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Hobart, Tasmania
April 3, 2007

(Steph) Our first morning in Hobart we took a long stroll through the streets of the harbor and the historic neighborhood of Battery Point. I dragged Woj through a few of the boutiques in an area of town called Salamanca and we bought our first souvenirs in a long time. We don't buy ourselves many souvenirs, mostly because we are both averse to clutter and can see into the future, when sculptures or other "objets d'art" will start to look kitschy instead of cool, and invariably collect dust. Not to mention we don't have a lot of spare room. But Woj got himself a T-shirt and I bought myself a tea towel, and a few for friends, all designed by a local artist. We bought so much from the artist's shop that they gave me a free T-shirt! Hey, this souvenir thing isn't so bad after all!

Woj in his first souvenir T-shirt since Spain 2004.

Steph gets fish and chips from a floating shop.

We also stopped in at the Visitor's Center to find out how to see some of the sites outside of Hobart. I read "The Fatal Shore" by Robert Hughes last November. It's a great non-fiction account of Australia's convict history. So I was eager to see the site of Port Arthur, Tasmania's penal colony, and one of only a few Australian destinations for repeat offenders from the various penal colonies on the mainland. We were also interested in doing a bicycle tour, seeing Tasmanian devils, and touring the Cadbury chocolate factory.

We walked into the Center and walked out about 10 minutes later having signed up with three tours: an all-day tour to Port Arthur, an all-day touring encompassing the Cadbury factory, a river cruise and a Tasmanian devil park, and a bicycle tour. It was the first time we haven't just roughed it and found our own way around. On the one hand it was a little liberating, in that we didn't need to figure out bus schedules or any other details. On the other hand, we felt prematurely geriatric.

Working boats tied up in Hobart's sheltered waterfront area.

Historical buildings that line Hobart's waterfront.

Our bicycle tour commenced after lunch. We were given a ride up to the top of Mt. Wellington, the highest lookout point over Hobart. We were assigned bicycles and broke into two groups -- the fast and the slow groups. We both decided we wanted to go fast down the hill, so headed out with the fast group. Woj raced our leader down the mountain the whole way, while I eventually decided to slow down because I couldn't enjoy the scenery while trying not to wipeout at 40 mph. The views from the top of the mountain were spectacular, and it's really a gorgeous place. It reminded me a lot of Seattle and its proximity to mountains and the sea, but with a lot less people and rain.

The views from the top of Mt. Wellington.

On one of many breaks while we waited for the slow cyclists to arrive.

That night in our hotel room, we watched a TV show called "Autopsy: Life and Death." A doctor walks an audience through the dissection of a human cadaver and investigates that person's reason for death, and shows the effects of the disease on different parts of the body. It leaves nothing to the imagination -- the cadaver's body cavity was opened up showing every organ, and a live human model stands there completely naked while another doctor draws various organs and bodily systems on his torso to show where they are in relation to our bodies. When we first surfed by the channel, I thought it was a cooking show because all the organs in the cadaver were glistening and looked meaty. The U.S. would never allow a show like this on the air, and for that reason we felt privileged to see it. I don't think I would ever have the opportunity to see the human body in that light unless I went to med school. It was fascinating.

Port Arthur, Tasmania
April 4, 2007

(Steph) Today was our first all-encompassing tour. We climbed aboard the bus and as soon as our driver started speaking over the microphone it dawned on me that we may have to listen to his well-rehearsed comedy shtick for the next 2.5 hours. But thankfully he stayed pretty quiet and just piped up every once in a while with an interesting note about a passing town or site.

We were allowed off the bus for approximately 17 minutes to see the Tasmanian coast.

The penal colony is set on an absolutely gorgeous little cove. I don't know if it looked that great when hundreds of convicts lived there, but in present day it's a lovely site. Many of the buildings burned in a fire leaving just the stone exteriors, and even some of those have been chipped away by souvenir hounds. Many bricks used to build homes in Tasmania were made by convicts from Port Arthur, and that's apparently a big selling point amongst those who buy and sell homes there.

The penitentiary building with the harbor in the background.

The penitentiary had a ship-building yard. This is the former site, with an artist's rendition of a ship's frame on permanent display.

