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

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]

A perfect day

(1)  Down on the farm

We’ve stayed the night in a comfortable B&B on a farm near Little Swanport.  Carrying our bags back to the car I find my path blocked by a female wallaby.  She has a big joey in her pouch and they watch, alert and curious but unafraid as I struggle with the suitcase.  I pass within feet of them, and they continue staring for a minute or two before mum turns and hops off in the direction of several companions browsing by the fence.

Looking around there are wallabies everywhere, plainly very much at home down on the farm.  The owners, Tom and Jane, are into their wildlife.  Jane explains that in a drought some months ago the grass wasn’t growing and the wallabies on the property were starving.  Tom and Jane fed them until the crisis was over.  For a while the wallabies had become tame and confiding.  Once the feeding stopped most had gone back to their old ways, but the female with the joey is still hanging around the farmhouse, hoping – in vain – for treats.

We’d love to stay longer on this wildlife-friendly property to get to know the wallabies better but we have an all-day boat trip booked and must get to the wharf in time for an early departure.

(2)  Seal Island

Our boat pulls up to the wharf, scattering a flotilla of pelicans.  We board with a degree of trepidation: up close it’s a small boat and we’re told there’s a bit a swell going on, enough to unsettle delicate stomachs:

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Our first destination is Ile Des Phoques (Seal Island), a rugged granite outcrop of around 20 acres.  This island is known as a haul-out spot for bachelor male Australian Fur Seals, but in recent years a few mothers and their pups have also been seen.  This is encouraging news: the Australian Fur Seal was hunted to the brink of extinction in the twentieth century, but thanks to being wholly protected numbers are slowly recovering, forcing mothers to find new spots to give birth to their young.

tasmania-maria-island-cruise-isle-des-phoque-2016-55As we approach it’s clear that Ile Des Phoques lives up to its name.  There are seals all over the rocks that line the shore, some loafing, others sparring or chasing one another.  The noise is cacophonous, an unholy mixture of barks, yells, wails and snorts.  And the smell leaves us in no doubt that these guys eat fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We scan the rocks, enjoying the action.  Mostly, as expected, we see young males posturing and pouting, giving it some for the benefit of any of their brethren who might be watching.  We’re pleased to spot a few mums and their pups a little further up the rocks.  They have wisely distanced themselves from the mayhem at the water’s edge, and keep a wary eye on proceedings.  There’s also an older male; he’s a big boy so the teenagers give him his space, aware that if they get too close he’ll work them over until they’re bloodied and bruised.

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It’s a two-way process, this wildlife watching.  We watch the seals, and the seals watch the tourists.  They can’t resist diving into the water and dashing towards the boat for a closer look, ducking, diving and leaping.  It’s a performance worthy of a gang of crazed Olympic gymnasts.  Soon we are surrounded by dozens of lively, curious critters, all intent on enjoying the show.

But Ile Des Phoques has more to offer than seals.  There are plenty of birds, including nesting sea eagles and these Black-faced Cormorants:

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The island is also famous for its sea caves, carved by the Pacific waves from the unforgiving granite rock.  Here our little boat comes into its own, being small enough to edge deep into the caves, so deep that in one we can see sunlight shining through a small opening from the other side of the island:

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(3)  The Little Prince 

tasmania-maria-island-pademelon-2016-1From Ile Des Phoques the boat takes us north to Maria Island, pronounced to rhyme with ‘pariah.’  The whole of Maria Island is a National Park, protecting endangered wildlife, stunning scenery and ruins from the convict era.  After landing we enjoy an excellent picnic lunch under a hot sun before taking a guided walk to explore the ruins and search for wildlife.  Due to the protection afforded by National Park status the wildlife here is unafraid, so it’s no surprise when we see this nocturnal pademelon in the early afternoon sunshine.

However, it’s another critter that we’re really hoping to see.  Our guide eventually tracks down the King of Cubes but he must be in a bad mood, standing with his back to us and refusing to have his photo taken.  Julie waits, hoping he mellows, while I wander off in search of other pleasures.

tasmania-maria-island-wombat-2016-14A short distance from Julie is a large tree with low hanging branches, and snuffling around in the grass growing beneath I spot a second wombat.  But she’s not alone.  Next to her is a youngster.

It’s a strange thing about young animals, how obvious they are.  The size difference between them and adults is clear, but in countless other ways youngsters look slightly different.  They share an indefinable delicacy of form.  All young critters, in my experience, are somehow softer, less angular, fluffier and, dare I say it, cuter than their parents.  This pair conform to type, the mature Queen of Cubes and her exquisite, perfect Little Prince.

