Tasmania likes to promote itself as 'The Holiday Isle' which in all fairness does sound a great deal better than 'The Roadkill State' but it's a bit sad that the creature emerging from behind the rainforest fronds depicted on their licence plates is the extinct Tassie tiger.
Ironically, the certainly-true 'Holiday Isle' moniker is probably the main contributing factor to the amount of roadkill as the highways and gravel tracks are clogged with hire car Nissan Tiidas and Hyundai Getzs filled with Andrews and Claras who are earning decent money and are so over the one-star backpacker experience and rapidly push their 1.4 litre engines to overtake those still trying to live on $14 a day whilst driving hand-painted combi vans that are lucky to push eighty but accommodate eighteen.....
.......Not to mention the caravans and camper trailers proudly driven by superannuated Trevor and Marges with spare wheel covers proclaiming 'Adventure before Dementia' in jokey lettering and their side mirrors extended so far I could almost unwind my window and give the right-hand one a smack as we overtake them.
As for the wildlife we saw that was alive and not like Mr Penguin pictured above or the unfortunate Big Tasmanian devil made out of fibreglass at Mole Creek with his back legs buried in the dirt and a huge gaping hole in his lower back, I present:
Pretty Percy, at Cataract Gorge, Launceston. He strutted around for photos until the clusters of people at the nearby tables indicated that it was lunchtime. His lunchtime. A few athletic-but-ineffectually flappy jumps and several empty snaps of his beak later, he retreated back to the rotunda, defeated by the hard clear glass of the display cabinet. It's hard to stalk off with dignity when white-headed retirees eating devonshire teas are laughing at you.
Ed here was snuffling for insects at Lake St Clair and couldn't have given a fat rats' clacker about me and an excitable German guy squatting in front of him for a few photos.
These baby sea-horses were amongst the hundreds of thousands hatched in tanks at Beauty Point. Some were destined for hobbyists' fishtanks around the world but a more careful read of the display panels after the unaudible tour (a pounding orchestra of pool filters drowning out the guide's whispered commentary) revealed that most of them were going on a long trip to China to be powdered up for benefit of 'Men with Love Lasting Problems.'
Bumble bees (can you see it?) are so large and fluffy they're like cute mini stuffed toys instead of the determinedly savage little stingers they really are. These have been found in Tassie since 1992 and are now everywhere - except in the ubiquitous gift shops but give them time: they'll someday be sold as dangly earrings when an enterprising local craftswoman learns how to remove the sting without half a furry black arse connected to it). Trouble is, these pests look a fair bit cuter than the Cane Toad and no-one's yet reported on being bored enough to try licking their backs for a natural high. Unless - hey - that's why Pooh Bear was always so dumb?
"C'mon give us yer sandwich! Look into my beady, piercing yellow eyes and tell me that you - yes you, you're carrying a few kilos you don't need, aren't you? - can't find it in your overfed, pampered, spoilt little fat heart to GIVE ME YOUR SANDWICH! "
A bed-and-breakfast is always complete when it has the lovely flower garden and a cat. Yes, a cat; even though I'm a drooling, obsessional mushbucket for doggies. Puss Puss here apparently adopted her owners three years ago and now never ventures beyond their 4 acre border. She has full run of the 1860 house including the two BnB sections and gladly welcomes anyone who arrives. She sat next to Love Chunks and I as we were having a glass of wine by the peach trees and then followed Sapphire into the living room to watch a movie. Despite this show of interest, she hated being touched. Purring only eventuated when I was close enough to hear her but not close enough to touch, which made me wonder what kind of life she had three years earlier.
Cackles here was in rather good spirits considering we found him in The Worst. Wildlife. Park. Ever at the unfortunately-named Mole Creek (yes, home of the holey devil). There was no signage or maps and the paths were neglected and overgrown grassy invitations to the local snake population to come in and terrorise the tourists and the poorly-penned animals. The one (real) Tassie devil we saw was despondently hiding in a log with his 'viewing window' consisting of a dirty pane of cracked plastic sheeting that looked as though it had been inserted by a drunk man with a packet of blue tak and a crow bar. A wedge-tailed eagle was half-heartedly gnawing at a still-furry wallaby leg and wasn't interested at all in the fact that the roof of his cage (more like a thrown-together cubby house) had caved in. Outside by the smashed windows of the 'Staff Only' hut, two baby wombats were housed in a wooden playpen with a blanket slung over the top as protection from the sun.
We did see around 15 dolphins having a play alongside our boat near Bruny Island. It was here that I realised that being the designated Photographer on behalf of the Locketts meant that whilst Love Chunks and Sapphire were freely Oooh-ing and Aaaah-ing at the beauty before them I was wrestling with a telefoto lens that was so effective that anytime anybody said, "Oh look!" I'd swivel it around and be half a kilometre off course. Most of my photos featured the bubbles of dolphins the moment after they'd gracefully lept up into the air and dived back into the water.
Seals were sunning themselves nearby and boy, did they stink! Think of morning breath combined with dog-immediately-after-eating-a-dead-pigeon-in-the-park and cross it with Wheelie Bin Prawn Heads a week after Christmas during a heatwave and sweaty toe-jam in surf sandals and you'd just about have it. If increased in magnitude by ten times. Gotta love the one on the left sleeping upside down; it reminded me so much of Milly.
Lastly we saw Sapphirius Tweenius Moodius Lavendulas. Ten-going-straight-to-fifteen, with occasional sulks, a few 'you don't understand me at alls' and a huge dollop of self consciousness then signed off with tears, gulping sighs and beautifully tight, warm hugs.
Of all the animals I managed to photograph, she was the most difficult to capture perfectly and the one I need to coax back into trusting me. I don't envy her the uncertainty and doubt of the next few years, but I'll try my best to make sure she has some arms to fall into.