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

Kangaroo Island – day 324/14

I’m going to skip what we did when we got up because let’s face it, our bowel movements and what we ate for breakfast must be pretty damn boring by now. The most exciting thing that happened was that Katherine thought she saw Amanda’s (the Canadian) nipple at breakfast as she paraded around in a top that was two sizes too small. I missed the entire thing so I can’t vouch for the sighting. We left around 9am to head out on the days adventure. We picked up our hire car and headed out in the road. We had our trusty map, (thanks Lindy) and a tank full of fuel with the excitement of possible sea lion sightings keeping us focused. Our first stop was the Pennington bay lookout. Pennington Bay is on the south coast of KI (Kangaroo Island) that’s accessible by an unsealed road. It offers some of the best surfing on the island. The surf is not ideal for swimming but it’s great for taking photos and laying on the beach. Surfing is still the main activity as the surf can be large and rough. Next we headed off down the back roads to Clifford’s Honey Farm. Random Fact: Kangaroo Island is the last place in the world where pure Ligurian Honeybees remain. They are Italiano!!

Herein lies the end of the lore of the Hobbit. She never finished her blog and it is up to one of the big folk to finish her tale of adventure.

After watching the short informative video about the bees, looking at a see-through hive of the species and looking at artefacts of the trade, such as transport boxes for queen bees to go to other countries, we went back in to the gift shop. Tracey and I bought some of the exquisite honey ice cream and with the minimum payment on the credit card needing a few more dollars, I tried the mead. Memories of a long forgotten story of a tavern on the drive to Wicklow came back to me and the golden liquid was delicious. Far too easy to drink, it was a good thing it came in a small plastic cup. Around the corner was the Eucalyptus distillery. A compact little site with a gift shop bigger than the workshop we watched a video about the establishment as we came in to reception. Katherine was very posh and sat in the carriage for the presentation. Intrigued by the site and process of eucalyptus distillation we decided to do the self-guided tour. Katherine was our guide extraordinaire and pointed out various points of interest in the yard and explained the process stages as we passed. The jars and bottles of raw and refined eucalyptus oil were incredibly pleasant for the olfactory senses and with the multitude of uses for the oil now known to us, you can expect either a lot of trips to a Swedish sauna or a house smelling of the stuff in the near future. Driving to the Flinders Chase National Park we drove past beautiful scenery and a mixture of habitats. We paid our entry fee for the park and carried on to the Remarkable Rocks. Accurate in its nomenclature, these rocks are a prominent feature at the edge of a headland and are quite remarkable. The elements and passage of time have eroded the granite blocks to misshapen architecture with nothing between them and the Antarctic. With evidence of possums and wallabies in the area we headed off to the Admirals Arch. But, one was a bit distracted firstly by the force of the waves crashing off the two small islands and then by the hundreds of fur seals adorning the rocks. It was a while (and a lot of photos) before we descended the rest of the way to see the arch itself. A beautifully framed piece of nature – an overhang of rocks, stalactites and vegetation with intertidal rocks peppered with sealions (New Zealand fur seals) and the gentle wash of waves into the protected little alcove. But, of course with bright sunshine pouring through the opening, no camera was every going to capture the full extent and beauty of the place in a still image. On a solid bluff of rock at the top of the hill at Cape Couedic was the lighthouse. Not a picnic bench in sight, so we plonked ourselves down on the steps, cut up some avocados from the Adelaide market with our sporks and enjoyed a delicious meal. It was interrupted by the bus load of tourists stopping to take a photo of the lighthouse – bloody tourists! Guess who was amongst the throng on the tour… Amanda. Wearing a suitable bigger top, Tracey was unable to verify earlier sightings. It was probably for the best, it was a bit cold. A jaunt over to Weir Cove to see the site of the storehouse. This humble, sturdy limestone building (recently restored) would have been used to house supplies shipped in every three to four months for the occupants and lighthouse workers. Built on a treacherous, rugged coastline, I’m afraid the coastline was a bit more impressive than the history. The cliff face has still got it’s dramatic fissure hewn from the rock where the winch brought stuff up from the boats. No vegetation has yet reclaimed the passage to the sea below, but it has almost completely hidden the chains that are visible in the sand behind the car park. We chanced our pick at the caravan park down the road. MapsMe and insider info shows a walking trail around the perimeter for koalas. But, the owner was having none of it, the property just for camp site guests. Ah well, on we go. He’s losing out on a trick and could make a fortune just doing a gold coin donation. So, pulling over to see a wallaby – what the hell are you doing up in the middle of the day – we slowed down quite a bit and none of us had a camera ready for the big kangaroo that skipped across the road. Thankfully we reached Vivonne Bay without incident and looked out for the mother and calf Southern Right Whale that has taken refuge her for a bit lately. We didn’t spot any cetaceans so proceeded to try jumping photos on the sand. Tracey was either deliberately trying to tire us out with jumping or was having a special moment with the camera. Either way the slog up the sand was tough and we were silent for the journey home. 

