Launceston, Tasmania

Thursday July 23rd 2009 - Sunday July 26th 2009

After looking into the Overland Track and when we could actually catch a bus to get out to Cradle Mountain, we thought that we might as well go to Launceston a few days early and check out what the town had to offer. We stayed at Launceston Backpackers and it was probably one of the largest hostels that we've ever stayed in and one of the nicest as well. There was even a resident cat named Fuji who basically lived in front of the electric fireplace and loved to bite any of the backpackers foolish enough to try to pet her tummy. It was very entertaining.

Launceston is a very small town, but very pretty as well. They are known for the Cataract Gorge which has some pleasant walks around it and some boat cruises that go down it for the people who like to indulge in cruises. We hiked around the gorge and went up to Duck Reach Power Station, the old hydro plant for the town and it was fun to wander around. Lots of uphill climbing to prepare us for the big walk.

The most random thing about Launceston is the fact that they have monkeys in their city park. Yes, you heard me right. Our map of the town said 'Come see the monkeys in city park' and we were intrigued by this so we went to check it out and sure enough they have live Japanese macaques in an enclosed area in the middle of the park. They are quite aggressive and hate the little children that tap on the glass, they gave the kids quite the scare when they threw their bodies against it in retaliation. They even made me jump. No one really explained much about the monkeys but we heard that they were a gift to the city from a visiting Japanese politician or businessman. Weird though.

4 days in Launceston was probably too many days, but it gave us some time to relax and eat some good food. The town is very walkable though, nice and compact. And we learned that the Tour de France is a big deal over here, lots of people in the hostel were watching it and keeping track of who was winning. It made me fall asleep though.....


Hobart, Tasmania

Monday July 20th 2009 - Thursday July 23rd 2009

We are finally in a new city, it's nice to have a change of scenery. The rainy weather in Melbourne was getting a bit depressing and it was great to get off the plane and have clear blue skies greeting us. One thing that we quickly learned about Tasmania is that the weather changes very fast here. So while we were greeted with clear skies when we arrived, once we got to our hostel, wandered around town and went to pick up groceries, it was overcast and raining when we left the store. Lesson learned.

It's not as cold as we expected here but Hobart is on the south-eastern coast so I think that makes the temperatures more mild. We're bound to be freezing once we're at Cradle Mountain for the hike.

Our hostel - Hobart Hostel - is nice and clean and there are very few people here at the moment. Tasmania is more popular in the warm months - especially around Christmas time where every place is pretty much sold out of beds. Right now the hostel is empty and we have an 8 bed dorm to ourselves, it's a good change. We've gone to the waterfront, enjoyed some fish and chips from one of the docked boats on Constitution Dock that had seating indoors as it was pouring rain by the time we got there yesterday for lunch. The museum was also very interesting (and free!), with lots of fossils, taxidermied animals (including my beloved platypus, very sad to see) and weird expressive art that made us laugh. We're not artsy fartsy, okay?

Hobart has a nice feel to it and it's easy to walk around in. The library has free internet and our hostel advised us that it was faster than the internet they had, so Tyler was excited about it, until we got to the library and saw how slow they were running and couldn't handle multiple windows open at the same time. Let's just say that Tasmania is not very advanced.... but it's manageable, just disappointing to someone who loves fast, efficient computers as much as Tyler.

We discovered that Tasmania has limited buses in the winter season so we had some difficulty planning the walk since buses only leave Mondays and Wednesdays from Launceston to Cradle Mountain and we were unable to catch the Tuesday bus to Launceston and make the Wednesday bus for Cradle. Very sad. So we have to start the walk on Monday, which is fine but not what we originally planned. The walk will be 8 days due to the sidetrips that we have planned and we have all our food, equipment and everything all sorted. We should be back in Hobart by the next Tuesday (I think it's August 4th). Luckily we're meeting up with Tyler's dad in Sydney on August 10th, so if we don't show up then I'm sure he'll notify authorities to look for us in the mountains... ;) Just kidding, we know what we're doing, we'll be fine, I assure you.

