Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Off to Tasmania to stay with the sisters i met in Darwin last year on the crocodile tour (Kerry, Robin and Jenny). I was fortunate enough to get a business class qantas flight from Sydney to Hobart (just under two hours - enough time to enjoy business class).

Tasmania is an island state, part of the Commonwealth of Australia, located 240 kilometres to the south of the Australian continent. The state includes the island of Tasmania, the 26th largest island in the world, and the surrounding 334 islands. The state has a population of 507,626 of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart precinct. Tasmania’s area is 68,401 square kilometres (26,410 sq mi). The island is surrounded by the Indian and Pacific Oceans and separated from mainland Australia by Bass Strait.

Tasmania is promoted as the natural state, the "Island of Inspiration", and A World Apart, Not A World Away owing to its large and relatively unspoiled natural environment. Almost 37% of Tasmania lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. The island is 364 kilometres (226 mi) long from its northernmost to its southernmost points, and 306 kilometres (190 mi) from west to east. The state capital and largest city is Hobart.

The state is named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who made the first reported European sighting of the island on 24 November 1642. Tasman named the island "Anthony van Diemen's Land" after his sponsor Anthony van Diemen, the Governor of the Dutch East Indies. The name was later shortened to Van Diemen's Land by the British. It was officially renamed Tasmania in honour of its first European discoverer in 1856.

Monument to honour settlers

In October 2012, a writer for the Lonely Planet series of travel guides ranked Hobart as number seven of top ten cities to visit in 2013, a good reason for me to visit.

Painted on the crosswalk areas so tourists know where to look for traffic.

i had expected the weather to be cooler in Tasmania, however my four day visit was full of sunshine and warm temperatures in the high twenties. The season's in Tasmania sound much like Vancouver island with moderate to warm summers and winters in the single digits, rarely snowing except on the mountain areas. Hobart is similar to Victoria - size, cleanliness, picturesque with lots of heritage homes, laid back and pleasant to walk around - it Is also surrounded by mountains.

In 1975, the Tasman Bridge located in the city of Hobart collapsed when the bridge was struck by the bulk ore carrier MV Lake Illawarra. A number of people lost their lives as it was night and the weather was foggy so cars drove off the end of the bridge as they did not realize a portion of the bridge had been taken out by the ship. Today traffic is halted when large ships go under the bridge.

downtown where shops are located in old buildings on the waterfront. Day and night views.

Upon my arrival I met with Kerry and Jenny for a lovely lunch on the waterfront. Unfortunately they both had to go ack to work for the afternoon, but this did give me an opportunity to wander around and explore the city. I met Jenny in the afternoon for coffee and then went home with Kerry for the night where I met her lovely partner Rick. Robin and her husband Andrew joined us for dinner - the girls made two delicious curry dishes and we had a lovely evening catching up.

Picture of Kerry's house

View from my bedroom at Kerry's house - just imagine waking up to this everyday

The girls took Friday off work and packed a picnic as we were off to the Tahune Air Walk. Tahune means 'peaceful place by running water'. The majority of the southern forest in the Huon District, where the air walk is located, are eucalypts. The southern forest contains the tallest hardwood trees in the world. From the 1820's to the 1920's there was much timber cutting and one of the largest sawmills in the Southern Hemisphere was located here.

Our Friday picnic

The air walk was opened in 2001, it took 2 years to complete at a cost of 1.3 million dollars. It is 619 meters long - mostly a steel structure, average height 20 meters - highest point 37.5 meters. It can withstand winds of up to 180km per hour- I will not be testing this as I am not a fan of heights - so moving heights are out of the question. Maximum weight is 10 tonnes apparently equivalent to 12 baby elephants - did they really test this out with baby elephants! Over 120 tonnes of steelwork and approximately 9000 nuts and bolts were used in its construction. The vision of the air walk was to reduce the unemployment rate and show tourist this beautiful area. In the first 12 months 153,000 people visited the air walk.

The girls and I on the air walk
Views from air walk
In a little town where we had coffee a number of these wooden carved public art pieces are located to commemorate people who have significantly contributed to the town.

Back to Hobart to stay at Jenny's house for the night and I also had the opportunity to meet her lovely daughters Rachel Clare. Rachel is quite obsessed with America and cannot wait to graduate high school and come over for a visit. After spending some time with her I feel confident I shall have another Australian lodger at my home in the future. For dinner Jenny packed a picnic and we drove up Mount Wellington to have a picnic and view of the city watching the sunset - her friends Tracy and Mark joined us . Much like Victoria the weather changed and was very cool, then the clouds rolled in and the view was not as anticipated - but the company was great and we finished the evening having a drink at an outdoor bar in town.

