What a wonderful 50th birthday! Woke up to some lovely gifts - the most amazing one being a voucher for Ken and I to go hot air ballooning! This is something I have wanted to do for a very long time and my very astute and wonderful daughter-in-law picked up on this wish and made it happen. The operators are currently in South Australia but they come to Tasmania towards the end of January so I will have to wait till then - Yehah. Thank you so much for all the amazing people who contributed to this - it is the BEST present. I also received a beautiful gold necklace and bracelet from my very special friend Jackie and her family - very naughty as they also put in for the balloon ride. And Ken has said that on the day of the ballooning he will book us into Evandale - a quaint little town very close to where the ballooning will happen and which I have heard is just gorgeous. VERY EXCITED!!
We then headed into town and enjoyed breakfast in a harbourside restaurant, a wander around town then in the afternoon we boarded a big cruise ship. This ship took us out into Macquarie Harbour and through Hell's Gates into the Indian Ocean. The entry into the safe harbour is very narrow and the convicts named it Hell's Gates as they knew once through this passage their lives in the penal settlement would be like hell. After a feel of the 'Roaring Forties' winds turned back into the safety of the harbour for a close up look of the Salmon farms. We just love Tasmanian salmon and so it was really interesting to see where they come from. We were then taken to Sarah Island - a tiny island inside the Harbour where the first penal settlement in Tasmania had been established. In this time it was renowned for being a very harsh place where the island was completely razed off all its trees leaving it open to the roaring winds. The convicts were worked hard in terrible conditions and punishment was horrendous. The island today is just beautiful with vegetation starting to grow back among the ruins left by the convict days. Such an interesting place to visit and the guide provided made it all come to life with her dramatic presentation. Back on the boat and we headed up the Gordon River. Oh my God - just SO beautiful. Whilst taking it all in the staff prepared our evening meal which was a smorgasboard of smoked salmon, ham, salads and fresh fruit - Yummy. As we sidled close to the edge of the river so we could view a huon pine I spotted a big platypus floating on the water. He was only there for a minute before he dived back under so I felt really lucky to have seen him.
A bit further up the river we disembarked to have a wander along a boardwalk through the dense forest. It amazes me how the poor convicts and later on the wood cutters could make their way through the foliage - it was SO thick. It was also very damp and humid - not a nice working enviornment at all. The last hour of trip was spent quietly sat back in our comfy chair, complimentary glass of wine in hand (Ken had told them it was my birthday!) and enjoyed the peace as we glided back home. A fabulous 50th birthday :)