Friday, 4 November 2011

Tasmania Blues

Before I go off on a bit of a rant, I better reiterate something right away; I bloody love Australia! I adore its varied landscape, its unique flora and fauna, its climate, and, for a lot of Pom’s this would stick in the throat, I even find its people engaging and friendly. I wouldn’t have visited it eleven times in the past fifteen years otherwise.
Now here’s comes the “but”…

I’m having an issue with Tasmania. There is no denying it is a stunningly beautiful island, blessed with many natural and historic attractions, and it possesses some of the best bushwalking trails in Australia.

IMG_0555My problem, though, is that if you don’t have the luxury of a car, it is a truly frustrating place to travel around!
Take my on going plans to return at the end of March 2012 to tread the Overland Track;
The north and south terminus; Ronny Creek and Lake St. Clair respectively, are both remote locations, so you look for guidance on how best to get to and from the start and end. Many websites offering advice, including the official track website, point to Tassie Link as a guaranteed cheap option. Buoyed by the news that there is a public transport system to get you there, you then visit their website, where they offer links to the bus timetables for many of the bushwalking areas. All very promising so far… now this is where it gets problematic. Literally ALL of the bushwalking timetables are dead links, and the regional ones that do work are up to two years out of date!

I decided to email the company to remark about the missing links and misleading information and at the same time, request updated timetables be sent to me. I received one of the timetables promptly, not the two required, and there were no comments or apologies for the state of the appalling website. It was no real help to find the bus service to the walk is infrequent, and looking at my flight dates, quite unworkable for me on the return leg. This is down to another peculiar anomaly with their service; the days it can take you to the start don’t compliment the usual 7 day hike, so when you arrive at Lake St. Clair, there is no service to pick you up (unless you leave Ronny Creek on a Wednesday, and finish on a Tuesday, that is!). It leads those suspicious conspiracy theorists, like me, to wonder if it is a ploy to keep tourists in the region for longer than they feel the need to, but, whatever their motives, it’s a pretty poor service for what is deemed the peak season!
When looking at their website, I can accept that Tassie Link are blasé about the service they could potentially be providing, even unprofessional, but what cannot be excused is the many tourism and national park websites that direct you to them; have they actually ever visited
Tasmania’s saving grace is private charter companies like Outdoor Tasmania. This form of transport appears to be my only real option. I found the owner, Paul Grigg, and his wife, to be very understanding regarding my late cancellation last year. Paul even offered me a discount if I travelled again in the next couple of months. Of course, living on the other side of the world, I couldn’t take him up on the kind offer, but I have remembered this and decided to use them again for that reason. Given the problems I’m having, it was hardly a surprise when I received a reply to my booking request, telling me they weren’t available that week!, At least they provided me with some other alternatives. and despite not being able to accommodate me this time, I would still recommend them for anyone else.
And so, moving on to another company; Tiger Wilderness Bushwalker Bus. The owner, Helen, quickly  gave me a quote, and I took the plunge and booked. The charter option isn’t without its niggle, though; the price is based on the number of passengers travelling. It’s a perfectly honest and reasonable way of calculating the fare, and potentially a very cheap method, but I am one person, and, as such, it leaves me sweating on other walkers signing up. I doubt it will come to this, but if they don’t, it could cost me 620 Aussie Dollars just to get to and from the track!
Oh well, at least it’s cash at the end of the trail, so no expense just yet, but best to keep all the digits  crossed for the price to plummet. One thing is for sure, nothing is ever simple when it comes to getting around Tasmania.