The Hobart Finale

The van is back in business! We experienced great service from everyone in Hobart and our insurer Suncorp. Considering everyone returned to work on the Tuesday after Easter,  getting our van back on the Friday was outstanding.  In the mean time we caught up with a friend I hadn’t seen in 25 years since our Air Force recruit training days.  Time stands still with some friendships and that’s how it felt seeing Tanya again, like it was yesterday.  We had a lot of giggling over old photos as we relived the horror of the eighties hair styles and clothing.

After picking the van up and checking out of our park out near the airport we thought we might move a little closer to town – there was a park near town called Treasure Island that looked good.  The problem was the only treasure near this park was the local sewage treatment plant!  Hmmm… scrub that off the list.  The next closest to Hobart seemed lovely, set back in the bush only 5 minutes away and every night we had Long Nosed Potaroo’s coming to visit (once the kids were in bed, they weren’t silly).  This park turned out to be the best and the worst decision – we made some fabulous friends out of the parents of six year old triplets who setup next to us (they came to the next camp site with us as well where we managed to make most people believe we were a multiple birth association tour!)

Long Nose Potaroo in Hobart

Up Close with a Potaroo

However…on our last night in Hobart, we were sitting around with our new found friends drinking red wine, discussing the detention facility that was across the highway from our current resting place.  Although we were all aware it was there, so close to civilisation we sort of assumed it would be low security.  I mentioned the copious amounts of razor wire and double fencing we noticed on the way past that day so we googled it and found that it was the medium to high security Tasmanian prison and also the mental health unit where Martin Bryant was housed.  Needless to say we were all relieved to check out the next day – although I figure that the last place any escapees were going to hang around was outside the prison so we should be reasonably safe in the event of a break out?

Our last few days in Hobart were lovely, took the girls to Zoo Doo where they take you to feed the animals in a safari vehicle and the Emu’s and Camel’s practically climb in and take the food out of your hands (not joking about that one) and we took a boat ride to Peppermint Bay to enjoy world class food and wine after checking out the Tasmanian coast line.  I also snuck out for a half day back at MONA all by myself – my mental health break!

Camel Loving

Camel Coming Aboard

Windy on the Bow!

Peppermint Bay Restaurant

Peppermint Bay Restaurant

 

Although sad to leave next is Freycinet National Park which if memory serves is a stunning place so onwards goes the Inns circus…

When My Heart Stops Beating

I just had to slip in a quick blog about my absolute favorite exhibit from today at the Hobart Museum of Old and New Art.

The artist is Patrick Hall and he creates these beautiful, intriguing, emotionally evocative pieces of, well, furniture! Visually stunning in a dim space, these cabinets with illuminated little faces on every drawer will say “I love you” in various tones and voices when opened (that’s the bit kids love).. I was intrigued by the short pieces of writing illuminated on the top surface of each drawer – they were beautifully written and incredibly moving. To quote the narrative from the iPod guided tour:

records of living: a depository of people; of stories revealed, secrets whispered and emotions laid bare

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Here’s a short excerpt from the top of one as well:

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Museum of Old and New Art

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We had heard a lot about MONA since arriving in Tassie – mostly the gossip about how the founder had Aspergers, made his fortune counting cards, runs his art gallery as a mini dictator and how some of the exhibits were a bit too “anatomically confronting” for the four year olds ! The picture of his car space at the gallery may say it all:

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None of this prepared me for what an amazing experience this gallery turned out to be. From its beautiful setting on the water with green lawns dotted with pink bean bags and hand shaped stools to the solid sandstone walls of the underground gallery levels filled with beautiful, thought evoking, unique, shocking and sometimes grotesque art work – I loved it all.

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It was also entertaining watching my families reactions to this incredible place! Predictably the husband was not amused and spent most of his time impatiently waiting at the exit to each area. The girls were fascinated by the iPod tour devices and head phones and I predicted endless frustration with guiding them through menus (and boredom once they realised there were no apps)

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I should know better than to outguess the short people though – my little free spirit soon worked out the guided tour system and was proudly showing me each piece of art she located on the iPod and (loudly) informing me how she was learning all about them. Maybe an artistic soul in this one – showing no sign of boredom she wanted to peruse each exhibit and revel in it.

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As for the other little blossom – she takes after the husband and although happy to play with the iPod and spend time in the TV room with a bunch of peeps singing Madonna songs (I kid you not!) that was the extent of her interest and was soon making noises about lunch.

Highlight of the day for those less artistically inclined family members was then lolling about on the lawns on above mentioned pink bean bags, playing hide and seek with the kids of a lovely Dutch family, drinking wine and enjoying the afternoon sunshine – life is good ….

