Tasmania “Tale of a Trail”

December 6th, 2010

Maria Island in Tasmania has the lot: history, wilderness, personality and a few civilized surprises up its sleeve. Bev Malzard walked the walk

Going camping and bushwalking in wild places has been a little off my radar in the past few years. The thought of sleeping on the ground and being pushed to accomplish so many km a day was not going to happen now.

Then I heard about the Maria Island Walk in Tasmania and thought, just maybe, my mind and body could do this without too many complaints.

After a night in Hobart after flying in from Sydney I was packed and ready to roll next morning.

I was picked up and taken to the office to add an anorak to my traveling backpack (packs and gear are provided if you don’t have one).

Two guides and two couples and I set off for an 88km drive north east of Hobart to Triabunna. From there we hopped on our private vessel for a trip to the island.

We motored through sparkling waters of the Mercury Passage to the isthmus of Maria Island, and went ashore skipping through crystal clear water and then padded across the fine, white sand of Shoal Bay.

We had on the shore lunch and took in the serenity and beauty of the bay.

A hop and a skip across the narrowest part of the isthmus and we arrived at our ‘wilderness camp’, Casuarina Beach Camp. The Maria Island Walk company is the recipient of many tourism awards and when I saw the camp I understood why.

Discreet habitats of twin huts with canvas roofs sheltered boxes with mattresses on top for beds (comfy too) and sleeping bags to pull on over our supplied silk sheets, were waiting for the weary.

There was a large ‘dining hut’, and an outside deck for meals. Tucked away along a track covered by a boardwalk to protect the undergrowth was an eco- friendly compostable toilet and a room for a ‘bush bath’ – water has to be carried in so we used it sparingly.

So far from anywhere

We split up and the others went to Haunted Bay and I went off for a three hour (return) walk to abandoned and neglected Robey’s farm with one of the guides (we came across three snakes on this walk). Seeing the remains of farms I can but wonder how anyone survived the bush here. So far from anyone or anywhere – and that’s just on the island!

That night our two wonderful young men had conjured a three course gourmet meal out of the air! They carried much of it in as there is no refrigerator or electricity – but the gas barbecue and jets produced a memorable meal. Think Tassie goat’s cheese tarts, Tassie scallops in risotto and strawberries and cream! I kid you not.

After sleeping like a log I awakened to the birds beginning their morning conversation and a soft, scented breeze wafting through the forest. Smoked salmon and eggs for brekkie and we began a 13km walk along five beautiful beaches where I spied a gaggle of Barren Geese. The waters either side of the isthmus are all shades of blue and mirror calm today. Marshland that fed tribes for centuries are decorated with black swans gliding along. We stopped by Frenchman’s Farm for more recent history and then inspected crumbling convict ruins. The evidence of convict habitation here is evocative and fascinating.

The buildings invite curiosity

White Gums camp looms as I begin to think it’s time to stop walking. But can’t sit still when there’s a glorious sunset happening at the top of the cliff nearby.

Another gourmet dinner served with fine wines that left me happy but bewildered – how do these guys do it?

Day three and we are walking at a brisk pace as the landscape changes. We head towards Darlington, the only settlement on the island – permanent population – a couple of rangers. The interesting buildings here invite curiosity. The various buildings are in reasonable state, thanks to their heritage listings and have a couple of ghosts lingering.

We enter the front door of a charming cottage, once the home of Diego Bernacchi, an entrepreneur who made his fortune twice on this tiny outpost. A wonderful bed beckons, so does the hot shower and the anticipation of the last supper was exciting. My walking companions did the right thing and took off to climb Mount Maria (711m) and (apparently) the easier Bishop and Clerk bluff (I wouldn’t know).

I just kicked back, put my feet up and pondered the joy of bushwalking and the power of choice. Choosing to sit in the sun on a verandah on this stunning island national park on my last afternoon was what being footloose and fancy free is all about.


Getting there: Maria Island is a short boat ride from Triabunna, on Tasmania east coast.

Being there: Four day trips leave Hobart between mid-October and April, priced from $2100 per person (includes transport from Hobart, park fees, twin-share accommodation, al fabulous meals and wine, guides and gear if you need it.)

Visit: Maria Island Walk or tel: (03) 6234 2999. |  Visit: www.dicovertasmaina.com

Contributed by Bev Malzard | Editor of Get Up and Go Magazine.


A Double Rainbow in the Green Gobi

November 17th, 2010

Original Publication by National Geographic / “Field Notes” Blog.

A double rainbow appears over gers in Mongolia’s Gobi Desert. (Photo by Stefanie Payne)

The beauty of travel is so often in the things you can’t plan for, the circumstances you don’t expect, and the experiences that you might never have imagined. Stefanie Payne wrote about one such experience recently in the Gobi Desert, where she traveled on our expedition to Mongolia.

