Crazy rain, a dodgy van and a lot of wombats!

Trip Start Jun 15, 2011
Trip End Jun 01, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Tasmania,
Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Next we headed north to Launceston, Tasmania's second city and arch rivals of the Hobartians. People from Hobart say that the best thing to come out of Launceston is the highway to Hobart but we thought we'd check it out and make a decision for ourselves.
It didn't get off to the best start as it was raining all day and so we had real trouble getting the van up the hills. We were trying to get to Cataract Gorge and the SatNav thought it had a great route up and over a massive hill. As we got to the steepest part we had to stop to allow a car to turn and then we just couldn't get the van moving forward again. The wheels spun and spun over the wet road while the van slid slowly backwards towards another car making it's way up the hill. I put my foot to the floor on the brake and pulled up the handbrake and eventually we stopped. The car behind just waited but there was no way I was going to try that again as I was sure we'd end up crashing. So we just stubbornly stayed still waving for him to go round which he eventually did along with a few angry gestures as he passed.... we decided to forgive him as he didn't know we saved the front end of his car from being smashed in! 

 It was so frustrating and eventually we had to give up and head into the gorge a different way. Cataract Gorge was worth the effort to visit, it's beautiful and you can't believe that this is situated right next to Tasmania's second city. We trekked around the Gorge and the rain held off which we were grateful for.

 Launceston itself wasn't too easy for us to explore. As it was Sunday, half the place was shut and a lot of the roads were closed due to a 4km run for breast cancer which was on in the middle of the city. We did a quick explore then drove to see the James Boags brewery before deciding to head outside the city to a campsite.

 We ended up deciding to drive quite far outside, all the way up to the Tamar Valley to a campsite at Beauty Point. It deserved it's name as it was a campsite on a peninsular so we were completely surrounded by beautiful views over the water. 

 According to the map there was a National Park called Narawntapu nearby which is known to be a great spot for seeing wombats, so we were really keen to go there before sunset. We asked at the Campsite and the guy recommended that we drive over the gravel road as its far quicker than going around. I asked him about the condition of the road, explaining our experiences from earlier in the day and he assured us that it would be fine. The road was in good condition and there was only one slightly steep section. It sounded worth it as it would knock off 45 minutes from our journey but the stress probably took that 45 minutes from our lives anyway as the road was a nightmare. 

 It was so uneven, wet and steep that the van was bouncing, swerving and skidding all over the place. All we could think was 'when will we be back on a surfaced road?'... but it just went on and on and on. We started discussing what we would do when we broke down, or the exhaust fell off as the insurance people probably wouldn't be too sympathetic to our situation, plus we didn't have any phone signal to call for help anyway.It was the longest 45 minute drive ever but it did eventually come to an end and we were rewarded with the best Kangaroo and Wombat encounter yet. 

 Spring Lawn at the National Park was surrounded by 3 fields each of which had wallabies, wombats and pademelons. In the 30-40 minutes we spent there, we saw around 20 wombats and were able to get quite close to them which was awesome. They were very relaxed and a few of them were even chasing each other around. They can run surprisingly fast but then not much seems to happen with their game, they just run for about 50 metres and then stop to eat grass. They were a lot of fun to watch though.

 Deciding that there was no way we would be returning on the same road as we came, we headed the long way home which was nearly as stressful anyway as we were low on petrol and in the middle of nowhere so just hoping we had enough to get back to the campsite which fortunately we did..... just!
The Tamar Valley is absolutely stunning, and quite different to the other parts of Tasmania that we have been to. It seems to be much greener and while we were there the sun finally came out which may also have impacted our positive opinion of the place. When we woke up at beauty point the sun was shining and when Katy came back from the showers I couldn't believe the sight. She was wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops for the first time since we left Sydney and was chattering about how this was her favourite place so far. I asked her if she wasn't being a bit over keen given how cold it had been. Whilst she refused that thought altogether, within an hour she had added leggings, closed shoes and a hoodie to the outfit so I think I may have been right.

 We drove all over, exploring the wine region and the coast. A highlight was going up to the Low head near Georgetown. Katy saw that there were no less than 3 lighthouses there so we had to drive up to check it out. It was extremely windy but worth the drive as we spent some time exploring the Peninsular and also found 2 little penguins nesting near the lighthouse.

 After the Tamar Valley it was onwards to the Cradle Mountain National Park. The drive there was a bit frustrating because we were driving out of the sunshine into a far colder and wetter climate and then arrived just as everything shut. There is no free camping there so ended up having to pay a fortune for a muddy camping spot at a nearby campsite. The one thing that made up for that was that there was plenty of wildlife around and we went on a couple of the short walks at the National Park entrance.

 Then the next day we walked around Dove Lake which was absolutely stunning. The Lake sits below Cradle mountain which was covered in cloud at the start of our walk but cleared by the end and the views were awesome. The water is a really odd colour and looks a bit like coke, a dark brown which almost looks black. But that means it reflects the colour of the sky really clearly and on a clear morning you can get some amazing reflections of cradle mountain as well

 One of the things we like most about exploring Australia is that there is almost always wildlife around and it really adds to the adventure. A Kangaroo came right up to where we were walking by the Lake and even posed for a photo, we spotted smaller marsupials as they darted into the bush and then as we left the national park we spotted an Echidna at the side of the road. We walked up really slowly, so he didn't notice us at first but as soon as he did he scurried into the nearest little bush, buried his head and lay as flat as he could. It was really cute!

 So now we head to the west coast for our final couple of days in Tasmania!
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