Monday 25 March 2019

Australia Blog #8 - Launceston

Australia Blog #8 – 25 March 2019

Another bizarre Australian fact that has 
nothing to do with travelling in Tasmania:

A retired cavalry officer, Francis De Groot, stole the show 
when the Sydney Harbour Bridge officially opened on 
March 19, 1932. Just as the Premier of New South Wales 
was about to cut the ribbon, De Groot charged 
forward on his horse and cut the ribbon himself 
with his sword. The ribbon had to be retied, and 
De Groot was carted off to a mental hospital.
 He was later charged for the cost of one ribbon.

Bill and I have been travelling the last week along the north and east coasts of Tasmania, filling in areas of the map we had not seen on previous visits. As a result, I’m a little behind in my blog postings. 

I’m writing this post from Canberra. Yesterday, alas, we turned in the trusty Hyundai Elantra that we had been renting for the last six weeks and flew to Canberra. And I’m feeling separation anxiety. (From Tasmania, not the Elantra.) For the first time in six weeks, we’re not on ‘our’ island. 

I’m missing it.

Now Canberra is a fine city, filled with excellent museums and the paraphernalia of a capital city, but I’m missing the gentle chaos of Tasmania. Canberra seems a tad…um…uptight. Nothing personal, Canberra – I’m appreciating your many cultural gifts – but if we won the lottery, Tasmania would be our long-term destination.

Today’s photos come from our trip north to Launceston (aka "Luannie"), a city of 66,000 people in the north-central part of the state. The city has worked hard to preserve its architectural heritage and is a regional hub for the arts, education, and business. And it has some of the steepest streets I’ve ever encountered. I swear the street we stayed on had a 45 degree slope! There were even railings to steady yourself when descending and to drag yourself up when ascending. In retrospect, it was all great fun. A the time…well, there was a lot of huffing and puffing.

I hope you enjoy these photos of Launceston (plus one made on the drive to Launceston). Not sure when I’ll be posting again because life is suddenly getting busy. We take the train to Sydney on Thursday and then fly back to Toronto on April 2. Our idyllic five weeks in Tasmania’s Huon Valley have spoiled us.

Until next time.

Launceston Streetscape

Launceston Architecture

Launceston Streetscape

Royal Park Croquet Club
(You've got to love a city that 
has a fully equipped croquet club!)

Sunset from our balcony.

Australian-made Devaux at
the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania

Hauntingly beautiful Tasmanian Tiger sculptures 
on a pedestrian mall in central Launceston.

Rainbow flags at a Launceston yoga studio.

Bushfire north of Bothwell on the way to Launceston.

Friday 22 March 2019

Roaming Tasmania

Australia Blog #7 – 22 March 2019
Roaming Tasmania

Bizarre Australian Fact:
The male lyrebird, which is native to Australia, can mimic the calls
 of over twenty other birds. If that’s not impressive enough, 
he can also imitate the sound of a camera, chainsaw, and car alarm.

One of the most enjoyable parts of living in Tasmania for six weeks has been the opportunity of just roaming around with no particular agenda. And so my postings over the next while will reflect that same wandering: no particular focus, just photos of some of the places that Bill and I have been exploring. 

I hope you enjoy this wide selection of images!

Wool clothing, Bothwell 'Spin In', Bothwell

MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Hobart

'Japanese Summer Lunch' made by Jan Ochi for Bill and me.

Stairway, Mickey's Beach

Royal Flying Doctor Service car, Cygnet

Lavender display, Salamanca Market, Hobart

Countryside near Bothwell

Restaurant, MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), Hobart

Battery Point Tour, Hobart

Salamanca Market

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Australia Blog #6 - Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart

Australia Blog #6 – 14 March 2019
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens, Hobart

“A garden is not meant to be useful.
It is meant for joy.”
- Margaret Rumer Godden,
English author, 1907-1998

On Monday, March 11, Bill and I spent most of the day wandering the fourteen glorious hectares of Hobart’s Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. And what a breathtaking treat it was!

This is our third annual visit to Hobart’s Botanical Gardens – and on each visit, we are impressed even more with its beauty and displays.

Established in 1718, the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens are the second oldest in Australia, created just two years after the Royal Botanical Gardens in Sydney.

