FOLLOW the Platypus Man to New Zealand … and beyond!

Almost three years after his epic journey to Tasmania the Platypus Man will set off in October on his greatest adventure, and quite possibly his last great adventure, a trip of around 51 days to New Zealand.

There’s loads to see and do in New Zealand:  We will marvel at its volcanic landscapes and geothermal wonders, and be inspired by its magnificent mountain and coastal scenery.  We will explore the charms of small-town New Zealand, and learn about Maori culture. We will enjoy brilliant views of whales, dolphins and exotic birds.  We will see lots of sheep and drink lots of wine. We will fly business class for the only time in our lives.  

But we definitely won’t go bungee jumping!

My New Zealand blog is already live on the Internet.  You can sign up to receive every post, illustrated by Mrs P’s wonderful photos, sent direct to your email account as soon as it’s published online.  Click here to visit the blog, then click on the link that invites you to Follow Blog via Email.


And that’s not all.  I have another blog for you to savour!  Now I’m 64 is a random collection of pieces about the natural world, as well as stuff that has caught my attention, events and experiences that have fired me up or made me chuckle, places that have inspired me and people I’ve been pleased to know. 

I’ve scheduled weekly posts during our visit to New Zealand covering topics as varied as memories of my time at Cambridge University, unwelcome milestones on the road to decrepitude, birding versus twitching, the British Birdwatching Fair, the joy of NHS health checks, blogging, knocking down walls, and building museums for the future.

Oh, I nearly forgot, there will also be posts on “The curse of Glastonbury” and “Keeping the zombies in.”

Go on, admit it, you’re intrigued aren’t you?  Especially by the zombies! So visit Now I’m 64 right now, click on the lined symbol on the top right of the banner photograph and sign up to Follow Blog via Email.

If you don’t I’ll send the zombies round to get you!

The last post

This is my last ever post on Platypus Pandemonium.  The story of our 4,500km trip through Tasmania has been told, and it’s time to move on.

To anyone who has been following this blog over the weeks I’d like to say a big “thank you,” particularly those of you who sent comments or messages of support.  I hope you enjoyed the ride.

To anyone hankering after more photos of Tassie, Julie is gradually posting the best on Flickr.  You can log on to her album of our trip to Tasmania here.

To anyone who stumbles across Platypus Pandemonium in the future and fancies a trip to Tasmania I offer you free, gratis, and for nothing two pieces of advice:

  1. Go for it. You won’t be disappointed, I promise you.
  2. Get in touch with Susie at Tasmanian Odyssey. Susie helped us put together a great trip and I’m sure she’d be pleased to do the same for anyone else who wants to sample the joys of Tassie.

And as for the blogging itself, towards the start of our trip I spoke over dinner one night with a Tasmanian blogger who’s made of bit of a name for herself online.  She talked about the challenges inherent in a decent blog, of honing her technique and “finding [her] voice.”  It didn’t mean too much at the time, but looking back today I can see it all makes sense.  Blogging has been a challenge but also a lot of fun.  and as I scroll back through 83 posts written over a period of around 18 weeks I’m pleased with the results.  I hope you liked them too.

I’m fairly confident that I’ll have another go at blogging, possibly about other travels to foreign parts (Newfoundland is beckoning), or maybe exploring the trials and tribulations of retirement, or … who knows, let’s see how the fancy takes me.

Meanwhile, with all good wishes for the New Year 2017, it’s a cheery au revoir from the venerable Platypus Man.

Burdick 201, N25.9
The venerable Platypus Man

8 January 2017

Bird of the week (5) Bonus Birds

Platypus Pandemonium has been proud to feature Bird of the Week.  Sadly we’ve run out of weeks, though not of birds.  So here are just a few birds I’d like to have featured.  Enjoy!

