50 things we’ve learnt during our 84/62 days in Australia. 

1. Kangaroos kill more Australians each year than sharks and crocodiles. 

2. A Melbourne tram can weigh up to 30 rhinos. 

3. Duvets are called ‘doonas’, bed sheets are called ‘manchesters’ and a pint of beer is called a ‘schooner’. 

4. They put beetroot in their burgers – and we both love it!

5. They have sharps boxes in all public toilets. 

6. Bag in box wine is known as ‘Goon’. 

7. Having your liquor license is slang for being a lesbian. 

8. Customs and quarantine don’t care if you are honest with what you are declaring. 

9. Fanta lemon is called ‘Lift’. 

10. Koalas have chlamydia which was their way of commuting suicide thanks to urbanisation. 

11. Time is not announced on Australian radio, as we assume that one travels between time zones frequently while still tuned to the same station. 

12. News headlines are not common on some radio stations and we struggled to find a source of info for the horrible attack in Nice and the trouble in Turkey. 

13. Cyclists are allowed on the motorway. You may know Jayne’s opinion of cyclists already. Let’s just say they did nothing for their reputation. 

14. You must wear your seat belt on a Greyhound coach. It makes it awkward to sleep. 

15. When you see sign post trails for ‘One Way’ it might mean that the route is one way only or that the time suggested for the trail is only for going one way. It’s very confusing. 

16. It is possible and far more rewarding to see whales from the coastline than on a boat. Whale watching trips might get you close in NSW, but it feels like whale chasing. 

17. The electric boxes in Brisbane are all painted. They range from traditional and abstract art to pieces that relate to the building next to them, i.e. Fire Station. The boxes in Hobart bear no resemblance to neighbouring buildings, just decorative.  

18. Australia used to be called ‘New Holland’, Tasmania used to be called ‘Van Diemen’s Land’ and Melbourne used to be called ‘Batmania’. 

19. If you’re one of those people that can’t sleep through the night or wake up during an overnight bus journey, we’d recommend sitting near the front. The filth that the truckers say on the short wave radio at night time is hilarious. Especially the Queensland lot. 

20. When on a cruise in the Whitsundays, bring a torch so you can see the stars. (We truly despair for humanity when we heard someone asking for this.)

21. 50% of the lampposts and electric poles on a Magnetic Island are painted. 

22. Katherine can speak Koala. 

23. Cassowary are the 2nd heaviest and 3rd tallest bird in the world. The ostrich is top of the list for both categories, but the emu is taller but lighter. 

24. There’s only a few places in the world where you can get on a plane for a few hours, change time zones and the destination will have the same language, currency and won’t change the network provider on your phone. However, only in Aus can you say that you travelled across a continent and did the above. 

25. If it says don’t swim, don’t. Those crocs get massive.

26. The snap head mullet is depicted in Aboriginal drawings without a head. This is because the fish acts dead for a bit and then flaps away. The indigenous people had to start snapping their heads to make sure they didn’t loose their catch. 

27. A group of kangaroos is called a mob. Everyone knows the baby is a Joey, but dad is a Jack and mum is a Jill. 

28. There may be 40 shades of green, but no shade of red will truly capture the essence and beauty of Uluru. 

29. The outback is not as desolate and barren as one is lead to believe back home. It’s a rich environment, thriving with life and one simply needs to know where and when to look. 

30. Judges travel up and down the centre of the outback, towns not having a judge of their own. 

31. Kangaroo Island has the only pure strain of Ligurian bees in the world. It also is home to disease-free koalas and a sub-species of kangaroo. 

32. When dining from a big tub of instant noodles, the tin foil lid can be used as a separate bowl when wrapped up in a cup fashion. This lets you sit back and enjoy the noodles without being hunched over. 

33. Tasmania begins daylight savings 3 weeks before Victoria, Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory don’t have daylight savings at all… Ever!

34. Australia has more camels than koalas and they export them to Saudi Arabia. 

35. Speed limits in Tazzy change from dusk to dawn when the speed is reduced from 100km/hr to 45 or 65. This is to protect the wildlife. 

36. Koalas can go their whole life without drinking water. 

37. Tassy drivers are the worst in Oz. 

38. Spotted tailed quolls may look cute but are called ‘baby faced assassins’. 

39. A wombat is almost as fast as Usain Bolt (the wildlife sanctuary said faster but we looked it up!). They run at 40km/h, Usain measured 44.64km/h when setting his world record. 

