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January 25th 2008
Published: December 13th 2017
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Geo: -42.8827, 147.33

Tasmania 25-28th Jan 2008.

We now know its 15 mins. in a cab from ours to the airport, sweet, even if it does cost $46. Got an 8.30am flight with Jetstar on a Friday morn of a public holiday weekend, painless check in, security etc. you are allowed to bring a bottle of water in hand luggage now it seems. Maybe they copped on that even if you had the relevant chemicals to make an explosive you'd need a lab to get it together, an airplane toilet just wouldn't cut it. Don't know what's happening in euro airports but I say will done Aussie. Plus we had novelty of using our id cards instead of passports (not to mention our passports are now out of date, d'oh).

So it's only a 2 hour flight over the Bass strait to Hobart and we picked up a car on the other end, word to the wise 'Budget' were a third of the price of 'Thrifty' and 'Rent-a-Bug' had no beetles to actually rent, weirdoes. Renting a car in advance for airport pickup is a good idea as a shuttle bus to the city is expensive enough.

So Hobart (pop. 200k) is really easy to navigate as it has a grid system of one way streets, we stayed in a lovely heritage building guesthouse http://www.macmanor.com.au/ on Macquarie St., the only minute criticism I'd have is at breakfast they serve eggs and meat in the same hot plates so not so good if you don't eat meat.

Macquarie St. is a pretty good location for getting to the CBD (shopping), Salamanca Place (harbour) and Battery point (looks like a posh Claddagh). First afternoon spent walking around these neighbourhoods, eating, drinking & general browsing. The weather was gorgeous, lovely warm but not humid summers day. First bar we see is Murphy's Irish bar which was a nice proper bar in a lovely sandstone building- I don't think they generally do bars well here. Hobart also seems to have 'real' houses built of brick as opposed to the clap board/galvanised roofed ones you see everywhere (I am making them sound worse than they are though), hence the use of the word heritage to describe their stone buildings I am guessing. As it's 205 years old it is one of Australia's oldest cities and it is also birthplace of Errol Flynn and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark, so how's that for impressive!

It is located on the Derwent River and nestles under the shadow of Mount Wellington (1271m) and has Mt. Nelson on it's south side from which we saw an amazing view of the city, it is a city you could definitely say has a lovely situation and on the east side is the amazing looking Tasman bridge over the Tasman sea which was the first thing we saw as we has to cross it to get from the airport. Aussies really do good bridges and Tas have many, seemed to have many mini islands to me.

On day one as if we weren't loving Hobart enough already we discovered an all vegetarian restaurant (posh as opposed to the wheatgerm health food kind) called Siren's (6 Victoria St.), absolutely gorgeous, and Tas cheese board yum. The other two nights we went Indian & Italian, all good.

There was loads of live music on everywhere and after first accidentally going to Hobart's 'original karaoke bar' which was full of 21 year olds we ended up in the Custom House Hotel on the harbour at an 80's cover band who were really good. The other nights we were in (the seemingly cool) Republic bar in North Hobart at jazz/blues guy Bill Whitton and we saw an indie-country band 'Grumpy Neighbour' in The Prince of Wales in Battery point on the last night, who were great.

A lot about Hobart reminded us of Galway including the wearing of late 80's clothes (as in the last time we lived in Galway), it is a university town, it has live music in all the bars, the Saturday market in Salamanca Place sold some exact same things I have seen in market in Galway around Lynch's castle, and of course the non humid weather and houses made of stone. I see they also have an arts festival biannually. It has daylight longer into the evening than NSW too. We were told Tasmania looks like Ireland, it doesn't really to me, Sydney these days is in fact greener - did I mention the rain in Sydney - but the vibe in Hobart is very west of Ireland. Apparently other bits look very English, the house & gardens etc. Also locals seem to have a bit more beef on them than skinny Sydney city slickers.

About 100km away south east is the penal colony Port Arthur (aka Van Diemen's land), we took a few hours to get there as there are some amazing sights on the way, beaches, bays, pirate coves (arrr), crazy rock formations (devils kitchen), tessellated pavements (caused by salt on rocks), collapsed roofs on caves causing the stunning Tasman arch (not unlike London Bridge on the Great Ocean Rd. in Vic.), blow holes and Tasmanian devil park (so cute) which also has kangaroos & other macropods, possums, hawks and all sorts of other birds.

The poor ickle Tas devils have some contagious form of cancer, so now the park is more a sanctuary for them as if they were in the wild they'd contract the weird cancer and die. Hence it was $24 entry to see them but we managed to hit feeding time (they are asleep the rest of the time) and they are savages, they eat anything and consume every bit of the other animal including fur, bones, teeth & talons. If one of them died the others would eat him and they are always brawling with each other. They are a bit stupid and can't hunt so in the wild they just scavenge and can cover 15km a night searching, survival of the fittest not. Still I think they are adorable. I wasn't 'allowed' to buy a toy one so we compromised and I got a hand puppet on the grounds that I need it to entertain my baby nephew, ahem.

To get to the Tasman Arch and the blow hole you have to go through a place called Dootown, much to our delight we noticed everyone had named their house with the word Doo in it, like Doo-Mee, Much-A-Doo, Ittle-Doo-4-Now, Shiel-Doo, We-Doo, Love-Me-Doo. (The church we got married in was in a place called Doo in Ireland so we will now refer to it as I-Doo church.)

