Thursday, 30 December 2010

Day Nine - Tasman Island and Port Arthur


Today has potentially been one of the best (so far) in Tasmania. I spent a small fortune to go on a boat trip around Tasman Island, in the South-East of Tasmania. As per usual, this meant a ridiculously early start - up at 6 in fact! Our first stop of the morning was at Eagle Neck, where I enjoyed morning tea (I even had a cup of tea with a not so pleasant brownie), over pleasant conversation with an Austrian lady I befriended. Following the brief refreshment break, I went on a quick walk to the tessellated pavement a short distance away - this is a natural feature caused by the salt in the water, which leads to a criss-cross pattern of cracks in the rocks - pretty cool for a geoggers geek like me!

Following another quick bus ride, we reached the boats, ready to cruise around Tasman Island and enjoy its wonders. I was a little bit worried after the sea sickness I experienced during the whale watching trip when Mike was in Sydney, but luckily the crew loaded us all with sea sickness tablets in preparation. We were pretty much bombarded with the awesomeness of the Tasman Island coast from the onset; we sailed (not sure if that's the right word as it was a zodiac boat, not a sail boat but never mind) into caves, got up close and personal with stacks and arches, and generally just some amazing coastal geography. In addition to the amazing geomorphological features, we were also treated to some pretty cool marine wildlife. A particular highlight was when dolphins started swimming and jumping right next to the boat, including a little baby. It was truly amazing, but unfortunately it was rather difficult to capture this on camera on a moving boat, with moving subjects, never mind. Both New Zealand and Australian fur seals also call this coastline home (and what a good home it is) so I got to see a few of these bickering with one another whilst enjoying the delightful and very poignant seal smell; saying this, it wasn't half as bad as the walrus' in Svalbard). It's very hard to describe how rugged and beautiful the coast is, but I will post pictures soon so you can all see what I mean, although even those will probably not do it justice.

With the "wilderness trip" over, the rest of the days adventure continued. For me, this meant visiting the historic site of Port Arthur, one of the most infamous penal settlements in Australia, established in the 1830s, for transportation of all the naughty British boys and girls. Over 2000 people called this place home at its peak, and I have to say, it seems like a nice home to me....I don't really mean that; I just mean that now it is actually a really aesthetic place with lots of greenery and ruins. Way back when, I'm sure this place was horrible, with children as young as 9 working the quarries as punishment, and "old" people left to waste away in the "Paupers Depot". Again, I can't really describe the feel of this place; on the one hand on such a sunny day as it was, the site seemed really scenic, whereas on the other, I know it was such a horrible place for so many people that it's really striking.

With the quick trip of Port Arthur over, it was time to head back to Hobart. I actually found out that one of my polar science friends was in Hobart after flying back from Antarctica, so I met up with her and my current host, for a drink and some fish and chips. I met this girl about two years ago at a workshop in Cambridge and since then, we randomly catch up in exotic places like Svalbard and now Tasmania, simply by chance. It's pretty crazy but was great to catch up with her again.

Well that's the end of day nine. Twas an action packed and very tiring day, but it was amazing! I know this is a bit of a crappy blog but I am tired and my brain isn't working...

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Day Eight - Richmond

Hi guys,

Sorry for not posting this yesterday; I actually ran out of Internet usage in the hotel as I uploaded pictures to facebook (mum, you can look at them there, and perhaps show Grandad as I probably won't get around to posting them here for a while). Grandad, this also explains whilst Skype cut out when I was talking to you, and Kerry, why I couldn't talk to you at all....

The involved another early start (obviously) to catch a bus to Richmond, one of the oldest towns in Tasmania (along with Hobart, Launceston, Oatlands and Ross I believe - all of which are along the Heritage Way), established in 1815 I think. This place is located just 30 minutes or so north of Hobart, and set amongst the beautiful countryside of the Coal River Valley. Now what makes Richmond so "famous" is its classic Georgian architecture, which makes it very similar to the other smaller settlements of Ross and Oatlands.

