Monday, September 18, 2017

Freycinet National Park

After leaving Bonorong, we decided to drive up the east coast of Tasmania in the time left that afternoon. We were pleasantly surprised by the fine weather as we headed north up the coast. We stopped at the first seaside village we reached for lunch and a visit to the tourist information office. The two ladies there offered us several good suggestions for our afternoon and recommended the Colonial Tea House for lunch. The lady who owns the tea shop told us she had been a farmer, but when that became too difficult she decided a tea shop would be a fine thing to do and bought this house to convert. We do think she made a good decision.

After lunch we proceeded up the coast with a couple of stops at spectacular beaches and the Spiky Bridge. The bridge was one of the many things built by the convicts during Australia’s early history. We learned the next day that the mortar for this bridge was made from the lime of seashells taken from an archaeological midden in what is today Freycinet National Park.

After heading inland across the island to the main north-south highway we drove back to our condo. Our only stop as the light faded was in the small town of Ross. Ross had some interesting old buildings and has an old ‘factory’ or women’s prison for transported convicts. We would like to visit this one someday, too.

The next day, after looking at the weather forecasts, we decided to head back up the east coast and this time go all the way to Freycinet National Park. After a two hour drive we stopped at the Pandering Frog, a small restaurant and ice cream shop for lunch before entering the park. The owner suggested an itinerary for us that skipped the 90 minute climb to the Wineglass Bay Lookout which is the iconic hike in the park. Another time perhaps although I think I would just as soon take the boat trip that visits Wineglass Bay and also offers a close up opportunity to see some of the sea birds that are always in the area.

Instead we visited the several scenic beaches in the park and drove up to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse for the great views from there. This turned out to be a good plan as we left the park just as the sun was lowering itself over the horizon. It is an impressive park with many hiking opportunities of varying difficulty. We did several of the short easy hikes beginning with one out the back of the excellent visitor center. On a warm summer day with more time, any of the beaches would be a fun way to spend some of what Linda calls, ‘down time.’ On this rather windy afternoon, they were still beautiful to spend a few minutes viewing. Probably the most exciting thing we saw, however, was the mama kangaroo with joey peeking out of her pouch.  

Sunday, September 17, 2017


The famous devil
Bonorong is a wildlife preservation/rehabilitation reserve a few miles from Hobart, Tasmania. Since many of the animals we wanted to see are nocturnal and difficult to see in the dark, we chose to visit Bonorong where we would be able to see the Tasmanian devil, wombats, and several other birds and animals. We did see a couple of wombats in the wild. We did see, sort of, pademelons at our resort, but even these views were less than satisfactory as they refused to stay in the light. They were little more than dark blobs on the lawn. About all we could make out was that they are related to kangaroos. What can one do? Animals do have their own agendas and we humans must adjust our expectations and behaviors accordingly.

Cleaning the cage
We arrived about an hour before Bonorong’s daily tour so we began with some exploring on our own. Our first stop was to see one of the wombats. He was asleep in his ‘house’ offering only a partial view when one of the workers came by to clean the area. This wombat clearly liked her as he came out of his house and followed her around as she worked walking between her legs and generally being a nuisance.

Tawny Frogmouth
We spent some time trying to see one of the devils, but they remained hidden. We were able to see several birds include five Tawny Frogmouths in one enclosure. These birds look much like owls and also tend to be nocturnal so are very difficult to see in the wild. Like all the other animals and birds at Bonorong, they had been injured or abandoned as youngsters and were therefore not ready to live in the wild.

Ugly and unafraid, emus can be a real pest

By this time our tour was ready, so we joined our guide for a closer look at some of the animals. Our first stop was at our friendly wombat. After discussing its traits and lifestyle, our guide picked up the wombat so we could touch its fur. Careful to touch it only on its butt, we felt the rather coarse hair and fur.

Next stop was the koalas. Nocturnal, slow-moving, and well-camouflaged, they are extremely hard to see in the wild unless it is when they wander across the road putting themselves in great danger. They sleep about 20 hours a day. Their metabolism is extremely inefficient so they get very little energy from the food they eat. Therefore they sleep and sleep and sleep … They only like three of the eucalyptus trees out of the hundreds that grow in Australia explaining one of the reasons they are endangered today. The koala we focused on barely moved while our guide talked and didn’t even move when we were allowed (four at a time only) into the enclosure to feel its coarse fur.

One of the older devils put out to pasture
Our third stop was at the Tasmanian devil enclosure. They came out and wandered around while our guide talked about them. They are an aggressive animal. One of the stories she told involved the local peacock who was normally quite careful to avoid their pen. However, one day he decided to sit on their fence. Unfortunately, his then-beautiful tail extended into the pen and was grabbed by one of the devils. After much ado and screaming by the children watching, the peacock managed to get away with some significant damage to the tail.