 The Forty-spotted Pardalote is a must-see species for birders visiting Bruny Island, and we were not disappointed: tasmania-bruny-40-spotted-pardalote-2016-16


Also on Bruny we got spectacular views of another local rarity, the Swift Parrot: tasmania-bruny-swift-parrot-2016-15


We often caught glimpses of the Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike: tasmania-black-faced-cuckoo-shrike-2016-6

In the grounds of the Bonorong Sanctuary we were pleased to see an Australian Wood Duck … tasmania-bonorong-australian-wood-duck-2016-2

… and some Eastern Rosella:tasmania-bonorong-eastern-rosella-2016-1


Honeyeaters were a regular feature of the trip.  Here’s a gang of Black-headed Honeyeaters on Bruny: tasmania-bruny-black-headed-honeyeater-2016-5

Dirty old town (bah-humbug!)

Let’s not beat about the bush – we don’t much care for Melbourne.  Or, to be brutally honest, and in the spirit of never calling a spade a spade when in reality it’s a bloody shovel, we find the place crowded, chaotic, noisy and dirty.

OK, I admit we’re not in a positive frame of mind.  We stayed the night in a city centre apartment where our sleep was disturbed by the sounds of drunken revelry in the street outside.  Let’s face it, there’s nothing worse than the sound of every other bugger in the neighbourhood having a great time at a party to which you’re not invited.

Of course, we prefer places that boast more trees than people, more critters than cars, more bird species than burger joints.  Melbourne fails on all counts.  To make matters worse, after more than a month in Tasmania we’re highly sensitised to the people-to-trees ratio and similar indicators of rural tranquillity, and can’t help looking back wistfully.

Moreover, following the long march prompted by our car breakdown on Flinders we can hardly move thanks to the combined effects of tweaked muscles, inflamed joints and lactic acid overload.  In short we are feeling irritable and out of sorts, and ill-prepared for the urban jungle that is Melbourne.

We are also, I will confess, suffering from a severe case of bah-humbuggery.  Christmas is fast approaching, and signs of it are everywhere.  This evening we sit in a street-side Starbucks, drinking mocha and watching the world go by while we rest our aching limbs.  The streets are rammed with folk getting into the festive spirit, giggling girls in Santa hats, half-cut guys in the full Father Christmas gear, green-uniformed elves roaming the street like gangs of unpaid extras from a Lord of the Rings movie, and screaming kids, all kitted out in reindeer antlers, presumably auditioning for a walk-on part as Santa’s Little Yelper.

I find this all rather distasteful.  This trip to Oz was about getting away from it all, and the last thing I need is to have the modern world in general and Christmas in particular thrust into my face, to be reminded so brutally that the big day is just a fortnight away and I still haven’t got Julie a present.  And anyway, it’s unnatural: the lead up to Christmas is meant to be cold, dank, gloomy and miserable, yet here we are sitting in warm late afternoon sunshine witnessing scantily-clad festive shenanigans all around us.

Of course, the fact that it’s a warm early-summer’s day and the locals are having a good time isn’t strictly Melbourne’s fault, but someone has to be held accountable.  Bah-humbug!

To be fair, Melbourne has two saving graces.  The first is its grand historic buildings, from banks to shopping arcades, which suggest that in its earlier days this was a city of real style and elegance, a place to be reckoned with. The ANZ bank, for example, is imposing from the outside …


… and stylish inside:


Here’s an interior from 336 Collins Street:


And here’s a detail from one of the shopping arcades:


Even the station is impressive:


The second thing in Melbourne’s favour is the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are an ocean of calm amidst a sea of chaos.  We take the hop-on-hop-off bus, though in our case hobble-on-hobble-hobble-off might be more accurate, and soon lose ourselves amongst the flowers:


The lake is a focal point of the gardens:


The gardens also give us a chance to do some last-minute birding.  The lake sports an old friend from Tasmania, the Pacific Duck:


We enjoy watching as a Yellow-wattle Bird raids blossoms for nectar …


… and listening to the ringing call of the Bell Miner, which is sometimes referred to locally as the Bellbird:


Even butterflies are here in force:


We spend a happy afternoon wandering the paths of the Royal Botanic Gardens, exploring its grounds and immersing ourselves in its tranquillity.  We really like this place, and probably what we like most of all is that while you’re here you can forget you’re in Melbourne altogether.  I guess that just about says it all.

