Thursday, 9th March

An easy start to the day as we packed up our bags again.  It was time to move on, although we will return to Perth to catch the Indian Pacific Train to Sydney at the end of the month.  However the key action for the day was to meet up with Helen again and pick up the automobile that is to be our transport and, from next week when Helen leaves us again, our home ………

We picked up a taxi to the Apollo car hire company near the airport. We had a very interesting taxi driver from Pittsburg USA (What are you doing here? I wanted to ask?!? Being British I didn’t!) .  It was quite a long way out of town, but when we arrived, there was Helen and a large number of other people all set to roam Western Australia with their homes on their backs…….

We had a bit of a wait but then ‘Ena’ came up with the goods and mini motor caravan 933 was ours and before long we were off.  Helen drove us out of the City suburbs and found how strong the wind was and the fact that driving little Apollo was like driving a brick!  Every gust affected the steering.  Great!

Nevertheless we kept moving south and by just after 1.00 we arrived in Bunbury on the coast and an ideal place to lunch overlooking the water.  The fresh fish was great.  Not quite knowing what to expect from Margaret River and what time we were likely to arrive, we took the opportunity to take on provisions and book a day’s wine and produce of Margaret River tour for Friday before we left Bunbury. Always good to have a plan!    All done, we set off again, this time with me at the wheel.  It was definitely like driving a box, but was equally definitely a feel of being a person of the road.  The start of the next phase of our adventure.  

Helen is with us until Tuesday so we had booked some static accommodation in Margaret River.  It was a bit out of town and definitely at the permaculture end of sophistication….. complete with pigs and chickens and surrounded by Australian Bush. 

Usually when booking accommodation one would look to ensure the right number of bedrooms, bathroom rooms or loos – one would not normally think to enquite whether such accommodation has cooking facilities. We didn’t and it hasn’t.  It has a kitchen – but no cooker.   On closer inspection in a cupboard we have found a small oven (think smaller than Baby Belling) with a rusting electric ring on top.  We are two Km’s out of town so along walk to a restaurant.   Hmmmmm.   We’ll manage.   Keith produced an amazing humous and crudités  with no cooking facilities, no sharp knives and a salt grinder that did not grind. Delicious!

Having said this we do have the wonderful 6 year old Leah living next door  (who is nearly as tall as me – it must be a family thing, the wash basin is about shoulder height on me) who offered to show us round the ‘orchard’ and lovingly shared the dozen raspberries that she really wanted to eat herself, with us.  

The wind whistled around the house, but it was quite cosy, but there was no evidence of the advertised marsupials on the grass outside at dusk. Might be something to do with the high fence between us and the bush……..

Wednesday 8th March

We set off early to catch the boat to Rottnest Island. It was 25 degrees at 8.00 am but the sun shone and there was not a cloud in the sky, although it did build up a bit later.  

As the Rottnest Ferry pulled away from Elizabeth Quay (Betty’s Jetty to the locals!) we looked back on a very modern sky line and water front.  

Nearly 2 million people live in the cosmopolitan city of Perth, the capital of Western Australia. (Western Australia is so big that if it was a separate country it would be the 10th largest in the world.) The nearest city to Perth is Adelaide which is 2,000 miles away. The Swan River Colony, the original settler site, was in fact some way down stream of the current Perth. The Swan River is 67 Km long and very wide. Beautiful, very expensive, modern houses look down on the river from its sloping banks. The whole picture is of a confident, successful boom town. In fact it is on a down turn from a double boom. For the last 10 years mineral mining and building off shore gas rigs has brought riches to many.  Sadly the tide has now turned leaving many high and dry. 

The river is comparatively shallow and not suitable for large shipping until you near its mouth at Fremantle, Perth’s close neighbour. It took us about an hour to reach ‘Freo’ as it is known in local parlance I understand. There was no quibble about large shipping here. The sight of ships being loaded with containers did my heart good as an old shipping employee…….

They even make containers into art here – as this sculpture would indicate!

Once we had picked up additional travellers at Fremantle we were soon out past a very nice green lighthouse and into the Indian Ocean and the ship’s engine got down to business. This was a grown up sea with grown up ships in the roads waiting to get into the docks.  

25 minutes and we were at Rottnest, an island just 11 Km long and 4.5 wide. It is an island made for pleasure. There are no cars on the sandy roads. If you want to travel around it you walk, take the local shuttle or tour bus or cycle, as the large number of bicycles travelling with us indicated. The ferry was full to bursting with young and old in various stages of extremely casual dress. A boat full of people going out to play!

