We recently made one of our favourite telephone calls ever! Kirsty Maddern from Wales was lucky enough to scoop first prize in one of our most popular Like It & Land It prizes on Facebook.
The prize included two return tickets to Australia’s only island state, Tasmania, and a heap of extraordinary extras.
First off, we threw in some car hire for Kirsty and her lucky travelling partner to explore the wild beauty that Tassie is famous for, but best of all, we hooked her up with the chance to see one of the state’s most pioneering events.
The Swisse Mark Webber Tasmania Challenge was a premium, five day, multi-discipline event taking in over 350km of terrain across some of Tasmania’s most stunning scenic locations. Competitors tore across the state by mountain bike, kayak and foot on challenging daily courses.
Our interview with Kirsty Maddern
You’re about to enjoy an interview we did recently with Kirsty, about her trip to Tassie. For more details on the areas she’s visited, visit the Tasmania travel hub of our website.
How did you hear about the competition?
I’ve ‘Liked’ the STA Travel UK Facebook page for quite a while now, and always kept an eye on what was going on. I had already entered a couple of the Like It & Land It competitions before, but never ever thought I would actually win one!
Had you ever won anything before, and how did you feel when you found out you had won?
No, never! I’ve entered loads of things, but I had always assumed no one ever really won competitions like these. So I simply couldn’t believe it when I found out I had actually won!
I was out having dinner with some friends when I got the email telling me I’d won. I didn’t really know how to react when I read it as I wasn’t sure if it was a joke or not! My friends weren’t sure whether to believe it either and I tried really hard not to get too excited about it until I had spoken to someone at STA Travel. When I finally did speak to someone and made sure it definitely was not a joke, I was so happy, and totally shell-shocked.
Who did you take with you and how did you make that decision? Why them in particular?
Well, all of a sudden I had a lot of best friends! There’s no way I could have chosen between them so I decided to take my dad. He had never been out of the UK before so I thought this was the perfect opportunity! It was a great way to repay him for everything, too.
Had you ever thought about going to Tasmania before?
Not to Tasmania, no. I’ve always wanted to do a big round the world trip, and go work in Australia for a while, but I really hadn’t heard much about Tasmania and had never really thought about going there.
Did you have any preconceptions about Tasmania? What were your first feelings when you arrived?
I had absolutely no idea what to expect from Tasmania. I had never been to Australia or New Zealand before so didn’t have any idea what that part of the world was like at all.
Looking at it on a map, Tasmania looks really small and when we arrived we flew into this tiny little airport. I was a bit like ‘where are we?’. But as soon as we got out to see all the scenery all I could think was, ‘This place is awesome!’. There was just so much going on from the moment we got there, which I wasn’t expecting at all.
I was also so surprised at how different parts of the island are from each other. Hobart is so beautiful as it’s surrounded by mountains and is dominated by Mount Wellington, and then there’s somewhere like Freycinet Peninsula, which is totally different and has really wild, stunning beaches.
Do you have any favourite memories or things you got to do on the trip?
One of the best things we did was the Mount Wellington Descent where we were taken to the top and then mountain-biked down.
You go so fast and reach speeds of up to 40mph! It was amazing, but definitely one of the scariest things I have ever done! I haven’t done much cycling like that before but my dad has and really loved it.
I tried to take in the beautiful views but spent most of the time clinging onto my bike and concentrating on staying upright! Our guide was great though and there was a car following us down to make sure we were all OK. It was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
We also did an amazing scenic flight tour over the southwest of the island, which we were so lucky to do as it was actually cancelled because of bad weather the first time we tried to go, but thankfully we managed to fit it in before our flight home on the last day.
I wasn’t sure about it at first as I’ve never really liked flying that much and the plane was tiny! But it took us over the part of the island that’s totally uninhabited, so we got some beautiful views of somewhere we would never have otherwise got to see; it made you feel like you were the only people in the world, it was amazing. By the time we landed I was feeling way more confident about flying.
What was it like watching the Mark Webber Challenge?
It was crazy! Everywhere you looked there was someone competing or doing something like kayaking, running, climbing, or cycling.
