The next morning we had a mini breakfast of tea and fruit in our hotel room, then loaded up ourselves and our laptops into the big honkin' rental car, and ventured south.
After a brief stop at a McDonald's to check our e-mail (and grab a not-so-delicious breakfast), we continued south into the Huon River Valley. It was almost like driving through the Berkshires, but with eucalyptus trees. Rolling green fields, cows and sheep everywhere, tons of apple orchards, and a wide, calm river meandering through it all. Very idyllic.
We stopped in the small town of Franklin, where Mark had arranged to meet with Rod, the owner of Petty Sessions Cafe (a former courthouse cum restaurant right on the banks of the Huon River). We sipped our cappuccinos and flat blacks and long whites while Mark and Rod discussed tourism in the area, etc. Apparently Peter Neilson (Mark and Rod's mutual friend) and Rod have plans to bring some sort of ancient Egyptian flat boats to the region for leisurely cruises along the river.
I'm not sure why, but we didn't eat at Petty Sessions. It had what looked to be a great menu and fantastic photographs on the wall (apparently the place is also a local art gallery). But we left there and stopped at a little cafe further down the road for some lunch. From there, we headed toward Hartz Mountain, which Rod had told us had some great hikes ... and he was right.
The hike was at the top of the mountain through marshy bogs. There was an information building telling us about the local wildlife (mainly frogs, including the fairly recently discovered ping-pong frog, whose croak sounds like a ping-pong ball bouncing on a table ... wish I had hear it!). A wooden walkway led away from the building. I expected this walkway to lead us to the trail. Turns out the wooden walkway was the trail. The Australian Forest Service, or whoever is responsible for this, did an amazing job. The boardwalk, which was wide enough for one person (making for tricky passing), wounds its way above the bog so that we didn't destroy any plants or wildlife. If Catherine had had the Australian Forest Service, she and Heathcliff wouldn't have had nearly as much trouble getting to see one another. Anyway, although we didn't see any frogs, we did see what I proclaimed (and just confirmed) was a bandicoot. Very cute little rodent right on the side of the trail, completely oblivious to us. We also saw tons of cube-shaped poo; almost looked like little Whitman's chocolates. Apparently, these are from the nocturnal wombats.
The boardwalk led us to two tarns (which I just now found out means "a small steep-banked mountain lake or pool" -- thank you, Merriam-Webster's). The water was so clear and fresh and COLD. Mark and I both drank from the lakes, as they were rain/spring fed and at the top of the mountain, so no cattle or anything above polluting it (or at least we hoped that was the case, and three weeks on, no sickness, so I think we are safe). The views weren't Rocky Mountain spectacular, but beautiful nonetheless. Again, more like the Berkshires. A valley off to one side with a river running through it and endless mountains off to the other side, with only the occasional signs of forestry (which is a huge industry in Tasmania).
Afterward, we bought a couple apples from one of the orchards and then decided to warm up with a proper Devonshire Tea, a new experience for Mark and I and one we would like to repeat. YUM! The scones and clotted cream and jam provided the perfect ending to our time in Huon Valley.
Back in Hobart, we ate at a pizza place near our hotel. Again, not exactly the fresh seafood I was STILL hoping for, but not bad. And then another early night for us as we had a long day ahead of us the next day.
4 days ago