Once again there is a bridge, but this is not just any bridge, it is the oldest bridge in Australia which I think is quite impressive. What's more impressive is that this was only in 1815; stupid Australia with it's modern colonialism. Found in many places around this bridge are strange and wonderful creatures which at first sight appear to be ducks. If one wanders closer, however, it soon becomes obvious that these are no ordinary ducks. Firstly, they are gigantic ducks - at least goose size by my reckoning, not the cute little ducks found in the UK. Secondly, there is one strange species that looks like some strange hybrid of a duck, a turkey, and a goose. Again this creature is goose size, with a ducks plumage, but some strange red markings around its beak. I'm not sure exactly what this is, but I didn't hang around to examine further as I was notably freaked out by these wing-ed beasts!

In addition to learning a thing or two about strange animal amalgamations, I learnt a new word yesterday. Now before I tell you what this word was, I should tell you that I had been stumped about this word for a while, having come across it in my tour guide a fair few times, but thinking it was some strange Australian word and quickly moving along. Now, in Richmond, there happens to be one of these new-word things, so I plucked up the courage to ask our bus driver what it was...the word....GAOL. I had no idea how to pronounce this word, if I did, it probably would have been pretty obvious what it was. So what is a gaol I hear you ask (well perhaps just the other stupid people), it is a JAIL! Apparently gaol is the "British" way of spelling jail, with the latter being the American spelling. Being a Brit, I can honestly say with my hand on my heart, that I have never ever ever seen jail spelt like that. What is the world coming to eh?

So all in all, I lovely trip to a historical little town complete with mystical creatures and so-called gaols. Good times...

Monday, 27 December 2010

Day Seven - Exploring Hobart (2)

I'm sure you will all be happy to know that my nose is now peeling a
fair bit. This saddens me so, as firstly, it was pretty damn tanned,
and secondly, I look like an idiot (well even more of one!). Let's
hope that it stops soon eh.

One week on after arriving in Tasmania, I had my first, and well
deserved, lie in. With no alarm set, I woke up at a still very
respectable 9 oclock and I was once again cold. I'm not sure if it's
just Tasmania that makes me cold, or maybe I have just become a right

I started my day by exploring the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens,
located within the Queens Domain which I visited yesterday. It seems
that in every place I go to, a trip to a botanical garden of some sort
HAS to be on the table; Oslo, Bergen, Brisbane...and I'm sure that
there are many more. Of all those that I have visited, I think Hobart
has to be one of the best. The grounds were simply delightful, with an
abudance of botany (unsurprisingly) and many insects too! I had a very
pleasant walk around the grounds, absorbing all the botanical
delights, and my trip culimanted in a trip to the restaurant. Being
English and all, I thought I would live up to the stereotype and have
a cream tea; I was actually a little dissapointed with the scones -
apparently that is one thing we English didn't pass on during colonial

Refuelling over, I continued through Queens Domain, and headed back to
the city, taking in a sneak peak of Government House, an old zoo, and
a war memorial or two on the way (which I had to shelter behind during
a brief shower). After a quick visit to Tourist Information to
organise a thing or two (I won't spoil the surpise and tell you what
I'm doing), I spent an hour or two relaxing on the waterfront whilst
the sun shone beautifully down upon me.

Now my original plan for today was to head up to Mount Wellington, the
Mountain that looms over Hobart, explaining why Hobart is one of the
driest Australian cities (rain shadow). However, being summer and all,
it decided to snow atop the mountain today. This even made the news as
tempertuates plummitted to a nippy -3C, giving tourists a quick
glimpse into northern winter. I now regret not heading up today;
despite my recent intolerance to the cold, I would have enjoyed
throwing a snowball at someone!

Tomorrow I change hotels, which can only mean one thing....INTERNET
ACCESS! perhaps I will upload a few pictures for you all so prepare to
be blown away; I am kidding, of course.

Side note: I recieved an email saying the ship should be leaving at
5pm on the 4th January. The 2 days preceeding this will be spent
preparing all the equipment and having briefings etc.

Side note 2: I found out that my paper I submitted absolutely ages
ago, has been accepted following minor revision. This just means the
reviewers suggest I make a few small adjustments before it will be
published. This was a nice surpise as I was expecting major revisions.
Top job!

