Of course, it's cheap because you have to sleep in dorms. Ick. I really really hate dorms. I have serious problems with other people in my space, and if you've read for a while, you've probably laughed at me on more than one occasion when I was wigging out that someone was in my apartment. Well, I'm no better at being a guest than at having guests, and sharing with 6-7 others *really* makes me crazy.
But in mid-December, when I get to the Aranui freighter in the Marquesas, I have to stay in a dorm. I couldn't afford the thousands of dollars extra to upgrade to my own room. I can't actually afford anything from here on it, having already run through my budget for November and still having 12 days left in the month. And it only gets pricier from here, between Tahiti and Easter Island.
So I thought I'd get a head-start on wigging out now, and take the dorm thing for a little test drive.
Not surprisingly, sharing a small space with several others, all competing for a few power outlets and a few bathrooms, makes me nearly as batshit as having someone else in my apartment. It's not quite as bad, because no one looks startled when I take my laptop and leave instead of entertaining them, but it isn't real comfortable.
But the price was right.
I can't figure out the deal with the tour company. I booked with Intrepid, but it's not Intrepid and no one else booked with Intrepid. The usual small group size doesn't apply—there are 20 people, about half Asian and half European. Everyone seems to have a different itinerary and people are coming and going all the time. The outfitter is called Under Down Under. Our guide and driver—Ian—is excellent as is his trainee Lucas. Still, I am crawling out of my skin with all the full-on companionship.
The days generally involve an early start, a stop within the first hour, then alternating between drives and stops, including a stop at a supermarket. Days end at a hostel in a new town.
We've seen Port Arthur, the towns of Ross and Richmond, Freycinet National Park and Wineglass Bay, Bay of Fires, and assorted waterfalls and roadside attractions such as the Tasmanian Devil Conservation Centre, an oyster farm, a penguin rookery, and a cheese factory. Sometimes, I'm doing all right and just glad someone else is doing the driving. Other times, I am bored and wishing I had my own car so that I could go investigate something besides what is on the schedule.
Our Hobart hostel and the Launceston hostel is pretty good, even by my standards, but the Bicheno one was hopeless. Small kitchen, two power outlets for eight people, two toilets per gender for a full house—I had to subdue both my temper at fighting with strangers over access to charging gadgets and my inclination to flee the group thing entirely.
But I'm still here with the group, here in Launceston in a place called Flip Burgers (free wifi) while the rain pours down outside.
The price was right, and Ian showed us that we could pet a wild wallaby. I can deal.