Tasmania and our crossing to New Zealand
This morning we arrived in Hobart, Tasmania, and the boat is safely anchored in the Prince of Wales marina. We call Els, a friend of Hans' who moved here years ago.That same afternoon she turns up in the marina with her husband Noel and a large hamper filled with delicacies. Which is very convenient, because we have nearly run out of supplies again. The four of us enjoy the lovely food while sitting in Happy's cockpit. And Els offering us the use of her Mercedes makes our stay in Hobart unforgettable before it has even properly started. The next day we take the car to the centre of Hobart and we visit the Wooden Boat Show. All day we walk around the grounds with our eyes popping: so much wood in one marina, both new and old, including really old. The wooden ukelele which Hans is allowed to play for a bit is really beautiful, but unfortunately far too expensive.
We entertain ourselves in and around Hobart for a couple of days and we spend a couple of nights at Els' and Noel's place who, when they have the time, take us to a couple of beautiful spots in the area.
Just like on the mainland of Australia, there are an awful lot of unusual birds in Tasmania. When we have a barbie with Els and Noel near a reservoir, we not only see a huge flock of white cockatoos, but also the laughing kookaburra. This particular bird was so used to humans that we could feed it and photograph it from close by. If you want to know what it sounds like, just ask Els to imitate it. It sounds like...
We frequently walk around Hobart, one of the oldest cities in Australia. It's a beautiful city with a lot of old buildings and no skyscrapers. Time flies, we have already been here for a week, so it's time to pick up our rental van.
Tour of the island
We have rented a so-called Wicked Van for eleven days. This is a cheap van in which you can sleep as well. It's very popular among young people. The outside is painted with weird characters and texts. In our case, it had "R.I.P." written on it in several places. The inside was also decorated with texts from people who had rented the van before us and since we had been invited to add our own contribution, this is what we duly did. The first day we visit the train in Margrate where we can buy Dutch products, mainly sweets. The old steam train, which is beautifully painted, no longer travels anywhere. The carriages are now used as shops and restaurants.Then we travel on to Mount Field National Park, north west of Hobart. It is already late when we near our destination. We park our van in a side road where we spend the night. The woody area is beautiful and we prepare a simple meal on the twin-burner that comes with the van. The next day we continue on to two beautiful lakes, Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon. Then we drive to Strahan (pronounced as Strown) in the western part of Tasmania.
We spend the night on the circuit in Queenstown, where there is room for several camper vans. There are no bathroom facilities and when nature calls we drive a short distance to the public toilets in the centre of the town. The next day we drive to Strahan. We pass some beautiful scenery until we arrive in the old fishing village. There are many boats with baskets which are used to catch lobsters. We drink coffee on the waterfront and see two seaplanes land, a means of transport that is used a lot around here. We walk to a beautiful waterfall via a park that was donated to the public by a rich guy a long time ago and which has fortunately remained public ever since. There are supposed to be platypuses, a very rare animal, in the park, but we haven't seen any. These very shy animals are only active in the early morning or late afternoon and we are not spending the night here, because there are so many other things we would like to see.
One of the most touristy areas in Tasmania is Cradle Mountain, a high mountain in a beautiful national park. The beautiful winding roads to the top are a tough climb for our little van.Only a limited amount of cars are allowed into the park and the parking lot is full, so we can't go any further. Over a cup of coffee we discuss what to do next. We decide to pack up our lunch and to take one of the many shuttle buses into the park. We get off at Dove Lake. The weather is beautiful, the sun is shining, there is not a cloud to be seen and the fresh mountain air revives us. The mountains in the background, the unruffled water of the lake and the deep blue sky make it look like a picture postcard. We are lucky, considering it rains here 80 percent of the time. We walk around part of the lake and visit Waldheim, a wooden chalet which was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Gustav Weindorfer. This Austrian managed to make sure, by endless lobbying, that the natural area around Cradle Mountain was finally made into a national park. We spend the night at a free camping site in the area.
Stanley and Narawntapu National Park
We have crossed to the northern coast of Tasmania and are now in Stanley. What is interesting about this town is that it is near the crater of a dead volcano right on the coast. It is called "Nut" and it is a weird looking high mountain smack in the middle of an otherwise flat landscape. We switch to climbing mode and struggle up a really steep path. We are rewarded with an excellent view of the surrounding area from a really high point. The village itself is not that interesting and the strong wind makes your hairdo look like you've push-started an airplane, although Hans doesn't seem to have this problem.
