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Down UnderBack in Civilisation

On 30 December 2003 from Hobart, Tasmania | comments closed

Christmas Day started for me with a flight from Sydney to Launceston, Tasmania. The flight was with Qantas and no worries there. The airport in Launceston was a bit of a shock though, since the only plane there was the one I arrived with, and everyone had to walk into the terminal and get the luggage from the carts driven in. But this all turned out to go a lot faster than at the big international airports. Launceston itself was not that big either, with only one tourist attraction: the Cataract Gorge. So I hiked a few hours around that area during the afternoon. In the evening there was a (free!) Christmas BBQ at the hostel, which was a lot of fun. Afterwards we played some frisbee in the park. Something completely different than Christmas in Europe, but not bad, not bad at all.

On Boxing Day (that is what the 2nd Christmas Day is called here) I got a lift from a German couple to Coles Bay at Freycinet National Park (NP). The drive there was quite nice, through hilly terrain with some vineyards, and we stopped at St Columba waterfalls along the way. However, as soon as we left Launceston my mobile could not find a network anymore, and that has not changed since I got to Hobart. So it appears my mobile only works in the two major cities here, nice.

On 27 December I hitchhiked into the Freycinet NP and made a hike to Wineglass Beach and back along Hazards Beach. Wineglass Beach is really one of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, fine white sand in a bay with the shape of a (you guessed it) wineglass. On 28 December I made another hike in Freycinet NP, this time to the top of Mt Amos. Great views over the park and I got a cool photo with me on top and Wineglass Bay below. Once again I hitchhiked back to town and got on a bus to Triabunna. The bus shedules on this island are a bit frustrating, with about one bus a day at most, one of the reasons I am hitchhiking short rides into National Parks and trying to get lifts from other travellers for longer distances. I should really buy a car when I get back to the mainland, but my plan is to do that only when I get back from New Zealand, since leaving it somewhere for 6 weeks does not make much sense either. Not to mention the fact that I will depart from Sydney and arrive in Melbourne.

The hostel in Triabunna had a pretty good atmosphere and was run by a nice couple (although the guy was the raw small town type) that even remembered the names of all the guests. The second night the hostess had made cookies for everyone, really nice. On 29 December I made a daytrip to Maria Island (discovered by Abel Tasman and named after Maria van Diemen, just like he originally named Tasmania ‘Van Diemen’s Land’). The island is now a National Park without cars and offers some nice hiking opportunities. Once again I climbed a mountain (600 metres) called Bishop and Clerk. Before hiking up there I hiked along the fossil cliffs (not much to see there) and afterwards I hiked to the painted cliffs (pretty interestingly shaped and coloured cliffs). So after about 5 hours of continuous hiking I was pretty beat up on the ferry back to Triabunna.

Today I got a lift to Hobart from another traveller staying at the hostel in Triabunna. In the afternoon I went into the city, where there is lots to do. All of it combined is the Hobart Summer Festival. First of all, the Rolex Sydney Hobart sailing yacht race finished here the day before yesterday (and some smaller yachts still have to arrive), so there are lots of fast expensive yachts in the harbour. Then there is an international buskers (street artists) festival. But the main attraction is the food festival (called ‘The Taste’) with lots of local food to try out. For one, I could not resist the pancake with raspberries and ice-cream 😉

Down UnderMerry Christmas & Happy New Year

On 24 December 2003 from Sydney, NSW | comments closed

I want to wish all the readers of my travel diary a very good Christmas and
all the best for 2004!

Down UnderBushwalking

On from Sydney, NSW | comments closed

I just got back from three days in the Blue Mountains, slightly sunburned (better than the cold weather without a white Christmas back home I figure 😉 ), and tired from bushwalking. Bushwalking is the Oz word for hiking (Kiwi’s call it tramping). In my travel diary I will use both terms, but hiking because it is shorter.