We were operating out of a 12 year old guide book which in hindsight I'd recommend as it's good to find stuff on your own and just have a bit of background info. from the book and it adds an element of surprise as you don't actually know if the businesses etc. are still there, mind you a lot of the restaurants were still in operation. Incidentally books generally are really expensive here, makes me realise how good we had it in Ireland with no Vat on books, something I never appreciated until I was buying books in Denmark on the internet when I saw it was dearer to have them delivered to DK than Ireland cause of the tax.

So anyway back to Port Arthur, I expected it be a town with a museum in it, but no the whole place is an open air museum (with varying extortionate entry fees but if you go at twilight its only $12 though & it stays open till 7pm), so no town just 'the historic site of Port Arthur the penal colony'. It is the most cutesy pie penal colony I ever saw (well not that I have ever seen one before if you don't count Auschwitz) and now a days the grounds are pretty manicured looking but you could imagine how it must have been when you see the surrounding bush. (I saw a t-shirt that pointed out the Tas map is the shape of a female pubic region, I wish I hadn't seen it because I keep thinking bush in the bush.) Port A. is right down on the Tasmanian peninsula, the Brits thought it made a great a natural penitentiary as it is cut off from the mainland by a narrow isthmus of land called Eaglehawk neck which was patrolled by frothy mouthed guard dogs in colonial times and the coastal scenery there is absolutely gorgeous, the information displays even says that if prisoners kept their heads down they had better living conditions than back in England or Ireland. So apart from the hard labour part it mightn't have been too bad. Loads of the prisoners were there for being drunk & disorderly or stealing food, so it was a long way to ship them off to for petty crime but that's the British justice for you. Anyway I wasn't taking any of it too seriously and it was a gorgeous sunny day so it really did look spectacular there, until I came to Smith O'Brien's house, the leader of The Young Irelanders and read a bit of info. on them all, it mentions two other lots of political prisoners but concentrates on our boys, so then I was all impressed and outraged at the injustice of it all.

In 1996some nutter went postal there (because someone else bought a guest house he wanted to buy which he burnt down in the spree) and killed 35 people and wounded 37, as it's a walled in site I can only imagine the terror.

90km to the south west of Hobart in the Huon Valley is the UNESCO world heritage listed Hartz Mountains and many state forests, you go via a place called Geeveston which has a lovely bakery café to set us up for our forest activities, then we continued 28km from there via the Southern forest onto the Tahune airwalk ($22) which is a metal walkway 48 metres above the ground and extends for .6 of a kilometre over the Tahune State Forest, Huon River and Picton River. They many varieties of trees there - sassafras, myrtle, huon pines - and when you are on the airway you can see what their leaves and flowers look like which I thought was pretty interesting. Then we did a 3km walk where we went over 2 swing bridges to cross the two rivers which was cool even if C. was rocking the bridges way too much. We did the walk in the rain with no raincoats (they were in the car, d'oh) but it was quite nice & refreshing. In the southern forest is the imaginatively named 'The Big Tree' 87m high and it is, Jesus, huge, but it's shrinking, Tas has some of the oldest trees in Oz.

Our last day was spent on Bruny Island to which we took the 80km scenic drive route via Huonville & Cygnet, which was lurvely and it was another nice sunny day. The ferry over the D'Entrecasteaux channel goes from Kettering and was $28 for the car. The island and the channel are named after French explorer Bruni d'Entrecasteaux but it's traditional Aboriginal name was Alonnah Lunawanna.

Penguins live there in a place called Adventure bay but we unfortunately didn't see any as we weren't there at day break when they go in the sea or sunset when they come out. But the beaches there are the stuff of fantasy, spectacular. Adventure bay is on spit that joins north and south islands and has 200 steps up to a panoramic viewing point. We then went right to the northern tip Dennes point which was beautiful, we would have liked to spend longer there but sadly we had to get the 3:15pm ferry back (which was running 30 mins. late so timings was all a bit of a game of chance) in order to make it to the airport on time and as there are more cars than ferries we had to queue for ages. We both got farmer tan on our arms through the car window and when we got back to Kettering we travelled via a town called Snug back to Hobart which was only 38km away via the non scenic way which was still pretty scenic, I am only sorry I didn't get a photo of the sign "Snug Fire Station".

The Licence plate slogan is 'Tasmania Your Natural State' but it should be called 'Road Kill State', the closest thing they have to a natural predator is the motor car, as there's no dingoes or foxes there is road kill absolutely EVERYWHERE, it's staggering really. Bizarrely though we didn't squish anything with our car.

Car drop back & check in at Hobart was a dream and we were back in super humid (it especially seemed) Sydney by 9.30pm. I finished the brilliant novel 'A thousand splendid suns' on the flight. So verdict is we are loving Tasmania even though we spent a fortune on nothing in particular and would go so far as to say if we ever do buy property here we would be seriously checking out Hobart. We have now been to 7 of the 8 Australian states (from the 4 previous trips here), so next stop logically has to be Canberra in Australian Capital Territory, inland and hot, yeah I think we will wait until what they call euphemistically call winter.


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