[10 December]

On Flinders: a game of two halves

First half: Ah, but your land is beautiful

A few months ago we visited the Isle of Man, which is overwhelmingly rural and sparsely populated.  Flinders Island is over twice as big, and its population is about 1% that of the Manx-land.  Flinders is very sparsely populated, very rural.

The island setting, the wide-open spaces, the tranquillity and to some extent the landscape are reminiscent of our favourite place in the whole world, Orkney.  We feel strangely at home and at peace here, this tiny island lying all but unknown between the Australian mainland and Tasmania:


A man could be happy here, an island where motorists greet one another with a friendly wave as their cars pass, as long as he doesn’t crave the bright lights of the city, the hustle and bustle of 21st century living:


Like Orkney, nowhere on Flinders is far from the sea, and nowhere is more beautiful than the coastline.  This, for example, is Allport Beach:


Killiecrankie Bay gives its name to the Killiecrankie ‘Diamond’, which in reality is a type of topaz.  The ‘diamonds’ are much sought after and although we don’t find any (we don’t have the time or the energy to look), later in the trip we encounter a guy who has a pocketful thanks to his fossicking endeavours.  Ourselves, we’re happy just to see the magnificent bay:


Once again, parts of the rocky coastline are coated with red and orange lichen, adding an exotic twist to the landscape.  Julie takes this photo at North East River:


Some of the places we visit are simply stunning.  This is the white, sandy beach of Palana Bay, with the Sisters Islands in the distance:


Sawyers Beach is equally beautiful, though here our enjoyment is cut short by swarms of biting flies that send us scurrying back to the safety of the car:


Beyond its visual beauty, Flinders Island has a darker secret.  The Visit Flinders Island website says:

In 1834 one hundred and thirty-five Tasmanian Aboriginals from the mainland were settled on Flinders Island, where as George Augustus Robinson said they were to be ‘civilised and christianised’.  The settlement was called Wybalenna which means ‘black man’s houses’.  They were forbidden to practise the old ways and were homesick for their lost country.  Many died of respiratory disease, poor food and despair.  In October 1847 the forty seven survivors of this group were transferred to Oyster Cove, near Hobart.

We visit Wybalenna.  All that remains is a restored chapel and a graveyard containing unmarked aboriginal graves along with graves of some of the first European settlers.  In the nearby cemetery, the Young Farmers’ club has erected a plaque to commemorate the death of over 100 Aborigines at Wybalenna:


Wybalenna is a sobering place.  Throughout our month in Tassie I’ve struggled to make up my mind about the official attitude to the Aboriginals who once called this place home.  Superficially everything is respectful, even a little contrite, honouring a lost race and culture that died at the hands of the White Man.  But I’ve been around the block a few times, I know that you would say this anyway even if you didn’t feel it, the marketing men would want you to clean up your image through a show of political correctness.

I simply don’t know what I think about the Aboriginal issue, but I do know how I feel as I look at the field of unmarked graves and reflect on the fate of the innocent people buried here: I feel sad, so so sad.  Let’s move on.

Second half: A road less travelled

Overnight, the weather breaks.  Greeted by leaden skies, low cloud and rain, we rearrange our itinerary, opting to take a dead-end gravel road to Lackrana Wildlife Sanctuary where, hopefully, we can birdwatch from the car.

We birdwatch our way down the road, deeper into the sanctuary.  In two hours or more we see just one car.  We reach the end of the road and decide to call it a day.  We’ve seen little of interest, the weather is foul and the visibility rotten so we’ll head into Whitemark, the biggest settlement on the island, for a hot drink and something to eat.  I turn the car round and begin the journey back towards town.


