Monday, February 04, 2008

Tasmania, the second bit, and a blogmeet

OK, where was I? Ah yes, the Mercury printing museum, on day 11. Lovely little place. Not a big overwhelming and unmanageable thing like the Melbourne Museum of Printing (which has a fabulous on-line presence but hasn't managed to get itself together properly IRL), but just enough of a display to give you a good idea of what type looks like, how it can be set, and the variations in printing technology from early colonial days until now. And it has a tray of CANBERRA font, something I've never seen before.

Anyhoo, I'll get my hand off it and get on with the holiday.

Day 11, cont: on the way home we climbed the Hobart Shot Tower, all 259 steps of it (BB counted, Bumblebee claimed the certificate that congratulated us o getting the number right). Gorgeous views of Hobart and the river from it.

Day 12: Left Hobart and wended our way up the East Coast through Richmond and various other hamlets on the way to Maria Island. MI is a large island of National Park, which means there are no cars and you have to carry all your gear over on the ferry and then again to the cabins or campsite. The boatride over was incredibly rough. To quote from Bumblebee's holiday diary:

"It was awfull [sic]. we were going up and down up and down on really huge waves and we all got wet especially mum."

Indeed. The island, however, was wonderful. More marsupials and birds than you can poke a stick at, not that we tried. We set up camp, went for some walks, then came back and played a hearty round of our game-of-the-holiday, Phase Ten. As we played, this is what came within two metres of us:

-- a line of Cape Barron Geese, looking like Regency gentlemen with their spindly pink-stockinged legs
-- numerous pademelons, which are small fat wallabies
-- a large grey kangaroo, which stayed and delicately nibbled grass beside the tent long after we went to sleep
-- a number of wombats, two of which crashed through the bushes next to us, chasing each other, then stopped and stared at us for a long moment before acting like cats and pretending they'd never been caught in such an undignified situation.
-- various birds, including a large kookaburra that sat nearby and watched our roast chook carcass intently until we bagged it (the chook, of course).

Maria Island also has a long cliff-face full of fossils, mostly shell fossils, but BB remembers finding a fish fossil as a child. It's pretty spectacular.

Day 13: we spent the day wandering our patch of the island. To see the rest of it you really need to bring bicycles over. The rangers encourage this, but unfortunately there's nowhere to hire them. There's a small business idea for someone. The boat ride back was MUCH calmer, and we saw an albatross over the boat. We got to Coles Bay in time to set up the tent before dark.

Day 14: Coles Bay, which has a fabulous camping ground along Richardson's Beach, next to the Frechinet Peninsula. In high demand times these are allotted via a ballot system, but at other times you just need to book. We were there on the Australia Day weekend, and were lucky enough to grab a cancellation spot. Each campsite has its own path down to the beach, and the facilities are excellent. We walked to Wineglass Bay and had a swim, then back around the Hazards to the carpark. This was Bumblebee's longest bushwalk (11kms) and he handled it very well. The secret was letting BB walk ahead at the speed he likes, leaving B to walk with me, and I'm very good at jollying him along without pressure and with lashings of water and chocolate. Then we meet back at the car where BB has been reading the paper and we're all happy :)

Day 15: Australia Day. The site next to us is full of little tents full of P-plate drivers full of beer. They started drinking at 8 in the morning, and the stereo pumps out TripleJ all day at very high volume. By lunchtime the guys are roaring along with their arms around each other and the girls are in small huddles at the toilet block, fixing their hair and coming to the slow but bitter conclusion that they have only been brought along as designated drivers and cushions for drunken heads on the beach. I spend the day reading and sleeping -- I put my foot down, demanding a day of rest, but didn't count on the noisy companions. That night they all stagger down the beach in quest of a pub, my boys go to a Ranger-arranged Aussie Day quiz (and come 2nd), and I walk along the dusky beach looking at the Hazards, three mountains with a constant grey boil of cloud over them from afternoon to the next morning. They clear of clouds each morning, only to get them back later in the day, and there the clouds stay, no matter how windy or sunny it is elsewhere. As I walk I think about being Australian and camping, and how much I like the sound of the birds, and how the campers next to me won't let themselves hear them.

