These past three days I’ve had an excellent demonstration of the mountainous terrain of Tasmania. I also learned that Tassie contains 70% of all the mountains of Australia, which suggests that most of mainland Australia is relatively flat. Wednesday morning I climbed aboard ‘Hobart’s Big Ticket Tour’ mini bus.
I joined a couple from Melbourne, 3 visitors from Hong Kong and one other Canadian – a young woman from Calgary originally from Nigeria. She has the fabulous first name of Oyinkan. She arrived in Saskatchewan at the age of 10, speaking fluent English, and thought it was funny the teachers had no trouble pronouncing Ukrainian names (even if they weren’t Ukrainian) but everyone struggled with her name, though it’s pronounced exactly as it reads. She owns a vacation home in Souris, PEI so I told her to look me up next time she’s on the Island.
The view from the top of kunanyi
Our first stop was the top of Mt. Wellington (kunanyi is the aboriginal name). I was glad to be wearing layers of clothes – the wind was brisk and cool up there at 1272 m above sea level, the air was clear and the views were amazing. As we descended and the sun rose higher and we hit unusually high temperatures for a Tassie spring, around 30 C. Our stops included Government House (a historic sight) and across the road, the old Hobart Zoo which has been closed for many decades. It housed the last known living thylacines aka Tasmanian tigers (which are not actually tigers but marsupial relatives of Tasmanian devils, which aren’t really devils….). We crossed the Derwent River on the infamous Tasman bridge which partially collapsed when a cargo ship ran into the support columns one foggy night in 1975.
The Tasman bridge on the right background
The 2 hour stop at the Bonorong Wildlife Park was the highlight for me. By the time we arrived at 1 pm, even the animals had enough of the heat and were reluctant to emerge from their cool dens. But our guide managed to coax the adorable, shy 16 kg teenage wombat from his lair, as well as the neighboring Tassie devils. One of the enclosures had a concrete wading pool where the devil could cool off. While we watched, sweating profusely, he grinned at us from the water where he was partially submerged. Even the kangaroos ignored us, snoozing in the shade of their trees.
Back in Hobart, after my yoga class, I met up with a local writer of YA fiction, Kathryn Lomer. It had turned into bright, warm summery night, so we had a drink at one of her favourite bars on the wharf (I sampled a local gin and tonic, very nice) and we talked about writing non-stop until it was dark and time to go home. Again, so many similar stories as we compared our respective writing lives – yet another kindred spirit on a sister island.
Thursday morning the weather was back to more typical spring – cool and rainy. Perfect for a hike on Mt. Nelson with Gina Mercer. We were originally planning to drive up Mt. Wellington but my ears were still plugged from my ascent/descent the day before (I seem to have caught the latest Tassie sinus affliction), so we decided on the shorter climb. Plus there was a lovely restaurant near the top where we had lunch after our damp hike. I tried the local blue fish dish baked with Asian steamed vegetables and a nouri omelette. Divine, I couldn’t finish it, not even room for dessert. But oh, I was tempted.
After lunch we drove back to Hobart to join the Oasis women’s poetry group that meets once a month at Mathers House. Louise Oxley, an excellent poet and teacher was leading a workshop on line breaks. Who knew there was so much to discuss about where to ‘draw the line’? We didn’t get through all the material she brought, but we have homework now and it was a lot of fun. I didn’t even know how much I don’t know about poetry, although I learned a wee bit more over those 2 short hours. And I was pleased at how many of these writers I already knew – they are such a welcoming, friendly bunch.
It seemed like I coughed half the night but I did manage to get enough sleep to feel refreshed and ready for the Pilates flow class at 9:15, then a dash home to change and catch the ferry to MONA – my big adventure for Friday. MONA stands for Museum of Old and New Art and is a 25-minute ferry ride up the river where we were disgorged to climb up 99 steps to the museum entrance. Then I walked down 3 levels into the bowel of the building to start the tour. A bizarre world of art, ancient and contemporary, it is an EXPERIENCE unique to….let’s just say it’s one-of-a-kind, period. Within 20 minutes I felt overwhelmed, and even got lost for a while. I had to take a food break in the bright sunshine before I could resume my wanderings in the underground warren of rooms and exhibits. It can be a disturbing, disorienting place, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. And there are many attendants to rescue and straighten you out. I will have to return someday, and I next time I’ll bring a buddy. Any volunteers?
This head laying on it’s side had a lot happening inside. Cannot say the same thing for the life (?) sized red car although it seemed to have a leering face – creepy.
I will finish with my evening adventure to Franklin Square, the site of Diwali, the Indian celebration of lights. The square, not far from my flat, was packed with people eating eastern Indian and Asian food, and watching singing and dancing performances on a stage. I was surprised to run into Anne Collins, another new writer friend. The dense atmosphere was very much like downtown Delhi, and my Porky Duck was delicious. I think it was duck, nicely curried, but it was delicious and I still feel fine.
It had turned cold, already 8 pm and I suddenly had the urge for dessert and a hot drink. So I marched back to Salamanca but the market was closed. Undeterred, I walked past all the pubs and cafes to see if any of them sold take-away. I decided to try a back alley I hadn’t explored yet and voila, there was San Churro Chocolateria beckoning me – eat in or eat out. I ordered a Spanish mocha made with decaf coffee and a slice of lemon curd raspberry meringue tart to go. I sipped the most delicious, hot, thick, rich chocolatey mocha ever (like Kathleen’s famous hot chocolate minus coffee). I was warm inside and out all the way home, where I finished the drink and ate half of the tart. I do need to go horizontal soon and I don’t want any regrets. Tomorrow is an open day, preparation for my workshop and more writing and reading. One week to go in Tassie land. Life is good.
Reading on the balcony in the spring sunshine