Thursday, February 18, 2016


If you want the quick version, here's a video!

When we first found out we were going to Australia for a year, I decided I wanted to visit Tasmania just because it sounded so cool. I wanted my passport stamped with "Tasmania." Well, I felt pretty silly when I learned that Tasmania was a state of Australia, not a separate country, so I wouldn't get the stamp on my passport. But, as time as passed,
I've gotten over that disappointment, and flights to Tasmania went on sale pretty cheap, so I booked a Valentine's Day trip for just Allen and I. 

Our flight left at 6:05am. Seriously so early, but I picked this itinerary on purpose so we'd have more daytime in Tas and less hotel expense. After I booked this trip, we decided to fly Jordan over from the States for a visit. It worked out that she would leave the same day we did, but she had to come to the airport SIX HOURS before her flight left. Poor girl. The airport can be very boring and lonely.

We're so glad she got to come see Australia and what life is like for us here.

The last time Allen and I took a trip away together was before Henry was born. I billed it as a "working vacation." We talked about some family goals and needs. At that time we set up an aggressive savings plan that has worked well. Because of that plan, we have had the freedom to come to Australia. And with the exchange rate currently in our favor, we've had extra funds to make all of these trips around Australia. I'm SO glad we have that savings. We are still saving for retirement and such, not blowing EVERYTHING, but if we want to do something, we know the funds are there and that is reassuring. And a blessing. 

Sunrise from an airplane

We arrived in Tasmania at 7:30am. What do you do at that time of day? We picked up our car and headed to Hobart. Of course we got to experience rush hour traffic. But we were in no hurry.

The city was adorable. It reminded me of an Italian village with the colorful rooftops cascading down the hillside. No matter how I tried over the next three days, I couldn't get a good picture of those rooftops.

Well, you get the idea.

This cute little marina was right outside our hotel.

We went to talk to the hotel just to get directional tips and suggestions for what to do. He suggested we walk around the town, and drive to the peak of Mt. Wellington. But he looked out the window behind us and said it was a bad day because Mt. Wellington was in the clouds. Wouldn't give much of a view. We went to the grocery story for food, checked out the downtown area and walked on the pier. We had to park far away from everything because there wasn't a single space to put our car that didn't require coins. And we had none. 

We checked in early and rested a bit before heading out for the first activity I had planned in advance: a ride on pedal cars on abandoned railways. I was actually really excited to have found this. It's perfect for Allen! It was a 90 minute drive through the country side. This gave us the bonus privilege of seeing the scenery of Tasmania. I kept taking pictures so I could show people what it looked like, but it was actually pretty brown. The fields were all grazed down to nothing by sheep. I mostly found it enchanting that I was in Tasmania.

This is a field of hops. Allen says they are used to make whiskey. Or beer. Or something.

We also passed a load of wineries. Many were completely netted over to protect the crops from birds. That is quite the endeavor!

The railway operation was VERY small. I felt bad for being later than the appointment I had made (though I did call in advance and ask if they were flexible on the time). Because they can't have people going one direction on the track while someone else is heading the other way, they can only have people leave on a set time schedule. Duh, like trains. So we arrived at 1:45 but had to wait until the next time at 2:30. Which meant sitting and talking to Malcolm, the track master for the day. I didn't realize he would have to travel the track with us to help us turn the car around at the end. Malcolm was a delightfully friendly man from New Zealand who had spent 3½ years driving a semi-truck in the U.S. He thought our country was pretty amazing. I thought that was funny because I think Australia is pretty amazing! He had even spent the night on the interstate in a wicked snowstorm on I-80, and was kind enough to go checking on the other cars. He found a woman with two children and had them come stay in his warm truck cab. He had 120 gallons of fuel and kept it running all night.

The rail track was a really fun way to start our weekend. We joked and laughed and enjoyed the cows and trees along the way. With Allen's biker legs we had no trouble keeping the car going. It was a very mild grade up hill but looked like it was all downhill. I worried that it would be harder to return once we turned around. It turned out it we barely had to pedal back. 

Our car was named Henry!

The turn around was fun to watch. Malcolm got out and put a large "H" shaped piece of iron over the track that had a pivot point in the middle. We pushed all the cars over to the other side, then he pushed his motor powered car on and turned it ¼ turn onto a small side track. It waited there while we spun the other cars to face the other way and load them onto the track again. Then he put his vehicle behind ours again and we were off. Allen remarked on the way back that we need to have this attraction in Utah. He'd like to start it. I think it's brilliant and I'm all for it. I'm going to do what I can to promote the endeavor they have started in Tasmania. It was really fun for not a lot of money. It shows people the outdoors, utilizes existing track, and is pretty good exercise too. But still easy enough for anyone to do. Check them out at

Allen spent the next three days trying to remember Malcolm's name. Merlin? Mason? Morton? Each time I told him the correct name. 

I made Allen pull over for this cute little tree. 

Apparently when you get old you forget to look for cars.

It was 5:00 before we got back to Hobart. We were so exhausted from the early morning trip that Allen had a headache brewing. He rested while I reviewed the travel brochures we'd picked up that morning. I hadn't looked at them in the car as planned because I was too busy taking pictures. 