We're off to Launceston today to spend a few days before starting the hike on Monday. Wish us luck. :)


Bev'n'Micks Hostel - Melbourne, Victoria

I think it's worth having a little blurb about the hostel that was our home for 3 and a half months. When we were in Melbourne for the first time we stayed at a different Bev'n'Micks, it was directly across from the Victoria Market and was conveniently nicknamed 'the Vic'. It was nice enough, full of Irish lads but it was full once we returned from our friend Ben Kemp's birthday for the Easter week-end in April. So they guided us towards another Bev'n'Micks hostel just down the road and around the corner (aka McMahon's Bev'n'Micks to differentiate between the two). We were quite happy in our new home hence the reason why we never felt the need to relocate. You just couldn't find a better deal than $80/week each for a bed and utilities and the fact that we kept getting rejected for rentals added to the equation of staying put.

So we shacked up in a dorm called 'London Bridge' that was branched off of another room with 6 beds, our room had to be accessed through the other room and ours only had 5 beds. Most of these went unused until the last 2 months of our stay, then our room became the popular one that everyone wanted to be in. This may or may not have had to do with the fact that one of our new roommates brought a tv with him and we subsequently bought a cheap DVD player.... :)

The hostel was loaded with British, Irish and a few Europeans thrown into the mix. We only met 2 other Canadians there during our entire stay, and a few Americans as well. In the end there was quite a lot of drama including people getting thrown out for ripping a door off it's hinges, and another one punched an employee (who was about 50 years old) while his father punched the bartender who tried to break up the fight. Luckily Tyler and I had a knack for either being away or asleep on the nights that these incidents happened.

There were lots of theme nights in the hostel included an 'big kid party' where everyone was wearing face paint, playing with balloons and playing kid games like Twister, hot potato (or 'pass the parcel' as they call it here), musical chairs and frozen statues. We also had a 'twins party' where pairs of people tried to dress in matching clothes, Tyler actually had two twins for the night, he switched outfits half-way through when his second twin was finished work and got back to the hostel around midnight.

The hostel also had:

Monday night = movie night
Wednesday night = pool competition (winner wins bar tab)
Thursday night = quiz night (winning team splits bar tab)
Sunday mid-day = poker competition (winner wins bar tab)

It was a very nice set up. There was a chef who came to the hostel mid-way through and once a week he would make a big meal of which we would pay around $7.00 each for supplies and we would have a huge, home-cooked meal. He was very talented, although we learned that the Brits and Irish love their salt - yikes!

We had some fun day trips with some of the hostel peeps as well included the Great Ocean Road trip, where it rained most of the time but we still saw some good sights. We were able to see London Bridge before it collapsed for good about 4 days later. Pretty nice coincidence. And most of us came down with the flu shortly after the trip because of the weather conditions, but it wasn't swine flu - hurray! And we shared it with everyone else in the hostel, we thought we were going to be quarantined!

We also went to Phillip Island which is known for its population of 'little penguins', they used to be called 'fairy penguins' but the term was considered offensive and they changed it. You had to pay $20 to get in and watch the Penguin Parade, they all come ashore after 2 weeks of feeding in the ocean and return to their burroughs. Very cute to watch and they are so vocal, they all fight over the burroughs and try to navigate their way around the sand hills. You can also see them for free if you just walk through the parking lot and on one of the trails down to one of the non-marked off parts of the beach. A few of the people in the group discovered this, I was jealous since I paid the $20 but at least we know for next time. Tyler didn't get to go because he had to work, sad day for him.

And now our time in Melbourne is done. We had lots of good times, met some great people but since my contract at work finished on July 17th and Tyler wasn't getting a lot of hours at his internet cafe, we decided to do some more travelling since we were in one place for so long. We're currently in Tasmania at the moment, enjoying a change of scene and happy to be done work at least for a little while. Hurray for travel mode! :)