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

Friday, October 2, 2015

Friday, Oct 2nd, Geelong


Today, I think Pat really began to understand the beauty of surfing.  We stopped by several spots along the Great Ocean Highway, including world-famous Bell's Beach, and I heard her comment "Good ride!" as she watched through her binoculars as surfers tried to get the most out of a six-foot swell rolling into town on a beautiful day.   I've appreciated how much she cares about what surfing means to me, but today I think it started meaning something to her too.

Arriving early in Geelong, our last stop before we fly to Tasmania on Sunday, we drove to their Botanical Gardens while our hotel room was being cleaned.  One of the first trees we saw were their Dawn and Giant Redwoods.
Planted in 1873, the Giant Sequoia came from central California.  The Dawn is endemic, and Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve actually got ours from here.

I have probably over-used the word "great" in these posts, but it is never more appropriate than when used to describe the coastal highway we just completed.  Constructed by returning WWI vets in a major public works project, it was dedicated by them to their fallen comrades, and is called the largest military memorial in the world.  It's compares with California's Highway 1 along the coast near Big Sur.  Except it's got major surf spots that are accessible.  The county is even called Surf Coast Shire.  And koalas sit in the trees just above the road.  It's awesome.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.
Friday, Oct 2nd, Geelong.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Thursday, Oct 1st, Apollo Bay


Do you know what the tallest flowering plant, and hardwood tree, in the world is?  Or where it is?

Australian Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus Regnans), in Tasmania is 327 feet.  This one's a little shorter in Mait's Rest Rainforest, Victoria.

But, you say, this doesn't look like a rainforest?  Lower your gaze.  A remnant of Godwana, this stretch of Australian coast has the perfect conditions to also support Australian Tree Ferns. Pre-dating the dinosaurs, the variations of this early earth resident are the source of most of our present-day oil.

The Twelve Apostles are broken coastal limestone stacks (there is really only eight) nearby that must hold the record for most appearances in the background of selfies.

Finally, we found the elusive Echidna.  We were checking out a surf spot, and happened to look down on the cliff below us.  It gets my vote for the cutest Australian.

Here is a link to the photos taken today.
Thursday, Oct 1st, Apollo Bay.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday, Sep 30th, Ballarat


On the way out of Hall's Gap this morning, we drove to the cave where the painting of Bunjil, Gariwerd's creation spirit, and his two helpers is found.  Easy driving, followed by a short walk, certainly contrasted with our perilous journey yesterday. 

One of this part of Australia’s most popular tourist attractions is Sovereign Hill, an open-air museum recreating the main street of Ballarat, the site of the biggest alluvial gold rush in the world.  Set in the 1850’s, Sovereign Hill is located on a 25-hectare site containing 60 historical buildings, with costumed staff and volunteers that present theater plays, conduct military ceremonies, assist in gold panning, lead mine tours, and run businesses along its streets.  An enormous amount of antique furniture, machinery, carriages, and devices is displayed throughout.  Open since 1970, the original town was consumed by fire in the 1860’s, but extensive photos taken from the top of the town hall guided its reconstruction. 

In our conversations with the coffin maker, we mentioned where we were from, and he told us that redwoods from California that were brought during the gold rush still stand in the Ballarat Botanical Park.  We’re stopping by tomorrow morning to see if we can find them.

Here are the photos we took today.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tuesday, Sep 29th, Hall's Gap


Throughout these past many years, I’ve probably driven enough miles to make it all the way around the world.  Most of those miles were on highways, however well-maintained.  But a healthy amount were on backroads, as Pat and I enjoy exploring, and are willing to take risks.  Australia has quite a lot of roads which they will never bring up to the standard where they are safe at all times.  “Unsealed” is what they are called, and very often they pose serious hazards in bad weather or when fallen trees or rocks block the way.

Today, we chose to take several of those roads to circumnavigate the lower section of the park.  It was a real test of our Nissan Almera, clearly not made for rugged area driving.  The route was necessary in order to visit some caves where stone painting told the stories of local aboriginal origins.  The distances were great, and we had several maps and the Garmin. 

Pat and I have always agreed that we would check each other’s eagerness to risk a little danger in pursuit of our adventure.  I have to admit, however, the stories of travelers becoming stuck or lost in the semi-wilderness did flash in my mind as I drove out of the valley this afternoon.  

An hour earlier, on a narrow mountain road, we encountered one of those tractors you see using a large wedge blade to spread dirt across half the road when they construct highways.  He was coming toward us, and had spread dirt across half the road ahead of us, and I had no idea what we would find in a few minutes.  

Slowly, my side of the road became narrower, and the pile of dirt in the middle of the road grew higher.  Then, on a downhill grade, I could see my lane width disappear.  I chose (my decision alone) to drive across (and through too quickly) the center pile in an attempt to get into the other, wider lane.  Unfortunately, the pile contained more than dirt, and my cross took longer than expected.  Fortunately, the undercarriage of the car, and we survived the collision.  Unknown at the time, the front left tire rim didn’t.  

How we made it home in the next two hours will remain a mystery to us.  For when we parked in our spot in front of our room, we found the tire half-deflated.  Within a minute, it sat on the rim.   A post mortem by the roadside emergency service from a neighboring town’s tire shop indicated that the rim had taken a solid hit, creating a leak only when the smashed rim was at a 6 o’clock position, and stationary.  I was sure glad we didn’t stop up on the valley road. 

Tomorrow, we drive the spare over to the tire shop, pick up our repaired original, and head on the Ballarat.  Much thanks to Stephen and Peggy Odgers of Kookaburra Motor Lodge for their support.

Here is a link to the photos we took today.