40. Tasmanian Devils can be outrun by a chicken. 

41. Tasmania is the road kill capital of the world. This is the major cause of Tassy Devil death as they are scavengers. 

42. Blue lakes and pink seas… The blue lake at Mount Gambier isn’t always blue and the sea on Kangaroo Island, Cape Couedic turns pink due to lazy fur seals not going in to the water during the hot summer months to piss. 

43. Australia is the opal capital of the world. It produces 95% of the worlds opal, 99% of the rare black opal and Coober Pedy is the main producer of opals. 

44. You can’t count the age of a swamp gum by the number of rings. This is because it may have several in one year if there are wet and dry seasons. 

45. Do not touch dead snakes. We have heard a story of a child playing with a dead one and had to be rushed to hospital. They still contain venom and should be disposed of with care. We didn’t come across one single snake or venomous animal while in Australia. However, something tells me that one should always be wary and not let their guard down. 

46. The emu and kangaroo are on the coat of arms. This is symbolic as these animals can only move forwards. 

47. Australia is the smallest inhabited continent of the seven continents and is the 6th largest country by area – we’ve seen the image of the map of Europe fitting into the map of Australia!

48. Australians refer to English people as Pome, which is an acronym of Prisoners of Mother England. 

49. Australia has over 10,000 beaches. You could visit a new beach every day for over 27 years. 

50. There will never be enough time to visit everything in Oz. Choose what you want to see and try to squeeze in a few side trips. That’s the best you’ll ever manage – this place is huge!!! 

Travelling – day 336

There were 4 heaters on the ceiling of the bathroom that give out a nice warmth before and after your shower. Discovering these unique features the night before was helpful when getting up at 04:15, when the surprisingly very inactive day yesterday had left us really tired and wanting to stay curled up in bed. But, we managed to hop on the shuttle bus for 05:30 and zip back to Melbourne airport for attempt #2 at leaving the country. The gentlemen that were before us yesterday at ticket desk, at the same hotel and on the same shuttle bus, went their own way and joined the queue for check in much later than we did. In fact, the queue became mental and the regular 07:00 flight for business people flying to Sydney for meetings was delayed as JetStar hijackers took all the spare seats and were checking in late. In defence, we were told to check in at 06:00, Katherine and I wanted to be earlier for safety sake. 
We were given breakfast on the short haul flight to Sydney and loved the space, comfort, sophistication, et cetera of the Qantas flight. We were eagerly hopeful that the next flight would be equally luxurious, so we wrote missing blogs and listened to music. A throng of eager people buzzed through the domestic lounge to gate 15, where the shuttle bus took us to the international terminal. Through security again, the staff weren’t as pleasant as the domestic crew, but maybe they have tougher jobs dealing with different languages and more baggage trying to be taken as hand luggage? They certainly had a rough time at the boarding gate where a gent was f*ing and blinding about something. The guys behind us on the plane (seat monkeys) were also loud and we heard that the gentleman outside was rather irate as he felt that, due to the flight cancellation yesterday, he deserved to be upgraded to business class and wasn’t boarding the plane unless it happened… I believe his bags were removed from the hold! Also, someone they knew lost their passport somewhere between checking in at Melbourne yesterday and this morning and couldn’t even make it to Sydney. The whole scene was a small Month Python sketch and we were lucky to have a pleasant passenger next to us for the flight. A delectable homemade drink of orange and hibiscus was served before a choice of lunch – Katherine ordered the pork chop, I had the beef curry. With a garlic bread bun and rhubarb desert we had struck out big time. So, when the drinks trolley came through and we were on film numero duo we were now sipping G&T’s. It’s a tough life as an international drifter. 

Skip ahead some easy trips to the bathroom as we didn’t block anyone, sparkling wines, more films and to series, a flat beard cheese concoction for an amuse bouche and we touched down in Bangkok, a day later than planned and a longer flight than anticipated. We knew the airport well and self guided went through immigration, collected bags and were on a train in to the city. 
In the space of dumping bags in the room and returning to our infamous street restaurant the heavens had opened and the rain was pouring down. But, nothing, not even the smell of sewage from the flowing sewers could ruin the papaya salad and green curry to finish a perfect day. Plus, a private room to snuggle up and drift asleep. Wednesday 7th September 2016

