Posts Tagged With: travel


We left Melbourne at about five in the evening for our overnight water crossing to Tasmania, on board the lovely Spirit of Tasmania.  I had rented us a private cabin for the trip, which, although tiny, did have one queen sized bed and two bunk beds.

Guess who got the bunk beds.  It wasn’t Rob.  Although he spent most of the night in the ship bar so it wouldn’t have mattered to him anyway.

We arrived in Devonport at about 8:00 am and headed to our hotel.  We had rented a couple of rooms to get ourselves oriented to Tasmania and prepare for our Overland Track backpacking trip.

We headed to our hotel, which was a “4 Star” rated Tasmanian hotel called the Gateway Motor Inn, and supposedly the nicest hotel in Devonport.  My room had a double bed and a twin bed, with un-matching bedspreads, a circa 1970’s TV set, and a tiny bathroom with the toilet flushing mechanism mounted on the wall beside the sink.  There was a picture of a blue cat in an apron beside the contraption pointing with her paw to the flush button.  Quaint.

I tried to talk Rob into renting a car to tour around the island, but he said he wasn’t up for it.  Snapped it at me, in fact.  He wanted to go to his room and lie down.  This initiated a discussion about the backpacking trip.  After a very short talk we determined that there was no way Rob would be able to hike for even one day with his roughly 30 pound backpack on his back.

We walked to a  local travel agency and made arrangements to rent a cabin at the beautiful Cradle Mountain Lodge, a lovely cabin-based resort in the heart of Tasmania. From the lodge we could do day hikes as Rob felt up to it, and he could rest his back for the next leg of our trip, which was another horseback trip that would be even more demanding than our Australian Pub Crawl.

The Cradle Mountain Lodge was lovely to see.

Sunny Cabins

I was greeted at check in by one of the resident brush-tailed possums.  It bit me immediately after Rob took this picture.

Paula Possom

We checked into our cabin, which was lovely, with the exception being that it had only one bed.

Guess who got the bed?  It wasn’t me.

Rob immediately became enamored of the fireplace in the cabin.  He embarked on what would be his obsession for our entire week in the cabin…..building the largest fire possible and keeping it burning at all times, maintaining a room temperature of no less than 120 degrees at all times.  It felt that hot, anyway.

Rob fireplace

I settled my sleeping bag down on the floor next to a window, where I spent every night with the window cracked open to allow enough cool air that I could sleep in the stifling heat.

The resort was very lovely and offered many amenities.  It had hiking trails throughout the property and they boasted some absolutely incredible views.

Hotel Walkways

You could hike along this beautiful river on the a walkway right from your cabin door.

Rushing River

It was truly spectacular.

Rushng River 2

Our first night there we had a visit from one of the resident possums.  It came to the window and looked inside, scratching gently on the screen.

Rob opened the window.  Our hotel literature told us very clearly not to feed the possums, as they could acquire a fatal disease from human food called “Lumpy Jaw.”  (I know…it sounds like they made that up.) Rob apparently did not read that part.

Possum inWindow

It also told us not to let the animals in the cabins under any circumstances.  Rob didn’t read that part either.

Possum in Cabin

We eventually had to chase the possum from our room with sticks from the fireplace.  I don’t think that had been his first taste of human food.

The weather took a turn for the worst on our first full day at the resort.  We woke to driving rain, which didn’t stop me from embarking on a three-hour horseback trek from the small stables down the road from our cabin.  The ride was miserable.  The horses were untrained, it was unbelievably muddy, and my mount was noticeably lame.

The weather turned even worse that afternoon, with snow falling through evening and for the next couple of days.  It was lovely, but we were so glad we were not in the middle of nowhere, living out of our backpacks as we had planned to do.

Snowy Cabins

Our little cabin was cozy and warm, with the ever-burning fire sending a plume of smoke in the air.

Cabin smoke

We spent lots of hours in the lodge watering hole, called the Tavern Bar.  We played pool and drank and ate the hours away.

Fireplace Lodge

A couple of days into the visit we met some new friends.

Penny and friend

Penny and Tess were college friends embarking on a one year walk-about of Australia.  They were staying in their ancient van, which had the unfortunate feature of a leaky roof.  The girls were so sweet that we invited them to stay with us in the cabin for a couple of days.  They were happy to pitch their sleeping bags on the floor.  We all settled in just fine.

Reading in Cabin

We went on a long day-hike with them, through the spitting sleet and snow, to the top of Cradle Mountain.

Top of Mountain

Rob calls this my “Admiral Bird” look.  I don’t really know what that means, but it sounds funny anyway.

Paula Top

Penny and Tess left to continue their trip a couple of days later, leaving while Rob and I were on a four-wheeler riding escapade.  It was really, really fun riding through all the mud.