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Hobart and the Busted Camper

Well it had to happen eventually – the big trip disaster – but at least we got it out of the way in a capital city instead of the middle of nowhere!

It was a relief to all of us arriving in Hobart in the sunshine, stocked up on fresh rasberries straight from the farm (more food blogging). We gleefully setup on a dry concrete and grass site, swept all the mud out of the camper from Lake Sinclair and basked in the remaining sunshine before feeding the kids and plonking them in bed early for a book.  As I was lolling about on the kids bed reading a riveting Mr Men book (I think it was Mr Topsy Turvy) it registered that the husband was being a little over-active around the camper for that time of night, but figured it was just typical man-behavior – fiddling with the camping setup the entire time purely for the sport of it.

After climbing out of the kids bed and issuing the usual threats about going to sleep (which are always blatantly ignored) I was instructed to go outside and turn the crank handle so the camper door could be adjusted as this was apparently causing the kerfuffle. This of course made me feel illogically guilty about what happened next – after a quarter of turn the end of the camper closest to me totally collapsed down.  Although startled the girls were safe down their end, the supports bent making it impossible for that end to collapse and we passed them out through the velcro side along with all other belongings required to survive outside of the camper.

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So after half a day of being setup we were once again packing up – in the dark, with two confused short people sitting in the vehicle in their jammies, wrapped up in a blanket watching a DVD while various men folk strolled over to survey the damage, offer assistance or just be entertained by the spectacle!

We are incredibly lucky no-one was hurt and it happened in Hobart – we were planning on an extended stay here, there was a cabin adjacent to the van site we could move straight into, the next day a tow truck turned up courtesy of RACQ membership and the gentleman who runs Kings Caravan’s is now our hero after coming in on his Easter break to install our broken van in their shed. Hopefully thats it for bad luck if it really does come in threes – bogged in Brisbane, broken iPhone (that may have been me dropping it out of the camper van door but there is no proof) and now the big mishap.

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So now it’s a matter of waiting for the insurance company to do it’s thing – and truth be told I may be enjoying the cabin with its heating, bathroom and television just a little too much, wonder how long I can drag this claim out for??!

Lake Sinclair

On our way to Hobart Lake Sinclair seemed like the perfect spot to break the trip – finishing point for intrepid hikers tackling the overland track (definitely not us!) with a stunning visitor centre, multiple hiking trails around the Lake and the potential to see platypus and wallabies – however neither of which made an appearance!

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The camping spot was beautiful, under stands of gum trees that provided a fair amount of shelter from the pelting rain that seemed determined to follow us from the West Coast but didn’t do much to help with the overnight temperature of zero. No denying it was cold but the Mountain Design sleeping bags lived up to their temperature ratings, the kids managed to stay in their bags and not get lost down the bottom of them in the middle of the night and I just absolutely refused to go out for overnight toilet runs – this became somewhat of a national emergency by 7am but at least I didn’t have to leave my little burrow of warmth!

It’s funny how when you are away and playing tourist you will go outdoors on days that would normally see you hiding out under the doona – so despite drizzle and grey skies we loaded up the backpacks, briefed the short people on what ‘hiking’ is and set out – bright pink rain jackets pretty much assuring we weren’t going to lose anyone in the bush. Heading off whinging with games of I Spy and making a science lesson of photographing native plants we made the full two hour hike with only 20 minutes of piggy backing so overall it was counted a success. Brought home how different life is after having kids – the piggy back section felt like the only exercise portion of the hike and we had to avoid any long or steep trails – not because of muscle fatigue but ear damage from all the complaining…

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It was a shame about the cold and rain here, it was so beautiful despite the weather but after a couple of nights we were feeling way too soggy and miserable to pretend it was fun anymore and headed for Hobart!

Queenstown Family

Queenstown not only turned out to be a refuge from the rain but unexpectedly turned into a family get together that made me remember the joy of being surrounded by extended family. Growing up in South Australia I have this distant but fond memory of converging on my grandparents house for christmas – Uncles, Aunties, Cousins of all ages playing with the dogs, picking almonds and all forms of stone fruit straight off the trees, climbing the big old mulberry tree and chasing puppies, kittens, chickens and other random animals around. It’s been a very long time since the making of those memories but spending a few days with my mum’s favourite brother and his wife, three of my cousins, their partners, dogs and one very cute baby brought it flooding back in a wonderful way.