After a few hundred metres Julie tells me to stop.  There’s a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos working their way through the trees to the left.  This has been a bogey bird for us, and now seems like a good opportunity to get a decent photo, particularly as the rain has eased.  I pull off the road and Julie stalks them for about twenty minutes.  She gets views of the flock in flight, but not the shot she was hoping for:

Damp and disappointed Julie gets back in the car, and I prepare to set off.  I turn the key.  Nothing.  I turn it again.  Still nothing.  I take it out, re-insert it, and try again.  Absolutely nothing.  The electrics have failed completely.

This is, to say the least, a bit of a problem.  We are many kilometres up a dead-end gravel road along which no car has passed for a couple of hours.  Nobody lives out here, so we’re on our own.  Also, we have no food and very little drink with us as we weren’t expecting to do anything more adventurous than some casual birding from the car.  We try our UK mobile phone, but inevitably there’s no reception.  And, to add insult to injury, the heavens have opened again.

We have two choices: to stay put and hope that a mad birder will brave the deluge to visit the Lackrana Sanctuary, or to attempt to walk out along the gravel road in the pouring rain until we reach a busier road where maybe, just maybe, there’ll be a vehicle we can flag down.  Reluctantly, we decide to walk out.

The rain teems down and a cold wind gets up.  Our backs, our legs, our feet all protest painfully, and we’re running out of drink. We understand the term walking on water. The road is alive with froglets celebrating the arrival of wet weather, but we’re too miserable to share their enthusiasm.  At one point a Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo lands in a tree just yards from the road, and appears to laugh as we squelch past.

After several hours and over 7km we at last spot a car approaching us and flag it down.  Never in my life have I been so pleased to see a Volkswagen.  I’m close to tears, the relief is so profound.  The occupants are shocked to encounter us, but come willingly to our rescue.  One of them has a working mobile phone.  We call Rob, and within 40 minutes he’s with us.  He scratches his head, curses under his breath and twiddles under the bonnet, and eventually gets us going.  We limp back to the farm with Rob following close behind, just in case.

Rob is mortified.  “Nothing like this ever happened before,” he says miserably.

In reply I mumble polite disclaimers.  “No worries,” I say, “nobody died.”

The delicate dance continues for a while, soothing declarations are exchanged, reassurances offered.  In due course a bottle of Scotch changes hands, is accepted in the spirit in which it is gifted, and honour is duly satisfied on both sides.

Everything we’ve worn or carried today is sopping wet and needs to be dried out before tomorrow morning’s flight to Melbourne.  Lorraine lights the log stove in our cabin and lends us a clothes horse, and we get started on the job in hand:


The only way we can get the insides of our shoes dry is with the hair dryer, and I’m forced to dry out my leather wallet and the British £10 notes it contains on a heated towel rail.

As we reflect on the day’s events we recognise things could have turned out a lot worse.  There are definitely some lessons for us to learn, should we ever be crazy enough to contemplate a trip like this again:

  1. Make sure you have a mobile phone that actually works in the place you’re visiting
  2. Carry plenty of food and water in the car, even if you’re planning to spend the day in said car
  3. Do a course in car mechanics.

To be brutally honest, today’s experience has taken the edge off our visit to Flinders and, to some extent, off our Tasmanian adventure as a whole.  It was scary, very scary, I don’t think we’ve ever felt so totally alone as we did on that gravel road, a road less travelled than any we’ve been on since we arrived in Tassie.  On top of that, we’re not particularly fit and once the adrenaline begins to wear off the pain really kicks in, and there isn’t any part of us that doesn’t hurt like hell.

But let’s look on the bright side: we’re still in one piece (just) and tomorrow’s another day.  At least in Melbourne we can be confident that our car won’t break down … we’ll be travelling by hop-on-hop-off bus instead.

[8 December]

Chewing the fat on Flinders

Filling Station Man

Flinders is a friendly place.  There aren’t many people here – the population is less than 1,000 – and the pace of life is relaxed.  The locals are happy to chat, as Rob and Lorraine demonstrated yesterday.

