Tasmanian taradiddle

Unfortunately despite the delightful nature of the accommodation we enjoyed over the last two nights it did lack one key element, WiFi. That deficit has been rectified so here s the update.

Tuesday 21st October 2014   Day 43   Melbourne miscellany

Today is the long awaited day. We are in Melbourne and what is filmed in Melbourne? Sorry, no coconut for all you clever people who immediately shouted out ‘Neighbours!’ (with the obligatory La La, La La La La La La La Laa La). Joyce, an aficionado of the aforesaid oeuvre had booked a tour of Ramsey street, over lunchtime, before having her hair done in a prestigious salon on Collins Street. This left Eric at a loose end for the day, as he does not have quite the same Erinsborough enthusiasm and was not over keen on sharing the hairdressing experience. Although we were going ours separate ways we were booked in for an interesting shared gastronomic experience for the early evening. More of this anon.

Eric therefore resolved to make best use of the time available to him and having squired Joyce to 570 Flinder’s Street, the pick up point for the Neighbour’s tour, he took the clockwise city circle tram intending to swiftly alight at Clarendon Gardens for the Melbourne Museum. This he did, albeit not so swiftly, as the clockwise tram takes a spur down to docklands, before resuming the circuit of the roads defining the historical city. Eric enjoyed the views as the tram made its stately way and eventually found himself in Clarendon Gardens, faced with the magnificent edifice of the Exhibition centre, girt with fine fountains and gardens.

Behind this building was the museum, a modern structure which housed a wealth of exhibits in well planned and presented galleries. Eric much enjoyed the minerals, rocks and fossils (we keep hearing apt from someone) as well as the first peoples display, with attendant gardens and pond containing eels, a local delicacy over millennia. Two hours later Eric navigated towards Federation Square, to the National Victoria Gallery’s Australian annexe. En route he admired the exterior of the Fire fighters’ museum, in the original watch house, and found himself at St Paul’s, the Roman Catholic Cathedral, a massive space with very impressive neo-gothic architecture.

From here it was a short step to the Parliament building and the Federation Square and the gallery. Over three floors it demonstrates a fine range of historical to contemporary art, from indigenous to European, and displays not only paintings and sculpture but also pottery and glassware.

Leaving the gallery Eric made his way down Collin’s Street to the hair salon, where Joyce was already waiting for him, looking beautiful, ready for the evening’s entertainment.

Joyce’s day was also varied and began soon after Eric vanished on the tram. Joyce had an excellent guide who gave all the low down on how they film Neighbours, using wide angled cameras to make everything look bigger. She was able to visit the studio back lot, which included the garage, Dial-a-Kyle, Grease monkeys, the antique shop, the bus stop and school entrance. Imogen met the group there an gave all the Goss about the show. Unfortunately, as they were shooting today she only got glimpses of the hotel and garden centre. She was then driven to Ramsey Street, actually Pin Oak Close, Blackburn, Whitehouse, but again only able get glimpses due to filming. They only film on the street for 40 days of the year and the residents get $28,000 a year for allowing this, all the interior scenes are filmed in the studio. During the drive back we watched the first episode, Joyce was not sure if she ever saw it.   Arriving back early meant there was enough time for a quick circuit of the Immigration museum, which contained lots of information about Australia’s immigration policies over the years and individual immigrant’s stories, before walking to the hairdresser’s, where a couple of hours sped by in being coiffured.

We had booked an early dinner at the Colonial Tramcar Restaurant, which serves its meal aboard an old tram which travels through the city as you eat. This had struck us an inspired concept and were both very keen to try it.

Pausing only for a swift coffee in the food court of the Crown casino, shades of Las Vegas, we soon found tram stop 125 to join a huge crowd, far too many it seemed for a normal tram let alone one kitted out with tables. This conundrum was swiftly resolved when it became clear that there were 3 separate tram restaurants operating today and we were on tram 04, the last to arrive and, we learnt later, the oldest in the fleet.

As we had booked for this back in January we were first on the list and sat at table 1a. A starter of hummus and red capsicum dips, accompanied by sparkling wine (orange juice in Eric’s case) was much enjoyed as we crossed the river in one direction then back again in the other; this trip was heading towards St Kilda not the city. From the menu we both chose beef eye of fillet, which was soon on the table in front of us. This proved delicious and we were both savouring our meal, listening to an interesting range of romantic music and recalling our youth when suddenly all went quiet, the lights went out, the air conditioning stopped and the tram came to a halt, just outside St Kilda esplanade. All internal power was gone which meant that half the tram did not have their main course and it was getting warmer and darker inside. We were all served with the cold dessert, an excellent pannacotta with raspberry sauce, but had to forgo coffee and the date and walnut pudding which could not be cooked. We limped back to our starting point, slightly disappointed not have savoured the full experience but agreeing that it was well worth doing and very much enjoyed. There was talk of a refund, we shall see.

