Tasmania provides an opportunity to reconnect with nature

Wallaby damned · Columnist Nika Shahery approaches a wallaby. Journeying throughout Tasmania allows for many chances to engage with wildlife, especially marsupials like wallabies and kangaroos.  - Nika Shahery | Daily Trojan

Wallaby damned · Columnist Nika Shahery approaches a wallaby. Journeying throughout Tasmania allows for many chances to engage with wildlife, especially marsupials like wallabies and kangaroos. – Nika Shahery | Daily Trojan

From the moment I decided to study abroad in Australia, I hoped to see a kangaroo. A road trip to Tasmania helped me achieve that goal. In fact, that trip helped me engage with the natural elements of Australia I thought only existed in postcards.

Before leaving for Tassi or Tas, as it is affectionately referred to by Aussies, I decided I would limit the amount of research I would conduct beforehand so I could truly experience the land without any pre-existing biases. I had only overheard, from people who had visited or were from Tas, that the state was supposedly green, beautiful and filled with animals. However, the one thing I thought I should glance at was how to treat spider bites, as I had a premonition that city life had insulated me from these types of incidents.

My friends and I only had a starting city, Launceston, and an ending city, Hobart. The excursion was spontaneous, and we were open to what we saw along the drive to fill the days. We arrived in Launceston late one night and dealt with lodging and minimally explored the ghost-like city.

That night, we laid down in the park and stared at the numerous stars sparkling in the barely polluted sky. I had never studied constellations, but my friends pointed out how strange it was that the Big Dipper and Orion’s Belt were flipped, due to our location in the Southern Hemisphere. This realization made us incredibly grateful for what we were experiencing, and we felt so small compared to the boundless constellations.

We hit the road for the next two days, driving through scenes of wild horses, cows, sheep, hens and other farm animals grazing through brilliant green pastures and rocky creeks sprinkled the street borders. Each turn deserved a photo and no crevice was left unvisited.

The bays in particular were something extraordinary. The powdery white sand, paired with the gradient crystal ocean, set the perfect scene that looked only achievable through use of a filter. The ice-cold water was the best cure for sore feet after a long hike from the mountains to the bay—in that day’s case, Wineglass Bay.

On the hike, I made the best kind of friend you can make in Australia: the wallaby. Similar to a kangaroo, these medium-sized marsupials are all over down under. However, the ones around the Bay were like little puppies and had no fear of approaching people, probably to try and grab their food.

At the campsite I was met with some great fears. The first, a display of spiders in the bathroom, genuinely looked unlike any of the spiders I had ever seen. One in particular was transparent white, and I narrowed my gaze on the little pest.

My second fear, though, was far worse. With the knowledge that I have a reasonable fear of snakes, a friend lifted a fake one up and began to advance my way. I saw and heard nothing but the snake for the next couple of minutes, screaming in terror, throwing my water bottle and doing just about anything to keep my distance. At one point another friend launched it in my direction. Suddenly, laughter muted my terror. The prank worked so well I convinced myself into a panic attack, blind to my friends who were bent over the entire time. I met their laughter, but with simultaneous tears. Of my crazy animal encounters thus far, and I have had a few, I still rank the fake red snake as a top one.

My subsequent animal meetings were more positive. At the Tasmanian Devil UnZoo, we watched Tasmanian Devils run around with a shared piece of meat while the keeper told us about their breeding and reintroduction efforts that are saving the threatened species. We also watched some hilarious quolls, squirrel-like marsupials, leap across tree branches in a chaotic acrobatic performance. And of course, I got to see mobs of kangaroos with their joeys. The animals proved a formidable rival to the views of Tas.

We ended our road trip with a visit to Port Arthur, a 19th century detention center for
male repeat offenders. The restoration coupled with the lush greenery made it hard to imagine that the place was once a hellish penitentiary island that featured no walls to keep prisoners in. The history of the prison reform in the facility through the years was truly fascinating. Additionally, the site houses a beautiful memorial for the 32 who were massacred at the location in 1996, an event that continually affects many even today.

The days I spent in Tasmania were unlike any others. While there, I marveled at the beauty with every breath I took. The nature and history there reminds me of the limited access to these sites. In fact, it reminded me how easy it is to forget that nature is not necessarily eternal. It is a shame today that so many look to the sky and mistake planes for stars. Everyone should reconnect with nature,  just as I did in Tasmania.

Nika Shahery is a junior majoring in international relations and policy, planning and development. Her column, “Aussie Adventure,”
runs Thursdays.