Day 16: packed our tent up and kept going up the coast, past the Bicheno blowhole, where a man was trying to get his daughters, one by one, to walk up next to the blowhole with him and look into it, even though every few random minutes it would explode upwards and outwards dangerously. Another family was walking their kids towards it for a look, not caring that one of the boys was clutching his open gameboy console as they got soaked. Those kinds of tourists are not Annoying, just Stupid. I'll explain about Annoying Tourists in a mo.

We stayed the night in Pyengana, close to the beautiful St Columbia Falls, in a place called the Pub in a Paddock, where they have two beer-drinking pigs. Bumblebee thought feeding pigs with warm bottles of beer was the height of cool fun.

Day 17: Slow drive along the northeast and up to our eventual destination of Bridport. We went through Derby and detoured to visit the most famous lavender farm in Tas. I'll let Bumblebee speak again:

"Then we drove to Derby. We saw a Chines meusem and I got some Phantom comics. then we went to a not so good (crappy) lavandar farm."

The Chinese 'meusem' is a nice little private museum in Derby next to the Tin Museum (which was closed for renovation). He got the comics at a very odd and overpriced secondhand bookshop down the road. The lavender farm had just harvested its crop, so there was no lavender, but that wasn't what made it crappy. It was the absolute lack of signage, or anything of interest other than the giftshop and cafe, which had no signs either. Apparently when there is lavender, you have to pay to got to the farm, and there are tours, but only weeks later it seems like they withdraw everything but still expect you to buy expensive momentos of your visit. I hate mean-spirited tourism.

Bridport is terrific. The Backpacker's Hostel is excellent, and highly recommended. The beaches are clean, clear and delightful to swim at. I'd quite happily spend a week there doing very little.

Day 18: Through the Tamar Valley to Launceston. We visited a large winery and a small one, both of which had their charms. BB wanted to go to Beaconsfield; I was reluctant, because I don't like voyeuristic sightseeing (I was careful at Port Arthur as well). But the Beaconsfield museum was the best one I saw in Tas. It's absolutely brilliant, mainly because it is extremely hands-on for children. Lots of buttons and levers and things to twist and hold and tweak.

Launceston is dead on a Tuesday night. Anyone who criticises Canberra for being lifeless should shove it up their bottoms, because it rawks compared to Lonnie. We did find a terrific little Indian restaurant run by a young family who cook 'only fresh' and we liked it so much we went there for both our nights.

Day 19: Launceston's daytime charms -- monkeys in the park, stuffed things in the museum, a lovely walk through Cataract Gorge and an afternoon swimming and lolling with the papers.

Day 20: Across to Burnie and back to Devonport -- Raspberry farm, cheese farm, Belgium chocolate factory (where their eccentric tree-filled carpark put our first ding in the car, and worse, it was my fault), and a junk shop-cum-museum that amused BB no end. In Burnie we visited the Creative Paper Mill, where they make handmade paper. Bumblebee got to pull some sheets of paper and was very impressed. I made some contacts and am thinking how I can use their famous 'roo-poo' paper in a book some day.

In Devonport we saw a marvellous contemporary art show. I'd like to say more on that later.

We slept on the boat back to Melbourne. I haven't lost my sea-legs since the first boat ride over three weeks ago. Everywhere I walk sways like a moving deck. Even sitting here in front of the computer I can feel the surge and sway.

