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Friday, February 27, 2009

Tasmania (Part IV)

After we got off the track, we ate a quick lunch at Lake St. Clair and then drove to Strahan in the rain. We were definitely feeling sticky and smelling nasty as we drove, so I had every incentive to make it fast, but the combination of wet roads and twisty one does not make for fast driving, so it took us until 5:30pm to get to Strahan Village resorts.

Our travel agent must think that we're rich or something, since so far, she's not put us up with anything but swanky hotels. I guess this is what happens when I let someone else do the work of planning our trip. Nevertheless, it was such a relief to get out of the rain and into a hot shower that I don't think any of us complained at all.

After dinner, we did laundry, and then went to bed for an early morning Cruise into the Gordon River. Breakfast was meat pies and then it was onto the Lady Jane Franklin II, a fast catamaran ferry with specially designed low-wake engines for use inside the National Park. Pretty slick.

The trip was a total tourist trap, along with the mini-walk in the rain forest, and lunch. I would normally not be impressed with things like this, but I'd just came off a 6 day walk with a backpack, so something that let me veg out was a good option. It was a misty morning, and we got to see the mist rise from the forests and the river, as well as enjoy the reflections on the river. It was all very controlled, like a Disneyland ride, which I guess was what they were going for. We did get a guided tour of Sarah Island, which was a shipyard building 132 boats by convicts. The last boat got stolen by the convicts themselves. That part of the tour was worth it.

After we returned, we went to the post office to pick up a COD package from our previous hotel, where Lisa had left a shirt. Then we went to Ocean beach to scout and noticed that Mutton birds show up at Dusk, and made plans to return the next day, since we'd already made plans to night to eat at the 42-degree view restaurant. We returned to town just in time to catch the 2 person play, "The Ship that Never Was." Since there were about 15 people involved in the story, the play drafts members of the audience to play bit parts, with an elaborate stage that can be rigged up like a stage. I enjoyed it but Lisa thought the Australian accent too thick to penetrate.

The 42 degree view restaurant turned out to be an expensive buffet dinner. It was a nice buffet, with Oysters and everything, but the food felt very familiar. Then we realized that we'd seen it before --- on the Lady Jane Franklin. The same family owned all these operations and re-used their food preparations everywhere. We resolved not to eat at the same family-run place again.

We signed up for the Wilderness Railway just before the Overland Track, on the recommendation of some other tourists we met. Having a completely different weather gave the trip a completely different view, and it is a great complement to the Gordon River Cruise. Where that was about pristine Wilderness, this is all about the destructiveness of man's mining activities. The railway goes along the King River, which is a completely dead river, because the Lyell Mining company dumped all its tailings into the Queen River, which flowed into it. As a result, 10 years ago, the river had the consistency of wet concrete, and even now it still had no life at all in it. I'm guessing the government had no budget to clean up the river, but at least the mine is no longer dumping its tailings into the river!

The railway ride was almost all day, so we extended our stay in Strahan by one night and had dinner at Risby Cove, an excellent restaurant recommended by the Rough Guide. After that, we immediately headed over to Ocean beach to catch the sunset, and wait for the Mutton birds, who only came back around 9:00pm. Those are hard working birds that look a lot like the birds you draw as a kid --- two long wings and a torpedo body. I didn't get any pictures since it really was too dark and they moved very fast.

After that, it was one more round of laundry, and then packing for the next day.

The drive to Hobart was 4.5 hours long, made longer because of the bane of a driver's existence --- the huge camper van being towed by an underpowered truck that refuses to pull over despite having 10 cars behind it. By the time we got to Hobart, the trip had taken 5.5 hours and I was quite tired, but still had to run downtown to see if I could find an eyeglass shop to repair my titanium glasses, which had broken at the bridge. I learned that titanium has to be welded in an oxygen free environment, and only a shop in Melbourne could do it!

By this time, I had gotten repeated notification from my employer that I had to fill out my tax forms or else, so I spent the rest of my night in Hobart (after an un-satisfying dinner) filling out tax forms. It turns out that having someone else do my taxes is just like doing them myself on TurboTax. If not for the foreign stuff, I never would have had to worry about it whatsoever. I wish I had more time to explore Hobart, but I'm not a city person anyway, and there seemed to be massive alcohol driven parties at all the pubs on Friday night.

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