Tasmania and the Two-Headed Monsters

I remember as a child thinking that Tasmania was a country, and although I am now older and wiser, realizing it is a state of Australia, in a way it does feel like a separate country! Tasmanians are often teased by other Australians, and they are lovingly referred to as ‘two headed monsters’. Apparently this comes from the idea that when Tasmania was first settled, there were only two families that lived there. These two families had no one else to shack up with, so other the years they just married each other and over time this developed into an inbred population. Yes there was a very small population on Tasmania, and yes there may be a closer genetic link among it’s residents than with mainlanders, but since that time, obviously more people have come to the island and raised families. So no, people are not dull or disease ridden or ‘two-headed’ there. In fact, we found Tasmanians to be wonderful people, with great senses of humour and amazing generosity.

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Hobart, our first stop in Tasmania

We knew we would only have a couple of weeks in Tas since we had already scheduled another workaway to start afterwards. This left us with two options, A) rent a car and travel to all the key highlights or B) spend two weeks with another workaway host. Well, after much research and cost analysis, we decided to take the cheap route and look for work. Unfortunately, Tasmania didn’t have a ton of workaway hosts, and the ones we had contacted were either busy with other travellers or didn’t respond to our request. Finally in a last ditch attempt, we contacted 4 at once and pretty much all of them got back to us! We decided to go with a host that runs a luxury retreat overlooking Bruny Island on the south west coast. Before our placement though, we wanted to have a quick look around Hobart and so we signed up for a day long tour using the website www.tourstogo.com We wanted to see as much as possible so we chose a 3 destination tour, first up was a trip to the Cadbury Chocolate Factory, then a stop at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary and last was a quick hop up to the top of Mount Wellington.

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Dan in awe over the vast quantity of Cadbury Chocolate

Dan and I love chocolate. I also love the film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, so the prospect of touring through a chocolate factory sounded like a great idea! Unfortunately, about 5 years earlier the tour had been dramatically altered to remove any public viewing inside the factory section. Apparently it had to do with privacy acts, so even the short slideshow we were shown didn’t have a single employee in it because that would be in breach of the law. It was very disappointing. We sat through the short video / powerpoint presentation and then loaded up with discount chocolate and candy before loading back on the bus to Bonorong.

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Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, an unbelievable experience

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary was my top choice (obviously) and it did not disappoint! Upon arriving we were each given a bag of feed to give to the resident kangaroos. We were able to walk into a large paddock with the Grey Kangaroos and walk amongst them, feeding any willing recipient. It was amazing! I was worried we might be bombarded by hungry mouths, but the kangaroos obviously had a system of taking turns. The bag was empty before we knew it and we hurried off to the wombat enclosure to watch the keeper talks. A keeper goes through a general presentation lasting around 30 minutes, talking about a few of the resident animals.

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An orphaned wombat at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

We started with two young orphaned wombats and learned a bit about the wombat’s natural history before getting a chance to pat the wombat’s rump. Wombats have very solid bodies because when they crawl into their burrow, their bums are susceptible to attacks from predators. When an animal like a fox runs in the burrow and grabs a hold of the wombat however, it is promptly pinned up against the burrow roof and crushed to death. Amazing!

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A Tasmanian Devil. These captive populations are free of disease and the best candidates for starting healthy new populations

We then headed over to visit the Tasmanian Devils (of course!). We learned that they are critically endangered in many areas as a result of a disease called Facial Tumour Disease. It causes large tumours all over the devil’s face until it can’t even close it’s mouth to chew it’s food. Pretty terrible. The is no known cure for the illness and it’s rapid spread has been due to the fact that facial biting is a common greeting and dominance display between the devils. Thankfully rescued devils that don’t have the disease, have been reintroduced in areas where it is disease free to maintain a stable population.

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A very docile and friendly Koala at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

We finished the presentation with the koalas. The keeper literally picked up the koala and cradled it like a baby! We discovered that of the hundreds of eucalyptus tree species, koalas could only eat a handful, so proper habitat was scarce. We also learned that due to the poor nutritional quality of their food, they end up saving energy by sleeping, a lot! Afterwards we had a chance to pet the koala and have our picture taken as well.

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A quick opportunity to pat a koala, definitely one I wasn’t going to miss!

The talk was very informative and definitely the highlight of the day. Unfortunately, because we watched the talk rather than wander around the site, we ended up missing a number of animals in order to make it back to the tour bus on time. That’s the problem with tours it seems.

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One of the beautiful views atop Mount Wellington, Tasmania

The last stop on our tour was a quick drive to the top of Mount Wellington where we had a lovely view of Hobart and surrounding area. It was very windy and very cold up there. There were even a few light flurries! After some quick photos and a short walk around, the tour was complete. For those with a really tight schedule I think these tours are definitely worth while, otherwise it’s all a bit rushed and leaves you unfulfilled.

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Sleepy Bay, our last stop and unfortunately there was not enough time to explore the area more!

Despite our less than ideal tour situation, we ended up booking another tour! We had one day at the end of our stay in Tasmania and wanted to see more of the island. Tours to go had another tour advertised for almost half the normal price heading up to Freycinet National Park (practically a half day drive away). I had done the number crunching to see if it would be possible to rent a car to head up but it was much pricier. So we went and despite once more being quite rushed, it was very laid back to be carted around and we were able to get some beautiful shots of Wineglass Bay, Honeymoon Bay and Sleepy Bay.

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Honeymoon Bay, a beautiful stop for some quick photos

One interesting fact we learned was how Wineglass Bay got its name. Apparently back at the turn of the century, the bay was used for whaling ships to bring in their carcasses. With the shape of the bay being that of a wineglass and the gallons of blood pouring into the water, it made the bay look like a glass filled with wine. Quite gruesome, but intriguing nevertheless!

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Wineglass Bay, voted one of the top 10 beaches in Australia and a must see in Freycinet National Park

We also had a chance to walk through Freycinet National Park a bit to get to the lookout and encountered some very friendly wallabies. I was a bit sad to see how accustomed to humans the wallabies had become, obviously visitors had been feeding them. And as if on cue, one of the tourists on our tour pulled out some Gatorade (yes Gatorade) and began holding it out for the wallabies, which of course willingly slurped it up. So sad, but as I wrote about the monkey sanctuary in South Africa, quite inevitable.

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Some overly friendly wallabies (a mother and joey) in Freycinet National Park

It was a quick and dirty trip up to the North-eastern part of the island, but it’s something we wouldn’t have had a chance to see otherwise. In my next post I will talk a bit more about our workaway position in Tasmania and how we spent a couple of weeks honing our carpentry skills!

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