Saturday, April 28, 2007

Like a whirlwind through Tasmania...

The second half of the Tasmanian leg of our trip has been a whirl that, combined with the fact that we spent a good portion of that time in bunkhouses in National Parks, has made it impossible to keep up on our blog. So, in the final hours of our time here, Sarah is going to attempt to bring you all up to speed on what we've been doing with a quick photo show... which frees me up to ramble a bit. But, make sure that you take a look at Sarah's post first, since I'll be presuming you'll have read it -and thus- have a rough idea of what's what.

Buying wine in Launceston - Sarah and I spent our time in Launceston touring wineries. While two of the wineries were large establishments, the third was literally a clean, metal shed set up in front of the winery owners house. As we pulled our car into his parking lot/drive way, we could see him making his way down his front walk, where he met us in front of his shed. As we tasted three of his wine offerings, he made entertaining small talk with us. And, after we'd bought some wine, he commented that he "had a good feeling about us. Some couple's talk over each other, of one of them dominates the coversation. But, you seem resepctful of each other, you'll probably have a long and happy marriage." As he shook our hands.

While we pulled away, we could help but comparing him to our family friend, Gary, who makes his own wines and who we worked with to make wine before this trip. We agreed that we both could picture Gary, in ten or twenty years, setting up a shed in his front yard where he sold wine and made conversation with random travellers who happened to stumble upon his place.

The trouble with tour groups - Sarah and I have managed to dodge being in a tour for all of Tasmania, which has been wonderful. Furthermore, Tasmania is definitely behind New Zealand when it comes to developing their tourism, especially in regards to backpackers, so we've even managed to doge having to see tour groups for the most part. There was one exception to this though, at Cradle Mt. National Park.

When we arrived there, we checked into our cozy bunkhouse. In addition to two common kitchens, and common bathrooms, there was probably twenty or so bunk rooms on the campgrounds. But, luckily, most of them seemed empty, so we where excited to get back from our day hike to get a warm fire going in a kitchen, cook up some dinner, open a bottle of wine, and spend a quiet evening reading and writting.

Unfortunately, when we got back from the hike we discovered that a tour group had basically taken over the rest of the bunk rooms, and had completely filled one of the kitchens in a cacophony of "bro"s, "dudes" and "can I bum a smokes?" As I felt my heart sink, and saw the disappointment in Sarah's eyes, I couldn't help but think:

"Y'know, I wish everyone in that tour group well... but I also wish they'd, well, go away."

In the end though, we were able to hide out in the second kitchen with a trio of Aussie bikers who were driving their motorcycles around Tasmania. And, it was an enjoyable night of food and wine. The three bikers were entertaining and friendly, and Sarah made a wonderful dinner of Indian food.

Luckily, the next morning, the tour group had departed before we left, and I would have hardly believed they were even there... if they hadn't turned the men's restroom into a swamp.

Where the wild things are - One of the definite highlights of this leg of our trip has been the wildlife. In addition to feeding the kangeroos and seeing Tasmanian Devils, like I mentioned in my last entry, we've had several other opportunities to see Tasmania's bizarre wildlife.

On several occasion, we've had the chance to see Wallabies hopping around. Wallabies are basically minature kangeroos, standing only a couple feet tall. In additioned, we've also seen their little cousins, the Pademelon. Sadly, we've also see large numbers of both dead by the side of the road, since they seem to fill the ecological nitch of "roadkill," which, in the States is filled by the possum.

But, they also have possums here too, though there are nothing like the rat-like creatures where we have in the states. Instead, they look more like a mix of a cat and a raccoon. Bushtail possums wee always lurking around the edges of campgrounds and hopping to score a quick snack.

In addition, there has been a wide number of exotic birds and parrots. And, we even spent last night trying to spot platapi near the lake we were staying near last night... but to no luck. Maybe next trip. Incidently, the platapus is much smaller then you'd think. I've always presumed it was the size of an otter or beaver, but its more like the size of a small cat or a large guinea pig. We saw a stuffed one, and were amazed at how small they are.

Probably the big show stopped though ended up being Wombats. I know Sarah will probably post a picture of one, so I won't bother describing it beyond asking you to picture a large koala about the size of a pig, that seems to spend all of its time either grazing on alpine fields or hiding in its den. We saw several at Cradle Mountain, and they entertained us immensely.

Bad parents - Incedently, while hiking, Sarah and I occasially find ourselves talking abotu what sort ofo parents we'd like to be someday. But, while walking on a boardwalk across a swampy field where Wombats grazed we saw another example of the types of parents we don't want to be:

Ahead of us were three adults chatting casually with each other as their three kids ran and tackled each other in the boggy fields while nearby signs clearly read: "Keep on path, fields are delicate and easily damaged." Amazing.

Giving up on Aussie radio - After putting up with Kiwi music for over three weeks, we finally gave up after several days of listening to Aussie music. Sadly, the Aussies seem to listen to the same awful mix of Top 40 American Pop Music tht their New Zealander friends do.

I'm sorry, I don't want to come off as a music snob, but the lyrics of the music which fill the radio stations of Tasmania and New Zealand is awful. Really, and truly awful. A small sampling of lyrics from popular songs (I know, because we put up with it for about a month):

"You make it hard to be faithful... with the lips of an angel."

"When darkness meets light.... it ends tonight!"

"You think you love me, but you don't know who I am. So just let me go."

Seriously. Awful. Why do American's make such awful pop music? And why do we export it to the rest of the world? It's like cruel and unusal punishment.

So, since we realized we'd actually gotten to the point where we were looking forward to them playing Gwen Stefani or Justin Timberlake, we broke down and bought a CD. I'm happy to announce that Arcade Fire's Neon Bible is a dense and operatic piece of gothic Americana that relies as much on the work of Bruce Springsteen as David Byrne. A great album that help us get around the second half of the island.

Sorry, I'll get off my indie-music snob soapbox now.

OK, I've got a million more things to post, but we have a plane to catch... Souteat Asia, here we come!!

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