The Devil You Know
In the end we had to resort to a wildlife reserve to see a Tasmanian Devil. They are critically endangered in the wild. And mostly nocturnal, so not easy to spot. In 1996 a Devil in the far north east corner of Tasmania was observed to be suffering from a nasty facial cancer causing tumours to grow in and around its mouth. Unusually for a cancer it is infectious, likely transmissible to other animals through biting which the Devils so often do. Since the 1990s cases have appeared across virtually the entire island with 85% of the population now wiped out. It’s a painful and long drawn out death sentence for an afflicted animal. Despite intensive research there is currently no cure.
At Bonorong sanctuary, just outside Hobart, they are breeding healthy Devils to form part of an insurance population. Once the disease has run its course in the natural population these Devils could potentially be reintroduced into the wild. Tasmanian Devils can fly into a maniacal rage when threatened by a predator, fighting for a mate, or defending a meal. Early European settlers dubbed them ‘Devils’ after witnessing displays of teeth-baring, lunging and an array of spine-chilling guttural growls.
So I expected something quite fearsome, which of course they can be. They are carnivores after all. I saw one devour a dead baby chicken. It was shortly after this that Mike dropped his reading glasses straight into the creature’s pen. (Remember the first pair he lost at the Twelve Apostles?) Fortuitously the keeper had a set of long handled tongs. I despair sometimes, truly I do.
Yet in spite of their reputation Devils are also incredibly cute. Bonorong may have been an expensive day out. But it’s worth every Australian dollar for the fabulous work they do.
An echidna, now sadly three legged having been rescued after an attack by a dog. They are darker brown in Tasmania compared to my much blonder acquaintance on Kangaroo Island.
And talking of kangaroos..
One of the saddest aspects of travelling around Australia is the extent of roadkill. Kangaroos in particular are apt to launch themselves into the road with little warning and as they are also out mostly at night it’s very difficult to see them. Many of the roos at Bonorong were orphans retrieved from a dead mother’s pouch.
A tender moment belies the potentially dangerous nature of these animals too..
When provoked or protecting young a kangaroo can literally hurl itself at another, or even a man, and deliver a severe injury using the extended claw on each rear paw. Ouch. At Bonorong though, they’ll happily eat from your hand.
We arrived in Hobart at an opportune time, after a somewhat easier journey than the first boats home from the annual Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. The town was buzzing. And that was before the celebrations for the upcoming New Year’s Eve..
Sponsors and competitors gather to welcome in every new arrival. It’s one of the most gruelling ocean races there is, crossing the Bass Straight between mainland Australia and Tasmania. Home of the Roaring Forties.
“How am I supposed to keep the place clean when this happens?!!”
Harbour sculpture. Reminding us just how far south we now are.
The view from the top of Mount Wellington is one of the best ways to familiarise yourself with Hobart. It has a stunning setting, as so many Australian cities do, built around a natural harbour. Not such a gruelling journey up here though, it’s possible to drive all the way to the top. And what a lovely drive it is too. But take a coat.. it’s cold up there. Almost as windy as the Great Ocean Road. Reading glasses should be well secured.
A bird’s eye view of our next walk, around the tip of the peninsula above. The Arm End Circuit. Only a short drive from Hobart with constant views back to it, yet it feels a world away.
Pied Oyster Catchers on the beach..
Exquisite hidden and deserted coves..
Broad sweeps of grassland. Beware snakes..
Carpobrotus rossii, a common coastal succulent in Tasmania. The native pig face.
No-one has lived on the Arm End for more than a century but there is evidence of past gardens: Agave americana running wild.
Around Port Arthur, to the south east of Hobart, the coastline is different again. Rugged high cliffs, hidden inlets and features created from the collapse of a rock face under constant pounding from the sea.
Blowholes are formed when water enters a rock crevice so quickly it can only escape again by forcing itself explosively outward. It makes for quite a spectacle.
The Remarkable Cave. Waves pass right through it at high tide to lap against a glorious little secret cove.
And finally. We couldn’t leave Hobart without a garden and this has to be one of the best: the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens.
The Lily Pond
Masked Lapwing, flitting anxiously around the lawn.
Perhaps this was why. Masked Lapwing chick. Say aahhhh!
Jacaranda mimocifolia, a late Spring flowering small tree that we saw everywhere across southern Australia.
The strong Australian sun glowing through the fleshy leaves of Aeonium arboreum ‘Schwartkopf’.
Clematis viticella ‘Alba Luxurians’
I had this once. It’s a gorgeous variety. Funny that I had to go to the other side of the world to be reminded of the name. Back on the list for this year.
In fact so much of the garden has an English flavour, this particular border a nod to the style of Gertrude Jekyll, it almost made me homesick. Almost. And for an England in summer, I hasten to say.
I apologise for the gap between posts. Internet access continued to be patchy along with a growing sense of time passing and a need to make the most of the remaining days in Australia over and above the unequal struggle of editing WordPress on an iPad. I’ve got so far behind we are in fact now back in Blighty: cold, wet, wide awake well before four in the morning and asleep by four in the afternoon. There are two or three more posts to wrap up the journey, if you can bear it, before we return to matters at home. No, not Brexit. Enough already!