Saturday, April 26, 2014

An Official Good-Bye to Australia

Yes, I have arrived in the States!!!  Thanks for the overwhelming amount of welcomes.  I know everyone is eager to know how I’m feeling back in my native country, however, before I disclose that, I can’t move on without saying a proper “good-bye” or “see you soon!” to Australia.

Northwest Tasmania, filled with lots of climbs and temperate rainforests 
Tasman Peninsula, Southeast Tasmania

I couldn’t have panned a better way to end my route down under.  Tasmania was all that I expected and more! I had pretty much moved Tasmania (and Australia for that matter) to the top of my list before I even hit the East Coast of the island.  After my visit to Maria Island, there was no question that Tasmania was #1 on the list.  What list is this you might ask? Well, I actually have quite few different lists on this trip,….an ongoing list of things to do, a list of livable places to settle down, a list of places I want to come back and explore more, a list of my favorite food/meals, a list of my favorite roads,….. But Tasmania actually moves to the top of my list for overall favorite places I’ve visited on this trip. Australia actually crept to the top of the list of places where I could see myself living and working after this trip! 

I ohh and ahhh an incredible amount on the road.  WOW!, is the most frequent word out of my mouth! Therefore it becomes quite difficult to choose a “favorite” place I’ve been.  The most popular question kids ask me during a school visit is just this, “Which country is your favorite?”  I hate to label some thing or some place as my favorite, because I’m able to see neat and unique qualities in all the country I’ve been to, and I can’t admit to have been treated poorly or been appalled by the food in any particular country.  In order to substantiate a subjective label like this, I have a strict criteria for evaluating a destination based on three key elements in the world of tour cycling: people/culture, food, and scenery.  Some places like Cambodia have delicious food and a fascinating culture, but the scenery isn’t as spectacular as New Zealand let’s say!  However, New Zealand didn’t score very high in the food category.  In Tasmania (although I found this to be true all over mainland Australia) the people were incredibly kind and hospitable, the food was high class and varied, and the scenery was diverse and constantly impressive.

A more arid region of Tasmania north of Hobart

Hells Gate, West Coast, Tasmania
Nothing is flat in Tasmania, rolling hills in the north
Tasmania is like a miniature New Zealand.  In both places, I spent almost the entire day pedaling next to uninterrupted natural beauty. It made me wonder…… What were the Brits were thinking sending convicts to such a beautiful place?!?!  If I lived back in the day, I would have stolen a loaf of bread in England just to get on the boat to go to Tasmania and experience it’s impressive surroundings!  There is one real big city in Tasmania of considerable size, and two or three other decent size towns.  The majority of the other land in untouched, undeveloped, and many well preserved national and state parks.    In  fact, if you look at a map of Tasmania, there aren’t even any roads that traverse the southwest part of the island because nature is so wild and dense.  Tasmania has almost every type of landscape imaginable except for snow capped mountains for downhill skiing, although Mt. Wellington and Cradle Mountain do get snow during the winter! There is beautiful farmland, dry plains and parched rolling hills.  There is temperate rainforest and rocky ocean shores, sandy beaches, and picturesque river valleys and gorges.  The advantage of this small island is that you never have to pedal very far to get from one place to another. 

Just behind Hobart is Mt. Wellington, a great ride or place to hike!
Kangaroos grazing on Maria Island, Tasmania

Beaches in Australia also deserve special attention, and this is coming from someone who prefers mountainous landscapes to beaches. Everyone seems to equate Asia with beautiful beaches and heads there for their beach holidays.  Asia is a great inexpensive beach destination, but Australia’s beaches are the best I’ve seen in the world and incredibly diverse!  At many of the beaches I saw, there were surfers and swimmers, but there were also plenty of beaches with kangaroos and cows grazing, and rocky cliffs that invited for people to do all sorts of activities like hiking and mountain biking and many beaches where the temperate forests grows right up next to the coastline. 

Freycinet National Park, Tasmania
Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania
Painted Cliffs, Maria Island, Tasmania

If I had to choose between the food in Australia and a country in SE Asia, I would probably choose an Asian country.  However, what I enjoyed about the food in Australia is that it is so diverse.  Because of their large international population, you can find authentic delicious laksa and Indian curry anywhere in Australia or be more than satisfied with a native kangaroo burger or the catch of the day straight from a fishing boat at the pier.  There is a variety of fruits in this country and since there is a tropical region up north, Australia seasonal fruit all year round!  Cold coffee drinks can’t be beat in SE Asia, but Australia has a unique coffee culture. In Australia, it all comes down to what kind of coffee machine you have, and believe me, I tried them all!  With a cup of coffee, it is hard to pass up a pastry and Australia’s baked goods are top notch!  I never considered myself a wine drinker until I arrived in Australia, and the wine in Tasmania superb!  I passed vineyard after vineyard all over the island.  But if you don't like wine, there are plenty of microbrews and ciders as well-What a reward at the end of a long day of riding!

The buffet lunch on the Gordon River cruise, unbeatable!

Ciders are the new trend here in Tasmania

Finally, Australia wouldn’t be Australia without its culture!  Coming from Asia where it was harder to find English language speakers, I found it quite easy to really get to know people in Australia, share ideas, compare perspectives, and enjoy their company.  The amount of hospitality that I received in Australia was unheard of.  In fact, despite what you might think, I actually spent less money in Australia than Asia! How is this possible? People’s generosity!  I had an incredible network of hosts from Thomson Bike Tour clients, friends of theirs, friends of friends, and other teachers I met previously on the trip.  Not to mention, I received gracious amounts of random acts of kindness all throughout mainland Australia and Tasmania. 

Stu, myself, and Kersti, great hosts on the mainland
Future TBT clients hosted me at their beach shack in Port Arthur, Tasmania
My host, Georgie Brown, and I, enjoying local Tasmanian wine.

Australians have a wonderful quality of life.  The way of life here reminds me a lot of Europe, and this might very well be because of all of the European ancestory and more recent immigration.  It seems they embrace a multi-culture society, and value diversity.  At Melbourne’s night market with food booths from around the world, if you don’t speak English with a foreign accent you are a minority, and in Sydney’s Chinatown, you feel as though you’ve traveled to Malaysia and Vietnam when you enter some of the local restaurants. Here’s another simple example to get insight into the Australian culture.  I always find it interesting to observe the cafes in different countries.  In Europe, just like Australia,….most cafes don’t serve coffees to go! Paper cups don’t really exist.  Why? -Because people value a 10 to 15 minute break in their day to stop, relax, rest, disconnect, and feel refreshed before they go back to work.  Maybe this is where the saying “Stop and smell the coffee comes from?” It sure didn’t originate from the United States where it is almost virtually impossible to find a café that doesn’t serve their coffee out of a to go cup.  Why? – Because why would you stop to have a coffee if you can bring it with you while you do something else!

With all this goodness inside Australia, funny enough, the Aussies are a very modest culture. They are reserve yet content and quite clever to keep their country a secret, especially Tasmania.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Tasmania has to be one of the best kept travel destinations.  I surely do hope it’s a “see you soon!” rather than a good-bye to Australia……

*To view my complete Tasmania photo albums, click here!
*To view my video of Tasmania, click here


  1. These pictures are stunning!! Wow! What a great grand finale for your overseas experience, enjoy your time in the states!

  2. I'm so glad you enjoyed your stay in Tassie, Melissa. Thanks for the brilliant write-up, it's all true!