Cradle Mountiain - WOW!

Devonport to Cradle Mountain

After a few arguments with my co-pilot, I finally got on the right track out of Devonport to Cradle Mountain. After using the directions and mapping features on the iPhone, using a dedicated GPS seems like going back to DOS after using Mac OS X. Maybe it is just this unit, provided as part of my car rental, but what a clumsy user interface.

After programming in my destination, I started getting suspicious while, following the directions of the Aussie-accented female voice of my electronic co-pilot, I passed signs directing me to exit to Cradle Mountain, and she kept telling me to go straight on.

So I pulled off to the side of the road, pulled out the map, and determined that she was taking me on a rather circuitous route along the major highways, when I could be taking a more direct, but zig-zaggy route through the beautiful Tasmanian countryside.

Kentish countryside.

Kentish countryside.

So I turned around and started following the signs, and as she insisted that I turn back to the course she had chosen for me, I finally just put her in map-only mode to stop the whining.

After that it was a pleasant jaunt along the backroads, in and out of tiny towns, farmland, and a bit of rainforest.

Poppies in bloom.

Poppies in bloom.

I got to the entrance of the National Park around noon, dropped my bag at the hotel, and proceeded to the Visitor Center, where I asked the recommendation of one of the rangers for a 3- or 4-hour hike. Pointing me at the map, she suggested the climb to Marion's Lookout, with various options from there to loop back or go further up into the range towards Cradle Mountain itself.

Then as I added myself to the line of 20 or so folks waiting for the shuttle bus up into the park, the driver called out that he had a seat for a "party of one", and since everybody else seemed to be part of a group - I got to jump ahead and ride shotgun up front with the driver.

Hikers enjoy Marion's Lookout.

Hikers enjoy Marion's Lookout.

Three hours later, I found myself at Marion'sLookout and, inspired by the view, I decided I had enough water and energy head towards Cradle Mountain, take the Face Track, then drop down to Lake Wilks and then all the way down to Dove Lake and make my way back to the shuttle bus stop there.

The Face Track was interesting - a very narrow track along the base of a massive wall of rock, the highest part of which is cradle mountain. But the track was well marked, with a combination of stakes, stacks of rock, and paint flashes on sections of bare rock. And the views were magnificent.

The Face Track - a bit of a scramble.

The Face Track - a bit of a scramble.

Looking down on Lake Wilks and Dove Lake from the Face Track.

Looking down on Lake Wilks and Dove Lake from the Face Track.

The scramble down off the face to Lake Wilks, and then on to Dove Lake was just as hard on the legs as the climbing getting up there, and by the time I got to down to the elevation of Dove Lake, my legs were starting to complain. And I ran out of water about halfway around Dove Lake, but I made it back to the parking lot just in time to catch the last of the once-every-ten-minutes shuttles before they switched to the once-an-hour evening schedule.

Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain on the horizon.

Dove Lake with Cradle Mountain on the horizon.

All in all, a great walk in beautiful country.

Onboard "Spirit of Tasmania II", Melbourne to Devonport

"Spirit of Tasmaina I and II" run between the port of Melbourne on the south coast of the Australian mainland, across the Bass Strait, to Devonport, on the north coast of the island of Tasmania. They run every evening all year round, but during the peak Summer months also do day runs several days a week.

Check-in starts at 6:30 AM, and I arrived at Melbourne's Station Pier just before 7:30 to see the ship already taking on cars and passengers. After an inspection for compressed gases, jerry cans of fuel, and other items that might represent a danger on board, the line of cars snake around the pier and climb a ramp towards the bow of the ship, then drop down into its gaping maw to parking belowdecks.

Lock the car, grab my camera bag, and then climb up to the passenger decks to watch the cast-off.

We depart Melbourne on time at 9 AM, and the Captain announces that we'll make Devonport at around 6:40 PM with an average cruising speed of 27 knots. It will be more than 2 hours before we even clear the mouth of Port Phillip, Melbourne's huge harbor. Once we do, 20-25 knot winds are expected for our crossing of Bass Strait, a famously treacherous 240 km-wide and 50-meter deep slot of water between the mainland and Tasmania. The number of ships wrecked along the Strait number in the hundreds and the Strait is said to be twice as rough as the English Channel.

11:40 AM: We sail beyond the headlands of Point Nepean and Point Lonsdale into Bass Strait. The seas are not rough, but there are some white caps, and the ship is shuddering and rolling a good bit more than in the protected waters of Port Phillip.

"Spirit of Tasmania II" puts Melbourne astern.

"Spirit of Tasmania II" puts Melbourne astern.

1:50 PM: We pass "Spirit of Tasmania I" heading in the opposite direction, back to Melbourne from Devonport, about a mile west of our track. The wind on deck is very stiff, but it is a clear sunny day with scattered clouds.

"Spirit of Tasmania I" inbound to Melbourne from Devonport passes by us about an hour and a half after we enter Bass Strait.

"Spirit of Tasmania I" inbound to Melbourne from Devonport passes by us about an hour and a half after we enter Bass Strait.

It's a long passage across the Bass Strait - plenty of time for some reading.

It's a long passage across the Bass Strait - plenty of time for some reading.

5:00 PM: We are advised over the ship's intercom that our arrival time in Devonport will be 7:00 PM. I am glad we will still have a couple hours of daylight after we arrive.

6:15 PM: Disembarkation procedures are announced.

7:00 PM: We tie up alongside the pier at Devonport, and after an hour waiting in line to drive off the ship and get through Tasmania's quarantine inspection, I make for the motel, drop my bags and rush "downtown".

"Spirit of Tasmania II" alongside the pier after arriving in Devonport.

"Spirit of Tasmania II" alongside the pier after arriving in Devonport.

At Sharky's restaurant, they were closing the kitchen, but the Mom/waitress out front gets an approving nod from the Dad/chef back in the kitchen - and I'm able to get a late dinner.