As soon as the engine stopped it seemed, its cargo of sun seekers were tumbling off and either collecting their bikes or heading off down the jetty, keen to take up their chosen activity for the day. We were carried along on the tide of humanity and set off for the shuttle bus for a tour of the island. And what an island it is! White beaches, blue/green seas, rocky headlands……. it has it all. 

 An hour later we were back at the start and ready for a cool drink and lunch overlooking the jetty and boats bobbing in the water. There seems to be quite a lot of this at the moment….. 

We had decided to do a walking tour to learn something of the history of the island. At 2.00 pm sharp we set off with Pauline, Rottnest Volunteer, (we must be of an age – there are very few Pauline’s in the recent past!) who was doing the history tour of the day. There was only the two of us. The Quokka tour was much more popular! Having said this, we had only gone a few yards when our first Quokka came into view and very kindly posed for us!

There are reckoned to be 8 – 10,000 Quokkas on Rottnest Island. They are little marsupials, about the size of a cat, but with a tail like a rat.   He seemed happy enough!

We then heard the tale of the island.  It was first discovered by a Dutchman in 1696 who thought the Quokkas were rats…… 

Later it began to be farmed, but in the time of the gold rush it became a penal colony for aboriginals as it was found that they did not mix well with the other prisoners in the prisons of Perth.  An original prison door…..

The prison buildings and all the other buildings of the time were built by the aborigines. They must have wandered at what they were building – as one was the church which still stands today.  A church built without nails….

The original buildings were white limestone but this was later toned down to ochre by using rusting horseshoes in the mix………! And ochre they are today. 

The island is surrounded by a reef which has caused grief to a number of ships over time – there are 12 known shipwrecks along its coasts.  At an early stage it was realised that a pilot was required to take boats safely over the reef.  To this end a pilot craft was built on the lines of a whaling boat, a pilot and a crew of five oarsman and a coxswain were appointed to row him out to ships that wanted to make the journey to Fremantle.  It then took them 8 hours to row to Fremantle and another 8 hours to row the pilot back. The pilot boat still sits in the boat house.  

The island was given another role in the First World War when it became an internment camp for Austrian, German and Italian prisoners apparently…..  I would have those got them somewhat ‘off piste’ but there you are, that’s what we were told!  The problems that they brought with them were olive and fig trees. They planted them, and they are now huge, but the Quokka’s get drunk on the figs!  The fruit falls to the ground, it then ferments in the sun, the Quokka eats the fermenting fruit – and hey presto a drunken Quokka!  What fun!!
The island is purely a holiday destination now.  The corollary to the story that I found odd is that the later prison buildings – built in a circle – have been converted into a hotel – with a swimming pool!  Why would you spend time in an ex prison in a very confined space when you have all that wonderful scenery outside your barracks?!?

All very odd!
Anyway, I was paid back for mocking.  Having completed our history tour I had an ice cream. Very naughty!  I then proceeded to sit in a crumb of chocolate in my white trousers! Aargh!!! How can a little chocolate go such a long way?!  Disaster! 

Never mind – the local shop had an end of season sale, new white shorts were purchased and we joined the trippers home without Keith disowning me!  We got off at Fremantle and caught the train to Perth, beating the last ferry to Perth home.  We will have a day in Freo when we have completed the next phase of our journey.  Tomorrow we are reunited with Helen and pick up the Motor Caravan – small size!  

Tuesday 7th March

We woke up early but it was already hot!  The temperature was to get to 35 degrees.  Having gathered ourselves we set off to explore Perth.  Our apartment was on Hay Street which meant that after turning right out of the building brought us into the centre of town.   The buildings are what we have come to expect of Australian cities – a mix of very modern and old colonial.  We first headed off to the Western Australia Cultural Centre passing major earthworks going on around the station area.  

The Cultural Centre encompasses the Library, a theatre and the Art Gallery. It is the sort of Soho of Perth.  Unfortunately the art gallery wasn’t open so we headed back into town, taking in a coffee stop on a major square where children cooled themselves playing in the water fountains (Keith was very tempted to join in!) and a big green cactus – which cost squillions of dollars and caused great controversy we later understood – acting as sentinel on the road. 

