14 Days in Van Diemen’s Land (Part 2)

Day 5 we didn’t do much besides driving to St Helens and viewing the Bay of Fires. This refers to the east coastline of rocks with stunning orange algae on it. The name is not referencing this orange colour, but instead was named in 1733 by Captain Tobias Furneaux in Adventure, who saw the fires of Aboriginal people on the beaches. While in St Helens we discovered Banjo’s Bakery Café and both enjoyed some very delicious meat pies. I always go for the beef and pepper while Callum is more adventurous and will try the scallop and curry pies, the steak and mushroom pies, and chicken curry pies, oh my!

Our next stop the next day was Launceston, where we stayed at the very nice Rosevears Hotel. Our room was so modern and clean, and we had a great view of the Tamar River. We did not enjoy the restaurant however and were pretty disappointed with both the meal and the service. Launceston was actually super boring as well, despite what we both thought would be the swanky wine-tour portion of our trip. It turns out we have nicer wineries and restaurants here in Perth. Everything seemed really dead and not-happening. We were the only ones at one winery, one couple of two at another, and at a third we didn’t even find the proprietor, so left!

I still managed to get a bit tipsy though. In our efforts to find our next meal, (which proved to be quite difficult the whole trip to be honest,) we stumbled on a little café called Moon Lily Kitchen and Cakes. We honestly had the best meal of the entire trip at this café. It was incredible—I had hand-rolled gnocchi with slow cooked pork and fennel seed ragu and just about died of raptures, it was so good. I was very hungry and asked the server for some bread to eat while I waited for the main, as well. She brought out a deluxe plate of dukka and oil and warmed bread for us and we couldn’t believe how good that was! Callum had a vegetable tagine and though he was in a sour mood (from having to locate food, from the rainy day, from the boring wineries) he perked right up because his tagine was so flavourful and filling, it was impossible to stay mad. Our desserts were just as delicious, and we left a lot fatter and happier after that experience.

Our next stop was a teensy town on the veritable edge of North Western Tasmania called Stanley. We were considering this day of our trip as a sort of ‘nothing day’ and that it would be just a nice place to have a gap day between bigger locations. It turns out, it was one of my favourite days! The only real thing to do in this place is to climb ‘the Nut’, as it is called. The Nut is a volcanic plug (see diagram) which you can hike up (or take the chair lift) and at the top is a 2km walk through the vegetation that grows up there. Well, it was an adventure just hiking to the top, which is very short in distance but very steep in altitude. Not to mention it was so windy the day we were in Stanley, that it could’ve knocked the stuffing right outta ya. I tell you, there were times when we were walking up the zig-zag hill that I almost got blown off my feet and swept away. The ascent was about 430 m and a fit person on a non-windy day could get to the top in less than ten minutes. It took me about half an hour. Once at the top, the wind was so strong in places, that tiny flecks of sand were getting into my eyes. Trying to take a selfie meant keeping a vice-like grip on my phone so it didn’t get stripped from my hands. Once we walked a bit into the vegetation, we were able to catch our breath and enjoy the scenery. We saw several pademelons (a kind of wallaby, which is basically a mini kangaroo, for those of you not of Aussie persuasion, but a totally different creature if you are) including a joey and some interesting butterflies, birds, and lizards which wouldn’t sit still for a picture. When we walked down the steep hill, the wind kept me upright so that I didn’t lean forward as I made the visually terrifying descent. It was quite a breathless little walk. Our B&B was mere steps away from the start of the trail, so we were home in no time. We had another great meal at the local pub, including a glorious apple rhubarb crumble with salted caramel ice cream. It was exactly what we needed after working our calf muscles more in one day than I have in about 3 months.

Our next major stop on our Tasmanian Adventure was Cradle Mountain. To my mind, this is what we had come for. When I thought about Tasmania before visiting it, I thought of two things: 1) Tasmanian Devils and 2) Cradle Mountain. You cannot imagine how sorrowfully disappointed we were when we saw that the 2.5 out of 3 days of our visit in this national park would be overcast, freezing cold and raining. We had planned to hike the Summit (or Callum was) which is a long 8-hour hiking day, in addition to doing several smaller walks that the park offers. This was not meant to be. It was simply too cold, windy, and dangerous. Nobody was going up to the summit when 60km/hr winds were blowing, driving rain was pelting and the temperature was 4 degrees. This meant that we stayed in the flat lands. I actually refused to even go out for a walk on our first day. I knew that I would be cold and miserable and wouldn’t enjoy a thing. Callum has FOMO (fear of missing out) though and went out to Ronny Creek where he saw several wombats and only one other brave soul.

