It is a fact universally acknowledged (ok, nationally, eastern seaboard) that there is only one way on and off the island of Tasmania with your vehicle; the notoriously boring nine hour ferry passage on the Spirit of Tasmania. Sure it’s not the P&O Fairstar, sure we were the only people without facial tattoos and sure if the ship burst into flames and sank, then identifying passengers by dental records would probably be challenging but these things aside, the ship has no shortage of pies, powerpoints and pokies – a winning combination for most travellers, and the time passes surprisingly quickly across Bass Strait

 

The best part is that the ship arrives in Tasmania, and I have a romantic notion that Tasmania is the best kept secret in the world. The clearest evidence is that Kiwi’s describe it as the Wist Island (and you know what they’re like).

 

Now, for those of you who’ve done the math, Sydney to London via Tasmania might seem a slightly backwards route; but if you’ve got 3 months to see Australia, then Tasmania should ultimately be on your itinerary, even if you have already lived there for 17 years.

 

It’s hard to describe why it’s sooo good without rigging up a slide show of white sand beaches and mystic river rapids; those kind of James Boags images are surely responsible for the bulk of tourism, if not some of Tassie’s best exports (with the exception of Ponting & Boon). But around every corner is a place that feels completely calm, timeless and isolated and where you can easily fancy yourself as being the first person to witness it – and that’s that fabled beauty you see.

 

In search of such, we went to a bunch of places I hadn’t been on the North-West and West Coast, which, conveniently for Joe, happened to be some of the most notorious surf beaches in Australia.

 

Our first stop was some unsuccessful fishing at ‘The Nut’ in Stanley. Enough said. Then onto the infamous surf spot, Marrawah, where Joe got his first taste of the wild west coast! Woohoo! We had to plough Bob through a crowd of cows to find the beach, and once there, I could see Joe nervously looking for a friend to paddle out with, and was wondering whether we would have to go doorknocking around the local farms to find someone, when lo and behold, we saw another BOB!

The identical big orange beast had a BMX strapped to the bulbar and was being driven by one of those ageless Australian/Euro surfer types with long hair and an indecipherable accent. He seemed to have measured and aggregated the best waves in the district so Joe took his advice and headed over to Green Cape where he found an abandoned Swede also looking for a wave. Happy to divide the ‘sharky’ feeling amongst two, they paddled out together in that man-love surfie kind of way, whilst I tried to invent a Yoga program using only a 90s DVD and a women’s health magazine.

 

We ended up missing all the shops, camped at the Pieman river and eating two minute noodle-egg-corn surprise for dinner (the surprise is it’s not that great). But the next day was awesome. We drove through the Arthur Pieman Conservation area – a long 4WD track through national park connection the Arthur River with the Pieman River – a beautiful and isolated part of the island, although the guy operating the barge across the Pieman River claimed to be from Manly. I had my first proper drive of Bob on this rough road, and discovered to my surprise that you don’t need to accelerate when changing gears; especially when you’re going down gears, down a hill, round a corner, on a gravel road.

 

At Trial Harbour near Zeehan we camped right on the cliffs, and Joe finally caught what we truly believed to be an edible fish (although he was an absolute pansy when it came to killing it, and I think the fish actually committed suicide out of sympathy). We later discovered that it was a parrot fish, not good eating, although we thought it tasted ok after drowned in butter and salt. It was really isolated – literally no one around, which was great, except when Joe wanted to surf the next day and insisted on paddling out, way, way out, solo. I actually had a tantrum and got a bit teary as he paddled out, thinking I’d have to raise BOB on my own, but he was fine.

 

We had to tour through all the usual west coast towns like Strahan and Queenstown, but it really was for the sake of it – there’s not much doing in these places except ‘tourism’ which I’ve come to believe means paying money for stuff even though you can see something better down the road for free. We were both keen to get to Cradle Mountain.

 

When we took off on our hike around Dove Lake and up to the summit of Cradle Mountain it looked like rain. I’d forgotten my shorts and was wearing skinny leg jeans (with trainers, nice), Joe had one hiking boot held together with duct tape (thanks again VHA for the leaving gift) and it was past noon for the 6 hour walk – we’d minced around the campground too long. The ranger was one of those know it all types who thinks that anyone not employed by Parks & Wildlife is a mindless, littering felon who runs over small animals for fun, and he took one look at Joe and I as we ate cold prawn curry out of a Tupperware container at the base of the walk and advised us not to do it.

 

So there we were, halfway up the mountain, an hour or so in when Joe’s shoe gave way, having quite an intellectual discussion about why he didn’t bring the duct tape along. But the walk was great and challenging and fun and I probably would have rather done it with only one shoe than not at all too. I’ll leave out the bit where we nearly set fire to the side of the mountain by using those firecubes to heat up soup. They work really well, by the way.

 

The drive south down to Hobart also took in Lake St Clair national park – where we were inundated with Quolls and Possums (one used the rooftent ladder as his own personal jungle gym). In the dark I mistook one for a Tassie devil and started screaming and jumping on my chair (why don’t we ever get this stuff on camera?)

 

We also made is to Mt Field National Park (I wanted to go to Russell Falls for old times sake), and lost the bike rack over a speed bump in Tarraleah. Too many 4WD tracks I think. So one Crane Hinge when up for sale (the same one that got dragged along the road 20 metres as we stopped, and the same one that we managed to hock for $80.)

 

Big thanks to Tommy and San for putting us up in Hobart for a few nights with the enormous and ever wise pointer, Scout. We caught up with Clare & Waz and Kez & Ollie and got quite smashed (well I was) before shooting off to Bruny Island the next day. Joe went kiting at Cloudy Bay and I sampled deliciousness at the Bruny Island Cheese Co. After another day long lunching it around Hobart we started the journey back up north via Ouse to stay a night at Lachlan Vale, Susannah’s parents place – the country scene of many fun weekends from school. It was so great to spend that time catching up with the boys and girls of Tassie before we left. Oh I want to go back. XOXO.