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Published: January 7th 2011
The Bicheno Blowhole not quite drenching those people.
Hello avid readers! For the first time in months, I'm not writing a blog entry when I should be doing homework, because... I'M OFFICIALLY DONE WITH CLASSES FOR THE SEMESTER! I took my one and only exam today, and now I'm free to lounge around being lethargic, half-wishing these 30 degrees were in Fahrenheit rather than Celsius. Or maybe Kelvin. (No, I take that back. I like being alive and I'm sure the rest of the planet does too.) I'm sure I'll think I'm crazy for writing this a month from now when Michigan winter is in full swing, but it's too hot... especially when you've just come back from a cool, rainy week in New Zealand. (Edit: It's January now and I still agree with my past self. Near 90-degree weather is too hot. I'll take 19F and snowy over it any day, as long as I don't have to be outside too long.)
Anyway, this entry is not supposed to be about exams and the weather. It's supposed to be about Tasmania, so I'll get back to that. I've decided to just hit the highlights though, rather than outlining every day like I did last time. It sounds
I found a cool rock.
less boring for me to write, and hopefully it will be enjoyable for you to read as well.
The highlight of Day 3 was definitely Wineglass Bay, though seeing the sea water geysering up from the Bicheno Blowhole in the morning was pretty sweet too. And it makes for a good challenge photography-wise, especially with digital cameras and their evil delays. Right now I can't look at those pictures without wanting to jump in the water, so I think I'll go refill my glass and be right back...
Okay, back to Wineglass Bay. Its name has a rather sad/morbid story behind it, which is kind of a shame since it sounds (and is) so pretty. Evidently they used to kill so many whales that the bay literally turned red enough to look like wine. Happily this is no longer the case, and it was a nice normal blue on the day we hiked up to the lookout to admire it. And yes, 'hike' is the right word. It was a pretty long walk to reach the lookout, all uphill, and Marieke and I stopped to take a break several times along the way. Yet another reminder of how
Wineglass Bay being picturesque.
out-of-shape I am. Needless to say, I didn't take the option of hiking down the other side of the mountainy thing to the beach and then back up and down again. But as you can see from my picture, which looks rather like I photoshopped myself onto a postcard, the view from the lookout was amazing. (And there were some cool things to see on the way up too, including a giant rock that looks like a mushroom and a massive wooden saddle-chair-type thing to recline in.) Also, that rock I'm standing on wasn't too easy to climb, so it's a well-earned picture. And one that just about everyone in our group had our guide Matt take for them, while he perched on another rock taking camera after camera.
Day 4 was too epic to have just one highlight, and the first is the Port Arthur historic site. It's somewhere I probably never would have thought to go if I was planning a trip to Tasmania (even though it's 'officially' Tasmania's top tourist attraction) and now that I've been there, I don't think the trip would have been complete without it. Port Arthur used to be a penal settlement,
The church at Port Arthur, built by children from the nearby boys' prison.
so this was my first opportunity to really learn about the prison colony part of Australia's history. The only modern building (meaning that it was built after the 1800s) was the visitors' centre, or whatever you call the place where you check in, which also includes gift shops and such. After that, walking through Port Arthur felt a lot like being transported back in time. (Or transported to England, seeing as that's where most of the trees are from. The people running Port Arthur evidently wanted to make it feel more like home.)
We were all given playing cards upon arrival, each corresponding to one of the real convicts at Port Arthur, and as we went through the visitors' centre, we learned more about what happened to our particular convict. Mine was a 17-year-old from Ireland named Thomas Walker, who was convicted and sent to Van Dieman's Land for 7 years for stealing a handkerchief and some money. At Port Arthur, he worked in the boat crew, and his next crime was 'absconding and being found concealed onboard the barque Marianne with intent to escape the colony.' Evidently he and seven other convicts stole a whale boat and set
Suddenly college dorms seem positively luxurious.
sail, making it as far as New South Wales before being caught. However, Thomas died before he could stand trial. Sounds like a pretty interesting life, though I won't say I'm jealous.
When we actually got outside, a guide took us on a short tour and told us lots of fun facts about the place, including scaring 8-year-old children by informing them what type of punishments they could have gotten at their age back in Port Arthur's convict days. I think it included the death penalty, though I'm really fuzzy on the details. Just believe me when I say it was an interesting talk.
After that, we were free to wander the rest of Port Arthur. One of the more memorable parts was checking out the room where they used to put people for solitary confinement. It's pitch-black with walls of stone a meter thick, meaning you can't see or hear anything from the outside world. It's part of the Separate Prison, which was all novel and experimental in the realm of punishment back in the day, seeing as it involved psychological damage rather than physical damage, like being whipped with the cat o' nine tails. Let's just
The asylum, right next to the Separate Prison. (It's a museum now.)
say it's no coincidence that they built the mental asylum right next to it...
Despite its unpleasant past though, Port Arthur was really quite lovely. I mean, that's not the first word that comes to mind. 'Interesting' or 'educational' or 'a good disincentive to break the law' would probably win out. But there's a big decorative garden on the end where the people in charge lived, and being a port, it sits right on the water. You can even take a boat ride out to the island where they buried all the dead, or the island where the young boys were kept isolated from the bad influence of the older convicts. So see? It's got everything you could ever want, right there. Except maybe a hospital that isn't a burned-out ruin.
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