This is what it’s like hiking with a toddler.
The best thing about traveling with a baby is that every stranger who passes us says hello and smiles. You start thinking the world is full of nice people.
The worst thing about traveling with a baby is that a high percentage of these strangers want to stop and chat. And then you just want those nice people to go away.
As we hiked up the jaw-dropping mountains of Tasmania’s Freycinet National Park, Sarah with Hannah in the carrier on her back, the first hiker who passed us coming down smiled when he saw there was a human being in the carrier. “She’s got the right idea, that one!” he said, and we all laughed and exchanged pleasantries. After 50 such exchanges with jolly backpackers, I was all pleasantried out. Sarah, generally more patient than I, happily made small talk with each and every person who showed interest, and Hannah dutifully smiled at all of them. Call me a jerk, but I just wanted to get to the top of the mountain.
When we finally got there a couple hours later, before I could take in the stunning vistas of Wineglass Bay’s lookout point, Hannah promptly pooped her nappy. My punishment: changing her diaper. I laid her down on a changing pad atop the mountain, and commenced the foulest of activities in the most beautiful of surroundings. That’s our trip in a nutshell. She smiled at me the whole time, of course.
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Later that day, we saw a kangaroo in a parking lot, gnawing at the tire of our rental car. There must be some lesson there about the dangers of rampant development and its destruction of wildlife’s natural habitats. But all I could think was, “Dude, there’s a kangaroo eating our car!” By the time I grabbed my camera, he had glared at me, majorly put out, and wandered off. These kangaroos may be the only individuals in Australia grumpier than I am.
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The greatest bivalve mollusks on earth
Here’s how quaint our Tasmanian trailer park is: there is a sign that says “Speed limit 8 km, or waking pace.” The quaintness of it all was lost on me at 4 a.m., though, when I realized that Hannah was in our little bed again, and I was being pushed up against a plywood wall. Eventually, I grabbed a sheet and moved to the couch. Though two feet too short for a grown man, it had the benefit of not having a baby on it, so I was happy.
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A word about oysters.
I grew up in a tragically land-locked part of the country, so I wasn’t surrounded by mollusks of any sort. Oysters were a bit of a mystery. Now I’m obsessed with them. Last week, at the Sydney Fish Market, we stopped at Peter’s, a heavenly shop that had pretty much every variety of fish and seafood in the ocean. We settled on a dozen oysters, which were unlike any I’d ever had: giant, perfect specimens served raw with just a squirt of lemon. The best I’d ever eaten.
Six days later, they were the second-best. We were driving around the bay this morning and saw a sign that just said: “OYSTERS” and it had a little arrow pointing to the right. We went right.
You know, you’re supposed to eat them, kid—not stuff them down your diaper. But whatever works for you.
It was a little dirt road, which we followed for half a mile until we came to a secluded little house with an adorable little girl playing on the lawn. “We’re here for oysters,” we told the girl, who had the kind of golden curls you used to see in Norman Rockwell paintings. She ran and got her mom, who came outside and greeted us happily, a baby on her hip. She led us to a picnic table in their yard, where Lily and Hannah played like best friends. Soon the woman came out with a dozen fresh oysters, which we sucked down under the Tasmanian sun. She watched us proudly, and explained how to grow oysters, farm them, eat them, et cetera. “The best oysters,” she said, “come from good, clean, cold water, and that is one thing that Tasmania has lots of.”
Lily nodded her assent. “I like oysters, but the mussels are very nice.” Her mom brought out a bucket of steamed mussels with some lemon and onion, which we also devoured. The kid was right. I’d never eaten mussels so meaty, so fresh, so good. After an hour, we said goodbye before getting back in our car and wondering what other mind-expanding adventures were hidden on these Tasmanian side roads. We want to experience them all.