Day breaks on our second day in Hobart and we’re up and at ‘em. Well, I am at least. I have an assignment for one of my classes due at 5 p.m. today and have yet to start. With a packed day planned for ourselves, I get up at six to finish before Liz, Kirsten, and Katrina drag themselves out of bed at eight.
An hour and a half of frantic typing later, I’m back in our room at the hostel, hitting submit, and getting dressed. By half past eight, we’re all out the door and trekking to a bakery Liz read about.
I’m beginning to think Liz has some sort of radar for delicious food places because oh my goodness. Walking into this bakery is like walking into heaven and, thanks to us being in cute little Hobart (aka home to the kindest people in all of Australia), nobody even gets sassy with us for taking eons to decide what we want. Katrina and I both can’t choose between sweet and savory, so we do both and share. The result? Pure bliss.
So content are we with our breakfasts, we struggle a bit to get out the door and over to the car rental place where we’ll be picking up our wheels for the weekend. Finding the Budget Car Rental place turns out to be way simpler than getting the car: I’m not old enough to rent a car (by 19 days!), Kirsten doesn’t have a driver’s license, and Katrina accidentally left her driver’s license in Melbourne. Liz’s parents don’t want her to be the sole renter for insurance purposes, so our quick trip to rent a car escalates to a full blown travel crisis in a matter of minutes.
While Liz and Katrina are both on the phone with their parents trying to understand the finer points of car insurance policies, Kirsten reads a book in the waiting area and I, expecting nothing but hoping nevertheless, look up “underage car rentals hobart.”
A place called AAA Car Rentals pops up immediately and within five minutes I call the guy, secure the rental, and inform the group. Relieved, we all walk as sassily as possible from Budget — which has been entirely unhelpful throughout this whole ordeal — and up the street to AAA Rentals.
Even if Budget hadn’t been such a mess, I would have been beyond happy with our decision to go with AAA. Not only is it a small, Hobart family establishment (yay, supporting local businesses!) and cheaper (yay for our wallets!), but it also happens to be run by Paul — a man who is, in all likelihood, the most attractive man in all of Hobart. I stumble my way through the car rental process, trying to stay focused on actually reading the contract and understanding the rules and prices, while Kirsten, Katrina, and Liz similarly try to stare only a normal, non-creepy amount into the gorgeous blue-green eyes of our humble rental car man.
Paul asks where we’re off to and we let him know: Wineglass Bay today for some hiking and then a scenic drive / ferry ride to Bruny Island tomorrow. Pulling out a map, Paul tells us we’re better off skipping Bruny Island, since it’s only good if you spend multiple days on it. Instead, he tells us, we should take a scenic drive along the little peninsula between Hobart and Huonville — it’s absolutely gorgeous and there’s both a chocolatier and an apple cider brewery on the way. With help from his wife, who walks in with coffee (and also with child) a few minutes later, he gives us directions to the coastal road and the names of all the best restaurants along the way.
Taking the map of the island and the keys to our sexy new rental car (a late 1990s Mitsubishi Lancer that we affectionately name Carl), we thank Paul and his lovely wife and hop into a different side of the car than we’re used to for what is bound to be quite the adventure.
It takes all of thirty seconds with the doors closed for us to all gush in agreement: Oh my god, he is very attractive…that man is beautiful…those eyes!…I’m so glad we didn’t rent from Budget…
Once out of the AAA Rentals lot, it’s all business for me as I work on driving on the left side of the road. Apart from one little bump up against a curb and a few times turning on the windshield wipers instead of the turn signals, we fly out of the city without incident.
It takes no more than a half an hour of driving for us to start getting blown away by the scenery. It’s a three-hour drive to Freycinet National Park and every thirty minutes we’re treated to a new, unbelievable view. We drive across a low hanging bridge surrounded on all sides by sparkling blue water (which I almost completely miss due to the level of concentration needed to stay on the right side of the left lane at this early stage in the drive) before disappearing into the rolling brown and green hills of field, farm, and forest.
Tasmania truly is a spectacular place. The fields of softly swaying brown grass bordering quaint country cottages remind me of Swaziland while Katrina, sitting shotgun, compares it to the horse country of Kentucky. Either way, we’re all blown away. Gone is the tropical lushness of Queensland and the harsh, cold beaches of Melbourne: driving through southeast Tasmania makes it feel like we’re seeing the world in a day. Our route carves through towering mountains carpeted in endless expanses of gum trees, into valleys shaped by calm, roiling rivers, through lush, green farmland, and past desolate expanses of coastal grassland. The ocean, when we glimpse it, is a brilliant, bright turquoise that glows even under the dark, brooding sky and the sandstone mountains that announce our arrival at Freycinet National Park are so spectacular, the only thing Katrina can think to say when she sees them is “ROCK!”
