We’d already decided to write off Maria Island, just off the coast of Triabunna, due to the all day nature of having to take a ferry, the many long hikes, no café or ice cream, not to mention the expense. Somewhere in our travels we ran into someone who said, “You’ve just got to go to Maria.” We’re finding Tassie to be tricky to plan anyway, so even a bad plan is better than wandering around aimlessly. Our ace activity planner jumped into action and soon had something feasible worked out. Once again the kind lady at the information office fine tuned our schedule and said you can change the ferry tickets on the fly so no worries.
Soon rain beat an insistent tattoo on our windows as the sky closed in and we were glad to be on a closed-in boat. With a cross swell running out in the Tasman Sea, even in these benign conditions periodic wave slaps jolted the large boat just to remind you where you are, and you travel here only at the indulgence of Neptune. It’s the nature of rain at sea that it comes in bands and by the time we pulled into Darlington Bay, it had stopped.
Everyone on the ferry spread out along the many disparate paths and we found ourselves stepping carefully, dodging an amazing quantity of poo. Whose? I don’t want to think about it. Spare, desolate, spooky, any place where a great deal of bad juju happened always gives me the creeps and this place has it in spades. Evidence of whaling was found on the beaches and topping a rolling hill we ran into a wombat busily grazing, who by all rights should have been asleep.
This island is part of the UNESCO heritage listing for Australia’s Convict History and was definitely not for convicts with privileges but was reserved for what they called convict probation whose focus was on “punishment and reform through hard labor, religious instruction, and education.”
Evidence of hard labor wasn’t hard to find and just past the grassy landing strip doing duty as a kangaroo spa we found the fossil cliffs where convicts were tasked with cutting huge blocks of lime rock for concrete until somebody, probably one of the convicts tired of cutting huge blocks of lime, noticed that the high lime content was due to an amazing quantity of fossilized marine life contained within.
I fancied the longer loop return hike passing through the interior of the island and a large reservoir built by the convicts. By this point the pricey bicycle rental was sounding like a good deal.
Past the engine house, brick and lime kilns we stopped to eat our picnic lunch at the penitentiary and were soon on our way with the most ambitious hike of the day, all the way to the painted cliffs which could only be seen at low tide and for a change we seem to have gotten the timing of the tide right.
The weather started to get serious and we knew we still had a long drive ahead so when Marce suggested maybe we could make an earlier ferry we focused on speed rather than style. Just as I began to no longer care whether we made the early ferry or not we could see it coming into Darlington Bay. After more than eight miles, good timing again.