South to Hobart
Trip Start Jul 13, 2011
4Trip End Sep 07, 2011
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Where I stayed
YHA and Back Packers Hostels
My pack weighed in at 16 kilos, but when mounted upon my back and shoulders, felt as if it was almost double that.
At 4:55am, I was too alert to sleep and switched off the alarm before it rang. A quick check of the most essentials,.. a mouthful of warm sweet coffee and I was on my way to the station to make my way in by train to Sydney's Central Rail Center where I would expect to change to board a bus south along the coast road to Melbourne., then hopefully by boat across Bass Strait to Tasmania
Looking back at my travel diary, I had made the intial entry concerning,the renewal of my YHA ( Youth Hostels Australia )accommodation membership and also had booked a three month bus pass. This allowed me the freedom to hop on and off the bus almost at any destination between Sydney and Melbourne as I pleased. This was absolutely ideal, as I used it to the max and really did get excellent value for money.
Unfortunately, the new Panasonic digital camera, I had purchased, had disappeared the night before I set off on my journey, so I had to use the old standby camera, but so far, it has more than proved itself with snapping excellent quality photos. I'm not sure how I managed to lose my new camera though? This fact did dampen my mood somewhat, but that seemed most appropriate as it poured with rain all the way to Melbourne along the south east coast on my trip.
Reading the first notes I scrawled onto my pad, I noticed I had made a note that it was very dark and cold, the morning I set off for the station and my computer saying the temperature outside was minus one (-1). That is cold, but it was going to be mild compared to where I had planned to eventually head, and that was Tasmania. Yes the place where the icy cold wind seems to blow in across from the Antarctic. Freezing Tasmania, land of the Tasmanian Devil and Tiger?( Thylacine )
As I sat on the suburban train heading for Central Station, I noticed workers most probably on their way to their jobs. They slumped in cold cloth seats, reading the early morning news papers and sipping coffee from brown paper cups, Everyone else seemed oblivious to me and the heavy laden back pack, which by now was rocking to and fro on my back and shoulders in the carriage. This familiar early morning scene with dozing passengers,seemed to remind me that it really was my time to be travelling again.and not a moment too soon.
It was still pretty dark when the train carrying its passengers arrived at City Central Interchange and I hopped of the train and found my way to the bus terminal and noted it was still very dark and I would have a wait before my south bound bus would arrive. This gave me time to read the local paper and have some breakfast. I knew it would be some time before I would have a chance to eat again. By sheer luck, the bus terminal had a heated room with a t.v. screen and I sat there sipping my coffee and checking that I had the correct, destination and time printed on my bus journey ticket. I was excited if not just a bit anxious as, I really didn't know exactly what lay ahead on my journey, as I had not arranged accomodation and the thought of being stuck somewhere in the rain, did prompt me to get off my ass and brave the cold dawn and walk around the corner to where the Sydney YHA was located
As there was still some time until my bus would arrive, I began a short stroll down George Street Sydney and actually did notice the weather had begun to close in on a cold damp Sydney. I had probably picked the worst weather to travel in, as the clouds to the east and north had a very threatening thunderous appearance. I remember thinking to myself, that if this was the weather I was heading into, then it was going to be one soggy trip to begin with. That prediction eventuated to be very accurate indeed.
Finally after waiting for what seemed some time the bus arrived in its bay and finally I was aboard as it began to wind its way, through the inner city streets then out on to the highway and finally we were headed for our first major passenger pick up point in Wollongong City. This is where it really began to rain heavily and continued to do so for the next 1230 kms, almost to Melbourne
The ocean views from the road especially south of Kiama, proved to be absolutely breathtaking and the rain falling upon the heavy seas as it pounded the coastline, were quite spectacularly visible from my bus seat window. I wasn't sure how some of my photos would turn out seeing as they were snapped through fogged up glass at times but still, I was pleasantly surprised at the clarity and detail. Past Kiama the road stretches for miles aside lush rolling farm land with the ocean in the backdrop, quite often appearing then disappearing behind a grassy headland. This magnificent senery appeared now and again, with the occasional stretch of golden sand of a beach or a rivulet bank in view. Most of this scenery had been familiar to me years ago, as my father would take us on day trips on his days off work. That was all a long time ago, and I had now noticed some old buildings and road signs no longer existed but, some very nice new improvements to the roads had made traveling a lot smoother and in some places, more picturesque.
