Horses and Penguins

Breakfast this morning was only served until 9:30 with a checkout at 10am and then the scheduled mystery activity at 10:30. I was mostly ready by 9:15 so we had some cereal and toast before going back to the room so I could finish getting ready and pack up. I had said that I would say something about this extra room fee in the morning so I was a little nervous about that after dealing with that woman in Port Campbell, but not nervous enough to leave it alone. After looking at the charge, I asked why we had to have the larger room if no one else was really staying here. We knew that to be the case because the keys are hanging right on the wall and only our room and anothers’ were missing last night when we purchased internet from the front desk. The woman was a bit confused and said something like ‘All prices are the same’ but we knew that the website said otherwise…to which she just…changed the price!! What?! I was not prepared for that at all. So this hotel was $40 less than expected which is great great great. We hung around for a bit, taking a walk outside by the lake. I really enjoyed this place a lot. It was like staying in a more beautiful and foreign New Hampshire or something. Finally, I asked Dave to reveal the surprise because it was about 10:15 by then. We would be going horseback riding!! Yay!!

Shortly after the surprise was revealed the owner called over to us and asked if we were going riding today because, get this, there were 3 horses komping down the driveway! I knew we were getting picked up but this was great!! Dave would be riding Magic (black), I would be riding Merlin (white), and the guide rode Flash (brown). They were really cute! We took some pics first and talked to the guide (funny how I recall the horses’ names but not hers..whoops!!). She was really friendly and has lived on the west coast of Tasmania for her entire life (almost 20 years). She was very informative as we first headed for Lake Rosebury. I remember horse riding to kinda hurt, but I was doing ok (oh, the hurting comes after, I remember now, hehe). I think the last time I rode was 2000 in North Carolina while visiting my uncle Bret. We rode along the water’s edge until eventually coming upon some railroad tracks. These tracks were used to transport copper and other metals from the mine in the mountains to..ahh…I guess somewhere else. If you have a map it would be the coastal town across from Tullah 😉 Riding along the tracks was really cool and felt like stepping back in time or something. Eventually we crossed the main road and made our way to the base of the mountain. Along the way we saw black cockatoos while the guide explained were down from the top of the mountain because it was so cold up there today. They were really amazing birds. I also saw a really dirty sheep named Mary..hehe, she was super super dirty all covered in mud and grass stains. Once we crossed into the rain forest, the terrain got a little rougher and we had to steer the horses to avoid getting a branch in the face. I told the guide that this was my first real rain forest (not counting yesterday really) and she was shocked!! She couldn’t imagine what it was like and started asking me all these questions about what I did all the time. It was hysterical really and I realized that just like I didn’t know what she would do for fun in Tassy (movies and tea up in the big city and shopping once every 2 weeks in Burnie), she had no idea what I would do either. We had fun chatting but I really think she felt sorry for me with no rain forests back home. Eventually we were back on the main road (saw a dead wallaby 🙁 ) and then back at the Tullah Chalet. This was a really great way to see Tasmania and I’m so so glad that we did it and also so so glad that somehow Dave remembered that I wanted to ride horses in South Carolina…wow I barely remember that! Very impressive, thanks Dave 🙂 🙂 After trying to find out way using our google directions, it was clear that it would just be easier to ask the people at the chalet. He pointed us in the right directions and gave us names of towns that we would be passing along the way. Crossing Tasmania to see penguins by dusk – awesome!!

As we hadn’t had any luck finding snacks, we began to get really hungry on the drive. As usual it was just a beautiful drive. We had to go up towards Cradle Mountain again to get to the road to cross the island. I was driving and the road was incredibly windy and mountainous. Really spectacular. Words really can not describe it. Finally the terrain got a little flatter and we came into Sheffield. We were STARVING at this point. I’m not really sure why…it’d only been like 4 hours since breakfast but Dave was eating mints like we were lost in the wilderness and looked at me with disdain when he saw, later on, that I had had gum my bag the whole time. lol. We chose a pub and got chicken schnitzle, chips, mushroom sauce, and a side of gravy. It was freezing so we sat right next to the fire and looked out a window facing the mountains. After that, we hit up IGA and got some marshmallows (!!) and Tim Tams. I continued driving with Dave navigating. I think it’s fair to say that there are no cops on the Tasmanian highways so I was making great time and getting maybe even too comfortable driving on the other side of the road. The land was flat but there always seemed to be mountains looming in the distance. At Perth we switched drivers which was a good idea because driving seems to wake up Dave and we pretty much do nothing but joke and laugh the entire time. We were speeding (I mean like 140km/hr) down this windy road on a mountainous road when all of a sudden we turn the corner and there is a convoy of the slowest vehicles ever! What?! There were 3 trucks in total and another slow car behind them that seemed content to be riding behind trucks carrying tractors and such. Damn! We were going about 60km/hr now which meant that we would make it to Bicheno by 6 for the penguins, but no earlier really. Someone had to do something here. First, Dave passed the car. Next, the 3 monstrosities. One finally pulled over and some fancy/scary driving brought us to where we belonged – the front of the line. Nicely done! To make up some time, well, we had to go a bit faster 😉 All was good though and I guided us to Bicheno. We pulled off before the town center to look the the beach and the blow hole (where ocean water hits rocks and shoots up). We also got some fried chicken in town before heading to the East Coast Surf Shop for the 6pm penguin tour.

