A short city-break in beautiful Tassie
So far 2021 had been full of changes and adaptations for me. Not only had I moved back to Australia to live, but I’d also enrolled in and started a full-time degree, while working 3 days a week so I could live. This was in addition to leaving my partner in Europe until we managed to get a visa, which at the best of times is long and expensive for Australia, but made 10 times worse during a pandemic. This was the move that we’d decided, as we had both lost our jobs in Spain and it was becoming unrealistic to be there during the pandemic. Wages had dropped, and the competition for what jobs were there was becoming fiercer – many language schools had closed, big and small, just like ours, and so there were so many teachers looking for new jobs that wages were being lowered (because they could), and conditions were getting worse. We looked on Facebook, where many EFL jobs are advertised, and the offers that were advertised were laughable, in that they were so ridiculous. In reality, it was a depressing situation. It was so nice being back in Australia, and although there were many things to sort out, it was going as smoothly as possible, if not more so that planned. I was working, delivering food to the hotel quarantine hotels 3 days a week, while studying 4 days a week, managing to maintain myself. June had come around and I was in need of a holiday, so I got in touch with a good friend of mine, who had made the tree-change and moved down to Tasmania, and organised a visit. I was very excited, about seeing my friend after so long, but also to get to Tasmania for the first time. I am so thankful for this chance, as little did I know at the time, but Sydney’s long, 3-month lockdown would start just after I returned. Talk about timing a holiday just right!
It didn’t take too much planning, just a quick look for flights to Hobart on the right days and done. I was flying out on Sunday after work, and getting back Thursday night, ready to go back to work on Friday. I didn’t book accommodation beforehand, as that’s just not my style, but I also had nothing to worry about really, as June isn’t peak season in Tasmania. Also, I was staying a couple of nights with my friend, so it was all good. I finished work on Sunday morning, came home and packed my small bag, just essentials (which means my camera), put on my big winter coat and hiking boots, and got the train to the airport. The last time I flew was with all of my belongings, a huge suitcase that weighed 32kgs, my big backpack as well as a smaller pack, coming home to Australia from Spain; so, a light day-pack and a camera made a real change! It was also amazing to be travelling to somewhere new – the feeling which is my drug of choice. There is nothing like that feeling of getting off a plane, landing somewhere completely new and just waiting to be explored. Add to this, a country where you don’t speak the language, haven’t got any of the local money yet, don’t know anyone, and everything is possible (rather than impossible), and I am in heaven. Although it wasn’t quite that extreme this time, it was still a high for me. A quick flight across the Tasman with Jetstar, I got off in Hobart and jumped on a bus into the city, found a hostel quick enough, and checked in. Not only was this hostel completely empty, but it was also a cool pub downstairs. I had a quick drink and decided to go out exploring for dinner. I found a cool bar in the Salamanca area, which is the historic wharf area, had a beer and a meal, and just soaked up the holiday feeling. The pub was called The Whaler, and I could just imagine it back in the 1800s with dirty, sweaty sailors coming back after a whaling trip of months, sitting there in their stinking leathers, big beards, throwing down a cold brew. The place was lively and a great little bar for groups of friends to catch up, or even a meal as the food was very good. I hit the hay, ready for the next day, still feeling very, very happy.
It was much colder in Hobart than in Sydney, so I was very happy for my big coat that I bought in Spain. I sought out a nice place for coffee and breakfast on the harbour, then wandered around the historic port of Hobart. Sydney was the first city in Australia, established in 1788 by the landing of the First Fleet, but many people don’t know that Hobart is the country’s second oldest settlement. It was founded in 1804 as a penal colony, and very quickly was recognised for its potential in the whaling industry. Since then, Hobart has had a long maritime history, as the river Derwent is one of Australia’s best deep-water ports, and so whaling, sealing and shipbuilding became huge industries. As well as this, Darwin also became the gateway to the Antarctic, both for sea and air journeys – the airport runs flights to Casey Station and the port is the home base for both French and Australian icebreakers and research vessels. Charles Darwin also visited the city in 1836 on The Beagle, when the population was only 13,000 and Tasmania a meagre 36,000 (compared to 250,000 and 540,000 respectively), as well as Amundsen in 1911 after his successful South Pole expedition. I looked around and found the port interesting, imagining it full of whaling ships, new convict arrivals, and general ship traffic. Today, there is the MONA ship, which takes tourists up the coast the Museum of Old and New Art, a seaplane wharf, and lots of fishing trawlers and yachts. It has to be mentioned that this is also the place where the famous Boxing Day Sydney to Hobart race ends (hence the name). There is even a replica hut that Mawson and his team used in their Antarctica exploration. Some of the old warehouses on the port still exist, including the famous IXL jam company, which was created by Henry Jones and named because of his motto: “I excel at everything I do.” He was a true entrepreneur, a Henry Ford of fruit and jam, who worked tirelessness and expected no less of his workers, and was eventually knighted in 1919 for his contribution to the industry. The port is full of stories, many of them of convicts who’d been shipped here, others of free settlers come to make their name. one statue commemorates 13,000 convict women and their 2,000 who were shipped to Van Dieman’s Land (the old name for Tasmania) in the 50 years leading up to 1853. Hobart in the early days would not have been pleasant – convicts and soldiers making up most of the population, barely any women, with whaling and logging as the main industries. Thankfully today it is a different story and I was loving my time in little pretty little city on the edge of Australia.