I call Julie over as mother and child go about their business, grazing contentedly.  We are spellbound by the beauty of the Little Prince.  He is a photographer’s dream, and Julie takes full advantage:

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And then, to our dismay, the Little Prince is startled when one of us steps on a twig and it snaps.  He stops nibbling and rushes full speed for the undergrowth.  Mum carries on as if nothing has happened.  Her son doesn’t return, and we worry that they won’t find each other again, but when we look more closely we can see that he has run towards the entrance to a burrow.

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The Little Prince has gone to ground to await his mother’s return.  We must leave Maria Island in a few minutes to begin the journey back to the mainland, so we know we won’t ever see him again.  A cloud slides before the sun and drains all colour from the day.  Sadly, we turn and trudge towards the waiting boat.

(4)  The Painted Cliffs 

Maria Island is famous for its stunning coastline, and we take in a couple of the highlights on the return trip.  We sail past the spectacular Fossil Cliffs rising vertically from the sea:

tasmania-maria-island-cruise-fossil-cliffs-2016-1

… and then close to the equally impressive and improbable Painted Cliffs:

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(5)  A fitting end

As soon as we’re back on dry land we return to the car and head north.  We have around 100km to drive before we get to our accommodation.  As we go along we reflect on the day’s events and agree that we should round it off with a bottle of Devil’s Corner, a Tasmanian Pinot Noir Chardonnay for which we’ve developed a taste during our month of travels.  It’s not cheap, but then nothing in Tassie is, so we put the cost out of our mind and dive into a bottle shop – the local version of an off-licence – to do the business.

A couple of hours later we are holed up at our luxury eco-retreat on the Freycinet Peninsula, contentedly quaffing Devil’s Corner while watching a wallaby grazing outside the window.  We raise a glass to him, and to the wombats and seals and scenery we have enjoyed over the past 12 hours.  It is, we agree, a fitting end to a perfect day.

[4 December]

All creatures great and small

tasmania-forester-kangaroo-drive-2016-108We drive north from St Helen’s to the Mount William National Park, 14,000 hectares set aside to protect beautiful scenery and a wealth of interesting wildlife.  In particular we’re heading for the Forester Kangaroo Drive, so you can guess what we’re hoping to see.  Our hopes rise when we spot this this sign all over the place as we enter the Park.

Having said that, similar signs normally depicting wallabies, but sometimes wombats, Devils or even echidnas, are everywhere in Tassie.  This reflects the fact that conflicts between wildlife and motor vehicles are commonplace, and driving in some areas you come across roadkill literally every few metres.  The sad thing about Tasmanian wildlife is that it’s often not alive at all by the time we get to see it.  Partly this is because most of the critters are nocturnal and therefore difficult to spot on the road, but it’s also a result of what one might best describe as the cavalier night-time driving habits of many Tasmanians.

The Mount William National Park was originally set up to protect the island’s last remaining population of Forester Kangaroos.  All the other populations in Tasmania were wiped out by settlers in the early nineteenth century – the Forester Kangaroos we saw at Narawntapu National Park are there as the result of a reintroduction programme in 1975.  The Forester Kangaroo Drive traverses large areas of coastal heathland, open grassy plains and dry woodland:

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Thankfully the Kangaroo Drive lives up to its billing and we’re pleased to get views of several individuals, though none of them particularly close:

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It’s also good to re-acquaint ourselves with some old friends: this King of Cubes is out and about, foraging happily and apparently unaware that he’s supposed to be nocturnal:

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We’re also pleased to see this echidna giving the local ants and grubs a hard time:

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But Mount William National Park also gives us a chance to make some new friends, including this Banded Plover:

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We stop to eat lunch at the Stumpys Bay campground and quickly find ourselves surrounded by dragonflies:

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As we leave after just a few hours we reflect on a what has been a great visit.  The area of the National Park covered by the Kangaroo Drive is all but deserted – we saw was one other visitor car and a couple of workmen in the campground – but was teeming with wildlife.  Most definitely it’s our sort of place.

[2 December]

Kangaroo!

We’ve been in Australia a whole month, and so far the only kangaroos we’ve seen have been at the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.  Today, however, we break our duck when we visit the Narawntapu National Park, which is somewhat fancifully known as the Serengeti of Tasmania.

