The Tasmania problem. In a way, I have a problem with Tasmania which emerges every time we get into a car. No matter which way one turns, there is nearly always an urge to take a photo in what is without doubt, the most varied, interesting and beautiful state in Australia.
This day it was windy and cold, but tucked in beside the creek was surprisingly calm, pleasant even, especially with the sound of the stream ‘The Elizabeth River’ to give it proper title, rippling over the rocks a few metres away. We were on our way to Hobart to meet up with two new house mates, Winston and Champ and their bipedal staff, John and Julie having left our previous hosts in the beautiful village of Derby far behind.
It was just a short walk into Campbell Town over the ancient red brick bridge and as strolled along, as only those ‘on holiday’ types appear to do, we noticed an interesting line of similar bricks bedded into the footpath that began near our camp and led almost all the way to the other end of this small busy township.
Twenty thousand bricks represent a quarter of the eighty thousand convicts transported to Australia and each brick is inscribed with whatever details were available, the date of transportation, the crime, sentence and so forth. While there is no doubt some of the convicts were not exactly honourable types, there’s a certain sadness in looking at the details of the very young whose petty crimes were ones of survival.
It seems astonishing to me that the bridge itself was built with over a million hand-made bricks on flat ground some little distance from what was a village over a period of 2 years. Upon completion the convicts were ‘encouraged’ to dig two one-kilometre-long river-bed sections, one on either side, which were joined up to the river and the old course filled in.
The first sight of the park was intriguing, the stout red brick bridge at one end, shallow crystal clear water at its side and trimmed with long weeping leaves that reached the ground, hiding it from the passing traveller. Few, relaxing under the shady trees, probably realise that this was all dug by hand or that more than three quarters of all Tasmanians are descendants of those hard working convicts.
Meeting the boys
The eastern outlook from John and Julie’s house is spectacular, worthy of the upmarket label given Sandy Bay, a suburb that commands magnificent views over the River Derwent, which I’ve come to know is the correct title for this beautiful tract of waterway, over-looking the grandeur of the soaring Tasman Bridge.
We received a cautious but warm reception from our new bosses, Champ and (call me Winnie) Winston and great hospitality from John and Julie. We spent the cool afternoon in the summer section of the house, a semi-outdoor entertainment area, complete with a huge TV screen, BBQ, casual dining area and an old pianola.
Julie (our hostess) and I will take the energetic Winnie to the beach in the morning. I gather the plan is for Winnie to chase the ball, both in and out of the chilly water, while I waddle along like the Michelin Man in 25 layers of whatever I can find. Champ’s not coming as he is too old and has arthritis. I think we’ll develop a deep and meaningful connection.
At least living in Hobart, I thought, distracting beautiful scenery should be less of a problem. After all, it’s just another city. This turned out to be a false assumption as most of my assumptions are. Everywhere one turns, another photo opportunity beckons ‘take one here’.
This city really is a charmer, with a feeling of a large city, tallish buildings, busy one-way streets, alleys and traffic lights. The only things missing are the smog, the omnipresent bus, the racket and the diesel fumes which allows one to enjoy his or her coffee in the al fresco. One can even find a very modestly priced parking meter less than a 100 metres from all the major retail stores, shopping malls and the commercial centre of the city heart.
How it manages to be both big and small at the same time mystifies me. At the eastern end of the city, a short walk from the centre, you can find fishing boats cheek by jowl with international hotels and the symphony orchestra. A short walk takes you to the famous Salamanca markets and the extensive wharves that service the ships preparing to sail for Antarctica.
In this mix, it’s the homely openness that is most striking, except for the beauty. The buildings, the waterfront, the parks, the stone houses and small streets are all intertwined with the shoreline and the passing river traffic presided over by the magnificent Tasman Bridge.
The River Derwent is a river in name only. The estuary that hosts the city is lined not by muddy foreshore but by sandy beaches and rocky outcrops with real waves and a slight swell that gives the game away. Head south down the river and the next stop is Antarctica and the gales of the fearsome Southern Ocean.
This is an endlessly fascinating place to just ‘be’. I can count on one finger the times I have said of a city “I could live here”.
Now I want to drive the spectacular coast to Cygnet and up the Huon Valley. I can’t believe it can be THAT good.
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