I walked to the passenger terminal to board the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania on the Spirit of Tasmania. I was the only person at check-in because most people were already on board. I asked if there were any shared female rooms available. The woman said there were no beds or rooms left. I would have to sleep in my reclining chair.
After check-in, I went through security, and they allowed me to bring my cooler on as a checked item. I hoped they didn’t take my wine or gin and tonics hiding inside.
I found my recliner seat in the recliner lounge, and it was okay. It was bigger and nicer than an airplane, but it wasn’t a bed. My seat was at the front of the ship, and the section was on the right side. The section had about 15 chairs and was farther back from the door in a slightly separate area from most of the chairs. There was a wall to my left and an aisle to my right. The side windows were only a few chairs away.
I walked around outside and took pictures of Melbourne with storm clouds above. I browsed the inside of the ship, and it was reasonably crowded. There were restaurants, game rooms, movie rooms, bars, and lounges. I sat in my recliner seat for a while, and then we took off at 7:30 pm. I bought a ticket to see Toy Story 4 in one of the small movie rooms, so I had some entertainment. It was mostly children, but I was happy to watch it.
When the movie ended, I went back to my recliner and reflected on my time on the mainland. I was sad to be pulling away. It was my home for almost six months. The landscape was diverse, the people were friendly, and the remoteness was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. I was satisfied when I looked at my map – a complete loop with the middle too. Like my friend Daniel said, I saw more of Australia than most Australians. The loop was complete. Now it was time to discover the sixth state, Tasmania.
I had a tough time sleeping on the ferry. The recliner had a small footrest that popped up, but my legs were too long. To stretch my legs out, I would have to put my legs on the arms rests in front of me.
There was a snorer behind me (my earplugs were no match) who also smelled. I noticed an empty recliner one row up that was against the window. It also didn’t have any other chairs to the side or front of it. I moved to that seat and used two of the provided blankets, but it was cold against the window.
I fell asleep around 12:30 am and woke up between 3:00-4:00 am to use the bathroom. At 5:45 am, an announcement came through the speaker saying we had arrived and disembarkments would start at 6:30 am. We had successfully made it across the 266-mile (429-kilometer) journey. I brushed my teeth and put my contacts in, and tried to wake up.
Tasmania is the world’s 26th largest island, and almost a quarter of it is preserved in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The island is about the size of Ireland, and the population is around 540,000. Other travelers told me that they loved the mountains and landscape, and I was excited to explore there.
Once I picked up my luggage, I walked across the parking lot to Budget’s car rental. They gave me a silver Hyundai i30, which was pretty small, but would do just fine. I drove to the visitor center and asked the man there what I should see in the week I was visiting.
Tim was a large, tall man in his 30s. He showed me a map and pointed out things to do. After 45 minutes, I felt like I had a good plan. I asked Tim about the weather because it was cold outside (the real feel was 36 °F; 2 °C). He showed me a webcam of Crater Mountain with clouds and snow at the top. He said, “It’s been a long winter.”
Next, I drove to the Maritime Museum because Tim told me the cafe there was one of the best. I walked inside, unsure if they were open because I was the only person there. The owner appeared and assisted me. She was in her 30s and opened the cafe with her husband a few months before. The woman was friendly, and we talked about her business, and I told her to update Google Maps to show that they serve breakfast.
The food was excellent! The owner makes fresh pita bread and spices daily. I gobbled it all up and left a great review.
Once I was full, I drove along the coast to Smithton. My Airbnb host and the visitor center gave me great tips that included driving around the coast. I made a few stops at lookout points along the way, and the drive was beautiful! The ocean was to my right and stretched as far as the eye could see.
I continued driving and turned south. I passed bright green rolling hills with farms. I saw cows, sheep, and horses. It reminded me of Norway and the countryside in Scotland. Sometimes I stopped on the small, two-lane road to play some music for the animals, who seemed to love it.
I arrived at the Edge of the World. According to this website, “The sea west of Tasmania is the longest uninterrupted expanse of ocean on the globe. From Argentina, the currents sweep unimpeded more than halfway around the planet until they hit this point.”
I couldn’t believe it, but not a single person was there! I walked a wooden path to a lookout point that provided views of the rocks and the raging ocean crashing around it. Tons of tree trunks and tree branches were piled up against the shore, having been pushed inward by the ocean current. It was incredible, but the cold, mighty wind made it hard to stay for long.
I drove back towards Devonport, where the ferry dropped me off. My eyelids felt extremely heavy, and I struggled to stay awake. I blasted my music, talked to myself, and opened my window. My restless night on the ferry caught up to me, and I started to feel out of it. I wanted to pull over to take a quick nap, but there wasn’t anywhere to park.
I drove to Stanely and saw the view of Rock Town. There is a massive rock formation with a gondola that you can take, but I didn’t have time to do all of that, so I just enjoyed the view of it from afar.
I finally found a gas station and pulled over. I bought some Doritos and a coke, hoping it would help to wake me up, but I continued to struggle. When I arrived at Ulverstone, I pulled into the grocery store (Woolworths) and bought a small amount of food. I walked around like a zombie, and all I wanted was a bed.
