Maria Island to Swansea – Running with the devil (53k/480m)

(December 16, 2020 – written by Dave)

Wow, what a night we had on Maria Island. Which quickly brings us to whole “running with the devil” theme of today’s post (cue the Van Hallen fans out there). I think mentioned in yesterday’s post that they released an “ark” population of Tassie Devils onto Maria Island. The good folks in charge of this program have a giant poster in the main BBQ area and they specifically call out that the devils no longer need to be fed. Sounds great in theory.

Even though we weren’t specifically warned to store our food, we took advantage of the onsite food lockers. And more or less, this was a good plan until around midnight last night. You see, devils have an extremely keen sense of smell and apparently the residue smell of bread in our bags was too tempting for a hungry devil.

Nancy woke first about 11:30 from noise in the tent vestibule and caught the devil trying to paw through one of our bags.  We yelled at it and shooed the devil away. Ten minutes later he was back, this time grabbing one of my panniers and trying to drag it away. We yelled again and eventually the devil abandoned his prey a few meters from the tent. We knew there was no food in the bags but apparently, the devil didn’t. We agreed the best thing to avoid repeated visits would be to take all of our bags down to the BBQ food boxes.

After a quick inventory, we discovered that the bag with all of our rain gear was missing. Apparently he got that bag on his first pass and we didn’t notice in the kerfuffle. While Nancy searched the tent to make sure we didn’t misplace the bag, I got my head torch and started scowering the bush surrounding the tent. Yes, I was in my skivvies and flip-flops at this point. Just by luck really, my head torch lit up what looked like a ribbon of reflective material on my rain pants under a low bush some distance away.

I ran full speed in the direction of the object – yes in my skivvies and flip-flops. I had to crawl under a bunch of bushes to reach the reflection and great news, it was our missing bag. Bad news however, the bag looked like it had been sliced open with a knife.  I did a quick inventory and even luckier, rain paints, jackets and booties were all still there and appeared undamaged.  I crawled back out from under the bushes, gathered the rest of the bags as we got everything we could secured in the lockers.

Photo taken next morning. Not sure how he cut the bag so straight. Sorry, no photos of devil or me in my skivvies.

At some point it kind of dawned on me that I have no idea how vicious a Tassie Devil is and how strongly they would protect their winnings. And yes, taking on any wild animal in skivvies and flip-flops while attempting to take back its winnings is probably not a great idea. But that’s what you do when the adrenaline kicks in. And to be fair, I’m pretty scary in my skivvies.

Nancy didn’t sleep much after that. I crashed, par for the course I guess. All up, we lost one bag. Not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. If we’d lost our rain gear we would have had to return to Hobart to resupply.  And after all, we are helping save an endangered species so it’s hard to be upset with the devils. However… seriously, claiming that the devils have established their own food sources and letting the campers be that source is kind silly. Remember, we had no food at our tent. The parks folks really need to up their communications regarding food, and provide more lockers in the camping area perhaps.

Anyway, all part of the journey and not a night that we’ll soon forget…

Apparently not wanting to be outdone by the devils, it seemed that the wombats also turned up the attention-grabbing cute factor last night and again this morning. While were having dinner last night, a female with a joey in her pouch waddled past the BBQ area. The joey was big enough to make walking awkward and cause the pouch to rub the ground. Eventually the mom reached the grassy area and the joey poked its head out for a photo shoot. For the record, wombat pouches face backward so that dirt doesn’t go into then when mom digs. Its odd looking but it works – see below.

Mom with her pouch dragging
Look close, you can see the joey looking out the pouch

Then finally this morning, we got one more wombat show. We were the first two people to reach the ferry dock and just as we arrived, a mother wombat and joey, this time an older one outside the pouch, were working their way back to their den right under the waiting area for the ferry. We got some photos then watched the pair disappear down a readymade den in a big drain pipe. Eventually lots of other passengers arrived and began milling about. We chuckled about the pair hiding within metres of the crowd, feely slightly smug knowing what we knew.

Joey and Mom wombat
Joey flying, errr, running at full tilt
One last Maria Island photo – the island barn 1844

As for the ferry, we got to chatting with other passengers on the ride back and before we knew it, we reached Triabunna. It helped immensely that seas were calmer as well – much better than the sail over. It took us a while to get everything repacked on the bikes and it was close to 11AM before we were ready to roll – so, what else to do but stop for a coffee and snack in town. We left town heading north with strong winds pushing all the way to Swansea.

View of the end of the Freycinet Peninsula across the Great Oyster Bay
Roadside stall full of treats
Great Oyster Bay

The weather has changed completely today. We had north winds and sun the first three days. Today we had clouds and south winds. The winds made our short ride seem even shorter. We barely stopped on the way to Swansea. Sorry, not many photos of the ride.

Spikey Bridge – no prizes for where the name comes from

In Swansea we had fish and chips for lunch and debated what to do about lodging. It only got up to 18 today and we were ready for a warm night so we splashed out and got a room at the very basic Swansea Motor Inn. It’s really not much more than camping but it’s clean and we get a bed to sleep in. We are both keen to have a nice quiet night after last night as well.

Lunch – my body is a temple
Swansea toilet block (why is this photo here you ask…)
View from sitting on said toilet, in toilet block, now you know

Tomorrow there is some rain in the forecast and we are heading for the Freycinet Peninsula where we will camp for a couple nights and do a hike on another rest day. It was rumoured to possible to get a punt/boat at the end of a spit right here in Swansea, saving about 30k of riding back into the head at the end of tomorrow’s ride. We talked to the folks at information and they said that getting the punt up and running this summer was planned but that Covid caused the project to be put on hold. Oh well, we don’t have anything else on and if we reach the park too early, we may have to sit in the tent and watch it rain. We’ll just take it slow.

Swansea from the waterfront
Waterfront again at the bowls green
Flowers from Swansea for Pete

8 thoughts on “Maria Island to Swansea – Running with the devil (53k/480m)

  1. I will look forward to reading about your travels, and will live vicariously through your adventures! Like everyone, we had to cancel our major travels this last year, but I’m being optimistic about 2021 and am busy planning. Safe travels and watch out for those devils!

  2. The fish and chips look delicious! I’m sorry to hear that you ended up doing battle with those cute little devils while camping. Good thing you didn’t have to cut your trip short! The Wombats are just adorable! I’m happy you are able to get such great wildlife pics. Keep those flower pictures coming…Pete loves them! Wishing you sunny days ahead…

  3. Inge loves the flowers … I love pretending I love the flowers … I also feel sorry for Nancy who witnessed Dave chasing endangered and quite valuable little creatures around in the dark in his underwear wearing flip flops and a headlamp!

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