Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Tasmania (Part II)

On the 18th of the morning, I woke up at Dawn, put everything that wasn't needed for the track in the car, and started the drive. It's never stress-free starting a drive to a deadline, but the combination of early hour, foreign country, and the wrong side of the road made this drive something altogether. I started in the fog, but soon, the sun came out and gave me gorgeous views of the area. I couldn't stop and take pictures, since I didn't know how much time it would really take for me to do the drive. However, it was indeed a gorgeous sunrise, and I did gawk a little as I drove through all the National Parks I had to drive through in order to get to Lake St. Clair through the gorgeous morning.

Arriving at Lake St. Clair, I checked with the ranger as to where to park the car, and then found the Tasmanian Tour company van parked just as I left the visitor center. I chatted with the driver and he gave me the impression that he expected a heck of a lot more than 1 passenger! Nevertheless, we were all good for the ride. We drove East instead of West, and started down a series of dirt roads at incredibly high speeds. I did get to see the Great Lake, and several other sights, but the rough roads (the driver proudly told me that the van's suspension had never been replaced) made for a really bumpy ride.

At this point the driver received a phone call on his mobile. He answered it (yes, while driving on dirt roads at high speed), and then said to me, "I guess you're getting the scenic tour today --- we're going to Launceston to pick up others!" It turned out that the tour company had agreed to ferry two other walkers from the Penny Royal in Launceston to Cradle Mountain that day, but had screwed up and forgotten to pick them up!

This turned my transfer from a 3 hour transfer to a 5 hour one, and by the time we stopped at Cradle Mountain Transit Center it was 2:15pm. The two walkers we picked up were quite antsy, especially when it started raining as we entered the park. I walked over to the park center with them, and had no trouble at all picking up my Overland track pass, despite it being before 3pm, and not having any paperwork for me. I then went back to the lodge, had a quick lunch, and then Lisa and I took the shuttle over to Dove Lake for a look around. Dove lake was beautiful in the misty rain, but then we wanted to go to the feeding session for the Tasmanian Devil center, and so took the shuttle back after only about 20 minutes or so.

The Tasmanian Devil center's tour was really a movie, followed by a question and answer session about Devil Facial Tumour Disease, which is a cancer that can spread by contact. This has several implications and apparently the entire population is really vulnerable to it, thereby causing possible extinction for the entire species in 20 years' time! What's fascinating about it is that the vulnerability is caused by an insufficient amount of genetic diversity amongst the Devil population (All Devils can be traced to about 10000 or so animals due to some prior population crash), and some researchers speculate that humans may be vulnerable to a similar sort of disease given that we have about as much genetic diversity as the Tasmanian devils. (There's a great SF story in there somewhere)

We got to pet Tasmanian devils, and then walked back to the hotel in the rain for dinner before going to a real bed for the last time in a while, hoping for good weather.
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