Jokes aside, when at long last we reach Freycinet National Park’s carpark, I’m so excited I’m about to burst. Finally, some good, old-fashioned, out-in-the-middle-of-nowhere, National-Park-designation-worthy wilderness.
We gather our things, pay our National Park fee, and head for the trailhead. Our delicious breakfast, car rental chaos, and (my) overly cautious driving means we’ve gotten a bit of a late start, but there’s loads of options for hiking so with a bit of sweating, we should be able to make it to the Wineglass Bay Overlook, down to Wineglass Bay’s beach, and still make it back before dark.
The hike up is wonderful. The clouds have mostly blown away, leaving us with blue skies, sunshine, and perfect, warm hiking conditions. The trail up to the lookout is largely uneventful, winding through squat, scrubby bushes and thick eucalyptus forest. There are only two notable stops: one at the halfway point with a view over Coles Bay and another three quarters of the way up with a giant rock overhang but no plaque explaining it…just a cool little boulder, I guess.
When we finally step up onto the overlook at the top of the trail, it’s like stepping into a postcard. There, laid out before us in all its splendor, is Wineglass Bay. It blows my mind how perfect it is: the turquoise water, the emerald green forests, the dramatic rise and fall of the mountains…it’s like something straight out of a fantasy movie. I know New Zealand is supposed to hold the title for magical landscapes but, really, Tasmania could give it a run for its money (and this is supposed to be the hike where you trade a bit of beauty for its ease of access!).
Being the smart little college students we are, we packed food with us for our trip so we could enjoy our lunch with a view. After snapping photos and oohing and aahing for an appropriate amount of time, we plop down on a stone bench overlooking the bay to make ourselves some banana-peanut-butter-honey sandwiches. As uneventful as the hike up may have been, our lunch was anything but…
Since I took a bit more time scrambling up on rocks and searching for better angles for my pictures, I arrived late to the sandwich-making party and thus have two pieces of bread on my lap, each spread with peanut butter, dripping with honey, and half decked out with carefully sliced banana when, out of the corner of my eye, I see a furry little Bennetts Wallaby hop up quietly behind Liz. Excited, I point out the little munchkin to the others who are equally delighted.
That is, until our new friend decides he wants to join us for lunch.
Kirsten, Katrina, and Liz have a lot easier time grabbing their belongings and fleeing from the ravenous wallaby. Me, though? Nope! I have an entire jar of peanut butter, two pieces of delicious fruit and nut bread, a jar of overpriced Tasmanian honey, and half a banana spread out around me…not to mention a backpack full of expensive camera equipment. Knife in my mouth, I start frantically trying to hand people things as the wallaby hops closer.
I look to Liz and Katrina — both hands are full.
I look back at the wallaby. He hops closer, stalking me like prey.
Panicking for the safety of my lunch, I turn to Kirsten. Desperate to hand off my bread so I can grab my banana, peanut butter, and honey, I hold my beautiful two slices of fruity, nutty carbiness out to her with anxious expectancy.
“I can’t,” she yells, “It has nuts!”
“Ailish, the bread, save the bread!!!” Katrina shouts.
I stack the bread on Katrina’s arm and desperately try to shoo the wallaby away from the rest of the food. Everything is happening so fast!
With the bread gone, the wallaby makes a move for my peanut butter.
“Nooooooo!” I yell. “Not the peanut butter! Anything but the peanut butter!”
I snatch up my peanut butter and my camera bag (the wallaby’s next target thanks to the apple core stuffed in the side pocket), and sequester them away from the ravenous beast, near where a crowd has now gathered to watch the show.
Whirling around, I see the wallaby has got his fangs around my banana…my precious banana. I’m forced to stand there, watching helplessly as this wallaby has his way with the key ingredient in my banana-peanut-butter-honey sandwich. Not only am I sad for my belly, but I’m also now in a horrifying ethics conundrum. Arguably the most important rule of National Park hiking — the one that gets hammered into your brain from the time you learn what hiking — is: don’t feed the wildlife.
“Oh no. Oh no. OH NO!” Turning to Kirsten, Katrina, and Liz, all of whom are laughing and two thirds of whom are filming, I yell, “What do I do?! You’re not supposed to feed the wildlife! AH! Do I just let him have it? Can wallabies eat bananas? I can’t just take it from him…he really likes it…he has big teeth! Aaah…oh no he’s just going at it.”
