Thursday, 27 February 2014

2013 Trip to Tasmania - Cruises

Not all cruises start with a stately
procession through Sydney Harbour on board of a towering white ship. The ones we booked in Tasmania began with donning a red waterproof jacket and strapping ourselves to the seats of a yellow speedboat. However, before we were allowed to lay our hands on those jackets we had to wait in a queue for another day. We came to Bruny Island innocently assuming that on a Tuesday, two weeks before school holidays we would be welcome guests at any tourist attraction. No way, José! The whole cruise, all 100 seats, was sold out and we were only offered tickets for the next day. Well, we didn't book the seats in advance because we wanted to keep our schedule flexible, so we got an opportunity to flex it. This is why I was talking about tasty place rather than sea adventures on Day 3.

The weather was tolerable - a bit of rain and around 20 degrees. On shore I was quite comfortable wearing 3 layers of clothes and thought that adding a rain jacket supplied by the company would make it just right on water. I started having doubts about adequacy of such clothing arrangement 15 minutes before departure. As the rain and wind were picking up I grew increasingly restless and 5 minutes before the start of the cruise I lost my nerve and ran to the car park where I put on my Kathmandu windproof coat. It proved to be the smartest decision I made that day as it was just enough to keep me warm.

The fun began before the cruise actually started. Two guides, born comedians, had to go through pretty much the same routine as air hostesses before takeoff. They recited all safety instructions with a good dose of humour which guaranteed to attract more attention than the dull droning on a plane. Having remembered locations of emergency exits, we started our voyage.

The coast looked completely different from the sea. On that day it was wild and somber under the overcast sky. Eons of geology paraded before our eyes or sometimes surrounded us. No words or photos can describe the majestic sights - 250 m sheer rock drop above our heads, grottos around each corner and, the part I liked the most, a blowhole, an incredible natural fountain powered by waves - one has to be there, between the sea and the sky, to fully appreciate the beauty of Tasmanian coast. However, the blowhole, being a compact and dynamic phenomenon, was quite amenable to recording on at least one type of medium. It was such time and place that I had in mind when I bought a camcorder.

The wildlife part of the cruise featured shy albatross, shearwaters, sea eagles, fur seals and, a rare sight, a sea leopard (also called a leopard seal). The sea leopard occupied the best place in the fur seal's colony and didn't seem to pay any attention to its owners although, according to Wikipedia, leopard seals have no qualms about eating their distant cousins. The fur seals, having learned it the hard way, were not fooled by its relaxed appearance and some younger ones climbed pretty high on the rocks to avoid being a main dish on the leopard's menu after a seafood entrée.

Discovery: Shearwaters make 35000 km trip yearly all their life.

Fur Seals
Leopard Seal
Pied Cormorants
All in all, I enjoyed Bruny Island cruise and was looking forward to another one organised by the same company around Tasman Island, but it turned out to be one too many. The second cruise had pretty much the same features, like impressive cliff faces (but I had already spent all my geology-inspired "wows" the day before), fur seals (they are fun to watch but not for two days in a row) and sea caves (alas, there wasn't one with a blowhole). The only new positive impression I carried out of that cruise was meeting a pod of dolphins.

The second half of Tasman Island Cruise was completely spoiled by a southerly change which brought 35 knots winds, 2 metres swell and horizontal hard rain. The booklet said that the boats were designed to cruise in all weather. Unfortunately I perceived the truth of that claim in a first-hand experience. "First-hand" is a bit of a misnomer in this case -  it should be called first-face and first-ass. Having occupied the best viewing place on the bow of the boat, I paid full price for such privilege by letting each wave kick my bottom and each wind gust keep me cool and hydrated.

Our departure and arrival point was located in a rather unique place called Doo Town where most houses had "doo" in their names, like Xanadoo, Just Doo It and Doo Drop Inn. Before the cruise, when I was bright-eyed and hopeful, I indeed planned to drop in. After having been battered by waves and soaked by rain I decided to stick to dry places like the car cabin. Maybe next time... Definitely next time.

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