10th Jun 2012 - 16th Jun 2012
Australia - Tasmania
Tasmania was also a gourmet feast, well at least in terms of wine and cheese. We packed in plenty of hikes even though it was a bit rainy and cold but it was winter after all and I’m sure in summer it would be amazing. The landscape of Tasmania is a bit like New Zealand but more brooding, although maybe that’s because of the mist. Our little camper was freezing and had the disadvantage that because our clothes were wet when the place heated up the condensation collected on the ceiling and dripped onto us at night. That said it was really fun to have our own travelling home compared to the tent we went around NZ in and not having to set up was fantastic. Not so fantastic were the poor animals on the roads at night. We drove once after dusk and that was enough, we drove about half the way at 40kph because they kept trying to commit hari-kari in front of the van.
First up on our tour was Port Arthur, the old prison from when Tasmania was called Van Diemens land. Most of the prison buildings have fallen down now but the smaller houses and churches are still intact. Viewed on a misty, drizzling afternoon it was very atmospheric and spooky. I wouldn’t go into the condemned man’s cell on this basis. It was interesting to hear that actually the place was a source of industry for the governor and Britain with ship building and so on being done on massive scale here. When you mention Port Arthur most Australians now think of the massacre that happened quite recently when a man opened fire on tourists but there’s no mention of that at the site.
On our second day we did a one day trek out to Cape Huay to see the Candlestick and Totem Pole rock formations jutting out the sea, which was very beautiful and part of a number of walks we did including Wineglass Bay to Hazards Beach. Luckily the weather was good for both of these because it turned for the second half of the trip. In Launceston we ticked off one of Brandan’s highlights, the James Boag brewery. The brewery tour is very informative but obviously the best bit is the tasting at the end. I’m not sure if it’s the fact most of their ingredients are sourced locally (apart from the sugar sourced from the mainland) but I actually really liked the beer, obviously the premium draft was my favourite. The fact we got to taste it with a variety of cheeses matched to each beer might have also helped. One interesting discovery was the fact that people used to snack on the malted grains in pubs before salted nuts etc became popular. It goes really well and I think some gastropubs should re-introduce it.
After Launceston it was on to Cradle Mountain where the weather was truly foul. I insisted on making use of the enormous logs in the communal area fireplaces and we had some nice comradely chats with other people also sheltering out of the cold and rain. One couple’s tent had become waterlogged and they were trying to dry everything by the fire, a long and not very successful process and I was pleased we’d upgraded to the van! As the weather was so poor we couldn’t do some of the more spectacular walks but we still did a few smaller ones and you could see it would be lovely. When we arrived at the camp we drove up through the clouds on these windy roads and it was very atmospheric.
Finally we zipped back to Hobart, thankfully on the motorway so no worries about animals. Stopping off at the local wine producing region outside of Hobart we did some more tastings. At Puddleduck the lovely couple running the winery insisted we help them taste their experimental batches of cider, always bound to endear them to us. Although we drank everything put in front of us I think we found the root problem with Australian cider, it’s not made with cider apples but normal apples. However, they had planned to bring over French and English trees soon so we recommend stopping in here to check their progress on that. Next up it was the Salamanca market and then tripped on to MONA, the modern art collection there. The gallery is really interesting, a modern personal collection rather than a stuffy museum where you can log your loves and hates on an adapted iPod which gives you information and interviews with the artists. There is also a microbrewery and vineyard on the estate and we had to do a bit of wine tasting, coming away with a lovely bottle of Sav Blanc. to add to our collection before heading back Melbourne.