Our first port of call was the township of Nowra, which is bound by the Shoalhaven River and Great Dividing Ranges to its west. We arrived in Nowra to a very heavy downpour of rain and the bus driver commented that he could barely see the road, even with the windscreen wipers going as fast as they possibly could
One interesting thing, I recorded in my note pad was the conversation I had with a bearded man, with no shoes on his feet and long hair to his shoulders. He had obviously been sheltering in this road side cafe, his hands clasped around his warm cup of brew. He told me his name was Pete and he lived just out of Nowra, but was reluctant to come into town, as he didn't like being amongst the town's folk and then he went on to describe the problems with his estimation of the crime increasing rate there, and the general reluctance of the local council to act on any thing immediate. Pete reminded me of a modern day 'soothsayer', 'naysayer' or prophet however one may wish to describe him. Yes, more like a "Doomsday Prophet" if you like. He was a quite likeable chap, just the same, but when I told him I was headed for Melbourne, his smile faded and a depressed look once again appeared upon his unshaven face
All in all, the bus driver had given us 45 minutes to buy and eat our food then be back aboard the bus ready to roll. I could feel a a case of traveler's indigestion developing, as I tasted the greasy remains of the cafeteria food on my palate, and to make things just that bit more nausiating, the wind outside, had become so gusty, that it rocked the bus and blew the torrential rain almost vertically towards the remaining boarding passengers. I think from memory just about everyone was soaked wet through to the skin.
South of Nowra, the scenery continued to be magnificent, with occasional views of the Pacific Ocean and sandy beach inlets and finally our coach reached its next stop Bateman's Bay,which is another very picturesque sea side town, with a bridge over a river inlet widening to a bay mooring yachts and other sea going vessels
After snapping some photos of the boats being buffeted around in the inner harbour swell, I struck up a conversation with a Filippino woman whose absolute idol was 'Rose Hancock'. Rose, a now very prominent figure in the Australian World of Wealth, had begun her life in Western Australia, as a maid, married her boss and then inherited his fortune when he died. I was most impressed with the way this young woman was putting her message across, that if a man has nothing materially, he is nothing of a man and that she herself was looking for a wealthy man to take care of her. "Oh I said, can I call you Rose then?, (tounge in cheek)"the younger woman now suddenly scowled at me. "Ah true love I thought",and my final parting thought for her was that ..."I really hoped she got all that would eventually come to her,... everything she deserved".........
Boarding the bus once again, we headed further south along the Princes Highway
through towns such as Bega and a small place called Cobargo, which I could almost describe as a one horse town, just accept the horse must have run off, even if it was the middle of the night
The next port of call was to be a place right on the ocean front and I was booked into a Y.H.A. accommodation in a place called , Merimbula. On the way there whilst still on the bus, I began to worry as in the Y.H.A. guide book it said that the reception desk closed at 7:00pm sharp and that it was about 15 minutes to closing time but the bus was still an hour away. Or so I thought( actually I was a few hours away) I expressed my dismay at the prospect of being late with no where to sleep, when the bus driver suddenly sprang to life, and said, "hand me that bloody mobile phone" and then he hit re-dial and spoke to somebody at the Y.H.A.s front desk, then handed me back the phone and said,... "all settled, you'll be right mate."...and I asked, "how can you know such a thing?" and then the driver replied,."I know because the bus only goes that far tonight and I'm staying there as well,.. so they know you're on board with me, so chill out and enjoy what's left of the ride."Well", I had a smile across my dial for the rest of the way to Merimbula and being late was not going to make any difference thanks to our friendly driver.
Reading back over my visibly water stained notebook, I recall that arriving in Merimbula that the bus driver had actually dropped me off at a place called Marine Parade, from where he took the bus to the depo for refulling and said he would see me at the 'Wanderah Lodge' later
Finally, I arrived at the lodge, a sodden back pack making me stagger as if drunk, but was pleasantly surprised to find friendly staff and a hot shower with very clean facilities. It wasn't long, however, before my stomach had begun growling as I had not eaten since lunch time that day and it was now almost 10pm that evening. The problem was that the food rations I carried were either soaked and at the bottom of my sodden back pack or were just unappealing at that time. From memory it was a little of both. The other pressing problem, was that this township of Merimbula seems to go to sleep at about 7:30pm,this happens during winter months and that chances of any food shops being open thereafter was very unlikely. Still I braved a walk into town across the bridge in the pouring rain and eventually found a McDonald's Restaurant about to close for the night, but seeing that I put a good case foward, the manager let me dine in and then offered me a lift to where I was staying. Overall that was very good of her and was one more example of the kindness and friendly hospitality that I was to find on my journey south to Tasmania
Looking back over my notes, I remember jotting down:
"YHA" very clean rooms , got good hot showers,but rules,rules,rules.
