For five days over Christmas, I went to stay with my cousin and his family in Tasmania.  Tassie is one of those parts of Australia that most backpackers and international students I've met haven't travelled to, for no particular reason.  It seems almost as though people forget Tasmania exists, sitting there off the south shore of Victoria.  Or at least it doesn't have the element of the spectacular that draws thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef or Uluru.  Tasmania has a quiet beauty, but it is incredibly diverse in its natural life, and relatively unspoilt too.

I was staying in a small township south of Hobart, opposite the hulking mass of Bruny Island.  For my next visit, Bruny is top of my list as an excellent spot for hikes and outdoorsy activities - I mean, it literally sits on a place called Adventure Bay.  My own holiday was inhibited by the various constraints of a short trip, bank holiday closures, and the presence of a four-month-old, so I consider this my recon trip.  One of the highlights I did manage to experience was the Tahune Airwalk in the Tahune Forest, an area of natural beauty with almost jungle-like trees and tap water that is so rich in tannin it's brown (a good thing, promise).  The airwalk includes a cantilever bridge 40m over the river that commands a gorgeous view of Mount Picton hulking in the distance, and the fork of the rivers Picton and Huon in the foreground.

There's a saying that goes "Don't like the weather in Tasmania?  Come back in 10 minutes!"  In my experience, this was completely accurate.  On one day, the weather went from overcast with a biting wind to scorching hot and cloudless within the space of a couple of hours.  This really reflects the diversity of Tassie itself, where you can go hiking through deciduous forest or lay out on the beautiful beaches of the East Coast all in one day.  But for me the best thing Tassie had to offer were the animals.  My cousin regularly has wallabies hopping about on his grounds, probably so-called "swamp wallabies" based on their dark fur and the proximity to a creek.  I was actually privileged enough to see a little joey bouncing around with its mother at dusk.  Another rare sighting was an echidna snuffling around not far from the Tahune Airwalk.

On my last full day, we packed in a lot of activities.  The one thing I'd really wanted to do was scale Mount Wellington, and luckily you can drive right to the top, which meant we could just pack the baby in the back and go.  The views from the top of the mountain really capture the understated loveliness of Tasmania, taking in the sprawl (by Tassie definition anyway) of Hobart, to Bruny Island, and various smaller townships down the coast.  The landscape up there is almost lunar in its rocky sparseness, and its interesting to see the type of foliage change as you get further up the mountain, the massive gum trees getting increasingly smaller until there is only shrubbery at the summit.

Our final jaunt was to ZooDoo, a safari park that pulls in tourists for the opportunity to play with lion cubs or see a tiger up close, but for me was most exciting to really get close to some native Australian creatures.  Pure white wallabies hop around the park, unfazed by visitors and occasionally coming over to nibble at the animal food that's available for purchase.  One slightly terrifying moment for me was when a fully grown male kangaroo, literally about 5ft tall (and I'm 5'4 so yeah, I was trembling) locked eyes with me and came bounding over on those huge feet.  Luckily he was only after some treats, although he was pretty insistent.  ZooDoo also has loads of Tasmanian Devils, which I hadn't been able to see in Taronga Zoo in Sydney but here got the chance to see a mother devil and her two babies tearing at their food.

My cousin and his wife gave me many more pointers for my next visit, including some hot springs in a cave down south where you can wallow in the warm water even if it's freezing outside.  It will be a longer visit, and more active, which hopefully I will be a pro at by then since my next trip is to...New Zealand!  I will try to blog from there on my phone, which will be laborious but since it's a 4 week trip probably worth doing.  I'm very excited - I haven't been on the road that long since summer 2012, and around half of that trip involved crashing with friends anyway.  NZ will be completely new and exciting for me, I can't wait to go!

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