It was odd wandering through the town of Triabunna with nothing but my boxers on, in the dead of night. But as the public toilets were across the road from the back of the pub, where we were staying – I didn’t have a choice… Despite my best ninja efforts scampering along the tarmac in bare feet, my return journey featured a herd of drunk AFL supporters jeering me on! In need of a good brekkie following my exhibitionist escapades the night before, we treated ourselves to a stunning brunch and coffee with froth “the size of Alaska” at ‘The Colonial’ – a rather upmarket eatery decked out like it was still the 1800s.
Fortunately we had time to drop in past the picturesque town of Richmond, en route to our next house sitting assignment in Hobart. Funnily enough it has quite a few similarities to the original British town of the same name; specifically an impressive bridge (Australia’s oldest) and plenty of cutesy boutique shops. Once we’d had a look round and given in to buying some of the handmade ‘convict’ soap, it was time to meet our furry friends for the next week!
Jen the owner was wonderfully welcoming, as she gave us a tour of her modern, homely town house perched high up overlooking Hobart and its famous harbour in the distance. Most importantly however, Meg – a stocky black lab, and her sidekick Belle were friendly bundles of fur, who seemed more than happy to have us stay 🙂
Running on fumes trying to summit Mt Wellington
At a respectful 1,200 + metres high, it’s difficult to ignore the towering slopes of Mount Wellington, standing tall like a big brother watching over his little sibling of Hobart below. Understandably we soon found ourselves tramping along the 9km ‘Organ Pipe circuit’, a name given to some impressively tall, pillar-like rock formations. Dense fog initially dented our spirits, preventing us from seeing much more beyond the surrounding trees and huts (similar to bothies in Scotland) hidden among them. Luckily we persevered and eventually the soup dispersed, giving way to glorious blue skies and views over gorgeous Hobart, stretching South as far as the Port Arthur peninsula!
Our athleticism made light work of the trail, completing it in 2.5 hours, despite the estimated 4. So once back to the car, we set off for the summit to enjoy our hard earned sandwiches. As we climbed the steep bitchumen, our fuel gauge popped on, although it wasn’t an issue given how short the drive was. Not long later however, an unfamiliar alarm suddenly began aggressively bleeping at us, together with a dramatic fuel warning that read ‘VERY LOW’. Not wanting to be stuck high up a mountain, I soon chucked a U-turn, allowing us to desperately coast down the windy road in search of the nearest petrol station. As the road began levelling off, the fuel light vanished, and our range mockingly jumped from 0 to 80km – doh!
Rude sculptures & other random art in Hobart’s famous MONA
With our tickets booked, we excitedly set off towards the World famous MONA (Museum of Old and New Art). Ever since my Dad had recited entertaining (and darn right disgusting) tales of toilets offering views below, on his visit a few years ago, this place was high on our list. We could tell we were in for a treat before even setting foot inside, as the car park featured weird and wonderful sculptures dotted about. After finding a space, we made our way towards the entrance of the quirky complex, that’s probably best described as looking much like an evil Bond villain’s lair!
Once checked in, and having picked up our ‘O’s’ (iPod audio guides), we snaked our way through the labyrinth of vast exhibition spaces, strangely shaped corridors and staircases that reminded us of Hogwarts – the building alone was worth the trip! During our 6 hour exploration, we encountered a feast of clever and creative pieces, including:
- A bright red, lifesize car, made to look fat, representing consumerism today
- Wacky animations within giant copper heads
- Vast arrays of lightbulbs that pulsated in time with people’s heartbeats
- Rows of computers with scientific projections, emitting loud beeps, based on CERN
- An 8-bit rain machine, printing trending words, within falling streams of water
I thoroughly believe the artist behind casts of 151 vaginas lined up along one wall, was purley invested in the reactions, rather than the piece itself. It was thoroughly entertaining to watch people carefully contemplating the art in front of them, before realising what they were looking at and swiftly moving on; occasionally glancing round to see if anyone had spotted their perceived perversion!
History, hardship and heartbreak in Port Arthur
Despite being 2 hours drive away, making a trip to Port Arthur while in Hobart is a must. Although principally famous for having been a prison colony during the mid-nineteenth century, a more recent event catapulted the historic site into the public eye: A mass shooting in which 35 people tragically lost their lives in the hands of a lone gunman.
The UNESCO historic site of Port Arthur which is now mostly ruins, was once home to over 3,500 hardened criminals. Despite bloodcurdling tales of floggings in which convicts received so many lashings by the ‘cat o’ 9 tails’ whip, that their backbone could be seen; it was hard to feel entirely sorry for these poor souls. Port Arthur’s population was made up of repeat offenders – those who’d carried out acts of criminality since being shipped to Australia. Worse still, many convicts became insane, while the Governor practised new methods of rehabilitation, namely, the ‘silent system’. This saw prisoners hooded and kept in solitary confinement, leading to the need of a mental asylum being built.
It was fascinating wandering around the 100 acre grounds, learning what life was once like here. The guided walk and narrated boat trip around the ‘Isle of the Dead’ provided a brilliant introduction, after which we were free to roam amongst the various buildings scattered across the site. Many are now ruins, although some are home to museums that transport you back in time – all decked out like it’s still the 1800’s. Our visit came to an emotional close while paying our respects in the Remembrance Gardens, to the victims of the 1996 massacre. Thankfully some learnings resulted from what was a truly shocking act of brutality, with strict gun law reforms being implemented just 12 days later.
A feast for the eyes (and belly) in Salamanca and Farmgate markets
Based upon our Tasmanian travels so far, it was clear to us that independent arts and crafts lie at the heart of what this small island lives for. If the many boutique shops, galleries and makers workshops we’d visited so far can be described as an introduction, then Salamanca Market would definitely be the climax to Tasmania’s creativity. Featuring over 300 stalls, Salamanca Market is bursting with the finest wood work, pottery, jewellery, food and drink than you can imagine; weaving around the historical heart of Hobart’s picturesque waterfront.
Pleasantly the maze of artisan goodies was far less busy than those we’re used in London, allowing for a far more relaxing stroll around. Given that we were sadly nearing the end of our Australasian Odyssey, our purse strings loosened a little while we picked up a few goodies for friends and family. An explorer’s book, detailing his travels by land and sea from London to Hobart caught my eye, and even signed it for my Dad 🙂 Joella couldn’t resist picking up local teas and a few more jars of local honey (after some free tastings of course), to add to our Manuka collection from New Zealand. After refuelling on pastry treats, we spent an extended coffee break writing our last lot of postcards – next time we’d communicate with the addressees, would be face to face!
The following day was spent exploring more of Hobart, including the myriad of independent shops of Battery Point, before enjoying some flaversome mushroom jaffles, and chicken bao at the Farmgate market.
That evening we were taken out to dinner by Val and Phil, whom we’d fondly house sat for back in Sydney. It was wonderful catching up with them, and getting to see Rosie and Pistachio again. Before dinner, Phil showed us his impressive photos from the famous ‘Quilty’ 24 hr endurance horse race, which sounded exciting and tiring in equal measures. The beer that evening was especially memorable, given that James Squire’s ‘Wreck Preservation Ale’ is made from the World’s oldest yeast – saved from beer found in a 1979 ship wreck off Tasmania’s North East coast! What a lovely way to spend our last night in Tasmania – now one of our favourite places on Earth 🙂