Our car is a Rav 4, supplied by Rob.  It’s the first 4WD I’ve driven, and it seems like a smart move on an island as remote as this.  We call at a filling station and fall into easy conversation with the old guy who takes our money.  He’s been to Britain once, to meet up with distant relatives in Scunthorpe.  I ask what he made of Scunthorpe and he says hurriedly that, if truth be told, the family hails from a rural area a little way out of town.  I nod sympathetically, saying that I’ve heard that lots of people come from Scunthorpe but very few choose to go back.  He doesn’t demur.

After the family reunion, Filling Station Man and his wife had travelled on to Scotland, and were astonished to pass through Killiecrankie.  This came as a bit of shock, he explains, as Killiecrankie is a tiny settlement just a few kilometres up the road, in the north of Flinders.  We take his point.  To drive through Tassie is to drown in a flood of familiar place-names, the names of counties, cities, towns and villages from across the length and breadth of the UK.

Over the past four weeks we’ve passed through, or close to Kettering, Sheffield, Swansea, St Helen’s, Derby, Devonport, Brighton, Bridgewater, Perth, Margate, Melton Mowbray, Somerset, Strathblane and Southport to name but a few.  In so many ways, whether it be the place names, the landscape or even the climate, Tasmania conjures up misty-eyed memories of the Old Country.  Tassie is, I tell myself, like the UK with added wombats, and is therefore a good thing.

We continue to pass the time of day.  Filling Station Man asks where we are heading, and when we say to the north of the island he says to watch out for the remains of the air-raid defences.

“That’s difficult to believe,” I say, “This place is in the middle of nowhere.”

“It’s true,” he replies.  “In 1942, after the fall of Singapore, Australia was thought to be vulnerable.  The theory was that the Japanese might capture Flinders and use it as a base from which to launch air-raids on Melbourne and Hobart.  So the government put up a string of defences to protect us from attack.”

“Really?” I ask, the doubt obvious in my voice.

“I know it for a fact,” he replies “because my father helped build them.”

We shake our heads thoughtfully.  Looking around us the story seems so improbable, yet it’s plainly true.  I can see it in Filling Station Man’s eyes, which shine brightly at the thought that once, long, long ago, his family here on Flinders had a walk-on part in a conflict that turned the world upside down.

Hydro Man

A couple of hours later we are in the north of Flinders, parked up by the beach.  Like so many stretches of shoreline in Tasmania it is both completely deserted and stunningly beautiful, and we wander off to explore.  A few minutes later I glance behind me and in the distance see a guy standing by our car.

Immediately my 21st century urban paranoia kicks in … someone’s standing next to my car, why doesn’t he stand somewhere else, he must be planning to break in and nick it, or maybe he wants the radio or the wheels, I’m going to keep my eyes on him the thieving bastard.  I scurry back, masking my anxiety with phoney nonchalance.

“G’day,” he says as I approach.  He smiles warmly, drawing deeply on his cigarette.

“Er .. oh … hi,” I stutter, thrown off-balance by his friendly charm.  Where the hell’s his crowbar, I wonder to myself.

“Grand day,” he says, “we’re due some good weather after the last few months.”

“Yes, we’ve heard it’s been rough,” I reply, sheepish now.  It’s evident that this guy has no agenda beyond a leisurely fag break.

“Where are you from?” he asks.  It’s a familiar question.  Almost without exception the Aussies we’ve met have been friendly and have asked about home, how long are we staying, do we like it here and so on.  When we say we’re from the UK he says he’s never been, though he’s visiting Donegal next year to meet up with an old friend.

“My son’s been to the UK though.  Had his camera stolen when he fell asleep on a train from Edinburgh to London.”  I feel suitably ashamed for having doubted this guy’s intentions when the welcome we have received in Oz has been so warm while his son was treated so badly back home.

We chat amiably in the hot sun.  He’s 68, and is doing contract work as a lineman for the hydro.  He earns $76 an hour but has to pay his taxes and insurances out of that.  It seems generous, no wonder everything’s so expensive if a lineman for the hydro earns that much.  But good luck to him I think to myself, it must be tough to earn a living here on Flinders.  “Also,” Hydro Man adds, “I run sheep and cattle on my property, and we’ve got some holidays lets too.  And three months a year I go off shearing sheep.”

