Australia by Car
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After our Los Angeles trip, we took a 6 week driving trip to Tasmania,  with stops in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne.  We had a chance to spend 5 days in Sydney visiting our friends on Heartsong 3 and also interviewing with my (Jeff's) old company - NCR.  The Sydney ferries are an inexpensive way to take a tour of the harbor and a great way to get around.  We had lunch at a restaurant we had last visited in 1986. 

Canberra, the capital of Australia and a fairly new city, was lovely.  Unfortunately, we needed to get to Melbourne and only had one day there.  We visited the capital building, took a tour and also attended a session in their House of Commons.  Very interesting. 

Then, it was on to Melbourne for a couple of days and a trip across the notorious Bass Straits on the Devil Cat, a high-speed car ferry built in Tasmania.  We drove our car on and rode in airline-style seats with a large table and a great view.  While Bass Strait often has rough seas, we had great weather and were quite comfortable.  Surprisingly, the catamaran had a motion that made quite a few others uncomfortable.  

After arriving in Launceston, we drove a couple of hours to Tasmania's east coast, had some fish and chips and waited for dark.  Locals had told us that Fairy Penguins run up the beach just after dark.  We hit the beach with our flashlights and found plenty of penguins.  They sure are cute.  The next morning it was kangaroos, wallabies, tasmanian devils and wombats.   It seemed like there were kangaroos everywhere.    One of our favorite things to do was to go out at night  and hunt for animals with a flashlight.   We saw roos, wallabies, bandicoots, possums, potteroos, plenty of birds and even a couple of tasmanian devils.  The devils have a fierce growl but were quite timid. 

We visited Maria Island, a former penal colony that is now a nature reserve.  Kangaroos and birds everywhere.  We even saw kangaroos hopping down the road.

The street signs were great.  Gail's challenge was to get a picture of each different animal road sign.  We have quite a collection.

 

Next stop was the infamous Port Arthur, home for the toughest, most unmanageable convicts in Australia.  English convicts were transported to Australia.  If the convicts committed more crimes while serving their sentences, they were sent to Port Arthur.

 We spent two days looking around the convict town and spent an evening with the spirits of Port Arthur on a ghost tour.  The church (left) and the guard tower (right) were built of sandstone.  With no pollutants, these buildings are almost as pristine as they were 150 years ago when they were built by the convicts. 

We were able to walk through the prison building (left) and see how small the cells were.  Life was rough for the convicts.  But today it is beatiful with green lawns, a pristine waterfront and a protected harbor with very few boats.  Of course, there are animals everywhere.

 

 

We did a bit of hiking while in Tasmania.  The locals call just about everything a walk whether it be a simple stroll along a lake or a torturous climb up a steep mountain.  While some of the "walks" were much tougher than expected, we never quit (although we thought about it a few times) and experienced some truly spectacular and pristine scenery - mountains, beaches, lakes, caves, trees and, of course, animals.

 

In six weeks we covered 4,500 kilometers (2800 miles) and only saw a tiny piece of Australia.  The three weeks in Tasmania were wonderful.  Everyone was friendly and the accommodations were cheap and clean. 

We enjoyed the scenery but really enjoyed the wildlife.   We never did see a platypus although we tried numerous times.  The one animal we really wanted to see was a Koala but it turns out they are not native to Tasmania so we stopped at the Australia Zoo - home of Steve Erwin, the Crocodile Hunter - just an hour from the boat.  We never did get to see Steve but we were treated to an interesting crocodile show and we finally got our picture of a Koala.  They sure are cuddly.