After having spent about six days in and around Hobart, I had kinda seen the place, but more importantly, the festivals ended, the weather became cloudy (it was like that and worse the last week) and the friends I had met there were also leaving. I felt it was time to move on. I had not seen the west coast of Tasmania yet, so that would be the obvious way to go. The problem was in the mode of transportation: busses were basically not an option for the west side, because they mainly go to the larger towns (once a day) and not to all the interesting national parks in between. And I could not really find anyone who was planning to travel on just the west coast either. Therefore I decided to spend some more money (225 euro) and book a 3-day tour from Hobart to Launceston. Pretty much my entire Sunday consisted of deciding this and just relaxing, except for briefly meeting up with Jennie and Sharon to say goodbye.
On Monday 5 January I was the first to be picked up by Luna (originally German, but emigrated to Tasmania) for the tour. There were 18 more participants, so it took a while before we could head off into the Styx forest to see some huge trees. There it became quite clear that this tour was going to have an environmental focus. We had lunch on a wooden bridge over a stream in the middle of the forest, before we went to see the tallest tree in the forest. A group photo was obligatory and Luna was hassling with some 15 cameras. After the photo we went even deeper into the forest (at that time we had not seen a paved road for 3 hours) to a tree sit. Basically some Greenpeace activists built a tree hut in an 84-metre high tree to protect it from being logged. We spent some time there listening to their reasons and enjoying the pristine rainforest. After seeing all these tall trees we went to Mt Field NP, also famous for its tall trees. We did a short walk to see them and two waterfalls. By the time we got back Luna had already made some BBQ preparations, but with a little help from everyone we could quickly enjoy a great BBQ in the national park. We stayed the night at a nice hostel close to Mt Field.
On Tuesday we had to get up really early because we would be driving quite far that day. The first stop was at Lake St Clair NP. There we made a short aboriginal culture walk in the forests and walked back along the lake, where we had lunch. In the afternoon we drove through the Gordon-Franklin Wild Rivers NP, a protected wilderness area. We did a short hike up to Donaghys Lookout, from where the view was 360 degrees of wilderness, except for the path we walked there was no sign of human activity. We also stopped for another short walk to the Nelson Falls. When we got out of the national park, we entered the Queenstown area, a landscape more similar to the moon than to earth, created by mining activity in the last two centuries. Since Queenstown has not much else going for it, we drove on to Tullah, where our hostel was located at the shore of the lake. The place had a bar and fireplace, and the atmosphere was really great. Needless to say, it got quite late, even though we would have to get up early in the morning.
On Wednesday we managed to depart only half an hour later than planned, but unfortunately it was raining cats and dogs. The plan for the day was doing a 5-hour hike at Cradle Mt, but with the rain pouring down no one really felt like doing that. So we drove on to the Marakoopa Cave, where we could see glowworms at the ceiling of the cave. That was really quite spectacular, the ceiling looked like it had all these stars on them. Other than the glowworms, there were also lots of stalagmites and stalagtites in quite spectacular formations. Best cave I had even seen. Next stop was a Honey Farm, where they were selling lots of different sorts of honey, from vanilla to chili. Luckily they had plastic jars, so I got some honey for in my backpack. Because we did not go hiking the last day, the tour ended relatively early in Launceston. There I showed the Cataract Gorge to a few other participants of the tour, and we had dinner altogether in the evening.
I spent Thursday in Launceston, doing laundry and making travel plans for the last days in Tasmania, as well as booking the ferry back to the mainland. Regardless of the rain, I decided to backtrack to Cradle Mt to go hiking there for two days.
On Friday I got a lift from two English backpackers to Cradle Mt, where I checked in a the expensive, but basic hostel. From there I took the free bus going into the national park, where I set off doing the Face Track that was supposed to take most of the day. Somehow I managed to return within 3,5 hours. Probably because I did not stop very often to look at the views, because there were not any; the mountain was completely covered in clouds. I was also really glad I got a decent raincoat back home, even though it had been at the bottom of my backpack for the first 6 weeks. I really needed it on the mountain, and I even regretted not having rainproof trousers, since my pants got soaked wet, and they were really exposed to heavy winds on the plateau. But even though the weather was bad, it was still great to hike in this wilderness area, and the hot shower in the hostel afterwards was so much more rewarding. Instead of going to sleep at 19.00 like my other roommates, I had some beers and an interesting conversation in the kitchen till late.
Saturday morning I got up fairly early to do another short hike in the national park, before the bus would pick me up in the afternoon. I did the Dove Lake track there, probably one of the nicest short tracks to do. It only took a little bit more than an hour to go around the lake, so no worries about catching the bus in time. I got to Devonport in the early evening and somehow ended up watching movies until 2.00, not very wise since I had to get up at 6.00 to catch the ferry to Melbourne.
Early Sunday morning I got a ride to the ferry terminal with a couple from Melbourne, and still had to wait for another 1,5 hours to board. I did get a decent seat on board, since I heard that there were barely enough seats for everyone. The 10-hours Bass Strait crossing mainly consisted of reading, listening to music and watching Harry Potter (I almost fell asleep during that activity). But at least it was sunny in Melbourne when I arrived!