Our next stop was the Western Australia tourist office where I have to report a mixed reception.  We met one very nice lady who was all smiles and helpful, and another who was probably the rudest person we have met in all of our travels in Australia.  We were trying to book a tour for Wednesday to Rottnest Island (known as Rotto locally) but decided to abandon this and her and instead head off to the harbour to book the trip there.  
The Queen Elizabeth Quay is really attractive, although there is still quite a lot of work going on there. We booked our ferry and headed off to the Lucky Shag (Keith tells me this is something to do with Cormorants……) for a beer and lunch.  This all worked out very satisfactorily but I wasn’t certain about being sprayed with a haze of water every few minutes – and Keith was very puzzled to be told that there was no beer on tap as it was too hot.  Hmmmmmmm – there was a good view though!

Feeling refreshed by our waterside experience, we headed away from the water – passing the Bell Tower

And the old Law Courts representing very different eras!

After a bit of shopping we headed home to deposit food purchases before setting out for a tour of the Perth Mint. Here we learnt of a different aspect of Australia’s history – that of the gold rush. While gold had been found elsewhere in Australia and started the hunt, in Western Australia, William Ford and Arthur Bayley were the two lucky prospectors  in 1892 who found themselves caught in a storm that surrounded their tent with water.  When they woke up in the morning the water was found to have left deposits of gold behind.

  This major find in Coolgardie heralded a influx of people to the area. Unfortunately people found that having reached the Swan River Colony (that was later to become Perth) they still had a forty day walk to the goldfields.  They employed all manor of transport to get there – camels, bicycles and some just walked pushing a handcart.  Some did not survive.  Some became rich.  What they did do was increase the size of the growing nation.  Overall the number of new arrivals looking for gold exceeded those who had been transported as convicts!

The gold in the mint is impressive – not least the gold coin struck for Queen’s Diamond in 2012. It was huge – 

It weighs 1 tonne and at today’s value is worth $57,543,966.10.  Not to be sniffed at!!

We were also treated to a demonstration of pouring a gold bar – a very hot business! – and were able to touch a very large gold bar, which is probably the nearest I will ever come to great wealth.  

At this point we adjourned to the cool of our cave – the apartment has very efficient air conditioning!

Monday, 6th March

We packed up, consumed our remaining fruit for breakfast, and put the rest of the leftovers into a wrap for the journey and we were off. The chill of Tasmania was in the air. In fact it was cold. Time to leave for warmer climes! The temperature in Perth is in the thirties. 
We returned to Hobart airport, left the car and caught the flight to Melbourne, the first leg of our journey. We had a two hour wait there, much improved by spending it in the Qantas lounge,  courtesy of Helen. We moved back three hours in Perth…….

At the airport we parted company with Helen who went to spend a couple of days with family. We took a cab to the centre – to Keith’s delight passing the WACA on the way. It was Labour Day and a Bank Holiday so we bought some food in a supermarket and returned to our apartment to eat it and try to get our hours sorted out.  

Tomorrow we will explore Perth……..

Sunday, 5th March

We woke up to a dull day, perhaps a more appropriate light to visit the Port Arthur penal colony historic site in a more realistic light. 

The day did not start well. We had only gone a few yards up the road when we realised we had a puncture.  Disaster, or so it seemed when we could not get the wheel nuts undone.  Enter Pino, our next door neighbour at the Shack. We had seen him earlier in the day cleaning the fish he had caught in the bay.  He very helpfully appeared armed with a bigger wrench and more muscle power, we were soon back on the road.  Thank you Pino!

While we were sorting our tyre problem a cruise ship had appeared in the cloudy distance.  We arrived at The Port Arthur site to find bus loads of people from the ship at the Visitors Centre – our familiarisation visit on Saturday had proved most fortuitous, today there were far more people!   Nevertheless, despite the additional numbers, it was a very interesting visit.  There is so much that could be said, but I will record here the things that have made a lasting impression on me.  

Two major bush fires in 1895 and 1897 rampaged through the area and reduced the site to the ruins that can be seen today. 

 The large main building was initially built as a mill and granary with the mill wheel literally driven by manpower – there was no flowing water supply!  It was converted into a penitentiary which consisted of 136 cells on the lower floors for the most most dangerous prisoners.  These cells were 4ft wide, 10ft long and 8 ft high.  The men would sleep in hammocks that hung by hooks embedded in the wall. The floor above the cells was a huge dining room which doubled as a school, an assembly place for Catholics and a library.  The top floor was a large dormitory, 11 ft high and designed to accommodate 348 sleeping places in two tiers. These were for the better behaved convicts.  