Stranded – day 335

An early start to catch our 7am shuttle bus from Shepparton to Melbourne Tullamarine airport. It meant we would get to the airport far too early for our flight to Bangkok but it saved us the hassle of getting the train and then connecting to the SkyBus once in town. Tracey was our hero, dropping us off at the pick up point and waiting until our bus turned up before heading off to work. Cue tears, hugs and silly photos as we waited – can’t quite believe our time in Australia is over. It has been epic!An easy bus drive, stopping in Seymour for a coffee and toilet stop before continuing onto the airport. Checked in using the machines (no human contact allowed when you are travelling with low cost airline, JetStar) only to then have an issue putting my bag through. Turns out the check in machines will tell you to proceed to the bag drop machine but they can’t quite tell you that that bag drop machine won’t check your bag until someone hidden behind a wall will allow it to! Fortunately, a passing elusive JetStar employee was walking past and managed to override said arsy and temperamental machine to check in my baggage. Security and border control was easy, although I still didn’t get a stamp in my passport (very disappointing Australia!!) and we waited in the lounge for our flight to be called. Got some water and a couple of magazines to pass the time before tucking into an early lunch at Hungry Jacks, knowing that we wouldn’t get food on the plane (budget airline, remember?!?). We were waiting at the gate when we got the announcement that the plane was going to be delayed by an hour. I understand that this is an inconvenience to lots of people but I always maintain that I’d rather be late than in a plane that shouldn’t be flying! Anyway, one hour turned into two and the gentleman beside us decided to use this as a chance to talk to us (we clearly still haven’t perfected that ‘leave us alone’ aura). Apparently having tried to fool the airline by not paying for checked bag and only bringing hand luggage, he was furious that they weighed his bags to find they were 7kg OVER the 7kg limit… He was then equally furious that they made him pay $120 to keep his bag. I didn’t think it was an appropriate time to tell him that I prepaid $12 for our 20kg backpack! When the announcement came that it was a three hour delay, he stormed off and we used he opportunity to find a plug to charge our phone and to swap seats. We got offered $10 food vouchers each due to the delay so Jayne went off in search of ‘second lunch’ whilst I guarded our charging devices. At four and a half hours delay, the announcement came through that the flight was cancelled. Shouting from other passengers occurred immediately as Jayne and I looked over in bewilderment. Our only concern was where were we going to sleep tonight?!? Marched back through passport control with security guards and collected our bags, we then headed up to the check in desk to await our fate… Fortunately, we were lucky and were about fifth in the queue. Managed to get a hotel room for tonight together since they had booked us into separate hotels, with $30 worth of food each and a new flight on a better airline (Qantas) for tomorrow although we would be going via Sydney and not direct. Not bothered in the slightest, we left the poor ladies to deal with the rest of the raging passengers and headed to our free shuttle bus to our free hotel. Checked in at the hotel and confused the reception lady who was adamant about giving us a twin room. Even when we told her we were married and wanted a double bed, she was determined to find us a twin room. Don’t think Australia really understands the lesbian thing… All sorted with a double bed, we were told that we would also receive a free glass of wine with dinner, so we booked ourselves a table and headed out for a quick walk. Nothing really to see or do, except for a selfie outside the world largest lolly (sweet) shop and bought some amuse-bouche cheesy chicken nuggets at Red Rooster(I’d wanted to try them for ages and never got around to it!). Back at the hotel for a really nice meal, we even considered it our belated wedding anniversary meal, with free wine and enough on our meal voucher for a cheeky dessert too! Back in our room to snuggle up early since we needed to be up at 4.30am to try leaving Australia again tomorrow. Tuesday 6th September 2016

Shepparton – day 334

We stayed hid in our room until Tracey had left for work, like rabbits in a warren until the danger has passed. Except, Tracey isn’t a danger unless she’s driving the outback or doesn’t have a morning coffee. It’s just best not to get in the way when someone has a morning routine and needs to get to work. Our usual morning routine took considerably less time than the last few mornings, with jobs to do and things to plan over the next few weeks and months. Using the opportunity with the last bit of guaranteed good wifi we were stuck on computers and iPads for most of the day whilst Katherine got to the bottomless pit of washing and sorting out bags, including what we were going to post back to the UK. 
It was during the day of catching up on blog photos that we realised that we had filled up our 3GB allowance of data on WordPress. Thus, we had to upgrade to site. The payment, as one might expect, was a simple matter. Everyone is very quick to take your money. The tricky, stressful and slow going affair was transferring the domain name from GoDaddy to Google so that I could then safely link the new domain name to the WordPress account. A complicated account of proceeding would bore everyone except a true nerd and there was probably a much simpler technique had I been more in practice. The end result however spoke for itself, the new website is up and running and with a catchy title to boot… ‘transtravels.world’. 
With everything now back on track for the day, I wanted to make sure we had all of Tracey’s photos and she had all of ours. An antique netbook with high speed external hard drives equates to snail paced transfers and I sorted out some packing in between folders of photos. 

Even Chilli dog doesnt want us to leave!

