Wednesday, August 16, 2006


Australia's island state just blew me away. Hobart itself was a quaint little town with truly outstanding cuisine, but the scenery really didn't blow my socks off until we got out of the city and into the national parks. We first went to Mount Field National Park and this was, I think, the kids first truly "wow" experience in Australia. The rest had been cool (they'd loved Daydream Island and snorkeling) but this place was straight out of the primeval past! (photo to right is the view out our hotel window - the harbor at Hobart at night).

Huge tree ferns towered above, Eucalyptus trees grew to nearly the size of California's redwood giants (they are the 2nd tallest trees in the world here) and moss-covered logs were strewn about the forest. Drizzly rain and mist covered the day and it gave it a lush, cool, moist feel. It resembles the Pacific NW forests of the US quite a bit. But the coolest thing is that pademelons were everywhere!!! These are tiny kangaroo-like creatures - well not tiny but about 1.5 feet tall. It was the kids' first experience seeing the classic Australian wildlife in the wild as opposed to in a wildlife park. Sam dubbed it "dinosaur world." (view to left is a giant eucalyptus tree in Mount Field National Park. They are the 2nd tallest trees in the world after the giant redwoods in California).

It was chilly but not freezing and our warm gear kept us cozy. Sam saw a platypus in the creek! I was so jealous. He yelled out "there's a platypus!" and that scared the little thing away. They are quite abundant in the area. We were sure we'd see one later in the day at the top of the mountain in a crater lake but the one thing they don't like is wind, and just at the time we got to the top a huge blustery gale came and it blew fiercely and we only got out of the car for a few minutes before heading back down the mountain. We then went down a bit and the winds calmed down and we walked around an Alpine herb field which was just STUNNINGLY gorgeous. Autumnal colors of rusts, reds, yellows and oranges covered the landscape, which had mostly shrubs, and huge boulders covered with colorful lichens. Tarns - small shallow wetland ponds - dotted the landscape. We all just kind of walked around looking for wombats, because their square poo was everywhere. :) I just loved it. We were literally in the clouds as we were high up the mountain and a cloud had descended on it. We could see, but there was an omnipresent mist. (above is the alpine herb field at Mt Field National Park)

We visited Something Wild Wildlife Park earlier in the day and got to pet and/or see wombats, koalas, Tasmanian devils, kangaroos, squirrel gliders, various Australian birds - budgies, cockatoos, rosellas - etc. The roos and wallabies had joeys in their pouches and I got some great photos. The next day we also visited the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park which was very cool too. It had a whole field full of kangaroos and wallabies that you could walk through, and the kids got to pet them! We also visited the Tasman peninsula which is connected to the mainland via a narrow isthmus and this is where the famous Port Arthur prison was, though we didn't visit it. We saw the coastal cliffs and walked along a very cool beach all in Tasman National Park. (photo to the left is a Tasmanian devil, a marsupial carnivore. They are declining rapidly due to a new disease - a fatal contagious cancer)

Oh and how can I forget, we got to see a little (fairy) penguin rookery. We hid in the cliffs until they came ashore which was not until it was quite past dusk, and I was very disappointed because I really couldn't see anything at all. Savannah wrote in her journal that she got so excited, then bored, then she cried with disappointment when she could not see anything but a dark blob emerge from the ocean (there were not a whole lot of them). However the story gets better! We finally climbed down and after the biologist was assured that all had safely climbed into their burrows he showed us the burrow of one in a rock crevice. To be honest it did not look very penguin-like and so I was a bit disappointed. But then we walked back toward the car and up stairs because this was a public beach but most people don't know it's a penguin rookery (it was actually devastated by dogs a couple years back) we saw a penguin ahead of us climbing the stairs!!!!! They actually make nests and burrows all along the area, not just right in the beach cliffs. So this little penguin, not much bigger than the stair itself, would scrunch its little booty up, wiggle and then jump like a piece of popping popcorn to the next stair! It looked very penguin-like at that point. We watched it do this for several steps in the light and it was just so adorable. Then it went to the side of the stairs and we went on our merry way. (view to the right is the rock formations on a popular surfing beach in Tasman National Park)

I think if I had to pick one single best moment of my trip so far that was it. I was just in love with this little penguin hopping up the stairs! It so exemplifies the state of wildlife in today's world. Here they wait until the night is dark because the full moon exposes them more to predators and this response has evolved over millions of years and it worked with their natural predators. But now we've introduced domesticated dogs and feral cats and even foxes to their world, and as hard as they may try to come ashore on some supposedly safe island, they end up completely vulnerable. We could have just scooped it right up. There's no way for them to escape something like a dog attack. They can't fly, they can't run. They don't bite. They are absolutely vulnerable. And here they are in our human world, climbing up stairs trying to get to a little burrow to make a home for a nest they'll lay in a month or so. Fortunately the biologists are working to create artificial burrows and protect the rookery from dog attacks etc.

And we had a truly great guide - Josh - who appreciated the kids zany sense of humor and more than anything just allowed them to be themselves and enjoy the world their way more than anywhere else. We all laughed a whole lot these days in Tasmania. The penguin day that included Mt Field NP was truly the best day of my whole trip so far. (View to the left, another view of the beach at Tasman National Park).

Oh and my laptop electrical cord died so I've been unable to recharge my laptop meaning I can't access anyone's email unless they email me!! I downloaded all my email Aug 10 so anything sent before then I can't access either... I need everyone's mailing address for postcards so Dad, Celeta, Holly, Daline, Lazer etc write me!! :)

Did I say it was a little chilly at the top of Mount Field??

Sam at the Tasman National Park beach.

Sunset shot through the car window!

The markets at Salamanca in Hobart.

The lush temperate rainforests of Mount Field National Park.
This is the stream where Sam saw a platypus!

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