There’s a pattern emerging here, which we’ve already seen in Rob and various other people we’ve met.  On Flinders people don’t just have a job, they have multiple jobs, they do a bit of this and that, here and there, and if they’re flexible and hardworking there’s a decent living to be made.

“Have you got a garden?” he asks suddenly, apropos of nothing in particular.

“Yes,” I say, “about 75 square metres out the back.  What about you?”

“Yep, we’ve got a small garden,” Hydro Man replies, “About two-and-a-half acres.”

It’s a different world you know, out here on Flinders Island.

[7 December]

Rob the Builder

Today we leave mainland Tasmania, taking a short flight from Launceston Airport to Flinders Island.  Over the past 30 days we’ve driven 4,269km and it seems like we’ve explored every corner of Tassie; it’s surpassed our expectations and we are sorry to leave.  Flinders, however, is off the beaten track, even by Tasmanian standards, and offers us a chance to chill before the mayhem of Melbourne and the horrors of the flight back to the UK.

We know we’re in for an experience when the guy at check-in tells us our hand-luggage is too heavy.  We re-pack, shifting stuff into suitcases until the weight meets the airline’s rules.  But we needn’t have bothered; when we try to take it on the plane the captain says it’s too big, and will have to go in the hold anyway.  As we clamber on board we take his point.  It’s a 19 seater, and we’re packed in like sardines.  I never thought I’d be dreaming wistfully of the creature comforts in a British Airways economy class cabin, but plainly we’re playing by different rules here in outback Oz:


In Flinders we are staying in a self-contained cabin on a farm, with great views of Franklin Sound beyond the trees:


Free-range guinea pigs and partridges roam the farmyard, kept in line by Jess, an eager and friendly sheep dog.  This seems like our sort of place:


Our genial hosts, Rob and Lorraine, are in the habit of treating new arrivals to a barbecue in an outbuilding that Rob has built himself from salvaged materials.  As well as running cattle and sheep on his smallholding Rob is a builder by trade, plainly a skilled and versatile one.  He points to various bits of the building, explaining proudly where they’ve been sourced.  As the barbecue gets going some bats are flushed out of the roof space, circling madly for a few seconds before exiting via a convenient gap in the eaves.

Rob puts a vinyl record of Abba’s Greatest Hits on to an ancient turntable, and we’re ready to rumble.  We talk about the death of Andrew Sachs a few days ago.  We say we are amazed that it was mentioned on Australian radio news, and Lorraine explains that Fawlty Towers is massively popular over here.  She and Rob both enjoy British TV comedy, and can’t get the hang of US sitcoms.  We share their sentiments.

The tricky subject of mutton birds raises its head.  Driving us back from the airport Lorraine had told us about the menu for the barbecue, including mutton birds.  These are better known as Short-tailed Shearwaters; they are common birds in Tasmania, and are regarded around these parts as a culinary delicacy.  I politely declined, explaining that we are birders and came to Tassie to watch the local wildlife rather than to eat it.  No offence was intended, but we appear to have scored an own goal.

Rob makes the case for eating mutton birds, and he too scores an own goal: they’re very common, he says, and we’ll probably like them as they taste like minke whale.  We are truly sorry if we have offended two decent people who are giving up their evening to cook us a barbecue.  We are not criticising their customs or way of life, but we have principles and must stick to them if we are to be true to ourselves.  An awkward silence descends across the proceedings.

By unspoken agreement everyone quickly moves on, determined to make the most of an evening without mutton birds.  Lorraine cooks well, and we tuck in eagerly to her home-made sausages and pesto, washed down with Rob’s excellent home brew.  Julie doesn’t much care for lamb, but Lorraine serves some which is sourced from the dorper sheep Rob has raised on the farm and she is won over.

