Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Tuesday, Oct 13th, Melbourne


Well, there are some days when everything goes wrong.  Yesterday was almost one of them, and would have - had it not been for the kindness of some strangers who have become friends.

But first, we stopped by the oldest jail in Australia, and saw the conditions awaiting those men and women who rebelled at being long-term indentured servants to the free Tasmanian merchants and farmers.  

And then, we went on a tour of the first Cadbury Chocolate Factory established outside of England in 1905.  As I type this, I'm eating some delicious milk chocolate we bought.

Arriving from Tasmania at the Melbourne Airport, we learned from Jason at East West Rental Cars that we had reserved our car for Oct 12th to Oct 31st, 2016!  Worse yet, a motorcycle race coming up in Melbourne had reserved all the cars available for the next week.

Trying our best to maintain our sense of humor, we explored all of our options with Jason.  He called (remember, we have no phone) the internet car rental broker who connected us with him, and found another company who could rent us (at more cost) a manual drive (ugh) clone of the one we had requested.  

Later last night, we successfully navigated our way to our next accommodation address in Melbourne city center (no easy feat in a city with a lot of one-way and very narrow streets in that area).  It was an 18-story apartment complex, in which some apartments were being brokered for short-term rentals.  Except that our reservation was for Oct 12-14th, 2016, and no one knew we were coming or were there to open it up for us.

A resident, Benjamin, on his phone and standing outside the very secure entrance, came to our rescue.  Responding to Pat’s "We need your phone" plea, he called the number we had for our building contact (Katrina).  Again, we encountered only the best support from both of them.  Benjamin, a Malaysian citizen studying human resources locally, let us into the building lobby to sit on the couch while Katrina found us another apartment (which turned out to be an expensive two-bedroom, with absolutely die-for views, on the 16th floor). 

Oh well, the day was already setting records for throwing us curves.  To cap it off, we very narrowly escaped being run over while jay-walking crossing the street in front of our apartment as we returned from retrieving some dinner.  We looked the wrong way, and I had to pull Pat through the air across two lanes to avoid being hit by a phalanx of cars. 

We awoke today to a more normal day.  We left our car in the complex garage, and walked or used the metro bus and tram system to explore downtown Melbourne.  It was an architectural and cultural cornucopia.  We completed a 5km walking tour, rode the Circle City Tram, and stopped in for a tour of the Parliament.  We hope to see two museums tomorrow.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.
Tuesday, Oct 13th, Melbourne

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunday, Oct 11th, Richmond, Tasmania


Richmond Bridge has the oldest stone bridge in Australia.  Built by convict labor in 1625, it's no accident that the town has the oldest jail (1825) and church (1836).  The Bridge was necessary to establish the colony from 1834 to 1853 at Port Arthur, where the main convict processing operations took place (where we began this visit to Tasmania).

Tasmania has been everything we expected and more.  It ranks up there with places we agree we could live, although I'd really need to experience the other seasons.  We've had higher than normal temperatures, and less rain.  The radio talk show commentaries have been excellent, keeping us up with government leadership changes and controversial issues.  And the locals seem to have a good handle on the work/life balance, though it took some adjustment slowing down in the late afternoons when businesses closed. Thank goodness for the improving wifi.

Tomorrow, we fly back to Melbourne, and have 19 days to get to Sydney.  Other than seeing more of the coast, parks, and people, we're keeping the schedule and route flexible.  Our hosts for tonight, Simone and Mathew Carter, of Richmond Barracks, have suggested some of their favorite stopping points, and we look forward to checking each out.

Here is a link to the few photos we took today.
Sunday, Oct 11th, Richmond

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saturday, Oct 10th, Derwent Bridge


If Tasmania is described as looking from space like a big heart, then we’re about center left (where the right atrium meets the right ventricle).  The town is called Derwent Bridge, and it’s famous for three things: the end of the 65-kilometer overland trail across Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park from Ronnie Creek (where we were yesterday); the home of Greg Duncan, whose “Wall” of sculpted wooden carvings is becoming a huge tourist attraction; and the site of Tasmania’s oldest rocks (1.45 billion years along Lyell Road). 

We’re spending the night at 14785 Lyell Road at the Derwent Bridge Cottages, earlier today met hikers finishing the trek while we had ice cream at the National Park headquarters, and just got back from Greg Duncan’s amazing studio. 

Building over a decade his 100-meter long, three-meter high, Huon pine tribute to the people and industries which contributed to the area’s history, Duncan has redefined wood-carving to present DaVinci-quality figures, tools, and materials. 

Here is a link to he photos we took today.
Saturday, Oct 10th, Derwent Bridge.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Thursday, Oct 8th, Deloraine


Tasmania takes much more than a week to see.  Nevertheless, our travel hopes were to see as much of the coast, mountains, and major tourist attractions as possible.  We've visited the area around Hobart, and the coast north of it.  As we head out to the rest, we've chosen to circle the major mountain range in the middle of the island.  The rest of the coast is probably beautiful, but the roads leading to them are  isolated and mostly long arteries.

