Monday, 30 May 2011

We are home

Sorry but we seem to have forgotten to let everyone know we are both back home in the UK now, how long for we are not too sure, we'd love to return and spend more time travelling more of Australia and the parts of NZ we missed. Anyway we are back and now slowly coming down to earth and trying to find a bit of work to fund another adventure. Apart from concluding, as this is the end of this journey, we'd rather think it as a new beginning. Anyone wanting go and have a travel and are dithering, all we can say don't worry and go ,if you don't like it you can always come back, and don't leave it too late, you'll realise when you've been you'll want more and time is precious!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Melbourne and Sydney

We arrived back in Melbourne hideously early thanks to a 6am flight from Hobart, we stored our bags at the station and went in search of breakfast. It was absolutely bouncing down in Melbourne. We hopped on a tram to St Kilda, Melbourne's seaside area. The rain had stopped when we got there but it was blowing a gale and cold, summer was long gone. We walked along the promenade and pier and were fortunate enough to see a Fairy/Blue Penguin tucked up in the rocks. Back in the city we vegetated at our hotel for a couple of hours before heading off to the AAMI Stadium to watch Melbourne Storm play Canberra Raiders - not the best match ever and proof that we can as a club play just as well in the UK (it's just when we become England that we get rubbish!). The stadium was fab though. We had a healthy nutritious meal of burger, chips and fizzy orange from Hungry Jacks followed by Krispy Kreme doughnuts - and we wonder why there has been no dramatic weightloss!

Our last day and a half were spent in Sydney, the Sunday was our birthday too so we decided to cram in as much as we could. We arrived at the frankly excellent hotel in The Rocks early and left our luggage with them. The hotel was about five minutes from both the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge, we chose the Opera House first. The sun was shining and there was not many folk about so we got lots of pictures before heading on the official tour inside - all a dream come true for Gary. It's hard to describe what it's like seeing stuff that you have seen in books and on TV all your life - quite a thrill. Next was a ferry trip to Manly and its surf beach, this was grand, we had to buy shorts as it was so warm! There was stacks of people surfing and playing beach volleyball and just living the aussie life. We sat and walked along the beach for a few hours before getting the ferry back to Circular Quay. Quite unbelievably on the ferry we met Nessie and John, the couple from St Helens we'd met back in Taupo and Wellington all those weeks ago, they were working and living in Sydney, though their time was almost up too. The next (and last) day we left the bags at the hotel and had a walk into the city and then around the Botanic Gardens in the sun - big spiders and fruit bats in the gardens, before walking over the Harbour Bridge for a last look before heading to the airport in the afternoon ready for our flight home and the end of our jolly to the other side of the world.

The End


Well our apartment in Hobart was much nicer than the noisy backpackers - wouldn't be able to afford it on a budget though! We couldn't check in until after 2pm so we went on a Red Decker tour of Hobart to pass a chilly morning, the tour was guided by a chap called Ivan from Nottingham - there's no escaping us Brits. We saw Hobarts nice, historic bits - Battery Point, the Botanic Gardens, the site of the female factory from convict times and the Cascade Brewery amongst others. You could spend several days just exploring Hobart town, however we had other trips planned.

First trip was to the south west of Hobart - the Huon Valley. It was a cloudy, cold morning and the road out of Hobart was steep and busy, we were glad to be on a minibus and not bikes. We followed the Huon River for a time before heading into the managed forestry land around Greevston. Here we had a short walk spotting loads of mushrooms, some quite sinister looking, also the damage done to a tree by a Black Cockatoo and the ground by a Lyre bird - neither culprit to be seen though. We did glimpse Pademelon though, cute little mini wallabies. Then it was off to the Tahune airwalk, a metal walkway through the Myrtles and Gum trees (48 metres at it's highest point). Scott our guide was interested in all the natural history and was excellent pointing out all the items of interest. We had to cross two swing bridges, that we did swing and jump on, great fun but probably not approved of by the Tasmanian Forestry people! Next it was down to see the Big Tree, an old gum probably about 87 metres high, the biggest in Oz and one of the biggest flowering plants in the world - Redwoods don't flower so don't count in these statistics though they are bigger. Onwards again to the Hastings Caves, at a brief stop at the visitors centre Ruth was lucky enough to spot a Platypus very briefly. The caves were fab, millions of years old and full of different stalagtites and a large cave spider (apparently this was a little one as they can be a foot across!). Then it was back to Hobart passing Southport and Dover and lots of rainbows.