Today was Monday and I’d spent most of the morning walking around the city and the port. I’d organised with my friend Katie to see her in the afternoon after work; she’d pick me up and we’d go down to her place. So, I had the afternoon to do something, and I decided to do a bit of walking and a bit of public transport to get me down to the south of Hobart and towards the mouth of the Derwent. I walked through the old, sandstone Salamanca area of Hobart, which is a real centre for arts, crafts and culture, making my way up some steps and into the trendy neighbourhood of Battery Point. From this hill, you could see most of Hobart, as well as the impressive Mount Wellington, or Kunanyi, which sits 1200 over the city. I walked south along the coast, admiring the cute houses along the way, and found myself at Errol Flynn Reserve. Named after the famous Tasmanian actor, star of The Adventures of Robin Hood in 1938, the reserve was a nice little green strip nestled between some houses and the water. Flynn was born in Hobart in 1909, and lived in Battery Point growing up, attended the local school, and a sign on the reserve also stated that ‘his first associations with water and boats were likely to be in this vicinity.’ I’m not sure why this needed to be said, if it was a reference to his Sea Hawks movie, or just a small (possible) claim to fame for this park. It was nice spot anyway, with some people walking along Short Beach with dogs and others chilling in the warm June sun, enjoying the Waterview. I walked up to the main road and hopped on a bus which took me past the iconic Wrest Point Casino, and to Long Beach where I sat down for some lunch. Although mid-winter, it was warm enough to peel off a layer and enjoy the warmth of the sun, but there was a couple who actually went in for a dip, which I thought was brave! I did a bit more walking, up to Alexandra Battery Park. This is where Hobart’s sea defences were set up, firstly in fear of the French during the Napoleonic Wars and later the Russians during the Crimea, but nothing was built until 1871, and work soon ran out of steam due to lack of funding, even with convict labour it was too expensive. However, the Russians did sail into the Derwent inlet and nearly started a panic until their friendly intentions were revealed. Because of the Hobartians fear of invasion, a whole network of gun emplacements and forts were set up to create an interlocking firing arc to prevent any ship from entering the river. This threat invasion doesn't make much sense to me as Tasmania is is so far from anywhere, but fear is a powerful motivator.
I spent a little time wandering around and look at what is left today, which isn’t much, but that there is has been well preserved and signed with information. Another point of interest I found along this walk was the old ‘Blinking Billy’ lighthouse, which ran from 1900 to 1955, and also served as part of a searchlight network, linking up with other batteries in the harbour using mirrors, and backed up by gun emplacements. The lighthouse is still in good nick, but the bunker is pretty much an empty concreate hulk, but well-placed to give a good view of the water. Satisfied with my explorations for today, I walked down the hill to jump on a bus and go back to the city. This bus driver that took me there was extremely friendly, and we chatted all the way – something you can’t do with Sydney bus drivers! This was the first time I got called a mainlander, and at first it didn’t register, but that’s what people who aren’t from Tasmania get called. In saying that, Tasmanians get called mainlanders by the 600 residents of Bruny Island, which is just off the coast south-east of Hobart. Strange, but very friendly people down here! The bus dropped me back off at St David’s Park, and that’s where I sat down with a takeaway pizza and ate all of it by myself. I enjoyed every slice too! After that big meal, which was kind of like a late lunch or early dinner about 5pm, I wandered around the park, looking at all the old tombstones and inscriptions. Some of these markers date back to the first settlers who arrived in Hobart in the 1804, one of which was dedicated to Jacob Bellett, a free settler who died in 1815 at the (now legendary) age of 27. Mr Bellett came over on the first fleet in 1788, and probably did his time there before coming down to Hobart to start again in a new settlement. Another stone commemorates Richard Pitt, who arrived in Hobart with the first settlers in 1804, passing away in 1826 at the respectable age of 61. I love this history, and to see it in a city park is great. There was a whole wall full of these tombstones, and even a memorial to everyone who sailed over on the first ships. I still find it strange that Australians celebrate long-dead convicts, our 'founding fathers,' but with such a short history for a modern country, what else do many Australians have?
I wandered across the road to a very interesting building that I was taking a photo of, and I discovered that it was the Hobart Real Tennis Club. Real Tennis, or sometimes called Royal Tennis, comes from the original tennis game invented by the French way back in the 12th Century. It was a popular game during King Henry VIII’s reign in England, and I even visited his royal court at Hampton Court Palace when I was there oh so long ago. This court was built in 1875, making it one of the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere, although I doubt this game is played anywhere in the Antipodes other than NZ and here. Still, it was a lovely old building, and I went in to take a look around (and some photos) and loved what I saw. I watched some of a game and chatted to the manager of the courts, and was even invited to play if I had whites. Sadly I didn’t, but promised myself to pack some traditional tennis clothes and shoes for my next visit, as I love a good game of tennis and squash, and this game seemed to be a combination of both! I couldn’t follow the rules and scoring, but you use oddly angled, wooden rackets, serve off the roof, bounce the ball off the walls, all the while trying to hit a painting of a monk in the bottom right-hand corner. Fascinating! Can’t wait to come back! My time in Hobart for today was nearing its end, as my friend was on her way, so I rushed back down to the port to greet her. It had been many years since I’d seen Katie; we worked together in a language school in Sydney many years ago, and had kept in touch ever since. She pulled up, two sleeping kids in the backseat, jumped out and hugged me – so good to see friends after so long! We chatted as she drove south to her house where I’d be staying for the next few days. One night and one full day in Tasmania and I already wanted to pack up and move down here!
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MyUncleTravellingMatt. June 2021.