We’ve seen so many wallabies on this trip that they’ve become familiar to us.  But would we be able to distinguish the Forester Kangaroo from them when the chips are down?  It’s all very well to say that kangaroos are much bigger animals, but it’s not as simple as it sounds when you get only a fleeting glimpse or when you are some distance away.

As it happens, it isn’t a problem.  We have barely entered the park when I spot an animal that is so much larger than the wallabies we’ve been seeing that it can only be a Forester Kangaroo.  They are BIG animals, nearly half as big again as most of the wallabies we’ve seen.  Also their rear legs are much longer than a wallaby’s, perfectly adapted for high-speed bounding across open country.  And wow do they bound along, springing huge distances apparently without effort:

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We see several kangaroos during our time at Narawntapu, though mostly only at a distance, and lots wallabies and pademelons too.  We also enjoy this flooded patch of forest, which reminds us of swamplands in the Deep South of the USA and is not at all what we’d expected to find here in Tasmania:

tasmania-narawntapu-reserve-2016-12

The sad news is there has been an outbreak of sarcoptic mange amongst the wombats in the park.  Narawntapu is known as one of those places where wombats are easy to spot, even in broad daylight.  However not today.  The mange that is afflicting them is the same as scabies in humans, caused by parasitic mites that burrow into the skin resulting in hair loss, thickening and cracking of skin, and secondary infections that are usually fatal.  Wombats are endearing animals that we have grown very fond of, and we’re sad to learn that at least 90% of the park’s population has been wiped out.

[30 November]

Getting back to our roots

Although this trip has its origins in birding, through the information that Susie from Tasmanian Odyssey and Tonya from Inala on Bruny shared with us at the British Birdwatching Fair, its scope has grown to include a range of other topics including other wildlife, history, vegetation and landscape.  Although we are always on the lookout for birds, since leaving Bruny Island they have rarely been centre stage.  A morning’s visit to the Tamar Island Wetland Reserve is therefore a welcome opportunity to get back to our roots.

The reserve lies on the outskirts of Launceston, Tassie’s second city, and protects around 60 hectares of lagoons, mudflats and islands.  There is an excellent, modern visitor centre, and a series of paths and boardwalks giving birders access to and views of a range of habitats.

Our first notable sighting however is not a bird, but rather a pademelon and her joey.  Something I had not understood before coming to Tassie is that as the joey begins to mature it leaves the pouch to explore its surroundings and forage for food, but returns when feeling threatened.  Walking to a bird hide we get good views of this mother pademelon:

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Then we spot a joey, out of the pouch, some distance from mum.  It sees us, panics, and dashes for the safety of the pouch and dives in, executing a manoeuvre not unlike an Olympic swimmer doing a tumble-turn at the end of a length.  It all happens too fast for Julie to photograph, but you get the general idea.

In the same part of the reserve as the pademelon is this White-faced Heron.  This is the commonest heron species in Tassie.  We’ve already seen several on our travels, mostly at a distance or flying away from us at speed so it’s good to be able to enjoy this individual which proved very confiding:

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To be fair, with the exception of a Grassbird we don’t see any species here that we haven’t seen elsewhere in Tasmania, but it’s nice just to spend time doing some relaxed birding.  As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, the twitcher’s mentality of constantly chasing rarities is not one we embrace, so for us it’s a pleasure to re-acquaint ourselves with old friends such as the Black Swan.  We’ve seen lots of these wherever there’s a decent patch of water, including – to our surprise – many on the sea.  I particularly like this photo, which reveals the white primary feathers that are often invisible when the bird is at rest:

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Another bird we enjoy at the Tamar Island Wetland Reserve is the Chestnut Teal.  They are common in Tasmania and we’ve seen a few already, but this one came close enough for a decent photo.  This is a male, and can be distinguished by his distinctive green head and chestnut body plumage:

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Welcome Swallows are another species we’ve seen at various locations in Tasmania, skimming low of water and fields in their endless hunt for insects.  There are a number of birds with nests under the bridge that connects two of the islands that make up the reserve, and these two youngsters are content to sit on a bridge strut to be photographed:

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Welcome Swallows are migratory, and leave for mainland Australia at the end of the summer.  We are therefore here at just the right time to enjoy them.  We also enjoyed, while walking the reserve, the sound of skylarks.  They are the same species that we get in the UK, and were presumably introduced by homesick colonists who wanted a reminder of the Old Country.  And what better reminder than a skylark belting out his beautiful song, a gift for anyone with the ears and good sense to stop a while and listen.