Katherine cooked dinner (and none of us died!) although it was a simple meal of chicken pesto pasta using up the left over chicken breasts from last nights BBQ. A yellow food day with no signs of vegetables or fruit. Well, there were three vegetables – couch potatoes – watching Zumbo’s Just Deserts on tv and channel hopping for the evening while chatting. Tracey hit the hay and we finished packing for the next leg of our adventure. 

Monday 5th September 2016

Shepparton – day 333

Happy Father’s Day to all the Aussie Dad’s. With enough adverts being on tv for the coming weeks, it was hard to be believe that it was finally here. So what does one do… very little until going around to Tracey’s parents house, where her dad will cook us dinner on the BBQ. 
Enjoying several cups of coffee and easing in to the day, I whisked up a batch of pancakes and we ate a stack with some fresh lemon and sugar. The two Ninjas went off to KMart and Coles for shopping and browsing and I plonked myself in front of the beloved and missed tv to watch a film. But, still tired from two months on the go and not sure when the other two would be back I put on a film that I would be happy to turn off. Of course, I could have watched two by the time they came back with bits and pieces and food for the evening. 
Preparing some salads and jacket potatoes to bring with us, Katherine was all excited at the idea of being able to try the Eski scooter. When we arrived I got to see the famous Chevvie and Eski scooter (a scooter made from an ice box). With an offer that couldn’t be refused we zoomed off down the backroads in the vintage blue Chevrolet. The speed and power were incredible and apparently it does better when the engine is warmer. BETTER??? Pure power, motoring down the road with plum trees blooming. I think Katherine has found a close second to the VW Campervan if she ever wins the lotto. Back at base, without even asking, clearly telepathy being one of Kat’s new gifts, John went about powering up the Eski. The engine is inside the ice box and the battery is flat, so needed a boost start from another. The result… a tiny little scooter that revved to life in the back garden from the creativity of a mechanical genius. Showing Kat the controls and telling her the safety briefing, she did a few lengths of the gravel. With toys aplenty, there was an electric scooter to try (more up my alley) and obligatory photos with daredevil poses. So, we (that would be John and I) started the BBQ in the dark. Florrie was busy setting tables and plating salads and other assortments. Ninjas… Sat on their asses and drank. So, a bit of ridicule that we all did something for Father’s Day except Tracey (she did get a present, just slagging her), we had a fabulous evening before heading off. A perfect way to end the weekend. Sunday 4th September 2016

Shepparton – day 332

We feel that today can be summed up perfectly by the song ‘Hangover’ by Taio Cruz featuring Flo Rida. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the musical genius of this catchy tune, I have included some of the lyrics below… 

I got a hangover, whoa! 

I’ve been drinking too much for sure

I got a hangover, whoa! 

I got an empty cup 

Pour me some more


So I can go until I blow up, eh

And I can drink until I throw up, eh

And I don’t ever ever want to grow up, eh

I wanna keep it going, ke-keep, keep it going, going, going, going….


I got a little bit trashed last night, night

I got a little bit wasted, yeah yeah

I got a little bit mashed last night, night

I got a little shit faced it, yeah yeah


So that was us… All recovering from last nights antics although it seemed slightly worse for Tracey who had to do her half day work at the florist shop whilst Jayne and I sat quietly on the sofa drinking coffee and eating yellow food. I tried to upload some blogs but it was just all too much and I had neither the will or the energy to continue. Besides, I needed more caffeine!!Tracey came home around 2pm and joined us as we made sizeable arse prints on her couch, watching ‘Hot Fuzz’ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ before catching up on some ‘Zumbo’s Just Deserts’ (like Masterchef but only with deserts – it made me wish that I could bake!!). Tracey made us dinner of chilli mince and tortilla chips as we continued vegin’ out on the sofa. Saturday 3rd September 2016

Shepparton – day 331

Up the hill and across the road to the train station, we had Hungry Jacks for breakfast. The Hero Burger was beautiful and with a little self restraint we left without ordering more. I saw a little restraint… We went down a flight of stairs to Woolies and bought blueberry muffins for the train. The muffins and a banana (inscribed with Happy 4th Anniversary) were my presents for the traditional Fruit or Flowers wedding gift. A sign of true love is someone who hates bananas writing you a message on them. John and Florrie (Tracey’s parents) very kindly picked us up from the train station. So, we went an had an early lunch and killed an hour or two chatting. We shared loads of stories about travels and years gone by and enjoyed the unusual trio of dips with crunchy ciabatta bread and fine coffee. We had a bit of a comedy moment when John was all perplexed by the woman at the till whom wouldn’t take payment for lunch, the rest of knowing that I had already snuck off to pay for it. We were soon back at Casa de Hobbito and not long after dumping the bags we were having fresh hot showers. Tracey was pent up with excitement and energy when she got home. It would be nice to say that it was all directed at us, but truth be told only the dog really cared. Tracey was excited about her charity event that evening and we were ready and able to help. Outside and waiting for the taxi before it even sent a text saying it was around the corner we were at the Aussie Hotel close on 5 bells with 2 hours to set up. 

