Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Oh Tassie, why so wet?

I'm just back from Tasmania. The experience of holidaying in the Apple Isle was, well, memorable to say the least. Now, this is Australia and you'd reckon you'd strike decent weather anywhere in this fine, sunny land by the time it's the end of October. But not Tassie. Oh no, no, no.
We're talking gale-force winds, horizontal rain and snow... for six days of the seven we were away. None of this is to say we didn't have a nice time. It's just that we would have had a nicer time had the sun actually come out for more than a couple of hours at a time. Our trip went a bit like this:

Catch the "Big Red Plane" (thank you, Wiggles; thank you, Virgin Blue) with little fuss. Am armed with coloured crayons, pirate colouring-in book, six (little!) packets of rice crackers, four boxes of juice and a couple of headache tablets (for me). Boy does good on the flight; big tick there.
Pick up hire car, strap kid in and decide not to make for the famous Salamanca Markets in Hobart, as was the original plan, as Ewan has fallen asleep. Instead grab fish and chips and eat them in the car while heading out of the city. We drive. And drive. And drive. Suddenly I don't feel too good. Feel really, really like I am going to puke. This is bad as the sign tells us there is 60km to Lake Pedder, where we're headed. We stop several times and I heave several times. At certain points I feel like I may die. When we arrive I can see the relief on Shaun's face as he finds out that a) there is actually somewhere to stay at Lake Pedder (this had been doubtful) and b) there is a room available. I can read his facial expression. It says: "money no object" ... because he knew if he had to tell me we had to turn around and drive 60 horrific kilometres back to Hobart or somewhere I. would. have. killed. him.
The chalet (sounds fancy, more like giant motel) is actually lovely. This is the view from our room (told you it was rainy).

Poor Ewie. He wanted to go outside but it was too wet even for the ducks. I'm serious.

Bye-bye rainy (yet lovely) Lake Pedder. I get behind the wheel in the hope of avoiding the puke factor again. Make it to some fabulous little beaches and Ewan has a ball fiddling around in the sand. We drive and drive some more (roads less winding ... thank goodness) until we reach a sweet little place called Swansea on the Freycinet Peninsula. I fall in love with the landscape. It is truly gorgeous. Reminds me of Scotland on a good day. It was pretty windy and wild but the sun shone some of the time, which was nice.

Shaun looked after Ewan while I had a morning walk along the beach. This may have been the highlight of the whole holiday for me, so nice was it. I adored this place; mountains rising out of the sea have to be one of my most favourite things. I don't think we shared the beach with anyone else the whole time we were there.

We drive to Ross, this pretty little heritage town in the middle of the state. Setting suitably bucolic, lots of Georgian buildings, the oldest (convict built) bridge in Australia ... and yet what I will remember it for is the unbelievable winds. This may have been the day when Ewan looked up at me and said: "Mummy, I walk backwards." And indeed he was just about blown off his feet.

Poatina. It's a beautiful word. I even like it for a girl's name (don't worry, I'm not serious). However, this town is the freakiest, oddest place I have ever set foot in. It's in the mountains. You drive up these desolate twisty roads (note: had purchased packet of Dramamine travel sickness tablets days back and happily popped them at every opportunity) to this funny little village. Empty little village. It is pretty well maintained, in a Eighties kind of a way, and there is a cafe, youth centre, motel, op-shop (?), radio station (??), TV production studio (??!!) all in the one spot. And a kids' Thomas the Tank Engine train thingy (very popular, as you can imagine) and a huge chalet thingy with a great (empty) restaurant.

All this ... and yet no people. It is deserted. Weird, spooky even. I Google it later and find out it is a purpose-built hydro town. Ahh, I see. Still weird though.
We drive on (and on) to Lake St Clair, at which point Shaun has a bit of a "doh" moment, because he thought we'd be able to see Cradle Mountain from there. Turns out it is hours and hours away. We go to drive on but it starts snowing so we turn back to near the national park, where there is a pub. Had a nice time here. Put Ewan to bed and did the naughty parent thing of sneaking to the bar for a few drinks after he fell asleep. Bar tab the next morning: $120. Oops. (In our defence, that did include three meals, okay.)

We wake to snow! Ewan's first snow! Just a little, but enough to be fun for him. He implores Daddy to make "snowman ball" after "snowman ball". He's having fun so we go back to the national park to attempt a walk in the snow. Nice idea, as it had been too rainy the previous day to actually see anything.
Trouble is, the snow is cold and wet and the sun is too bright. At least that's how a two-year-old sees it. We try to take him for a walk in the stroller along the path. He howls. I swear the rangers must have been so close to calling DOCS, such wailing was emanating from the little chap. Who'd have thought a holiday could be so traumatic?

After we've had our eardrums pierced by the crying we get in the car again and head over to Strahan. This was the bit of the trip I've been most looking forward to, as it always looks so pretty in the pictures. Pretty it was, there's no doubt. But weird too - almost as weird as Poatina. Now get this, it's a fishing villlage ... with no fish and chip shop. And no place to buy fish to cook at any one of the millions of tourist cottages every local seems to have shoved in their backyards. Go figure, because I sure can't. I think I spot a niche.
Anyhow, it was nice ... when it wasn't blowing a chill wind straight from Antarctica.

Stay put in Strahan for a bit. We take Ewan to the wild and woolly beach, which is quite spectacular but another horrific experience for him. Again he cries and says, "Mummy, I want to go home". Gulp. Gets me, that one. I forgot to mention that we also walked along the Franklin River, a definite highlight for me. What a special place that is. Made even more special when a little pink wren danced on a branch near me.

We head to Salamanca Markets - groovy and interesting and just a little too crowded for me. Bought the hottest coffee I have ever sipped (my mouth is still burnt) then have to carry it in one hand while pushing stroller with the other through a busy market. The sun is shining - this is the one day of the entire trip it stayed out all day. Then we drive off to Port Arthur, where Ewie gets maximum brownie points for falling asleep in the car and then staying asleep after we carefully lift him into the stroller. Good work!
This is a pic of one of our better stroller moments - was on a lovely rainforest walk in Strahan.

Well, it was an interesting week. Challenging, you might say, what with recalcitrant weather and (sometimes) recalcitrant toddler but, hey, we survived!

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