Talking of old friends, we once again enjoyed watching the Superb Fairy Wren while walking around the reserve.  What a fabulous bird the male is in his summer breeding plumage:

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[30 November]

We’ll meet again …

I’m writing this in a hotel room in downtown Melbourne while catching up with last week’s episode of The Archers on BBC iPlayer.  Outside it’s bloody noisy, a constant roar of traffic intermingled with bursts of shouting and raucous (probably drunken?) laughter.  God, how I hate city centres.

This will be my last post before I get back to the UK (we set off for the airport tomorrow morning) but I will continue this account of our travels on my return.  I’m almost two weeks behind with my posts and there’s a lot still to tell … including how our trip nearly came to an abrupt end on Flinders Island a couple of days ago.  Plainly all is now well, but for a few hours things got pretty hairy.  Want to know more?  Then keep reading Platypus Pandemonium, where posts will continue until around the end of December.

Meanwhile, just to keep you interested, here’s another cute wombat photo:

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[10 December]

 

All hail the King of Cubes

Every trip has a bogey-bird or bogey-critter, something that should be easy to see but turns out to be elusive.

In the first half of our trip to Tassie, the King of Cubes was looking like a bogey-critter. We thought wombats would be everywhere, we expected to be tripping over them, but it was not to be.  Of course we had seen (and indeed stroked) the orphan wombat at Bonorong Sanctuary, but that doesn’t really count.  And we managed to see one in near darkness at Pumphouse Point, but the views and the photos were disappointing.  Other than those two encounters, and the occasional bit of wombat poo, we’d seen nothing.

All that changed at Cradle Mountain. Here, by late afternoon, wombats were all over the place begging to be photographed.  And of course Mrs P was happy to oblige, firing off more than 250 photos in the course of two viewing sessions spread across a couple of days.  For example:

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and:

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and:

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God bless digital photography! …

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The best moment was when Mrs P was sitting on a slightly raised boardwalk to give her a different angle on the wombat she was snapping. The King of Cubes wasn’t bothered, engrossed as he was in nibbling grass.

The best grass, it seemed, was closer to Mrs P so he approached, unconcerned by her frantic clicking. Closer and closer he came, doggedly pursuing the most succulent blades.  They were, it seemed, right between my wife’s legs; she did the splits, while still sitting and snapping, and the wombat inched forward.

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But one of her legs was in the way, so with a deft shimmy of his shoulders he nudged it to one side so he could continue to browse unimpeded.  It was an amazing sight, and for Mrs P an unforgettable experience to be so close to a wild animal that was totally unafraid of her.

The views of the King of Cubes were certainly worth waiting for. They are, without doubt, one of the cutest critters you could ever hope to encounter, a bit like a small tubby teddy bear, or maybe a miniature hairy hippo.  The great sightings we had at Cradle Mountain more than made up for the earlier disappointments.  What an animal.  All hail the King of Cubes.

[28 November]

Noisy Devils

On our first evening at Cradle Mountain we visit Devils@Cradle, which is a wildlife sanctuary dedicated to the captive breeding of Tasmanian Devils, as well as two other species of marsupial carnivore, the Eastern Quoll and the Spotted Tail Quoll.

We have, of course, already visited another of the Devil sanctuaries at Bonorong where we saw a single Devil who was woken up from his slumbers at 2.00pm with food. Given that Devils are nocturnal this wasn’t necessarily entirely fair on the critter, though he was handsomely rewarded with dead chicks.  By way of contrast Devils@Cradle feed their charges as dusk turns to darkness, in large floodlit enclosures.

The main enclosure holds five Devils, all around a year old and therefore roughly equivalent to human teenagers. Viewing begins at dusk, when photography is just possible.

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The Devils obviously know it is feeding time and become more and more agitated, charging around the enclosure and chasing one another.  Occasional fights break out, accompanied by much snarling and growling.

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As darkness descends pieces of chopped up wallaby are hurled into the melee of Devils.  Each grabs a piece and dashes off to somewhere he thinks is secluded to tuck into his prize.  However the grass is always greener, as they say, and some Devils would rather have their friends’ bit of wallaby than their own.  More chases and fights ensue, accompanied again by loud vocal protests.  One Devil grabs a whole wallaby tail and hurtles around the enclosure, daring the others to catch him.  They don’t even try, clearly calculating that this is one race they aren’t going to win.

