Thursday, February 4, 2016

Where in the Devil Is Tasmania!

Arriving in Hobart, Tasmania. What a backdrop of the city!
Those are low clouds - not snow!
As kids we learned about the Tasmanian Devil through cartoons. No one actually talked about the real animal or where Tasmania is located on this big blue ball! In fact, for years I thought Tasmania was a country and not just a part of Australia that broke away from the mainland thousands of years ago.

Tasmania was one of the destinations we wanted to visit while down under. If we were to sail down there, we would have to spend another year here in Australia since it would be too tight of a schedule to explore Tassie (as the Aussies call it) by sea and see the rest of Australia in one season. And I do want to get back to land to spend time with rapidly growing grandchildren, so another season here is not an option.
The fishing fleet: prawns, mussels, oysters and every
species of fish imaginable found in the fish market.
Knowing we could not see all of Tasmania, we chose a trip along the east coast from Hobart to Launceston. This itinerary gave us the opportunity to see the two major cities and beautiful beaches, landscapes, mountains and national parks all in a seven day fly/drive package. It was the perfect length of time and amount of driving. I am sure the west coast drive is just as beautiful.

A view of the waterfront from across Constitution Harbour.
The roads here are similar to New Zealand – very narrow, no shoulders, few divided highways, but we did not find any one lane bridges here! That made it a little easier. Although Dennis commented several times that the Aussie drivers are more aggressive. Dennis is quite efficient as a “British” driver. In fact, he is concerned now about driving in the USA and then coming back to drive more here. One cannot let the personal automatic pilot kick in while driving. He remains focused on the road so he misses a lot of what I get to see and photograph along the way.

Everyone warned us that it would be cold in Tassie so we should take our woolies. Leaving 90-105+ temperatures here on the mainland had us concerned when it came to packing. Of course, I packed too much just to be prepared! Jeans were the most used item along with a long sleeved shirt and a sweater or fleece. Actually, the cool weather of 60-75 degrees was refreshing. I was more comfortable down there as I don’t like hot weather. It was snowing up in the mountains further inland at Mt. Wellington.

Fairy Floss: the Aussie version of Cotton Candy
Like New Zealand, Tasmania and all of Australia is known for trekking trails. The population is very outdoorsy and most activities involve trekking, surfing, sailing, fishing, beaches, camping, etc. And Tassie has a number of state and national parks with free campsites. Plus you can camp almost anywhere you want to as long as it is not mark as off limits. There is a lot of land and a small population.

So many flower stalls! All beautiful!
And, of course, there are the wine trails and tours. We didn’t take advantage of all of the tasting cellars along the way as we didn’t want the hassle of bringing it back to the mainland. Besides there are so many choices in the stores that you don’t need to go to the vineyards. I do find it amazing how much wine other boats buy for stock onboard. I guess we just don’t drink that much. And that is a good thing!

Beautiful hand knit and felted hats and scarves knit from
silk, merino wool, alpaca or a combination. Fine work.
We tried to visit a number of the “Essential Tasmanian Experiences” as recommended in guide books. Our first two days were in Hobart near the Tasmanian Peninsula in the southeast corner of Tasmania. There were historical sites everywhere and most of them highlighted the convict history and the terrible things that happened. Since it was similar in a number of locations, we did not visit many as it is not our history and it is quite depressing. It just underlines the fact that people of all skin colors, ethnicity, religions, etc. have been treated badly in every part of the world at some time or another. Everyone seems to have some of this ugly history.

And, of course, I am attracted to the fiber arts everywhere.
These garments have a lovely hand.
Hobart is Australia’s second oldest city and is a bustling seaport town and harbor. And it has a sprawling suburbia around it. People are actively out walking, jogging and biking throughout the downtown area. It is quite hilly so you get a good workout! In the heart of town is Constitution Dock which is surrounded by great seafood restaurants. Of course, this was where we ate our meals! Fresh seafood is wonderful here.

