Date Tags 2002au

In Launceston, Tasmania. Finding that Tasmania is not just home to a Warner Brothers cartoon character.

Drove from Sydney to Melbourne with an overnight stop in Wangaratta, Victoria. It's about a nine hour drive straight through. Wangaratta was a nice, neat, country town, in a wine and ranching region near Milawa. There were very good restaurants there, but we ate at the doner kebab place.

Melbourne, on Friday, was a quick blow through--though we stopped at 'the biggest Kmart in the Southern Hemisphere' in Campbellfield on the north side of Melbourne. It was... well, big. Note to North Americans: Kmart is just the name and the old logo, there isn't any relationship to the Michigan retailer famous for strewn clothing and blue lights.

I also went to the doctor at the clinic for a sinus infection (sounds familiar, eh?) In 25 minutes I had walked in, seen the doctor, seen the pharmacist for my prescription, and paid. Total cost: $25 for the doctor, $17.90 for the antibiotics. That's, well, about US$22. It's wonderful to have health care so accessible and affordable. I know in San Jose I could never even see a doctor for under $75, and the antibiotics would be $15. And I actually spoke with the doctor for about ten minutes... unlike the US, where I'd have a nurse assistant take my temperature, an assistant show me the room, and if I were lucky the doctor would stay in the room for maybe three minutes. This doctor was smart, intelligent, gave me his card, had no problem with me being gay--and basically didn't treat me like a stupid dullard. I was impressed with the whole experience.

So, after that, we scooted around the city on the free freeways (Melbourne has electronic-only-toll freeways; no tollbooths at all, and no cash customers allowed) to the ferry terminal. We think we�ll like Melbourne; it seems to have �work gets done here� attitude that Sydney lacks. People in Sydney drive Ferraris because it�s fast and sexy. People in Melbourne drive Mercedes E-class because they like the engineering. That�s a really rough impression, but right now I�ll hypergeneralize. It�s similar to that difference between marketing and engineering that�s so apparent at software companies. We�ll be spending a week in Melbourne at the beginning of April.

The ferry ride over was pretty good--we boarded Melbourne at 4 in the afternoon, the ferry sailed at 7, and arrived in Tasmania at 8:30 the next morning. We had a cabin with a window. The ferry had the biggest bars I've seen; they looked like they could easily accommodate all of the thousand passengers on board. They were packed from 4 until sailing, then most of the evening. I suspect quite a few passengers decided not to even book a cabin, and stay at the bar all night long.

We headed straight away to Mole Creek, Tasmania, which is in the middle of a big limestone karst formation, riddled with caves, and on the edge of the dry pastureland and the wet rainforest. Got a camping spot at a caravan park; it was a bit crowded for my taste (since this is a holiday weekend), but the hot showers were nice. Sunday we spent on wild cave tours�our guide, Deborah, showed us two caves�one was a very ecologically active, not so deep cave; the other was a huge cave with a grand gallery. That second cave, Coresus was a bit of a challenge� it required crawling through 10m of cold, 6c water� and the air temperature wasn�t much warmer at 9c. Still, it was very rococo inside; all sorts of cave formations all mixed together! Lots of gours and cave pearls and �cave marbles� in the stream bed. And platypus turds slowly decomposing; they make their way up there to mate or something.

Afterwards, I got warm with a shower, and then at 7 went to the Union Bridge over the Mersey River to look for platypus. A big family was having a fish fry at the beach below the bridge; they said �oh, yeah, there a plenty of them here!� I waded the river (it wasn�t more than knee deep, and very warm, I�d say 20c)� but didn�t see any after sitting for 15 minutes on the bank. It started to get dark, so I bushwacked the 200m back to the bridge, and stood with two Swiss women from our campground on both sides of the bridge� and lo, I found the elusive platypus! There were several platypuses (platypi?) coming up to the surface, smacking the water with their bills before diving again. They looked silly and improbable, like kids stuffed animals.

Anyway, today was a late sleep in day. When we heard it was going to rain in the afternoon, we packed camp, went up to an overlook called Devil�s Gullet which was scenic and all, then scooted our way to the east. Now we�re in Launceston, wondering how this city of 100,000 can support so many decent restaurants� and watching Sex in the City and Six Feet Under. Whee!


March 11 2002, 09:24:45

that you got to see a doctor same-day for something which didn't involve lopping off a limb.

my md is unavailable for appointments for about five weeks in the future (yes, five weeks!) if you have something going on you pretty much have to schedule with one of his physician assistants (which turned out to be, actually, fine by me).

March 16 2002, 04:56:19

Did you have any experience with medical care out here yourself?

If you're not insistent on seeing a particular doctor, then you can pretty much get health care very quickly here - and for free or almost free (Dan only pays because he's not covered by Medicare).

It does mean that I'm not going to have a license to print money in a few years though (although I don't think that's a bad thing...).