Trip report: Overland Track, Tasmania—part 2, before the walk

Posted by Patrick Lam on Sunday, June 16, 2024

Table Of Contents

Links to other parts of this trip report:

I should have pulled this into its own post as well, instead of incorporating it into the April report. But blog posts are not written in stone, and I can cut and paste and re-edit it.

I’d noticed Air New Zealand’s new Auckland-Hobart nonstop last year and booked it a few months ago. Thus, originally, we weren’t even supposed to have a stop in Melbourne! But, Air New Zealand (and many other airlines) are short on planes, so they rebooked us through Melbourne. I think we actually had two schedule changes, the last one leaving us with almost all day in Melbourne (8am to 4pm).

I didn’t appreciate the 6am departure. Specifically in our case, because online checkin didn’t work (because of the flight changes?), we were supposed to get to the airport by 4:30am, and no Wellington bus works for that. Biking to WLG with gear would have been difficult.

Melbourne, April 28

On the other end, arrival in Melbourne was smooth, though we futzed a bit with trying to re-check our luggage. The luggage needed to be re-checked after Australian biosecurity and Qantas wouldn’t take it until 4 hours prior to take-off. So we were stuck with it all day, which fortunately wasn’t a big deal this time.

Uncivilized hour at WLG; arrival at MEL at a more civilized hour; crimson rosella; sulphur-crested cockatoo; galah.

Alex came from Eltham to pick us up (and drop us off later). I hadn’t seen Alex and Nora for over a decade (since their wedding?); it was nice to see them and to meet their daughter Elena. After breakfast in the WLG lounge and second breakfast on the plane, we had brunch in Eltham with bagels, pretzels, and cheese from the local farmer’s market, which was good.

Eventually, Teresa from Ottawa and visiting mathematician Fabien came by, and we went to Warrandyte State Park/Pound Bend for a little walk, which included views of the Yarra River, a couple of birds, and a bunch of jumping kangaroos, which were the first that we’d seen in the wild. From the park it was straight back to the airport and then to Hobart.

Sometimes people say that airline status is overrated. It is more true that in the US you can buy all of the benefits (for some price), and less true in Canada. Anyway, the point is that we were at MEL and had no status on Qantas. Security moved fast. The plane was delayed. We were hungry since we chose to not bring any food to Australia. Air NZ lounges have pretty good food; on average, better than Maple Leaf Lounges. We didn’t have access to any lounges. One can pay for food, and we did. Somehow the crispy pork banh mi looked good but was not tasty. Sushi Jiro was OK. I wasn’t keen to spend $6 on a small bag of chips.

The airport bus in Hobart for two is about the same price as an Uber (and the Melbourne one isn’t cheap either, though cheaper than Uber). We took the Uber to the Mayfair Plaza in Sandy Bay, which is a relatively posh neighbourhood near the university. Then, we went to Suminato (and came back the next day!) and did a grocery run after supper. Australian grocery stores aren’t quite as extra as US grocery stores, but it feels like they have more choice than NZ stores. I wonder if that’s actually true.

Hobart (MONA), April 29

After a tasty breakfast at Daci and Daci (MP liked it so much that she went back got dessert there for after dinner), we went to MONA, which is a huge tourist attraction for Tasmania.

Rainbow over Sandy Bay; MONA ROMA boats; Investigator research vessel; sheep on MONA ROMA; industrial Hobart neighbourhood; MONA entrance; words in water; art; Hobart architecture; banh mi stall; judo at Clarence PCYC.


OK, what about MONA? Well, they run a fleet of MONA ROMA boats (fleet size 2) from central Hobart to the museum, which is a neat way to get there. (“Sit on sheep”.) The formal entrance also involves climbing some stairs to access the museum (though there is an accessible entrance as well). There were indeed lots of people visiting the museum.

Overall, it’s a pretty epic museum built into the Hobart rock. It’s just this place owned by this guy David Walsh who made some money as an applied mathematician, er, professional gambler. There are some pieces which are neat, but much of the art is somewhat weird or disturbing. I suppose art is supposed to make you feel something. There’s kind of nothing which is just “oh, that’s a pretty piece of art”.

Turrell Art Rides

My friend Chris strongly recommended that I see the James Turrell “art rides” Unseen Seen + Weight of Darkness and Event Horizon.

We went to Event Horizon first (though you get to it through the Turrell Beside Myself tunnel, an appetizer). This is a room with no visible borders; all of the surfaces are painted so that you don’t see anything about the room’s configuration. You just see the half dozen people there with you, and the exit, if you’re facing that way. The light colour slowly changes throughout your time there.

Then, we went to Unseen Seen, where you sit inside a ball and the light quickly changes colour. You kind of see weird visual effects, but again, no shapes. Unseen Seen is paired with Weight of Darkness, where you navigate to some chairs in a completely dark room for 15 minutes. MP really liked that, despite misgivings about sensory deprivation chambers.

After the Turrell “art rides”, we wandered around the museum and had lunch at Dubsy’s, where a lot of people did not like the not-burgers. We did not have a not-burger. The tagine was actually pretty good.

Other Hobart Adventures

I was not thrilled that Mayfair Plaza doesn’t store luggage unless you’re coming back, so we had to bring it to our next destination, Hobart Tower Motel. That was a hassle for the next morning, with a multi-stop Uber ride.

Also, we got a bunch of dehydrated food from Strive Food which was pretty good. It does require using one’s pot to reconstitute the food (rather than putting hot water into a bag), so a bit more stove time, but it’s also lighter. Still, I correctly guessed that a small gas cylinder would be enough. They have a small storefront in Hobart, presumably with their “factory” behind the wall.

I also visited the judo club at the Clarence PCYC, who seemed to like having me visit. Apparently people from Wellington had been there a few years ago to attend a clinic as well. I showed some techniques.

And, as I wrote above, we went to Suminato again (and got recognized as repeat customers).

Launceston, April 30

The bus from Hobart to Launceston was reasonably but not completely full. No complaints about that service. I always prefer trains, but Tasmania isn’t that populated. There were three Sams on the bus and staff got a bit confused when checking off passengers. Other people on the Overland had delays flying into Launceston.

Painting of cat; pink-eared duck and friends; great egret; grey teals; great cormorant (aka black shag in NZ); superb fairy wren; yellow-tailed black cockatoos in formation; Tamar Islands sunset.

We walked across town to Sporties (“A Proper Sports Pub”) and stayed in the rooms above the pub. Not posh, but totally fine. Not noisy, in particular. But first, we had tasty Vietnamese food at Noodles N Rolls-tastic just off the bus.

After we got to the hotel (with another quick supermarket stop to get some more things we’d forgotten), we went to the Tamar Islands Wetlands. There was a tour bus which dropped off Asian toursts for a while, and then they left. New birds: Cape Barren Goose, Pink-eared Duck, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Forest Raven. Good bird site.

I tried to figure out the bus to Tamar Islands but I couldn’t find any reasonable way to pay for the bus. I haven’t carried cash for a while now and the withdrawal fee was either $5 (at a white-label ATM) or $7.50 (at a bank ATM). No thank you. I wonder what fee ANZ Australia would have charged to withdraw from our ANZ NZ account, though I did not try that. (Supposedly 0, from the ANZ webpage.)

MP thought that maybe we should have dinner at Sporties, but we instead went to Alchemy. MP’s bao and tacos were good. So was my chicken parm, though it was enormous, and would also serve as breakfast.

Next up: Onto the actual track

OK! in the next installment we’ll start to write about the track itself. The first day was relatively long, and the two mountains day went until about sunset, but the other days were short, even if the days are short in May.