March 4, 2012
The island of Tasmania is the location of our first trek of our journey. It is home to national parks, world heritage sites and many animals. We were able to visit several locations on the island, which is about the size of West Virginia or the country of Ireland. To reach Tasmania we took an overnight ferry called “Spirit of Tasmania” across the Bass Strait from the city of Melbourne.
Before we began our trek, we visited the cities of Burnie and Devonport, on the northern coast of the island. These are working towns, exporting timber, honey, cheese and a variety of fruits and vegetables. For example, Burnie, with a population of about 19,000 people, handles about two million tons of cargo per year.
The highlight of this time was a visit to Wings Wildlife Park, located inland between these two cities. The drive there was beautiful as we passed through rolling farm land on narrow roads. The park, located on 106 acres, takes in injured or donated animals with the goal of releasing them into the wild if possible. While we were there we were able to see many animals native to Australia.
The featured animal here is the Tasmanian devil. It is the world’s largest surviving carnivorous marsupial and looks and walks like a small dog. We were able to pet a young devil as well as observe a feeding session. When they opened their mouths and showed their teeth they looked pretty vicious.
Besides the Tasmanian devils we were able to pet koalas, wombats and wallabies. We were also able to feed kangaroos. In each case we learned more about the animals and their rehabilitation status. Also interesting to see was an emu, kookaburra and a poisonous lowland copperhead snake. We learned that Tasmania has 38 native mammals on this small island.
Our upcoming trek will be through the Cradle Mountain World Heritage Area, which is one of Australia’s best known wilderness regions. Many places are unchanged from when the indigenous Aborigines roamed the region long ago. After our first impressions of Tasmania, we are looking forward to our six-day hike.