Down Under in Tasmania

Down Under in Tasmania

February 26-28

On on a plane bound for Australia, reading a book called Rediscovering Travel. It makes me think why I’m taking this trip.

Reasons for trip:

  • To attend wedding and visit with new family.
  • Tasmania to really see the country and a part of the world different than mine.
  • Hiking to feel like I did something and not just vegetated.
  • And, to take photos since I’m a historian and like to document things/people.

I was picked up from home at 1pm, half hour early than they told me. Luckily, I was packed and ready.

I arrived at Seatac around 2pm, but my flight isn’t until 5:29pm. There is no line at security! Only two people are in front of me. This never happens at SeaTac! It’s probably the result of reduced travel due to the Corona virus (Covid-19). I had a pat down at security, because of weirdness in my groin area. Not my knees. Weird! The TSA woman really felt me up and practically grabbed my lady parts…never had such an intimate pat-down before!

The flight from Seattle to Lax arrived 30 minutes early. The airport is a mess due to construction, making it necessary to take a shuttle to the once joined terminals. It was quite the trudge and I have an hour layover.

The 12 hour flight from Lax to Brisbane arrive 30 minutes early. I see a pattern happening! The seat was quite roomy (thanks to an upgrade to Comfort X) with good seat mates. Dinner was a terrible chicken breast, but the greens were good. The macaroni salad was ok, but the chocolate mousse for dessert was really good. About 8 hours later, I was served a breakfast of frittata, spinach, mushrooms, and tomato, plus yogurt. Not bad! I had managed about 6 hours non-consecutive sleep during the flight.

Clearing border, customs, shuttle transfer, and security took about an hour. Another pat down due to metal knees.

Next, it was a 2.5 hour flight from Brisbane to Hobart. The plane was older, so there was no entertainment screen nor WiFi. My eyes were burning, and I was feeling tired.

Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable  views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner all one’s lifetime.

Mark Twain

I was more tired than I thought. I hopped on the sky bus from airport to Hobart Central YHA, got off and crossed the street and finally remembered that I never picked my bag up from baggage claim at the airport! I caught an Uber back, picked up my bag, and got back on the sky bus. All that took about an hour. And about $52 Aussie dollars! Expensive lesson.

To kill some time, I visited the museum across from the hostel in downtown Hobart. Then, I walked down the street in the other direction and found a good Singapore noodle place. While I was eating, I noticed there was a grocery store in the same building. So, I picked up an Aussie beef pie to make for my breakfast.

I ended the day back in my private room, minus my pants and bra.

February 29

I fell asleep around 6:30pm last night and slept until 4:15am (almost 10 hours). I had foot cramps at first, but a hot shower helped relax the muscles.

In the morning, I went to the kitchen in the hostel and made the Aussie beef pie in oven for breakfast, along with coffee. While eating, I found some cool travel rings. I ended up ordering them, though it was expensive since I traveled to a far number of countries. Besides, it will be a good conversation starter.

After breakfast and packing, I saw drinking tea and killing time until the 8am pickup. I’m glad I’m already up…someone in the alley is pounding something at 6:30am on a Saturday morning! Last night, someone from bar next door was dumping empty bottles in same alley (twice). I can’t wait to get going this morning to really start my adventure.

I had booked a tour with Intrepid. Our guide is Evan and there are 15 on trip. He’s ticking off our names, but said we were still waiting for one person. He called him and it turned out to be James, already in the van. Well, we now know Jame’s name very well!

We are on our way to Mount Fields National Park and Russell Falls. As we drive, I see flocks of black swans on river. Hundreds of them! Also, the more familiar coots are dispersed among the swans.

We get to Mount Fields National Park and hike to Russell Falls. Along the way, I saw a pademelon, which is a very small marsupial.

After we left the park, we made a toilet stop where I noticed a group of BMW motorcycles that looked identical to what my brother, Mike, rides. Moving on, we had a lunch break at Lake St. Claire, where I convinced half the group to do panorama sequence. So fun!

Our next stop was to hike to Donaghys Hill Lookout. Talk about a spectacular views! The hike was about 1.5 miles, but with 265 ft. elevation gain…I did it, but I was very slow about it!

We left the lookout and drove to Nelson Falls. This was an easy hike since I was warmed up from last one. I went from being the last to finish to the first one to finish the hike!

We stopped in Queenstown to get groceries for two dinners and a breakfast. I could have had a free breakfast of cold cereal, but I need something warm to eat in the morning.

Our accommodations that night were at the Backpackers hostel in Strahan. Bumpy, the owner, is quite the character! He’s one of those people who tells it like it is but is also a kind soul. Past guest littered his walls, refrigerator, anything blank space, with messages.

