Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Cradle Mountain Trip

Hi all!

Tomorrow (Wednesday) we are going to Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park until Saturday.  We are staying at the Cradle Mountain Lodge.  Once again we will be without internet while we are gone so look for posts about our trip after we get back Saturday or Sunday.  We are looking forward to lots more hiking and we're hoping to see a wombat!  I know Ben is really looking forward to this trip because it has been a very busy 5 days at work for him. 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Giving Thanks and Caravanning

So we didn't really celebrate Thanksgiving this week since it isn't celebrated in Australia.  It really doesn't feel like the holiday season with it getting to be summer here.  We are very thankful though to get to have this experience in Tasmania and for our friends and family who love and support us.

On a completely different subject, we have been noticing in our travels around Tasmania lately lots of caravans.  Some of them are RV's like we see in the States but lots of them are just big vans that have been outfitted in the back with beds, dining table, etc.  Aussies seem to love their road trips and we've seen all different ages of people out caravanning.  We are starting to plan a trip once Ben is done with his commitment to the hospital to rent a caravan and travel around to the places on mainland Australia that we haven't gotten to go to yet.  Should be exciting and will of course make for some interesting blog posts!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wetland Wanderin'

We had another good walk, this one was through the Tamar River Conservation Area.  This is an important wetlands reserve about 15 minutes from our house.  The walk comprises a boardwalk over the marsh to Tamar Island.

The boardwalk wanders through the reeds to a paperbark forest where there is a bird blind.  We spooked a pair of ducks and their brood on the way.  The black geese and their goslings were out, and we also saw a Purple Swamphen.

The estuary environment changes with the tides to reveal the mud bottom.  You can see where the birds have walked!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

East Coast Slideshow

We downloaded a free program called PhotoScape to help us edit our pictures.  It has a feature to create files called animated .gif which work like slideshows.  Using an online photo-hosting site called Photobucket, we can post these slideshows to our blog.  Hopefully, we'll be able to share more pictures this way (the current total for our trip is around 1200 photos).


Friday, November 19, 2010


During the drive back to Launceston from St. Helens, the A3 takes a winding path through the mountains.  Consequently, you can only travel at about 30mph.  Driving more slowly allowed us to spot this beautiful Short-beaked Echidna.

Like the platypus, the echidna is another Monotreme, an egg-laying mammal.  The Short-beaked Echidna used to be known as the Spiny Anteater, but has little in common with anteaters beyond diet.  This is the only species of echidna in Australia, but there are a three other species in New Guinea.  We've now seen all of the Australian monotremes!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Grass Tree

Throughout our travels in Australia and Tasmania, we've seen some spectacular tree ferns.  Some of these ferns have been 20-30 feet tall.  This forest near the base of St. Columba falls was particularly impressive (above).  The tree ferns in this area are likely 100-200 years old.  The 'trunks' of these trees are actually dead plant matter left behind by each succession of fronds.  In the center of these trunks, the roots extend from the fronds above to the ground below.  Cutting off the tops of these tree ferns has been used to transplant them.  One nickname of these plants in Tasmania is the "Man Fern."

While we were hiking on the Freycinet peninsula, we came across a related plant called the Grass Tree.  Rather than fronds, this plant has long, thin, spiky leaves.  Like the Tree Fern, the Grass Tree grows very slowly and can be several hundred years old.  This plant often requires fire to stimulate it's reproduction, so it's rarely seen flowering.  Our picture below shows a blackened trunk from previous fires.

St. Columba Falls

On our way back to Launceston after stopping at Hall's Falls we stopped at St. Columba Falls.  These falls are some of the highest in Tasmania at over 90 meters. 

To get to the falls we took a well marked path through ferns, myrtle, sassafras, and blackwood trees.

We've been so lucky to get to see so many beautiful waterfalls.  We've been to four in Tasmania and one in New South Wales. 

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Halls Falls

On the drive home from St. Helens along the A3, we came across a turnoff for Halls Falls.  This area was the heart of the tin mining industry until the 1940s.  Northeast Tasmania is also an important logging area.

The hike to the falls wandered through temperate rainforest.  It was a nice hike, and seemed to be lightly used.  There were several sites to view the multi-tiered falls including a lookout, rock pools above the falls, and at the base of the falls.  The hike was relatively short, but steep and muddy in places.