The girls were completely taken with this family they hadn’t met, particularly their Great Uncle and Aunt and their two placid fat black dogs. They spent their time trailing around after them on beautiful acreage in the mountains of Queenstown, picking blackberries, harvesting zucchini’s and generally helping out – I use the term ‘helping’ very loosely here! We thought having two short people bursting in on them every morning to say good morning and talk their ears off may have worn out our welcome quickly but the relatives seemed bemused (although I dare say they are now enjoying the peace and quiet of their acreage retreat again!)

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Queenstown is certainly not the ‘moonscape’ it has been labelled, it was a pleasant surprise to be presented with wooded mountains, lush rainforests and incredibly beautiful hiking areas. One of my cousins not only turned out to be a gifted artist but a very decent tour guide and it was greatly appreciated him taking a day off house renovations to show us the local attractions. Highlights were the site of the first copper mine “Iron Blow”, a short hike through beautiful rainforest at Bird River and a very interesting stroll through an old mine site.

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Placing an immense amount of trust in my cousin we followed him into a pitch black tunnel hand-hewn out of solid rock and equipped with a couple of torches – I suppressed my safety professional instincts enough not to ask for his risk assessment but was still relieved to hear that there was an air shaft half way along providing fresh air! No-one suffered an attack of claustrophobia or fear of the dark however I was less than impressed when told afterwards there are often spiders on the roof of such tunnels, no more copper mine tours for me thanks.

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All and all the west coast was a great experience with all the descriptors you always hear – wild, untamed, rugged and beautiful but for us it will also be associated with a new generation of wonderful family memories.

Coming Soon

The lack of blogging has been in direct correlation with lack of Internet coverage !! Hobart tomorrow so there will be blog posts everywhere then – standby for Queenstown and Lake Sinclair and surviving zero degrees overnight !! Mean time … Continue reading

Side Note – Strahan!

Not sure how I almost forgot to write about our side trip to Strahan – this is usually a ‘must do’ tourist activity on the West Coast, situated on the Macquarie Harbor you can take boat cruises or a scenic train trip from Queenstown to Strahan.  To our shame we didn’t get around to either of these activities, partly because we had the pull of family keeping us around the Queenstown area and partly because of the exorbitant cost of taking the entire family on either.  There is also a rather funny rivalry going on between Queenstown and Strahan, obviously the latter receives the bulk of the tourist attention and so the Queenstown locals like to refer to Strahan as their ‘toilet’ thanks to the mining tailings that used to be sent down the Queen River into the King River- and on to Macquarie  Harbour!

However this pint sized tourist town on the harbour was picturesque and well worth a short drive to have lunch on the harbour, take a stroll the rainforest to a tiny waterfall and browse the Huon Pine centre to be amazed by huge lumps of timber polished to within an inch of their life and fashioned into everything from rocking horses to coffee tables.  Unfortunately none of these would fit in the campervan (I was up for trying!)

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Macquarie Harbour

Harbour Again

Harbour Again

Bustling Main Street

Bustling Main Street

Seven Mile Beach

Ocean Beach

Wild West Coast

There is nothing cheerier than locals telling you how beautiful the weather was right before you arrived (sounds like Melbourne all over again!) Regardless of the driving rain and wind on the West Coast, staying in a campervan with your husband and two five year olds all day is certainly not an option! Not that we ever thought it would be, but this theory was proven once and for all after breaking the ‘no yelling at the kids in caravan parks’ rule and coming perilously close to breaking the no alcohol before lunch time rule.

So on with the winter woolies and out into the wild, blustery conditions that seem to suit this side of the Tasmanian Isle. Our little beachcombers had a wonderful time on the sweeping beautiful beaches here, Green Point near Marrawah is our favourite so far, gorgeous spot to hunt shells, poke around in rock pools and photograph the view.

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To make absolutely certain that the camper van antics were under control we then made our two four year olds climb 152 metres of near vertical cliff at “The Nut” in Stanley, a huge rock sitting at the top of the hill dominating this cute little town. The first stage is extremely steep, Layla amused all the other tourists by practically lying down on the path as she made her way up! Despite many jokes about how “they won’t be talking like that by the top” the talkative twosome did reach the summit and were still barely pausing for breath during the running commentary – so much for wearing them out! After a lengthy discussion of how gravity works and why running back down a vertical slope is a really bad idea we returned intact to the bottom of The Nut and headed home for that glass of wine I’d been thinking about at 10am that morning…

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Moving onto Queenstown next to catch up with relatives and wait for the rain to abate so we can explore Strahan and the remainder of the West Coast before heading to Hobart and hopefully sunnier weather!