As we had returned a little earlier than intended Joyce had a brainwave, to go to the theatre. We had seen, opposite the Athenaeum Theatre when we attended the Hillsong service, that the Regent theatre was presenting Matthew Bourne’s ‘Swan Lake’, with a performance tonight at 8pm. It proved a pleasant evening walk along the river to Flinder’s Street station and we arrived at the box office with minutes to spare and purchased two tickets. On entering the auditorium we were immediately upgraded, by one row. This meant Joyce had an excellent view of the whole stage, directly down the aisle.

The performance was an experience, with sublime music, excellent dancing and an innovative choreography, rich in detail and very theatrical. We both enjoyed the performance but it was not until we got back to the internet that we could fully appreciate what we had seen, once we had read the synopsis.


Wednesday 22nd October 2014   Day 44    A Comedy of Errors

Today was not Eric’s finest hour and as a result we spent a great deal of time hanging around, without doing more than travelling from our Hotel in Melbourne to our B&B in Hobart. The problems started when Eric worked out that for a 1450 flight, allowing one hour for check-in and one and a half hours for the skybus transfer that we should be picked up at 11.00 am, allowing an extra twenty minutes just in case. The more astute among you will see that we should have left at twelve, but Bill’s training is never far from the surface and Eric had obviously, subconsciously, taken his strictures into account. The skybus shuttle, collecting us from just around the corner from our hotel and the skybus itself, which left almost immediately we boarded,meant that we arrived at Melbourne airport at 1150, three hours ahead at departure.

The next part of the problem came from the fact that Eric knew we were flying from Terminal 4, but was fixated with the idea that we were flying Jetstar. As a result we got off at Terminal 1, waited until the desks opened two hours ahead of departure, which gave us time for lunch on a bench amongst the baggage carousels before presenting ourselves at the Jetstar check in desk, after queuing for 30 minutes, only to find that we were not on their list. On checking Eric realised that we were flying with Tiger Air, we then had to make a dash along the whole run of terminals back to Terminal 4 to check-in. Tiger Air were very strict on baggage weight therefore we had to redistribute some items to avoid extra charges.

The hour flight went very smoothly, with a small upgrade to the front seats. However in the disembarkation Eric managed to leave his pad in the seat pocket and was barred from returning airside to collect it, being told that it would be restored to him via the counter shared with Virgin. Having reclaimed the baggage Eric went to enquire as to the whereabouts of his prize possession Heading unerringly for the, wait for it, Jetstar desk. This caused confusion until Eric was pointed in the right direction. At the Virgin desk he was told the item was at gate 2, therefore he had to go through to departures, which meant traversing security. Three trips through the security gate, watch and boots having set off the alarms, the item was back in his possession.

The next part of the problem was the car booking, which meant a wait until 6.30pm as we had needed to balance the return of the car for an 8.00pm flight. We therefore had time to find an evening meal, the only trouble was the luggage, as the restaurant was in departures and the prospect of hefting everything through security did not appeal, especially given Eric’s earlier experience. As a result Eric sat with the baggage while Joyce ate and then went back in to bring him a meal. This did work and shortly after 6.00pm we made our way to the car hire office where we were swiftly processed and found our Nissan Micra, a manual gearbox, in contrast to the Toyota we had picked up in Adelaide. A short drive, with a six kilometre detour as Eric misread the gps, brought us to our B&B accommodation. A large 1830’s house, with upper and lower balconies, divided into five apartments. We had a spacious room and a comfortable bed, which was just a mattress placed on wooden pallets.


Thursday 23rd October 2014     Day 45   Hobart holiday

Our hosts, Lisa and Danny, were very welcoming and prepared an excellent breakfast. We spent some time chatting before heading out for the tour of Hobart. They are Swiss and have come to Tasmania recently, trying to set up a business selling artisan bread and ravioli at markets and other venues.

Our plan was to begin by visiting two nearby historic houses, initially on foot, until Eric discovered exactly how far out of town we were. It was a good plan, until we found that it being Hobart Show day, a public holiday, they both were shut.

On to plan B (the next part of Plan A really). Leaving the car near the second house on Battery Point we walked through the older houses set above Sullivan’s Cove, across Prince’s Park, with the old signal station building, to Prince’s wharf, backed by impressive stone built warehouses. From here we walked to Salamanca Place, where the warehouses have been developed into a fascinating range of art galleries and other high quality craft outlets, with superb decorative wooden products and furniture; plus cafés and restaurants. We much enjoyed a stroll through the wealth of attractive retail opportunities and whilst tempted remembered we were already at our maximum weight limit.

Our journey now took us past Parliament and the Tasman memorial to St David’s cathedral, another imposing Victorian Gothic edifice. From here we passed Franklin Park, with the statue of Edward VII, then down to the tourist information where we checked on what else was open given that it was a public holiday. The Maritime Museum, run by volunteers, was open and was just across the street, so we spent some time finding out about the rich history of the sea around Tasmania. Virtually next door was the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, also open. This utilized the redeveloped space of a number of historic buildings, including the Bond warehouses, to create a very interesting set of galleries covering a wide range of topics. Of most interest was that outlining some of the aboriginal history from the local aborigine’s perspective; Tasmania having only 47 aborigine survivors from the British genocide. The exhibition covering Tasmanian fauna was also fascinating, including the extinct Tasmanian tiger, the duck billed platypus and the leaping (venomous) ant. However culture fatigue was setting in, as was hunger, and we cut our visit a little short, giving medals and money a miss.