The event, Drags Aloud Bingo, didn’t need much prep-work. The two stars of the evening brought most of the stuff with them and we just helped carrying equipment, checking table numbers, placing the bingo cards around the seats, pens and such trivialities. People started flooding in at 19:00, and with all great plans, some people are always late. But, it checked off with a bang and it was a mega night. Tracey had a speech prepared and I’ll be honest, I’ve forgotten nearly every act from it, but was at the time astounding by the charity organisation itself and how much money it had raised since it’s founding. Tonight’s spectacular event raised $2,800 of pure profit. Tireless effort from Miss Tracey meant the Drag Queens, venue, advertising and food was all paid for and every bit of the proceeds was heading to the bank in the morning. Well done Tracey!!!

With 4 rounds of Bingo to be played everyone saw how the evening was shaping up. The first winner was ridiculed by the hosts. The spectators that made eye contact were picked on and those that Tracey had previously mentioned were singled out. Eventually everyone, including the ‘victims’ were in conniptions of laughter, and the tears were rolling down faces and folks smacking the tables or stomping their feet with glee. There was a moment in the evening where time stood still, the sweat glands opened and the impending doom lay upon me. I had managed to match all the numbers. The girls next to me were keeping tabs on my impressive array of dots, Katherine was shouting Bingo and pointing at me and all I could do, frozen as a statue was raise my hand with the booklet of numbers. The horror was looming, the questions, the mockery, standing up in front of everyone. I wanted fire alarms to go off. I wanted to run for the stair well and freedom. I wanted to award someone else the honour. No, I was dragged by one of the lovely hosts to the front and they went easy on me. Seeing what a mess I was, comparatively to how I was setting up the hall, they only asked name, where I was from, a few Irish jokes and I was free to leave.Back at the table I was a now dripping in sweat, shaking like a leaf and unable to speak. Much to the amusement of the others at the table I managed to drink some water and nibble some food and get the nerves back in check. So, able to put one leg in front of the other I went to visit the queens to see if they needed anything during the half time break. They were all good, and after a chat about their visits to Dublin, I requested that they wind poor Tracey up a bit during the next section. So it was that going around the tables and mingling with the bingo wings that there happened to be a phrase mentioned that set Tracey on edge. They were saying ‘Ridgey Didge’ and got the crowd involved. With so many admitting it was a real word and people used it regularly, it was said more and more often for the rest of the night. It was even mentioned to the taxi driver on the way home – after a few drinks with friends from the rotary club (an awkward conversation about being a woman, not a guy) – and pulling through Maccers for a late night feast back at the house. Food devoured we slinked off to bed. 

Friday 2nd September 2016

Hobart – day 330

Deciding to avoid the squeeze in the kitchen for the final time, we opted to grab all our cereal, milk, foldable bowls and our sporks to eat breakfast al fresco at the summit of Mount Wellington. The drive through the streets towards the 1270m high mountain was pretty straight forward although, with no petrol stations en route refreshing our memories, we had got half way up to the summit when the petrol gauge light came one… Driving straight past one of the view points on our way up, the glimpsing view was spectacular and made us even more excited about the view from the top! However, after about 5 more minutes of winding up the road through thick temperate forest, we clearly started going through the cloud line… The lunar rockscapes were surrounded in mist and we couldn’t see more than 10 metres in front of us. Deciding that there was no way that the cloud was going to magically disappear by the time we reached the summit, we decided to cut our loses and head back to the view point we had driven past to park up for breakfast. Would have worked out quite well too had the fog not descended at the same speed as us and we got about 2 minutes of view before we ate our breakfast looking at a stone wall and some fog!Undeterred by the start of our morning, we headed back down the mountain, stopping at the closest petrol station we could find, happy to pay the extra cost for petrol in exchange for not breaking down in the middle of nowhere on the day we were due to fly back to Melbourne. Managed to weave our way through the back streets to the Cascades Female Factory, another UNESCO site but part of the 11 convict sites in Australia so we can’t count it. The Cascades Female Factory is Australia’s most significant historic site associated with female convicts and certainly one of the more interesting convict sites we have visited, despite not having much left. The original yard was built as a gin distillery but the other four yards were purpose built, creating a self-contained institution intended to reform female convicts who had been transported from England under the pretence of being criminals but basically being sent to reproduce with the male convicts to populate the British colony. 

