Oliver is…

He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man

…done with Tasmania, for now

On a map, Tasmania is about as far down as you can possibly go, it’s a land where devils roam free and the island’s name is an anagram of ‘I am Satan’. The question one has to ask is ‘Is Tasmania hell?’

tasmanian-devils

The simple answer to that is ‘no’.

After around two weeks in Tasmania, twice as long as I’d originally planned, I’m not ready to leave at all. However, forward planning has seen fit to move me on. Strangely enough, if my original plan had come to fruition, I probably would’ve spent my whole time in Hobart and wouldn’t have thought twice about leaving.

I had to leave Sydney a bit earlier than expected (although a bit later than originally planned) when I got a text saying that my flight to Cairns (scheduled for 3 February) was cancelled because of a cyclone. Because of my earlier faffing about with flights and hostels, I was determined to get up there roughly on time so decided to find out about trains. It turns out there’s one to Brisbane from Sydney every day, where I’d have to change trains, which I found out about little over an hour before it left. Running around town desperately trying to get a train is not fun in these temperatures, especially carrying all your possessions on your back.

One thing I’m still struggling with is coming to terms with how ruddy big Australia actually is. When you look at a map of Australia, you’d guess that a train from Sydney to Brisbane would take, what, two hours? Maybe to be conservative because things over here are always bigger than you think, six hours? Right?

Wrong. That train takes 14 hours (I would try to compare this to a train journey in the UK, but you’d need to go from Aberdeen to London and then all the way back up to Dundee again, without getting off) and doesn’t even get me to my destination. I’d have to take a second train to get to Cairns, which takes even longer. I didn’t know how bad the cyclone was while I was on the train, I’d heard rumours of one brewing but hadn’t realised it had already hit. Knowing that being in an aeroplane if a cyclone did come to visit wouldn’t be great, I was grateful for my airline’s reluctance to go ahead with the flight.

When I arrived in Brisbane, at half five or six in the morning (depending on whose timezone you were using at the time) I was told by a grumpy travel worker that all the trains to Cairns were cancelled as well and there wouldn’t be any for at least another few days. Knowing that I found Brisbane was a bit boring last time I was there, I didn’t really want to stick around so I did something I’d always wanted to do and went to the airport and picked a destination from the departure board to go to. I pretty much narrowed it down to Canberra or Hobart straight away and decided that I’d extend my time in Tasmania and hope that the airport in Queensland was still cancelling flights a bit later on so I could get that money back as well (they weren’t).

When you look at a map of Australia, you’d guess that you could walk around Tasmania in a minute and still have spare time to take your shoe off, remove the stone that was slowing you down and then tie your laces again, right?

Stop being so wrong all the time. Here’s a map with Scotland slightly moved.

According to a leading encyclopediac website, Tasmania is 90,758 km2 and Scotland is just 78,772 km2 (although admittedly on my shoddy map Scotland does look a touch bigger for some reason). Also comparable is the hilly terrain, the vast woodland and huge l _ _ _ s (a vast body of water, sometimes housing monsters) all over the place. Like Melbourne, Tassie has a much milder climate than the rest of Australia, but on a hot day it still does feel a lot hotter than anything I can remember from my time in Britain. The fact that I saw vastly more bogans in Hobart than I have anywhere else has no place in this paragraph at all.

Hobart itself wasn’t brilliant, although the people in the hostel were lovely. One night an American girl and a Canadian guy recommended a newly opened art museum. They told me it had been opened by a rich Hobartian who had made all his money from gambling and after buying a ridiculous amount of art just because he could (and a mummy – this guy owns a mummy!) he hired a Melbourne architect with a good reputation to design him a $75m gallery, which he now uses to display his goods. He doesn’t charge visitors to go in either, which is a lovely touch. One of the guys working there said he’d met him a few times and he was really down to earth, and that he also put on a music festival in Hobart (again free) and gets big acts like Nick Cave to appear. This guy also asked me if I knew about Shields Up, which tickled me a little bit.

The place, MONA, is really cool. Instead of exhibits having a small placard telling you information about it, that everyone in the museum has to gather round, everybody gets an iPod touch when they go in. This machine knows exactly where you are in the museum and can tell you what exhibits are nearby. You then touch what you want to know about and you can learn about the artist or the piece of work (through reading or listening). You also get to vote whether you love or hate a piece and it goes into a huge database.

A lot of the stuff there just seemed like the sort of art someone who knows nothing about art would buy, just because he has money. I liked that. There was also some Egyptian stuff thrown in for good measure – including a mummy. This guy owns a mummy!

That night I played Yahtzee and cards with the American girl (I never did find out her name) who had recommended MONA. She was a Yahtzee shark. In our first two games she got five Yahtzees, which is pretty much professional level. I had no chance.

This is starting to get a bit long now, so some bullet points of the other good/great bits.

– spotted some wild wallabies, kangaroos, emus, a penguin, an echidna and a stick insect.

Not a stick

– took part in the second ever Run The Bridge event and got my name in the paper.

– a road trip with two Germans to see the beauty of the east coast, including the Bay of Fires and Wineglass Bay. It was a bit windy when I went to Beerbarrel Beach, this is basically my view while I was there.

– Launceston’s Cataract Gorge

– a nice journey back from Launceston to Hobart, stopping off in quaint Ross for the world’s best vanilla slice, with some lovely company

– saw the second oldest bridge in Australia

– visited an Irish bar that didn’t have any Guinness!

– a wildlife park to hang out with some devils and roos

– met Charlotta and Braidan (separately), two really ace Melbourners, which gives me more reason to head back there at some point

– saw perhaps the biggest thistle of all time

And now I’m in a whole new country, with an even great time difference to the UK and new money to try to work out. Things seem cheaper so far so I’m content for now. I’m hoping to meet up with two previously mentioned travellers and although one seems set up, I’m still waiting to hear from the other. How I hope I hear from the other.

Some of you may not be aware that Wallace had a life threatening incident in Tasmania. The only damage seems to be superficial and he’s recovering well. To see incidents of his approach to the devil’s lair, click here then follow the picture and video trail right.

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Filed under: australia, ,

2 Responses

  1. Dave w says:

    Someone was telling me about their trans siberian train journey from Moscow to Beijing, which I similarly underestimated. I didn’t think it would be 14 days.

    Apparently, if you make practically no stops and just do it for the travel, it could consume as few as 5 entire days of your life.

    Still faster than British Rail etc. (Great 1981 style joke)

  2. Jemma says:

    I KNOW WHY SCOTLAND LOOKS BIGGER IT’S BECAUSE OF CURVATURE

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