Yes that may have been the case but apart from that bus driver, whom I never did see again and myself there was no-one else there to beak the rules as the signs always implied that rules were made for the good of all and that meant groups of people generally. I was about the only backpacker there and that meant I got a good night's sleep if nothing else. I noticed that I had made another entry into my travel note pad saying:
"awoke early this morning to the sound of pouring rain, dressed hurriedly then walked back into town for some breakfast" and then noticed in the light of day, just what a beautiful view lay before me, watching the boats and yachts bobbing up and down in the inner harbour of Merimbula".
As I had arrived in the dark and pouring rain, I did not notice just how close we really were to the Pacific Ocean and thought what a great town this would be in High Summer
I spent the day in Merimbula, sightseeing and chatting to the locals about the history of the township itself and noted some of their own life histories. After all I had time to kill, as the bus to the next location was not to arrive until around 6:45 pm that night. The rain continued to pour down as I sat beneath a canvass covered shop front and slowly sipped on a hot flat white coffee.' My note book records my entry at that time as saying:
Sparrows attacked me at breakfast this morning at McDonalds.-bloody nuisance, need a cat to take care of diving attacking sparrows whilst I eat my breafast.
Sunshine attempting to break through clouds but stormy clouds hovering around south eastern horizon. Have taken a good look around Merimbula; found internet cafe caught up on some e-mails, Found people from Information Centre very helpful concerning advice on prospective accommodation in Eden tonight."
As from my notes, I recall that there was no YHA in Eden but apparently there was affordable accomodation at a place called the "Great Southern Hotel", which was itself a legend landmark in the history of the old whaling town of Eden located on the far south coast of New South Wales
The rain continued to pour and the bus journey from Merimbula to Eden was just under an hour and a half. I remember being let off the bus just at the bottom of the main street of Eden in a howling wind and being buffetted around with my heavy back pack as I made my way to the great old Hotel. Upon arrival outside the old historic building, I sheltered for a while while I unloaded my pack then went inside to find the bottleshop, where I had been instructed to ask someone called 'Joe' about accommodation. As it turns out, Joe was a very good looking young lady of about 20 or so years of age and said with a smile, "You looking for accommodation"? Yes I replied, returning the smile, well she said "most of the place is brand new and is empty so you're in luck". She described the accommodation as "The Back Packers" section of the hotel but in reality, it was a building situated behind the old hotel itself. But as it turns out, it cost me the small sum of $20 per night, to stay in an empty four bedded room, -that is two double bunks- but the kitchen and shower facilities were first class. I had really landed on my feet, so that first night in Eden, I splashed out and celebrated by ordering a meal of steak eggs and chips and downed a pint of beer, which for me is unusual as I seldom drink when I travel, still I was glad to have somewhere cheap and an excellent deal, to stay for a night or two.
Roland was a computer programmer from Berlin in Germany and had rented a car and was driving from Perth to Sydney. It was unfortunate that, I was headed in the opposite direction to Melbourne otherwise I could have got a lift with him. We both had a good time chatting about our home environments and school days and families. I guess Roland liked company but at the same time was a bit of a loner, sometimes when it came to travel, although this was not the case later on when I met up with my brother Dave again in the Philippines( but that is much later).
I must also mention, that after Roland had left on his car journey to Sydney, two other visitors came to stay in the same place that I was staying and one in particular had a very interesting tale to tell about how he came to Australia
Reagan by contrast presented as more of a laconic character from Cabramatta, was quiter by nature and worked as Telecom-( now Telstra ) technician and whos job was to climb huge telecommunication towers in all weathers and maintain the equipment that needed servicing. Quite often he would be required to climb hundreds of feet up a tower that was already itself sitting on top of a two thousand foot cliff face. In heavy winds and rain that's some balancing act: harnessed or not. Jason who also assisted Reagan said he had no problems with heights as he'd worked on board a sailing ship in high seas and was quite often used to climbing the main sail mast to check the rigging and had gotten used to bad weather. Climbing towers to him was not much different. Reagan had grown up on a sheep and wheat property in Keyrang near Swan Hill, in far south west Victoria and spoke with a slow broad drawl-"hat pulled low cross an unshaven face"
I regret not having all the photos in this blog that I originally took whilst on my trip ( although some survived, but a lot have disappeared due to the loss of my camera's memory chip falling somewhere to the floor and possibly been swallowed by a vacuum cleaner ). So I can only describe in words what would have been augmented by good photos. Unfortunately, I only have my hand written notes to go by. Still, I must mention that I found an excellent Fish and Chip shop not far from where I stayed in Eden and was served by a lovely woman by the name of Kylie. Kylie was very friendly and welcoming and I ate fish and chips in her shop whilst I watched the rain pour down outside. Like many people who lived in Eden, she had travelled from Sydney, fallen in love with the south coast and settled there. Kylie was just one of the many interesting folk that I met on my first leg of my long journey.
