After several days spent in the back of Tasmania, we finally came out, pointing north.
As a farewell to the city, we decided to climb the 1271 meters of Mount Wellington, the summit of the homonymous mountain range that bars the expansion of the capital's houses and separates it from the island's vastness above on the map.
Mount Wellington Above
Twenty minutes of twists and turns in a half wild, half rocky setting, we reach the top, well identified by a viewpoint with fearless architecture. We leave the car.
We climbed onto an overhanging wooden balcony. From there, we enjoy the profusion of pink magmatic boulders that stretches down the slope.
We see streaks of clouds ascend, from further down the slope, surreptitiously, as if wanting to surprise the intruders of their mountain. More than the gaseous skeins, it's the mountain's meteorology that catches us off guard. We realized, without any doubt, how crucial it was to Hobart the orographic shelter of the mountain range.
Without it, especially during the southern winter, Hobart would be exposed to the vagaries of the south and southwest winds from the Antarctic Ocean.
Even if the prevailing winds blow from the north from the ever-warm Australian continent, whenever exceptions are made, city dwellers will freeze.
It was what was happening to us little by little, the reason why we surrendered to the evidence and the increasingly intense tremors. We retire to the interior of the glass building.
Sheltered from the frigid, furious gusts, we enjoyed the view awhile longer: the cut across the long estuary of the Derwent River and, onwards, the smoother lands of the Tasman Peninsula we had explored in those days.
From the Heights to the Plains of the Midlands
We ran back to the parking lot. We get in the car. From there, we descended towards the Midlands plains.
As the name suggested, we identified them in the imminence of the middle of the island, dominated by the shades of green and yellow of the cereal plantations, compartmentalized by successive hedges.
The Midlands became rural in the early years of colonization. This reality and the opulence achieved by the families of agricultural settlers is evident in the number of villages and stone hamlets and the old towns, garrison and post office that still abound.
Oatlands, for example, is home to Australia's largest collection of Georgian architecture, with 87 historic buildings on Main Street alone. A few dozen kilometers to the north, Ross radiates colonial charm.
And a tranquility only broken by the croaking of crows and the ringing of the church bell. This was not always the case.
Ross' Secular Garrison
Ross was established around 1812 to protect travelers who roamed the island from top to bottom from the Aborigines. At that time, the relationship with the natives remained more conflicted than ever. The garrison accommodated the carriages at night. It kept passengers safe.
Ross still houses one of the most photographed bridges on the island of Tasmania. Like so many other structures on the island, the condemned built it. Even the foreman of the masons was one of them.
The Exile and the Work of Daniel Herbert
Still in Great Britain, Daniel Herbert had a military father and a job. Even so, he did not resist one of the much more profitable pots offered to him. During a highway robbery, he was captured. Repeated violent robberies, was sentenced to death. Saw the penalty changed to exile for life.
A few years of Tasmanian exile then the authorities decided to reward his exhaustive work on the 186 panels that decorate the arches of Ross Bridge. Pardon was granted.
Even if the whole village seems picturesque to us, animated by small craft shops and cozy tea houses, the bridge with the art of Daniel Herbert still preserves the monument of monuments.
Still in Ross, we are faced with an intersection with four possible meanings for life: Temptation, represented by the hotel-pub Man O'Ross; Salvation, offered by the Catholic Church; the Recreation, provided by the cultural building of the local council and, finally, the Condemnation of the old jail.
The next morning, with time for Taz running out, we dodged the four hypotheses.
We return to road 1. After a few kilometers, we detour east, aiming for the east coast of Tasmania, known as sun coast thanks to its mild climate.
Turning on World Road Kill Capital
The road, narrow and winding, undulates up and down successive hills. But more than its eccentric roller coaster layout, it is the amount of animal corpses on the asphalt that moves us.
The proliferation of specimens with nocturnal habits – with a predominance for marsupials – and the lack of protections that bar their crossings on the tar, made the island of Tasmania the World Roadkill Capital, title given and recognized among Anglophone peoples.
The victims of Tasmanian vehicles can even be divided into species and sub-species.
We recognize kangaroos, wallabies (small kangaroos) and pademelons (even smaller kangaroos) echidnas, foxes, and possums (skunks), the latter of the most feared by drivers, as their robust physique causes enormous damage to engines and bodies.
The list of victims does not end there. Roadkill is a substantial cause for the near extinction of the famous Tasmanian Devils.
The Tasmanian Devil's Demonic Condemnation
In one of those cartoons presented by the late Vasco Granja, Bugs Bunny is harassed by one of them. He turns to a dictionary to see what strange species threatens him: “… here he is, Tasmanian Devil: strong, murderous beast, endowed with jaws as powerful as a steel trap.
