October is springtime in Tasmania. The lambs are skipping in the green fields and the daffodils bob their heads along the roadside. We drive past apple orchards heavy with blossom. Last years apples are still on sale from the fridges along the roadside for a few dollars. It all looks beautiful.
With the family we visit the Tahune airwalk, where we walk through a eucalyptus canopy on a steel walkway, balancing precariously to look out out over the river from the treetops. We spend ages playing pooh sticks over the huge river. We visit Hastings caves, a vast dolomite cavern of stalactites and stalagmites growing in ancient forest, and the hot springs nearby.
In between the heavy rain showers we do a few walks on Mount Wellington, clambering up the rocks to the summit which is sprinkled with snow. The view of Hobart and the meandering coastline is fabulous below. I have sense of humour failure when, after about an hour of hopping through bog and jumping over boulders Ed isn’t able to pinpoint where we are on the map. He advises me to limit my intake of M&Ms in case we need them later (now I’m really scared). We eventually think we find a way down but get lost in the spiky grass on ‘snake plains track’ and have to reverse back and call for a lift home from the roadside! We enjoy being rescued by Ed’s family, who turn up complete with hot flasks and food supplies, and go for large hot chocolates to celebrate our return from the wilderness!
To allow Ed’s parents time to breathe, Ed and I stock up on delicious food from Salamanca market and drive to Bruny Island, where we stay in a 43 degrees eco lodge. Green rosellas graze in the flowers on the lawn, and as we go to sleep we can hear the waves crashing onto the nearby beach.
Our Bruny Island Cruise is breathtaking, mostly because of the huge waves of water that cover us as Rob Pennicott’s men speed the boat around the coast, but also the amazing rock formations, the a ‘breathing rock’ which sucks in air before splurting out great jets of water, sea eagles, lots of cormorants and some seals basking on the rocks in the Southern Ocean.
After the boat trip, we test the view from a different angle, walking up the Fluted Cape, spotting kookaburra and white wallabies and their joeys at the bottom.
We also take walk along the dramatic coastline to Cape Queen Elizabeth. This time I get jittery as Ed stomps about trying to scare away the snakes. Every step elicits a rustling as lizards scamper away, and then eventually I spot a large black tail slithering away into the bush.
In Brisbane we are met by Tony and Loretta who drive us to their house near Bribie Island. We are fed delicious steaks and driven to the Glasshouse mountains, rocky outcrops of which were once the cores of volcanoes, covered in rainforest. We walk in the forest to the Kondalilla falls, hearing the booming call of the Wompoo fruit dove in the canopy and admiring the extraordinary strangler figs which wrap around trees climbing up them until eventually the tree inside dies leaving the huge limbs of the strangler fig still standing.
In Montville we test out the local produce, delicious macadamia nuts covered in chocolate and some fabulous Mason sparkling wine.
Fraser Island is a paradise with a bit of adventure thrown in. Made entirely out of sand, but held together by trees, the island has beautiful beaches and lots of wildlife. Around the Kingfisher Bay resort, signs warn of dangerous dingoes. On our night tour the ranger tells us about 18 types of snakes and pokes a few of the local deadly spiders. Each footstep causes lizards to leap away into the undergrowth. I am super excited to see a sugar glider feeding on the kangaroo stalks…(Ed had promised me I wouldnt see one!)
All our cash disappears in just moments at the resort, some of it on trips and the rest on the dinners, which are admittedly delicious. Ed delights in starting each meal at the Maheno restaurant with a plate of oysters and mussels- just because he can!
A whale watching trip takes us to Harvey Bay where we see pods of whales with their babies, flicking their tails and fins and enjoying the sunshine. It is a bumper year for humpback whales this year and we see a few imposter dolphins as well, who are playing amongst a pod.
We also take the 4wd adventure around the island. We swim in the freshwater lake of Lake McKenzie within the rainforest and take a walk to admire the towering trees, narrowly missing a huge python (some other visitors show us a photo of what they had seen just moments before but it eluded us), but spotting a beautiful forest kingsfisher, rich royal blue and brilliant orange, darting into the clear creek which wended through the trees.
We drive along 75 mile beach (only 73 miles but 75 sounded better!), admiring the colourful sand cliffs along the coast, and the rusting wreck of Maheno. The coast stretches as far as the eye can see, beautiful blue water crashing onto the white sand- perfect for swimming, except for the warning of tiger sharks which apparently will snap you up as soon as the water reaches your knees. In a moment of enthusiasm we jump into the plane which drives up to our coach and take off from the sand for a short flight to admire the island from above. To cool off, we strip off our trousers and wade down Ely creek, a beautiful freshwater stream which runs out of the island down the sand.
Brisbane is a fabulous city- full of walkways along the huge sparkling river (and cycleways for those who want to hire bikes- but beware of the diving magpies). Mangroves still grow along the riverbank opposite the skyscrapers, and giant lizards run around the beautiful botanic gardens and Roma park which is full of tropical palms and flowers. We take the bus to the Lone Pine Koala sanctuary, where we are handed a eucalpyt drugged koala to have a photo with! The sanctuary is full of australian wildlife, a lot of which we have seen before in the wild, but we love watching the platypus swim in the darkened tanks. We return by CityCat, admiring the view from the river (without the cost of one of the tourist boats).
Finally we buy some ridiculous Australian hats made from kangaroo leather (will be worn at home on a special occasion :-)), and drink frozen sangria in Guzman y Gomez before catching our flight home.