From memory, what struck me most about Kylie was her expressive eyes and the way she made you feel at ease by just chatting away. But this sense of ease was short lived when I spotted her surly looking husband, glaring at me through the little quarto window at the back of the fish shop watching me eat my fish and chips
Moving on I visited some of Eden's historic places like, The Garden of Eden, a tiny area adjacent a small Anglican church,( Anglican from memory but in reality, it may have been another denomination. ) The garden had many rose bushes and other small low growing shrubs planted there, but at least someone had used their imagination to good effect. Still I can honestly say I'd been to the Garden of Eden and was most impressed.
Next I wandered down the steep hill towards the ocean forefront to Eden's Old Lighthouse-attached to what may have once been the lighthouse keepers cottage and was now a museum housing some very interesting historical memorabilia from whaling ship days. Unfortunately there was a pretty hefty fee for looking around inside the museum and photos were strictly taboo, unless prior permission had been sought in writing and another fee paid
A cruel wind howled as I attempted to snap digital photos in between heavy rain squalls that would come and go as I sheltered beneath a tree growing beside a park bench that had been there since, how long was impossible to tell.? It looked very old and historic itself. Still I enjoyed this stormy day as I could see quite a distance out to sea from where the lighthouse had been built and the heavy ocean pounding the southern coastline,deluged with pouring rain, conjured vivid imaginings of ships rounding the cape in the pitch black dead of night, their captains and crews watching for the Lighthouse's warning beacon.
History has it that many sailing ships and their crews had come to grief off that coast in many years gone by. Still since those years, Eden had become almost a small forgotten town as the once boomimg fish cannery factory had closed and work had trailed off and now it would appear that tourism was Eden's most active attraction.
My short stay in Eden, had been a pleasant one, if not a little damp but moving on I reboarded the 2:00am bus, this time taking me across the New South Wales / Victorian Border on to Melbourne
I had also been to Melbourne City many years before and although some places seemed to have changed little in a long time, there were many, places I did not recognize as a lot of city buildings had come and gone and the bus terminal, to which we had arrived, had been built in a place called Victoria Cross Staion. Still it did not take me long ,with the help of a map and some friendly Melbournites, to get my bearings once again and find my way to my next lot of diggs, which was the YHA in Collins street
The process of getting booked in to The YHA in Melbourne itself, was a little more complicated and took a lot longer than I had first anticipated as, there were many people coming and going ( mainly back packers) and there was a considerable wait until the busy counter staff got around to calling out my number. Still I managed to secure a shared room, even if it was through half closed and weary eyes. Some other fellow traveller, suggested I try a tumbler of water to refresh myself and I must add that Melbourne's water had much improved since I had been there last. Now it had become quite drinkable. Still someone from Melbourne may justly have said something similar about the Sydney water supply. Your taste buds are affected by your environmemnt, well anyway, according to what I had read. Still this banter, was a continuation of an inter-city rivalry that had been going on since both cities were in their infancy. Not much had changed over the years in this respect.( all good fun, as even the YHA cleaner asked me if I knew the best thing ever to come out of Melbourne..and when I answered "no, what was it.?" he laughed and said, "Why the road back to Sydney of course". ). To this day, I hold much respect and affection for Melbourne City and its people.
During the few days actually spent looking around in Melbourne,I visited the local Melborne Art Gallery, crossed the seemingly, backward flowing Yarra River a number of times,, stood on Queen's Bridge, visted the magnificent Botanical Gardens, briefly visited the famous Young and Jackson's Hotel adjacent St Paul's Cathedral,and Flinders Street Train Station. I walked down St Kilda Road to the War Shrine, where I ascended the many steps and engaged in an interesting conversation concerning the history of Australia's involvement in both the Great Wars ( 1914-1918) and (1939-1945.)..( and incidently later during my travels I found myself also standing at the foot of the steps at the Imperial Japanese War Shrine in Japan- Pleasae read for a later blog entry Japan ). Here I actually felt as if I was piecing together gaps in my knowledge of my country's history, and to make matters even more intriguing, the curator of the War Shrine, just also happened to be an historian, and so we had quite a lengthy conversation.