The site acted as a penal colony from 1833 - 1877. Convicts from mainland Australia were sent there if they committed further criminal acts. It was virtually impossible to escape -- the waters were shark-infested, or so the convicts were told, and many of them couldn't swim even if they wanted to escape via a water route. On land, Port Arthur connects to the rest of the Tasman Peninsula via a narrow strip of land where guard dogs were tied up, making it hazardous to cross. Some prisoners were so miserable there (flogging and solitary confinement were regular ways to keep the prison population under control) that they would commit criminal acts just so they could get sent to Hobart for trial, and get a break from the place.

The grounds of the penitentiary from the water.

The semaphore used to communicate with Hobart. A network of semaphores helped get a message relayed and an answer back within 20 minutes.

We had our big dinner out that night, going to a seafood restaurant called Kelley's. Woj wore a T-shirt to dinner, and I made some comment about his outfit being mighty casual. He shrugged it off, but when we arrived at the restaurant you had to knock to get entry! We thought it might be a little awkward, but true to Tasmanian (and again, Seattle) fashion most people in the restaurant were also dressed pretty casually. We enjoyed oysters, grilled octopus, sea trout (trout that has been farm-raised in sea water) and Tasmanian salmon.

Hobart, Tasmania
April 5, 2007

(Steph) Today was our mega-tour. We hopped on the bus and went straight to the Cadbury chocolate factory. Gotta love a huge chocolate fix before lunch. As we worked our way through the factory it was eventually revealed that both of us thought the other one had really wanted to tour it. How did we end up on this tour anyway? They don't even make Curly Wurly at this factory! But I discovered Turkish Delight, so I guess we got something out of it. We weren't allowed to take pictures in the factory -- they must be afraid of some Slugworth-type espionage.

The tour was over a full hour before our bus was scheduled to take us to our rendezvous with a boat on the Derwent River, so we walked around the Cadbury Family Walking Track that looks like it doesn't get much walking traffic from Cadbury families. But we did see some big sulfur-crested cockatoos. We had been told we'd see them everywhere in Australia, but this was our first time. They make a giant screaming racket -- how a person could stand to hear it in their home is beyond me.

A sulfur-crested cockatoo amongst the eucalypts.

Our river tour was more like a boat ride down a river with a sad little sandwich. It was a bit chilly that day, so we stayed inside and didn't venture outside to take photos. It's actually not that scenic from the middle of the Derwent River, although it looked like there are some great anchorages tucked into coves here and there.

We then climbed aboard a bus to a Tasmanian devil sanctuary, the highlight of the day. A very enthusiastic and knowledgeable young guy gave us a lot of information about Tasmanian devils, wombats and koalas. The devils look like giant brown rats to me, but they are interesting creatures. They make a lout racket, but they are pretty harmless. Apparently they are often killed by dogs because they bluff more often than they bite. But when they do bite, look out -- their little jaws exert a huge amount of pressure and they can crack through bone. When they happen upon a carcass, they will eat every last bit of it: hair, bones, teeth and all. We also got to see a wombat close up before she is released into the wild, and she was the cutest thing ever. They are closely related to koalas, and look a lot like them.

Words cannot express the cuteness of wombats.

The Tasmanian devil during a rare moment of repose.

We should have videotaped this -- we could hear him crunching through bone while he devoured this morsel of roadkill.

The last part of the tour was to a town called Richmond. By this time we were burned out on touristy happenings, so we went to a coffee shop and had some meat pies and coffee. This day-long tour wasn't really worth it, and for the most part we wished we had been in our own car and been able to get ourselves around to just the sites we wanted to see. Well, we've learned something from this tour package extravaganza, I guess.

Hobart, Tasmania
April 6, 2007

Today was Good Friday, and unbeknownst to us the entire Easter weekend is a big deal here in Australia. Everything closes as its a public holiday, and often you have to pay 10% more at restaurants just because it's a holiday. I don't know if that's because the employees get 10% more in their paycheck that day or what. Our plans to visit the maritime museum were dashed. In fact, plans to do almost anything were dashed. The day became a day of walking around just for the sake of something to do.

 

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