Postcards from Tasmania

Our man ventures through Australia's most picturesque drive

I'd seen bright and beautiful pictures of Tasmania on tourist brochures the previous evening on the "Spirit of Tasmania's" tourist shop. And here, as we sailed into Devonport, the world was cloaked in grey, with the rain coming down in sheets. We drove out of the ship and headed straight to Devonport's visitor centre where the helpful staff ominously told us that rain was forecasted for the entire day all along West Tasmania. Now we'd planned our Tasmania driving holiday in an anti-clockwise direction and it seemed that the rain was going to ride shotgun with us. Okay then so be it, this was a beautiful land and we weren't going to let some unexpected rain to wash away the joy of exploring it. We zipped down to the local caravan park, had our showers at $2 each (soap and towel included) and took the road to Strahan, our first night halt. En route the Cradle Mountain National Park, one of Tasmania's best, and an absolute must-visit for those who cherish the outdoors and painted landscapes, we were accompanied by a dramatic sky - the sun warring with thunderclouds, peeking through as it won a battle, and disappearing again as it lost the next. The sun finally was shining bright when we arrived at the Henty Sand Dunes, which are quite phenomenal by virtue of a fact that they are in the middle of a rainforest. Huffing, puffing and trying to get to the summit of the dune as the sand kept collapsing under my feet, I yet again promised myself that I'd refrain from the temptation of eating a bit too much.Two hours later, that solemn promise was washed away as we reached Strahan and imbibed local red wine and a medium rare sirloin steak at Hamer's Hotel. This seaside town is where we got our first look at the elegant colonial architecture that graces Tasmanian towns and cities. In fact, if all the modern yachts in the harbour were replaced by Victorian-era ships, Strahan would seem stuck in the 1870'sEarly next morning, the rain was a fast fading memory as sun quickly evaporated the puddles on the road in wispy clouds of steam. Our target was the Tasmanian capital of Hobart, 300 km away and since it was Saturday, the Salamanca Place market was on from 10 am to 2 pm. This market is reputed to be the most happening street market on the entire continent and I was determined to experience it leisurely. The route to Hobart would take us along the boundary line of the Cradle Mountain and Franklin - Gordon Wild Rivers National Parks, the road itself was smooth tarmac that wound itself across hills and had been washed clean by the overnight rain and now was a rubber tyres inseparable friend. Added to this, thanks to the early hour and a weekend, there was no traffic. The Camry was like an eager and enthusiastic thoroughbred and she and I had a total blast on that drive. Even though I did not exceed the speed limit a single time, it was sheer joy blitzing through those winding roads at the maximum permissible speed. This was just my first taste of the smooth carpeted roads I would experience in the week to follow... RISHAD SAAM MEHTA

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