This accommodation contrasted dramatically with that at the Commandants House where he and his family lived in some splendour, complete with a grand piano…….  I noticed that none of the rooms in this or any of the civilian areas looked out on any of the convict areas.  A beautifully laid out garden complete with central fountain provided a secluded promenading area for those who weren’t convicts.  

All of the prisoners wore shackles whatever they were doing to stop them escaping into the bush.  Repeated offenders would be given heavier leg irons that would be riveted on.  These could weigh up to 18 kgs. Their uniforms were made of felt, that once it got wet took ages to dry. The outfits were yellow (easy to spot at a distance) and grey and made in a jacquard defect like a court jester to humiliate the wearer. 

In addition to the mill wheel, prisoners also powered a man propelled tramway that ran for 6 Km’s and transported people and goods around the peninsula.  Another heavy use of manpower was for the moving of large pieces of felled timber. These were called Centipede Gangs and would form the first 6 months activity in any convicts life at Port Arthur. Up to a hundred men would be required to walk two abreast and move in unison with the wood on their shoulders which gave the impression of a human centipede. It was a dangerous business. A line of men could collapse like a pack of cards if a man in the front stumbled. Men were killed and limbs were  broken or were severed under the weight of a large tree falling during such a calamity.  

Hangings and whippings were commonplace but I think for me the worst punishment was that that took place in the Separate Prison. This was a purpose built prison block, aimed at taming the ‘incorrigibles’.  It was based on an experiment devised in the Pentonville Prison in London and worked on the theory that if kept in total isolation, without a name (they were referred to purely by number) and in the dark and silence, the prisoner would come to reflect on their crimes and repent. Extraordinary lengths were taken to ensure total silence, including matting on floors, hoods were worn over heads to ensure that  an individual could not see or be seen by a fellow prisoner when out of their cell for the one hour exercise they were allowed each day.  This was taken alone in a high walled yard. 

At the church service they attended once a week they were locked in individual booths to ensure isolation even though they were part of a congregation.  Many of those exposed to this ‘model treatment’  left it insane.  It was a spooky place and not to be forgotten.

(Me demonstrating the way it worked!)

We listened to the history of the buildings and watched a play performed by actors who took on the role of real people who had lived and worked there.  It was disturbing stuff.  

We spent most of the day wandering the Port Arthur site and listening to the commentary.  To complete our visit of the goals of the area, we then left to visit the Coal mine,  another penal establishment a short distance away.  Another site of much misery in its time, but established on a wonderful promontory  overlooking another beautiful bay of the peninsula. 

 This is probably the least known of the experiment in the punishment of crime upon which the Australian nation was founded. The ‘worst of the worst’ were sent to mine coal.  The miners dug by hand about three tons of coal a day. The quality of the coal was poor and it was a short lived operation.  During its busiest years, 600 prisoners, civil and military officers lived and worked at the mines. By the late 1830’s the majority of coal used in Van Diemen’s Land was produced at the mine. However, after 15 years it was handed over to private enterprise and by 1901 it was gone.  All that remains is some brick walls, some underground cells where the prisoners were housed in what looked like coffins built into the rock and the boarded up mine shaft entrances. 

 It is now a peaceful bush overlooking the sea with no echoes of the voices that once resounded in the landscape.  It was silent except for the odd birdcall and the rustle of animal movement in the undergrowth.

Keith was by now totally ‘gaoled out’.  It was quite hot and the sun beat down. Time to head back to the Shack to consume the left over food and pack our bags.  Tomorrow we leave Tasmania behind and head to Perth.  

Saturday, 4th March

We got up early as Wendy and Sarah wanted to go to the market before they took off for Sydney, so we were packed up and had left Hill Street before 8.30 and had arrived downtown and found a parking space before 8.45! The market was already quite active when we arrived.  It was huge.  All manner of different wares were on sale from vegetables to ceramics, whisky to jewellery.  It took nearly 3/4 of an hour to walk from one end to the other.  Different musicians played at intervals along the route.  We were very impressed with the standard of the goods on sale –  some things may not have been to our taste, but there was no rubbish.  As the morning progressed, it got busier but it was all very good humoured and we managed to get away reasonably unscathed financially – our only purchases fresh produce for our stay at Port Arthur, where Helen, Keith and I are heading when we have dropped the girls at the airport.   