Next, I drove 30 minutes to my Airbnb. The drive was breathtaking, and the hill was at a 15% grade! It was so steep; I wasn’t sure that my car would make it up.
I pulled into the property, and Jo came walking towards me from the shed. He explained where I should park, next to my cabin. Jo lived in the main house, and I stayed in the small cabin about 50 feet away.
My cabin had a bed, a couch, and a small table. To use the bathroom, I needed to walk to the main house. There was a space heater to warm up the cabin. I put my bags inside and stood outside in amazement. My rustic cabin sat between sweeping trees and green grass.
Right next to my cabin was an apple orchard with a cute brown wooden fence. Next to the house was a distillery where Jo turned the apples into cider. The view was worth a million bucks! I could see a mountain in the distance, and I was surrounded by rolling, green hills. Thankfully, I felt less tired.
I stood in awe of the view, and Jo said he was used to it. Jo was 61, around 5’8”, and was stocky. He was bald on the top of his head, and had short, light hair around his head’s sides and back. He was a hard worker and talked really fast, so I tried to keep up.
After showing me the apple orchard, Jo invited me inside. He got the meat marinating for dinner and took me to his tasting room in the distillery. There was a small wooden counter with various tall, skinny bottles of gin. I tried several gins with different flavors. Jo even let me taste his apple brandy and wine!
While I very much appreciated all of the delicious beverages, my lunch had been a small bag of Doritos, and the alcohol hit me fast. Jo showed me the barrels of wine and explained how he distills the gin.
Jo had recently bought the property from a husband and wife team who were 75 and 80 years old. The husband built the place himself over the years. Jo changed up some of the recipes and the way he gets cider from the apples because the previous owner was going too fast and missed a lot of the juice. By doing it only when the apples are ripe and letting the press sit overnight, Joe gets an extra 70 liters in each batch. It’s also fresher that way.
I went back into the main house with Jo, and he started cutting veggies while we drank gin and tonics. I told Jo about my journey and the place I had recently purchased to put on Airbnb. Jo pointed out that I wasn’t drinking my gin and tonic, but I needed some food in my belly. He made another drink for each of us, and we kept talking. I’m sure I was starting to slur some words.
Jo was from South Africa and had been in Australia for 22 years. He was married in South Africa and had two sons, who were 30 and 31. They divorced, and then when he was living in Australia, they married again. A few years later, they divorced again.
For most of his career, Jo was an engineer and did underground structures for mines. Ten months earlier, Jo bought the distillery and property with plans to ease into retirement. He listed the cabin on Airbnb a few months before I arrived. Jo told me about his grand plans of adding four cabins with bathrooms and a lodge with around nine rooms.
Jo worked hard, and I felt like I got a steal! He provided me with tastings, dinner, breakfast, and wine. There was a B&B across the street, and they charged double what I was paying.
I was fascinated by Jo’s life and work path. When I house and pet-sit in Bridgetown (three hours south of Perth), I met the homeowner from England who left the business world to build a bed and breakfast on a beautiful piece of land she bought with her partner. It’s something that appeals to me, and seeing people completely change industries, move to the country, and start these businesses made me want to know how they did it. Maybe I could do it one day too.
Jo had a commercial property in Sydney and three in Perth. He sold two of the properties and kept two. He used the profits to buy the property in Tasmania. Jo used Work Away for labor and had some young Europeans there to help with the harvest. They only worked 15-20 hours a week, and in return, he provided a room (he has a guest room inside the house) and food.
I noticed that Jo had an 11-month-old dog border collie named Jet. I told him about Trusted Housesitters and how it might help him when he travels. My experiences with it were wonderful.
Dinner was ready, so Jo and I sat at the table with some red wine to compliment our meal. It was cold outside, so Jo put some wood in the fireplace in the kitchen. The food was delicious, and I stuffed myself. Jo doesn’t always provide dinner for his guests, but because I was alone and he had the time and food, we enjoyed each other’s company.
Jo told me about his family. His older son lived in Hobart (in Tasmania) and is also an engineer, so they relate well. His younger son is an actuary and lives in Melbourne.
Once we finished dinner, we sat on the couch and turned on the new Dave Chapelle comedy special. Dave was mocking Jussie Smollett because the claims he made that he was attacked in Chicago by white Trump supporters were completely fabricated. Chapelle has a way of making some great comedy and the special was hilarious.
Jo said that because he grew up in South Africa during apartheid, people assume he’s racist, but he’s not. He left the country because he felt that he and his sons wouldn’t have a future there. They left when his kids were 10 and 11. When I was on a bar tour in Sydney, a man from South Africa told me the same thing. His sister moved to Australia, and he was considering it too because of the lack of a future he felt he had in South Africa.
It was getting late and time for bed. I took a shower and walked back to my cabin in the dark. It was cold outside – around 40 °F (4 °C), so I turned on the space heater and the heated blanket. The bed was comfortable, and without any lights or noise, I slept really well. Maybe all the alcohol and pure exhaustion helped too. I needed a good night’s sleep because I planned to hike Cater Mountain the next day, and I couldn’t wait!
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