We headed out to conquer dinner. It seemed Fish Frenzy was the best place to go. It was on the pier and would be a good starting point for scenery. Allen somehow talked me into ordering the salmon, which was $35. I think he wanted to try it to, so I consented. I gave him all the olives from the Greek salad that came with it. He said they were really good and I should try them. I took a teeny nibble. No. They were awful. At some point I noticed the salmon wasn't cooked on the inside. I'm not experienced with salmon, so I googled if it was supposed to be served that way or not. In the meantime, Allen quickly asked the waitress about it. She was very kind about it, said it was safe to eat but if I preferred it more cooked then she would bring me another one. I only agreed to let her take it if she promised not to throw it away. I wasn't concerned enough to waste it. 

This boat has traveled a LONG WAY.

The marina was full of working fishing boats. And the boats were loaded full of traps. 

In the morning, we had to drive to Kettering to meet the tour bus for a cruise on Bruny Island. It was another scenic drive about 45 minutes away (the other direction, a bonus). As we passed through the towns I would program Siri to remind me to stop on the way back for pictures of things. She's not really good at a lot of things, but that works.

We had enough time to walk around the marina before the bus was scheduled to pick us up. There is something enchanting about seeing loads of boat masts pointed up toward the sky. And it was still early morning so it was all very soft light and very peaceful.

The bus drove up and the most cheerful happy young woman got off to greet us. She had the blondest hair, the cutest smile, and was bubbling with enthusiasm for a new day. We loaded up and headed toward the long line of cars waiting to board the ferry to cross to Bruny Island. When we were almost to the front, I realized I had left my water bottle in the car. We had 20 minutes before the ferry loaded so I ran back to the car and made it back to the front of the line before the bus did.

Cars loaded on the ferry on top first, then the big stuff, including a full cement truck and a semi, loaded the bottom. Then we headed off. It was a 15 minute ride. We were free to get out and walk around during the ride. After seeing the view from the bottom I asked Allen if he wanted to go to the top deck. He didn't seem interested. I said, "there IS a top, so I'm going." I knew Henry would love the pictures.

So weird this big heavy thing is floating on a boat. 

Anyone else find this funny?

Bruny Island was more scenic. We docked at the North Island and then drove to the south island over a very narrow neck of land. The road that goes across the narrow land bridge is a passageway for penguins to get to their burrows, so they don't pave that strip of road. The penguins won't walk on the paved surface. Our bus driver let us stop at a lookout point to see the land. It was a LONG stairway up. I began to be so grateful for our good fitness that lets things like this be fun instead of difficult. We managed some pictures amongst all the other people taking pictures of the scene. And we were the last ones back on the bus.

Narrow neck of land connecting North and South Bruny Island.

The bus driver told us that Tasmania recently won an award for the best whiskey in the world. Yay. And that they have incredible cherries that are about 2-3" big. All of the hugest ones get exported so Australia never sees them. But the smaller sizes are still amazing and tasty. They are in season at Christmas time. Missed it.

Just a photo op. Not the boat we were riding on. 

We arrived at a beautiful little bay called Adventure Bay to load for our cruise. We had a little pre-cruise meeting suggesting that if we were worried about getting seasick we should sit in the back of the boat. So when we actually loaded up, Allen snagged to two seats in the very front. I was thrilled because I don't like to have other people's hands in my photos. It felt like a personal boat tour. Except for the constant fake shutter-click sound coming from the camera from the lady behind me, I didn't even notice other people on the boat.

Let the adventure begin! 
Allen was already thanking me for booking the trip and we hadn't even left yet.

We were able to see incredible rock cliffs on the south side of Bruny Island. And birds. And caves. And a blow hole. There is a cavity in the rock that fills and empties with water with the surge of the waves. When the water comes in, it forces the air out quickly and spews water up high! They told us the air moves back in at about 80kph  (about 50mph). I could definitely see the force of that air sucking back into the cavity.

Blow hole

We were BOUNCING along the water and when they turned the boat it was so thrilling. They would stop every now and then and tell us things and slowly spin the boat so we could all get pictures. I took a million.

They say it looks like Elvis

We reached a few high rock formations, the lowest part of the Bruny Island area. The only thing separating us from Antarctica was water. There is also a colony of seals that live on those rocks. Hundreds of them. 

Seals on the rocks. 

We saw albatross. They spend their most of their lives on the water. They are in the air most of the time, only resting on the water to digest food or wait out strong winds. They can fly for long stretches and only barely need to flap their wings. They can maintain an open wingspan with very little effort because of a special tendon structure they have. And they can live to be 50 years old! It was amazing to watch them glide just barely over the surface of the water without touching it. With the waves moving up and down constantly I thought that was incredible.

Mutton birds and an albatross. 

We sped back on the boat to try to catch a glimpse of dolphins. No such luck, but honestly, I was a little nervous to see dolphin. Photographing that would have been a lot of stress! I was already thrilled with the boat ride so not seeing them wasn't a big disappointment.

The water was so clear!

The most brilliant orange flowers. We could see them from far off the coast. They were so vibrant. The bees were loving them, too. 

