Welcome to Tasmania, where you end up doing double takes down the street and you’re not quite sure if you saw the same person twice!!
I landed in Tasmania and it was like landing back in the UK only in the nicer countryside parts, like the Lake District or the West Country. Definitely not London.
I had no clue where to start but here I was heading for a YHA in Hobart. It was bitterly cold and the sky was blue but there was something a little strange about Tasmania and equally refreshing all at the same time.
You might have guessed from my opener that the strange I am referring to is the reputation for inbreeding. I cannot lie here, unfortunately. I was literally doing double takes down the streets of Hobart as natives do look very similar to each other but not in a weird Quasi Modo type of way. They just look like clones of normal everyday people just without any huge distinguishing features, though granted as you move more through Tasmania, this isn’t widespread.
So firstly to address the inbreeding rumours. It is or was true the Aussies, made jokes about Tasmania being the Hill Billies. This is because little is or was known about Tasmania which is a close knit island community. As irony would have it, there are suggestions that this reputation may have been earned because of a little story known as Gulliver’s Travels (1726). Jonathan Swift the author, located the imaginary land of Lilliput, inhabited by pigmies and giants, ‘to the north-west of Van Diemen’s Land’. Such mythical connotations were swamped when the island became a penal colony, and gained a reputation as a hell, inhabited by criminals, its original population slaughtered. Tasmania, the blood-soaked island where man’s misery is echoed by towering gloomy crags, this a recurring theme since, encouraged by Marcus Clarke’s – His Natural Life (1874).
At the same time, the island was becoming known for its similarity to England and its natural beauty (depicted in novels by Jessie Couvreur and Marie Bjelke Petersen) and, in the voluminously wool-clad nineteenth century, it gained fame as a temperate and healthy haven, the ‘Sanatorium of the South’. That aside, Tasmania, small, remote and not particularly prosperous, was becoming seen as a backwater, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, while other areas of Australia developed rapidly, and this image dominated the twentieth century – especially as warmer climates became popular for holidays. Tasmania was so remote that a certain British actress named Merle Oberon, seeking to hide non-Aryan blood, claimed she was born here, presumably thinking that Tasmania was so faraway and isolated that no one would challenge her statement. Tasmania whilst some think is a separate country, is in fact an island state of Australia.
Back to my adventures and whilst I am unpacking in my hostel dorm, I find, I am sharing it with a 60 year old hippy backpacker, who is filling me with her hallucinogenic stories of getting high and stoned in Byron Bay. This goes to show, you are never too old to make poor choices or become a female version of Keith Richards (He’s a drug addled rocker in the Rolling Stones, for those of you too young to know).
I booked a tour to start exploring the Island but first of all I wanted to do further exploration of Hobart and it was Friday night. Things were about to get very strange.
Friday night in London prior to Coronavirus, was always alive with people. Hobart at this point in time, was closed and the best I could find was 4 random teenagers in a car getting high and bopping to the then happening tune by Bomfunk MC’s – Freestyler. For this purpose I have inserted the video for reference. (Yes it was a slightly confused and disturbed period in the early 2000’s, just saying).
This quartet were having a blast in a vehicle which was bouncing quite violently, whilst stationary. I finally came across the only open Thai restaurant in Hobart. The food was great and so was the hospitality, I then headed back to my dorm to refresh ahead of further exploration the following day. I’d booked a tour to Richmond on the Sunday prior to my flight back to Mainland, Australia on the Monday.
The next day I went exploring around the Harbour and took in a boat tour. There in the Harbour and a total failure on my part to capture on camera, I saw the humpback whales migrating in. The view was spectacular looking back to the shore, which you can see from my title picture. I captured this on film from the boat I was on and of the Tasman Bridge.
I then took a little trip out to Beaumaris Zoo to take in some of the rare wildlife in Tasmania as I wouldn’t have time to explore this amazing island further.
At the Zoo I was fortunate enough to hold a Koala and a Wombat. I then strolled around and came across the Tasmanian Native Cats and got familiar with the history of the now extinct Tasmanian Tiger (Link inserted for reference https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thylacine)
As I continued round, I noticed a small gathering and inside the enclosure were the infamous and rather amusing Tasmanian Devils.
There was a commotion within the enclosure. There in the middle of the enclosure was a zookeeper running about whilst one of the Devils was trying to have a snack out of his ankles. I remember laughing and he looked at me and said “Stop laughing, it’s not funny!” I remember pointing out it was very funny due to the size difference and suggesting he stopped running about and just front it by standing still and putting his heel to the floor and the sole of his foot up. As irony would have it, he did as I suggested and this stopped this little Devil in it’s tracks. Instead it was now in a state of confusion. This just caused more amusement and the zookeeper was able to now walk out of the pen without further attack.
They’re funny little things the Devils and they look absolutely innocent as you can see from my photograph below. However, don’t be fooled by their cuddly bear looks. These little critters, literally live up to their name and can be pretty ferocious. They are incredibly mischievous and are unfortunately an endangered species. This is due to Devil Facial Tumour Disease which develops rapidly and is fatal. Once the highly infectious cancerous tumours appear around the mouth, face and neck, the Devils generally die within three to six months. The tumours are a transmissible cancer that affects Tasmanian devils. The disease is spread by biting, tumours often become very large and usually cause death of affected animals.
Once I finished my tour of the Zoo, it was time to head back to the Harbour and grab a nice fish supper. This was my first experience of Barramundi and it was delicious.
The next day I met up with my tour and headed off for Richmond. Richmond is an old style Georgian town that literally looks like an old English Village. There is a reason for this…
Richmond is an old Police town that used to take in convicts, sent from Britain and Ireland, where they were imprisoned in the Gaol. Richmond was initially established as a pioneering district within the Van Diemen’s Land penal colony (referenced in Gulliver’s Travels). Richmond later developed as a police district for the surrounding region after Governor George Arthur appointed a number of paid magistrates to oversee penal discipline in 1827. Inserted is the list of convicts for historical reference and when you visit the old gaol, you can see the cells were incredibly small and there is a nice long list of British and Irish criminality. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_convicts_transported_to_Australia
Heading back, my time in Tasmania had come to an end and it was now time to fly back to the mainland via Brisbane and onto Cairns. In the next blog you can follow my underwater adventures on the famous Great Barrier Reef and beyond..