On the way to Launceston, the second biggest city on Tasmania, we hear about Narawntapu National Park, where you can see wombats in the wild. When we arrive, we don't see a park keeper or guide who can tell us about the wombats.In the company of a couple of wallabies we eat our dinner and despite the request not to feed the animals we give them a raw green bean every now and then. After dinner we go for a walk, because that is the time of day when you can see the most animals. We walk around a lake for one and half hours before we finally see the first kangaroos. But that is not all. A little further on we see a lot of them. They hop around in groups near the lake. We still haven't seen a wombat, but when we are almost back at the camping site we see a field where a couple of people are lying on their bellies in the grass. They are professional photographers who are taking pictures of a wombat. There are several around and they are not afraid of humans at all. You can even touch them, but their fur feels a lot rougher than it looks. By the light of the setting sun we enjoy ourselves quite a while with these cute cuddly animals.
Launceston and high up in the mountains
We are going to Launceston because there is a good watersports shop in this city where we buy a new foot pump for the tap in our boat and a new mainsheet. Then we quickly go back to exploring nature. We drive through a flat landscape and see a steep mountain wall in the distance. Do we have to go over it? Hans can barely believe it, but Dory is reading the map and is absolutely certain that our little van is going to have to defy this mountain. And indeed, at the end of the plain the road starts winding and we creep up all the way to the top. We find a camping site near Arthurs Lake, a beautiful lake, one of the many reservoirs in the area. A large part of the electricity in Tasmania is generated by water. Nearly all the lakes have been artificially enlarged and are used to generate energy. Sometimes you come across a series of enormous ugly pipelines in the middle of nowhere. These are used to transport water to the power stations. Because the inhabitants have protested, large areas of nature have fortunately been spared adaptations for the energy sector.A lot of fish has been introduced in the reservoirs and that is why you see a lot of cars towing a trailer with a boat on it. That is because Tasmanians like fishing. At the camping site there are several camper vans with trailers and in the evening we receive a filleted fish from someone who had a good catch that day.
After dinner we take our folding chairs and a beer to a spot further down to watch the animals which wake up at sunset. Unfortunately, we only see a couple of wallabies hopping away in the distance. When it gets too cold to sit outside, we walk back to the camping site and light a fire in a special barrel intended for this purpose. But soon it gets too cold for that as well, so we get into our warm beds. But we wake up several times during the night because it's too cold. No matter how closely we huddle together, we simply cannot get warm on our inflatable beds. When it finally gets light, we quickly move from our beds to the front seats and drive off with the heating at maximum temperature. We even seem to see frost on the grass, so no wonder we are cold. After about an hour we have stopped shivering and we can finally have a normal breakfast.
Back in Hobart
After eleven days we return our Wicked Van and return to our boat. We don't think the weather looks good enough to depart, so we count on at least another two weeks of Tasmanian hospitality from Els and Noel. But when we see a perfect weather pattern the next day with more than a week of a maximum of twenty knots of wind (wind force 5) behind us we decide to depart after a couple of days. To conclude our visit, Els and Noel take us to a free open air concert of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra. The public is treated to classical music, alternated with André Rieu type tunes. It's a beautiful sight.An excellent conclusion of our wonderful time in Tasmania.
We make our arrangements with Customs and Immigration to check out and on 1 March we leave this wonderful island.
On the Tasman Sea
The wind is perfectly behind us and not too strong. Because this wind blows directly over the South Pole's ice cap towards us, it is freezing cold. For the first time in years we wear three layers of our sailing suits: long underwear, an intermediate fleece layer and trousers and a coat, completed with a hat and gloves. It's great to be able to crawl into a preheated bed after three hours of keeping watch. Day in day out the weather is good, it is getting warmer and halfway we are enjoying a beer on our foredeck while quietly sailing along. The dreaded Tasman Sea is behaving very well and despite the light wind we are making reasonable progress because we have a constant current behind us. After thirteen days we arrive at the northern tip of New Zealand. And that's when things start going wrong. We have been seeing the remains of a tropical storm coming south for the last couple of days and we'd like to reach our destination before the storm reaches us. We seem to be able to make it, until the wind and the current turn. Because there are various seas north of New Zealand there are areas with really weird currents. We struggle against them on our engine. On top of everything, Dory takes an unfortunate fall on the foredeck while setting the second reef during the night on a very turbulent sea and with 25 knots of wind and she'll have to continue with a black eye and several bruises. But after three days of struggling we manage to safely arrive in the Bay of Islands and to moor Happy Monster safely in the Opua Marina. In the end, the trip took us (only) sixteen days.
It is time to make new plans for the next year. Since we now have a piece of land in Fiji, we have decided not to sail around the world. We will stay in the Pacific, but we also want to go to the Netherlands to visit family and friends. So we have decided to fly around the world; after all, the Netherlands is on the other side of the planet. We fly to Peru for a month of backpacking and will arrive in the Netherlands on 11 June. On 7 July we will leave again to fly to India via London. We will travel around India for four months and then visit Thailand and Malaysia. We will fly back to New Zealand in December.
We are hoping to meet as many friends as possible between 11 June and 7 July.
(Translated from dutch to english by Percy Balemans)