The wanderers returneth

We’re back from the Apple Isle. For non-Australians, that means Tasmania.

We spent 6 days in Hobart, and a week driving the length and breadth. A result of this rather hurried holiday was clocking up 1840 km in the rental car, and taking over 1400 photographs.

Some impressions:

Hills. Tasmania is full of them. Some big, some small. Every city of any size (all three of them) seems to be built in hills, and you are forever going up and down. most Australian cities are built on a plain, and it’s only the nobs who live in the hilly bits. In Tasmania, everybody is a mountain-goat.

dscn2267.JPGCascade. The brewery tour was interesting, the tasting at the end was enlightening. It’s not often you get a chance to try a few different beers alongside each other with somebody there who can tell you about them. This is saying something, coming from a non-beer drinker. Well, from somebody who goes through about a dozen a year. Best discovery though: “Mercury draught alcoholic cider” – made by Cascade. Until now, the ciders I’ve tried have been crap. Sweet, or strong, or just plain yuk. English Scrumpy, and a well-known Australian brand have been enough to put me off for life. Until now. That Mercury stuff is very nice indeed, and I can’t recommend it enough. Even better, the local BWS store sells it! The remains of a 6-pack are now in the fridge and we’d only been home 2 hours when I found it!

Gourmet Food. This is a warning sign. It means the place might, just might, have some pies in a pie-warmer. Be prepared to pay for them using your first-born, or perhaps an arm or a leg.

dscn2391.JPGTrees. By crikey has Tasmania ever got trees. More trees than you can poke a stick at. So many damn trees I’d end up saying “Yawn, another forest with tall trees in. Boring. Show me something interesting”. On the mainland we get a lot of selective news coverage about how much Tasmanian wilderness is being destroyed for logging. It’s bullshit. Something like 30% of the island is national park, and about 25% is forest managed by the government. The rest is split with about 25% agricultural land and the remainder seems to be privately owned, but still forest! Everywhere you go there are trees, and timber specialists.

Expensive. Everything is expensive. Food is expensive, out of the major cities petrol is expensive, the crappiest flea-pit motel was expensive. Even the pies at the places with the signs proclaiming them as purveyors of “Gourmet Food” were expensive.

dscn2242.JPGWeather. They say the weather in Tasmania can change, and it sure can. In most places the weather forecast for the following day is reasonably good (and we accept that the 4-day forecast is getting pretty iffy by that 4th day looking out). In Tasmania, the following days weather forecast should come with an error tolerance of +/- 10 degrees. Many days we saw a forecast for a top of 22 degrees C. Why then were we sweltering in 33 degrees C? Not that this explains the first week, which was so damn cold we were running a wood heater every night! And at the top of Mt Wellington we got snowed on.

Wine. They really do make some good white wines in Tasmania. We picked a couple of small places with signs by the road, and went in. No prior knowledge. Excellent Rieslings, damn good Chardonnay (and yes many Chardies these days are clich├ęd and rather awful. These were some of the best ever). And they can make a pretty mean Pinot Noir as a red, which is no mean feat. Many Australian Pinot’s are pretty ordinary, these though were miiiiighty fine. Except the price tags. See “Expensive”.

Toyota Aurion. Gee Toyota make a mean car these days. We had an Aurion for the fortnight – a free upgrade from what we’d booked (you have to get a win now and again). Good fuel economy, roomy, comfortable, plenty of power for passing. The only downside is the stupid foot operated parking brake. Ours had 402 km on the clock, we were only the second people to rent it. It had done quite a lot more by the time we returned it. And no, we didn’t thrash it.

Raspberries and Cherries. They grow loads of these, as well as the apples for which they are known. Everywhere we went there were roadside stalls selling raspberries. Yum. And we had 1/2 kg of the best cherries ever ever ever - sold to us out the back of a car boot somewhere outside Hobart.

dscn1702.JPGTahune Air Walk. If you only have a short time in Tasmania, go on this. Then do the walk on the swinging bridges. By the time you have done these, over a period of 2 or 3 hours you will have been able to read up on all the significant Tasmania trees, and what their timber is used for. You will have seen some fantastic forest. And everything is presented clearly and factually – unlike the national parks which use more emotive language and present less information. The air walk takes you through the tree tops, in places about 30 metres up. The cantilever section at the end got the better of me though, one look at the swaying as the various elephants bounced around on it and I could go no further.

Overweight. The number of obese or seriously overweight people. Are they tourists or locals? Who knows. I’ve never seen so many in a week, before, though. Serious heart trouble coming, folks.

Population. I’d not realised until now that the population of Tasmania is a touch under 500,000; and the population of Hobart is under 210,000. Burnie, Devonport and Launceston total about another 200,000. No wonder towns seem small.

Finding Shops. Is difficult, even in Hobart. There just are not many large shopping centres. It’s even difficult to find fast food, unless you want Fish-n-Chips or Pizza. Also see the warning about Gourmet, though :) Perhaps this is not surprising, the population being as low as it is.

dscn2260.JPGPoor Cousin. Sorry Hobartians, you won’t like this. Hobart has a poor-cousin feel. There might be some respectable suburbs, but we really didn’t find them – and we spent quite a bit of time there. It seems like a majority of the houses are not well cared for, there are few where the owners take pride in where they live, there are not a lot of carefully tended gardens. Launceston is a smaller city, but the contrast is stark. People there seem to take more pride in how they live and how they present themselves and their city. Hobart just seems run-down. This little house was kinda cool, though.

All for now, there’s be more after we cull the zillion photos down to something a bit more manageable.

3 Comments

I have often thought about visiting Tasmania, now I feel like I’ve been there. Thank You.

Comment by river | January 6th, 2008 5:08 pm | Permalink

Take the trip, river. I need to do another post of where we went… it was a lot of distance we covered!

Comment by Wally | January 6th, 2008 5:25 pm | Permalink

Sounds like you had a great family holiday. Tasmania has something for everyone. Our boys were quite young when we were there so the chocolate factory tour was on the menu. (No brewery)

It was January when we visited too. Similarly we had snow, but on Cradle Mtn. A week later in Hobart it was 40C, blustery bushfire weather. I remember 25C overnight at that time was the hottest overnight minnimum that Hobart had ever recorded.

Comment by MikeFitz | January 9th, 2008 11:20 pm | Permalink

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