For dinner that night, I made homemade chicken rice soup. Of course, I could only eat half of it, so I gave the rest to Dave, from New Zealand.

After dinner, I got a shower and was asleep by 9:45pm.

March 1

I was up at 6am and made a breakfast of scrambled eggs and bacon, coffee, and toast with vegemite.

I opted to go on a World Heritage Cruise in Strahan instead of on a hike to some dunes. During the cruise, I saw farmed raised salmon pens, which was a fairly new thing in Tasmania.

Next, we stopped at Sarah Island, which was a former penal colony. I didn’t want to really hear depressing stories about the horrid conditions, so I walked off on my own, admiring the beauty of the island and taking photos.

We departed Sarah Island and cruised to the Franklin-Gordon Wild River National Park. On the way, we had a lunch buffet on ship that featured smoked salmon (from the local salmon farms).

At Franklin-Gordon, I enjoyed taking close-up photos of all the mosses and ferns. I even managed to capture a froglet baby on some moss!

After the cruise, I wondered into the gift shop and bought Huon wood in the form of a trivet. It smelled so good!

I didn’t want to wait another hour to be picked up in town, so I walked back to the hostel, taking photos of some flowers I hadn’t seen before.

I made dinner (microwave lasagna). It was another early night for me, but interrupted by rude, loud group that arrived earlier in the evening. I didn’t know it then, but our paths would cross again.

March 2

For breakfast, I made a bacon and egg sandwich, but could only eat half of it. Dave came to the rescue (again) and packed the rest for his lunch.

We were on the road shortly after 7am.

It was cold as hell at Cradle Mountain! The wind chill was at freezing. Even with my buff pulled over my ears, I still got a horrible earache. It also didn’t help that my sinuses were are acting up with post-nasal drip, ear pressure and being sick to my stomach. I only walked a small portion of the trail around Dove Lake, before taking cover in the wind shelter until the rest of the group finished up their hike.

There was a lot of tea tree present and in full bloom (probably what triggered my hay fever).

When I came out of the toilet, I saw a Bennett’s wallaby. As we drove out of the park, we saw two wombats, but couldn’t pull over on the one lane road.

Our next stop was in Sheffield where they had lots of murals. I also had one of the best cappuccinos ever!

Since I was feeling like crap with sinus problems, I popped into the pharmacy. The chemist hooked me up with nasal spray and a natural cough drop.

By evening, I had a high fever, was coughing and had chills. As soon as I checked into the hostel in Launceston, I was in bed by 6:30pm. Around 8pm, Even, the guide brought me wonton soup, which really helped.

There was six of us in the room and the other women didn’t want the window open at night. It was very hot and stuffy, but I did sleep about 10 hours.

March 3

I was feeling much better in the morning, but I still had a stuffy nose. I had some toast with jam, then was out in the van, ready for our next adventure.

On our drive, we saw a white breasted sea eagle and wallabies. Also the wedge tailed eagle, the largest raptor in Australia.

We stopped to hike to another lookout, but I was too weak and dizzy to walk more than a mile. I was still getting some chills, so after the hike, Evan took me to a hospital to get checked out (after he dropped off the rest at the beach. My fever was worrisome, because of the Corona virus. I doubted I had it, but better safe than sorry.

Two hours and $800 AUD later, I got the all clear from ER in St. Helens. They suspected a 24 hour bug. What was disconcerting was that they did no more than check my temp, my BP and listened to my lungs. They didn’t do a blood test, so I’m not sure how they could say with 100% certainty that I didn’t have Covid-19.

I walked outside and sat for another hour, waiting for the tour van to pick me back up.

We then drove to Bicheno and checked in at Backpackers hostel.

Dinner that night was fish (shark) and chips plus a glass of pinot gris. I could only eat one piece of fish and a few chips, so I gave the rest of my dinner to James, who walked in just as I was asking for the check.

I decided that I was staying in town tomorrow and getting more rest.

March 4

The next morning, I get up and head to the coffee shop for breakfast. I ordered steak and mushroom pie plus a cappuccino.

My allergies have me sneezing this morning, but I’m determined to get out a bit. I hike to Whalers Lookout then to the beach. I really needed this day to just chill out!

The hike to Whalers Lookout was short with a gradual elevation gain. I was glad I made it to the top – the view was incredible! On the way back down, a cat startled me as it chased after a bird. I also saw a black cockatiel in one of the trees.