Devils are fiercely competitive in the wild. This feeding regime is designed to ensure that they behave as normally as possible in captivity so that one day, hopefully, these noisy Devils or their offspring can be released back into the wild once the danger from Devil Facial Tumour Disease has abated.   Unfortunately the light isn’t sufficient to take photos of the feeding frenzy, but the memory of five feisty Devils giving it their all lingers on.

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Julie is however able to photograph, through glass, this Eastern Quoll:

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We were lucky enough to see a few of these on our night drives with Andrew on Bruny Island, and it’s good to get a closer view. They, like the Devil, are endangered (albeit for different reasons) and the captive breeding programme is intended to provide some insurance against further losses in the wild.  The staff at Devils@Cradle are passionate about the animals in their care, and it was a pleasure to see hear about their work and to enjoy the antics of their charges.

27 November

The edge of the world

Today we take a boat trip up the Arthur River, into the Tarkine rainforest. The Tarkine is a cause celebre for Tasmanian conservationists, who are determined to see it protected.  It is named after the local tribe of aborigines who lived in the area at the time of the first European explorers, and is now said to be the most pristine example of rainforest left in Tassie.  The Arthur is one of Tasmania’s seven major rivers, and is unique because it’s the only one that has been neither logged nor dammed.  Conservationists want to keep it that way.

To start our river cruise we must drive for nearly an hour from Stanley to the remote western corner of Tassie, which officially has the cleanest air of any settlement in the world (the prevailing wind is westerly, so air pollution would have to come from Argentina, half way around the globe). As we approach the town of Arthur River we start to pick up signs telling us we are in Tasmanian Devil country, where un-diseased animals still roam free.  We are therefore urged to drive with particular care.  However the Devils are nocturnal and will be safely tucked up in bed on this cool November morning.

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We press on, and reach the wharf ahead of schedule. The boat captain is still setting up so he suggests we nip along the road to the Edge of the World.  If you were to sail due west from this rocky coastal promontory you would not hit land again until you reached Chile.  It is a lonely place today, bleak and cold in a buffeting wind.

The Edge of the World is also the mouth of the Arthur River, and as we look at the shoreline we see a tangle of logs and branches, the bleached bones of trees torn from the ground and washed downriver in the terrible storms that hit Tassie a few months ago.  The locals say they’ve never seen such carnage, so many skeletons on the beach.

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This is a dark, brooding, timeless place. On a small stone cairn is a poem by Brian Inder, who was plainly inspired by the Edge of the World.  The poem, which we later discover is also reproduced in the boat taking us up the Arthur River, reads as follows:

I cast my pebble onto the shore of Eternity

To be washed by the Ocean of Time

It has shape, form and substance.

It is me

One day I will be no more

But my pebble will remain here

On the shore of Eternity

Mute witness for the aeons

That today I came and stood

At the edge of the world.

We return to the boat and board with a dozen or so other people, and soon we are cruising upriver.

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We are being watched.  White-bellied Sea Eagles know that a couple of dead fish will be tossed into the river from this boat to entice them down.  One plays his part to perfection, swooping down from his vantage point high in the trees, grabbing a fish from the water with sharp talons and flying off triumphantly with his trophy.  Cameras click appreciatively.

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The eagle’s mate however is nowhere to be seen, so the fish is retrieved in a net and will be offered up again when we return downriver a few hours from now.

We continue to head upriver at a leisurely pace, the captain at the intercom telling us about the luxuriant vegetation all around us, and sharing stories of the men who lived, and loved and died on the river in the old days.

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After a couple of hours we tie up at Turk’s landing, Turk being one of those old-timers who called this place home. The captain takes us on a short guided walk through a section of rainforest, naming and explaining the various species of tree.  Meanwhile the other two crew members prepare a barbecue in a small clearing.

While we eat a pademelon hangs around, begging pieces of lettuce and other scraps.

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She has a joey in her pouch, though he mostly keeps his head down and is difficult to see.   Just occasionally we catch a glimpse:

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Her older son also makes himself known.  He’s left the pouch now and should be away by himself, making his own way in the world.  But he knows a good thing when he sees one, and tourists with lettuce to spare fall into the category so he stays around looking hopeful and is rewarded for his cheek.

All too soon the barbecue is over, the pademelons disappear into the undergrowth and we must start on the return trip, immersing ourselves once again in the utter peace and tranquillity of the Tarkine rainforest.

[26 November]