Cruise to Antarctica and Sydney

Tasmania

Tuesday, February 28th - Hobart:  Now we're really "down under."  Tasmania, or Tassie as the locals call it, is a beautiful island and you'd have to spend a couple weeks here to see it all.  We're staying at a hotel  in Hobart, which has about 200,000 residents, or 40% of the Tasmanian population of 500,000.  Hobart is about 90 minutes from Sydney by air or 12 hours by ferry from Melbourne.  Last night we found all the essentials:  liquor (a store called The Thirsty Camel) and groceries (a supermarket named Woolworth's).  This morning we walked around the waterfront of Hobart Harbor.  We stopped for lunch at Fish Frenzy on the Elizabeth Street Pier and shared some fish and chips.  We booked some trips at the Visitor's Center,  and this afternoon toured with a small international group to go to the top of Mount Wellington.  On a sunny day there are beautiful views of Hobart and the harbor (see web photo).  Today, however, we were literally "in the clouds" and couldn't see much at all.  The weather changes quickly in Hobart, and it's a lot cooler than it was in Sydney--about 65 for the high temperature.  It's much better for sightseeing, but a little cool when the wind blows.  Tonight we walked around town--everything we need is within a half mile.   The people are friendly but sometimes hard to understand with their Aussie accents.

Wednesday, February 29th - Bruny Island Cruise:  We had a wonderful adventure today on Bruny Island.  The tour met on the waterfront and we went by bus to a town called Kettering.  There our small bus and its passengers got on a ferry for a short 15 minute ride to the north part of Bruny Island.  The island has about 600 residents and has a lot of cabins (the Aussies call them shacks).  We drove to the south part of the island and had a muffin and coffee at a cafe before the three hour boat trip started.  The weather was nice today, overcast but no rain.  They passed out pills for motion sickness, and almost everyone took them.  The small boat had seats and those of us near the front had to wear seat belts, as it would go quite fast (a bumpy ride), then stop so we could see the beautiful rugged coast.  We saw birds:  cormorants, a sea eagle, and many Shy albatross. There were no penguins on Penguin island (it was named by an early explorer who saw them there).  The Friars is an island with a big seal population and they were very entertaining to watch:  barking, swimming and sunning themselves.  At the end of the boat ride we went back to the cafe for a lunch of hot pumpkin soup (very tasty and it helped warm us up) and a salmon roll.  Then back on the bus for the trip back to Hobart, where we arrived around 5:30.  The guides today were great--funny and informative.  Tonight we had a nice steak dinner at the Astor Grill, which was recommended to us by a local.


Video of the seals on The Friars


Thursday, March 1st - Port Arthur: The Thrifty Car Rental location is only about a block from our hotel, so we got our car in short order around 9:00.  The rental fee wasn't bad, about $90.  We drove from Hobart to the Tasman Peninsula, which is about a 60 mile trip, but it took about 1 1/2 hours because of the narrow, winding roads.  Our first stop was to see the Tasman Arch and Devil's Kitchen, both dramatic rock formations.  We went through a tiny place named Doo Town, where there is a tradition of naming every house with "Doo" in it.   It started raining as soon as we got back on the road and didn't let up when we got to Port Arthur.  This is part of the Tasman National Park and is the site of a penal colony that was established in 1830 and closed in 1877.  The British sent thousands of offenders here and the convicts built the prison, the church and even cast the church bells.  Our tour started with a walking tour (actually just standing in the rain for 40 minutes while our guide droned on about Port Arthur history).  The rain stopped as soon as she stopped talking and then we were on our own to explore the area--we first went to the Asylum Cafe for some hot chocolate.  Most of the buildings were gutted by bush fires but the ruins were interesting.  We then took a short cruise and dropped off people doing tours at an island where the Brits established Point Puer Boys' Prison (mainly teenage boys) and another island called Isle of the Dead where convicts, military and "free" people from Port Arthur were buried.  We left Port Arthur and drove to Taranna, where the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Park is located.  The animals roam free here, and we first saw and then fed the kangaroos some grass and food pellets, as they only eat plants.  There were also wallabies and geese in this area.  Next we went to the Tasmanian Devil feeding.  The devils are carnivores and when the large pieces of wallaby flesh were thrown to them, the mother devil and her three 9 month old cubs grabbed it with their strong jaws and had a tug of war.  The drive back to Hobart was a little longer because of traffic in the city.  We filled up the gas tank--we'd driven about 120 miles and paid about $24 (Australian) for 4 gallons of gas.  We were tired after our full day of interesting sightseeing, so walked just a few blocks to the Asian Gourmet on the Pier for a nice and quick dinner.


Video of Jay feeding the kangaroos


Friday, March 2nd - Hobart to Sydney:  After breakfast at our hotel we took the shuttle to the airport for our flight to Sydney.  We had an interesting cab ride back to the Sir Stamford Hotel--our driver had emigrated from the Peshawar, Pakistan area about 13 years ago.  He first went to Auckland, New Zealand and lost his money when he started a business, so he moved to Sydney where there were more jobs.  He told us that English is the official language of Pakistan, since it was once controlled by the British and he also told us he went to school in Cyprus.  He asked how much our hotel and the one in Hobart cost--sort of surprised us since he said he's lived here for six years.  It's a rainy day in Sydney so we decided to have dinner at the hotel.  They had a piano player in the bar and we had a nice meal.  Tomorrow afternoon our flight to Dallas is scheduled for 3:40.  It is about a 15 hour flight, then a couple hours layover and a 2 1/2 hour flight to Minneapolis.  We've had a wonderful trip but are tired and looking forward to going home to see family and friends!

Click here for photos of Tasmania

© Jay Deitch 2015