This was originally supposed to be a surprise but of course Dave had planned on seeing penguins no matter what so I couldn’t really keep it a surprise. Add to that that he actually sent me a link this places’ site and told me he’d like to do this…after I’d already booked it. Oh well, s’all good…he’s hard to surprise 😉 (giant wink there). My main concern was that we weren’t going to see any penguins. We chilled in the shop until about 6:10 when we boarded the bus and set out along the A3 and out to a place called Diamond Island (although we didn’t go on the island). We got off and were met by a tour guide with a flashlight who would be showing us around. It was pitch black by this time and there were penguin noises all around! Not that I really know what penguins sound like, but I surely didn’t imagine it was like this!! Even before heading down the boardwalk the guide spotted a little blue in the bushes and shone the light on him. Oh so cute!! They may be Dave’s ‘least favourite’ but I think they are adorable. Anyways, we walked down the boardwalk and there was a cluster of penguins just chilling right there! Wow this was cool. We stood there for a bit and then moved on to other areas. Just everywhere he shone the light we would see penguins – tons of them! He showed us the three paths that they usually take from the water’s edge to their burrows. The school children of Bicheno had made little houses for them that looked like mini-igloos…hehe so cute!! There were also these boxes that the tour guide opened to reveal pairs of penguins. It’s fall here, so no chicks or anything, but apparently there is mating going on so there will be some chicks soon. We were there for quite a while just walking, taking pictures and seeing just tons and tons of penguins. I had been excited about doing this, although more so just excited to have Dave see, but it was actually way cooler than I expected. Like, really really cool! I’m very glad that it was so successful 🙂

Back at the surf shop, the whole town was closed up as it was about 7pm. We had to drive to St. Mary’s to spend the night on the Sea View Farm. Shortly after leaving Bicheno we even spotted a penguin by the side of the road! It was a little scary as I hoped he would be ok but there was practically no traffic so s’all good. The road was completely dark and the threat of an animal jumping in front of our car was high. Initially I felt a bit bad for suggesting that Dave drive, but now I think we were both happy that was the case. I was so scared once we got to the turnoff that began 10k of windy roads up a mountain on the side of cliffs. There were no cars, no cell service, and we had less than a quarter tank of gas. Finally we reached the town of St Mary’s. There was a bar open where we could maybe have some dinner, but nothing else was open. We were now following a hand drawn map printed off of the farm’s website. We came to the turn off and realized that this was a dirt road for 6k up a big hill (thus giving the sea ‘view’). This was so scary and these small hopping animals would occasionally cross the road. Luckily we were going so slow. Unluckily, that meant this was taking forever. We were completely alone. Nothing but blackness and trees surrounded us on this dark road in the middle of rural Tasmania with no cell service. After what seemed like forever, we saw the hand carved sign pointing us down a long driveway toward the farm. A light came on as we pulled into the driveway and Julia came out to greet us. As we hadn’t been able to get in touch with her during the day because she was away and because we had such spotty cell service, it was a huge relief to see that all was well and the room was ready for us. As usual, I think we were the only people here. Julia showed us our room, tuned back on the heat (she had thought we wouldn’t show up), and asked if we had eaten. There was no way that bar back in St. Mary’s was open and there was no way we were going down that dirt road again, if we even had enough gas to do so. The whole drive we had been convinced we were eating Tim Tams for dinner…and I had accepted that and already moved on. But Julia and her husband Frank quickly offered us her pasta that she had made and also offered to sell us some wallaby. She showed us to the kitchen and lit a fire in the communal living room. I was shaking so so much that even after Dave gave me his coat I could not manage to pull myself away from the fire for a few minutes. Julia returned with the pasta, wallaby in chili sauce, a mushroom, and a red bell pepper. Nice!! It was way more than either of us expected and we set out making dinner with Dave cooking the wallaby and me reheating pasta and chopping and sauteing the vegetables. Everything cooked quickly and we moved back into the living room to eat in front of the fire. The food tasted so so good after a day of nothing but fried food and chocolates. After eating we cleaned up and returned to lay in front of the fire for a little bit. It was just so so nice 🙂 Finally we went to our room and laid down some more trying to get warm with the heating blankets. I was not prepared for Tasmania to be so cold. Even checking the averages for April before I left didn’t help. I had no pajama pants so I had to borrow Dave’s to keep from shaking. I fell asleep but really didn’t want to because it was so early. But – I didn’t really have much choice. It was a long day and sleep was so so good. I can’t wait to see our seaview tomorrow!!

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