We had booked an adventure cruise with Pennicott Wilderness journeys for Sunday at 11am. This was a three hour trip starting at Adventure Bay and traveling down the coast of the island to the southern tip. We needed to get there first.
We started the drive to Bruny Island early as we definitely wanted to be on the first ferry. Miss that and we miss the cruise and as that was $135 each we did not want to miss it. As we were heading into Kettering we had had our own little incident. They were doing a breath test on the road in. The police office who had me blow into the bag told us that lots of people were heading to Bruny and that he had been busy. As we had no idea how big the ferry was this gave us a little concern. Our concern was however short lived. As we rounded the head and looked over the charming harbour at Kettering, where clearly plenty of wealthy yacht owners store their toys, we saw that the ferry was double story and about the size of the Stradbroke ferry. We would get over all right.
The day was absolutely sensational. Cold yes but with a clear sky and no wind. The water was so calm that we were off and moving before we were aware of it and about twenty minutes after we parked the car I complained that we really should be going by now only to realize that in fact we were almost there.
We headed off straight away, looking forward to seeing a couple of things before we got onto the cruise. There is a very thin passage way on Bruny called the neck. It is a penguin rookery and there is also a lookout named after Truganni, an aboriginal woman whose appalling treatment was shocking for even those who are aware of the treatment of Aborigines during the invasion. The lookout is many many steps up but does give a marvelous view across the waters that are crystal clear and vary in colour from azure to turquoise. Set off with white sand, bush down to the water and creeks through the sand into the ocean. We walked along one side on a strip of sand no more than a metre wide and looking at the numerous shells Heidi noted that it was like looking at natures jewellery box.
We traveled further on and stopped at an idyllic beach at Cemetry Bluff. We were entertained by superb fairy wrens and enormous clumps of kelp washed onto the beach. It is as thick as leather and the stalk that I held it up by was easily as thick as my wrist.
Time was becoming short and we wanted to see a monument to Captain Cook’s landing place and a tree named after him. In what was a farcical example of tourist entrapment there is no indicator of Cook’s landing place other than on the tourist maps and the famed tree had a sign on the road which indicated that the marker across the road emblazoned with “Captain Cook’s Tree” was in fact 200 metres further on. In a fitting conclusion there was no tree. We scratched our heads, laughed and headed to our cruise.
I am hopeful dear reader that it is assumed that all I have told you happened in the cold. If not let me assure you that the singlet, merino undershirt, flannel shirt, jumper, gore tex puffy jacket, gloves, scarf and beanie were only just managing to keep me this side of freezing. Even so the cruise operators assured us to take everything we could muster because it would get cold. GET COLD!!! Anyway when we got on the boat we were given large waterproof and windproof red overcoats, for which we were grateful. They also handed out ginger tablets to help prevent sea sickness. This made all my subsequent burps taste like ginger beer which was not unpleasant. All of this paraphernalia was given out in the calm waters of the bay and certainly added to the trepidation of what was ahead.
The boat was very powerful and fast. We headed out past Penguin Island and around to Cape Connella. Here we saw amazing formations of Dolorite rock which is integral to the geological formation of Bruny Island. It has remained after the sandstone was eroded away. The dolorite has formed in hexagonal columns reminiscent of Fingal. There are many caves, overhangs and narrow passageways. Our skillful skipper steered us unerringly through this environment providing awe and exhilaration in equal measure. There were also very quiet moments when the sheer power of the rock was allowed to capture us. At one point we drifted into a cave they call the carpark where we were close enough to touch the rock that surrounded us. At another point the boat was brought close to a blow hole where the power of the swell pushed great spumes of water into the air. We were assured that as this was a calm day the sight could be much more impressive than we saw. Was still pretty cool!
The whole area is national park and so from the ocean there is no sign of human activity. The ocean crashes against the rock in an ancient dance and we and the wildlife are the only witnesses. We saw many huge ghostly skeletons of great grandfathers of trees standing above the canopy. In 1967 the south east of Tasmania was set alight by numerous lightning strikes and the fire leapt the channel to Bruny Island where the national park was burned to the ground. Everything we saw had grown in the last 50 years. It was verdant but looking at the size of those now dead trees it must have been even more majestic.
I took particular note of the kelp growing around the edges of the many small islets on which cormorants took rest. The kelp was everywhere and was nothing like large seaweed which is how my northern mind had imagined it. I also learnt that the cormorant pose of wings outstretched to dry is because there is little oil in their wings to help them dive but consequently they become quite drenched after a dive.
As we headed south towards the fur seals we were blessed to see an Albatross. I was fascinated by these birds as a child and seeing one in flying low over the water with a two metre wing span was as impressive as I had dreamt.
We were thrilled by the fast journey out to the islands at the southern end of Bruny Island where Australian Fur seals luxuriate. Situated where the Tasman Sea meets the Southern ocean the rocky outcrops advertise their residents with a pungent smell that may well be natural but had nothing fresh or pleasant about it. Regardless the huge seals lounging on seemingly impossibly uncomfortable rocks made the smell seem distant. They were on the one hand magnificent, with some of them being enormous and weighing 400kgs, and yet on the other being as adorable as puppies with whiskers and cheeky faces. We saw a tiny pup dive into the water as it began its journey into becoming one of the magnificent adult sea creatures. It was scary to hear of how close these seals were brought to extinction by human greed. They were brought down to only several hundred individuals but have now returned to a full breeding population.
On our return I spent a long time looking at the cliffs and the vegetation that clung tenaciously to the sides and top of them. Surrounded by water and with kelp swaying as the waves surged into the rock it was easy to imagine the place before humans, within the geological sweep of time. My reverie was interrupted when the eye I was keeping out for dolphins was captured by a curved back breaking the surface. I pointed and called out and the skipper slowed the boat. Suddenly we were surrounded by dolphins leaping and playing in the bow wave of the boat, racing the boat, and seemingly enjoying our company. These are not the dolphins that I have seen in captivity. These were sleek, muscular creatures with attitude and freedom that exuded from them. Apparently we were lucky as it not at all common for the dolphins to put on such an act or even appear at all and indeed there was a feeling of something very special occurring.
As we made our way back to the harbour the boat was abuzz with the noise of excitement and enjoyment, not least from the small girl of about 9 who was the daughter of Indian immigrants and who already spoke with an Australian accent experiencing this beautiful Australian moment, who had vibrantly voiced her thrill and enjoyment throughout the cruise.
Heidi and I walked away from pier knowing that we had experienced something special. We went home via the hotel for a late lunch and caught the ferry back to Kettering and drove back to Hobart well sated in mind, body and spirit.