Tasmania is another country

26 Dec

This has come as a bit of a surprise. Tasmania is not Australia. This much became clear as we queued in our van to board the Melbourne to Devonport ferry, Spirit of Tasmania. An officious Asian new Australian dressed in fluoro shirt and trousers approached the van and asked in Chinese inflected English if we had any fruit or vegetables, fish, meats, eggs, dairy, in fact, any foods whatsoever. We answered honestly, yes, we had brought supplies for the overnight voyage as I was vegan and didn’t expect to find much suitable restaurant food on board. ‘Then you must put it all in the bin over there!’, he said pointing to a rubbish bin between the lanes of vehicles. Umm, okaaay. But first can we quickly eat the fruit? “Yes, but you have to move over there. You are delaying other cars.” He then got sidetracked looking for weapons, axes and gas bottles. We showed him the two small gas bottles for the camp stove. He pounced on one which had its cap missing. “This cannot go on boat and other one I must take. I give you ticket and you get in Devonport”. Okaaay. ‘So what is the process to collect the gas bottle in Devonport?’, I asked. ‘I not know, I never been to Devonport.’ At that point the exchange descended into farce. Fluoro man wanted to be rid of us but couldn’t let us pass until we’d eaten the fruit and binned our bag of perfect avocados, apples, bananas and tomatoes. We were in no hurry, it was 90 minutes before sailing time.   
I understand there are plant diseases on mainland Australia that have yet to cross to Tasmania, but surely passengers could be allowed to eat their food on board and discard leftovers in quarantine bins on the boat before disembarking. What miffed us was that there was no warning of this ‘no fresh food’ policy on the company website. I had checked earlier in the day to prepare for our 7:30pm departure and saw no mention in the embarcation notes. I double checked today and for the life of me cannot find a quarantine policy anywhere. Nor is there any contact number to call with complaints. Exactly how they like it I guess.


Apart from this rude introduction the voyage was pleasant. We bought tickets to the excellent movie, ‘The Intern’, showing in one of the two cinemas, and were rocked asleep in our cabin by rolling seas. 

Happily no drama disembarking at 6:30am. We spotted a different fluoro man standing in a cage on the dockside with a cache of gas bottles and claimed our bag. Lo and behold, it held both gas bottles! Go figure…By 7am we were breakfasting in Devonport. 

A short stroll along the Derwent River, a supermarket food shop stop, and a quick visit to the information centre to buy maps and pickup relevant guides, and we were on our way to Sisters’ Beach via the white and purple poppy fields of Winyard (grown for medicinal opiates). 

I’d called the parks service last October and been told there was a campsite at Sisters’ Beach, one of the prettiest spots on the northwest coast. Sadly that is no longer the case, two new residents had complained. Nonetheless on the advice of the woman running the local general store we bought an annual parks pass and set up camp by the beach road handy to public toilets and BBQ.


Fine, squeaky white sand alternates with blue green or red weathered rocks along the aquamarine crescent-shaped coast. We cycled as far as we could eastward on Rocky Cape National Park’s gravel road that gives out onto Postman’s Walking Track. Pairs of large black and golden yellow cockatoos called to each other and flew close by, landing heavily on trees and peering down at us. 

The only disturbance in the night was a thumping sound that passed close by the tent as we were settling down to sleep. Wallabies. We woke to another sunny day. 

   Vegan camp cooking.

Stuart would have liked to stay on but I wanted to move further west. We backtracked to pretty Boat Harbour Beach to rejoin the main road then headed to the far northwestern corner. Our destination was Stanley and The Nut, a volcanic plug rising 200m above the town that juts out into the sea. Golden beaches lie on either side with the estuary of Black River on the eastern side of The Nut.   

 Boat Harbour Beach

Last day of school was spent at the beach for local kids. Can’t get more Aussie than that.  Cafe notice in Stanley – read the small print. 

A steep zigzag walking path took us up to the table top and we followed a 2k circuit stroll with panoramic views. A $10 chair lift carries those who can’t or don’t want to go up and down under their own steam.

 The drive through cattle and dairy country past Smithton and on to Marrawah was pleasant but the properties seem intensively farmed, so very many animals per paddock. And at 2pm I saw a herd crammed tightly into a holding pen still awaiting milking under a blazing sun. Not happy cows.

Our campsite tonight is above the beach at Slaves Bay, immediately west of Marrawah. This time we have a designated free camping area with facilities a short walk down the hill by the vast beach that runs all the way to Green Point. Our bird companions this afternoon are tiny wren-like creatures with dark grey and black backs, wagging tails and underbellys, but bright blue heads and throats with a thin black band around the eyes like a Zorro mask. They are quick and bold and come within a metre of us. The mate is the same size but a dull brown.   

Another hearty dinner cooked on the communal BBQ and an early night. I’ve succumbed to a head cold, first in a long time. By morning we had pleanty of company. Time to move on westward….


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