With a population of 66,750, Launceston is Tasmania’s second biggest city, behind Hobart, the state capital. The town centre is nothing more than a few streets with bakeries, restaurants and general stores. The great thing about Tasmania is the pride in only using ingredients grown on the island itself. And Launceston certainly offered its share of fresh, homegrown cuisine. It’s got a very small-town feel, though Launceston also a major hub for transportation around the state. It is also a gateway to the north’s wine region, the Tamar Valley.
Ben and I were on the same flight and we ran into each other at the Launceston JetStar terminal. The baggage collection area was nothing more than a large garage (or small warehouse, whichever way you want to go), where they drive the baggage carts in from the airplane and arrange them in a wagon circle in front of the eager passengers. Then they take down the chains holding us back and a battle royale ensues as everyone runs around trying to find their bags.
The timing had worked out perfectly and Steffen had only been there for 10 minutes when we met him outside. We loaded up the station wagon and headed into the city. We had a couple hours to kill before Jake, an American and our fourth, arrived by bus from Hobart.
On his way down the east coast from Cairns, where he bought the car, Steffen had offered a lift to two girls, a German and French-Moroccan — and yes, she was reportedly as good-looking as her nationality suggests. The girls named the Toyota Lexcen stationwagon “Sheila”.
We wandered around a few outdoor equipment shops, looking for another two-man tent for Ben and Jake, but didn’t find one at a suitable price. Then we headed down towards Cataract Gorge where there was supposed to be a nice walk around the small valley. It was a beautiful day and the walk was indeed worthwhile. We got some great shots of the town’s harbor as well as the recreational area at the head of the gorge.
King’s Bridge, gateway to the harbor and where the walk began
The opening of the gorge, where the bridge above sits, from a lookout
Cataract Gorge recreation area, complete with shallow wading pool, perfect for those lazy summer days. Kids would also jump from high rocks into the river.
Launceston Harbor from higher ground on the Zig Zag Track.
Around 12:30 we headed back into town and hung around the bus terminal waiting for Jake’s Firefly bus to come in. We spoke to a meterologist at a weather information center there and were given some terrible news. There was a “trough” coming in that would bring with it several days of rain (I use quotes because he kept using that term without really telling us what it was — the only clue we were given is that it’s NOT a front). We probably wouldn’t see a sunny day until Monday.
We watched some of the Aussie Open until the bus — with a flattened carboard box in place of one window — pulled into the terminal. After Jake collected his bag, which looked like it was large enough to hold other family members, we left Launceston and headed for Ben Lomond National Park. Steffen had heard that the park offered great views of the area and was only about 40 minutes away.
Stay tuned for Ben Lomond, and the first of many fine nights camping