Whilst walking through the well manicured gardens surrounding the Shrine, I noticed a statue to commemorate, the bravery of nurse 'Edith Cavel', who was executed by enemy firing squad for helping British POWs escape. This I found particularly touching, as her statue's facial expression, to me, looked so agonizingly sad
It was whilst staying at the Melbourne YHA, that I met, two other travellers, from the University of Queensland, Jonathon and Justin. Jonathon was studying Aeronautical Engineering but said he had a phobia about flying. I found this just a bit ironic and asked him whether or not he'd already designed any aircraft? His friend Justin burst out laughing and added that, having to fly in something Jonathon had designed may explain his phobia. We all had a hearty laugh at this suggestion. Justin by contrast, was studying Biotechnical Engineering and was going to graduate from his degree soon. They had both been in Melbourne,on a hiking trip and were due to fly home to Brisbane the following morning. All three us shared the same room, and told jokes most of that evening until the last one of us drifted off to sleep
Come 6:00am the following morning,the "two cherubs"as I had dubbed them, were already awake packing their things,getting ready to head out to the airport to board their flight home. Upon their finally leaving, we all shook hands and exchanged well wishes. I made my way to the YHA kitchen on the third floor of the building and began making myself an early morning cup of coffee, when I suddenly bumped into a very friendly girl from Hamburg in Germany. Her name was Katherine, and she really was the typical goldy/blonde haired blue eyed girl from Deutschland. We immediately began to compare travel stories and it wasn't long before I realized that compared to Katherine, I hadn't really travelled to as many places as some other quite younger travellers had. Still I didn't let this worry me too much, as I knew our conversation would make for some interesting Travel Blog notes.
In the course of our conversation, we discussed our favourite animals, when Katherine suddenly said she knew her dog back home in Germany would pine for her
Moving onward, I had still not booked my passage by boat across to the Apple Isle of Tasmania
as other back packers were telling me it's much cheaper to fly and a lot quicker. Well,it's often the ride to the journey's end that makes it most memorable and the people you meet along the way that makes the journey more interesting. Flying doesn't do any of that for me. I don't see much when I fly. So I planned to take the boat across the ocean, although it may have been somewhat more expensive, that was my plan and I was sticking to it. I always said one day I would do exactly that.
I still had a few hours to make the most of, so I decided to do a trial run on the 109 tram from Collins Street in the city, to Port Melbourne, where there it sat docked at the pier. There it finally was, "The Spirit of Tasmania". It stood several stories high, large as life and able to carry many passengers and cars across Bass Strait in all kinds of weather. Magnificant, was the word I use to describe her
After I had arrived, I had a look around the boat terminal and struck up a friendly conversation with two guys named Richard and Carlos. Both of whom were very knowledgeable about plants and plant physiology. Carlos, a biologist, was from Columbia and was studying a masters degree in Soil Science and Richard from Melbourne, worked as gardener at "Huntingdale Golf Club". I found conversation easy and was able to, discuss various aspects of plant life and the general science of ecology with them. We all three got on famously and I promised that I'd e-mail them when I'd finished this blog.
Looking back at my hand written travel notes,of which I always kept handy, just in case I saw or experienced anything interesting, I note that I'd jotted down:,
"finally booked a passage on the Spirit of Tasmania, travelling tomorrow night. Boat leaves around 7:30pm- from docks in Port Melbourne. My booking is for a deck recliner- the cheapest seat on the boat and I'm hoping that, this will not mean that I shall be stuck, sitting on some toilet seat staring out the port window into the darkness"
Still cheapest seat or not, it still cost a lot more than it would have to fly, but as I said earlier in this blog, I'd rather the experience of the boat across Bass Strait, then fly and see nothing. But as it turns out, I saw next to nothing anyway, as it was almost pitch black, apart from the plethora of marine navigation lights and the lights of the occasional oil tanker, anchored in the pitch blackness of the channel, most of what I saw as my own agonized reflection of trying to get comfortable on a rediculously uncomfortable deck recliner chair.'
Looking again at my travel diary, I see and I remember how I passed my time in Melbourne whilst waiting for the day to board the boat to Tasmania: My hand written notes remind me:
"Sitting here in a cold grey Melbourne morning, as boat doesn't leave here until 7:30 pm tonight. But must be at wharf two hours before hand. This is Check In Time. Very chilly this morning and decide to walk along Flinders Street and on to Southern Cross Railway station for a hot cup of coffee. Sitting in cafe, sipping warm delicious coffee and observe Melbournites going about their early morning business against the back drop of a steel grey sky. Later I meet two Korean students back in kitchen at YHA, they are travelling to Sydney later that day, and say they love Australia
Well, I must admit, the journey across Bass Strait, was during the hours of darkness, around 15 hours but I understand now what they meant by a deck recliner. A deck recliner turned out to be an adjustable seat, snot green in colour, with foot rest, most of which were, poorly maintained and as it eventuated, extremely uncomfortable to sit in.