At the beach, I saw a pied oyster catcher and was so pleased to be able to identify it just by its red bill (I haven’t even seen an oyster catcher in my own neck of the woods). There were also a lot of silver gulls splashing in the tide pools.

My stomach was still acting up, so I had a light dinner. I got a burger from the joint beside the coffee shop and hated it! I could barely eat half (Aussies have a thing about putting red beet on all their sandwiches and burgers…yuck!).

That evening, another group showed up and were very noisy! At 9pm, I had to ask them to quiet down. I woke up around 2am to use the toilet and noticed the mess they left in the kitchen. It turned out that it was the same group as the one in Strahan!

March 5

I was up at 6am and got my things packed and loaded stuff in van. I ordered breakfast and coffee, but my debit card was declined. I can’t connect to the banks’ website, so I’m hoping it’s just a connection issue.

My breakfast was leisurely as I waited for Evan to collect those staying at different hotels. I finally got connected to my bank through the app and found that there weren’t any declined transactions, so now I know it was a connection issue.

We drove south and got on a ferry to Maria Island. It was raining and the water was extremely choppy…the thrown out of seat and slammed back down choppy!

I got soaking wet from the ferry to the visitor center on Maria Island. The only thing not soaked was my feet, thanks to my waterproof hiking boots! None of us wanted to hike in the deluge, so we hung out at the visitor center, watching a documentary about bringing captive born Tasmanian devils to the island in the hope that they would thrive and bring back their population.

On the plus side, a wombat wandered in front of the visitor center, so I braved the rain for a few minutes and went out to see it up close.

All this rain and wet, I hoped I wouldn’t relapse!

After Maria Island, we headed back to Hobart, stopping at a good bakery, then winery. At the winery, I bought whiskey fudge for Wanda, Tassie sea salt for Bill and some leatherwood honey for William.

Back in Hobart, we end the tour and I upgrade to a private room at the hostel. I have to admit that in spite of being sick, our tour group was a pretty good one. Everyone got along and were fun to be with. Evan, our guide, was great, too!

Dinner is the same noodles I had the first day in Hobart.

I suddenly realized what day it was and was sad to miss William’s birthday.

March 6

I slept poorly due to clock tower chimes all night. I checked out of YHA and caught the skybus to airport.

I can’t wait to see Haylee and MJ!

After flying from Hobart to Melbourne, Haylee’s aunt picks me up from the airport and takes me to the AirBnB that I rented for the rest of my stay in Australia.

Haylee’s mum, Kaye, was to pick me up in the evening so I could visit, but I got too exhausted and slept 12 hours.

March 7

Today is Marcus’ wedding to Haylee. Well, more like a reaffirmation with friends and family since they actually married over a year ago in Everett, WA.

I was still feeling poorly, and I know I was running a fever again since I couldn’t stop shivering even though the temperature was in the low-70s.

Bob, Haylee’s dad, picked me up and dropped me off at the Airbnb where Haylee and her female family & friends were getting ready for the wedding.

I finally got to see my grandson but was too sick to get much enjoyment out of it. I had no appetite but forced myself to eat a couple of chicken McNuggets.

Since I felt so chilled, I asked to borrow a sweater for the outdoor wedding. Besides feeling miserable, I was also feeling self-conscious of my legs. My dress was a sleeveless hi-lo number and the front felt so short. I was constantly trying to pull it down as I sat.

The wedding was so beautiful, and I teared up a lot. I noticed that my ex was also wiping his eyes a lot.

During the reception, I stayed long enough to dance with my son, then asked him to call an Uber to take me back to my Airbnb. I hated to leave so soon, but I felt too sick to stay.

Back at the Airbnb, I popped some more Tylenol and went to bed.

March 8

I was feeling a bit better and went over to Haylee’s home for the day. Her family was having a barbecue and it was such fun getting to know each of them better. I just adore Kaye and Bob (Haylee’s parents)! They made me feel so much at home and I know that should they ever meet my family; they will fit right in!

Towards evening, I told Marcus I planned to spend my last day in Australia at my Airbnb, begging off going downtown for sight-seeing.

March 9

I’m so glad I opted not to go sight-seeing since I was running a fever again. I alternated between sleeping, popping Tylenol, eating chicken soup and sleeping. I was ready to head home and was wondering what it would be like since I kept hearing about a coronavirus that was hitting Seattle pretty hard.

March 10

As soon as I got on the plane to fly home, I started feeling better and my fever didn’t return. At both airports, not once was I asked if I was feeling sick or had a fever. People were still bunched up in the airport security at LAX. My flight from LAX to SEATAC was almost empty. I slept stretched across the three seats in my row.

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