Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Wild Tasmania

I took one last shot of Melbourne on the shuttle out, then I was on the plane to Tasmania.
I was curious about what the island was like; like most Americans, I knew next to nothing about the place except that cartoon animals that turn into tornadoes were from there. Flying in, I was disappointed to see that a lot of it looked cleared; somehow I'd pictured a forested, primeval land of mysterious creatures and few people. It was like that once, but it seems the loggers and farmers have changed much of the landscape even here. But there's still a lot of woods left, and a strong "green" group here is fighting to keep it that way.
Anyway, Hobart, the capital, is a nice, small city of 190,000; not too big, with a nice waterfront. I didn't see much my first night; after stopping by an Irish bar to try some Tasmanian beers (both excellent), I was walking along the pier and met a girl by way of her pomeranian, "Princess", and we wound up talking for hours. Kerri had a very profound insight into human nature, and is working on a book about it; I wish her well and hope it gets published, it could do a lot of people good.

The next day it was rainy, but I was supposed to see about volunteering at "Simply Wild", a wildlife sanctuary. I had an interesting time driving out there--even though, after New Zealand, Fiji and Australia, I was used to seeing cars on the left side of the road, it's quite another thing driving it, especially when the road on your left side drops precariously down the mountain. But I made it there in one piece; unfortunately the owners were gone on business and there was nothing for me to do but visit the animals-- which of course I did with relish! This time I got to pet a wombat, cute little fuzzy creatures that are a cross between small bears and fat cats. And they love scratches!

Then of course there were the wallabys (or is it wallabies?) who were also hungry. I never realized what huge eyelashes they have, they must use mascara or something. They're really gentle and sweet. Along with them were some sleepy owls, emus, and lots of colorful parrots which I never knew resided here; I thought they all lived in South America. One kept saying "hellew" with a distinctly posh accent. I even watched a platypus hunting in the stream running through the property.

I think the Tasmanian devil was hungry too, but she didn't seem to want my piece of apple; in fact, she didn't want my hand in her pen at all, and let me know in no uncertain terms! It was my own dumb fault; I know they were carnivorous, but thought I'd try anyway, seeming to recall that they ate just about anything. In spite of that, she was a cute little bugger; and hopefully pregnant-- they were waiting to see. I guess she was defending her nesting area. There were also spotted quolls, cute little relatives of the devils that I have never heard of in my life.

Later I decided to head into the nearby Mt. Field National Park, where the landscapes were more how I had imagined: ranging from eerie, treeless areas to dense, almost tropical undergrowth. I even spotted some tiny marsupials, the little cousins of kangaroos and wallabies called pademelons, another species I had never heard of. One even crossed the road on the way out, right after I picked up a german girl hitching from a hike that turned out to be too soggy. She too was spending a year traveling, but all in Australia. I don't think I could do that; I'd have to see more places.

So tomorrow I head south to see what's down there. Tune in soon!

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