A very important part of our preparation to leave Port Arthur was deciding where we would go next. We only had five days left to explore Tasmania, two of which would be required for travel – one from Port Arthur to wherever-next and one from wherever-the-last-day to Devonport to catch the ferry. Three days ain’t enough, but that’s all there are!
We decided to follow up along the eastern coast to the Freycinet Peninsula and Freycinet National Park. On the way, we made an overnight stop at the really small town of Buckland. Just across the highway from our camp site was a beautiful, 19th century church sitting on a hill. The building was constructed in 1846 to provide worship space for the local property owners and the convicts that were assigned to work for them. The Church of St. John the Baptist is a typical Anglican Church built in that era. What makes it particularly special is its stained glass window over the alter area. There is some controversy over its origin, but the most likely one places its origin between 1350 and 1400 and has been in place at Buckland since between 1848 and 1850.
When first discovered in 1642 by the Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, it was thought that the Freycinet Peninsula was a chain of islands. In 1802-03, French explorer, Nicholas Baudin, looked more closely and determined that it is, in fact, a peninsula which he named Freycinet in honor of two brothers who were senior officers in the expedition.
The national park encompasses the entire peninsula and is a hiker’s paradise. There are walking trails that can be completed in as little time as “step out of your vehicle” to several days. We were limited to one night, so we walked to Wineglass Lookout the afternoon we arrived and drove to the Cape Tourville Lighthouse the next morning before we left. It was a place we could definitely have stayed several more days.
The Tasmanian Devil is the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and is an endangered species. Not so much because anything people have done but because of a disease called Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD) which is fatal. Studies coordinated by the University of Tasmania are struggling to find a cure and a way to prevent the disease. An insurance population of over 600 disease free devils has been established in more than 35 zoos and wildlife parks throughout Australia. There are also two captive breeding facilities and three “Devils Islands” in Tasmania. One of those breeding facilities is in Mole Creek. We spent one entire afternoon touring the park and talking with a representative of Trowunna Wildlife Park about the research program and their part in both the research and the insurance population. They have been captive breeding devils since 1985 and currently have about 70 individuals. We encourage anyone who has an interest in helping either the Trowunna Park or the university led studies, please contact us and we will be glad to provide some links to those projects.
The Tasmanian Devil is really a rather cute critter who is about the size of a small dog – 22 to 25 inches long (plus a 10-inch tail) and 13 to 18 pounds. They are also quite docile, almost affectionate, until they are eating. Then they are very competitive, snapping and growling at each other, but too busy eating to actually stop to fight. Since they only eat three or four times a week, they must gorge themselves in order to make it to the next meal. They are strictly scavengers – nature’s garbage collectors. They eat anything that is dead and they eat it ALL, including bones and hide. They serve to clean up dead animals before they become disease incubators. Although we were not specifically told, we believe that they do not attack living creatures.
We wrote earlier about visiting Cradle Mountain and not staying because the weather prevented us from seeing anything. We promised to go back if at all possible, so we did. Again, we only had one day, but we hiked a bunch of miles around Dove Lake and a portion of the Cradle Valley Boardwalk. It was a warm, partly cloudy day with virtually unlimited views. We took pictures of the Cradle Mountain Range from every angle we could find.
Then it was time to head for Devonport to catch the ferry back to Melbourne. On the way, we stopped a short while in Sheffield, the “City of Murals.” (We had read someplace that it was also called “The town that graffiti saved.”) It began as a way to bring the region’s history to life, and tell the stories of early pioneers. The result is dozens of murals on the front and sides of buildings throughout the town and even on walls erected for the purpose of holding a mural. This has evolved into an annual International Mural Fest.
Each year, beginning on Easter Sunday, nine artists from around the world (we don’t know what the selection process is) begin painting a mural depicting something within the scope of the annual theme. The theme comes from a poem which has also been decided upon through a contest. On Saturday, the final judging and awards take place.
That evening we watched the Spirit of Tasmania I arrive in the Port of Devonport to be unloaded and reloaded for its return to Melbourne that night. We will board the Spirit of Tasmania II in the morning and be back in Melbourne about 6 pm.