Friday 31 October 2014

Mount Amos (Mountain of Fire)

We woke up to a beautiful day, the rain had lashed in the night and now given way to clear blue skies and a light breeze. A perfect day for climbing this mountain.

Mount Amos from Honeymoon Bay
After a hearty breakfast, we headed out and we were up at the car park by 9am, well ahead of the tourist rabble.

The first kilometre of the track headed directly inland along a well paved gravel path. This first section of the walk was really easy going with only a slight uphill incline. After that the track opened up to steeper rocky hiking as we began to emerge from above the main tree line.

From there the track became much rockier and less dependent on a well-defined ‘route’. Above us were huge sections of large granite rock face, like folds and ripples of shiny, smooth fabric and we could quite understand how slippy that would be in the wet. To be fair we had to choose our steps carefully as it was slippy enough as it was. 

Because of the steepness, walking was now impossible and we had to stoop and scale the rock, which was quite tricky to master at first. We soon found our feet though and we both declared on more than one occasion how much we were enjoying the challenge, it was unlike any kind of hike we had ever done before.

As you scramble your way up Mount Amos you’re constantly bombarded with glimpses of its beauty. We found ourselves making making many excuses to stop, turn around and soak in the stunning view around us. Although we never saw another person (result!), we were definitely not alone, we shared our walk with frogs, lizards, birds and wallabies.

We also noted how still and how quiet it was and then just at that very moment, the peace was noisily disturbed by the piercing squawk of a yellow tailed, black cockatoo. He was an absolute beauty and posed very proudly for his photo! We were both thrilled.

These granite rock faces were much trickier than they looked

Its not glamorous but the crab style scramble worked!
There were definitely a few moments that "got my ticker going" so to speak. I was climbing up a steep, narrow and very craggy section. My fingers were stuck fast to the rock above my head, my left leg was bent with my foot wedged in a crevice but my right leg was dangling with nowhere apparent to go. I just couldn't find a foot hold and I felt a little panicky. I was giving myself a good talking to because panic wouldn't help me whilst Hubster calmly and gently uttered words of encouragement. Boy, he is so good in these situations. In the end, I said "come on Debbie you don't do all that gym work for nothing!", so I pressed my fingers so hard into the granite it hurt and I used all the upper body strength I could muster to heave myself out of this section. I immediately rose to steadier and firmer ground and swore loudly with relief.

After that the last segment of the walk evened out into a much less demanding climb and the trees and shrubs appeared again. 

Once at the top all the hard work, sweat and swearwords were soon forgotten as we were rewarded with the most incredible panoramic view of all of Freycinet, It was simply breathtaking and the view of Wineglass Bay was unmatched by any other location in the park. It was so perfect that it didn't even look real.

Then as we stood gazing in awe, a wedge tailed sea eagle soared on the thermals just a few metres away from us, wow what a beautiful office he has!

And so it was, just me, my man and our mountain. 

It was a perfect day.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Tassie Touring part II

Our travels then took us down the East Coast towards Freycinet National Park and Coles Bay. (pronounced fray-shun-ay)

As we drew closer we began to see more evidence of Tasmania's history as a British penal colony, garrison towns like Campbell Town still bore landmarks from those harsh and very brutal days and the colony trail is now an established tourist attraction.

In Northern Tasmania the landscape had been so reminiscent of home with it's rolling hills of lush green, cattle, sheep and agricultural farms, wild hedgerows and winding country roads. At times it was hard to believe that we were almost as far from home as one could possibly be.

However, the landscape soon became much more familiar with all that pertains to Australia. More rugged, arid and of course a mass of majestic gum trees that we have both come to love.

We had booked a beach house for the week on a "luxury accommodation" website. However, The Beach House at Coles Bay was not what we would term luxurious at all. It was all a bit shabby, scuffed, dated, in need of some love and rather grubby too. The pictures as ever had looked so good on line and so were the reviews. It was a tad confusing.

However, the view from the glass fronted living room was absolutely stunning, reaching far across Coles Bay and out to the Hazard Mountains beyond. Enchanting.

The location couldn't have been more perfect for exploring the area so after a bit of grumbling on my part, I decided to exult the virtues and overlook the rest. Just one thing beat me, how could they provide just one stamp sized hand towel and a little bath sheet each to last us a whole week? (Harrumph!)

