All doe eyed and diffident he sat poised on the verandah railing as we emerged from the warmth of the lodge into the crisp, alpine night. Shushing each other, we took a step nearer to get a closer look and he reciprocated; leaning in with cautious curiosity. Enamored by his twitchy nose and docile nature, and with several glasses of Tasmanian pinot clouding what you would call my ‘better judgment’, I gently reached out a hand to offer a sign of peace.
Then the possum bit me.
The feral finger chewing creature chomped down so hard he drew blood. In stunned silence I stared at my index finger and the droplets of red. Meanwhile the apparently not so retiring but slightly possessed possum vaulted himself from the railing onto the verandah, biting the other one of us on the shoe before scampering off into the dark night.
Tails between our legs, we retreated to our log cabin where I scrubbed and sanitised my finger with disinfectant as he appraised the damage to his favourite leather laceups. With a medicinal digestif in hand we convalesced in front of the fireplace, joking about my foolish stupidity and the influential role that Josef Chromy’s perfectly pleasant pinot noir had played.
We also came to the realisation that a common theme had emerged from our ‘10 Days of Tassie’ roadtrip – there had been a menagerie of animal encounters.
On Bruny Island we had witnessed a savage pet dog relentlessly pursue a wallaby until we endeavoured to intervene – interrupting the attack long enough to give the monopod a few seconds headstart. It bounced towards the beach – but the dog was not far behind. The encounter was frightening and upsetting. The dog’s owner should be ashamed. Bruny Island has an abundant wallaby population and such vicious animals need to be contained so that the wildlife can coexist unthreatened.
Our time in Coles Bay, a 2 ½ hour drive north of Hobart, will stay in my memory for many years. You see, while we were there we had to make a heartbreaking decision to let our 151/2 year old dog go. He had taken a serious turn while we were away and he was not going to recover. We did not want him to suffer. I’ll remember that day forever. In the early morning we had kayaked around the pristine waters of Coles Bay before walking to the beach at renowned Wineglass Bay in the afternoon and later watching the sunset from our accommodation as we toasted our old friend. It was one of the most spectacular yet saddest days we have shared.
A few days later, at Cradle Mountain, that possum bit me. But on a happier note, we also encountered wombats in the wild. The first fat fellow was noshing his way through a field of rich, green fodder – blissfully unconcerned about our presence as he grunted and chewed with content. The second encounter was quite disparate. Night had fallen and from the lodge restaurant we watched a wayward wombat cut a path at absolute top speed through the grass outside – like a wife-fearing husband who is about to be late home from after work drinks. Apparently wombats can reach a speed of 40km an hour. Amazing for such little round lumps.
Also near Cradle Mountain we visited the Devils@Cradle Sanctuary for Tasmanian Devils and other native animals. The 70km hour winds that morning had precluded us from completing the Dove Lake Circuit Walk at the mountain so we opted for a different wildlerness adventure. At the Conservation Centre we watched Tasmanian Devil brothers argue over tinned sardines – don’t come between those guys – and we were introduced to bloodthirsty Kwolls. As I eyeballed a Kwoll through the caged enclosure I found it hard to believe that these furry little cuties like to leap from trees like drop bears and kill wallabies with a sharp bite to the back of the neck. I knew better than to point my finger at that one.
The final encounter took place in the historical town of Strahan on the west coast of Tasmania, a scenic 2 and a bit hour drive from Cradle Mountain. We had bunkered down in our dockside accommodation to watch the afternoon reflections on Risby Cove – part of Macquarie Harbour. A gaggle of geese snuggled together on the lawn outside, lapping up the last of the day’s remaining sun. It was the perfect setting to share a glass of red and enjoy the last of our Bruny Island ‘1792’ washed rind that was starting to get a good, ripe stench on. I opened the mini bar fridge to retrieve the cheese and bring it to room temperature. Before I could turn around for the wine, two of the geese were knocking on the glass door with their beaks. How did they know the bar was open? Was the cheese that smelly? We recalled our university days where it was not uncommon for geese and ducks to chase students heading to and from the car park and so we decided to keep our distance. Through a gap in the sliding door I gingerly tossed them some sliced apple keeping my fingers to myself. They expressed their disappointment at not receiving any of the ‘1792’ by crapping right outside the door before eventually waddling off to nest down for the night.
So my travel tip for Tasmania is – enjoy the many animal encounters to be experienced – there are plenty to be had – just keep a good distance and don’t point at possums.