Thousands of women and children were imprisoned here, and many never left, due to high rates of illness and infant mortality. ​​​​Using our YHA membership cards again, we got a concession rate on entry and a guided introduction to the site and its stories. During the guided tour of the site, the guide gave us insights into the regimented system of punishment and reform that operated within these walls. Made us question whether these women were more sinned against than sinning?​ The only building still standing is the Matrons house that was, until recently, still occupied by a local family before being resold to the historical society (I guess it must have been frustrating having tourists pressed up against your lounge window every day). We finished our visit to the site by looking at the book of names for children who had died at the site… The list went on and on – very sad, especially when the cause of death for most of them was due to poor sanitation and drinking dirty water. Getting back in the car, we headed out of town and, with a few hours to kill, headed to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary. The Sanctuary houses wombats, koalas, birds, quolls and many amazing natives including the Tasmanian devils. They also have over 80 free-roaming kangaroos which we got to hand-feed with complimentary kangaroo food. They were so much bigger than the kangaroos we fed on Kangaroo Island – it was slightly intimidating. We managed to squeeze in the 2pm guided tour where we got to hear some little-known facts about the wildlife (such as a wombat can outrun Usain Bolt) and stories of orphaned animals in care at the sanctuary. The tour included seeing the devils devour a snack (it looked like the carcass of a hedgehog) and pats and take close-up photos of the wombat and koalas – it was surprisingly good for a small place. 

Back at Hobart airport, we returned the car (having clocked up over 900km in four days) and waited for our plane back to Melbourne. A quick flight, an easy transfer on the SkyBus to the city centre and we were checked in at the YHA. Decided to treat ourselves to ‘dinner’ out, we went to the kebab shop we had spotted all those weeks ago when we had come to Melbourne for the weekend. Ordered a ‘snack-pack’ that was so enormous, we had to share it! Watched a little bit of TV in the television room before heading up to bed. Thursday 1st September 2016

Mount Field National Park – day 329

Another early start as we did our usual morning routine and headed out to our 54th UNESCO site, Mount Field National Park, part of the Tasmania Wilderness and, fortunately, an easy drive from Hobart. Mount Field National Park was founded in 1916, making it, along with Freycinet National Park, Tasmania’s oldest national park. The drive out of town was easy and we got to see the changing scenery as we zoomed past in the car, as well as passing (what looked like) a cherry farm. Shame there was no fruit growing on the trees as the ones within arms reach may have been stripped bare! There was also several vivid rainbows.Purchased our permit pass from the visitors centre and, wanting to avoid the crowds that usually turn up on day coach trips from the capital, headed straight for the popular Russell Falls walk. Considered one of Tasmania’s best knew scenic attractions, the 10 minute level ground walk dropped us right in front of the magnificent waterfall. Green and graceful ferns lined the track edges while giant eucalypts towered overhead. The tiered-cascade waterfall itself was absolutely stunning and gushing with water. So much so, it was hard to take a photo as our camera lenses kept getting wet and we needed to wipe them with a tissue after every shot to remove the water droplets. Walking up the slope and some incredibly slippery steps, we arrived at the top of Russell Falls where you could appreciate the rush of sound that came from the amount of water passing through it every second. About 100 metres further upstream we arrived at another tiered-cascade waterfall, Horseshoe Falls. Not as big as Russell Falls but equally as captivating, Jayne managed to play around with some of the shutter speeds on her camera to get some nice shots of the waterfall.Continuing on with our walk in the National Park, we entered into the Tall Trees walk which took us through a forest that features the world’s tallest flowering plants and one of the tallest trees in the world, second to the coast redwood – the magnificent swamp gums. A straight-trunked tree with smooth grey bark and a stocking of rough brown bark to 5–20 metres above the ground, it regularly grows to 85 metres, with the tallest living specimen, the Centurion, standing 99.6 metres tall in Tasmania. The trail took us about 30 minutes during which time we saw a pink breasted robin and a pademelon (a marsupial endemic to Tasmania). We then completed the circuit with a visit to Lady Barron falls. Another tiered-cascade waterfall named in honour of Lady Clara Barron, the wife of Sir Henry Barron, who was the Governor of Tasmania from 1909 to 1913, and Governor of Western Australia from 1913 to 1917.