In Dutch: [‘Hiking’ heeft naar mijn mening geen goed Nederlands alternatief. ‘Bergwandelen’ komt nog het best in de buurt, maar impliceert bergen, die niet altijd aanwezig hoeven te zijn. Meestal is dit overigens wel het geval, wat ook de reden is dat ‘hiking’ in Nederland niet echt mogelijk is, natuurlijke obstakels die slechts te voet te bereizen zijn ontbreken simpelweg. En dat is volgens mij de essentie van ‘hiking’: daar lopen waar men alleen te voet kan komen. ‘Wandelen’ roept bij mij het beeld op van een zondagse bezigheid voor mensen op leeftijd, danwel mensen vergezeld van attributen zoals kinderwagens en rolstoelen. Een echte ‘hike’ is niet te doen vergezeld van deze attributen. Het schetste dan ook zeer mijn verbazing om op weg naar een uitkijkpunt een Nederlandse stel met twee kids tegen te komen die een kinderwagen richting het uitkijkpunt aan het zeulen waren, ondanks dat 95% van de route uit trappen bestond. Nederlanders in den vreemde zijn raar…]

On Tuesday I took the bus to Blackheath, where I walked the popular Grand Canyon trail. This trail led down from the top of the cliff into rainforest and along a little stream in a canyon. It reminded me most of the hikes my family and I did near Berdorf in Luxembourg. Forests, rocks, hills, little streams and even other tourists, everything was there, just on a slightly bigger scale. From the lookout point I continued along the top of the cliff (no worries, all the dangerous spots were fenced) to a heritage centre from where I took the bus back to hostel. Altogether I only hiked no more than 4 hours, but it was a good start.

Today I decided to go for a longer walk, so I went to the ruined castle (basically a pile of rocks in the middle of the valley). The hike was classified as 6 hours and hard. I did need 6 hours from door to door, but it was not really hard. The most difficult part was getting up the ruined castle, since it was basically rock climbing. But the view was really great: I could see 360 degrees across the valley. It is a less popular track though, since in the 4 hours without any signs of civilisation I only encountered one other hiker. After a very satisfying walk I took a shower at the hostel. Afterwards I was picked up by the guide from the tour last Monday. Since the tour was not booked full today, I could join them back to Sydney.

Down UnderBlue Mountains

On 22 December 2003 from Katoomba, NSW | comments closed

Yesterday kinda felt like the last day in Sydney, even though I will be back before my flight to Tasmania, and I will probably fly back to Sydney within the month as well. But still, it felt like the last day. And on last days I always want to do these things that I have been planning to do all along, but just did not get to. And there are actually quite a lot of these things lurking in Sydney: the 10km walk from Manly, harbour cruise, powerhouse museum, aquarium, beaches, climbing the harbour bridge etc. So trying to minimise the damage, I went to the National Museum in the morning: it had some nice displays with minerals (sounds really boring, but they were actually quite fascinating; from diamonds to gold), some of the deadliest spiders (I would still run away from every spider though) and a great wildlife photo exhibition.

In the afternoon there was a party at Bondi, so we went there with a full bus from our hostel. I guess my appreciation of city beaches was mostly shown by the fact that I had not even been to Bondi beach after spending a week in Sydney. Bondi is, after all, the most famous beach in Sydney. And it is really nice for a city beach, as it is a bit sheltered in a bay with rocks on both sides. But I think I was spoilt too much in Thailand… The party was really nice though, especially because of the view on the beach from the terrace.

This morning I was picked up by Santa Claus and his minibus, bringing me and the other folks on the tour to the Blue Mountains. But first we made a stop at the Sydney Olympic Park, which looked quite abandoned, but Santa Claus (our guide) played this Olympic opening tune, so we still got some Olympic feeling driving into the park. And I have another thing to do in Sydney: swim in the Olympic swimming pool. The next stop was at a national park to see kangeroos. These were living in the wild, but accustomed to humans, so they would not bounce away on first sight. It was pretty cool to see, especially since we could approach them pretty close, so I was able to make some nice photos. Next we stopped to view waterfalls and the last stop before lunch was at the Three Sisters, basically three rocks that have not been eroded yet. The last two stops also offered great views of the Blue Mountains.

Before lunch I checked in at my hostel, one of the better hostels with about all the facilities for $25 in a 4-share room. The tour continued to the scenic railway, a former mine railway with an average inclination of 44 degrees. I walked down through the forest and took the railway back up the cliff. It was actually quite spectacular. At the end of the tour I was dropped in Katoomba and everyone else went back to Sydney. The plan is to do some bushwalking here, but more about that later.