What we could not believe was that as we turned up through the gardens to meet up by the car, we could hear the dreaded bagpipes again! There,  fully kitted out in kilts and sporrans was a whole group of bagpipe men!  (Collective noun unknown – perhaps ‘a wheeze’?!?) It was as though they came to haunt us – a last lament for the girls leaving Tasmania!

Back in rhe car we headed out to the airport, not twenty minutes from the town centre, over the famous Hobart bridge that spans the broad mouth of the River Derwent as it enters the harbour. To our left there was the smokey evidence of a bush fire raging out in the hills.  Hobart  has been just amazing!  Of course we have seen it at it’s best.  Wall to wall sunshine.  By all accounts, unheard of!

After a sad goodbye but ‘a bientot’ to our chums, we changed our big car for a smaller version, packed up our baggage and the three of us set off for the final stage on our Tasmanian adventure – another prison site – Port Arthur.  Another place that struck fear in the heart of the convict. The men’s prison for second offenders off the furthest south westerly point of Tasmania.  It’s intention, to be ‘a machine to grind rogues into honest men’.  I am not sure that it often worked…..  

Our route out, once  we had left the town of Sorell behind where we made our initial purchases what seems aons ago (but is only two weeks) when we flew into Tasmania, took us south towards the peninsula that has Port Arthur on its southernmost edge.  Along the way we veered off to inspect what was described as a  ‘tasselated pavement’. The views along the way were tremendous and we could see the peninsula with its two rocky outcrops on the hazy horizon.  

The ‘pavement’ was fascinating.  An area of flat rocks that had been eroded over time by the salt in the water washing over it.  It was like a smaller version of the Giants Causeway in Ireland!  We took the path down to it and wandered along the rocky outcrop and wondered at the straight lines……. nature never ceases to amaze!

Back up the slope we were on the final leg of our journey.   The isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck is only 78 yards across at its narrowest, where the peninsula joins the mainland of Tasmania.  In past times it was guarded by ferocious dogs (deer hounds and mastiffs). chained in kennels at yard intervals, to dissuade any ‘would be’ escapee from the prison from trying to cross it.  Today it is overlooked by houses that are banked up on the hill on the surrounding hills, with amazing views over the water on either side.  

Passing the entrance to the Port Arthur Visitors site, we decided that we would first go and find our accommodation.  To our delight, (Keith had excelled himself!) our home for the weekend was a wood built bungalow named The Shack overlooking the water.  In addition, we were subsequently discover, we looked out on The Isle of the Dead, the small island in the middle of the bay where the inhabitants of Port Arthur were buried.  Military, freemen and their families at the top of the rise with tombstones.  1,769 prisoners buried in a lower area with nothing to mark there passing .  A hierarchy even in death! 

To the right along the coastline we could clearly see the remains of the Point Puer Boys Prison, a purpose built juvenile reformatory where boys as young as 9 could be transported.  The average age of the boys held there was 14.  The boys were kept separate, as a new development, to protect them from the criminal influence of the older convicts.  Point Puer was renowned for its regime of stern discipline and harsh punishment, but all the boys were given an education and some the opportunity of trade training.  For many a better life than in the industrial cities of England at the time……

Now might be a good time to comment on what led to the setting up of convict centres miles away rom England.  The concept of the transportation of ‘undersirables’ had started in the 1700’s with people (criminals or religious heretics)  being despatched to Virginia in America.  A combination of the onset of the Industrial Revolution, seeing large numbers of people leaving the land for the cities, and the return to England of soldiers at the end of the war with France with no jobs to go to, saw increasing pressures on the need to maintain law and order and what to do with recalcitrants.   The number of ‘undesirables’ increased and when the Declaration of Independence occurred in America there was a need to find a new destination for the large number of offenders that was building up…….. they found the answer in Australia and subsequently Van Diemen’s Land.   

In order to make the most of our day, we took off for the Visitor Centre again, bought our tickets and took the harbour cruise to see the site from the water and then the introductory walking tour to get ourselves familiarised with the site ready for closer exploration on Sunday.  A good plan!  

Before the boat trip we past enormous trees planted in the 1830’s and glimpsed at what would have been the dockyard. Now a rusting metal sculpture of the ribs of a ship indicates where the shipbuilding took place. During its 25 years of operation, it produced 16 large decked vessels and 150 small open boats.  At its peak, 70 men worked there and it incorporated a blacksmiths workshop, two sawpits, two steamers for bending timber a rigging shed and several other workshops.  It would have been a hive of industry.  

