Tasmania, Part 1


It had already been a long day by the time we got to Hobart-central having taken the only direct flight. (We had to be up at 4:30am to catch it). And so we found ourselves in a pub just across from where the MONA (ROMA) ferry leaves called the Customs House Hotel. It had those so beautifully old sandstone block walls, hand-carved — presumably by convicts — pock-marked with a billion hits by horribly ancient tools. A bit like this, which I took a day or so later: IMG_5337 Then after lunch I’m in the toilet doing my business at the trough — obviously with my back to the door. And then I hear the sound of two guys coming in and they instantly started debating something — saying stuff like, “Can we do this?” And they seemed to be just hanging about waiting for me. And so I thought, “What? I know I joke around about Tasmania being a wild place — but am I about to get beat up? Really?” So I quickly finished my business and turned around to find these guys were not stooping over me like they were intent on doing harm — they were actually more worried about themselves. See they were tethered together in a rather complex (and perhaps beautiful) chain of plastic cable ties. They looked at me a bit sheepishly and I broke the silence by asking if they were on a bucks night. “Yes” they replied — a little bit relieved. And now the lumbered up to the facilities and it looked like they were going to attempt to each do their business giving the other party some attempt at privacy. So I said, “good luck!” meaning not just for whomever of the two was actually getting married. Trying as best I could to throw out that thought of these two goobs trying to pee it was time for some CULTURE. At the MONA ticket office (just a re-purposed shipping container) Dee convinced me to get the “posh” tickets. She might have even said, “YOLO”. I dunno — but we ended up in the massive forward section with only one other couple for company. But they did give us lots of drinks and awesome nibbles. IMG_5149 MONA was fantastic. A real credit to the state — and I would propose — our nation. Apparently the owner is losing $6 million a year. When we were deciding on this holiday we thought about New Zealand or WA but MONA was the deal-breaker. IMG_5191 Of course I did lose my brand-new, super expensive sunglasses in the “Madonna Room”. UGH. Highlight of MONA: Dee excitedly asking the attendant at the door — “Where is the POO MACHINE?” Apparently it is a bit controversial to Tasmanians. Of course there’s some that, “Don’t get it.” It has crucial bits in it that are purposely confusing — not just confronting. Even the entrance is obscure and a bit of dig at Tasmania. I guess Tasmanians feel the brunt of so many jokes, it’s hard to suffer just one more — even if it is for art’s sake. It’s like Tasmanians are saying, “At last we are being taken seriously!” only to realise the inherent jokes at their expense after the fact. IMG_5172 THOUGHTS ON B&Bs (and HOBART, Day 2) I am not sure why the B&B thing is so prolific. Apart from the fact you sometimes feel like an intruder in someone’s home, there’s that weird awkward breakfast party, each and every day — with a bunch of strangers, one of which (I bloody guarantee you) will be a total goob. And it should also be said: I am not even really good at breakfast. Until recently I didn’t even eat breakfast, let alone do it with random company. And for our first Hobart dawn this breakfast-party was epic. The entire table was full with couples, but thankfully, one of them were roughly our age. Anyway — we got through it despite suffering the American dude who was a bit too knowledgable and bit too chatty and obviously loved the sound of his own voice. Mount Wellington is the focus of Hobart. It’s so massive and as a mountain — even scary with those sharp dolerite columns. It’s the first thing all the Colonial painters brushed out and it just looms. I bet about 50% of homes in Hobart get a view of it rising so gloriously from some aspect of their property. I have driven up it so many times. But this time I wanted to climb it on my own. To make things a bit more even, Dee agreed to pick me up at the top. She dropped me off at The Springs and so I headed of. The walking track is quite direct and thus steep, and relentless. Of course there was no one else here stupid enough to do this. I smashed a bit too hard at the beginning and felt a bit shit towards the end when it got quite exposed but I made it. To be honest, I would not recommend this activity. About half the photos I took that morning are ruined because I sweated all over the camera lens. Here are two that were half decent. (I must stress that tower looks small — but it is like 10 storeys high). DSCF6008 DSCF6009 Later that day we did the gratuitous Salamanca Markets and had lunch at one of the 50 or so pubs in Tasmania that claim to be the oldest (this one was called Hope and Anchor) and then we went to the museum/art gallery — which was pretty damn fantastic. Highlights: IMG_5233“Hunter” — a TV series I loved as a kid IMG_5235 IMG_5239The story of the extermination of the Thylacine was unbelievably tragic. IMG_5246 IMG_5247 HOBART, Day 3 After our awkward breakfast we were soon driving south towards the Huon Valley and ultimately the Hartz Mountains. After we left civilisation and turned onto Forestry roads we were quite alone. About 20ks of complete wilderness ensued with the wind steadily increasing in intensity. On that dusty uphill trek we saw no other cars. At the top where the walking trail began we finally saw some people. But they promptly jumped in their car and disappeared. We had the entire park to ourselves. This might have been cool, but I was a tiny bit scared at that prospect. A bunch of worries entered my head. The wind was getting crazy. Like, really crazy. I remembered what happened on the ride back from Killarney earlier this year. “What if the road is blocked by a fallen tree?” I thought. “What do we do then?” But I kept my concerns to myself and we headed off. Pretty soon we were met by a freaking bizarre contraption right in the middle of the track. It was a device to clean your shoes to protect the delicate ecosystem from, I guess, “city problems”. DSCF6052 Then we struggled up to the alpine plain with the maddening wind all