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Soft Adventure

42 • Vacations

®

Winter 2018

Adventures at the end of the world

Packed into the co-pilot’s seat of a 10-seat Britten-Norman Islander plane, I look down a few thousand feet as

we trace a line of white waves crashing in from the Southern Ocean onto a brownish beach so long it stretches

out of sight. To the right sit hundreds of thousands of hectares of mountainous green and brown – a picturesque,

protected wilderness. Below are blue waters where the aquamarine is interrupted only by beaches, islands and

dark forms lurking beneath the surface – tiger sharks, maybe, or great whites. And to the left? Nothing but

endless water, all the way to Antarctica.

Tasmania:

By Tim Johnson

for tea, and then lunch – brie and

vintage cheddar and chicken liver

pâté and salmon rolls, all from local

producers, and all washed down with

Tasmanian whites and reds.

Over the course of a week here, it’s

just one of my trips into the wild. On

another day, I drive a couple hours

into the middle of the island, hiking

a track within Franklin-Gordon Wild

Rivers National Park. I snap photos

of pristine lakes and mountains.

And I spot strange and wonderful

wildlife, including big, chubby

wombats, an adorably dopey-looking

marsupial, plus wallabies and even

more intriguing, a couple of prickly

echidnas crossing the road, a rare

and strange animal – one of only two

mammals on earth that lay eggs.

On my last day here, I embark on a

tour, rolling out from Hobart Harbour

in a small boat piloted by Captain

Kate Wilson. “I’m taking you to the

very tip of Tasmania,” she says,

beaming. “Go any further, and you’ll

fall off the end of the earth.”

With the golden sun again abiding

with us, we spend the day eating and

drinking as we navigate little bays

and hidden coves near Bruny Island.

On the stern deck, Wilson and First

Mate Anita Doherty prepare rock

lobster and salmon and oysters, all

local, the latter both raw and poached

in Tasmanian bubbles. They pour

glass after glass of local cider, beer

and wines. At one point, Wilson dons

a mask and flippers, disappearing

below the surface to fish out sea

urchin and abalone, preparing both

for us to taste, doing up the abalone

three ways: traditional Aussie-style,

Asian, and super-fresh sashimi.

Soon, most of us onboard follow suit,

leaping from the sun-baked stern into

the clear, clean, cold waters, looking

down at the oysters and mussels

lining the bottom, and trying not to

think too much about tiger sharks.

I know I’ve got a glass of Tasmanian

pinot waiting for me back on board.

But for the moment, I’m happy to

paddle along, out here in the blue,

taking a leisurely swim in the pleasant

waters right at the end of the world.

Taking a day trip with a local adventure

travel company, we’ve flown over

sprawling Hobart, then to the South East

Cape, the southernmost point in Australia.

“This is one of the nicest days I’ve ever

flown,” Captain James Rice tells me with

a broad smile, taking his hands off the

controls for a moment. “See – I’ve got

it trimmed, and it’s flying itself.” A few

minutes later, we bank inland, Rice tipping

our wings to greet a couple hikers, then

angling us toward a sandy landing strip

that looks like a dash of desert in the heart

of a great, empty fantasyland.

I’m in Tasmania, where the wilderness is

never far away. About twice the size of

Vancouver Island, more than 40 per cent

is protected in a series of interlocking

national parks and UNESCO World

Heritage sites. Emanating from Hobart,

the charming and historic island capital,

a number of upscale adventures delve

into the wilds, making it accessible to

those who, like me, prefer to pair their

intrepid explorations with Champagne –

or maybe a nice Tasmanian pinot noir.

That’s exactly what we do, soon after

landing, walking down a boardwalk to

a small, canopied boat and rolling

out onto Bathurst Harbour, part of

the Southwest National Park and the

Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage

area. Sea eagles soar over top, and

cormorants skitter and skim along

surface of the harbour, breaking the

perfect, glassy stillness.

We pull under a waterfall and fill our

bottles with water straight from the

cascade (“they say that whomever drinks

this water will be back,” Rice observes,

rather solemnly). And we eat and drink

plenty, pulling onto abandoned beaches

OUR BOAT TOUR SHOWING THE FRESH CATCHES OF THE DAY ©TIM JOHNSON

VIEW OF HOBART HARBOUR

FRESH FROM THE SEA, LOBSTER IS SERVED ©TIM JOHNSON

PRICKLY ECHIDNA

AERIAL VIEW OF THE BEAUTIFUL MOUNTAINS

AND LANDSCAPE OF TASMANIA

BEAUTIFUL AND UNIQUE LANDSCAPE SURROUNDING

HOBART’S HARBOUR ©TIM JOHNSON