Today, we followed the trail to the "cute" towns which were founded by sheep ranchers in the early 1800's.  We even drove over a bridge built by ten of them, and supervised by a robber sentenced to death, who became a successful businessman in the town.

The successful sheep ranchers came from England as free men, petitioned the government after a few years here to acquire huge tracts of land, and then contracted convict labor in the 1830's to build the structures.

One family, the Archers, has lived on the Woolmer and Brickendom estates for seven generations. Unlike other tourist destination historic estates, all of the furnishings within are original belonging to the family.  Unfortunately, they wouldn't allow photographs inside, because the tables, chairs, porcelin, and art rivals any great estate we have visited in England.  The buildings, however, are almost 200 years old, and are pretty good for unpaid day laborers.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.
Thursday, Oct 8th, Deloraine

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wednesday, Oct 7th, Port Arthur


Long before Britain deported 166,000 convicts to Australia, did you know that she sent 80,000 to America?   While visiting the Port Arthur Historic Site yesterday, where the first separate juvenile incarceration program was established, we learned that until the American Revolution, ships sailed with human cargo to her closest mercantile port.   We'll investigate more about how they were used, and what became of them.

At Port Arthur, British penal program design was developed from 1828 to 1853, and rehabilitation became the key component which began to dominate its future.  For the first time, children were housed and supervised on a small facility across the bay away from adults.  Deportees as young as nine (think Dicken's Artful Dodger) were held there.  Adults were classified, segregated, trained in skills, and employed in timber (boat-building) and mining projects.  The islands were full of some of the tallest trees in the world, first-growth mountain ash.

Today, we head north to Swansea in a four-day swing around this beautiful island.  Here are the photos we took at Port Arthur yesterday.
Wednesday, Oct 7th, Port Arthur

And the photos we took along the eastern coast today.
Wednesday, Oct 7th, Swansea

Tomorrow, we head inland, in search by Saturday, for the world's tallest tree.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Monday Night, Oct 5th, Hobart


“Nature, history, art, and culture – all in one day”, said Pat while we had dinner at a small cafĂ© tonight.  We had been to the top of Mt Wellington in the morning, to the Cascade Female Factory around noon, and the Museum of Old and New Art in the late afternoon.  All of them the providing premier experiences in three-hour bites.  

Mt Wellington is one hell of a rock, towering above the landscape.  From its peak, you can see snow-capped peaks 150 kilometers away.  You can also be blown off your feet, and required to hold on tight to anything bolted down.  The 22-kilometer, narrow windy road which climbs up from town, gives no indication of either the power of the views or the strength of the winds.  Both leave you breathless.

The Cascade Female Factory Site in South Hobart helped 25,000 British women criminal deportees during the period from 1828 to 1853 become convinced they should work for Tasmanian farmers, merchants, and mine owners.  Today, we visited the facility in which they were imprisoned, and learned more about who they were, and how they were convinced.
Three cheers to Judith and Chris Cornish of Live History Productions, who played all of the characters in the re-enactment within the walls.  Their talents brought the whole thing to life. 

Finally, we descended three stories into a solid rock hill below a winery owned by a professional gambler who developed a system used to bet on horse-racing and other sports.  Sinking (literally) $75 million into one of Australia’s most popular tourist attraction, and the largest private museum in the country, he admits it was mostly to relieve his guilt for having done nothing he felt was valuable.  Located on the Berriedale peninsula in South Hobart, David Walsh’s Museum of Old and New Art(MONA) is full of the most surprising, and moderately outrageous, art I’ve ever seen.  Pat and I raised our eyebrows quite a few times as we moved throughout.  What we did like, however, was the information tool given to visitors to access content about each piece of art.  A modified cell phone using blue tooth, it not only brings all the relevant photos, video, and text about all art within your vicinity, but charts you access and movement in an online 3D schematic, providing data on all objects in the museum.    
Here is a link to the photos we took today.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Monday, Oct 5th, Hobart, Tasmania


I can't think of anytime in the last few years when someone said to me, "I'm going to Tasmania".   Now that we're here, I can't think of why a visit here shouldn't be seriously on our bucket lists.   And Australia next door isn't too bad either.

We flew in last night, picked up a little Hyundai, and are staying in the capital (Hobart) until tomorrow.  Our hotel is on the main Sandy Bay Road, and we'll use the bus to visit sights downtown today.  Tomorrow, we begin a five- day circle route around the island.  I'm hoping we can find this 327-foot Mountain Ash.

Here are a few photos we took on our way to dinner down by the wharf last night.  I had the restaurant's signature fish chowder, and Pat had scallops and fries.

Sunday, Oct 4th, Hobart