Back at the visitor centre car park we decided to drive up road to Lake Dobson. The lady at the desk had assured us that the road was suitable for a 2-wheel drive car but once it started raining, the drive got a little scarier. I was able to distract myself slightly as the tyres slid about on the mud by the diversity in vegetation, ranging from tall swamp gum forests and massive tree ferns at the base of the mountain, through rainforest along the road, to alpine vegetation at the top – this park really did have it all!Finally arriving at the top of the road, we headed into the hut to eat our lunch. Colder inside than it was outside, at least we had some shelter from the rain whilst we ate. Deciding to put on our rain jackets and brace ourselves against the wind, snow and rain we headed out to walk around the lake. Jayne found enough snow on the ground to make a snowman (Tommy the Tasmanian Snowman) although my hands were too cold to even consider removing them from my coat pocket!The walk around the lake is called the Pandani Grove walk and it is named after the remarkable Pandani, which is just one of many subalpine plants found in Tasmania and nowhere else on Earth. Along the walk we encountered numerous alpine plants and, it seemed like, there was a greater diversity of plants at the top of the mountain than at the base. At the end of the lake, we entered into a stunning patch of forest dominated by a mixture of pandanis and pencil pines. Pencil pines are one of a number of ancient conifers that are endemic to Tasmania. Got chatting to a local lady who was also walking around the lake and chatted about her heritage being from UK and how she came up to this region every winter with her kids to take them skiing. Continued walking around the lake, keeping an eye out for the elusive platypus that can occasionally be spotted in the lake, especially around dawn and dusk. It must have been our lucky day because the afore-mentioned lady came charging back down the path telling us there was a platypus near the waters edge. Cue, the three of us standing in the cold rain looking into the deeps of the dark lake trying to spot him again – we must have been quite a sight! Fortunately, our patience (and soaking wet feet) paid off and we got to watch him for about thirty minutes, scavenging for food along the fallen branches in the water. When he started swimming across to the other side of the lake, we said goodbye to the lady and returned to the car to blast hot air onto our soaking wet and freezing cold feet. An easier drive back down the mountain and into Hobart. Stopped by the Botanical Gardens to have a quick look around but they closed slightly early than we had realised as it is winter! Managed to get a quick peek just past the gate but didn’t want to venture too far for fear of being looked in for the night. Drove back to the YHA where we had the usual battle to find some space in the kitchen to prepare dinner before jumping into bed to watch half of ‘Miss Congeniality’ – I was too tired to finish it and Jayne was frustrated that I had chosen the film and couldn’t even finish it… Oops! 

Wednesday 31st August 2016

Coles Bay – day 328

We had set our alarms for an early start but didn’t really need to… It was freezing! I even woke up at one point, contemplating whether to release myself from the cocoon of blankets to steal the free duvet from the bunk above. This idea was squashed quickly as I didn’t want to move one inch to let any cold in so slept huddled up and fully clothed. Ah… It brought back memories of being a poor university student all those years ago! 

