- that's Lawn - cess- ton
16.12.2010 - 19.12.2010 -15 °C
Launceston is one of Tasmania's (and Australia's) oldest settlements, kicked off in about 1804. The river Tamar, which empties out to the right on the top edge of Tasmania, was navigable by ships for some distance down it length (thought it sounds like it was so tricky you wonder why they bothered) and several settlements grew up along its shores. Launceston eventually dominated, obviously growing very rapidly in the late 19th /early 20th century, on the back of a prosperous agricultural economy and – yes you've guessed it – gold mining just a bit further up the river.
The town is now full of modern shops and cafes in square brick fronted buildings with wrought iron balconies and canopies, giving it a slightly wild west feel. The main attraction here is the Cataract Gorge, which (as the name suggests) is a gorge, with dramatic cliffs dropping to a wide river. The Victorian Launcestonians saw this vision of natural beauty, laid a path down its length, turfed over the end of it and put a bandstand up. (This was apparently a bit controversial at the time). It is lovely (see photos) but it did make me think of Matlock Bath..... without the motorcycles.
We have also been getting close to our first Australian wildlife, at a centre for Platypus (es?) and echidnas. Both animals are extraordinary and very endearing, but the echidna takes the prize. The mother echidna lays a single egg about the size of a marble and keeps it in a pouch until it hatches. She then finds a nice soft bit of earth and buries the baby (its called a 'puggle'), going back to it every 4-5 days to feed it until its about 6 months old. That has to be the most low maintenance child care short of just walking off and leaving it. Brilliant!
Yesterday we left Launceston and drove via the coast to Hobart. I was a big fan of Elyne Mitchell's 'Silver Brumby' books when young and this drive took us through the Australian landscape which I have imagined, with rolling hills and acres of Eucalyptus trees. It rained on an off for the whole journey and the smell filled the car. We saw cockatoos and Kookaburras but no kangaroos or wallabies yet.
If its any comfort, the weather here has not been good so far, with torrential downpours and temperatures hardly rising above 15 degrees. On balance though I think we are better off than being at home!
P, C, J&S