The end

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Day Six - Exploring Hobart

Firstly, I think I titled yesterdays post as day six - that was
actually wrong, and today is day six. I have to say, it feels like I
have been here much longer than 6 days, but still 8 to go before the
Antarctic departure.

I'm sure you are all dying to know what I have been up to today, so
here goes. Having little to actually do except return my car (which
meant another early start) I didn't actually do much. Having eaten
barely anything on Christmas day (cereal, a sandwich and a cereal bar
all day definitely does not constitute a good Christmas dinner), my
first item on the agenda was to find some food as I was bloody
starving marvin! Thankfully many places were open today so I headed
into a bakery and enjoyed an excellent breakfast of an apple danish
and a hot chocolate.

With my belly full at last, I headed off to do a walking tour around
Hobart, taking in all the main sites. Having become used to seeing
barely any people all day, it was actually a bit of a shock to have so
many people around me - the fact that there were two massive cruise
ships docked, and all the boxing day sales on, certainly didn't help.
I took in all the historic sites of Hobart, enjoying the many
sandstone buildings that are so typical of colonial Hobart. After
stopping for some lunch, I explored Battery Point, Hobarts oldest
neighbourhood which is home to many quaint little cottages. I even
walked up the street where the red lights burned night and day...

On the way home, I stopped off at the shops to see if I could get
myself a bargain, and a bargain I did find. Even though I bought
myself some hiking shoes just before leaving for Hobart, I treated
myself to some sexy walking boots which were 50% off - BARGAIN! At
least I now have a choice to wear either shoes or boots....I later
tested these out when I explored Queens Domain, a large parkland area
on the northern side of Hobart, which also houses the Government House.

And that is it. Not a particularly action packed day, but it's nice to
have a more relaxed day and just mooch around.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Day Six - Returning back to Hobart

Merry Christmas everyone! On this most festive of days, I realise how
much I miss you all! Christmas spent by yourself is not certainly not
much fun but nevertheless I have tried to remain positive.

As has become custom for my time in Tassy, I awoke early and enjoyed
breakfast with the smell of log fire and pine in the air - it was
delightful. Today was my last day spent in luxury and I was a little
sadenned to pack all my things and leave the wilderness retreat of
Lemonthyme Lodge. Before departing, I took one last stroll to the
nearby no name falls; I was actually a little dissapointed with the
waterfalls themselves but the rest of the walk was nice - lots of
interesting biology, including some massive fungi. Side note - I was
today scared by both an echidna and a wallaby! I still remain in awe
if the diversity that Tasmania has to offer in terms of it's nature -
and it is so quiet in comparison to other places I have visited. A
perfect piece of paradise - I think that Tasmania may actually be my
favourite place that I have visited, perhaps even beating Norway,
which is saying something...

Walk over, I said goodbye to Cradle Mountain National Park and the
Central Tasmanian Highlands as a whole, and started the long, yet not
so arduous, journey back to Hobart. On my way "north" I took the
longer more scenic route. On the way back, I decided to take the
shorter route that covers the old route from Hobart to Launceston,
taking in some lovely historic quant towns (well, historic by modern
australian standards). The first stop was Ross, one of the oldest
towns in Australia, and conveniently located midway between Hobart and
Launceston. There isn't really much to the town, but it's made
"famous" by it's bridge, constructed in 1836, and it's other old

Next stop on the Heritage Way was Oatlands, which developed on the
shores of Lake Dulverton, and again spans back to the 1830s. Made
picturesque by an old mill, this little place has lots to offer, it's
just a shame that all the shops etc were closed being Christmas day
and all.

So there you have it, that's the end of the first stage of my
Tasmanian adventure. I am now back in Hobart, and will remain here
until I Head south. I plan on going on a few day adventures whilst I
can, so keep checking for updates.

Merry Christmas once again!

Friday, 24 December 2010

Day Four – Cradle Mountain National Park (2)

Happy Christmas y’all! It definitely does not feel like Christmas Eve here, despite the Lodge playing Christmas songs all day...Oh, and I apologise for the crappy formatting of my previous posts – turns out the e-mail blogging is not that bothered about formatting.