Of all the places that I've ever spent a night of misery during my travels and trying in vain to get a few hours sleep, that was without doubt, the most uncomfortable place I'd ever endured. That recliner,was more like what could only be described as 'torture rack'
As it was mid winter, and very few passengers aboard, so there were other recliners that were vacant, but to no avail, they were all, just as bloody well uncomfortable. It didn't matter where I sat, aches and pains had only just begun but what promised to be a sore night, actually, turned out to be a very humourous time indeed. This was because the guy in the deck recliner, next to mine, was called 'Martin' and he was a about thirty five year old Irishman from Dublin. Martin had of course professed be be a non-drinker, a good God fearing man just except that he had emptied the best part of a bottle of whiskey into his stomach and caused me raucous laughter, listening to his complaints of how uncomfortable, he had himself felt and how the booze had acted as an anesthetic to numb the already numbed limbs. This pain elixir was most necessary if Martin was going to survive a night on the high seas, stretched out in his rocking and rolling recliner chair. Martin was on his way to Tasmania, to see some of the old historical sights and see some 'Irish convict history', that was made so long ago when the first settlers were there..
I had to concede that Martin's complaining was somewhat annoying at first, but then his disguised laughter became infectious, as it sent me into spasms of laughter, listening to him saying:
"Ahrrrr feck.., fecken hell,..ah pain in me fecken back..if this is what me fecken Irish convict relatives had to fecken well put up with, on their way to fecken Van Dieman's Land,..
And also Martin, would periodically yell out:
"Oh fecken Jayses..'this fecken chair is so fecken uncomfortable", ..I think I've just about broken me fecken ass trying to sit on this feckeng thing."
I must admit that what I had suffered in being "layed out" in that deck recliner, Martin's humourous complaining more than made up for any discomfort I had experienced. Martin's comments and angry drunken outbursts continued as the ship rolled its way out through Port Phillip Bay through the night, and across Bass Strait towards the promissed land. As the ship's cabin lights dimmed, and the steward's voice suddenly came over the ship's intercom wishing everyone aboard a 'safe and comfortable night', Martin suddenly yelled out :
"Oh feck,feck, fecken jayses, he's got to be out of his fecken mind,.. if he thinks it's possible to get any fecken sleep laying on one of these fecken things."
I still find it hard not to laugh whilst telling this story as I did really trade my pain and uncomfortability for many hours of hysterical laughter at Martin's comments and the situation in general
After a couple of torturous hours and a fitful sleep, I turned towards the cabin window to see the pink glimmer of predawn light as our vessel was approaching land and half asleep, I turned to notice that Martin was no longer laying prostrate on the killer recliner chair, but now appeared to be fast asleep, wedged into an alcove on the carpeted deck area beneath his shamrock green sleeping bag, with his head cleverly placed upon an old inflated bladder of a wine cask for a pillow." "Let him sleep"!!,.. I thought to myself, as neither of us would have had more than about 2 hours at most. and besides the thought of what he may have blurted out should he be woken up, was almost unthinkable.
With the predawn light now beginning to illuminate the ocean's surface, I decided to get to my feet and then heaved my hefty back pack over my weary shoulders and fastened the waist strap tightly around my mid section. It was good now suddenly feeling the bulk of my pack slide into place in the small of my back. This appeared to be making everything feel, once again manageble.
I slid the door that separated the inner deck recliner area, from the lower outside deck to a blast of freezing cold air
The local history of Devonport, dated back to the 1850's when twin settlements of Formby and Torquay ( very British ) were established on either bank of the mouth of the Mersey River. Torquay was the larger of the two settlements, with police station, 3 hotels, ship yards and general goods store. From the 1870s until the 1880s the shipping industry grew and work was undertaken to deepen the mouth of the river port. By the time the mouth of the river could support a shipping industry, the first regular steamer services began operating between the mouth of the Mersey River and Melbourne.