Day 21: Arriving at 6am meant we had to flake all morning at a friend's house, catching up on sleep. A visit to the zoo in the afternoon, which was ten minutes walk from the house, and we saw remarkable things... an elephant seemingly getting a very involved enema, but upon enquiry turned out to be having a prostate massage to collect sperm. 'Sometimes it only takes a minute, but today he's not in the mood,' explained a young keeper, as the poor fellow doing the 'massage' had to change shifts with someone with a fresher arm. Around the corner was an ape with a huge hard-on, sitting quite relaxed while another ape picked at his fleas. Parents were walking up with their kids, saying 'Oh, look at the mon... err, um, let's go over to THIS monkey!' and shuffling the kids quickly in another direction. Bumblebee was fascinated, as any ten-yo boy would be.

That evening we took Bumblebee to Spamalot! at Her Majesty's Theatre. To temper the tone of the evening, I met up with Michelle de Krester in the bar beforehand and we got to know each other a little in Real Life, which was lovely. We'd only done phone calls and emails throughout the whole process of her book's design!

Spamalot was fun, and peculiarly like going to an English pantomime; everyone there knew almost every line, and was enjoying themselves thoroughly. Bumblebee thought it was fantastic, and is still singing 'I'm not dead yet' around the house. My favorite character from The Holy Grail has always been Herbert, and I wasn't disappointed by his stage presence.

Bumblebee also got a taste of Melbourne public transport, as our tram back tot he house was more than standing room only (barely breathing room, really), with the requisite number of smelly oddballs to add flavour.

Day 22: Blogmeet! O wot fun. I really do prefer picnics to bars, although I regret not bringing a bottle of bubbly with me to celebrate Sophie Cunningham's rise to Meanjin glory. Sitting at the Botanic Gardens with the kids running around us was delightful. The Honour roll was: Lord Sedgwick; Barista; Blogger on the Cast Iron Balcony; the Feb-fasting Another Outspoken Female; Sorrow at Sill's Bend, armagnac'd; Lost in a Reverie, Lexicon Harlot, Will Type for Food, and Sophie Cunningham. All brought delightful partners/family/friends and food. It was a lovely get-together and has already borne fruit.

And then yesterday we drove home, almost without stopping, to clap eyes on poor Poodle Padge. I think he'll be ok. Thursday I fly to Mackay for the Book Arts Forum, and in the meantime I have to get moving on a couple of urgent jobs. In other words, back to my usual overworking routine. Ahh well, it was a nice holiday while it lasted...

OH! Annoying tourists. Sorry, that'll have to be tomorrow's post. I've seriously run out of time. Have to get working. Sorry to be such a tease!


genevieve said...

You have certainly packed plenty into your break anyhow, D. I do love the thought of BB singing 'I'm not dead yet'. Such cultural riches we pass down.
I'm really sorry I couldn't get there on Saturday - younger daughter was in recovery mode from her party, and so was I. I do think picnics have potential for the future, sounds like it was tres agreable.

Jennifer said...

Your boat trip to Maria Island brings back memories. We still talk about ours (which involved one of our party hitting her head on a protruding fitting during a particularly extreme wave) 15 years later.

Sounds a wonderful trip.

Anonymous said...

&Duck, I'm in awe of the things you cram into your holiday! We hardly got off our arses. Lovely to see you at the blogmeet sur l'herbe.

Ampersand Duck said...

Oh, CIB, I would have LURVED to not get off my arse.

BB sits on his arse all day in his job so he likes active holidays. I do not sit on my arse as much, and in fact spend a lot of time on my feet, and he forgets that.

I plan to spend all my spare time in Mackay sleeping... if my backpacker accommodation allows me to!

Lost in reverie... said...

What a fab and active holiday you had, &duck! The shot tower is a mighty effort - I climbed the tower when pregnant and it nearly induced labour at step #100.

It was lovely to meet you, BB and Bumblebee at the picnic. We had a wonderful time and it was nice to put faces to blogs. Ro adored running around after your boy and now wants a hat like his (to look cool).

As for writing about our experiences of reading, I have finally managed to squeeze out a tale. It's on the blog.