And on each of our three visits, we have dined al fresco at the Succulent Restaurant, perched above the expansive central lawns. The tastiness of the food is matched only by the splendour of the flowers.

There is even a “Subantarctic Plant House”, cooled to what Australians think is a chilly 8.88 degrees centigrade. As I said to Bill when we walked into the building, at that temperature, Torontonians in the early spring start wearing shorts and sitting in outdoor caf├ęs! The exhibit honours Australia’s substantial contributions to Antarctic research. Hobart is the main supply hub for shipments to many of the Antarctic scientific stations.

I hope you enjoy these photos of our visit to Hobart’s Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. I am not a gardener, so I don’t recognize most of the plants and flowers in the photos. If anyone knows their names, please let me know so that I can add the information to this post – with appropriate credit given to the experts!

Not sure when I’ll post next – as of tomorrow, March 15, we are on the road to northern Tasmania as our Australian adventures continue.

As always, thank you for reading my posts.

Saturday 9 March 2019

Hobart's Mountain: kunanyi/Mt. Wellington

Australia Blog #5 – 10 March 2019
Hobart’s Mountain: kunanyi/Mt. Wellington

kunanyi – the mountain – mount wellington

muwinina. mumirimina. nununi.
These tribes of Aboriginal families know the mountain 
as more than rock.
kunanyi, it is called.
Tribal land made in sacred country.

Season of rain and wisdom of stories past,
kunanyi brings forth life.
For two thousand generations past. And forever more.

Songs and dance honour this power. Listen. 
These words still carry in the
wind, so that kangaroo and mountain berry
will always grow
in kunanyi’s forest cloak.

By Dr. Greg Lehman,
descendent of the Trawulwuy people of North East Tasmania

Mt. Wellington – also officially known by its Aboriginal name, kunanyi – looms over Hobart like a protective giant. Its summit is 1271 metres (4170 feet) above the city of 229,000 tiny people below. And it is spectacular. Check out the web cams here.

On a clear day, you can, in fact, almost see forever – in all four directions. On a dodgy or foggy day, you’re lucky to see a few metres in front of you. In the winter, it often is covered in snow.

kunanyi was given its official European name by the British colonial government in 1832 to honour the Duke of Wellington for his defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo. Its official Aboriginal name was recognized in 2013 as part of the Tasmanian government’s dual naming policy to honour both Aboriginal and European place names.

Charles Darwin climbed the mountain in 1836.

The first time I visited the summit was January, 1972, when I’d flown to Hobart on my summer vacation. (Summer vacation for most Australian schools runs from mid-December to the end of January.) It was a perfectly cloudless Australian summer day, but at the summit the wind howled fiercely, the temperature was frigid, and icicles hung from the transmission towers built there. I remember hanging on for dear life, afraid I might get blown over the edge!

Fast forward 47 years: Bill and I had been waiting patiently for a clear day so we could join the ghost of Charles Darwin at the peak of kunanyi. Finally, a glorious blue-sky day presented itself, and off we went. It took us about an hour to drive from the Huon Valley to the summit. And I’m glad Bill was driving – my vertigo asserted itself quickly as we started the ascent. The road is very narrow and very twisty. (See YouTube video of someone else’s ascent here.) Guard rails ranged from flimsy to non-existent most of the way. And the drop-off at the edge of the road was precipitous. Bless Bill and his nerves of steel! Once we reached the summit – phew! – we wandered around in awe. We had the place almost to ourselves, there being few visitors that day. I hope my photos do kunanyi justice.

One of the photos shows the Tasman Bridge, the vital link between the eastern suburbs of Hobart, including the airport, and the more populous CBD (Central Business District) and western suburbs. Crossing the Derwent River, the bridge was opened in 1964. I crossed it several times during my 1972 visit. 

Tragically, disaster struck on the evening of January 5, 1975. The bulk carrier Lake Illawarra struck one of the bridge’s support pillars, causing a section of the bridge deck to collapse into the river below. Twelve people died, including seven on board the ship and five in cars that went hurtling over the edge. The ship sank within minutes. Check out a YouTube video here about one of the cars left teetering on the edge.

At the time, the Tasman Bridge was the only major bridge crossing the river in Hobart. Thousands of people had their lives turned upside down, having to drive 90 minutes out of their way to reach the next bridge. The Tasman Bridge was reopened on October 8, 1977. A second bridge was opened about 10 km north in 1984.