Jenny's lovely home that is almost 100 years old.
Jenny's daughter Rachel took a photo of herself with my iPad so I will not forget her
Views from our dinner picnic
On Saturday Jenny, Rachel, Robin, Andrew and I went to the Salamanca Market - it is boosted to be the largest market in the Southern Hemisphere. I have been to a number of markets over the last year and this was definitely a very large market with lots of interesting products for sale. The food smells are extremely pleasing and inviting - but I resisted and waited for lunch.
Market entertainment

After our delicious lunch of lamb souvlaki (best I have tasted) we were off to catch the ferry boat to MONA - you can drive to this museum but the girls had arranged the ferry so I had an opportunity to view the harbour from the water.

In January 2011, wealthy philanthropist David Walsh opened the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in Hobart to international acclaim. Within 12 months, MONA became Tasmania's top tourism attraction with 153,000 visitors.

The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is an art museum located within the Moorilla winery on the Berriedale peninsula in Hobart. It is the largest privately funded museum in Australia. The museum presents antiquities, modern and contemporary art from the David Walsh collection. Walsh has described the museum as a "subversive adult Disneyland." The Lonely Planet describes this museum as a must see when visiting Hobart.

I have always wanted to visit a modern art museum - however after visiting one I realize this type of art and exhibits are not my taste. I will let the pictures below speak for themselves.

Yes this is a picture of someone's bottom

I took the opportunity to pose with the art!


The pages in the books are blank?


Something is put in and processed through these containers to resemble human pooh! It smelled lovely in this room.

You can purchase a gift of Virginia for that person who has everything
handicap parking stalls outside the museum

On the museum grounds we were able to enjoy a market (mostly food and alcohol) and since it was such a hot day we opted for a drink while listening to the band on stage. Great way to spend a summer afternoon!

Jenny's husband Mark picked us up and we were off to Robin and Andrew's house in the country. Jenny lives in town but Robin and Kerry live across the bridge in the eastern suburbs near the 7 mile beach. Much like Victoria you can get most anywhere within a half hour. Robin and Mark's house is on 8 acres and when we drove up I thought I was at Southfork (the Texan home on the show Dallas). As you can see by the pictures they have a most beautiful home and it is a short walk to the beach. After a swim in the pool dinner was a medley of delicious tidbits including Tasmanian prawns and if I remember correctly I drank full bottle of champagne.

My room at Southfork!

The next morning it was back to Kerry and Rick's and we were off to Port Arthur to catch a tour on the Tasman Island Cruises. Port Arthur is located approximately 60 kilometres south east of the state capital, Hobart, on the Tasman Peninsula. The scenic drive from Hobart, via the Tasman Highway to Sorell and the Arthur Highway to Port Arthur, takes around 90 minutes. Port Arthur and the surrounding area had a population of 499.

We saw many sights along the way including the damage from recent fires. The state was badly affected by the 1967 Tasmanian fires, in which there was major loss of life and property.

Pictures Jenny took of recent fires

In January 2013 we heard about the fires in Tasmania and I had the opportunity to drive through this area where forest burned for miles and miles, 100 homes burned to the ground but luckily no lives were lost.

Devastation from the fires

We drove to Pirates Bay for a view of then area and then on to Stewart's Bay for a picnic lunch. Stewart's Bay was like the lost lagoon - so beautiful, quiet and peaceful. What a lovely spot for a picnic.


A little more about Port Arthur:

On 28 April 1996, in the incident now known as the Port Arthur massacre, lone gunman Martin Bryant shot and killed 35 people (including tourists and residents) and injured 21 others. The use of firearms was immediately reviewed, and new gun ownership laws were adopted nationwide, with Tasmania's law one of the strictest in Australia. Perhaps our American friends should follow this example. This must of been a devastating event as you can imagine with a population of only 499 people!

Port Arthur was named after George Arthur, the Lieutenant Governor of Van Diemen's Land. The settlement started as a timber station in 1830, but it is best known for being a penal colony.

Penal colony from across the bay

From 1833, until 1853, it was the destination for the hardest of convicted British and Irish criminals, those who were secondary offenders having re-offended after their arrival in Australia. Rebellious personalities from other convict stations were also sent here, a quite undesirable punishment. In addition Port Arthur had some of the strictest security measures of the British penal system.