A short walk from the museum brought us to the harbour with a mixture of pleasure craft and commercial vessels, including a range of fishing boats. After passing the memorial unveiled by the Queen on 1954 marking the 150th anniversary of the founding of Hobart and an interesting assembly of bronzes celebrating the first Australian explorer of Antarctica we spied a fish restaurant and partook of a late lunch of fish and chips.

Feeling that we had enjoyed the best that Hobart had to offer we worked our way back up the hill to the car and set off for MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), the latest addition to Hobart’s culture scene. Passing the Hobart Show ground, a hive of activity, we reached our goal. Set in a vineyard and built into a quarried hillside, overlooking the estuary of the River Derwent, it is a three tier space containing an eclectic mix of very ancient and very modern art. For what it cost (even accounting for the senior’s discount Joyce was able to obtain) it was very disappointing.

We returned to Hobart via Chamberlain Street to catch a look at the Penitentiary Chapel, built as part of Hobart Prison, then converted to the Law courts which ensured its survival beyond the demolition of the rest of the prison in the 60s. Unfortunately it was closed but Eric met a very nice man emerging from the building who gave him the potted history. We then made our way back to our accommodation to enjoy ham rolls for supper.


Friday 24th October 2014. Day 46   West on the Wilderness Road

It is further from Hobart to Strahan than it looked on the map, trust a geographer forget the importance of fractals. The long and winding road stretched ahead of us, 300 kilometres and over four hours of driving time. An earlyish start was indicated so breakfast at 8.00am and departure before 9.00 am. We said farewell to Hobart and headed north along the Derwent valley.

The countryside was very much hillier than we have been used to this far, dominated by pastoral farming, broken up by stands of gum trees and occasional fields of vegetables. We drove through a number of small towns such as New Norfolk, Gretna and Hamilton, with their share of stone built churches and other historic buildings. The road began to climb towards the mountainous heart of Tasmania and the farming, with its associated small settlements, began to disappear, being replaced by more extensive woodland with flats of distinctive yellow grass. At elevenses time we pulled off the road into Terraleah, originally a settlement for the workers building the nearby HEP station. As we drove in we could see the huge pipes carrying the water from a nearby lake plus two pressure control towers. From the viewpoint at the start of the village we could see the pipes plunging down the steep valley side to the power station and the released water flowing into the Nivea river. The settlement now has been rebuilt, much in art deco style bungalows, as a holiday resort. The local café supplied us with a welcome latte and a few bon mots in the barista’s lexicon, which including ‘so many blends so little time’, ‘espresso yourself’, ‘better latte than never’ and ‘De ja brew when you have tasted that coffee before’. These were more uplifting than the road safety signs we had been passing regularly, especially ‘Drowsy drivers die’. After coffee we continued north-west, passing close to the geometric centre of Tasmania and encountering impressive mountain scenery, with large lakes.

Midday today marks one quarter of our trip completed. We are both agreed that, although at times we may have over extended ourselves in terms of sightseeing, it has been a fantastic experience so far and we are looking forward to what comes next.

We said goodbye to the Derwent with one final crossing at Derwent Bridge from where the road continued to climb until we crossed the great divide, separating the wet west coast from the drier east, on the rain shadow of the mountains.

Dropping off the pass we descended into the Franklin river valley, with tantalising glimpses of the ‘Frenchman’s Cap’ peak standing at 1443 metres and still with snow patches on it. Promised a view point from the pedestrian suspension (locally a swing) bridge we trekked down to the river and up the other side, with no sign of the peak. Our next possible viewing was from another hilltop, with a 25 minute climb, which we declined. Instead we took the easier 10 minute walk to Nelson falls, through woods rich in ferns which date from the earliest period of land vegetation.

Driving on we neared Queenstown, a settlement which developed to serve the local copper mines. The huge impact on the environment from the quarrying and mining operations is all too clear as you approach the pass that lead to the town. A spectacular viewpoint, taking you to the very edge, has been constructed by the open cast mine, now closed.

Stopping in Queenstown for an ice-cream we admired the older buildings, including the post office and hotels. Queenstown is the start of the, now tourist, historical wilderness railway that ends in Strahan. We also admired the memorial raised to the miners that helped found the town.

From Queenstown we drove the last few kilometres to Strahan, along an increasingly windy road. Pausing to book a river cruise for the morrow we made our way to the Regatta Point Tavern, right next to the railway station on the Esplanade on the opposite side of the bay to the town. On our arrival we found we had been upgraded from a cabin to a villa unit and were soon ensconced in our spacious abode.

After a short rest we popped back into Strahan to look for a meal and wifi, we found an excellent meal in a local café but no WiFi. On returning to the accommodation we popped into the tavern and were swiftly online in the lounge. Hooray for technology

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