Our short harbour cruise enabled us to see the Dockyard, the Island of the dead where we  could see the headstones through the trees and the shoreline of Point Puer Boys Prison.  

The walking tour gave us a good overview of Port Arthur, its people and its past.Port Arthur covered an area of 100 acres.   At its peak in 1840 more than 2,000 convicts, soldiers and civil staff and their families lived there.  A range of goods and materials were produced there – everything from worked stone and bricks to furniture and clothing, boots and shoes, boats and ships. 

When the transportation to Van Diemen’s Land in 1853, the flow of convicts stopped and Port Arthur became an institution for aging and physically and mentally illconvicts, finally closing in 1877. For a short time it became a small town renamed Cararvon to disassociate it from its convict past but it was found to be a tourist attraction and by the 1920’s it was Port Arthur again and an historic tourist attraction was born. 

For us, it was time to adjourn to the beautiful view from the deck of our Shack. Here we watched and listened to the birds on the beach whilst pondering on the lives of those buried on the Island of the Dead, with a cold beer in our hand. ….   
PS you will be amused to note that I was almost lost in the bathroom of the Shack when I appeared in almost identical colour tones!

Friday 3rd March

For the first time in many days we woke to a grey sky.  It was quite cool.  A good day to visit an art gallery – and what an art gallery it is. Built slightly out of town on the edge of the harbour, the MONA is the $75 million Museum of Old and New Art created in 2011 by an interesting chap called David Walsh.  It houses everything from ancient antiquities to very modern art.  All are mixed together, an eclectic melange of painting, sculpture, textiles and digital exhibits. 

I call this picture ‘Waiting for Culture’!

We arrived early and waited outside for the gallery to open.  This is an external piece, a truck carrying a cement mixer made entirely of rusting metal filigree…….

The extraordinary inside installation is arrayed across three underground floors buiilt inside a sheer rock face.

The walls, corridor and ceiling of the interior.  

The exhibitions use the ultimate in modern technology to give you a multi sensual experience. 

There is currently an exhibition entitled On the Origin of Art on the very lowest floor.   The Visitors Guide describes it as follows: ‘We need art, but for what? David Walsh asked some of his scientist buddies this question. Four answers.  Four exhibitions.  One man’s crusade to piss off art academics’. This provocative statement summed up the exhibition – and David Walsh! 

 There were four very different themes looking at the motives for art  under the headings:

‘Art Because We Can’ by Steven Pinker

‘Natural Pattern in Art’ by Bryan Boyd

‘Art to Attract Mates’ by Geoffrey Miller

‘Art and Nature-Harnessing’ by Mark Changiz

All were entered along twisting dark hall corridors, so were approached from complete blackness. They were all very interesting and challenging in their own way, some very much more enjoyable than others and some that could not be described as anything less than pornographic.  
I think my favourite was the Kusama Room by an 86 year old Japanese lady.  

The exhibitions took very contrasting views, drawing on all manner of ancient and modern work it was amazing!  We took all morning to cover all of them!

After a lunch spent outside – all clouds had disappeared  – it was back down underground to look at the rest of the floors.  What a mix of material!  Some of my favourites were – an amazing rug from Baku in Azerbaijan………

A metal head – with a window to see the wires and birds inside…….. felt like me sometimes!
And two live  gold fish in a bowl on a chair…… under a knife !?!

There was singing and sound and videos in slow motion and a man demonstrating the technique ‘camera obscura’ – all over n all it was an amazing place set up by an amazing man who won the money to fund it in a gambling syndicate……. !

It was the last day for all of us to be together, Wendy and Helen are returning to Sydney on a Saturday.  We have been so lucky to have them with us – they are wonderful travelling companions – and we have to thank Sarah for all the homework and finding the amazing places where we have stayed. We hope that one day they will come to the UK and we can return their kindness …….  I am missing them already!

As it was,  we went out for a Greek meal reviewed all our favourite bits – which for me was every moment…..

Tomorrow (before they go) the famous Salamanca Market.  

Thursday 2nd March

We had booked to go to the Cascades Female Factory, the title given to Hobart’s women’s prison. We walked down the hill and along a shallow waterway called the Hobart Rivulet.  Our view of it was of a little water trickling over shiny, exposed rocks.  In the days of the Factory it carried sewage and the detritus from the tannnery on its banks, worked the mill and on a bad day flooded the prison yard, particularly the punishment cells because water drained their way.  It was a three km walk along the river bank in the sunshine.  