Warmed up in the shower, dressed and in the car before the other ‘hostel’ guests were up, we headed back down the road we had driven on last night at some ridiculously slow pace. In the daylight, it didn’t seem so scary but, with the amount of roadkill on the side of the road, it was a good job that we had gone slow. 
I drove us the 30 minutes down the road as Jayne fancied doing some scuba diving. I really wanted to join her but my ears have been a bit sore recently and I didn’t want to push it, especially since I shouldn’t really be scuba diving at all. Dropping Jayne off at the dive centre, the one shore dive quickly became a boat dive followed by a shore dive. So with my blessing, she headed off for around four hours and got back in the car and headed back down in the direction we had just come from to walk in the Freycinet National Park on my own (cue the tiny violins!!!) Jayne: Unless, there was a crab called Sebastien, some trumpetfish and a guitarshark lurking nearby, there was no lament as Katherine drove off. Ok, maybe a small bit of guilt. Suited and booted, into the back of a rusty old truck, hopped on a boat before the boat was professionally launched behind the Governor Island. 5minutes around this bit of rock, being watched by the fur seals, we arrived at our dive site: Bird Rock. There were no birds on the rock itself and the churning water didn’t look appealing. But, the dive was a treasure trove, especially with one of the easiest accessible sites EVER! Giant rock boulders and gullies contained a variety of life. The surge was at times a difficulty, others a real joy. The trickiest moments were when going through the caverns and swim-throughs when it had to be timed well to get in to the sweet spot where it wouldn’t knock you against the sides, seabed or cave roof. Going through all these passages was fabulous. It was explained to me later that it was much to do about giving the open water diver a chance to practice old buoyancy skills before going to dive some particular wreck. A multitude of fish species that I can’t remember the names to, a draughtboard shark, old wives, secretive crayfish, massive abalones, colourful sponges and tunicates and a patchwork of encrusting algae where seaweeds and kelp didn’t grow. I managed to squeeze my fat ass out of a tight gap, idiot skinny people thought we would all fit through, waited for the last diver to shimmy through as well (at least it wasn’t just me), and returned to base for a hot milo and chit chat. The owner and the club are all heading off to Papua New Guinea soon and Bob and I chatted loads about hiking the Himalayas – not something he was expecting. Second dive was just Al and myself. An interesting ride down in the other jeep, with wide turns for the vehicle that didn’t have power steering, he set up a dive flag at the end of the pier and I picked up a smashed phone from the car park. This site was even better than the first – it is no wonder that so many locals dive it several times a week. Depth instantly off the pier with a beautiful mixture of granite sea bed, sandy areas and kelp forests. The pockets of vegetation were the best chances to spot the wildlife as we could hover and circle around the area with keen eyes looking for elusive creatures. We were thus rewarded with a pot-bellied seahorse and 6x weedy sea dragons. Completely over the moon with having seen these remarkable creatures I was fortunate enough to figure out the camera settings on the dive and get a few shots. Of course, all good things must come to an end and the idea of warming up was soon more alluring. Katherine: Having paid my park permit, and receiving a free set of posters to celebrate the centenary of Tasmania’s National Parks (what am I going to do with them?!?), I started with the Wineglass Bay walk. Considered one of the most celebrated views in Tasmania, I began the steep uphill climb on a rocky, well-constructed track up to the saddle between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson. About half way up the path, I stopped to look out over the viewpoint of Coles Bay (and to catch my breathe and strip off several layers of clothing!!) which was absolutely stunning, even more so as I was the only one there! Continuing up the path, the granite rock formations were truly mesmerising especially when they were formed during the Devonian period. At the saddle, I followed the short side track that leads to the lookout with spectacular views over the crystal clear waters and white sandy beach of Wineglass Bay. Chatted to a Welsh and Australian couple who were also travelling through Tasmania. Offered to take a photo for them and captured a beautiful one of the both of them and the view. When they returned the favour, the photo is a close up of me and not much else – so much so, it’s not even making the blog so you’ll have to put up with my poor attempts at selfies instead. If only Jayne was there with her long lucky selfie arm!!

Backtracking down to the car park, I headed back through the park towards the Cape Tourville circuit. A really easy walk with gentle slopes and no steps, the walk provided sweeping views of the Freycinet Peninsula, Wineglass Bay, the Tasman Sea, the Nuggets and Friendly Beaches. Stood looking for whales and other marine life for a while until a (very) loud American woman came and choose, despite the entire empty boardwalk, to stand right next to me to have a conversation with her husband about the lack of wild koalas in Australia. Seeing that I had just over an hour before I needed to collect Jayne from the dive centre and I only needed 45mins to drive there, I decided to do one more walk to Sleepy Bay. I followed the gently graded steps leading to the rocky shoreline of Sleepy Bay which, despite its name, often experiences wild and rough seas. Didn’t make it all the way to the sandy bay itself as, being conscious of time, I turned around about half way and headed back to the car. Arrived at the dive centre just before 1pm (as promised) only to have to wait for three quarters of an hour for my lovely wife to turn up – typical!! Chatted to one of the women who works in the dive centre who told me all fantastic places she has been diving in the world… I’m not jealous, not jealous at all.

Helped Jayne rinse her gear before we jumped in the car and drove to the dock where Jayne did her shore dive so she could point out where they went down and saw all the weedy sea dragons. Stopped off at the bakery on the edge of town to grab a couple of hot chocolates to warm us both up and may have, accidentally, purchased a chicken and camembert pie and a couple of caramel slices too… Oops!
An easy drive back to Hobart, stopping at Spiky Bridge on the way. As the name suggests, it’s just a bridge but it’s pretty cool. Built by convicts in 1843, this bridge abruptly pops out of the landscape to baffle passers-by with its odd design. The bridge was made from field stones laid without mortar or cement and the parapet features field stones laid vertically, giving the bridge a spiky appearance. It’s claimed that the spikes were designed to prevent cattle falling over the sides of the bridge, though no one really knows if this is true. There are also the remains of the Governor’s cottage on the hill overlooking the unusual bridge.Back in the car, we cruised back to Hobart, stopping in a nearby town to waste away time in Coles buying dinner supplies as we can’t park outside the hostel before 6pm. Back at the hostel, I got busy with a much needed load of laundry whilst Jayne tackled the mess in the tiny kitchen to make us some dinner. The lovely lady at reception had put us in a dorm room on our own so we were able to snuggle up in bed, watching a film at the end of the day and looking at Jayne’s photos from the dives. 

Tuesday 30th August 2016