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March 4, 2020
Burnie (Tasmania), Australia: Critters and a Cave

Russell writes…

Welcome to Tasmania! We never thought we would ever visit this island south of Australia. But thanks to coronavirus, we are cruising through South Australia instead of North Australia. (We don’t mind; we have been north before, but never south.)

Sunrise as we approach Tasmania

Our only stop in Tasmania is the small town of Burnie, formerly known as Emu Bay. Today’s excursion was “Gunns Plains Caves & Wildlife.” (Gail had to keep explaining to Russell that we were not going to see “guns, planes, caves and wildlife.”) This excursion was so popular, it filled two buses.

Wildlife was first. We visited Wing’s Wildlife Park, a sanctuary for animals that cannot be released back into the wild. There were more than a hundred species here, including animals, fish, reptiles and birds. For us, the highlights were the kangaroos, wombats (one of our favorite animals) and the legendary Tasmanian devils. Our bus had the rare and unique opportunity to watch the Tasmanian devils get fed a mid-day snack.

Wings Wildlife Park


These two baby wombats are named Molly and Mr. Wilson

The third baby wombat, Mathilda, has not yet been accepted by the other two

Gail with Mathilda

Tasmanian devils (signs warn visitors not to lean their hands over the fence)

Tasmanian devils *look* cute…

… until they do *this*. They can open their jaws 90 degrees, and have a bite force of 300 lbs (more than twice that of a human).

Their mid-day snack was this fresh wallaby leg

The feeder tossed the wallaby leg over the fence to where four female devils were waiting

Devils make a scary hissing sound as they fight over the snack

From there, we drove to Gunns Plains Caves. The caves were discovered in 1906, and we took a guided tour through winding passageways deep underground. We also got to see some glow worms at the end.

Gunns Plains Cave was at the bottom of 54 very steep stairs

“Bacon ribbon” stalactites

A “wedding cake” column

We literally had to squeeze through some of the passages

After our five-hour excursion, Gail needed a rest aboard ship. Russell took the shuttle bus into downtown Burnie.

Burnie was originally built around a pulp mill, but the timber industry disappeared here. Burnie reinvented itself as “a city of makers and creators,” and now thrives on tourism – particularly from cruise ships. Russell visited the Makers’ Workshop, then walked along the boardwalk to downtown. He was shocked to find a board game store in this tiny town, and even more shocked to find something that he actually bought. (Russell also got a souvenir magnet.)

Burnie promotes itself as a “city of makers”

These life-sized sculptures are made entirely of paper

The waterfront (look at that sky!)

Downtown Burnie

After the long day, neither one of us felt like getting dressed for dinner, so we ordered room service. We are looking forward to another sea day tomorrow.

Room service aboard the Mariner is first class!

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