Friday, November 30, 2012

Freycinet National Park

The drive from Tasman National Park to Freycinet National Park is filled with beautiful scenery. The road winds up into the hills and along a river before being exposed to the stunning coastline of the Tasman Sea.

Spiky Bridge, built by convicts in the mid 1800's
Beware of wildlife so strong that it can lift your car!
Once arriving in Freycinet National Park (pronounced Fray-sin-ay), we secured a campsite at Richardson's Beach. This site was actually closer to the beach than our site the night before, but there were fewer waves because the waters are more protected by land. Regardless, another sweet place to pitch a tent for $13!

A little after midday, we set out to hike the Mt Amos track. Mt Amos is part of the granite mountains (also known as the Hazards) which tower above the water, providing spectacular views. The hike required rock scrambling for much of the way up (for this reason it cannot be hiked in wet or rainy fortunately for us it wasn't raining) and is very steep in portions, but the end result is extremely rewarding!
The large beach on the right is Richardson's Beach, where we camped.
Getting closer to the top... be rewarded with this amazing view! Can you spot Erik in this picture?
Self-portrait thanks to the timer, because we were the only people at the top!
The way down was just as challenging if not harder than the way up!
After the Mt Amos hike, we decided to tackle the Wineglass Bay track so that we could actually put our feet in those waters we had seen from above. That hike is much less challenging, but still hilly, as it takes you up to a lookout point before descending to the water below. Our friend Andrew had told us that we must swim in Wineglass Bay despite the fact that it would be freezing cold. Only one of the Hansons was crazy enough to attempt that and it was NOT me!
I think that could be Mt Amos in the background
A quick dip in Wineglass Bay
Don't let the smile fool you...he was freezing!
Gorgeous stretch of beach!
Look who was waiting at our car when we returned from our hike!
At that point it was dinner time, so we drove a few minutes into the "town" of Coles Bay, where we found one restaurant open for dinner at 7pm. The place was called Tombolo, and they had a wood fired pizza oven, so we tried the night's special, a smoked salmon (Tasmanian salmon, of course!) pizza. The food was quite good and the employees were all very nice, and I would certainly go there again if we ever make it back to Coles Bay. We headed back to the campsite for the night, where we made friends with our neighbor, an Aussie from Melbourne who was just beginning a three week trip around Tassie. He generously shared beers with us (Iron Horse, a local Tasmanian Brewery) while we all enjoyed a gorgeous sunset.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tasman Peninsula

Our trip to Tasmania started in Hobart, where we arrived bright and early on Thursday morning. After picking up our rental car, we headed east and then south to the Tasman Peninsula. Along the way we stopped at various scenic points, but our final destination was Fortescue Bay in Tasman National Park.
The only Tasmanian devil we spotted during our time in Tassie was on the license plate of our rental car!
Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck
Tasman Arch
Once we had secured our $13 campsite (which was not difficult considering we were one of about ten others at the campground on a Thursday night), we headed out on the Cape Hauy track, a challenging four hour return hike. The scenery along our hike was gorgeous, and our pictures do not do justice to the rocky cliffs at the end of the track.
Cool view of Cape Hauy track.
If you look reallllllllll close, you can see Erik towards the left side of the picture!

Two of the rocky outcroppings are actually separated from the rest, called the "Totem Pole" and the "Candlestick" and they are used by rock climbers, which is insane given the height of the cliffs. Also along this hike, we spotted hundreds of lizards and our first echidna, which looks sort of like a porcupine. They are hard to spot because they blend in quite well with the Australian bush, but Erik spotted the creature when it moved.
One of the many lizards spotted during our time in Tassie.
Can you see the rear feet of the echidna?
Really cold water that feels pretty amazing when you have just completed a long hike!
The gorgeousness of Fortescue Bay!
Once we returned back to Fortescue Bay, we were ready for dinner, so we headed out to explore a bit more of the Tasman Peninsula  We drove all the way around the major road of the peninsula, past Port Arthur (which is a prison site where the worst British and Irish criminals were sent in the 1800's) and a few other small towns. Unfortunately, by 5pm, most places were shut down, but we were lucky to find a small grocery store open so that we could buy some food to grill back at the campsite. While cooking dinner, lots of wallabies started to show their faces, and most were not shy! It was entertaining to watch them while eating our dinner and preparing our campsite for the night. Remember when we had koalas in our campsite? I am not sure which experience was more exciting, as this was our first time getting a good glimpse of several moms with joeys in their pouches.