Our expedition to the north of the Mongolian Gobi from the capital of Ulaanbaatar took about two hours by small plane, four hours of expert 4×4ing across desert “roads,” and critical directions from state-of-the-art GPS systems. In the Gobi there are no addresses, only coordinates.

In only four days, these coordinates guided us to such locations as the ice crevices at Yolyn Am, to distant rocky peaks that cradled Marco Polo sheep, to the Flaming Cliffs on the hunt for dinosaur fossils. We enjoyed milk tea and curd with local nomadic families, wobbled through sage brush atop horses and camels, slept in gers (also known as yurts), turned cartwheels across the sprawling sand dunes of Khongoryn Els—I felt this trip couldn’t get better. Then it did.

It was our fourth and final day in the Mongolian Gobi. We sat on the carved wooden balcony at the Three Camel Eco-Lodge, enjoying a dark national beer and relaxing in the late afternoon light.  I knew weather would affect our trip at some point: a sand storm or fabled sweltering heat, this I was well prepared for. I just hadn’t really thought about it until the rain approached from the distance, quietly walking its way toward our ger camp. Desert rain, with the intense and subtle energy of a nomad horseman crossing the steppe.

A rainbow arcs across the Gobi. (Photo by Stefanie Payne)

I looked towards Jeremy Schmidt, our National Geographic expert, while keeping my gaze fixed on the horizon, and commented, “I think the rain is a good omen.”  With a calm nod, he looked to us and began a story that had been passed along to him by Mongolian shamans on his previous travels to Khan country. He explained that, in Mongolia, rain prior to a journey was a good omen—a blessing from the gods to wash the roads clean for the weary traveler, shedding light upon the destination. He went on to explain that the Gobi was much greener this year.

Not long after the rain, the light of sun returned, lending a mysterious golden glow to the vastness before us. A double rainbow appeared. The bow stretched across the wide-open sky, anchoring into the green desert steppe. We were speechless at a sight so exceptional. So exceptional, that we had to remind ourselves to put the cameras down and enjoy this rare, fleeting moment.

Jeremy smiled.  “A good omen indeed!”

Catalina Island, California

November 10th, 2010

Just off the coast of southern California lies a picturesque island oasis, a mere boat ride away – Catalina Island. This iconic destination –longtime home to the Chicago Cubs training grounds – was largely developed in the 1920’s by William Wrigley, Jr., and soon became the premier getaway for many Hollywood heyday stars and starlets, such as Marilyn Monroe, Charlie Chaplin, Clark Gable and Duke Ellington. To this day, Catalina’s dramatic beauty and small beach town feel attract visitors from across the globe.

Known as the “Island of Romance” for decades, Catalina offers an accessible Shangri-la for couples wanting to get away from it all and revel in each other’s company. As well, the breathtaking and diverse getaway has enormous appeal for families, girlfriends looking to get away, and the traveler desiring a luxurious vacation. Boasting everything from a golf course, to Buffalo Safaris, to paddleboarding, there is never a shortage of entertainment to suit any taste.

In the summer of 2010, Catalina underwent a renaissance, unveiling the new Pavilion Hotel, Avalon Grille, remodeled Descanso Beach Club, plus an exhilarating Zip Line Eco Tour and the high-tech GPS Walking Tour. In addition, Catalina’s most-recognized landmark, the 1929 Casino (which actually means “gathering place” in Italian), underwent exterior restoration. This regal building is perched overlooking the Catalina harbor, and features a spectacular ballroom plus stunning 1,200-person art deco theatre, which have both served for generations as the venues of choice for great entertainers, Broadway shows and first-run movies. Originally constructed to screen silent films, the theatre’s astounding acoustics are attributed to Wrigley’s incredible foresight that movies with sound were just around the corner. One of only a handful remaining in the world, a grandiose, original pipe organ is still showcased, used to this day when occasion permits.

A modern tribute to the Island’s recent elevated island experience is the new beachside Pavilion Hotel, at which a multitude of amenities are offered, such as semi-private lanais; Blu-Ray players, movies and iPads for guest check-out; daily deluxe continental breakfast and afternoon wine and cheese reception; flat-screen HDTVs; and free wireless internet, to name just a few. Innovative creation of the “Unlimited Package” offers guests staggering savings on lodging and a multitude of tours and activities also. Looking towards spring of 2011, the exciting new Sea Trek Undersea Adventure will launch, allowing visitors to take a remarkable walk along the sea floor, exploring the abundant kelp forests and marine life without needing any prior diving instruction.

With an idyllic mesh of the old and the new, Catalina embraces its noteworthy history while celebrating its many recent and continued enhancements, which will further the island’s appeal for years to come. Keep checking www.VisitCatalinaIsland.com for more information.

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