Today has been another excellent day, complete with lots of walking (obviously) and pristine weather conditions. Whereas I was moaning that I was too cold, today I will be whinging that I was too hot. This was just my luck seeing as I packed extra layers and my hat this time so I was prepared for the cold, but without the biting wind, it was a fine fine day.

No morning walks for me today; I thought I deserved a bit of a lie in after yesterday. The “lie in” didn’t really happen, firstly because I still set me alarm for 8 (does an extra hour constitute a lie in?), and secondly because there is some bloody annoying Japanese family in the room next door and they were very loud this morning, yattering away, and banging doors like nobody’s business. I curse them!

Following breakfast (they had some proper lush muffins today – YUMMY), I set back off to Cradle Mountain National Park, where I went yesterday if you do not recall. On the way I see lots of road kill; I forgot to mention this on my day one post. Tasmania has lots of road kill, perhaps even more than England....but there is a big difference. Whereas England perhaps has the odd rabbit and bird, here they have possums, wombats, and many wallabies. This is why I have been driving rather slowly, which may explain why I get overtaken rather a lot. Better to be safe than sorry I say.

I reached my destination once more, but after my hardcore day of hiking yesterday, I thought I would take it a bit easier today (saying that, I didn’t ache too much at all). I started the day with a very pleasant 3.5km walk which is apparently one of Tasmanias top 100 short walks. It was very lovely, passing through forest and meadows, with a nice river cutting through the area with the odd waterfall. During this walk a wallaby scared me half to death*; there I was, minding my own business, when all of a sudden this wallaby hopped pretty close to me, which obviously made me jump, and then it hopped off some more. I sat watching this wallaby for 5 minutes or so, during which time a baby wallaby (are they called joeys too?) came out to join its mother. They were quite far away, but I thought I would change the lens on my camera to take a photo. You know what’s coming soon as I got the lens on, they bloody hopped away! I also saw a wombat (the second of my trip) in very close proximity; it was very nervous and didn’t want to pose for a nice photo either L

That walk done, I continued the day by walking to the origin of my next walk (I hope that makes sense). This was the “Cradle Valley Boardwalk”, which I did a bit of yesterday – it was the highlight of my day if that helps jog your memory. So I retraced my steps from 24 hours previously, but continued for an additional 2.1km (making it 5.5km in total). In the proper sunshine, the walk was even nicer – I just love the diversity of the ecosystems you find, the wildlife present, and generally just the feel and look of the place; simply magnificent. Having reached the end of this walk, and the starting point of the next, I thought I would stop for a bite to eat. Here I was harassed by a crow (I think) that seriously wanted to eat me or something. On two occasions it flew right at me, scaring me half to death – I’m sure there must be some omen about that.

Following this near-death experience of nearly being eaten by a crow, I thought I should really set off. This walk starts with the “Overland Track”, which some of you may heard of. It’s a 60km walk starting from Cradle Mountain, and ending in Lake St Clair (where I stopped on my way here) – I will complete this walk one day. After following the Overland track up through Crater Falls, I reached Crater Lake, a beautiful glacial lake. Now my walk could have finished there, but again I decided to extend the walk slightly. I continued climbing to reach Marions Lookout (1223m asl), which afforded fantastic views over Dove Lake and the cloud-free Cradle Mountain itself (a rarity I am told). The walk was quite hard as it was pretty steep, but the views at the end made it very worthwhile. With the steep climb up, came the even steeper descent, providing views of Lake Lilla, to reach the Dove Lake path I walked yesterday, thus completing the ~7km walk or so . As the weather was much better, I thought it would be wise to go and re-take a few pictures...

And that was day four. I should mention that my sun/windburn is sooooo bad. My face is ridiculously red – I left my aftersun in Sydney and there is none for sale here. Whoops. Tonight I shall be treating myself to another dinner here at the lodge – it’s expensive but definitely worth it.

Merry Christmas!