We ate lunch at our private pre-assigned table in the shade and waited to load the buses again. The sun was out now so we took more pictures of the bay, and scoured for shells to add to our collection. Allen found a really pretty shell that was still inhabited by a tiny hermit crab.

On the drive back, Siri reminded us to stop at the town of Snug, to take a picture. They have a Snug Post Office, Snug Preschool, Snug Fire Station, and Snug grocery.

Siri also reminded us to stop at a row of shops made from an old train engine and cars. They just parked the train on the tracks that are no longer used and turned them into a strip mall. It was really cute. We stopped to buy some licorice. I hate licorice, especially black licorice, but this stuff was actually pretty good.

Then we headed to Mt. Wellington. It is 1270 meters high. I was surprised at how shockingly high that was. It was beautiful. The rocks and greenery looked like Ireland. But I've never been to Ireland.

And then there was no big...tall...thing. Not sure why it's there, what it does, and why any governing body would allow it to be placed on top of such a natural landmark.

On the way back down the mountain we saw a car that had been a little too eager to reach the top. It had skidded off the road and was now stuck in an unrecoverable angle on the shoulder. I think the only thing that stopped it from falling farther was the shrubs. Sorry no picture.

And then I saw THIS, so I made Allen turn around.

And when we stopped for THAT, I saw THIS forest entry and was spellbound to follow it. 

We didn't have a lot of daylight left so we made it fast, but I'm sure if we had stay until twilight we'd have seen some fairies gliding over all that beautiful moss.

We were tired and hungry. We bought a rotisserie chicken, tomatoes and cucumber. And donuts.

We got to sleep in a bit longer Saturday morning, but we wanted to get to Salamanca Market and also the botanical gardens. We stopped at a park to try to get a picture of the Tasman Bridge, but there was smoke in the air from some western fires that made it quite hazy. We also tried to find some seashells, but we didn't pick the right beach.

Salamanca Market was huge! We had quite a difficult time figuring out where to park, but once we were there we really enjoyed ourselves. I bought a small charm that I will only wear after I get in a visit to my last state of Queensland. There were yummy smelling donuts and peppery sausages and lots of handcrafted goods. I tried to separate from the Chinese imports and focus on the Tasmanian novelties. We were both drawn to the beautiful wood creations made of Tasmanian timbers—Myrtle, Huon Pine, Sassafras, Blackwood. We couldn't settle on anything we wanted to buy except just beautiful small beads to display. The She Oak is actually a seed pod that takes on an interesting look when tumbled to smooth off the spikes.

This wouldn't fit in our luggage. 

And there was a Jaguar car show. There were about 15 different Jaguars. And a Mustang show. But Allen forgot to take pictures of the Mustangs and it was gone by the time I stopped shopping. 

Allen found a bike commuter back pack that looked cool. He thought about it for a good hour, and I thought he would decide against it, but he was too tempted by the thought of having something invented and developed in Tasmania that no one else would have. We were already pushing the limits on our airline baggage. Whatever. It's a Henty. And he bought it from the inventor's brother.

I also turned around at one point and saw some Mormon missionaries. How about that! I said, "Hey! I'm LDS!" And then after talking a bit, I found they are also from the States. California and Utah. Pretty much every other missionary here is from Utah. They introduced me further along to an LDS author and his wife who have published a book of children's poems that help them express emotions, some happy, some not-so much, but real nevertheless. Their book is illustrated by school children's artistic responses to the poems. We chatted for a bit about possibly featuring them on the Mom Podcast.

The missionaries told us to check out this woodcrafter with these amazing pop up castles. I really wanted one. But I'm learning to live more minimally with less "stuff." So I decided I could be okay with just a picture. I thought I might find one on his website. No such luck. So it turns out I'll be okay with just a memory. Here's his website:

I bought a necklace for myself and felt indulgent. But it wouldn't push me over my luggage weight.

We spent a LOT longer at the market than we expected but we were enjoying ourselves. We raced into the grocery store to buy a bottle of BBQ sauce so I could put the leftover chicken on a roll and eat it. I was STARVING but that chicken was a little too dry (not as good as Costco chicken). Then we hurried off to see as much of the botanical gardens as we could.

This is where I decided we would plant an elm tree when we get back to Utah.

They grow on other things like trees, and encapsulate themselves with their older leaves. The upward facing dry leaves capture rain.

My favorite spot was the lily pad garden. It really looked like a Monet painting. I think I would go here often if I lived closeby.

Then it was off to the airport! We returned the car and I went to change clothes. I put on all my heavier items so I wouldn't be overweight on my luggage. We are only granted 7kg of carry on luggage. That's about 15 pounds. I tied my hoodie around my waist AND filled my hoodie pocket with my leftover snacks, camera batteries, and a few small but weighty items. I felt so clever. But the airplane was a little late so they didn't waste time weighing anyone's bags. Shoot. I wanted know!

It was another wonderful trip that we enjoyed to the max!

We have a month before we leave for Bali. I'm a little tired thinking about it, but maybe a month off of travel will be enough time to get excited. I still want to go to Queensland.

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