The second day dawned a little more hopeful, but when Callum took me to Ronny Creek to see the wombats for myself, nary a hairy nosed creature could be found, the rain was starting to pelt us sideways, and a short 1.5 kms walk was all we managed before heading to Dove Lake on the shuttle. Once there, we looked at the lake and at the empty foggy space where Cradle Mountain supposedly was meant to be. Hmm.  We wondered if we would even get to see the thing which the park was named for. We were going to do the circuit, but after five minutes I stopped and said “I would really rather do this tomorrow since there is a small chance the weather will be better. There is literally no point in doing this walk while we are so cold and uncomfortable.” We turned around and caught the next shuttle out of there. We did a couple of short 10- or 20-minute walks near the ranger station to see some waterfalls and then called it a day…. for then, anyway. It was only lunchtime.  We went back to our little cabin 20 minutes away from the park (again, accommodation was hard to come by, or, too expensive in the actual park). We had a nap for 1.5 hours (both of us slept HARD) and then got up to go into the park again; the third time to Ronny Creek for Callum. It is later in the day, about 4:30pm, when even wombats will brave the elements to get some grub. We watched a pair of wombats for about 20 minutes before a screeching family of four came thrashing along the path, scaring the wombats, and ending our photoshoot. This is something Callum and I cannot fathom: why people are SO NOISY in nature. Don’t you want to see wildlife? Don’t you get that wild animals are afraid of people? That you need to be quiet if you want to see them? I don’t get it.

The third day in Cradle Mountain (our second morning), the rain had stopped and the temperature was a balmy 7 degrees in the morning. We got up and caught the shuttle to Dove Lake, arriving just after 9am. We could actually see Cradle Mountain! We did the Dove Lake circuit (6kms) with Callum leaving me to join the Marian’s lookout trail near the end. We were so glad we had waited to do this walk, as every few meters there was another stunning landscape before us. Cradle Mountain looked great from every angle, and the walk was quite enjoyable, as with each passing minute, it grew warmer and soon hats and scarves were taken off and the sun warmed our heads and smiling faces. I finished the circuit and made my way down to the visitor’s centre to spend time resting and recovering whilst Callum basically ran up the mountain to get a more challenging hike in before we had to leave. We were disappointed our plans for the park were completely thrown off track, but equally thankful we got to see the little of it in nicer weather after all.  When we left it was about 16 degrees, which was much more manageable.  It was hard to believe the park employees that only a week before, it had been over 30 degrees, and 30 out there is pretty stinkin’ hot. Apparently, Cradle Mountain only has about 60 rain-free days per year. We thought going in the middle of summer would ensure that rain-free quality we were looking for, but alas, it was not to be. At least we had a half day of some sun.

I almost forgot to write about a most exciting experience! That being, of course, our visit to Devils @ Cradle—a Tasmanian devil sanctuary. Our second day we had a booking for the 8:30pm feeding of the little devils at a wonderful sanctuary.  It was very unlike a zoo, very much like a natural looking place for animals to come and be safe and well-taken care of, which is exactly what you hope it will be when you book this kind of thing online in advance. We were lucky to be two of only eight people at this feeding, which meant we got to really see and experience the devils and other animals at the sanctuary.  Cal and I were also a bit early so got to wander around before the others got there and before it got really dark. We got to see spotted quolls and eastern quolls which like the Tasmanian devils, are also carnivorous marsupials.

I thought these creatures, though vicious when baring their teeth or making noises, were the most adorable looking animals I had seen in a while. All the little devils reminded me of my cat, Gypsy, with the way they ran around. It was so neat hearing them growl and cry out. And cute to see them patiently waiting for their meat. The guide was very knowledgeable and interesting to listen to as well.  A highly recommended experience, I would say.

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