Delectable Dining

We got to eat some great meals while on our east coast trip.  Saturday afternoon we drove over to Freycinet Marine Farm for some fresh oysters and garlic scallops.  We had the oysters natural.  When we have been ordering them in restaurants we have been getting them cooked with different toppings on them like cheese or bacon or some sort of a sauce.  The texture of an oyster definitely takes some getting used to, but they do not have a fishy taste, just a very fresh from the sea salty taste.  We ate our oysters and scallops at a picnic table in a peaceful garden setting.  We even saw a couple of parrots in the trees. 

Our Saturday dinner was at Madge Molloy's.  There are only a couple of restaurants in Coles Bay but I had heard and read a lot about this one so made a booking for Saturday night.  It is run by a husband and wife and from what we could tell the husband does the cooking and the wife does all of the hostessing and service and makes the desserts.  They do their own fishing and we saw their boat anchored out in the bay and the wife was very knowledgeable about the fish selections.  We each got one of the specials-perch stuffed with crab for Ben and calamari for me.  Everything was very fresh and we really enjoyed our meal.

Sunday morning we drove from Coles Bay to St. Helens and made a stop on the way at Mt. Elephant Pancakes.  We had to drive up some very windy roads to get there but had heard a lot about this place as well.  It was a cozy little place that wasn't very busy when we got there but quickly filled up.  They serve crepes as opposed to traditional pancakes.  We weren't sure if we would like the crepes but we did.  We each ordered a savory crepe-mine was stuffed with feta cheese, spinach, mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes, and Ben's with salami, spinach, and cheese and shared a sweet crepe with apricots, coconut, pineapple and a mango sauce. 

Sunday night we got take-away fish and chips from a little place along the water in St. Helens.  Battered blue-eye and crumbed prawns.  Fish and chips are very popular here and make for a satisfying meal. 

We did a lot of delicious eating on this trip to refuel after all of the hiking we did. :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Wad of Wallabies

During our hike on the Freycinet Peninsula, we had ten separate sightings of wallabies!

Epic Hike

The biggest reason I wanted to go to Freycinet National Park was to see the beautiful beach at Wineglass Bay and we got to do that on Friday.  We arrived in Coles Bay around 1 pm and had lunch at a great little restaurant overlooking Coles Bay and the Hazards Mountains called The View.  We ended up having dinner there that night and breakfast the next morning too! 

Coles Bay is a very small town with only around 200 year-round residents, but 200,000 tourists each year.  We checked into our accommodation and headed over to the park.  We purchased a year long parks pass that we can use at all the national parks in Tasmania.  Our hike to the lookout climbed a mountain pass between two of the Hazards.  It was steep-including 300 steps-and warm.  We got to the top and here was the view:

Only 1% of visitors to the park make it down to the beach and we decided we wanted to join that group.  We hiked down to the beach and it was gorgeous:

Then the fun really began.  We decided we wanted to continue on with the hike instead of just going back the way we came so we took the path and walked through rainforest and saw all sorts of birds and wallabies.  It was so peaceful and we only saw one other couple out on the trail.  Crossing the isthmus of the peninsula, we came to Hazards Beach.  My favorite part of the hike was walking along the densely packed sand of this beach.

We also saw lots of skinks on this hike:

We continued through the forest over boulders and along the trail back to the car park.  We were so tired by the end and in total the hike was 7.5 miles and took us 4 hours to complete.  It was a very challenging but rewarding hike.  Here's the map with details from my Garmin watch.  The "Satellite" tab on the map below illustrates our hike around one of the Hazards, Mt. Mayson.

Monday, November 15, 2010

East Coast Trip

We're back from our weekend trip to Tassie's East Coast, and we've planned a bunch of upcoming posts to share our trip and photos!

Stay tuned for a monster Freycinet walk, Wallaby photos, more than a dozen new bird species for our list, seafood experiences, Mt. Elephant pancakes, St. Columba and Hall's Falls, pensioner caravans, and Echidnas!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

More Aussie Lingo

Time for another Aussie Lingo lesson!

chooks-domestic chickens
entree vs main-on a menu an entree is typically an appetizer and the main is your main course
supporter-fan of a particular sports team
going for-team you are cheering for
whinge-complain or whine
crooked-sick, not feeling well
fair dinkum-genuine, true
ta-thank you
tute-lecture (We learned this one because Ben was asked to give a tute at the hospital and we had to look that one up!)
cracker-first-rate, excellent

We leave for a weekend trip tomorrow to Freycinet National Park and St. Helens on the east coast.  Looks like we won't have internet access, but we should have some good posts when we get back Monday or Tuesday.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Wallaby Walk

Yesterday we took a long, steep hike through eucalyptus forest along the Cataract Gorge here in Launceston.  It was raining for most of it, completely exhausting, and nearly 4 miles in length.  Fortunately, we were rewarded with a Bennett's Wallaby!

