Sleepless on the Bass Strait

1st June, Devonport/Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Ian writes:

Surprisingly, I managed to steal a few hours' sleep on the journey across the Bass Strait - about 4 hours, at a guess, but not good solid sleep. Was it really all that bad? Actually, the journey was a lot calmer than everyone had feared. Despite the raging winds earlier in the day in Melbourne, and regardless of the barman's warning that the ride would get choppier, it never got too bad.

What kept me up was the fact that we had sat just a little too close to the bar and consequently near the noisiest (ie drunk) people on the boat. (By the way, we did have a proper seat booked, but it was more like airline seating whereas we could lie down on the main seating in the boat on account of it being low season and the boat being about a quarter full.) Once the gaggle of guys propping up the lounge bar had disappeared, I was then kept awake by another man who had obviously been at a different bar on the boat and had gone looking for another bar when his had closed down. Discovering that he would not be getting any beer here either, he settled for telling very tall tales about his crocodile killing, insulting the people who were cleaning up behind the bar and generally being full of himself. "I'm the life and soul of the party," he declared, "but everyone's gone to sleep - look! Nobody's around!" The fact that it was around 3am, and that the boat would be arriving in port at 6:30am, should have explained why this was so.

Upon arrival at Devonport, we did what most people do - we got the heck out of there. That's not to say that there's nothing to see in Devonport (we'll probably find out for sure when we leave Tassie), but at 6:30am there's certainly nothing open. We drove south east towards a region known as the Tamar Valley, calling in at a place called Beauty Point. Well, with a name like that, you have to see whether it's accurate or whether someone from the tourism bureau has been a little too 'creative'. Beauty Point is little more than a small port - a few commercial boats, some pleasure boats moored up - with a nearby tourist attraction (Seahorse World); quite pretty in its untouched way, but under the overcast skies and with the wind as it was, we couldn't get any pictures that would attest to its reputed beauty.

Somehow, life seems to run slower in Tasmania. And they'll give just about anyone a driver's licence too.

In a very short time, it became apparant just how different Tasmania is from mainland Australia. Even in the smaller towns on the mainland, we could expect to see a McDonalds somewhere. This may sound like an uninspired piece of observation, but I was dying for a Maccas breakfast, you see, and the lack of just one single McDonalds in the 90km drive that I undertook - actually, the lack of almost any building other than personal abodes (much of them very ramshackle too) - just brought home to me how less developed this place is. What we did see, though, was roadkill in an abundance I'd not seen since New Zealand. There it was possums that lined the roads, here it's wallabies; hundreds of the little furry things, all providing food for the local bird population. So, the local wildlife can find food alright then? But no Maccas breakfast for me.

We stopped in Launceston, Tassie's third-oldest city, early in the afternoon and took a look around the centre. We did little more than scrape the surface here, collecting leaflets from the tourist information office, having something to eat, mooching round a few shops, before heading to a caravan park - at 2:30pm. It had been an early start, and with just a few hours of sleep, all I wanted to do was relax, go grab a power nap in Ethel. We could leave the proper sight-seeing until tomorrow.