I can see I need to work on my knot skills!
Every Saturday there is the Salamanca Market - an outdoor market. It is like Eastern Market and the Ann Arbor Art Fair in one all outdoors. It is hard to believe so many vendors set up shop there every week! In this vibrant market, you could find anything you might need there: plants, honey, meats, wine cheese, breads, fruits and vegetables, clothing, jewelry, leather and woven goods, toys, handmade items of all kinds, photography, all kinds of artwork and more! It was huge!

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Even though the day was a little overcast with an occasional mist, it was a lovely way to spend a few hours.  It was also a dog and smoke free area which made it more pleasant – only the strollers to trip you. The market is run by the city and the vendors are all licensed. I love that they call cotton candy “fairy floss” here!

We made a couple of museum stops: Maritime Museum of Tasmania and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery (free admission). The Maritime Museum is run by volunteers and holds Tasmania’s largest and most eclectic maritime collection. Exhibits highlighted whaling, ship building, shipwrecks and Hobart’s connection with the sea.
After lunch we went to the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery. I have to admit that I wasn’t terribly enthused as I was tired, but I am so glad I went along with Dennis. The most moving exhibit was about their Aboriginal people who are believed to have arrived in the continent of Australia between 60,000-35,000 BC! Now that is what you can call “original indigenous people.” Then Tasmania separated from the mainland when the sea level rose following the last ice age sometime between 12,000-8,000 BC.

I can't imagine going out in the ocean for seals and whales
in this type of boat with the wind and waves down here!
In 1642, Dutch explorer Abel Tasman discovered Tasmania and named the island Van Diemen’s Land after a Dutch governor. He was followed by visiting Captain Bligh, who planted the first apple trees in the 1700’s and the Huon Valley is still the apple capital of Tasmania. Convicts began arriving in 1788 and have a history of terrible treatment. Today relatives of those convicts consider their families’ survival as a badge of honor. Other than the Aboriginal People, everyone came from somewhere else.

A typical Aboriginal house. Since they were  either murdered,
sold or shipped off to the outer islands and west side of the
country, we won't see these in a village.
As for the Aboriginal People, they lived off the land and sea for years along the coasts. They produced sophisticated boats and used them to hunt seals and offshore animals and birds. There were 5,000-10,000 Aboriginals in Tasmania when the Europeans arrived. They lived in bands of about 50 people, each claiming certain areas of land and speaking one of nine native languages.
An interesting T-shirt commentary!
Everything is a matter of perspective,
but there is no excuse for human torture.

Here it is: The Tasmanian Devil
The ugly history began when the European sealers took the women for laborers and sex slaves, even trading dogs and other things so they could take the women back with them! As the Europeans expanded their farms into the hunting grounds, wars broke out between the two groups. This eroded into the Black Wars in the 1820’s. Unfortunately, Aboriginal groups were systematically murdered, arrested or forced from certain land areas. They were poisoned by arsenic on bread, trapped in steel traps or died from European diseases. There was an attempt to rid the country of Aboriginal people.
This exhibit shows Antarctica in relation to
the other continents and explains weather.

In the museum we saw a preserved Tasmanian Devil in a glass case. Other than road kill and a trip to a wildlife reserve, we haven’t seen any animals in the wild yet, other than birds. Most of them are nocturnal and we haven’t ventured out into the bush at night yet.

St. Dsvid's Anglican Catherdral
This museum is an interesting mixture of art and science exhibits as well as historical ones. The building itself is historical and they have excavated and exposed many of the walls which show different materials and building technics used over the years. Very interesting.

We found St. David's Anglican Cathedral in the heart of Hobart. Up on a hill which must be challenging to navigate in the winter, we entered to find a very serene sanctuary which is open to the public every day. I found it interesting as the literature says it is a "Persian/English Congregation."
And all of this was just on Saturday. We still have Sunday to explore the area.

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