Launceston                          

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With Mike and Betty on board, we arrived in Launceston, Tasmania's second largest city with a population of about 90,000. Mike had arranged a spot for us on the main wharf, which is the only place where the water is deep enough to accommodate Shear Madness. Ron headed back to the mainland for a week of vacation while Bradley and I planned to enjoy some land based adventures. We spent a couple days running errands and exploring Launceston, including some great local hiking at The Cataract Gorge where the river runs through sheer rock cliffs. Inside the Marakoopa CaveRight at the city's edge, there are hours worth of trails where wallabies (small kangaroos) are as common as squirrels are back home. Then, we hired a car (here you hire things rather than rent them) and planned a trip out to Cradle Mountain for a serious hike.

On our way to Cradle Mountain, we stopped at several small towns along the way where we enjoyed visiting local art and craft galleries, a cheese farm, and a honey farm. We arrived at Mole Creek where we would stay for the night. We were just in time to catch the last tour of the Marakoopa Cave, part of a huge network of caves in the area. This is a limestone cave with two streams running through it with some excellent stalagmite and stalactite formations and a terrific glowworm display.  As we have come to expect in Tasmania, it was a very well done attraction.

The next day we enjoyed a large breakfast and then set off the the hour and a half drive through winding mountain roads leading to Cradle Mountain, site of Tasmania's most well known hiking areas. It was an interesting trip, including more beautiful scenery and also some free range cattle farms, where there are no fences between the cattle and the roads. Soon we came to understand that the sign with a cow on it meant you were liable to find cows wandering on the roads. Kinda keeps you on your toes! Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake

Cradle Mountain is not a huge mountain - only 1500 meters (about 4600 feet) but it is a fairly challenging climb. After five and a half hours, with about half of it spent pulling ourselves up or easing ourselves down large rocks, we arrived back at the car park (parking lot). It was a nice climb with of course much more beautiful scenery.

Saturday, March 13 was the day of the St. Patrick's Day parade and festival in nearby Westbury. Mike and Betty invited us to attend with them. Westbury is a charming small town and the parade was fun. It had horses, bagpipes, old cars, steam engines, fire engines, and some kids. There were also some bands, some dancing, and good food. We stopped in at the local pub for a Guinness before heading home. While in the car, we received a call from a reporter for the local paper, The Examiner,  asking if he could come by and interview us for a story. Apparently there was some interest in the big American yacht that had come all the way up the river to Launceston. The Westbury St. Patrick's Day parade

Sunday morning we met the reported and told him all about our adventures in Tasmania. He brought a photographer who took several pictures and they said there would be a story in Monday's paper.  The we set off to visit yet more wineries. Wisely, we decided to drive to the furthest one first and then work our way back. Fortunately for me, Bradley does not drink white wine and Tasmania's climate is best suited for whites. At most stops, there were five or six whites available for tasting and usually only a couple of reds (there are some excellent pinot noirs). So I was definitely not the designated driver!  On the way home, we got a call from the reporter again, asking if the photograhper could come back to take another photo inside the boat. We agreed to meet him and tried not to look like we had been tasting wine all day!

Monday morning brought our day of fame in Tasmania. Our story was prominently on the front page and its continuation took up most of page 3! The reporter had done an excellent job, supplementing the interview with information from the website. We soon learned that a lot of people in Launceston read the Examiner. Though we were not on the boat for the whole day, we had a steady stream of visitors coming by just to say hello. Soon we had a dinner invitation for Monday night from a local barrister (lawyer) who was the former commodore of the yacht club and for Tuesday night from a doctor who has an interest in sailing.  A woman dropped off some tomatoes and lemons from her garden along with a note that said thank you for visiting Tasmania. One couple stopped by because her name was also Kathy Clark. We had invitations to stop by people's homes for coffee, and most importantly, I got a golf invitation! Dressed in our Shear Madness shirts, we were recognized in most shops we stopped in and spent most of the day engaged in fun conversations with very friendly people. Monday night we went to Bill and Paula's house for dinner. Though we had just met, by the end of the night we were great friends, including daughter Amelia and dog Attilla. They have a fabulous house just outside of town with lots of land and great views. Bill collects classic cars and Paula is an avid gardener. It was a very enjoyable night. Front page of the Examiner

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Tuesday was another busy day. We started with a two hour hike around The Gorge. I took my camera in hopes of getting some good photos of the wallabies that had been prevalent the other two times I had walked around that area. But it was a bit later in the morning than before and apparently most of the wallabies had gone in for morning tea or something. The ones we did seem were very skittish, making it hard to get a photo of them. The good weather, however, has continued throughout our stay in Launceston and it was a great day for a hike. We arrived back at the boat where we talked with a few more visitors. In the afternoon we boarded the Lady Launceston as special guests for its regular one hour river cruise where we learned more about the history of the port of Launceston and some of the local buildings and boats. This was followed by a trip to our new friends, Roy and Gloria who had invited us over for a drink. Originally from England, they are now retired after both having careers as painters of figurines for Royal Doulton. They had a daughter who lives in Florida and Roy is taking me golfing tomorrow.

Next we were off to dinner with Simon, the doctor, his wife Caroline, sons Charlie and Duncan, and dog Billy. This was another wonderful house outside the city and surrounded by horse farms and the dinner and company was again very enjoyable. Kathy hits from the middle of the fairway at the Launceston Golf Club

Wednesday brought a visit to my namesake, Kathy Clark for tea and then it was off to the Launceston Golf Club for a round with Roy. It was a scenic and well maintained course and we had a delightful time. Roy is a very good golfer and is also a lot of fun to be with. We agree to play again on Friday. After a relaxing dinner on the boat, Bradley headed off for some St. Patrick's Day Guinnesses with Mike and Betty while I relaxed by myself. Thursday brought a rare morning where we did nothing, just laid around and relaxed. For dinner, it was off the Mike and Betty's where Bradley had arranged to cook a large turkey for dinner and I was to help Mike with setting up a new email system on his computer. It was yet another wonderful evening with good friends. Ron returned from his holiday and the time was nearing for us to move on.

But first, I got to play one more round of golf, this time at the Country Club Resort, another pretty and well maintained course. Roy and I had a fine outing, including my nice birdie on a par 3. Then we were off to head slowly back down the Tamar River.

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