When you are deep into a vicious game of A_sehole, up against the devious El Presidente, you never, ever want to be forced into picking up a fistful of cards. The whole point of the game is to whittle your hand down to none as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, I had no choice. An ace had just been played and I had no “two” or “ten” to beat it. El Presidente’s eyes gleamed in the night. Damn!

It was raining softly, the last night of our kayak expedition down the Freycinet Peninsula. The six of us were huddled under a tarp playing one of the most perverse card games ever invented, the rules of which changed continuously as the evening progressed.

It is a little-known fact that river and kayak guides spend much of their spare time inventing such games in order to drive their clients to bed so the trip leaders can have some peace and quiet after a long day. It is an unknown fact that opossums, the pests of campgrounds in this part of the planet, hang around simply to sit in on such games. They are, in fact, avid card players, but we ignore them or even drive them away, assuming they are after dessert.

This adventure began on a sunny day a month earlier when we stumbled into the office of Freycinet Adventures in the town of Coles Bay. It was our reconnaissance trip to Tasmania. We had worked our way slowly across the top half of the island, sampling Cradle Mountain and the wines of the Tamar Valley before dropping down the East coast to check out the spectacular scenery and do a little paddling.

It was after we had arranged to rent a kayak for half a day that Nikki said, “You really should come back and take advantage of our four day Easter paddle.” To set bait for two people who love to get out on the water you don’t need much more temptation than that. We were hooked.

Down in the southern hemisphere, Easter is the last gasp of summer. Everyone here heads for the great outdoors. Fortunately, with a bit of head start, we were able to book two nights at a wonderful B&B in Coles Bay called Sheoaks. That was our anchor. After that, I cast the net for a place to stay in Hobart, for flights and a car.

With only one night and a morning in Australia’s second oldest city, we were not able to see a great deal. It was Good Friday, after all. Many of the shops and restaurants and all the museums were closed. Fortunately, we were staying at Colville Cottage in the old port area known as Battery Point within walking distance of Salamanca Place. The City seemed sleepy, but not half as sleepy as it would be in winter, when it appears to function mainly as a jumping off point for scientists on their way to Antarctica.

The first European to visit the Freycinet peninsula was the ubiquitous Abel Tasman, for whom Tasmania itself is named. He named Schouten Island (our home for two nights) but mistook the peninsula for an island. A French expedition in 1802 provided the area with most of its current place names. A whaling station was established in 1824, followed by quarrying and mining operations until it became one of Tasmania’s very first national parks in 1916.

The high pink granite outcrops that plunge down into the sea at Freycinet are part of the same geologic formation as Wilson’s Promontory, three hours south of Melbourne. With sufficient planning, preparation and stamina, it is possible to kayak Bass Strait, separating Tasmania from Australia, thanks to a handful of small islands bridging the gap.

Our jaunt would be a paddle in the park by comparison. We gathered on the beach on Saturday morning for the first time. Our companions were a congenial brother and sister team from Newcastle. Our guides, Tim and Matt, took turns going through the safety procedures, then helped us cram our personal gear into the hatches.

Soon we were on the water. There is something magical about being self-propelled on the ocean. Everything falls away. It is just you, the waves and the glint of the sun. We made our way slowly along the shoreline down to the bottom of Hazards beach.

It was just enough paddling to feel the weight of the boat, the heat of the sun. We set up camp and had lunch, then our four companions headed off on foot for Wineglass Bay. We had hiked there on our previous visit, so we took advantage of the lazy afternoon and had a nap.

It may be possible to actually lose weight on a Freycinet Adventures trip, but I can’t picture it. When our two guides broke out the wine and the chocolate fondue on the very first evening, I knew it was all over. We were in for a gourmet indulgence. Fortunately, we had some hard paddling booked for Easter Sunday- fourteen or fifteen kilometers to Schouten Island. Once there, we could set up camp for good and enjoy ourselves.

And so we did. We paddled the choppy waters of the open ocean, hiked to the top of Bear Hill , swam a bit (keeping a wary eye out for the stingrays), walked the beach, watched the billowing sails of boats in the distance, wined and dined, told stories and played cards.

The game is insane, of course. It is called A_sehole. Just so you know, the trick is– keep your tens.

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