Spotted Quoll
Bonorong also has a breeding program for the devils. A mother may have up to 40 babies. Each is so small that four would easily fit onto one of our nickel coins. Forty sounds like a lot, but the mother only has four teats, so at best only four will survive. They have had good success with their breeding program and have been able to release several into the wild. When the devils finally get too old to breed they are placed in a larger enclosure with enough room for at least 40 to live out their lives in relaxed luxury.

After the tour we walked through the rest of the sanctuary. Over 100 kangaroos have the run of the place and they are quite tame. At this point we remembered the little sacks of oats we had been given when we paid our entry fee. Placing several grains in a palm is all that it takes. The roos are happy to eat right out of your hand. I felt teeth but was in no danger of actually being bitten.

We saw a few other birds and animals as we continued to wander the grounds. We also saw signs for a new waterfowl rehabilitation area, but it was closed to the public. Some of the creatures were out of sight because of the cold. Even so, we had a great time and definitely recommend this for visitors in the Hobart area.

Saturday, September 16, 2017


We came to Tasmania because it is there and to see the famous Tasmanian Devil and whatever other wildlife we might be able to find. Our condo at Seven Mile Beach was perfectly situated to help us meet those goals. The beach itself is very nice even during the cold weather we had during our stay. Our place was right across the road from a series of trails built to showcase the plants of the area. Of course this makes it a great place to go birding. Each morning found me wandering the area chasing bird calls, sometimes successfully.

Returning at night to our room was always an adventure as we had to watch for the Pademelons, that seemed to be everywhere. Pademelons are small marsupials that to us looked like brown blobs that managed to bounce across the pavement and lawns. We never got a real look at them because they were much quicker than the headlights on the car.

The location is excellent only a few miles from the airport and a few more to Hobart. It is also close to Port Arthur, one of the best preserved convict sites in the world and therefore of great importance to the history of Australia, especially give the convict history of Australia. A second interesting site is Bruny Island, an interesting natural area that also offered what looked to be a fun boat ride along the coast with some great opportunities to see Tasmania’s sea and bird life. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate and we will have to return to take in these attractions.

Downtown Hobart on our way to MONA
These sheep  were the shape of things to come at MONA.
Too hard to enjoy sitting on, they are a good picture op.

Instead we took one rainy day to visit Hobart and the MONA Museum. MONA (Museum of New and Old Art), recommended by Kerrie and David Bryan, is the vision and masterpiece of David Walsh, local boy made good. Walsh is a professional gambler who made a fortune with a gambling system to use when betting horses and other sports events. The museum which Walsh calls a “subversive adult Disneyland” has antiquities and modern art in an amazing architectural marvel. We traveled to the museum by ferry from a Hobart pier. After walking up 99 steps we are greeted by a life-size tractor-trailer hauling a cement truck made of laser cut steel pieces in a gothic motif. Then we enter an unimposing one story building that heads down three stories into the cliff side beginning our artistic experience into Walsh’s vision of what makes valuable art.

Walsh's daughter missed her trampoline
when the family moved into an apartment in the museum building.
It replaced the most liked piece of art in the museum. 

He believes that art should challenge and surprise. Popularity is not important. In at least one case he replaced a piece because it was the most liked work in the collection. I’ll just mention a few pieces I remember to give you an idea of the kind of place it is. One of these is a computer-directed waterfall that spells out words taken live from internet news sources.

Another is a set of machinery designed to replicate the human stomach in live action. You can watch the regular feeding and poo operations at a set time each day.
Another is a set of 77 cast vaginas. The artist (male) wanted people to see the beauty in these and had an overwhelming response when he asked for volunteers, one of whom was 77 years old at the time. A fascinating corner of the museum was taken up with an exact replica of Van Eyck’s studio and some copies of his most famous works completed by a non-artist using a mirror setup to make the copies. We talked to a musician who was making a copy of another of Van Eyck’s works. He had been at it for a week. The result we was seemed to be successful. Nearby patrons are given the opportunity to try out the system. We found it doable, if difficult at first.

Instead of placards discussing each piece of art, this museum makes excellent use of an app that shows pieces near your position. By clicking you can read a short basic description or a longer explanation. Many pieces also have an artistic discussion about the piece.

This narrow hallway is called the Abyss
We appreciated the fact that you can still use the app after you leave the museum. While it’s not the app, I definitely recommend taking a look at the museum website: Be sure to look at the section on the new hotel and library Walsh is building. We do agree with Kerrie and David that this museum is a must see when in the area.

Sign for the  Museum of Everything
A British traveling exhibit
focused on work by unknown or non-artists
Fits well with the rest of the museum