We ended up chasing the setting sun on our way home. Knowing that the marsupials were limbering up for the night and our insurance not covering us, we couldn’t stop to take any photos. But, it is still vividly clear in our minds of how the sun cast a golden colour on the trunks of the trees and the fields between them was a blur. Dinner sorted with ease, I finished the work for the beauty clinic at the computer (finally, weeks later) and the Ninjas caught up on some drinking – Tracey with the goon and Katherine with a honey ale and goon (I tore through my vodka pop once finished the computer stuff). All to bed with snoring the minute heads hit the pillows.

Friday 26th August 2016

Byron Bay & travelling – day 296

Woke up early in our dorm, delighted to find it was still just the two of us (or someone had come and left in the middle of the night without us knowing!!). Got dressed and checked out, putting our bags into a storage locker and having breakfast before heading out for the day. Byron Bay has a reputation of being a famous beach town and it was lovely, but not entirely sure what the fuss is about. I could have happily lived there as a local but, for us, a day as a tourist was plenty! The beaches are great but we’ve already seen spectacular beaches along this coast (and are due to see even better ones shortly!!). The vibe in the town is very surf culture meets hippie, resulting in lots of barefooted people padding around the streets and supermarkets. That being said, it was lovely – possibly because it wasn’t as crowded as it could be – and we had a great time wandering through the back streets on our way to the Cape Byron State Conservation Park. We started on the Cape Byron walking track and, before too long, we were treated to views of dolphins swimming adjacent to the morning kayak group (lucky bastards!). You can see how close they got…IMG_1956IMG_1967We continued along the path, encountering brush turkeys along the way and stopping off at various view points to admire the spectacular views and watch the migrating whales pass by… That’s right – we have now seen humpback whales for five days in a row. Jayne is beside herself and I think, now more than ever, I have a real chance of convincing her to move here!! The walking path hugs the headland as it dips and soars towards the lighthouse. We managed to spot some more whales passing at the most easterly point of Australia.IMG_1983IMG_2545We stayed for ages at the lighthouse, admiring the view and being wowed by the passing marine life. So much so that any plans of renting a surf board before our coach this afternoon went out the window as the time flew by as we sat and enjoyed. IMG_2547IMG_2550IMG_2000IMG_2012IMG_2016Walking back down towards the town, the path went through beautiful forests and it felt like we were the only people there for miles. Descended upon the beach and decided that, even though we couldn’t go surfing, didn’t mean we couldn’t have fun in the water so we jumped in!! Swimming in the ocean in the middle of winter in Australia is a lot more agreeable than doing the same thing back in the UK or Ireland!! Back at the hostel for a shower and a late lunch before catching our coach to Brisbane. Three hours later, we were walking through the streets to the YHA. I sorted out laundry whilst Jayne went to Dominos to get us something for dinner. Sat on the roof top terrace, enjoying the eye-popping views of the city before going to bed.

Friday 29th July 2016