around. At a few points it was difficult to not get blown off the half-a-metre-wide duckboard track — and if you fell — you were almost guaranteed of ending up at least shin-deep in water. DSCF6048 DSCF6064 SCREAMS About 20 minutes into our little adventure Dee was leading the way. But suddenly she was screaming and dancing and jumping about and before I could process anything this tiny snake went between her legs and then I too was hot-stepping-about in total fright. Just to make things even the snake also snuck it’s way between my shaking legs and then off the thankfully spilled over the boards and down, away, into the heath. We dashed ahead a few metres and I desperately asked Dee, “Did it bite you?” Thankfully not but I was a little bit sure the creature actually touched my shoe. Holy shit. It was too small I am figuring to be much of a danger but apparently ALL snakes in Tasmania are deadly. Just saying. The wind was now fucking ridiculous. I have never experienced anything like it. We were at an altitude a bit over 1000m and when we got to Lake Esperance I knew it was time to turn around. On the way back in the car the road looked like a mess. I mean it was a dirt road already, but now it was covered in broken branches and leaves and at one point we had to doge a fallen tree. The car kept getting smacked by stuff and at two points we snagged some branch that got trapped under the car necessitating a stop to physically slide under the car to dislodge it. And in the Huon Valley we were intending to stop at the Wille (Nelson) Smith Appleshed but conditions outside were apocalyptic. At one point, I shit you not, with branches flying horizontally across the road — it looked like we had stepped into a scene from the movie Twister. IMG_5253 ALABAMA Back safely in Hobart we met up with the amazing Imogen (or Immy), a friend from Brisbane who had just moved to Hobart this year. Oh my god – we had the best time! Immy is incredible. Dee had never met her before but instantly they were besties. After a coffee at Providore, Immy took us to this semi-boutique hotel called Alabama that had a bar attached. Immediately I was enamoured. The co-owner was serving at the bar so naturally I had a massive gush about how awesome the place was and incredibly interested in how it all worked. So the rooms all featured art (from local artists) and every guest has to share facilities (which personally just maybe might be a deal-breaker for us). She even gave us two keys and let us have a sneaky browse of two of the rooms which was really nice. After that somehow I mentioned I rode bikes and suddenly she was saying, “Are you by any chance familiar with the bike polo scene in Brisbane?” And then she was showing me her guest book and sure enough — there was Dom and Clancy and Handsome Rob. Amazing! IMG_5327 Here’s Ssome pics of Alabama: IMG_5312 IMG_5319 IMG_5322 IMG_5330 IMG_5328 MT FIELD The next day he headed again for the deep heart of Tasmania. This time for the very first National Park in Australia. It is actually called “National Park” on the map at ground level. Up in the wilderness it is called Mt Field. Afrer paying our $60 national park pass, we started the drive up. The road was of course just ruddy wet sandy-dirt and hopelessly narrow. And on the left side was almost always a massive cliff with certain death if we strayed over. For some amazing reason, we only dealt with one car coming down while we were going up. And thankfully there was room and we each exchanged a very hearty “country wave”. At the top the wind was still crazy. It was so much uphill on the walk part. Quite steep. And obviously Dee was unimpressed. After climbing about 200m in altitude, then some more, Dee was a bit flushed and over it. I sent her back down to the ski village part while I smashed up ahead to the Lake Seal lookout. DSCF6087 DSCF6103 DSCF6090 Back down the track Dee was a bit more civilized. We stumbled down and naturally I found myself about 20 paces ahead. And then I heard some voices obviously coming the opposite direction. So I stopped to let Dee catch up. Mostly so we didn’t look like we were some disfunctional couple. but at exactly that point a massive snake, black and really scaly, slithered away just centimetres from where I stood. I jumped over to the other side of the track and stood like a statue. Meanwhile our new hiking companions arrived just as Dee caught up. I explained how I had just seen a massive snake and the female portion of our new friends was utterly horrified. “I was just saying how I didn’t think there would be any snakes on this walk!” So then we did a more civilized walk to Russell Falls and I experimented with that camera trick of letting the shutter stay open a bit so the falling water looked like snowy mist. BUSHY PARK Our bed this night was another B&B, but of the EXTREME variety. It was run by these ancient Scottish Mormons — lovely ancient Scottish Mormons it should be said. But we didn’t realise this potential complication until we had arrived and saw all this weird religious paraphernalia about. And this B&B was a more like staying in your grandma’s spare bedroom. The whole house, apart from their bedroom upstairs, was free range. We instantly wondered what they would think if we wanted to have some booze. We looked at eachother in bewilderment. “We should Google that.” But there was no reception and so we just had to suffer. At least there were puppies for Dee to pat and upon wandering the land we saw some Scottish Coo. As it turned out it was totally cool and we had some beautiful Tasmanian wine we had sourced from one of the (awkwardly titled) 9/11 chain of bottleshops in Hobart. All in front of one of those “roaring fires” in our own personal sitting room. We were the only guests that night which made things a little more like we were intruding and so it was quietly decided that we would skip breakfast, and smash north on the morrow. A 5:30am start to the deep northwest of Tasmania ensued. (More on that in Part 2!) DSCF6114OMG — this place was connected to the NBN! DSCF6120 DSCF6133 DSCF6145They cooked us dinner! DSCF6130The view out the front door TEASER PICS FROM PART TWO (coming soon — featuring snow, and wombats, and thrones, and puppies, and apples and a lot more IMMY! YESSSS) IMG_5503 DSCF6207 DSCF6327