My exasperation at "towelgate" became quite the topic for some teasing from the Hubster for the rest of the week!

The weather improved dramatically and we didn't waste time getting our walking boots on and exploring the national park and the beautiful coastal paths skirting the Tasman Sea.

Making friends with the locals

The world iconic Wineglass Bay
It took just half an hour to reach the Wineglass Bay lookout where the bluest of blue water was quite a sight to behold, all framed in a semi-circle of pure white sand.

However, this whole area had quite a violent past, just over a hundred years ago it was the hub of the whaling industry. Whales were easy pickings as they were freely harpooned on their migration route through the Tasman sea.

Wineglass Bay did not get its name from resembling the shape of a wine glass as many seem to think., the truth is more gruesome than that.  It was derived from the fact that the whole bay would fill with blood from the slaughter and section of just one 40 tonne Right Whale and so resembled a glass of red wine. All this brutality took place in a cove just off shore on an all too regular basis. The population was taken to the brink of extinction.

Viewing such a place of beauty, peace and serenity now, it was hard to believe and I shudder to think.

This beautiful 12km walk took us across beaches with virgin white sand, high up on to the cliffs and through the marshes where the cacophony of warbling frogs was quite deafening.

As we took a path down to Hazard Beach, we noticed thousands of oyster shells embedded in the sand dunes. We were quite confused because oysters don't or rather cant grow in sand so how did they come to be there?

Oysters growing in the sand, surely not?
I later discovered that 1000's of years ago, long before the colonial invasion of Tasmania decimated them forever, the indigenous Aboriginal peoples of this land were partial to an oyster or two (I can understand that).

Whenever they were in season they would trek for hundreds of miles to feast on them, lots and lots of them! They hollowed out pits in the sand into which they threw all their "empties" so to speak. Now, from the erosion of the sand over time, these buried shells are now exposed and perfectly preserved. How fascinating a piece of cultural history right there! I wonder how many people have passed them without a second thought or like us scratched their heads at the idea of oysters growing in the sand. I think the joke was on us.

There wasn't another soul on Hazard Beach, so we stopped and ate our packed lunch with the mountain back drop whilst gazing out to sea in contemplative mood. It was really special.

The following day we had planned to climb Mount Amos or the Mountain of Fire as the Aboriginal people called it. However, the weather wasn't so clever and it clearly stated that this was a "fair weather mountain" given that it can be treacherous when wet.

Instead we took a walk down to Sleepy Bay which apparently is not very sleepy at all and can be extremely wild. Luckily it was very calm but we had evidence of its tempestuous nature given the holes the sea had carved into these granite boulders.

Later that day we took a drive out to another animal sanctuary and we were delighted to see our first Pademelon (a rare kind of Wallaby) and yet another healthy Tassie Devil breeding programme.

A cute, wee Pademelon!

There is nothing more cute than a joey peeking out of mummies pouch.

Tassie Devil sisters snuggling up for an afternoons nap
The weather was going to be much brighter the following day, so we planned to do our climb of Mount Amos then. I must admit the prospect did make me feel somewhat anxious, believe it or not I am not at all the best with heights even though I seem to find myself in challenges that often involve them!

Hubster however, was in buoyant, "let me at it" mood. He loves mountains, he reads about life and death mountain expeditions constantly and in his view "mountains are there to be climbed".

The guide book did say that Mount Amos was a climb and a scramble and definitely not just a walk or a hike, you needed a decent level of fitness and definitely don't take children up there.

The fact that the mountain was a kid free zone only encouraged my Hubster more!

The guidebook proved to be spot on, on all counts.

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Tassie Touring

We had really been looking forward to our first trip to Tasmania ever since we booked it over a year ago. Everyone we spoke to instantly said "oh we love Tassie" and we hoped to join the fan club on our return.

We were even excited about the overnight ferry crossing on the Spirit of Tasmania. The Bass Strait is one of the roughest seas in the world and stories of hellish experiences are abound . However, we were blessed with clement weather, light winds and little swell. Thankfully the delicious dinner we enjoyed on board stayed rightfully in our tummies and all was well.

We rented a beautiful country house for the week in West Kentish in the Northern Tasmanian countryside. Kentisbury Country House.

It was just lovely as was the welcome we received from the owners Melissa & Peter and their old, faithful hound Basil. (even though he was a bit smelly he was not denied lots of cuddles)

Mount Roland
En route we had stopped at a farmers market in Deloraine and plundered lots of fresh local produce, Melissa also invited us to help ourselves to anything we liked from the kitchen garden at the side of the house and had left us a box of freshly laid chicken eggs too.

Tasmania is famous for its high quality produce whether it be from paddock or pasture. We certainly enjoyed rustling up some delicious dinners in the beautifully appointed farmhouse kitchen.

The Spring flowers were out in abundance all around the property, the blue fairy wrens dazzled in their cobalt blue and  a pair of swallows were industriously building a muddy nest in the door way.

The chickens pecked randomly around the yard and we knew we had come to stay in a special place - the views were just stunning and oozed a serenity that brought a smile with every gaze yonder.

Without any fight whatsoever we allowed the laid back pace of life in this Northern Tasmanian idyll to wash over us and bid us peace.

The first few days were grand and we enjoyed a picnic by the lake with bubbles and all without a single soul in sight!

After that the weather closed in and our plans to climb Cradle Mountain were thwarted.

Mother Nature is as Mother Nature does, so we pottered around instead, a coffee shop here, a gift shop there and a smattering of vineyards to wet the whistle, there was also plenty of sofa surfing too.

The change in our plans was not displeasing!

On the Thursday of that week, it was Hubster's birthday.We headed up to a local vineyard where they served the most remarkable gourmet platters. The goodies were spilling off this huge plate and even  two guzzle guts like us couldn't manage the whole lot.

The pickled, spiced cherries were a taste sensation and the Estate Pinot Noir, light and velvety.

Needless to say there was more sofa surfing that afternoon!

Our lazy slumber was later punctuated with a knock at the door from Melissa. She presented us with a birthday cake she had made for Gareth! It was the naughtiest thing ever, a gooey, rich chocolate indulgence with clotted cream and a thick raspberry coulis. How did she know him so well?

We really needed to find a mountain to climb after that collaboration of calories but boy it was so good!

That night we had an incredible lightening storm and the rain lashed and the thunder crashed. I barely slept a wink, not because of the storm but because Melissa and Peter had taken delivery of a little calf. Chummly, as he was called, was the runt, with his growth stunted he was of no commercial use whatsoever and his future looked bleak. Melissa and Peter came to the rescue and decided to take him on as their pet.

Parted from his Mummy for the first time, I worried for the little fella that night.

Chummly however, was just fine and by the end of the week seemed to have settled nicely into his fabulous, forever home.

Chummly the Calf, just the size of a large dog and always will be. Aww!
The next day was a little brighter so we seized the opportunity to head out to Moles Creek to the wildlife sanctuary there.

Here, we were enthralled to see Tasmanian Devils for the first time, Wombats up close and personal, wallabies, quolls, possums and pademelons, you name it and they were caring for them, wonderfully!

Many were victims of road accidents or orphaned as a result. It is not uncommon for the baby in the pouch to survive even if the mother is killed on the road.

The breeding program for the terribly endangered Tasmanian Devil was also in full swing and numbers had swelled to 68 in the sanctuary. I do so hope we don't lose these amazing animals forever.

Tasmanian Devil who really doesn't deserve his devilish name!

A possum called Blossom

Our cuddles with Georgie the wombat were an unexpected delight, we thought we might be able to stroke her at most but to hold her and for her be so content with that, was a joy.

I had to chuckle, when the keeper handed Georgie to Gareth, he said

"Just hold her like a baby"

An expression of utter confusion crossed Hubster's face.

"And that is how exactly?" he replied.

Hee, hee. As ever though with all animals, my Dr Dolittle husband was a natural.

It was soon time to leave Northern Tassie and wend our way to the west coast.

The beautiful Freycinet national park beckoned where we swapped our fabulous country pile for a somewhat rough and ready beach house - a beach house however with a view from a fairy tale.

So far subscription to the "Tassie Fan Club" was looking good.