*speaking (or typing) of things that scared me to death – yesterday during my waterfall walk, I turned around after taking a picture of the waterfall, and actually screamed a little bit at a fern that was merrily growing behind me. I’m not exactly sure what I thought this fern was, but it scared me fo’sho! Another screaming story – there I was on day one, walking around Lake St Clair, came round a corner and an echidna was sat there – again I jumped and may have screamed a lil bit! I’m sure there will be many more things to scared me in the days to come.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Day three - Cradle Mountain National Park (1)

Bonjour, see how good I am, updating twice in two days! Today has been
an exhausting, but very enjoyable day. For the third day in a row I
was up uber early; set my alarm for 7 so I got up and made the most of
the day. As breakfast wasn't until 8 at the earliest, I thought I
would go on one of the local short walks around the complex. According
to a leaflet I was given, the one I did would take 45 minutes, perfect
time for brekkie. Well either the leaflet maker can't tell the time
correctly, or I just walked really fast, as I was done in 15 off I went on another short walk. 45 minutes of walking
done even before the day had even started, go me!

After breakfast I got in my car, drove the 15 minutes to reach the
main road, and off I went to Cradle Mountain National Park. I should
have mentioned that I awoke to beautiful weather, this had certainly
changed by the time I reached Dove Lake, today's destination. It was
blowing a gale and it was abso-bloody-lutely freezing; before my walk
had even started, it had been sleeting; this did not bode well for my
hike. However, on I went, and 5 minutes in, it started to snow a bit,
which then changed to rain, sleet and back to snow. It seemed the
weather could definitely not make up it's mind but at least I got to
see some snow close to Christmas. I pushed onward and upward
(literally), getting the odd glimpse of the fabled Cradle Mountain -
apparenly one of the most photographed places in Tasmania. At about
the half way mark I had to climb up a bloody steep section which even
had a hand rail which I most certainly gripped on to with dear life,
especially with the ridiculously strong gusts combined with the odd
snow flake. After getting a bit cocky, I decided to extend my circuit
a little bit,taking the longer route back. This turned out to be a bit
of a mistake. It wasn't a little longer, but probably two hours
longer. To top things off, I also got slightly lost and had to do a
bit of rock climbing to get back on track (I'm a true outdoors man now
don't you know!). Anyway, I eventually finished the circuit which was
suppose to be 7.5km, and take 3 hours; It took me about 5 hours, and
what seemed like 100km.

This was not the end of my day, as I decided to punish myself further.
At this point the Tasmanian weather lady had changed the weather to
pretty much clear skies - I think I experienced all seasons weather
today! I still kept wrapped up warm though as I remained cold. T
shirt, my jacket suitable for Arctic weather, and my coat on top,
coupled with gloves (a last minute addition to the bag that saved my
life today - if only I had thought if my hat too...). That's more
clothes than I wore in Svalbard!!! Anywho, I diverge, I decided to
catch a bus half way back to where my car was parked, and walk the
rest of the route, perhaps 4km. This turned out to be the highlight of
my day as the area was so lovely (pictures will follow at some point).
All of that before 4 oclock; I now see why people get up so early!

I drove home, soaking up the scenery and the sunshine, thinking i was
very ready for a sit down....this wasn't the case...! After getting
back, I thought it would be stupid to waste such a fine afternoon
sitting inside, so off I went once more on another of the local walks,
this time to visit some waterfalls; a very pleasant 6km walk. By the
time I neared thelodge, I was completely shattered. My legs ached sooo
much that I stumbled into my room. So that's been my day - lots of
walking involved which I may regret in the morning, but it was
definitely worth it.

The rest of my evening will be spent looking at my photos - I don't
think the morning ones will be very good (it was cold and wet and I
didn't want to stand around playing with the settings), but hopefully
I got some nice ones from this arvo. I have also got a lovely wind
burnt face with a nose that competes with Rudolph, at least it's
festive I guess!

Who knows what tomorrow will bring. I have a feeling that I won't be
able to move!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Tasmanian Adventures - Days 1 & 2

Hey guys,

So here is my first update from my Tasmanian adventure. Firstly let me
apollogise; I an writing this on my iPhone so there are likely to be a
few spelling mistakes.