Between 1788 and 1853 some 25,000 women were transported o Australia for their crimes. The crimes they committed were often petty and related to keeping a family fed.  Approximately half came to Van Diemen’s Land and most of these spent time in one of the five female factories on the island.   These establishments served many purposes: as a prison, a place of punishment, a labour hiring depot, nursery, a lying-in hospital for pregnant female convicts, a workplace and temporary accommodation until they were ‘married’ or assigned to free settlers or colonial officers at the end of their sentence.  It is thought that 13,000 female convicts came to the island between 1803 and 1853 and of these 6,000 spent time in the Female House of Correction or, as it was known, the Cascades Female Factory, at the base of Mount Wellington.  

We arrived early (we had booked in for a theatrical portrayal of life in the prison), so had time to tour the site beforehand. We were there on a beautiful sunny day in 2017.  

Two reprobates found in the now pretty courtyard  3 of the prison, the scene of misery to so many in times gone by. 

Today the yards are empty and the 13 ft high walls that divided up the  areas are gone.  In its day each yard (and ultimately there were five of them) had two-storey buildings lining each side of the yard with day rooms to house the women, a hospital kitchen and nursery.  The courtyard in the centre was divided into seven individual yards one for the entrance and offices, one for each of the hospital, nursery and a yard for each classification of women adjacent to their sleeping rooms and work spaces. There were 12 solitary confinement cells in the north west corner and a chapel and storerooms in the centre.

These places were hell on earth.  

In the Matrons house, the only original building still standing, the registers of the names of the prisoners tell their awful story.  The folder listing the infant deaths at the prison is, in some ways, even more harrowing.  I thought the rusting metalwork representations and ground markings to show where walls had been were quite effective in helpin is visualise the place.  The actors’ betrayal of life in the prison told a very powerful story. Those women who worked within the prison picking oakum, washing for the prison and other institutions, mending, sewing  and cooking were subject to appalling conditions, underfed, in the summer worked 12 hours a day (they worked daylight hours) and were treated with extreme brutality.  Those who were ‘hired out’ were subject to the vagaries of those who hired them for work.  Often these women would be returned to the institution pregnant and would then, after the. delivery of their child,  be placed in solitary confinement for 6 months as a punishment for a ‘crime’ they had no power to prevent as they were literally slave labour.   The child would be taken away very shortly after its birth and put in a nursery where they were ‘packed like sardines in brine’ as one commentator of the time put it and placed ‘nose to tail’  in cribs, often covered black with lice. Another contemporary comment was that the ‘babies were silent, too weak to cry’.  If they survived, the children would eventually be sent to an orphanage and never seen again. Survival was a big ‘if’. 

Another punishment was an iron collar placed around offenders neck.  This weighed 9 lbs. This device fitted close to the neck and was about two inches deep.  It had 6 ins spikes all around it making it a permanent torture, sleep would have been impossible with it on.  When it was removed it would have inevitably cut into the neck and done permanent damage…….

The plight of these women was the concern of some and attempts were made to improve their lot.  However nothing could really improve matters, particularly the issues of overcrowding (at one stage there were 700 prisoners in a space for 200) and the fact that due to the high walls around the place, very little light got into the yards. 

The actors brought to life the unrelenting harshness of the regime in which the women lived.  The lightest disobedience to the rules was punishable.  Most never returned home and there was a very poignant letter that has survived from a man to his wife who was transported to the prison. It was heartbreaking.

After this sobering experience we were lucky enough to be able to adjourn to the Cascades brewery which is located, rather ironically I thought, a little distance away where we reflected on what we had learnt over a drink and then meandered home to our accommodation on the hill.

Keith and I had decided to go out to dinner at a local restaurant called Templo.   It was excellent. Amazing food produced by two very young chefs.  There were just twenty covers and it was very social. A great night out.  Then it was back up the hill and home to bed. 

We are heading to the MONA art gallery on Friday for a bit of culture…….

Wednesday 1st March

Helen has now rejoined us.  She flew in late yesterday afternoon, her mission accomplished. As the others had all been to Hobart before, Keith and I decided to take off for an exploratory tour of the City while the others went off to Bruny Island. 