If you look carefully at my photo of the Tasman Bridge from kunanyi, you can see where the Lake Illawarrastruck the bridge – look at the far side and count three bridge pylons from the end. You’ll see a wider gap between the third and fourth bridge pylons – that’s the exact point where the ship hit the bridge.

Back to kunanyi: there is an unfortunate proposal to build a giant cable car up the side of the mountain, linking Hobart with a luxury restaurant at the summit. The opposition to this invasive proposal is intense, including from the City of Hobart itself. The state government, however, supports it and wants to force it through. [People of Ontario: does this sound familiar?] When Bill and I walked around the summit, we tried to imagine this incredibly invasive project and its impact on the pristine park. What a terrible idea! Don’t be taken in by the slick vision in the project's promotional website. (Link) Have a look at my friend Philip Lynch’s recent essay about the cable car project in the Tasmanian Times for a reality check. (Link)

I hope you enjoy these photos of our trip up kunanyi!

Alas, Bill and I are leaving our slice of paradise in the Huon Valley this coming Friday, March 15. We plan to travel to Launceston (north-central Tasmania), Burnie (on the north coast), and Falmouth (on the northeast coast), before returning to Hobart on March 21. We fly to Canberra on March 24 and take the train to Sydney on March 28. Our flight back to Toronto is April 2. It will be wonderful to return home...and it will also be hard to leave. Part of my heart now resides permanently in Tasmania.

I hope to continue posting during the rest of our travels, but I'm not sure exactly when.

Panorama view, facing facing northeast

Tasman Bridge, facing north

Bush fires, facing north

 Rock formations at the summit.

Viewing Building at the summit

People at the summit #1

People at the summit, #2

People at the summit, #3

Wise choice. Our friend Charles has ridden
 his bike to the top - twice! A brave man!

Saturday 2 March 2019

Wandering Tasmania's Huon Valley

Australia Blog #4 – 3 March 2019
Wandering Tasmania’s Huon Valley

Irrelevant Australian Fact #4:
In 2005, security guards at Canberra’s Parliament House were 
banned from calling people ‘mate’. The ban lasted one day.

One of the very nicest things about living in the Huon Valley for the last few weeks is watching the seasonal changes as summer morphs slowly into autumn. The official date for the beginning of Australian autumn is March 1, three weeks before people in the northern hemisphere celebrate the arrival of spring. Theoretically, this is the date when the weather starts getting colder, damper, and greyer. Mother Nature usually has other ideas, however, which means that in Hobart, autumn was greeted with a record-breaking 38.5 C daytime high on March 2, enough to re-ignite a bushfire about 10 km across the Huon Valley from our cabin. As I write this on Sunday afternoon, the air is filled with the sharp aroma of burning eucalyptus leaves, and a haze has settled over the valley. The frequently updated Tasmania Fire Service website (link here) assures us that there is no immediate danger to the surrounding communities. “However, people need to remain vigilant.” When the TFS tells you to remain vigilant, you pretty much do as you’re told. So, vigilant we are. 

Give some thought to the people of Victoria, across the Bass Strait from us on the Australian mainland., where weekend temperatures have been in the 40s. There is a major bushfire southeast of Melbourne that at last report is still out of control. The bushfire fighters – many of them volunteers – are heroes indeed.

The heat spell will pass quickly, however, with Wednesday’s forecast calling for much cooler weather in Tasmania and – wait for it – snow in the higher altitudes!

Before this weekend’s heat took over, the weather had been very pleasant with temperatures in the low 20s, accompanied by cool breezes. Just walking around our little neighbourhood makes you aware of the subtle changes that are occurring: the days are shorter, the angle of the sun is different, and the leaves of some deciduous trees are starting to turn. To be honest, however, part of that may be caused by the ongoing lack of rain. 

The ‘Golden Hour’ that photographers love as the sun starts to go down is happening earlier. I’ve taken to leisurely daily walks at this time – and my camera has always been rewarded.

I hope you enjoy these late summer/early autumn photos from the Huon Valley.

Until next week, stay vigilant.

Sheep, Baker's Road

Graces Road 
Huon River

Cockle Creek beach

Local lemons

Graces Road

Sign in a local nursery

Our lunch at Harvest and Light Cafe, Geeveston

Wool-bombed bike in Geeveston

Graces Road