Port Arthur was one example of the “Separate Prison Typology” (sometimes known as the Model prison). The prison was completed in 1853 but then extended in 1855. The layout of the prison was fairly symmetrical. It was a cross shape with exercise yards at each corner. The prisoner wings were each connected to the surveillance core of the Prison as well as the Chapel, in the Center Hall. From the surveillance hub each wing could be clearly seen, although individual cells could not.

The Separate Prison System also signalled a shift from physical punishment to psychological punishment. It was thought that the hard corporal punishment, such as whippings, used in other penal stations only served to harden criminals, and did nothing to turn them from their immoral ways. For example, food was used to reward well-behaved prisoners and as punishment for troublemakers. As a reward, a prisoner could receive larger amounts of food or even luxury items such as tea, sugar and tobacco. As punishment, the prisoners would receive the bare minimum of bread and water. Under this system of punishment the "Silent System" was implemented in the building. Here prisoners were hooded and made to stay silent, this was supposed to allow time for the prisoner to reflect upon the actions which had brought him there. Many of the prisoners in the Separate Prison developed mental illness from the lack of light and sound. This was an unintended outcome although the asylum was built right next to the Separate Prison. In many ways Port Arthur was the model for many of the penal reform movement, despite shipping, housing and slave-labour use of convicts being as harsh, or worse, than others stations around the nation.

Being surrounded by water, Port Arthur was sold as an inescapable prison, much like the later Alcatraz Island in the United States. Some prisoners were not discouraged by this, and tried to escape. Martin Cash successfully escaped along with two others. One of the most infamous incidents, simply for its bizarreness, was the escape attempt of one George "Billy" Hunt. Hunt disguised himself using a kangaroo hide and tried to flee across the Neck, but the half-starved guards on duty tried to shoot him to supplement their meager rations. When he noticed them sighting him up, Hunt threw off his disguise and surrendered, receiving 150 lashes.

Port Arthur was also the destination for juvenile convicts, receiving many boys, some as young as nine. The boys were separated from the main convict population and kept on Point Puer, the British Empire's first boys' prison. Like the adults, the boys were used in hard labour such as stone cutting and construction.

Despite its reputation as a pioneering institution for the new, enlightened view of imprisonment, Port Arthur was still in reality as harsh and brutal as other penal settlements. Some critics might even suggest that its use of psychological punishment, compounded with no hope of escape, made it one of the worst. Some tales suggest that prisoners committed murder (an offence punishable by death) just to escape the desolation of life at the camp. The Island of the Dead was the destination for all who died inside the prison camps. Of the 1646 graves recorded to exist there, only 180, those of prison staff and military personnel, are marked. The prison closed in 1877.

After our picnic we boarded our vessel (nicknamed 4WD of the sea). The captain deterred most people from sitting in the front seats explaining it would not be a good idea if you get sea sick, have back problems or do not want to get wet. Excitedly Rick, Kerry and I took our sets in the front of the boat with our fashionable red ponchos. Some of the sights on our 3.5 hour tour included - Jurassic Dolerite sea cliffs, highest vertical sea cliffs in the Southern Hemisphere at Cape Pillar, exploring inside caves, not to mention bouncing over the powerful swells of the southern ocean.

Jenny and Rick

Taken off the tip of Tasmania - 2000km from here is land - the Antarctic
Sample of beautiful caves we explored on the tour

Albatross with a wing span of up to 12 feet (I need a better zoom lens before South Africa)

Australian fur seals


The boat tour was fabulous at times like being on a roller coaster and the sea salt exfoliation my face received will save me money on the next facial. Onthe way home we stopped at a pub for a drink but with all that fresh air, we were certainly ready for an early night.

The next morning I had coffee with Jenny and Kerry and then it was time to get my bus back to the airport. I cannot thank the girls and their families enough for being so warm and welcoming, I know I have made some new lifelong friends - I LOVE TASSIE. I have only had a taste of Tassie and there is much more to explore, so I will be back.

Upon my return to Sydney Marianne and I went for a manicure and then had a lovely dinner. We both had to pack as she is off to Malaysia for 5 days and I was leaving for LAX in the morning. While visiting, i was suppose to help Marianne plant some petunias in her garden - upon leaving there does not seem to be any petunias in sight! Oh well maybe next year.

On to San Francisco - Hannah be I will be flying solo for a few days while Sean and Michelle are in Palm Springs. Then it is home to reality and the garden on March 13th. So no more blogging until May when I go back to Australia and then on to south Africa. Stay tuned more adventures to come . . . . .