Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Hiking up Mt. Wellington

6th April 2007:

Towering over the city of Hobart is the rather imposing Mt. Wellington. At a mere 1,270 meters in height, it is high enough to be regularly shrouded in clouds. It also acts as a giant sponge, soaking up most of the rain from those clouds and helping to make Hobart the driest of Australia's capital cities. Walking up it sounded like just the thing for clearing away the cobwebs from the last couple of months of work.

To go up the mountain, the cheapest option is to hop on a public bus to its base, and start walking. While nice 'n cheap, you would need to be well prepared: what if you were in the midst of the forest which blankets the lower parts of the mountain and the clouds suddenly descended making it hard to see...? navigating could prove tough... So, keeping that in mind, I booked myself on a day tour with an experienced local who acted as a guide, chef, comedian and chauffeur all rolled into one.

The tour started at 8AM. Hobart was deserted at this hour of the morning. All you could hear were the beep-beep-beep noises from the pedestrian crossings and I found myself looking out for tumbleweeds rolling down the streets: there was literally nobody about.

My fellow travel companions for the day were two Melbournians and once we met up with the tour guide and got out of the ghost town it wasn't long before we were all trudging up the steep slope. The others in the group were all experienced hikers so we kept up a good pace. There had been a serious fire in the 1960s which burnt out most of the forest along with 4,000+ nearby houses and 40 years later we hiked through the remains of the dead trees which still towered over the forest floor.

If you do take the walk up the mountain also, dress warmly. Once we got to the top it was chilly and our breaths were hanging in the air in white puffs. We just made it before the clouds started descending and the view over the valley below while it lasted was well worth the effort of the climb.

It did become a bit surreal when a stranger came up to me at the peak, noticed I had a Canon camera similar to hers and asked me to show her to to operate her camera. Soon, the word spread amongst the different groups of strangers up there that I had "Tech Skillz" and people kept coming up to me asking how to delete pics from their cameras, how to do panoramic photos, how to stop getting blurry photos and half a dozen other photography related questions. If my career of IT doesn't work out I might setup a stall at the top of that mountain and start a little advice-giving business :)

Thankfully we didn't have to walk back down the maintain as the ride down was provided as part of the tour. We got back into Hobart for about 6PM and it was then that my lack of planning for this trip showed through again: being Good Friday in the Easter weekend, all the shops were closed and I had done no shopping: oops! Fortunately, Kentucky's finest restaurant (KFC) was one of the few businesses open. However, due to the bars being closed, my plans for a social drink in a nearby bar were dashed :( As a fall back, I made do with discussing the merits of globalisation and the lack of multiculturalism in post-millennial TV show Neighbours with an English girl and a Spanish girl both of whose knowledge of the show somewhat outweighed mine (seeing as they both had actually watched the show before).