For a while, I tried to imagine arriving here two hundred, or so years ago from Old Blighty. Would I have arrived as a convict in chains or would I have been a free man? I was also aware that Martin, the Irishman had certainly influenced my thinking and looking back to my Bass Strait crossing, was a bit sad that I never did meet Martin again during my stay in Tasmania
An ice chilled wind blew across my loins and down my neck as I made my way from the shipping terminal, and out onto the main road, looking for any signposts that would point out the way into the actual township itself. A brighter sun had now begun to climb into a soft blue velvet sky, although I could still see a few early morning stars were hovering low on the southern horizon. As I negotiated my way past the huge mountains of shipping containers that sat piled high upon the dock land area, I finally spotted a sign that motioned, Devonport 7 kms that way.
Later that morning after walking what seemed to be some distance, I had reached the beginning of a long bridge that lead over the wide mouth of a river, ( The Mersey ) and I had begun walking at a brisk pace. Any feeling of early morning chill had now been replaced with the bodily warmth that comes from muscular exertion, as I carried my hefty back pack along with me.
Later that morning, I had noticed that one or two early morning joggers, had offered their "good morning" to me, leaving me with the impression that they were at the very least friendly in this end of the country
From my hand written travel diary entry, I notice that I had met up with a very friendly jogger and his dog. Their names were Anthony and Ditzy. And Anthony, was an electrician by trade and he was himself a keen cyclist Travel Blogger. Ditzy dog was also out for his morning run.
" Sunday-Devonport-Tasmania: Met up with very friendly local, Anthony and his dog Ditzy, Anthony asks about my travels and I show him what I have written so far in my diary and so he reads;- Me: awoke still at sea to overhead loud speaker announcement by ship steward, boat approaching sea port of Devonport-uncomfortable night spent on recliner chair-spent most of night trying to get comfortable-chair foot rest not working, hopeless in fact-toss and turn most of night on high seas of Bass Strait-passed a few ships anchored in the middle of nowhere-alighted ship next morning early-bitterly cold wind blowing-face and fingers numb from cold chill-walked across long steel bridge into town towing heavy back pack-sore left big toe-sore muscle joints from not being used to carrying pack for such distance in cold weather.-temperature still very cold just now, even with sun shining high in morning sky-hoping morning sunshine will add warmth to surroundings and thaw out fridgid hands and face-very exhausted from lack of sleep-dreaming of hot coffee and warm bed-imagine scenario upon arrival-"Excuse me Sir, hot coffee with your breakfast, Yes Please angel.!"
Later that morning I arrived in the township of Devonport, with the wind still at my back and found a shop that said Tourist Infomation Center
Anyhow, the problem was that being a Sunday, the hotel didn't open until later that afternoon. But with one phone call, I found myself snuggly tucked in bed upstairs between crisp white linen sheets in a quaint but comfortable double bed. Nearly as soon as my head hit the pillow it was lights out.
I had awoken to another unbelieveably cold morning after spending almost an entire day and night asleep upstairs in a grand old hotel and was as snug as a bug in a rug
Later that night,I could hear the clinking of glasses and the muffled sound of voices, which appeared to be coming from the floor below my room. I quickly dressed and made my way down stairs by way of an old faded wine red coloured carpeted staircase. There at the bottom was a doorway that lead into another room, where there was a grand old wooden bar with a fine old fire place at the end of that room. I immediately felt the welcomed warmth of a log fire that had caught my eye as I entered. The sound of a violin playing what could have easily been an Irish tune, ebbed low and sweet, as if a melody playing on in the background.
I found an empty table near by the warm fireside, read the food and beverage menue, and ordered a peppered steak with chips, eggs, mushroom sauce and onions
As I sat enjoying my food drink and music, I had noticed that a pretty bar maid,seemed to be cleaning the various tables and then an elderly gentleman, or"Patrick" from memory, wielding a cane suddenly, as if from nowhere, leaned across my table, reeking of booze and beckoned me to come closer to listen to what he had to say.
I bent forward to hear the besotted old soak, say something like: "Ah come on now lad, ye can't be sittin here on ye own, nursing an empty glass now can Ye?" this guy sounded very Irish, although it was hard to tell, as every second word to me sounded 'sossed' but then again, his breath was thick with the smell of heavy booze, and despite leaning on his cane, could hardly stand up except to hang on to the table, whilst almost pulling table cloth away and sending everything plates and all sliding to the floor
"A drink "Now and Again!!!", I thought to myself,.. you'd have to be kidding... the guys almost flammable as it is.
I politely refused his seemingly well intended offer to join him at first,.. until I noticed that the bar maid had now joined the table and Patrick was hell bent on introducing his "Irish Rose daughter". Hmm I thought, I guess I could stay for just one moment, but as it eventuated, I really was there for longer than I should have been.
