Tas-Mania

Trip Start Nov 29, 2005
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Trip End Nov 21, 2006


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Flag of Australia  ,
Tuesday, February 7, 2006

It always seems that every big adventure starts off with a colossal mishap. The morning I was set to embark on a week-long road trip around Tassie with three German girls (I'll get to that in a minute) was the first rainy day I'd had in a week on the island. The car we were supposed to hire came back in bad shape and there were no other automatics available so I wound up getting referred to another rental agency down the road. I picked up our dirt cheap car (only $33 a day, split four ways) and for the first time paid for insurance on a rental, thinking that bad things might happen over the course of a week of driving on the wrong side of the road around winding mountain highways and $2000 would be a lot to lose should something bad happen. When I was shown the '86 Toyota Corona that I would be driving around, I immediately regretted the decision. Let's put it this way, the car wouldn't be worth $2000 if there were forty $50 bills on the driver's seat. When I saw it, I asked if the car had power steering, to which the woman working there said, "You don't really notice a difference when you're on the road," to which I responded, "So you mean no?" And now, for those who have never driven a car without power steering, it's a better workout then a set of dumbbells. Parallel park an 86 Corona ten times a day and you can skip the gym. At first we couldn't get the trunk open, the clock wasn't digital (it was a clock face with minute and hour hands), and was all around a joy to drive.

Now, as I log this little road trip, I'm going to create a couple separate entries so that you can see on the map the route I took. See all I do for you, faithful readers?

First things first, a road trip with three girls is not nearly as glamorous as it sounds. Don't get me wrong, I loooove the ladies, I mean they rev my engines, but women do not belong on road trips. At least these ones anyway. The road trip was decidedly lacking in battle royales for shotgun, endless hours of discussions about sports and girls, heinous farting and all the other things that make road trips "road trips." We didn't even give the car a name (although I dubbed it Poncho. It needed a Mexican name, the only letters on the tags were CH and the car ran -- if you can call it's performance running -- like a Poncho). Bathroom breaks were pretty much hourly and would turn into half an hour ordeals. Mornings would consist of me getting ready and then waiting an hour. Plus the girls turned out to be unappreciative bitches. I could do nothing right and my driving was constantly called into question despite more than 1200 miles of incident-free driving in a week and every time the gas needle reached a quarter of a tank they started nagging me about when I was planning on stopping for petrol. If this is what married life is like (with just one girl, I'm not Mormon) then I might just have to stay single for a while longer. Next time I do a road trip with girls, I'm performing extensive background checks.

We started our week-long road trip through stunning nature the way every such trip does -- with a Cadbury chocolate factory tour. I'll give them this, Glenorchy's factory does it right. Two years ago I took a tour in Dunedin, New Zealand that was awful -- the samples were sparse and not good. This tour stuffs you so silly with chocolate that by the end you're not even disappointed they don't show you where they keep the oompa loompas. I just have a nagging feeling they give all the tour guides frontal lobotomies before they start working.

As we shot onto the open road after the tour the Corona started shimmying and shaking like an epileptic as I accelerated. It reminded me of my Canadian road trip with Josh two years back when we tried to crank Old Red -- his Toyota -- up to 100 but never made it when the car would violently spasm at about 90. The Corona also struggled to reach triple digits, but in this case I'm talking kilometers, not miles. We first drove east and then south to the Tasman Peninsula with a beautiful coastline and some cool rock formations on the cliffs that jut out to the ocean. While we were at the Remarkable Caves (which was just one cave, and not all that remarkable) we picked up a hitchhiker, Chris. He wasn't quite a hitchhiker since we all talked to him while he was hanging out enjoying the ocean scenery, but the guy was incredibly cool and I should've booted one of the Germans (their names are Nadine, Juliane and Judith if any of you care) in favor of him. Basically he's been wandering around Australia for a couple decades now and has had several newspaper articles written about him. On top of being a really friendly guy, the best part about him was he looked the role. His face was buried behind dark sunglasses and a bushy beard and his hands were as dirty and beat up as his bags.

From the Peninsula, we shot up the east coast on a beautiful drive along the water. The ocean is a perfect blue (think of Red's speech at the end of Shawshank, "I hope the Pacific is as blue as it is in my dreams") with dramatic cliffs and mountains as a backdrop. Although the sun set over the land, we were still treated to a spectacular sunset that splashed off the clouds and turned the sky a lovely mix of pink, purple and orange.

We stopped off in a really comfortable hostel in Bicheno, a town of 700 people, that was run by an awesome dread-locked bloke named Paul. Bicheno at night is actually very nice, a short walk to the beach allows you to get face to face with penguins coming back from the ocean and there's a blowhole that sprays water several meters high when the tide comes in.

The next morning we scooted down to the Freycinet Peninsula, home to Freycinet National Park. The park is famous for Wineglass Bay, a beautiful beach (and bay) with white sands, turquoise water and the bay forms a perfect crescent around it all. Sadly, you see so many pictures and postcards of the bay on pristine days that when you actually see it yourself, there's no way it can live up to the hype. On the walk from the lookout down to the bay we got our first glimpse of Australian wildlife as a wallaby hopped up next to us. As a crowd formed around it, an unbelievable conversation sprouted when someone saw something red dangling underneath the wallaby and everyone started commenting about how it was carrying a joey and that was the baby's tail. Ah, so sweet and innocent. Let's put it this way, that was a man baby, yeah. After chilling on the beach for a little we cut across to Hazards Beach, which for my money is just as nice as Wineglass Bay as far as beaches go, plus it's not nearly as touristy. All in all, we had a nice little five hour walk through the park.

We spent that night in St. Helen's, the nearest town to the Bay of Fires, which was named by one magazine as the second most beautiful beach in the world. Unfortunately we woke up to another rainy day and decided that if we were going to see the second most beautiful beach in the world, we'd do it properly and wait a day. We spent the day driving around the Blue Tier Reserve -- a nice rainforest with tall trees that looked very dramatic in the mist and rain and wallabies hopping along the road. We also checked out a few waterfalls that were nice, but nothing spectacular. On the plus side, I had to drive 12 kms of unpaved road (one way) to get to them. The next morning we were treated to a beautiful blue sky that made the Bay of Fires look fantastic, but I've got to wonder if there's only one beach better. What makes the beach so amazing though is the colors. The water is much like I described earlier, turquoise giving way to a rich blue. The sand is a perfect white and the rocks along the beach are covered in a speckling of red algae (or red something) that presumably gives the area its name. Overall, certainly worth the wait and forcing us (and by us I mean me) a manic drive across the state the next morning. And that's where this entry ends.
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