We also added another bird to our list, the Grey Fantail, and a good shot of a male Superb Fairywren.  Well worth the tough walk!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Endemic Species

Our biology background accentuates our interest in Australia's unique flora and fauna.  Australia's unique geology and remoteness from other land masses creates spectacular diversity.  83% of mammals, 89% of reptiles, 90% of fish and insects and 93% of amphibians that inhabit the continent are endemic to Australia.

Endemism is an ecological term for being unique to a specific geographic area.  The marsupials in Australia are a good example, but the biodiversity extends to plants and tiny insects.

The unique wildlife of Australia is particularly vulnerable to introduced species.  Some examples are dingos, rabbits, camels, and cane toads.  Many species were introduced by well-intentioned, but misguided people.

We've been watching "Border Security," a t.v. show that explores Australian customs and quarantine.  When we arrived in Australia, we were sniffed by customs dogs.  Customs is very careful about allowing food products into the country.  Quarantine efforts even extend inter-state, we were sniffed again when we arrived in Tasmania!

It's been fun learning about the unique Australian biodiversity and the governmental attempts to protect it.  Over the next few days, we'll be updating the viewed species lists in the right sidebar to indicate endemic species (e).

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"The race that stops a nation"

Today was the Melbourne Cup, the major Thouroughbred horse race in Australia.  The race is held at the Flemington Racecourse in Melbourne on the first Tuesday in November at about 2:50pm.  It's a big deal in Australia (hence the title), even an elderly female patient in the ED today had a favorite.  We're learning that Aussies are punters (gamblers), and the Cup had AUD 98 million dollars wagered on the race.

As Americans, we're probably most familiar with the Triple Crown.  The Cup differs from the Triple Crown in several ways.  The distance is two miles (actually 3200 meters since the switch to the metric system in 1972), ran on turf, and horses are 3 years or older.  It's also a handicap race which means horses carry differing amounts of weight based on their record.

Americain won today's race coming from the middle of the pack and winning by more than two lengths over local favorite So You Think.

Lemon Tarts and a Restaurant Review

I made lemon tarts for the first time when we were living in the little apartment over on St. Georges Square when we first got here.  I decided to make them again last night.  They are quite simple to make.  The recipe is in the link above.  It calls for caster sugar.  I didn't know what that was but it is basically a superfine sugar.  I used caster sugar the first time and regular sugar this time.

Sunday after our hiking we went to dinner at Silt restaurant.  We had such a good dinner.  We had bruschetta for an appetizer.  Ben had garlic prawns that were so good he didn't want to share any with me!  I had a Thai green curry with chicken.  The restaurant overlooks the Tamar River. The service was top notch, the menu had lots of interesting options, and the prices were quite reasonable.  Sarah and Hannah-we want to take you here when you visit.  The next time any of you are in Tasmania you should check it out.  ;)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Lilydale Falls

Another great bushwalk yesterday.  It rained hard overnight and then some more in the morning, but it cleared in the afternoon.  (If you don't like the Tassie weather, just wait an hour, it will change!)

On this trip, we went to Lilydale Falls, about 30 minutes outside of Launceston.  A short hike from the carpark took us up to the falls.

You can tell we had some rain, the stairs look like they descend into the pool.  Which they might, since we didn't follow them to their end!

This is a Yellow Admiral, a butterfly native to Australia and New Zealand.  It has prompted us to create a new list for the right sidebar - "Insects"  We also added a Satin Flycatcher to our bird list.

We also walked through part of Merthyr Park near Lilydale.  This is a eucalyptus forest on 47 hectares along the Second River.

We found several Laughing Kookaburra hunting in the forest.

We also found this "Prickly Beauty."  Leigh thinks it's named after her!

Stay tuned for some exciting posts in the near future, including "Lemon Tarts," "Stringybark Eucalyptus," and "Endemic Species!"