Day 3 started with the loss of half the tour group.
It wasn’t carelessness.
Under Down Under Tours operate circuit tours of Tasmania and I’d joined in Launceston whereas the others started in Hobart, so once we reached the island’s capital it was ‘Adios, amigos’.
Today’s trip was to Bruny Island where we were apparently going to spend the day eating.
Rob, our guide for the day, drove the town of us who remained down to Kettering where we caught the ferry across the D’Entrecasteaux Channel – another example of place names from the 1802 French expedition.
While Captain Cook dominates the New Zealand and Australia discovery, by Europeans, narrative, parts of Tasmania was first mapped by a Dutchman, Abel Tasman in 1642 and he claimed it as Van Diemen’s Land, named for the Governor-General of the East Indies who had sent him on the voyage.
Talk about having to keep the boss sweet.
However, it wasn’t known that this new land was actually an island until Matthew Flinders and George Bass circumnavigated it in 1798.
Bass gave his name to the strait between Melbourne and Devonport.
Tasmania gained its more familiar name in 1856.
There’s a pub quiz at the hostel tonight, I should be well placed for victory.
We had a short wait at Kettering to board the ferry and a chance to wander along the jetties. One of the small boys with our group pointed out a baby stingray swimming through the clear water.
I’d never seen one before and he seemed a little bemused by my enthusiasm.
The crossing only took around 20 minutes and our first stop was at Bruny Island Honey where we sampled a range of honeysuckle including leather wood which is a common plant on Tasmania. It has a very light, citrus taste – almost refreshing which seems a strange comment to make.
Unfortunately, if you’re travelling back to Western Australia, which I am, you can’t take the honey with you. Anywhere else on the planet (except New Zealand) no problem, but I’m heading back to Melbourne.
Next stop, within minutes… cheese at the Bruny Island Cheese Company.
One of the staff explained what we were eating: a range of soft and hard cheeses from Tom to Saint and 1792. With baked on site sourdough bread and home made pickles – beetroot or gherkin based – it was a surprisingly filling tasting session.
Our next stop was on the Neck, a narrow strip of land linking North and South Bruny Island together.
On one side the Tasman Sea with New Zealand 600miles away and on the other the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
The road is lined with mesh wire fence to try to stop the Little Penguins coming onto the tarmac at night. Escape ramps are included for those that still manage to do so.
We stopped at the Truganini Lookout point. She was the last Queen of Tasmania and this is her memorial.
Regular readers with a memory may remember that I saw a painting of her in the NGV – Ian Potter Gallery. She requested that her bones not be disturbed and the English, of course, shipped her head back to London for ‘research’.
Back on the road and we stopped again, within minutes, to call in at the bakery.
The fridges (not powered) are stocked daily with freshly baked bread and cakes. Unfortunately somebody had beaten me to the cakes.
There’s an honesty box at the bottom of the fridge and if you don’t have change, don’t worry… bank transfer details are included too.
The climate on Bruny Island is very different to the rest of Tasmania. We drove past huge lakes – bigger than I’ve seen since leaving New Zealand.
The forests are greener, hinting at more water than in Eastern Tasmania, where the supply of water is a real problem.
We were heading for the Cape Bruny Lighthouse, whose construction was ordered after several ships were wrecked at the entrance to the D’Entrecasteaux Channel.
Glancing down from the lighthouse, you can see how jagged the rocks are.
In 1836, a gang of twelve convicts began quarrying local rock and 18 months later, the first flashes shone out.
The first lantern, visible for 30 nautical miles burned a pint of sperm whale oil an hour. Later lamps used electricity.
The lighthouse operated until 1996 when a solar powered lantern point was erected to take over its duties.
After a failed attempt to spot the elusive white wallaby, we stopped off for oysters at Get Shucked before heading back to join the queue for the Bruny Island Ferry back to Tasmania.
Day 3’s food tasting was a completely different experience to the previous two days of hikes and beaches and Bruny Island was a complete contrast to the parts of Tasmania that I had seen so far.
A couple of Aussie friends had laughed when I said I was spending a week here: “It’s tiny. You’ll be done in two days.”
Size isn’t everything, boys and Tasmania was definitely shaping up to offer a packed agenda. Why wouldn’t you spend a week (or more) here?
All tastings were included in the tour price.