4 Wheelers

When we got back to the cabin Penny and Tess had cleaned it all up, their skills putting the hotel maids to shame.  And they left us this note.

Penny and Tess Note

See, I wasn’t making it up about the fireplace.

Rob spent a couple more days getting massaged at the hotel spa, and we relaxed and got ready for the next leg of our trip.  I was rested and ready to go by the time our Cradle Mountain visit came to an end.

Paula Hiking

Next week we’ll fly to Christchurch, New Zealand, to embark on a ride with the real “Man From Snowy River.”

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From the Pub Crawl to Tasmania

After Rob’s fall from Shandy, he spent the rest of the Pub Crawl in survival mode.  Our riding portion of the trip was pretty much done, but we were scheduled to participate in a local parade as part of the  “Land of the Beardies” celebration. 

Rob was assigned a new horse for the parade, a 22 year old gelding named Hard Times. He tried to be a good sport about the ride, but I could tell he was in increasing distress from his injured wrist, and alarmingly, also his back, which had taken a major jar from his fall on the hard packed dirt.

We were all glad when the parade was over and we returned to the ranch for a big barbecue and plenty of beer drinking.

The day after the parade we drove to a local caving area, and crawled way down under the earth (down under, get it? har har) in some massive tunnels.  I had never been in a cave like that before, and it was very interesting.  I was surprised that I didn’t feel at all claustrophobic.

Cave Pic

After our caving experience, we headed a little ways out to try our hand at fossicking.  Fossicking is a term used in Australia for recreational prospecting – basically the same process early American miners used panning for gold.

Panning for Gems

I had no luck at all with my fossicking exploration, but Rob found three tiny sapphires that he ended up throwing back in the water. 

He was getting pretty crabby by then. 

I thought it was because of this.


No, he was not crabby because I took a picture of him with his eyes closed.  Look closely at his mouth and you will see the gum he is clenching tightly between his jaws.

My normally very smart little brother had decided before our trip that an Australian and New Zealand adventure would be the perfect place to wean himself off his years-long habit of chewing tobacco. 

Copenhagen, to be precise.

He had purchased a seemingly life-time supply of nicotine gum to aid him in his efforts, and that seemed to tide him over pretty well during the early part of the trip, when things were going well.  After he injured his wrist, though, and especially as his back started to hurt, the nicotine delivered by increasingly large mouthfuls of the gum just wasn’t doing the job.

We left our friends from the Pub Crawl and flew to Melbourne, where we had scheduled a two day layover to get some laundry done and see the sites before we headed to the island of Tasmania.

In Melbourne we stayed at the beautiful Hotel Sofitel.  After checking in, we discovered that Rob had been assigned a beautiful, large suite, with a full living room, dining room, king sized bed in the bedroom and a separate walk-in dressing area.

I had a regular room.

The disparity of accommodations did not even cheer up my surly brother.  It would not be the last time on our trip that Rob enjoyed a far better sleeping arrangement than I did, but I am jumping ahead in my story.

We were in Melbourne mainly to do some errands, but we did take a couple of (very uninspired) pictures. Sheesh.

Paula MelbourneRob Melbourne

The first order of business was to get our laundry done.  We had two big bags of wet, muddy and stinky clothes, and it was going to cost more than they were worth to get them cleaned at the hotel. 

A nice person at the concierge desk directed us to a laundry just down the street from our accommodations.  We lugged our bags down to the tiny place, where a shriveled old Indian man decided the charges by lifting the bags off the table one by one.  $20 each, he said.  It was a bargain.

On to the next order of business. 

Rob had determined that his crabbiness was due to his lack of Copenhagen, and told me that if we could find him a can or two of chew he would return to his normal cheerful self.

Unfortunately, Melbournians (I made that term up) apparently don’t chew Copenhagen.  The first few tobacco stores I called from my (small, regular) room at the Sofitel did not carry it.  I finally found a store way across town that did have some cans available, at an astronomical price. 

I loaded up my brother in a cab and away we went.  We bought all the Copenhagen they had in the store.  On our way back to the hotel we had a nice Italian dinner and stopped at a wine bar to pick up some port for a friend.

A few hours later Rob announced that it had not, in fact, been Copenhagen withdrawal that was making him cranky. 

He was just cranky.

I begged him to go the doctor.  He refused.  I watched in dismay as my normally easy-going, happy-go-lucky brother turned into a snarling, ill-tempered traveling companion.

I thought it was going to be a very long next couple of weeks.

We were scheduled to travel on the lovely Spirit of Tasmania to our next destination, leaving at around 5pm, sailing overnight, and arriving in the Tasmanian capital of Devonport at about 8:00 the next morning.  

Spirit of Tasmania

On the way to the boat I talked my brother into stopping at a local pharmacy to see if they could recommend anything for his back pain.  The pharmacist sold us some ibuprofen and sent us to his brother down the street, who was Physiotherapist.

