Montana Wolf

Friday, February 9, 2018

Tasman Peninsula: Seas, Forests and Fairy Penguins

The plane trip from Sydney to Hobart was about 90 minutes. We landed and caught a bus to
Apollo RV rentals where we picked up our camper van, an 18-foot Mercedes with a bathroom and shower. Greg had made the arrangements before hand and we commenced to move into our home on wheels. Gee, this felt vaguely familiar.

Greg hailed from Newcastle, a few hours north of Sydney. It had been many years since he had traveled to Tasmania so we were essentially discovering the island together. Thank-the-goddess he was used to driving on the left side of the road. He had driving rights, since I jumped every time we went around a corner the first three days, seeing oncoming traffic in our lane. We stopped for groceries and headed to the island's SE corner known as the Tasman Peninsula.

My first look at the cliff shores of Tas came at Eagle Hawk Neck, a narrow isthmus with a stunning view of beach and craggy cliffs below. I didn't know we were looking down on Pirates Bay, a place I would soon experience one of the most magical nights of my life.

We were looking for a place to park for the night when I suddenly spotted my first wallaby ... the marsupial that looks like a miniature kangaroo. He was standing along the side of the road. Thus, my first Tas wildlife shots were through the windshield. No matter. I was stoked!

Thru the windshield ...
The sun was going down when we happened upon an informal little RV camp for $10/night, no hookups. It was essentially the owner's pasture and he guided us to a quiet corner where wildlife sightings would be easier, away from the hook-ups and busier part of the land. I fell asleep counting first day sightings: murres, oyster catchers, owl, black swans, half dozen wallabies, miles of eucalyptus groves criss-crossed with rocky cliffs and sandy beaches.

I awakened next morning to a shrill call, somewhere between a laugh and a shriek. It was a Kookaburra. I couldn't believe it -- had sang of them, in rounds, at age ten at summer camp in Iowa, with no clue to their home or description:
"Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree,
merry merry king of the bush is he,
laugh Kookaburra laugh Kookaburra,
how gay your life must be."
Decades later, here they were! --- sitting a gum tree outside the van.  I would hear them every day in Tasmania and never tire of their raucous interruptions.

We proceeded on a drive around the Tasman Peninsula; parked at the end of a gravel road at a trailhead and began a hike. Within the first ten minutes we saw two different snakes. We later learned that Tas has three snakes and all three were poisonous. These two, a tiger and copperhead, were slithering along minding their own business. I was fascinated, having escaped the female aversion to the biblical enemies. The hike to the end of the peninsula was deeply moving, through ancient eucalyptus that belonged in an HC Anderson fairy tale. I expected to hear them speak. The overlook ending was breathtaking.

looking left

looking right

We lunched on the edge of lavender fields, visited deep ravines in rocky seaside cliffs and that evening made our way through funky Doo Town to Pirate Cove for an event only the locals knew to tell: the nighttime arrival of the Fairy Penguins. Fairy Penguins are the smallest penguin on earth, standing only about a foot or two. They spend daylight hours fishing and feeding in the cold ocean and every nightfall they return to their sandy burrows onshore. We sat in darkness, the beach lit only by the light of a half moon. We were about to give up when suddenly there they were. First one, then two, three, and dozens ... waddling ashore and walking within inches of where we sat on the beach. They passed right by and up the sandy hill to their burrows. Remarkable climbers. Otherworldly sight.

Fairy penguins are are a blueish black/gray. I did not take photos of their arrival, as white light disturbed their migration. Folks were asked to put a red cloth over flashlights. (There were only six of us spread out along the beach.) Greg had a red swatch from a prayer bundle. So appropriate. I wish I had photos, but no image could have captured the  magical migration of the little ones. I was privy to a mystery.

That night Greg and I talked of dreams where we have crossed thresholds. We shared our views of thresholds as portals, from one life to the next, and the necessity of grieving the old life before we passed onto the next. Portals ... from one dimension to another. Many Native Americans believe the rock fortress Mato Tipila (Devils Tower), where I had been a ranger the previous summer, was a portal to other dimensions. I nestled under covers in the van as I wondered what down-under dimension I had entered. The ancient eucalyptus forest, wallabies and penguins felt deeply aboriginal, as Tasmania began to share her secrets.

So impressed with the cooperative effort ... 

Fairy on the left ... smallest in the world

Waiting for the Penguins

Forests and Lavender

This was a great accompaniment to the scrumptious celery soup. The foodie delights just beginning!

Birds along the way ...

How many Oyster Catchers do you see?

Where we saw the snakes


  1. What are those blue berry looking things? They look like they're on deciduous like conifer.

    1. Have no idea but they were too beautiful not to photograph!