After a far too early alarm and throwing a few final things in the back of the car, it was off to Station Pier in Port Melbourne to … wait. And then to … wait a bit longer. But it’s ok, because after that I got to … wait longer still. Apparently there were large numbers of passengers today. Now there’s a surprise, with the Spirit of Tasmania being a passenger ferry and all.
Finally rolling the car up the ramp a mere five minutes after we were scheduled to depart, I settled into a fun filled nine hours of movie watching, ipod listening and book reading. It was a beautiful day for crossing Bass Straight, however, and the blue skies and open water helped blot out some sort of musical two-piece ensemble doing their best to destroy every top 40 ‘hit’ from the last half century on an all too regular basis.
After a similarly lengthy delay at Devonport due to quarantine inspections, I finally hit the road as the sun started to lower behind the hills. It was hard to keep my eyes on the road with the gorgeous pink sunset that ensued but somehow I managed to arrive at the Launceston Backpackers safe and sound about an hour later. Not much to report from the first night, by the time I was checked in and hitting the streets it was after 10pm and my options for beer and food were limited. I convinced the friendly bartender at the Pizza Pub to sell me a beer (but not a pizza), and I convinced the friendly server at Dominos to sell me a pizza (but not a beer). Success all round, I guess, and after stinking out the communal dining area at the hostel with the aroma of pepperoni, I retired to my dorm to enjoy the melodic tones of the World’s Snoriest Man for the night.
Despite my roommate’s buzzsaw impersonations, I’d highly recommend the Launceston Backpackers hostel. Spotless dorms, bathrooms and communal areas, good facilities and friendly staff, all for $21 a night for a bed in a 4 room dorm. Hard to go past that.
The next morning was gorgeous, and after picking up my sister Sooz from the airport (she’s joining me for a few days on this trip), we located our hotel, persuaded the receptionist to let us check in several hours early, and took her advice on where to eat breakfast. A good choice, as it transpired – the Blue Cafe in the Queen Victoria Art Gallery precinct (a converted railyard). Good, reasonably priced food in funky surroundings. I liked it.
Next stop: Cataract Gorge, via a bit of a wander around the city streets and parks. There’s some wonderful old buildings in Launceston – perhaps not a shock given Tasmania’s history, but it’s always nice to find a place that hasn’t knocked over all of it’s heritage and replaced it with concrete monstrosities designed by committee. The gorge itself was a welcome surprise – it’s a beautiful spot right on the edge of town, with flowing rapids, towering cliffs and minimal crowds. Generally it’s just a fantastic place to spend a few hours wandering and chilling out. So we did. Some smart person in Launceston’s civic history decided that a park and swimming pool beside the river would also be a good plan, and it certainly was.
After confirming that we were both sunburned it was time to grab a few essential supplies (snacks and vodka), have a nap and head out for dinner. We ended up at Mud Bar & Restaurant on the waterfront, in a smart part of town where the beautiful people in Launceston apparently go for a drink. Given the number of attractive women that seemed to fall into that category, I wasn’t complaining. The steak was excellent, albeit pricey, the beers were cold and the riverside views were excellent. I could really learn to like this place…