Day 1 - I left Sydney with beautiful clear skies and nice, moderte
temperatures, say 25C or so. This gave me fantastic views over much of
the east coast as we flew southwards. Unfortunately the cloud
increased when we neared Victoria (well I guess that's roughly where
we were anyway) so the rest of the half and a half flight was pretty
When I landed in Hobart, I was greated with sleet! It was bloody
freezing! I think I've become accustomed to the moderate heat of
Sydney, so now even a measly 15C is cold to me; I don't know how I'm
going to cope in anarctica. Anywho, I caught a bus to my hotel,
dropped my stuff off, and went straight to CSIRO to meet the guy I
will be working for whilst on the cruise. After being introduced to
the team, I was rushed off to the Australian Antarctic Division (the
Australian equivalent of the British Anarctic Survey) to get kitted
out for the cruise. This was actually pretty fun, and I ended up with
2 big bags full of thermals, jackets, boots etc! I'm sure I will post
pictures of me looking stupid soon enough. After this excitement, and
having not eaten since 6am that morning, I said goodbye to the team,
grabbed some food and went to bed - travelling is tiring!

Day two - heading up north!
Another early start this morning ( no rest for the wicked) to go and
pick up my rental car. Having not driven in 6 months, I was a bit
apprehensive, especially with driving in a strange city, but
everything was fine, and I successfully navigated myself out of
Hobart. My destination was Cradle Mountain National Park, located in
the north end of central Tasmania. I decided the longer, more scenic
route would be more enjoyable, so off I left, ready to explore. I
stopped off at a few random places along the way, mainly to take
pictures and stretch my legs. If I stopped everywhere I would have
like to, I think the trip would have taken me two days. My first stop,
after perhaps 3 hours of driving, was Lake St Clair National Park,
located at the southern end of my final destination. The lake is the
deepest freshwater lake in Australia, and is 187m deep if I remember
correctly. I had a gentle 5km walk around, took many pictures, but
decided I really should continue on my way. The next part of the
journey was much longer than I expected. Although only 80km further
north than Lake St Clair, there is no direct road, so you have to head
way west, then north, then east again. That being said, the scenery
was absolutely gorgeous; I think I'm in love with Tasmania already -
it seems so diverse in terms of it's scenery and it's biology - a
geography geeks heaven for sure! It reminds me much of Norway, perhaps
with a bit of the Lake District mixed in for good measure, BEAUTIFUL!
I continued onwards, and after what seemed forever, I finally arrived
at my accomodation destination. Now, I knew this place was a bit
fancy, but it's immense! It's basically in the middle if nowhere (you
have to go 8km down a dirt track from the next road) and is a lovely
log cabin. They have a wood fire burning, which makes it seem much
more like Christmas - reminds me of ski resorts. I just had dinner,
and by golly, it was lovely. I felt like a right idiot sat on my own
(I think this a couples place), but the melt in the middle chocolate
pudding (Which beats M&S hands down) made up for it.

Ok, enough rambling. Tomorrow I shall be heading to the national park
proper for some serious walking. Fingers crossed for good weather......

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Hobart Bound!

Hey people,
Just a quick post as I'm currently sat at the airport and my plane boards in 10 minutes.
So I'm off to Hobart now, and will be off to Cradle Mountain National Park for 4 days, from tomorrow. That means that I will be spending Christmas Day all by myself - :( I hope you feel sorry for me.
I have figured out a way to update my blog via e-mail, so hopefully I will be able to give pretty regular updates from my trip (probably without pics).
Must rush....

Thursday, 9 December 2010


Once again, I have a few more pictures to show you lovely people. It seems that this blog has become a media through which to share my pictures, rather than telling you what I've been up to. I'm sure the photos are much more interesting anyway...

Before, however, I will bore you with a brief update. After a hectic few weeks, I am now in a position to start writing my first PhD paper. I managed to get all the analysis done before my co-supervisor leaves for the US, and before the visiting scientist also goes back to the US - go me! So now I will spend the next few months writing up the paper before before continuing with something different.

Last night I went and watched the new Harry Potter in the worlds largest IMAX screen; it was blood huge! I enjoyed the film and afterwards, I went to Hyde Park to take a few night time pictures, of which, two were OK; and here they are (obviously the last picture is not from Hyde Park at night...).