Soon we are swapping travellers’ tales.  Rob and Lorraine prove to be the best-travelled Aussies we’ve met, and are frequent visitors to Europe.  They know Orkney and Shetland well, as do we, though they prefer the latter while we could easily spend the rest of our lives on the former.  They even know Holt in Norfolk, which Julie and I visit most years.  How many Brits, let alone Tasmanians, can claim to know Holt?

The evening draws to an amiable close; the guinea pigs are safely tucked up in bed for the night, and we need to follow their example.  Flinders is surprisingly large – more than twice the size of the Isle of Man – and we have just two days to explore it so tomorrow we’ll need to make an early start.

[6 December]

The voyage of Captain Quirk (2) Selfie

Captain Quirk is always looking for unusual angles, for variations on a theme, for new ways to render old truths.

This image is the Captain’s unusual slant on a selfie, taken next to a parking lot in Cradle Mountain National Park.  For a reason that I can no longer remember there was, on this stretch of road, one of those convex mirrors that are designed give drivers a wider view of their surroundings.  Captain Quirk decided that photographing it would give a unique view of her good self, of her immediate surroundings and of the distant mountains.

See what you think: tasmania-cradle-mountain-ronny-creek-2016-4

[5 December]

The voyage of Captain Quirk (1) Mailbox magic

Tomorrow we leave mainland Tasmania for Flinders Island.  It’s high time, therefore, to look back over the voyage of Captain Quirk.

Mrs P, or Captain Quirk as she’s now known to Platypus Pandemonium, loves taking quirky photos.  Her favourite subject in the USA is the humble mailbox.  Outside big urban centres, mail is delivered to a mailbox on the curb-side rather than being posted through a letterbox cut into the front door.  Most US mailboxes are boringly utilitarian, rectangular in shape with a simple domed roof.

Just occasionally, however, on our American road trips, we’ve come across an act of rebellion, a mailbox that doesn’t conform to type but rather gives us an insight into its owner-creator, perhaps a trout-shaped box outside the home of a fisherman or a maybe a horse-shaped creation at the gates to a farm.  Inevitably, therefore, when we spot one of these quirky American mailboxes I’m required to screech to a halt to allow Captain Quirk to photograph it.

To our amazement, and the Captain’s utter delight, the Tasmanians have got in on the act too.  It was only a couple days into our trip, on Bruny Island, that we spotted this Dalek, a truly brilliant creation that comprises, amongst other things, an egg whisk and a plunger for unblocking sinks: tasmania-letterbox-2016-27

After that we kept our eyes open, and came across other mailbox magic.  Sometimes we’d drive three or four days without seeing one and then stumble across two in a single afternoon.  Maybe it’s something in the water?

Whatever, here are some of the best.  I’m not quite sure what these mailboxes tell us about Tasmanians, but her keenness to record them tells us heaps about the good Captain.  She was, for example bowled over by this fellow, who bears a striking resemblance to Sean the Sheep, still loyally guarding an item of mail awaiting collection: tasmania-letterbox-2016-13

Here’s a smart skewbald horse: tasmania-letterbox-2016-1

And a lighthouse, inevitably seen on a coastal road: tasmania-letterbox-2016-11

This dog looks full of personality, though perhaps a bit goofy: tasmania-letterbox-2016-15a

But sometimes a much-loved dog isn’t enough, its owner wants to get in on the act too: tasmania-letterbox-2016-35

Some tailor-made mailboxes, such as this, almost qualify as works of public art.  It’s not clear what the guy’s occupation is – note the enigmatic tank on his back – but he’s plainly of the Aussie persuasion as there are corks dangling from his hat: tasmania-letterbox-2016-39

This knight in shining armour looks a little out of place on a rural Tasmanian road, though no more than a marauding Dalek I suppose:tasmania-letterbox-2016-18

A splendid cockerel looks much more at home in Tassie: tasmania-letterbox-2016-20

But as for this aviator, I’m lost for words.  The Red Baron’s long lost cousin, maybe? … tasmania-letterbox-2016-44

Reviewing these photos for Platypus Pandemonium, I’m reminded that at its best travel engages all the senses and emotions.  The trick is to be open to the possibilities inherent in day-to-day existence.  We didn’t visit Tasmania for the mailboxes but they brought us moments of sheer delight, of hysterical laughter, of shaking our heads in utter bemusement.  All credit to Captain Quirk for recognising that these mailboxes should be recorded for posterity, as final and irrefutable evidence of the human ability, when the mood takes us, to be as delightfully daft as a brush.