As we sat there, "the tree of us", I noticed the violin music had increased in loudness and was by now becoming a little raucous and uptempo. People all of a sudden began pouring into the dinning area and adjacent lounge and then it became very hard to hear anything the person sitting next to me ( which of course was 'Patrick'), had to say. And then the "Irish Rose' suddenly smilled again and came to her dear old dad's defence., with" oh don't be takin too much notice of Dad now, he means well and he's really harmless." Well more like legless, I can remember thinking, but still it was hard to move away, as I did not want to appear impolite, despite the fact that Patrick had now began ordering round after round of Guinness, and had attempted to do the Irish Jigg in time to the violin music as it picked up speed
I've never been a big consumer of alcohol, but must concede that, I'd heard Patrick comment to his barmaid daughter, that: "ah see..I knew the lad could hold his drink". But truth be known, holding my drink was not the problem, swallowing it and keeping it down was. I'd already had too much to drink and by this stage was becoming quite annoyed with myself for being trapped in this situation. Still the music continued, the crowd became wilder, and the Guinness flowed.
But despite all this, Patrick,suddely leaned across the table and asked me" Can I ask you two questions?, two questions only?" "Sure I replied" wondering what they could be now?
Patrick suddenly asked:" Are you Irish and can you sing Danny Boy?
No! I replied on both accounts, "I'm not Irish and I don't do Danny Boy!"
The Raucous music continued, and the beer kept landing in front of us
Patrick's question kept coming again and again,.."Are you Irish, and can you sing Danny Boy?"
No I answered,no I don't do Danny Boy,.
Now Partick again, same questions, but now like a record/CD thats got stuck: "Are You Irish can you sing Danny Boy.?"
This time I pretended I did not hear him ask, I smilled at the Irish Rose, and she smiled back, if not just a little 'pie eyed' herself by this time.
Then Patrick asked again, but this time, I showed my annoyance:
Are ye Irish, Can You sing Danny Boy"
"No! I'm not Irish, I replied, feeling quite irritated "and I don't friggin sing, friggen well Danny Boy.!"
With this, I think I'd surprised myself, more than anything, but I had become quite annoyed by this time with Patrick's, same questions repeatedly being asked, that I just didn't care anymore. and now glanced back across at the 'Irish Rose' who appeared to be consoling her father Patrick and whispering something in his ear. Ah at last, I had thought,.. at last she's told him to tone it down a bit, but then came another question from Patrick:
"Was ye mither Irish?"
"What on earth is mither?" I asked, the booze by now having really taken a hold of me,
The Irish Rose then answered me" I think dads asking was your mother Irish?"
No I answered! "niether was me sither or me brither or for that matter me fither"
and with that, I made my way to the gent's toilets, in all pretense of returning but headed for bed instead
I climbed almost fully dressed beneath the bedclothes, then suddenly, it was lights out.
To this day I don't have anything bad to say about the Irish, and as a matter of fact was made to feel very welcome when I visited Dublin City in 2003. Once there, I enjoyed the lite hearted company of the people that had lived there most of their lives. Looking back, I guess I was just a bit angry with myself for allowing myself to be talked into beer after quantity of beer with Patrick and his beautiful Irish rose daughter, whose name I never did get to know.
My next journey I had intended to visit the city of Launceston a few hours away. I had booked a tour on a small bus with a company I found, through the Devonport Visitor's Center and whilst waiting for the bus, read a small article in the local paper, concerning the plight of the Tasmanian Devil
It seemed that not long after, we had arrived in the City of Launceston, which was spectacular sight from the mountain range coming into the city., I had decided however, that,seeing as the bus was still parked in the roadhouse stop and that the other passengers where still eting their lunch, I approached the bus driver, and asked if it would still be possible to travel on the remainder of the journey to Hobart, to which he answered with a smile a most definite Yes, of course.
It wasnt long after that time, that we were once again refuelled and back on the road this time headed to Hobart City. It wasn't that Launceston, didn't look appealing, it was that it had huge great hills where ever I cared to look, and the thought of having to lug a great back pack around up this "gigantic hills"definitely did not appeal to me in the slightest. It wasnt a very hard decision to make at the time
As we drove on along good sealed roads, we past meadows and mountain ranges, and it was not unlike some scenery from the mailand, but then again some destinctly different from any geography that I had before experienced on my travells through this great southern land.
We drove, sometimes in silence( aprt from the chatter from other passengers) and suddenly, the bus driver would point out historical sites that made me want to stop and investigate what had actually happened their two hundred odd years beforehand, but we had a schedule to keep, as our driver explained but he, also was amazed at me telling him that I recorded events, people and places as I travelled and then later, had my stories and experiences written in book form.