Hawaii to Hobart is a long stretch, we were in the air for 11 hours before changing at the airport horriblis: Melbourne. So, after further delays, it was quite late when we arrived at the Doctor Syntax Hotel and consequently there was no-one to let us in and nowhere to eat! As ever all’s well that end well and next morning I took a run down to nearby Sandy Bay – and was impressed. I liked Hobart with its individual houses that struggle up the hills surrounding the vast and convoluted bay.
It was an easy walk into the city where we learned so much more about Tasmania: from the original natives , through the convict age, the immigration phase and including some intriguing things about the flora and fauna. We also visited a pub with a handpump! Unfortunately for me it only delivered imperial stout and the rest of the beers were cold, fizzy and expensive craft ales – the norm for the last few weeks and for the rest of my world trip.
Idiosyncratically we took a bus to our next stop: Port Arthur. It dumped us about a mile away from our hotel , the Fox and Hounds. Though isolated the place was great. Have you ever opened the door of a hotel room and expostulated a loud “Wow”? This “wow” was not for the room but the view: straight out onto the wood-lined bay with the sea lapping the shore a few metres from our full length window. Wow. Next day we walked down to the Port Arthur prison which was where those considered the real bad ‘uns of the day were confined, beaten and educated. It was by all accounts a horrific place, but is now tranquil and despite its horrific past, rather beautiful.
Returning to Hobart I gave in and hired a car from a backstreet dealer called Raj and we went ‘a touring. I like Tasmania. It seems that there is always a mountain range in sight plus easy travelling distance to the highly varied coast. We saw spectacular waterfalls, long stretches of zero occupation countryside, chainsaw carvings in the remnants of condemned trees, and even visited Pontypool - not the 25,000 population town of Wales from my childhood, but a sparse community of ten farms dotted beside a long rough road and ending in the middle of nowhere.
Our favourite place was the second city of Launceston, with its impressive civic buildings, lovely setting, beautiful parks and a memorable ravine through which one of its two rivers squeezes into a steaming cataract. There and elsewhere we met people with English connections: direct or through ancestors. And it is there that we attended a live music concert in a pub which was great.
We found the people of Tasmania to be very forthright and friendly, our only criticism of the place can be applied to anywhere where the USA has had an influence: the meals were just too large. We adapted by ordering one meal and two plates.
It rained heavily on our last day in Hobart and our plane to the mainland was cancelled at the last minute - an unfortunate ending to an otherwise great fortnight. Oh and don't forget the black swans, so many, so black.