Stuff to Write Home About Volume 10 Issue 1 – Tasmania

In honour of the tenth anniversary of my year-long trip to Australia and New Zealand, I am re-releasing blog articles originally posted elsewhere. The hike up Cradle Mountain mentioned in this article was later turned into a seven-minute speech full of vocal variety, facial expressions and full-body gestures. Enjoy the article!

I visited Tasmania for a week, straight after visiting New Zealand. “Tassie” is a different sort of place. It really does feel like it’s detached from the rest of Australia. On the west coast, the weather is wild and the brush is thick. The climate on the east coast is much nicer and that’s where most of the people live. Tasmania (formerly called Van Diemen’s Land) was the place where the worst of the worst convicts were sent to be “broken” of their evil ways. I did a 6 day tour. I figured that would be the easiest way to see the whole island in the limited time that I had.

Tassie is a beautiful place. Without creature comforts, it would be very difficult to live here, but as it is the people enjoy beautiful scenery and an outdoorsy lifestyle.  We started out in Hobart, the capital. We left early in the morning to travel to Strahan. Strahan is a pretty little town that is great for walking or biking around. We stayed in a nice house owned by the tour company and went for bike rides around the town. Our guide told us that each town in Tasmania had a purpose. Strahan’s was mining. Most of the towns in Tassie were either mining or forestry towns and there is a story to tell about each one.

After Strahan, we headed to Cradle Mountain. It’s a big tourist draw. The weather started off okay, but as it does in this area of the country, it turned foul in a short period of time. Our guide took some of us up to the cradle part of the mountain (not the summit). You’ll see what I mean in my pictures. Thank goodness for my rain & windproof jacket because the closer we got to the top, the nastier the weather was. We were literally climbing up steep, rocky trails in a cloud barely able to see the person in front. I didn’t think so at the time, but it was awesome! What an adventure! The cloud eventually blew away and we got some great views and photos of the valley. We eventually hiked back down the mountain and made it safely back to our starting point.

The next town we visited was Devonport. It’s a port town where the “Spirit of Tasmania”, the ship that brings people to Tasmania from Melbourne, stops. Next, we visited Launceston and Bicheno. There are lots of the “Little Penguins” living on the beach at Bicheno. They’re so cute. We visited the Freycinet National Park and Bay of Fires as well. We didn’t get a clear answer on the origins of the name “Bay of Fires” but there are a few theories. One involves aboriginals burning things on the beach and when the English showed up, it looked like the bay was on fire. Another theory is that the orange fungus on the rocks makes them look as if they are on fire.

On the way from Bicheno to Port Arthur, we stopped at Wineglass Bay. This bay is so named because during the times of whaling, the whaling boats would bring the whales into the bay and clean them there. The bay would become so full of blood and whale guts that the water looked to be the colour of a glass of wine. Port Arthur is a famous penal colony (now just a tourist attraction). The whole place was designed to “break the spirits of men” as our guide told us. Even those wrongly convicted that came to this place became what their jailers believed them to be. A book to read which chronicles the place and its circumstances is a novel by Marcus Clarke called “For the Term of His Natural Life”. I started reading this book after I had visited Tasmania and Port Arthur and so it made the book more real. At Port Arthur, we were encouraged to imagine what it was like for a convict to live in this environment. The bright, sunny day was a stark contrast to the gloom and darkness of the life of a convict sleeping in the penitentiary by night and working in the chain gangs by day.

After touring other parts of the Tasman Peninsula, we headed back to Hobart for the end of our tour. It was an action packed trip with good company, lots of food, and lots of falling asleep on the bus. It wasn’t the guide’s commentary that put me to sleep, it was all the activity! I did get really good at sleeping on the bus.

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