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 Literally ALL of the bushwalking timetables are dead links, and the regional ones that do work are up to two years out of date!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 www.tassielink.com.au?
 
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.

6 comments:

  1. Have you thought about hitching a lift? If there isn't much public transport I would be surprised if you didn't get a good lift now and then?

    But then I have never been there - what do you think? Could save you a packet...

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  2. I think that would be my final choice, seeing as I'm pushed for time and need a reliable lift.
    I've got until April, so I'll see whether any other walkers jump on board for the same day. I'm pretty confident I won't be sitting in a 12 seater minibus by myself!

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  3. Welcome to Australia where you can't get to these places without a car! Yeah, I know what you mean by the transport caper in Tasmania. It's always okay if you're in a group to share the costs, but as a solo walker it's expensive. It cost me $200 a couple of years ago to get to the Walls of Jerusalem as the public transport was seasonal. Ouch!

    When I walked the Overland Track in 2009 I used a company in Launceston which only cost me $55 to get to Cradle Mountain. They picked me up from my hotel as well. I can't think of their name right now, but I'll find out if you ever want to know. I couldn't complain about their service either.

    I'm hoping to go to Tasmania next year (off season of course!) but this time I'm taking my car on the ferry over from Melbourne. It will make life so much easier whilst there. You of course don't have that luxury!

    Yeah, Tasmania is definitely awkward to get around in sometimes.

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  4. Greg; $55? I'd definitely be interested in knowing. Tiger Wilderness won't be too bad if three people sign up. Then I'm looking at $75 from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, and $80 from Lake St. Clair to Hobart.

    But oh, how I miss the good old days when I could get nearly 2.7 dollars to the pound, instead of $1.45

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  5. Hey Paul, I spent an hour hunting down old receipts! I finally found out who it was and it's 'McDermott's Coaches'. Here's a link here

    http://www.mcdermotts.com.au/cradle_mountain.htm

    I looked at my receipt and it cost me $50.60 from Launceston to Cradle Mountain in 2009 and I noticed on their website it's the same price. That's not bad!

    They operate as a 'tour' so you have the driver banging on about stuff on the way, but it's transport anyway, so who cares? That was my cost as a solo walker in September, so it wasn't peak season. I found I couldn't do better and they picked me up from my hotel, so I didn't have to do anything really! Food for thought anyway :)

    Yeah, sorry for our dollar that's pumping. I've never bought so much stuff from America in my life!

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  6. Hi Greg,
    cheers for this, I had heard of the company but I didn't realise they would transfer you as well! I'll keep this in mind.

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