Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tas Mania!!

I had an amazing trip. Saw gorgeous countryside. Ate good food. Took too many photos. Didn't freeze too badly. Like I said - amazing.

First, the cast of characters:
Casey, Matt, Courtney and I from UCLA
Anne from Copenhagen
Antonio from Madrid
Benedetta from Milan
Jake from Dartmouth
John from Perth (and now at AGSM)
A big group, but a good one!

Day 1: Thursday We flew into Launceston on Thursday evening. Courtney, Matt and Anne went immediately on to Cradle Mountain, but the rest of us stayed and had a good meal in a pub called Three Steps on George. We started our journey through Tasmania's wines with a nice un-oaked chardonnay from Ninth Island. Then we crashed at Launceston Backpackers, which was really nice, except for John's snoring. And Antonio's annoying phone receiving text messages all night. I finally threw the phone at his head around 4am, telling him "deal with this". He did, by hitting reply, so for the next half hour we were treated to a flurry of beeps as his drunken friends replied.

Day 2: Launceston - Cradle Valley
At around 4:30am Casey and I gave up sleeping and set out for Cradle Mountain National Park. We drove through Deloraine, and then drove around a bit wasting time until a restaurant opened up so we could feed. We chose Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm, which was highly cute, and had a nice fire.

Then we passed through Sheffield and arrived at the Cosy Cabins in Cradle Valley by 9am, where we met up with Anne, Courtney and Matt who had headed up the night before. Too bad it was pouring the whole day. So we took short walks around Cradle Mountain Lodge. Then we took advantage of the lodge's swanky spa and boiled ourselves sitting in their outdoor hot tub overlooking the river. Not a bad life.

Afterwards, Casey and I had a nice wine a cheese tasting, continuing our tour through Tasmania's wines. I particularly liked the Wellington iced riesling paired with blue cheese. A very good combo. By the time we finished, the other 5 had shown up, so we played scrabble at the lodge, then went back to the cabin to cook pasta.

Day 3: Cradle Mountain
We were hell bent on getting into the national park and taking a hike. So even though the weather was kinda crappy, we set out to do a loop up to Marion's Lookout, then down the horse trail. For the first part, the hike was fine, although it would rain periodically. But as we got higher, the wind picked up, and the rain turned to sleet and then to snow.

Most of us were in jeans and sneakers. We did have windbreakers, but Courtney didn't even have that to cut the wind! As you can see, it got pretty intense.

But at the very end, even though I couldn't feel my feet for hours after, all was redeemed - we saw an honest to goodness platypus!!!! Very cool. Then later we went to a Tasmania Devil preserve. It seems there's a terrible facial tumor disease (there's something to worry about - contagious cancer) is attacking all the devils in the wild. Not cool, but the little devils sure are.

We ended the day back at Cradle Mountain Lodge, playing pool (with weird small yellow and red balls) and kicking Aussie butt at trivia. That is we were, until they asked us who coaches the Adelaide rugby team, and where the Australian Country Music Festival is held. But we still won some wine, which we drank so fast I don't even remember the name!

Day 4: Cradle Mountain - Maydena
We set out early the next morning. Four went Strahan (confusingly pronounced Strawn) for a ferry ride, and Antonio, Anne, Benedetta, Casey and I headed south as fast as possible - we were on a mission to taste wine. We passed through some incredible remote country, and the roads were very windy. You know you're not going to make fast time when they start announcing "straight road next 1km" instead of calling out the curvy parts. We didn't succeed in finding a winery that was open, but after 5 hours on the road we stopped at a picturesque salmon and trout hatchery and had Pancakes by the Pond. Then we spent the afternoon walking in the temperate rainforest and seeing waterfalls at Mt. Field National Park.

Something about the trees or the water or our failure to find wine to taste inspired us to start a wine club for while we're here. More on that later...

We stayed that night at Giants Table and Cottages, which was absolutely adorable. We had a fantastic pasta feast, and sat by the fire playing dominoes. We did not, however, see the platypus living in the pond.

Day 5: Maydena - Hobart
On Monday, the same five of us set out again, resolved to taste wine. The area of Tasmania we were in, the Coal River Valley produces a lot of pinot noir and dry riesling. Some of the pinot, and nearly all of the chardonnay produced there gets brought to Australia to be made into sparkling wines.

We started at Stefano Lubiano. They call tasting rooms here the 'cellar door', and I immediately understood why. We literally walked up to the door to the big building where they make their wine, and had the world's most informal tasting. The woman pouring knew next to nothing about the wines, but was very kind, and in the end we bought a very nice dry riesling and a couple bottles of pinot.

Then we headed to Meadowbank, which was in the Coal River Valley proper. It was much swankier, and so although we intended to have lunch at the restaurant there, we wound up just having few small plates to share.

Next we headed to Puddleduck Winery, where we met Polly and Bazil Brown, two very friendly Corgies. Finally, we hit up Coal Valley Winery, after which point we all decided what we really needed was a nap.

Hobart was beautiful. Set on the water, where the Derwent River joins the ocean, the town has lots of gorgeous old buildings. We wandered around for a bit, and then, tired of touristing, and cold again (Hobart is closer to Antartica that I generally like to be) we settled in for a sushi feed. The next morning we woke up frighteningly early again (4 am) and headed for the airport so I could be back in Sydney in time for class! Needless to say I was pretty useless, but at least I got my attendance points in.

So that was my trip to Tasmania. I can't pinpoint why I found it so fantastic, but I do know this - I've got the travel bug. So look for more trips coming in the next few weeks!

No comments: