When driving in Tasmania…BEWARE OF WILDLIFE!!!

Australia, RTW: 2007-2008 — By on March 25, 2008 10:27 PM

Tasmania, also known as Tassie, is an island just South of mainland Australia. The first European to see Tasmania was the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman in 1642. The capital of Tasmania is Hobart, which is Australia’s second-oldest city. I spent my first three days in Hobart and found the city to be very charming with its busy harbor, Georgian buildings and rich colonial heritage.

Upon arrival in Tassie, I had done no planning for how I would spend my time. I went to the Visitor’s Info Center and looked into booking a bus tour as public transportation is not a good option for touring the island. It was Easter weekend and all the tours leaving from Hobart were booked. I decided to rent a car and tackle driving on the other side of the road for the first time in my life! The plan was to drive from Hobart up the east coast and return the car in Launceston. From Launceston I would pick up a three day bus tour of the west coast.

In the spirit of Easter, I did a tour of the Cadbury Chocolate Factory in Hobart and met two cool girls, Aideen & Linda. I offered to drive them to the top of Mt Wellington so that I could have others in the car with me until I got comfortable driving. When I pulled out of the rental car lot, I turned on my windshield whippers instead of turning on the left blinker (the blinker is on the right!) It was challenging driving through the city and I was glad to have people in the car that are use to driving on the left! We made it to the top of Mt Wellington but only stayed briefly as it was FREEZING cold up there and was even hailing!

The next day I decided to brave driving on my own and drove to Bonorong Wildlife Park to see the famous Tasmanian Devils! The devils got their name by the first settlers who heard their frightening squeals in the bush and believed the land to be haunted by devils. They are actually very cute little animals, the size of a small dog. Sadly, the devils are currently affected by a contagious face cancer that has killed half of the population and affect 80% of the remaining devils. Tasmanian devils are expected to be extinct in 10 years.
I also saw wombats, kookaburra, emu, koalas, wallabies, many kangaroos and even an albino roo. When pulling out of the wildlife park I instinctively drove on the wrong side of the road for a few minutes!

I spent the afternoon at Port Arthur, where I learned a lot about the history of the first colony in Tasmania. In 1830 Governor Arthur chose the Tasman Peninsula as the place to confine prisoners who had committed further crimes in the colony. Between 1830-1877, 12,500 convicts served their sentences at Port Arthur. I did a guided tour of the site as well as a harbor cruise.

I really enjoyed the Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery, specifically the exhibit on Antarctica. Perhaps my favorite time spent in Hobart was at the Salamanca Market, which is an open-air market held every Saturday along Salamanca Place. I bought several beautiful landscape prints by a local photographer, Wolfgang Glowacki. I met up for coffee with Linda and we shared a treat from her country, mini dutch pancakes. YUM! Made me think of and miss my best dutch friend Evelien!

The cost to rent a car for 4 days was $400 and I hated the idea of paying for it all myself so I posted a sign in the hostel asking if anyone would want to share the car and the cost and drive with me up the East Coast. I had decided I would only take a female but it was a guy that rang me interested. I decided to meet him and decide then if I would feel comfortable riding with him. I like to think I am a good judge of character, except for the guys I have dated in the past! I realized in the first few minutes of meeting Alan that he was not interested in dating women so I made an exception. We got along just fine for the three days we traveled together. We drove from Hobart up the east coast stopping the first day at Coles Bay where we hiked to Wineglass Bay. The view from the lookout point was gorgeous and the white beach so inviting that we both took a nap on the sand.

In the evening we went on a search for penguins near Redbill Beach in Bichino. On the way to see the penguins I noticed the gaslight was on and neither of us knew how long it had been lit. To our dismay, all of the gas stations were closed and it was only 8:30! We honked our horn at one darkened station and to our good fortune the owner came out and let us fill up our tank. After some confusion on my part about petrol vs. gas, we were fueled up and off to find the penguins. But on the way I ran over a wambat! Allan thinks it was a devil but I cannot bear the thought of killing an endangered animal and it looked more like a wombat to me!

We were only able to see one little penguin as it was a full moon that night which means there are fewer penguins as they fish longer as they can see more.

On the drive back there were kangaroos everywhere! You could see them hopping beside the road in your peripheral vision. There are signs up all over Tasmania warning you of the wildlife on the road so I was driving slow especially after my wombat killing. But nothing could have prepared me for the kangaroo that darted out of nowhere running right in front of the car! I had no time to do anything and I hit and killed a kangaroo! I screamed for minutes as I could hear the kangaroo dragging under the car. It was horrifying! Finally we had to pull over and Allan got out to inspect the damages. I was still freaking out inside the car when he told me “it’s stuck in the wheel!” I didn’t realize he meant the bumper, not the roo, and I started screaming again. The right front bumper had been knocked loose and scraped the ground the whole ride home. Allan was able to somewhat fix the car with a screwdriver in the morning. I still can’t believe I killed a roo 🙁 I feel so bad about my serial killings but realized that many others must have also hit the wildlife as there were dead animals all over the road the following morning.

I decided to attend church the next morning being that it was Easter and being that I needed to confess the killings of the night before. I am not religious yet I have decided to go for the cultural experience. I went alone to the only church I could find in the small town of Bicheno. I am not exactly sure the denomination of the church, but the service was nice and it was fun to attend a service in a small town. Allan took the car to do another small walk while I was in church. During the sermon, the thought crossed my mind “What if he doesn’t come back for me and runs off with all of my stuff?” I was a little worried and said a prayer for my personal belongings. I was relieved when Allan pulled up at noon to pick me up just as we had planned.

We continued our drive along the coast north to Bay of Fires near St Helens. Early explorers named the bay after seeing the Aboriginal fires along the shore. The rocks are red and orange which would would seem reason enough to name the area Bay of Fires. Now a coastal reserve, it’s a series of glorious white sand beaches, rocky headlands and lagoons.

We arrived in Launceston in the early evening and were literally welcomed to the town by a large woman who mooned us as we drove into the parking lot of the hostel. The people inside the hostel all seemed really strange and we both got a really weird vibe and decided to stay somewhere else for the night. I definitely preferred Hobart to Launceston but had to stay there as my tour bus was picking me up in town to take me down the West Coast and back to Hobart.

My west coast Tassie adventures to come next…

To see all my photos from Hobart and the East Coast of Tasmania CLICK HERE!

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  1. rangecommander says:

    I actually pictured you screaming about killing a roo and laughed out loud at my desk (which is terrible I know). Good luck on your bus trip!

  2. Aine says:

    I, too, laughed out loud – first when you e-mailed me about it and now reading it on your blog. I can picture your voice an octave higher freaking out!! Oh, your karma’s fine, Kel-kel! No worries, mate! Still giggling..tee-hee. xoxox

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