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Published: February 12th 2017
Penny captured this on her phone. I like the light.
No doubt about it, t'was a grand week. Melbourne never fails to plate up the urban hits. Tennis (how's about that men's final), edgy nibbles and tipples, standing ovation theatre, a few wineries on the fringes, an art gallery or 3 and the Colvin/Yeates express was all cultured-up. Alas, all good things have a use by date and we bid a fond farewell to our 19th floor Melbourne CBD apartment and traded it in for:
YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR
I'll kick off with a negative. Our previous forays into the campervan world in NZ and US had us itching for more. So it was with stars in our eyes that we jetted across Bass Strait fully prepped for a month traipsing around Tasmania in our state of the art motor home.
Our rental came with a "too good to be true" price tag but experience should have had the alarm bells ringing - if it's too good to be true then it probably ain't true. The on the ground reality of our sturdy vehicle didn't exactly reflect the images of the glossy brochure. Ahh, the decisions born of poor choices. Allow me a brief
436,000 Klms young and looks that reflected every click. 3 birth? I suppose if you were 3 pygmies minus luggage. Claustraphobes need not apply. She's something akin to a coffin on wheels - The COW. The guy charged with cleaning The COW is being paid under false pretences, though he did manage to paint some tyre black on the wearing tyres, as if this would divert attention away from everything else. "Look Penny, the tyres are a lovely shade of black. Now I can't see the cobwebs clinging to every exposed surface inside and out.
Anyhows, dusting the imaginary dust from our sleeves, we took to wiping down the not so imaginary dust and those cobwebs.
Job complete, we stocked up on supplies, placed our living systems in place and lumbered out into Tasmania's wild south-east.
EYE CANDY ON TAP
All the outdoors bells and whistles. Sea-wracked, weather-beaten, uncompromising (I'm trying to avoid stock phrases here) and 100% sublime. 300 metre sea cliffs sporting "don't mess with me" expressions plummet vertically into the deep blue yonder. We scoured the entrails of backwater tracks that somehow in Tasmania warrant the status of a
Go lay an egg ya mammal.
One of the 2 monotremes on the planet.
highway with a number. These tracks are cloaked in rolling forests that sport Aussie wildlife royalty, much of it squished into the ground by vehicles such as ours. Etched into the crinkled coastline is bay after bay and pristine beach after beach. The views spread out like a cat of nine tails. This wilderness writes its own script and is the cornerstone of Tasmania's identity. We couldn't wipe the crackerjack expressions from our faces.
IT'S LIKE THERE'S PARTY IN MY MOUTH AND EVERYONE'S INVITED (I wish I'd invented that line).
In order to survive you have to eat and you have to drink so why not enjoy the process. If you can't enjoy it in Tasmania then you simply aren't trying.
The raw materials have always been here but in contemporary times someone decided to refine the presentation of this freshest of produce. Tasmania is no longer solely hitching its star to the wild outdoors and is riding a culinary wave of success. Wilderness and food have amalgamated seamlessly. Boutique foodie tours of particularly Bruny Island are now top end money spinners.
For a conduit into Tassie's gourmand revolution, wander into Hobart's (euphemistically described
as the largest village on the island) Salamanca market on a Saturday. Sure it's unashamedly tourist-driven but it's mostly devoid of kitsch bric-a-brac. But the food! Promise yourself to start the diet tomorrow. Wallaby empanadas, rabbit pie, curried scallops, pulled roo burritos ....... Settle tummy, settle.
Or maybe you feel like adopting the role of the idle rich. So shoehorn into your itinerary lunch at Bruny Island Vineyard. Cured salmon or wallaby fillets washed down with a Pinot from Australia's most southern grapes. The sort of din din that justifies the loss of a day or two at the end of your life.
BREWS AND BERRIES
Of course there are exceptions.
The Beer Estate is an appropriately historic looking pub in the bowels of Salamanca Place. Advertising dozens of boutique ales on tap, how could I walk past mid afternoon.
"I'll have a Huon Valley brown ale and the darling wife would like one of those draught ginger beers please".
"Certainly sir, that will be $27.20".
"WHAT THE!! I assume every fifth beer comes with a gold nugget"?
"Very funny sir. $27.20".
A five person shout with the lads
If you're going to be locked up, there are worse locales.
could really stretch the wallet.
