Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tasmania: Bruny Island

On our last day in Tasmania, we took the rental car on a ferry over to Bruny Island so I could go on the #1 ranked tourist attraction in Australia: the Bruny Island boat tour. There isn't much on the island yet (a cheese shop and chocolate store are the only real tourist stops on the road we drove) but it is scenic.
The boat tour was fun, and the weather stayed nice and sunny so it was only regular freezing cold rather than rainy freezing cold! They cruised us past the cliffs to see a bunch of cool rock formations and also drove through one of them for a bit of a thrill. 

eagle rock

Madonna and king on camel

the cathedral

We spent some time at an underwater blow-hole which makes a cool sucking noise before it spouts water every few seconds. 

We saw lots of birds including cormorants and oyster catchers (ones with a long orange beak) and then cruised around a huge colony of fur seals with churning water all around and a few of them basking in the waves. 


On the way back, we were in the open ocean and just at the end managed to catch a pod of common dolphins feeding. They were such delightful creatures to watch, with some jumping in the air and riding the bow of the other cruise ship. I'm really glad we got to see the dolphins - definitely the highlight of the trip.

On the drive back to the ferry, we climbed the steps on the neck of Bruny Island to see over the island halves.  

At the bottom of the stairs at the neck there was a sign about Truganini, an Aboriginal woman, to whom the Tasmanian Aboriginal community had dedicated the site. I had been thinking about how easy it is to visit Australia and New Zealand without really any interaction, presence, or information about the indigenous peoples, so I thought it important to read about her story (especially since she is a woman) and do my bit to share it and make women more visible. She had some awful things done to her by white men yet she still survived. The glare was quite harsh, so I'll re-type the main part:
This part of Lunawanna-alonnah (Bruny Island) is rich with evidence of Aboriginal occupation. For this reason, the Tasmanian Aboriginal community has dedicated the site to the memory of Truganini - a Nuenone woman whose life was forever changed by white invasion. As a child, Truganini grew up here at Lunawanna-alonnah. Her father was an elder of the Nuenone people, a band of the south-east tribe whose connection with this place spans 30,000 years.
The peace of Truganini's early years was shattered by European invasion. The arrival of white man brought violence and brutality to these shores. At the age of 17, Truganini witnessed the horrific stabbing murder of her mother by men from a whaling ship. Sealers kidnapped here two sisters, Lowhe-nunne and Magger-leede. Timber-getters killed the man Truganimi was to marry. During a boat crossing of the Channel, she watched in horror as her husband-to-be was thrown into the sea. As he tried desperately to climb back onboard, the timber-getters cut off his hands and left him to drown. Truganini was then repeatedly raped. Her brother was killed and her stepmother kidnapped by escaped convicts. Her father was devastated and died within months.
Following the loss of her entire family, Truganini worked as a guide and interpreter for George Robinson, who had been appointed by the colonial government to persuade Aborigines to peacefully give up their land. A promise that all would be returned to their homelands after a period of exile was ultimately broken. Truganini spent many years at the Wybalenna Aboriginal Settlement on Flinders Island, where efforts were made to strip Aboriginal people of their identity and culture. Many died of disease or despair Truganini's cooperation later turned to rebellion. For a time, she escaped and was involved in attacks on white men. ....
That was the end of our day trip to Bruny Island. We took the car back over the ferry and then savored our last day by eating out at Hog's Breath Cafe, which is a chain of restaurants in Australia. They marinade their steaks for something like 18 hours, so they are incredibly tender and delicious. It was one of the best I've ever had. And so ended our really nice trip to Melbourne and Tasmania! 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Tasmania: Wineglass Bay

There comes a time when you have traveled enough, especially around places like California and New Zealand, that scenery starts looking nice but not spectacular. That largely encapsulates the Wineglass Bay lookout, which is plastered over all the marketing for the east coast of Tasmania, although the 2.5-hour drive up there was a nice, scenic one. We saw Maria Island again from a rest stop - it has a lovely profile.

There was also a little bridge called Spiky Bridge built by convict labor that looked pretty cool. A kind of Game of Thrones look.

We also stopped at Kate's Berry Farm along the way, and I got an expensive ($16.00!) piece of humbleberry pie with cream and ice cream. I haven't had fruit pie in a long time though (since pie in NZ is savory rather than sweet) and it was good.

The steep hike up to the lookout over Wineglass Bay was tough, but it was a nice view and the curve really did make it look like a wineglass. Back near the carpark, we saw some wallabies vacuuming up crumbs from the tourists (or eating dirt?). Then it was the long drive back to Hobart.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tasmania: Port Arthur

After Bonorong Wildlife Park, we drove to Port Arthur, the big tourist attraction founded on the misery of previous generations of convicts and the site of one of Australia's worst shooting massacres in 1996 (which caused them to enact strict gun laws in response). When you purchase your ticket, you receive a playing card which matches a convict's story. The Titanic exhibit did a similar thing and I think it does a good job of trying to humanize the stories of hardship and/or death in an otherwise distanced museum experience. We ended up buying the whole card deck along with a book that details the 52 convict stories. I don't know when I'll have time to read it, but it looks interesting. I feel like when we learn about convicts in the U.S., we get the image of hardened murderers, but a lot of them were sent to Australia for relatively petty crimes, like stealing food or not paying off debt.

The tour ticket included a harbor cruise, so I did that first (D gets sea-sick). The boat took everyone past an island where they moved the juvenile boys, after it turned out that they were learning all kinds of bad behavior from the adult convicts.
Next was a guided walking tour. The crumbling brick buildings were really cool, and it is a beautiful site. The sun was setting, too, which cast a nice glow on the structures. 
The tour guide explained how the administrators and other non-convicts had
their buildings and homes on ground levels higher than the convict buildings.

Convict cell

These were the days of Jeremy Bentham's panopticon prison ideas.

This looked like an Easter egg holder!

Cool castle look

This was the nice home for the person in charge of Port Arthur.

Some of the buildings used to be quite tall.