Our tent was set up about 20 feet from the beach, so after enjoying a beautiful sunset, we slept listening to the sounds of the waves crashing...$13 well spent if you ask me! :)

Friday morning we woke up early and headed north to the highly touted destination of Freycinet National Park.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Thanksgiving in Tassie

Of all the American holidays, Thanksgiving is the one that we probably miss the most living abroad. There is no Australian equivalent to Turkey Day, though there are many different American expat groups that host gatherings, providing chances to eat large quantities of food. Interestingly, turkeys are harder to find  here and Australians do not understand the concept of using pumpkin to make a pie, since they prefer the meat variety. Last year we attended that type of event, but this year we opted out of the expat meet-ups and headed down to Tasmania, known as "Tassie" (pronounced "Tazzi") to the Aussies. I purchased flights back in June when there was a 2 for 1 sale, not even realizing that we would end up there over Thanksgiving. However, it was impeccable timing, because a fun trip is a good replacement for missing out on dinner with our families. Though it should be noted that we were salivating during discussion of my Uncle Bill's mashed potatoes and my Aunt Laura's delicious pies (not of the meat variety!), even while enjoying the stunning Tassie scenery.

We visited a few different areas of Tasmania, so I plan to do a post about each area in the coming days. In the meantime, check out who was visiting our campsite this time...

Monday, November 12, 2012

Odds and Ends

Since the last few blog posts have been dedicated to talking about our adventures with my parents, I thought I'd do an update on what we've been up to for the last month or so since our visitors departed.

We have been keeping quite busy on the work front, particularly Erik, who is often working one or both weekend days, though sometimes just for a few hours. Up until last week, I was getting called to work at the school near our house nearly every day for substituting. However, my work schedule seems to have come to a screeching halt now that school is winding down for the year. Year 12's (seniors) have already finished with classes and are nearly finished exams, while the Year 10 and 11 students (sophomores and juniors) will be finishing classes this week and starting exams next week. With those students finishing up, that leaves plenty of teachers to fill in for those who are out, meaning less work for substitutes.

Our social calendar has been regularly filled up as well. We attended our first 40th birthday party (if that doesn't make you feel old I don't know what does!), enjoyed dinner at a new restaurant along the water for my birthday, went to our second beer festival in Oz (which left Erik thinking that he might never drink alcohol again given his condition the next morning), enjoyed a few ciders at an Irish pub along the Yarra River, and just yesterday we had our first "go" at surfing down under.

The weather is starting to be consistently nice, though it still occasionally fluctuates between 80 degrees F one day and 60 degrees F the next. Halloween was particularly warm, and we actually ended up with unexpected trick or treaters at our doorstep (who recognized me from the school where I have been relief teaching!). Unfortunately we could only offer them a bit of juice we had leftover from my parent's visit because we were not prepped with anything to give out at the door. Last year we did not see anyone dressed up for Halloween in our neighborhood, but this year kids were out in groups, so the holiday seems to be growing in popularity among Australians.

One other totally random thing that I need to share happened last weekend when Erik was leaving our house for a run. There was a kangaroo on our sidewalk! Under a tree, just a few feet from our house, in total suburbia just 6 miles from downtown Melbourne, stood a kangaroo. Erik came back to the house so that I see for myself, but unfortunately the 'roo was gone by the time I made it outside. We searched the neighborhood for a few minutes to see if we could find him, but had no luck. This type of thing isn't totally unheard of, but it is rare considering that we live in quite a populated area where you wouldn't normally see kangaroos. On the other hand, maybe it is a trend, as just a few weeks ago a kangaroo was found in a parking garage at the Melbourne Airport.

I'll leave you with some photos of our lives from the past few weeks!
Amazing lot of dark chocolate goodies from my sister! Dark chocolate + bacon = AMAZING!
Also received Berger cookies from Mo. Thanks, gals!!
Vosges Haut-Chocolat Mo's Bacon Caramels (Google Affiliate Ad)
E made me Oreo cheesecake for my birthday. DELISH!!
The hubby at my birthday dinner.
Sunset and the West Gate Bridge
Afternoon rainbow view from our balcony.
Southbank, in Melbourne, at dusk.
Ready to catch some waves at 13th Beach, near Torquay.
The first of a few pictures of my progress from lying to standing...

I'm surfing!! Kind of, anyway!! :)
Up again and getting better under the watchful eye of our friend, Ned!

An awesome way to spend a Sunday morning...only an hour from home!