We got to see the start and watched everyone from a balcony so had a great view of the action and managed to catch quite a lot of the competition whilst we were in Port Arthur.
When we were out on a power boat trip we bumped into some of the competitors kayaking and had to stop to let them pass so it really was going on everywhere you went!
Did you get to see or meet Mark Webber at all?
Yes! We got to meet him a couple of times actually. We watched him compete on the first day of the challenge and we then got to meet to him at the Challenge’s welcome dinner and at the 6km fun run.
He’s such a nice guy and joked around with us as he took great pleasure in telling us how Australia had beaten Wales in the rugby the day before! My dad was pretty chuffed as he’s a big fan of Formula 1 and we got some great photos of us with him to take home.
Did you join in with the challenge at all?
We didn’t compete ourselves as it’s all pretty extreme and I felt tired just watching everyone else do it! It was still amazing to be there and there was just so much going on, it gave the place a great buzz. We were doing so many other things though, it did kind of feel like we were competing!
Were there any things you did that you would like to try a bit more of?
We got to go sea kayaking around the harbour one day which I really, really enjoyed and would love to do more of. The water was so nice and calm, although we did go over the wake of a boat once which was a bit unnerving! Luckily no one got wet!
What was the best/worst food/drink you had there?
All the food in Tasmania was amazing as it was just so fresh. There’s so much seafood there and I had some seriously good mussels and oysters. I didn’t really like seafood that much when I’ve had it before at home, but the ones I had in Tasmania were so fresh I actually surprised myself and really enjoyed them!
I know it’s not very original but my favourite meal of the trip was steak — it one of the biggest I had ever seen! I was pretty impressed at myself as I managed to finish it all as it was so good.
Did you pick up any special souvenirs?
Well, I didn’t get anything really touristy but I couldn’t go home without picking up a pair of Ugg boots to keep me warm when I got back home to the freezing winter! I also brought back loads of Tim Tams, which are a type of biscuit they have in Australia — like chocolate Penguins — that I could not get enough.
Did you meet some nice/memorable people on the trip? Anyone you will keep in touch with?
Everyone we met was just so friendly and welcoming, it was so nice! The best thing was that we didn’t feel like tourists whilst we were there like you can do when you’re away and doing trips.
All our tour guides were amazing to chat to and knew so much; we were so well looked after and really got a great feel for everywhere we went.
There was one guy who was our guide for one of the National Parks who we got on really well with and met up with for a drink when we were back in Hobart so that was really nice to see him again.
Do you have any insider tips to give to others planning a trip to this destination?
Yeah! Go to the Mona Art Exhibition at the Museum of Old & New Art in Hobart. There’s so much amazing stuff to do outdoors in Tasmania that’s it’s really nice to do something a little less tiring for a bit too.
The exhibition is a private art collection of a man who suffers from autism and used to be a professional gambler but was banned from all the casinos because he could count cards. It’s pretty graphic stuff but the background behind it is fascinating, I really liked it!
How would you sum up your trip in a few words?
Eye-opening, frantic, exciting and crazy! It was full-on but I definitely prefer it that way. I’m not really a lying by the pool type of person, I way prefer doing stuff so it was perfect.
Do you feel this trip has given you the travelling bug?
Definitely. I can’t wait till I can next get away! I’m already planning. I’d love to do a long, round the world trip and go to South America to see countries like Peru and Brazil as well as Greenland and Iceland as I wrote my dissertation on glaciers so I’d love to go see them for myself.
I couldn’t not go to Australia and finally get a working-holiday visa so I can spend a while there and go back to Tasmania! I’d definitely go away again with STA Travel. Our trip to Tasmania was planned so amazingly, and every detail was covered. We were made to feel like VIPs everywhere we went!
Finally, would you like to go back to Tasmania?
I would 100% go back to Tasmania. People never really think of going but there is so much stuff to do there, it really surprised me. The scenery is just so awesome! We did so much on our trip, but Tasmania is so surprisingly big there was still a lot of things we couldn’t get to and didn’t do. I’d love to go back and do it all!