What a thrill to awaken this morning, go out on our balcony, and see wallabies nibbling on the grass and hugging each other. These shy and gentle creatures look like mini-kangaroos and seemed quite comfortable with all the cameras clicking and attention they drew. Living around the lodge, they probably get the star treatment daily.
The Cradle Mountain National Park has one main road, main in name only. It is narrow and has no pull-outs. According to the regulations, they are not allowed to add more pavement. The presence of man is to be an unobtrusive as possible. Most park visitors leave their cars at the visitor center and take a shuttle to the four main spots where hikes originate. Our travel organization paid for our tour bus to be allowed inside and with this luxury we were able to make the most of our time there. By midday the shuttle buses had "full" signs in their windows. It could have taken us a long time to get back out. It rains at Cradle Mountain 297 days a year on average. We couldn't believe our luck to have a brilliant, blue sky day. Even our driver who makes this trip regularly took a few photos at the mountain overviewing Dove Lake; he said he had never see it so clear. We took some short hikes through the varied vegetation. I have never seen to many unfamiliar plants. Tasmania's isolation has caused its flora and fauna to evolve independently of what what going on in the rest of the world. Lush mosses and air plants draped themselves around dead trees. A stream bubbled past, culminating in a waterfall. Button plants grew in rolling hillocks. It must have been a challenge for early settlers to walk through all the vegetation. We had a boardwalk.
We visited Waldheim's Chalet, the rustic former home of Gustav Waldheim and the starting point for the world-famous Overland Track. This six-day walk passes through the heart of mountain terrain to Lake St Clair, the deepest lake in Australia. Hikers have to carry everything with them, but water. The streams are so clean and plentiful, there is always something to drink nearby. Waldheim was an Austrian botanist who was fascinated by the unique plant life here. He loved the area so much, he convinced the authorities to designate it as one of Australia's first national parks. Wombats were grazing on the rolling hills around the chalet. They, too, seemed quite unfazed by the attention we gave them.
Because Tasmania gets so much rain, it is entirely energy independent with hydro electric power. It has even laid a cable to the main continent to carry excess power there. Twenty-three dams were built throughout the country to accomplish this. Sheffield, was one of the company towns that was a bustling place until the dam was completed and then it began to die. Town fathers studied towns around the world that should have died but didn't and concluded that becoming a town famous for murals would be the ticket to survival. We stopped there for lunch and were lucky to be there for the annual mural festival, where ten artists had been selected from applications around the world, to paint their murals on site. Prize money is involved and the winners get a permanent place of honor in the town. We voted for our favorite and can check on-line in a week to see who won.
Tonight we are staying in Launceton, a town we will visit tomorrow and will fly to the continent from the following day.
latitude = Chicago