- a town of two sides
19.12.2010 - 22.12.2010 -17 °C
Today it appears that the whole of Hobart has broken up for the Christmas holidays.For the past few days we have walked around a fairly sedate town, refined and sophisticated, (the town, not us). In fact, in Battery point where we are staying, with it's renovated seaman's cottages and Victorian villas, now housing restaurants, antique shops and elegant cafes, it is a bit like a Dorset fishing village. But tonight it's like Dublin on a bank holiday weekend. Every single bar and pub was bursting with drinkers, already very loud when we walked into town at 5.30pm. By the time we walked back they were louder still, and they had been joined by a considerable police presence (the first I've really seen the whole week we've been here).
I guess the weather is partly to blame; finally it has been mild enough for us to get on the beach. Yesterday we spent the day in Port Arthur, the site of a notorious prison where deported offenders were housed from all over the Empire, and we froze our backsides off, in between the downpours. In Cliffs words, it was like an April day at Chatsworth house (right I promise that is the last time I use a comparison with anywhere back home).
Port Arthur is a bit of a hub for people examining their convict roots and it was fascinating as an insight into 19th century prison theory. The convict contribution to the ancestry of Australia still feels like something that people are ambiguous about here, probably because while many were deported for trivial offences, there were a good many violent and predatory criminals sent here too. After transportation had stopped and Port Arthur had closed as a prison towards the end of the 19th century, there seems to have been an effort to paper over the whole thing to some degree but then in the '20s and '30s there was a change in direction and people began to take a positive interest in it. Port Arthur became a popular tourist destination as a result. The site does focus a great deal on the rigours of the prison regime (which were considerable) and occasionally makes the convicts look like martyrs but I found it hard to believe that prisoners were really worse off here than in any prison back in England at the time. And as a result of the strong focus on education and training, many on gaining their freedom, in a land desperate for skilled workers, made out like bandits. Thought provoking stuff.
So today we put all that behind us and headed into the Huon valley. This is in the gorgeous mountain area that lies behind Hobart, really heart stopping scenery and very unspoilt. We took a ride on a jet boat up the river – sorry no photos as I found I was unable to let go of the handrail for the entire trip - and had lunch on a tiny cafe on a house boat. We drove back up the coast, stopped at Blackman's Bay and sat on the beach for half an hour watching breakers roll in, enjoying the warmth and looking out for sharks. Tonight's dinner was fish and chips in Hobart at Fish Frenzy which is very famous locally; it is really good but please don't ask what we paid as Cliff will start crying again.
We have done more that I can't fit in with out making this entry too long to bother with. We have really enjoyed Tasmania, and I will be a bit sad to leave tomorrow for Sydney, but excited too.
Ahh, I hear the sound of the first police sirens... must be time for bed.
P, C, S and J