Day 17 – Burnie, Tasmania
February 24, 2016
G'Day Mate How You Going?
Today we are on the island of Tasmania. Before the last ice age, Tasmania was connected to the mainland of Australia. Today, Bass Strait separates the two. Our guide worked for years at the chamber of commerce of Burnie and is passionate about the place. ‘Passionate’ is probably not a powerful enough word to describe him. All the other guides actually use the book he and his wife have written about Tasmania. For example he was instrumental in bringing cruise ships into Burnie. Even with the progress made, Tasmania is still out literally in the middle of nowhere. He said he didn’t like to use the word isolated, but it definitely is. That is the reason we have not been able to send emails. Tom is definitely having internet withdrawal. When he went to the ship’s Internet Café, he was told, “The ship is now in a geographical dead zone. There just aren’t any satellites for the ship to connect to.”
As you drive through Tasmania, it is very pretty farm land. Cattle, both beef and dairy, have vast grass lands to graze. There is plenty of sheep as well. There are also miles of beautiful forest. Timber is an important product. Not sure the reasoning with all this land, but when you do come to a village the houses are extremely close together. Note I said village. The houses are really small. When you do come to a town you had better not blink.
That said, Burnie is the fourth largest city on Tasmania with a population of 20,000. Until 2010, Burnie was home to a major pulp factory, which at its height employed 4,000 people. There was also a paint production plant that turned Emu Bay orange for as far as the eye can see. However, today with the help of people like Allan, our guide, Burnie has transformed it industrial roots into a city focused on food, culture, and tourism. The government has spent millions trying to clean up the pollution caused by years of pulp and paint making. No telling how many toxins we picked up yesterday.
First we went to Anvers Chocolate factory specializing in Belgian chocolate. We were each met with a large piece of chocolate pie. Not that any of us on the ship need more desserts, but it was delicious. It will probably take me six months to take off the weight I have added to my waist line in a few short weeks.
Then onto the reason we chose this tour, The Trowunna Wildlife Park. It is family owned and a place dedicated to rescuing wild animals. They had three baby wombats which are a relative to the koala. When they see a wombat killed on the road, they check her pouch and if possible save the baby inside. They had one 18th month old female named Harriet. They told us that even though right now she is extremely friendly and loves people, she will get to a point where she becomes independent and wants nothing to do with people. At that point they can either return her to the wild or use her in breeding programs at zoos around the world. They also had two, one month old wombats that you could see just wanted to be back in mom’s pouch. They were also saved from a road kill mom.
They also had Tasmania devils. That was the ‘must see’ for us. They were everything I expected, and it is so much fun to say, I have now pet a Tasmania Devil. One of the owners had one that had been raised from an infant, but even so he warned us not to pet her head. He did put his finger in her mouth and said most of the time she is gentle but every now and then the ‘devil’ comes out in her. Another guide picked up a devil from their pen and he did not get anywhere near this one’s mouth as its teeth were flailing, and it was screaming at the top of its lungs. They told us that once their jaws clamp down there is no removing its jaw from what is in its mouth. Their bite is so powerful that they can even bite through bone. I did not pet its head.
There were also large numbers of ‘freeloading’ kangaroos. I guess kangaroos can be a real problem. Our guide told us that he can get over 300 bales of hay off of his land but because of kangaroos he is lucky if he can get 70 bales. I do see that is a problem. However, yesterday they were great fun. The wildlife sanctuary does sell food for the kangaroos. It is labeled ‘food for the freeloaders.’ The kangaroos are very used to being fed and will come right up to you. Lots of great fun.
This story is for Niki, our rat hunting dog. People long ago introduced rabbits and rats to the island and there seemed to be no getting rid of them. They tried everything. Finally, they brought in rat hunting dogs and that did the trick. No more rats. Can you see Niki? Not only do you get to find them; you can kill them too.
Then onto the Ashgrove Cheese Factory. They showed us a video of how ‘clean’ their milk is. I guess it might be far enough away from the pollution of Burnie, but not sure. Anyway their cheese was very good and those that had ice cream said it was delicious. They even sell what is called ‘green milk’ which must be very much like milk straight from the cow as the milk separates and the cream comes to the top. You must shake the milk before you pour it. As many cheese factories I have been to, I did not realize that cheese was originally a means of storing the cream.
“One doesn’t discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore…” - André Gide
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Tom and Holly