Mackenzie and I just returned from a 7 day junket to Tasmania. I confess, 3 years ago I would have had as much chance of locating Tasmania on the map as Tanzania, but now it just rolls off my tongue like I'm oh so worldly. For those of you who need a quick orientation it's the little island province in Australia, just a tad a south of the rest of the mainland. When you tell people that you are heading to Tasmania for a few days, continental Australians smile and tell you to pack your woollies, despite there being nothing in the forecast to lead you to believe it will be anything but pleasant. Australian's seem to get a strange satisfaction about denigrating the weather in other parts of the country. Queensland - "last person I know actually melted from the humidity, had to return his body in Gatorade bottle". Adelaide - "no one allowed in the city limits during the summer months, they have bacon frying contests on the street in January!" And if you are somewhere and say you're from Canberra, the look of horror on people's faces when they say - "well you're from Canada, I suppose your used to it..." for the record Canberra has the finest climate in the world, dry and warm with sunny, cool winters (there I said it).
But Mack and I braved the nay sayers and made a week long stop for some R,R and G. We picked a spot not far from Barnbougle Dunes which just happens to be the 35th ranked golf course in the world! It was spectacular, a solid challenge and a gorgeous walk through the hay fields aligning the beautiful beaches of the north coast of the island. It was made even more enjoyable by watching Mackenzie take the course apart by shooting 78. Breaking 80 is always an accomplishment but doing so on one of the best courses in the world on your first go round is beyond cool. Actually when Mackenzie is playing well she doesn't actually bring a course to its knees she just sort of tames it, she puts every ball in play and hits every shot as clean as a whistle. She's good.
We did try another course right next door, called Lost Farm. It opened just a year ago and supposedly is even better than the Dunes. It's 20 holes (why?) and must have been designed by Stalin as it tries to humiliate you at every turn. We had the "pleasure" of playing it on a day with 60 kph winds which made standing a challenge never mind swinging a stick in anger, towards alleged 4 inch holes, somewhere on a field not allowed to be seen from where you begin. Mackenzie and I have decided that "Farm" is a four letter word, something my wife has been telling me for years.
Golf aside, Tasmania is real nice. More lush than many of the other places in Australia, it's green and scenic. Not quite like New Zealand, more pastoral and pleasant and a bit less dramatic, how shall I say - less wow, more cow. We spent most of our city time in Launceston, which is a very cool spot with a nice little Art Deco downtown at the headwaters of the Tamar River. I enjoyed the ski lift over the gorge, and a word to the wise if you go there only order Boags beer, its all they have.
If you drive much in Tassie you'll soon realize that it is the roadkill capital of the world. You end up sharing the road with wiped out wallabies and wombats, that have been picked over and dragged across the highways by various and sundry birds of prey. What makes this startling is the pronounced lack of vehicles of the road. I mean, I drove for 6 hours one day and spotted 90 dead animals and 4 fellow travellers. I'd say if you travel on Tasmanian roads after sunset your odds of hitting something furry (even "devilish") is about as good as bumping into a civil servant in Canberra. I say get the extra insurance on the rental.
As with everything in this country, national treasures are understated, so when I looked on the map of Tasmania's East Coast and saw the words Bay of Fires, it sounded like an interesting destination. When we arrived we were gobsmacked by the most beautiful string of beaches I have ever seen. White sand like you would see in Sarasota, Florida, translucent aquamarine water like something out of Bermuda and sheltered coves like the south coast of Australia. One after another of these beaches for about a 20 km stretch of the coast, some of it navigable by car, but much more only to be arrived at by foot. I'll definitely be back.
For now its summer in Canberra. 29 C today and not a cloud in the sky. I might ring in the new year by walking up Mount Taylor today, or I'll break down and cut the grass...man do I miss my son.