The “Physio” gave Rob some electrical stimulation therapy for his back, followed by a massage, then taped him up as best he could and sent us on our way.

To our 10 day backpacking trip through the wilds of Tasmania.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Next week we’ll travel to Tasmania, and learn how sometimes the most unexpected turn of events can turn into an adventure all in itself.

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Australian Pub Crawl on Horseback (Part I)

In the fall of 1997 I made the unprecedented (for me) move of quitting my supercool job in the high tech industry to travel the world and figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I was 34 years old.

My brother Rob, who was living with me in California at the time, was scheduled to start at the police academy in the east bay the following January.  He agreed to accompany me on a couple of trips to get my feet wet; then I planned to travel more the following year by myself.

We decided that our first trip would begin with a Pub Crawl in Australia, and then culminate in a long pack trip through the mountains of New Zealand, with several luxury segues in the mix, including a ten-day backpacking trip on the island of Tasmania.  Both of the main trips were to be undertaken on horseback.

This was funny because Rob really didn’t then, and definitely doesn’t now, like to ride horses.  Midway through the Pub Crawl this sentiment was to be strongly reinforced.  But I get ahead of myself.

As we all know, travel involves a lot of waiting. Here I’m waiting around outside an airport terminal somewhere in Australia.

Waiting with Bags

Our First Stop: Sydney

We started out our trip with a few days in Sydney, time to get acclimated to the time zone and see a bit of the city.  I was a little in shock by the fact that I had actually quit my job and was completely footloose and fancy free.

Rob was on the hunt for three things 1) Beer, 2) Girls, 3) More Beer.

It was immediately obvious that his quest for number (2) on the above list was going to be severely hampered by the fact that everyone who saw us travelling together thought we were on our honeymoon.  How they reconciled the fact that we always had two separate hotel rooms was beyond me – I guess they thought we were starting right off with an open marriage.

In Sydney we stayed at the Hotel InterContinental. Anyone who has travelled a bit or ever stayed in any InterContinental knows that they are always among the top luxury hotels in any city.

I described the hotel in my journal as “….a nice old hotel, well-trained staff, though the furnishings are a bit dated.”

Boy, I was a snobby little thing back then.

We spent three days in Sydney, most of which Rob spent at a pub called the “Fortunes of War.”  After he went there alone one night and I hadn’t heard from him by mid-morning the next day I started to get a little worried.  He turned out to be fine though.

My journal entry read “Well, Rob turned up. He apparently woke at 6, decided he might not live ‘til 7, and went back to sleep until 11.” This was a pattern that was to be oft-repeated during the trip.

The Pub Crawl Begins

We flew to the tiny hamlet of Glen Innes and were picked up by the tour operators.  They had not received confirmation of our arrival and they weren’t expecting us that day, but they took us in with good grace nonetheless. I am not sure what we would have done it they hadn’t happened by the tiny airport at the right time.

Porch with Beer

We went to their small ranch and had some refreshments. There we met our fellow rider, a lovely woman named Jill, who was visiting from Wales.  Actually, the way she introduced herself was to say she was from “Wales.  Which is NOT a part of England.”  This was a fact she was to repeat several times a day during the ride.  I don’t know why.

Then we went over the details of the excursion, which were as follows:  we would begin our riding the next morning.  After a couple of day trips around the base ranch to get used to the horses and the riding time we would head out, riding cross country for about 20 or 30 kilometers (our rides varied between 10 to 20 miles per day) to arrive at a small hotel/bar/restaurant (the pub).  Our luggage would be transported via automobile to meet us at the pub.  We would have dinner and play some pool (and if you were Rob, stay up ‘til the wee hours of the morning drinking local beer and chatting with the drovers who came in from the outback to see the American guests).  After four days of cross country riding we would return to the ranch and see some local sites, spending a few more days there.  Our whole experience would be eight days long.

Once we had the plan down,  it was time to meet our horses.

Rob was assigned a gentle old appaloosa gelding name Shandy.

Rob brushes

I got a spirited thoroughbred-type gelding of indeterminate age called Cognac.

Me and Cognac

We got our saddles assigned and adjusted by our hosts. Here is Rob with one of our hosts Joan, getting his saddle adjusted.

At least that’s what they said they were doing.

Rob gets saddle

He swings into the saddle for his maiden voyage on Shandy.

Rob climbs on

And adjusts himself for his first ride in Australia. Shandy looks so calm. But I get ahead of myself again.

Rob adjusts

After a good night’s rest we were up early the next morning for our first day of riding.  It was raining.

saddled up

The rain only added to the ambiance of the whole thing.

Join me next week when we embark on the adventure.  I can promise lots of rain, extremely rough country, excessive amounts of beer, and plenty of pool.

And you can find out why Rob grows to hate Shandy.

Categories: Horse Adventures, Travel | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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