After a short stop in Launceston we headed back towards Hobart, with stops in Freycinet National Park and Bicheno, for even more extraordinary views and wildlife encounters, closer this time.
Up and down again
Launceston, which may or may not be worth a visit of it’s own, provided too short a stay to say much about, other than that the backpackers we stayed at was sub-par and the steak at the repurposed gaol was really good. We did have a nice walk in the town’s most prominent green getaways, though, Cataract Gorge. A nice park, a lake, a waterfall, a suspension bridge, a rotunda.
The east side of the island is significantly dryer than the west. The wind mostly comes from the Roaring Forties, so called because they form in the vast oceans on the 40:th latitude south, and therefore brings the rain to the west coast, slowing down in the central plateaus, and adds little precipitation to the east. Still, that only means a lack of rain forest; there is still plenty of vegetation to go around, and with it, fauna.
Devils in a box
In Bicheno, there’s a wildlife sanctuary, home of kangaroos, birds, and many more. The head-liner, though, is the Tasmanian Devil which, despite it’s modest size of roughly a stout cat, is the top predator of the island, since the thylacine (or Tasmanian Tiger (called so despite being more similar to canids in size, shape and behaviour; guess the stripes earns the title….)) was extinct in 1933*.
The devil, called so because of it’s rather demonic screeching noise, is an endangered species at the moment. It used to be so numerous as to be considered a pest, but in fairness, humans tend to see any number too high if they choose to. Even a single animal is an invading horde, according to some.
Culling, loss of habitat, roads and decrease in prey have thwarted their numbers, but the main threat right now is Tasmanian devil facial tumour disease (DFTD). It is a transmissible cancer that affects Tasmanian devils. The disease is spread by biting and causes the appearance of tumours on the face or inside the mouth of affected Tasmanian devils. The tumours often become very large and usually cause death of affected animals. In conjunction with lessened gene pools, measures have to be made to ensure the continued existence of what is basically the Earthly equivalent of Nibblonians**.
One such is the sanctuary in Bicheno. Other than caring for hurt, wounded or abandoned devils, it’s also a part of a network of other sanctuaries, wherein they help breeding, not by size, or hunting skills, or speed, but by genetic diversity. DFTD is yet untreatable, but there is progress (they have a vaccine that lasts 6 months, which is far from enough). And the devils are an essential part of the Tasmanian eco system, not the least through all the roadkill they scavenge.
Tasmanian devils […] basically the Earthly equivalent of Nibblonians
The sanctuary had, as previously mentioned, many more cuddlies. Birds, macropods, lizards. The kangaroos lazed in the shade, but became alert when outstretched hands offered pellets. Some of the pea-fowls were albino, the cockatoos were intelligent yet talkative, the devils were fed, as was a baby wombat. Three guesses as to who enjoyed that the most. Hint: it wasn’t the baby wombat.
Beaches and blocks
The relatively sheltered east coast is the go-to destination for surfers, sunbathers, hikers, fishers and pretty much all who enjoys the nature. In Freycinet national parks, there are more bays than you can throw a perfectly rounded glacial rock at, one of which is the stunning Bay of fire. Not named so after the red-orange lichens covering some of the boulders that line the otherwise ivory white sandy beaches, but rather the fact that the original owners, you know, lived there, what with all the fires that entails, which supposedly baffled the early explorers.
Eventually, we had to say adios to the turquoise waters, the white beaches, the black-and-white devils, the orangey boulders and the wombat-coloured wombats, and set course back to Hobart.
Launceston. The little we saw of it seemed nice. An old jail had been turned into a restaurant. Two tired travellers ate like we had not seen food in days. Which we had. In heaps. But I guess that we had to compensate for a rather sad hostel. But the joys of finding peacocks high up in trees compensated for shitty digs. A rather fun sight. Several peacocks and peahens high up in trees. The weather forecast had predicted temperatures in the 40ies so our tour guide had to change the itinerary a bit. The longer walk up in the national park got moved up as well as the swim in the oyster bay. The crystal clear water, the bright turquoise colours and the sandy beaches. Tasmania has got it all. But no more wild wombats. We looked and we looked. But they had decided that one look was enough for me. Guess the joy when I got to pet a small wombaby at the wild life sanctuary. It is hard to try to look good when your inner child just wants to erupt into sparkling fizzy fireworks of joy. My hubs have not learnt to use filters….. But who cares! I got to see and pet a wombat!!! And see cool tasmanian devils. And feed and cuddle Kangaroos.
The Tassie devils are protected and part of several programmes to make sure that they are not lost to us. But since nobody knows the number of wombats out there and since nobody has made a proper survey they are considered a non endangered species. According to the very informative guide they are probably just as endangered species as the tasmanian devil. The ass in assume…..
Five days on the road meant that we were back in Hobart for the last 3 days. It also meant that we would “loose” our tour guide Phil as his part was done.
**) A Tasmanian Devil can eat up to a third of their own body weight in one sitting, and they eat all of the prey, including skin, fur and bones. They might not poop anti-matter, though