the local community hall where, at the time when we were there, the local bagpipe troupe was rehearsing. My goodness! I was seriously wondering if ANY penguins would appear at such a location!

September 26, 2007

In the morning, we drove towards Wynyard crossing our fingers that there will be tulips to see. Haha, we have to be thankful as there were more tulips to take pictures with up the top of the cliff! Mum was ecstatic!

Okay, enough of the north. We happily drove back onto the Midland Highway in the direction of Hobart. Along the way, we made two stops - one at Campbell Town and one at Ross. Campbell Town had bricks laid on the ground summarising the 'stories' of the convicts that were sent there. They would read something like: Alice Smith, 17 years old, 7 years in prison stealing a handkerchief. Most of them would result in me gasping, thinking, "Oh, my gawd!"

Ross is where the oldest bridge in Australia is situated. It is still in use and it just goes to show how well-built structures can be. See, civil engineers from the olden days are also capable of good things. Just think the Egyptian pyramids and the Forbidden Temple in Beijing.

By the time we arrived in Port Arthur, it was dusk. Not a very good time to tour the place as it was supposedly haunted. So spooky... eee.... Not a big fan of such things so we were happy just browing the souvenir shop. Yes, lousy la. I know la. We drove into Hobart in time for dinner, which we had at a Vietnamese diners down at Salamanca Arts Centre. After dinner, since there was nothing to do, we experimented with the new camera Dad got from KL.

Okay la, not too bad la....

September 27, 2007

We began our day with a continental breakfast with the view of Mount Wellington. Then, it was off to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory! Yeay! If I recall correctly, this chocolate factory is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere. We were not allowed to take photographs so the entire experience had to be recorded into my memory. The most memorable part of the tour had to be the strong aroma of cocoa. Mmm..... just scrumptious..... just thinking of it know is making my mouth water.....

Then we headed back to Salamanca Arts Centre to have a walk-see. The market itself is an arts market, selling all sorts of paintings, handicraft and what not. It was a conservation project under the local council to save the old building structure of what used to be I think a warehouse. Feels very much like The Rocks. Some of the shops there are very interesting, like the Faerie House selling all sorts of things related to fairies. They also had a story-telling corner set up in an 'enchanted forest' setting.

Lunch was had across the road, where Yona recommended the 'floating' restaurants. I mean, come on, you come all the way to Tassie and not have seafood? You've got to be kiddin' me. So yup, fish and chips for lunch. While waiting for Mum to collect her order from a different shop, this conversation took place:

Dad: Girl, look at that.
Me: What?
Dad: That la.
Me: That what la? Where?
Dad: There. The baskets la.
Me: The baskets? What's wrong with the baskets?
Dad: Look harder.
Me: ............. OOOHHHHH................ (let's out a laugh) The fish comes from Sydney!!!!


Our last stop was the Tasmania Royal Botanical Gardens. I enjoyed the place, surprisingly. The tulips here were more impressive than those we saw in Canberra, maybe due to the colder climate. The blooms were bigger and the colours more striking.

Mum was on a high and even more so when she went into the greenhouse. Even Dad and I were impressed with the composition of colours and hues.

We also went to see the Sub-Antarctic plants because they supposedly are the only place with such plants. Mum also took the chance to pose with apple trees (that were not in bloom and showed no sign whatsoever that they are photogenic), as well as, cherry blossom trees. There was also the Japanese Maple tree over at the Japanese Garden.

There was a water feature that was made of tree trunks. Very creative I thought, so I took a picture:

And that was the end of my roadtrip. Ah... so contented that I managed to cover quite a bit of Australia. Next trip: Audrey Lian, are we really going up north or not???

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