The next day was the trip to Mount Field National Park. This was a really cold morning, snow on Mount Wellington this time. Todays trip headed north west from Hobart, first stop was at the Russell Falls and the Horseshoe Falls, both very picturesque but it was freezing in the damp forest so we walked quickly! Further along the road we arrived at the alpine mosaic (at about 1000 metres above sea level), sort of like our moorlands but with Eucalyptus, there was ice up here, but it was beautiful. We walked around Lake Dobson looking for, but not seeing, Platypus. We had a snack at the shelter watching Red Necked Kangaroos - watching them watching us. Back down the hill a trip to see more tall trees, big 80 metre high gums. Next stop in a full day was at Something Wild, a wildlife sanctuary where we saw Pademelon, Koala, Eastern Quolls, Golden Possums. Tasmanian Devils, two Platypus and a Wombat. The Platypus were very good, though a good distance away they were below us so we could see them gliding about in the river really well. The Devils were completely mental, three sisters and a brother who manhandled them about, lots of squabbling and biting, in fact they looked quite manky from all their battlings. The Quolls were also entertaining - cute, spotty and vicious. But the highlight was the wombat, she'd been hand reared by the keeper but was of an age where she was being taught how to become independant ready for release into the wild. The bloke could still pick her up like a huge teddy bear but she could bite too. She wandered around letting us all pet her and tap her on the bum (rock hard and able to kill a dog in a burrow by whacking the dog's head into the roof). Last stop as it was going dark was Mount Wellington, a long climb up but no doubt fab mountain biking down. We looked at the views of Hobart and the peninsulas while stood in snow and freezing to death. Another good trip done.

The next day was our last trip with this particular company, we weren't as lucky with the weather this time - cold and teeming down. South east this time through the Tasman Peninsula to Port Arthur and the site of one of Australia's main convict settlements. The site was picked for use as a penal settlement as the Tasman Peninsula has two narrow necks, less than 50 metres between the sea on either side so easy to guard against escapees. We went through a place called Doo Town on the way - just a small settlement where all the houses have Doo in their names - Sheil Doo, Dr Doolittle, Doo Nix etc, really sort of bonkers. Then it was off to the coast to see the Devil's Kitchen blowhole and a walk in the rain through the bush to Waterfall Bay, it was all stunning but actually quite freezing. Next stop was at another wildlife sanctuary where we got to wander amongst and feed Kangaroos and Wallabies and then witness the Devil's feeding time. They really are quite daft animals, all was peaceful and relaxed and they looked cute - much less tatty than the day befores sepecimins. And then the keeper chucked in some wallaby road kill, they went deranged. Devil's brains apparently are mostly geared towards finding food and you can tell, they would get a piece of meat after much squabbling and then run off to look for a quiet spot to eat it, however they would keep encountering another Devil and run away again, they seemed to have no recollection of where they'd been and who was where, very amusing to watch. No love lost either - this was a mother and four sons, she wasn't going to let them have her food, big fights and snarling and toe biting, fab! Last to see was a bird show, this was mostly held indoors as it was still raining, we were introduced to a Cockatoo, a Galah, a Frogmouth and some rescued birds of prey. Next was Port Arthur where it was still raining. This wasn't quite what we expected but was interesting, all the old convict buildings and the settlement that had sprung up around. Gary found a Spriggs listed in the convicts register, but no Besfords. Last stop was the Federation Chocolate factory where everyone tasted and bought masses of chocolate - the nicest we'd tasted in months.

Our last Tasmania trip was a two day tour up the east coast. This tour headed straight north at first along the old coaching route between Hobart and Launceston through scenery very like the Scottish/English Border country. There was various bits of public art along the way such as highwaymen and stage coach images. First stop of the day was at Ross, this is an old town with plenty of historic buildings from the 18th century. It was interesting to walk around even in the rain. We saw and heard two Kookaburras which was a thrill. Next stop was in Freycinet National Park at a stunning beach (don't know what it was called), to get here we had to go through what I consider to be proper Australian countryside - sparse bush, burnt in places and red dirt. The beach had turquoise seas and white sands, beautiful but perishing cold unfortunately. After a walk along the beach (and the pies we'd bought in Ross) it was back on the bus for the short trip to Coles Bay and the start of the walk over to Wineglass Bay. The sun was out at last so we had a good walk over the saddle of the Hazards before heading down (past more Pademelons) to the Bay, really quite a top spot. We had a nice our mooching about, it was a shame it was chilly as this must be amazing in summer for swimming and relaxing for the day. A quick stop at Honeymoon Bay later as the sun was setting and then it was off to the hostel at Bicheno for the night. I can imagine that Bicheno in summer is buzzing, in winter they roll up the roads at 6pm!

The next mornings first stop was St Helens, not at all like our town, this one was on the edge of the Bay Of Fires, Lonely Planets Top Spot 2010! See photos....
The Bay Of Fires was fab, white sands, sunshine, pink granite rocks and Pelicans, we went to Binalong Bay and then Cosy Corner Bay, it was difficult to leave. We left the coast after this and heading back into the mountains, the scenery here was much more like New Zealand again. We had a couple of stops at a cheese making place and some waterfalls and then it was off to Launceston and then Hobart in the dark. And that was our Tasmania trip done..