[5 December]

It makes you sick

We’re staying at a luxurious eco-lodge on the Freycinet Peninsula.  The view from the property is spectacular: tasmania-freycinet-lodge-view-2016-1

And we are at one with the wildlife living here, including this lizard who calls our bedroom home: tasmania-freycinet-lizard-in-the-bedroom-2016-3

The Freycinet Peninsula is another of Tassie’s coastal gems, with breath-taking views around nearly every corner, such as here at Honeymoon Bay:tasmania-freycinet-honeymoon-bay-2016-2

But there’s no time to spare, we’re off on another cruise.  Today the boat’s much bigger than on our trip to Maria Island, a catamaran in fact.  This is no bad thing as, despite the brilliant sunshine and clear blue skies, the sea’s rockin’ and rollin’.

We set off towards Wineglass Bay.  The catamaran is comfortable, verging on the luxurious, and we settle back to enjoy the scenic coastline of the Freycinet Peninsula: tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-2016-53

However the sea begins to take its toll, and pretty soon sickness is rampant amongst the assembled passengers.  The crew are attentive, brilliant in fact, circulating endlessly amongst the sufferers offering sympathy, advice, ginger tablets and, when all that fails, a discrete paper bag.

We sail on, admiring dramatic cliffs painted in vibrant shades of orange and pink: tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-2016-23

As with so much of our Tassie experience, the weather is everything.  On a grey, wet, windy day this trip would be a miserable mistake.  Today, with the sun beating down from a cloudless sky and the ocean molten cobalt, it’s magical:tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-2016-26

The sea doesn’t seem too bad to us and we prove immune to its sly mischief.  For us the experience is exhilarating: the warmth of sun, the wind tugging at our hair, the choppy challenge of the waves:Tasmania, Wineglass Bay cruise, 2016 (42).JPG

Around us, however, others are less resilient.  Some of our fellow passengers are turning a whiter shade of pale, others as green as the grass back home, and in private corners embarrassed chunder monkeys are compelled to review the morning’s breakfast.  We shrug it off, and enjoy views of the majestic Shy Albatross wheeling above the waves:tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-2016-51

At another point, we pull close to the shoreline to inspect a White-bellied Sea Eagle sitting atop its massive nest.  These birds mate for life and return to the same nest every year, simply building an extension to previous years’ efforts.  The results are hugely spectacular:tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-white-bellied-sea-eagle-2016-3

Finally we reach our destination, Wineglass Bay, where we drop anchor in its sheltered waters to eat lunch.  The food showcases the best of Tasmanian produce.  It’s attractively presented in bento-boxes, though many of our fellow travellers are too ill to be seduced by its undoubted charms.  Julie and I, however, tuck in ravenously: tasmania-wineglass-bay-bento-box-lunch-2016-1

As we eat we take in the view.  Wineglass Bay has a reputation as one of the world’s most beautiful beaches.  It certainly looks the part today: tasmania-wineglass-bay-cruise-wineglass-bay-2016-11

And what a romantic name, someone says, conjuring up comforting images of happy hours spent in the company of loved ones on an intriguingly curved stretch of pristine coast.  As if the observation has been overheard the PA system clicks on and the guy who’s been doing commentary during the journey pipes up again.

“And in case you’re wondering where it gets its name, Wineglass Bay has nothing to do with its shape or even with the local wine industry.  It dates back to the whaling days.  The dead whales were hauled in to be processed at whaling stations dotted all around the bay.  So many whales were butchered here that the sea in the bay would be turned wine-red by the blood.”

Now there’s something to really make you sick.

 [5 December]