It is insatiable, it feeds on tigers, lions, elephants, buffaloes, donkeys, giraffes, octopuses, rhinos, moose, ducks … to which the predator adds: "And rabbits!" “Rabbits? It doesn't say anything here.” replies Bugs Bunny. With his patience running out, Taz decides to impose his will and completes the dictionary with a pencil.
In the real world, the Tasmanian Devil turns out to be a weak hunter. Scavengers, omnivores, feed mainly on already dead animals.
They are run over, in large part, when they devour corpses on the roads. As if the misfortune were not enough, the “demons” were plagued by an epidemic of facial tumors which, in certain areas of Tasmania, had reduced them by almost 80%.
After intense lobby, the Tasmanian government obtained authorization from Warner Bros. to sell XNUMX Taz stuffed animals and use the proceeds to fight the facial tumor epidemic.
Scientists and environmentalists called the offer stingy. It's hard to disagree with, considering that the animal's image earns the company millions of dollars every year.
In recent times, additional efforts have been made to control the death toll. At the same time, this marsupial mammal appears to have reacted to the tumor. Everything indicates that the creature will survive the fate to which it seemed doomed.
And the Tasmanian Tiger's Withering Extinction
The Tasmanian Devil's other-time main predator, the Tasmanian Tiger, was not so lucky. Its exotic look seduced hunters. As if that wasn't enough, the thylacine preyed on cattle.
The colonists victimized him in successive hunts and revenges. In 1936, less than a century after the beginning of the settlement of Tasmania, they had already extinguished it.
As is customary in these cases, supporters remain that some furtive specimens are still hiding in the deep island of Tasmania. We continued our itinerary with our eyes wide open.
From the rural interior, we proceed to the east coast along a winding route that reveals only home-grown roadside businesses and – the most unexpected of sights – a section of clothes racks for old shoes installed on its verges that drivers increase for a joke, and for reverence to the tradition inaugurated by a farmer in the region.
The B34 road continues north along the windy east coast. When it reaches the middle of the island, it cuts to a peninsula that has fallen on the map.
The Peninsular Domain of Freycinet
enter the Freycinet National Park, a protected territory in which both wild white sand beaches and rough seas abound, as well as tranquil inlets with blue waters that overlook imposing cliffs and forested slopes. Two of these coves almost touch on Wineglass Bay.
The duo became a favorite landscape of the island of Tasmania. Determined to investigate its turquoise proximity, we climbed over 600 steps that lead to a dedicated viewpoint. In vain. Lately, vegetation had grown.
From that high in-between, we could only see the rounded bay of Wineglass Bay. Rather than scratching ourselves to death ascending the hill among thorny bushes, we surrendered to the long, steep trail that descended.
In the bay, we come across a sea too cold and treacherous to reward ourselves with a dip. It's common wallabies suspicious.
From Freycinet to the Northern Capital: Launceston
We regain our strength by walking along the threshold of the surf. When the sand gives way to the rocky cliffs, we revert to the main road on the island of Tasmania. Once again driving it up, we enter Launceston.
We arrived already at dusk, by the wayside. When we look for a local Irish Pub with some of the cheapest rooms in town, a police car pulls us over. In the confusion of finding the address, we had missed a wink. The agent who approaches us has anything but an Australian face.
Check our passports for our names and nationality. We inspect your baptism on the uniform identification. Upon our request, he informs us that he was born in El Salvador. “Sorry there but I have to give you a warning note. You have nothing to pay but try not to commit any further infractions.”
If it had to be, so be it. We ended up speaking Spanish and laughing out loud. Around the corner, we find the pub. We had dinner. Despite some expectable noise from drunken conviviality, we slept well. New morning arrived, we set out to discover Launceston.
Launceston is the second largest city on the island. Still light years away from the capital in terms of development and pace of life, the city has only recently reacted to the tourist frenzy of the rest of the island of Tasmania.
Its attractions are limited to a few regional restaurants and the unjustified lure of such a Cataract Gorge that, not even appreciated from above, by cable car, fills our measure.
The Coast of Disillusionment
We knew that Tasmania held special places. Eager to anticipate them, we abandoned Launceston.
We aim for the north coast of the island, the turn to the big aussie island. Once there, we followed the summit road heading west. A few dozen kilometers later, we realized that the proximity to the mother island had made that coastline the main industrial den of Taz.
There were huge tanks of fuel and other chemicals, refineries and different storage and processing units, all on the shores of a much calmer sea than those on the east and south coasts.
We put up with that repellent panorama for about forty minutes. With no sign that it would change, around Devonport, we turned south on the path to wild tasmania of all dreams.
We weren't far away. It's for a next article.