We set off on foot down the very steep hill to the City centre.  The houses en route were remarkably English looking with bay windows and front gardens often with roses and fuschias interspersed with the more exotic Australian flowers. At first glance the City looked a fairly typical town centre although it’s steep hills seemed slightly reminiscent of scenes I have seen of San Francisco.  Having never been there it is difficult to say whether this was a realistic comparison.  

However once we reached the harbour it was rather different.  As it was quite warm, circa 28 degrees, we decided to let someone else take the strain and hopped on an open topped bus to make a tour of Hobarts highlights.  

We first took off along the water front which used to be busy with the shipping of fruit from Tasmania- apples, cherries, soft fruit and berries – throughout the world.  This trade has now diminished and the sand stone warehouses have been given over to bars, restaurants and art galleries.  There is a famous market held in the area every Saturday – the Salamanca Market. The imposing old custom house, now the Tasmanian parliament building looks on ponderously. 
Hobart harbour is over three times larger than Sydney harbour and it is where the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race ends.  The city is overlooked by the huge Mt Wellington which can be seen at every turn and rises 4,100 above sea level. 

Our tour gave us a good overview of the place including the huge bridge that crosses the Derwent River as it runs into the harbour. (Apologies for the poor quality of this picture – taken through the bus window.)

 Leaving the bus, we wandered around the harbour and had a fish lunch overlooking the water.  There was quite a lot of activity, with ferries coming and going, yachts going through their paces and serious looking fishing boats moored up. 
Leaving the harbour behind we decided to take a walk around Battery Point.  This area used to be home to a close knit working class community.  The majority of the people worked on the waterfront, had little money and large families.  Although the French were the first Europeans to visit Tasmania, the British arrived in 1803 and took the island over and the buildings have a strong British feel. Occasionally we came across larger, more imposing residences like Narryna, once owned by a Scottish whaling captain called Andrew Haig. Within two years of his building the house his fortunes had changed, there was a down turn in whaling and he had to move out.  Many of the buildings were much smaller and there was a little row of shops, now trading as tea rooms and boutiques, that marked the centre of the ‘village’.The most notably ‘English’ area was Arthur’s Circus.  For over 100 years these crowded working class cottages housed large families whose livelihood depended on the waterfront. They now sell for $1,000,000 
It was a great walk, but having taken in the history, a beer was definitely required and we adjourned to Salamanca Place to watch the world go by under the shade of a much appreciated umbrella. 
We then took a taxi, rather than climbing the steep hill to our eyrie, and a quiet evening at home ensued, prior to another exciting episode tomorrow.  

Tuesday 28th February

Another beautiful day in paradise!  We got up fairly promptly as we were setting off for Hobart, a good five hours drive away and the plan was to break the journey with a walk around the Lake St Clair region, the south western lake in the Cradle Mountain National Park. 

Our route initially took us up through thick rain forest as we left Strahan and its harbour behind.  Rising up behind the forest was a string of mountains looking like a spine of grey rock. A wooden pathway hung off the side of a hill in the near distance in a very precarious fashion……… no doubt a track used by the miners.  We were back in mineral country. 


As the road flattened out again, an air strip came into view.  The runway looked pretty dusty, no sign of so much as a wind sock!

 We passed through Queenstown, where we saw absolutely no-one, and resumed on the road out f the town, which twisted and turned as we made our way eastward.  Unexpectedly we found ourselves caught behind four vehicles – unheard of!!  We travelled in convoy with them for at least half an hour before the road widened sufficiently to pass them. 
After 94 Km’s we turned off to have a break at Lake St Clair.  The Visitors Centre was full again, but once we headed off on the Platypus Trail we saw very few people.  The walk was for just an hour. We saw no Platypuses, but the scenery as always was awesome. They had felled some huge trees along the path and others went straight up to the heavens with a few branches right at their tops showing some leaves.  

The path was broad and clearly defined, and we eventually reached the twinkling lake with its sandy beach………

Following our walk it was a quick lunch and back on the road to Hobart.    It was another couple of hours to the city.  Initially the road ran parallel with the lake, but eventually this was left behind and we were into meadowland and the road became much straighter.  We passed a hydro electric plant in a deep valley and we were then back to sun bleached grassland.  
Telegraph pylons marched across the landscape. Black cows grazed in fenced fields.  There were homesteads that looked remote but it was now only an hour to Hobart…… and then we were meeting traffic and there were roundabouts and a traffic jam. We were in the City. 

We made our way to our accommodation on the West side – our home for the next few days.  Tomorrow we explore Hobart.