Then there's the rather fetching looking Bruny Island Berry Farm. Haltingly located across the road from a postcard beach and nestled amongst verdant fruit bushes, where else would you want to stock up on your brekky fruits? But riddle me this. Despite the name and the surrounds, they don't sell berries. I didn't notice any cake, ice cream or coffee plants but there was plenty of that for sale. Try to purchase berries and it will feel like the Monty Python Cheese Shop skit.
The Poms need to jump through a raft of hoops these days if they are interested in securing an Aussie resident's visa. Rewind the clock a couple of centuries and all they had to do was pinch a loaf of bread. From there they'd be shipped off free of charge to "The Lucky Country", albeit shackled in ball and chains and destined to a life of hard labour. Or were they?
A visit to Port Arthur might just debunk a few convict myths. In fact only 1 convict was sent Down Under as the result of the theft of bread and even that was
on the back of a healthy criminal CV the offender had already amassed. The bread was simply the last crumb.
While inmate at Port Arthur probably wasn't the first choice of career path back in the day, life here wasn't just about floggings, starvation and slave labour. Port Arthur's current World Heritage listing is centred on its revolutionary approach to incarceration. Criminal reform, prisoner rights and a raft of other advances in the penal system were first introduced here 200 years ago.
The inmates certainly faired a hell of a lot better than the indigenous folk of the time. Basically wiped out for being guilty of the severe crime of being there first and not having a big enough stick to fight back. Head in the sand, fingers in the ears.
Back on tour and Port Arthur is a stellar attraction. Prior to visiting, it was merely a box to be ticked. I stand corrected. Insightful and entertainingly interactive, all with postcard backdrops. Pity about:
MY NEW LEAST FAVOURITE TOURISTS
I won't mention who were my previous least favourite tourists as I wouldn't want to upset any Russian readers, oops, but they have
Battery Point Hobart
Groovy little cafe in Hobart.
been usurped by the Chinese.
Always en masse, always in a hurry, always sounding like a hundred voices overdosed on helium at 6 zillion decibels and always pushy. All this in an area of otherwise spiritual silence.
A bus load will pull up, charge off and:
Cluck cluck cluck cluck. Selfie selfie selfie selfie. Check selfies. Re-selfie re-selfie re-selfie re-selfie. Race 100 metres for the next selfie locale and do it all again. Don't get in their way lest you be crushed in the onslaught. After an hour, puff, they are gone, off to the next destination to repeat the process all over again. They will then be replaced by a fresh bus load for the new version of the same thing.
On Nusa Lembongan it was amusing (previous blog). Here it was downright annoying. Given the group eye roll of the staff and fellow visitors, we weren't Robinson Crusoe in our frustrations.
CRONULLA IS A BIG TOWN BUT IT'S SMALL WORLD
Campgrounds. They are bastions of the eclectic. There is no shortage of folks "down on their luck". Penny and I have taken to identifying people by our self-appointed nicknames. The
Aperitif on steroids.
It tastes so good you know it has to be bad for you.
Arm Scratcher, Kitchen Dweller, Fish Odour Guy and his betrothed BO Lady, as examples. And you never quite know who you might bump into from a previous life:
Kent and I worked together occasionally back when. Even though we live about 5 blocks apart in Cronulla, the only times we have ever crossed paths outside work were:
Place de la Concorde, Paris, 2012, and
Adventure Bay Caravan Park, Bruny Island, 2017.
Cronulla is a big town but we live in a small world.
M-O-N-A MONA LA LA LA LA MONA?
I've got a Kinks ear worm happening at the moment.
Philanthropist David Walsh's gift to Hobart, the MONA gallery is like a fun park for adults. The rigeur is to stroll around with your finger on the chin and nod knowingly. You do this regardless that you are internally wondering what particular substance the artist was experimenting with when he created the work you are gazing at.
It's all subjective of course and who cares about opinions. Even without an art appreciative bone in your body you'd have to admire the impeccably turned out masterpiece of architecture
that is MONA.
It's Tasmania's alter ego and her creation was pivotal in putting the island on a different international map. It has also been instrumental in deconstructing the stereotype that Tasmania is nothing more than wilderness, apples, Bugs Bunny's version of a Tasmanian Devil and two headed residents. Don't bi-pass Hobart without sticking your one head into MONA for a view from the other side.
So Tassie one week down. We're over the campervan hump, loving life and salivating over the next three weeks ahead. If the tea leaves haven't been read incorrectly, we are on a collision course with some biblical weather in the centre. Strapped in and battening down the hatches, Highlands here we come.
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