A young Australian girl, probably no older than ten, walks up. “Do you want me to grab it?” she asks.
“Oh my god, really? You’d do that for me? I mean, I don’t want him to bite you either…”
“It’s fine, you can just take it from them,” she says, reaching out and slipping the banana out from under the wallaby’s mouth.
“Wow. Oh my god, thank you so much. You are my hero! Ah! Seriously you’re ama–”
“Ailish! Your honey!!”
Now deprived of his banana, the wallaby is making a move for my honey. I try to make it in time but it’s too late, he’s already started licking the honey from the spoon I have sitting in the honey’s cap. Having already inconvenienced this poor Australian youth with my antics, I bravely reach down and cautiously slip the cap out from under his little furry muzzle and work to recap the honey, stow it out of sight, and then try to do the same with the now-contaminated spoon without making my entire bag sticky. After fumbling around with plastic bags and overfilled hands, I manage to pack everything safely away while the rest of the tourists on the overlook finally do something other than watch us with amusement (and by that I mean take selfies with the wallaby…thanks for nothing, fellow hikers).
It’s not until I hear an, “Um…” behind me that I realize I’ve abandoned the one helpful fellow hiker on this trail. She’s been standing there for awhile now, holding the gnawed on banana that she so valiantly rescued for me between two fingers and looking like she’d really rather not be doing that anymore.
“Oh my goodness I am so sorry!” I gush, taking the banana. I thank her profusely…again…and tell her she’s my hero…also again…and she just kind of nods and walks away looking very embarrassed and a bit like she’ll think twice next time she sees a stranger freaking out about a cuddly marsupial with the munchies.
Now that I finally have cleared up the food, I get my stuff in order, rescue Katrina from the pile of food I’ve stacked in her arms, and stare in disbelief as the other tourists on the overlook platform take selfies with the wallaby and literally hand-feed it bits of their lunches.
It seems my ethical conundrum of I know not to feed the wildlife but what do you do if they help themselves?! is the last thing on their minds. I’m about to have an aneurysm watching strangers feed this wild animal bits of brie so we snap a quick, selfie with our menacing friend and then hit the trail again.
The trail down to the beach of Wineglass Bay is consists of a series of steep sandstone steps that spiral down a narrow path in the eucalyptus trees until finally flattening out into a sandy path that leads through a Land’s-End-reminiscent stretch of sand, scrub, and trees (only with infinitely more eucalyptus). Eventually, the path drops off into the open sand of the beach and huzzah! We have arrived.
The beach at Wineglass Bay is just as unbelievably gorgeous as the view from the top. As if the hike down onto this beautiful beach wasn’t impressive enough, we’re greeted by the sight of a wallaby hopping down the beach, which is exactly as magical as it sounds (and much better than my last encounter with a wallaby…).
We walk a ways down the beach and then make for the enormous slabs of rock off to the left hand side of the beach, which seem like they’ll have a spectacular view of the bay, the mountains, and the beach. We scramble our way over to them and sure enough, it’s stunning.
The rocks are just smooth enough to walk on comfortably without shoes on, so I tie my battered old New Balances to my backpack and hop my way along the rocky seaside, looking for good shots. The rocks themselves are tinged bright orange, likely due to iron deposits within them, and this makes the view all the more spectacular with the orange rocks standing out beside the turquoise waters of the Bay.
I scamper around for ages, taking pictures here and there, from this angle and that angle, with this exposure and that exposure, until eventually hopping back towards shore to join Kirsten, Katrina, and Liz, who had found a comfy spot on the rocks closer to shore to snap pictures and take in the view.
It’s already late afternoon, so shortly after I drag myself off the far-away rocks to join the group, we have to start back up the mountain again. We say goodbye to the gorgeous view, the crystal-clear waters of the Bay, and the beach’s resident wallaby, then hit the trail.
The hike back up to the overlook flies by and — really quite luckily — we find that we’ve planned everything perfectly. We reach the Coles Bay overlook exactly at sunset and pause to watch the sandstone mountain and sparkling blue water light up in shades of red, orange, and purple.
When at last we tear our eyes from the fading sunset and head back down to the trail to the carpark, it’s really quite dark. We make the rather grueling drive back (made worse by the lack of decent music on the radio), both happily hike-exhausted and just plain normal-exhausted. When we finally make it back to Hobart, we take solace in our last adventure of the night: the best thai food in all of Hobart, and arguably in all of Australia.
You want to know what makes it all even better? There isn’t a wallaby in sight.