Messages From Myanmar #20
Australian Vacation Special - Part 5 of 6
13 September 2016
Photo Update Alert:
Day 13 - Sat., 08/27 - An Epic Drive
We spent the morning in Lonny, seeing the sights. After purchasing some homemade beef jerky and more Glucojels (because you just never know), we departed Launcetown and, without getting lost, thank you, headed west to Cradle Mountain.
It was a beautiful day for a drive and the scenery featured rolling hills and more sheep than we’ve ever seen. Our directions were clear and our fuel level decent, but we decided to top off the tank at Mole Creek. Which is just as big as you think it is. This turned out to be the best decision we made all day.
Aussies are (generally) very friendly, chatty people, and I got into a conversation with a fellow who had been spending a lot of time helping his neighbors recover from the disastrous floods that tore up northern Tasmania this past June. We learned that one of the main roads to Cradle Mountain was still closed and a significant detour was in our future.
No worries. The drive was awesome, with beautiful landscapes, lots of mountain curves, and not a hell of a lot of room for error. Our revised directions were perfect and we arrived at Pepper’s Cradle Mountain Lodge, in a windy drizzle, well before nightfall. The lodge, adjacent to a national park, is an enormous operation, and our cabin was quite a schlep by foot.
Since we were booked for only one night (insane, I know), we immediately put on our hiking gear and hit the “King Billy Trail,” named for a local variety of pine tree. They grow up to 40 m in height and the forest is loaded with ‘em. The hike itself was pretty moderate and kind of mysterious; the forest being full of ferns and fallen trees covered in moss. It was an excellent walk for a cold and wet afternoon.
That evening: Dinner, build a fire, take a hot bath, go to bed. Big day coming up.
Day 14 - Sun., 08/28 - Freycinet
The drive from Cradle Mountain southeast to Freycinet Lodge, located in the Freycinet National Park on the east coast, is roughly 350 km (218 mi), some of it on the same mountain roads we traveled the day before. But a sunny day (and noticeable improvement on the head cold front) made for a beautiful journey through eucalyptus forests and past bucolic fields full of sheep and, occasionally, a flock of foraging white cockatoos. After a magnificent morning’s drive, we had lunch in Bicheno, a small village on the coast.
From there, it was on to the Freycinet National Park, where we learned that our prepaid park entrance fee was superfluous, seeing as how it was the 100th anniversary of the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service and entry was gratis the next two days. OK. Once we got our (free) park pass, we arrived at Freycinet Lodge in time for sunset and dinner.
Day 15 - Mon., 08/29 - Wineglass Bay
By this time, we were up for some more serious walking around. So, we elected to hike to the Wineglass Bay Lookout, a journey supposedly 40 minutes in length. For those of us approaching geezertude, a more relaxed pace was appropriate, nay, unavoidable. Once there, it was picture postcard time again. But the most sublime moment came when A.J. spied a small whale lollygagging near the shore of the bay, a very rare sighting at this time of year.
Our next, less strenuous walk was an easy stroll to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse, featuring a gorgeous, if considerably more distant view of Wineglass Bay. And 1000 km to the east? New Zealand. To finish off the day, we had ice cream at the only store in the town of Cole’s Bay and then meandered around Honeymoon Bay, near the lodge, where we watched sea birds perch and Japanese kids take selfies.
[Gustatory Sidebar - The eating on this trip was generally very good, especially aboard The Ghan, where they fed us three squares a day. But the single most spectacular dish was the seafood bouillabaisse at Freycinet Lodge. Scallops, prawns, fish, clams, and mussels in a creamy tomato concoction… oh, my.]
To be continued...