Friday, January 31, 2020

Trentham - Country Living

We're visiting Mike and Liana who live in Trentham which is a very small town north of Melbourne.

You might refer to it as a 'weekend' town as many of the houses are inhabited by folks who just come here from the city on the weekend. Many of the 2 dozen or so shops/cafes are only open Fri-Sun.

This is the Main Street on a Thursday about 6 pm.

About 25% of the businesses are coffee shops. The others are either funky gift shops or high end ladies shops that sell white linen dresses (you know the kind). We started our walk into town and stopped at Chaplins, one of the trendy coffee shops. This architecture is typical of the area. 

Amazingly enough on this day every week from 11-1, Liz, bassist and jazz singer, performs. She’s a local musician that entertains in the cafe and was superb. We could have sat all day and listened.

As well as the shops on the Main Street there are a few little alleys that lead to the bakery and the pizza place behind. 

But when we got to the back we found this:

One of the stores in town, Two Fat Wombats, makes all manner of creatures and (?) stuff. Ross actually bought an animal at the store. I’ll let you guess what is was but suffice it to say that he definitely needs another suitcase to take that and his stuffed animals home!  

Trentham is close enough to Melbourne that one day we took the train into the Australian Open Tennis. We didn’t buy the 'many hundreds of dollars tickets' that allow you to access the big stadium but saw Jr girls and boys, wheelchair, legends of Tennis, doubles etc. It was fun to take in the surroundings and all that goes on at a big tournament like that. 

The weather here is quite changeable from a high of 37 yesterday to pouring rain today (which makes the locals happy) to a low of 6 forecast for Monday. We ventured out on a few of the nice walking paths in the vicinity (The Wombat Trail) but I’m sorry to say we haven’t seen a wombat (yet). 

Monday, January 27, 2020

MONA, Convicts and Unusual Geology

I’ve been to a few different modern art museums but the Hobart Museum of Old and New Art really pushes the definition of art. Upon arrival, there is a vineyard which posts signs like this to keep dirty humans out:

The building is entirely underground (built into the side of the cliff?) and connected by very dark tunnels. There are no windows. At the start is a beer roulette which Ross tried and got a Pilsner (from about 8 choices). 

Displays included virtual reality, a real 'digestive' system that is fed 2x a day and poops once a day, a tattooed man who has been on display since 2011; this drawing machine that is powered by the wind outside:

Another display was a giant waterfall that, with the use of a computer and lights, produced words pulled from current news items. Not sure what the one below is. 

None of the art has labels but instead you’re given an iPod like device that uses GPS to give you information about art works nearby. You can read or listen (or both). 

This room was kind of psychedelic made of glass and plastic although Mike told me it was phallic.

Port Arthur is well known for 2 things. In the 1800s it was a convict prison and is now a UNESCO site. And in the 1990s it became infamous as the site of a mass murder which led to Australia banning guns. 

The prison site is quite interesting as they have a lot of information about those who lived there. The buildings are mostly deteriorated but some have parts still standing. 

On the way back into Hobart we came upon some very interesting geological features. This first is a huge chasm called Tasman Arch which creates a bridge several hundred feet above the water. There is another one called Devils kitchen. 

When we saw signs to the Tessellated Pavement we were intrigued and since is was not far off the main road we decided to check it out. It reminded me of one of my favourite places - the Giant Causeway in Ireland. There the basalt formations are naturally occurring hexagons. Here the formations are basically square but all naturally formed from siltstone and salt water. This is part of the view from above.

At the surface you see these 'loaves' as well as some slightly concave 'pans'. 

Definitely some interesting things to see and do around Hobart if you come. 

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Maria Island and Hobart

Maria Island markets itself as an island off an island off an island. It was used as a convict colony in the 1800s and is today a national park with lots of hiking trails and camping spots but no facilities (ie water/electricity). If you’re camping on the island you have to bring ALL your gear with you across on the 40 min passenger ferry from Triabunna.

After we got there we walked a few kilometres out to the fossils cliffs. We were surprised to see many, many kangaroos.

The Cape Barren Goose is only found in Southern Australia and has that distinctive green on its beak.   A few have been transplanted here. 

There is also a population of Tasmanian Devils here that are referred to as the ‘insurance' population. Throughout Tasmania the Devils Are dying off from the facial tumour disease which is transmitted between them by biting and other contact. Because they are so interbred, when they get the tumour they don’t fight it off because they think it’s just part of their own body. The population on Maria Island is free of the disease hence the ‘insurance'.

Hobart is the capital of Tasmania and is becoming quite trendy - lots of little shops/markets and food vendors. Tourism and house prices are increasing due to aggressive marketing. (Kind of reminds me of the situation in Newfoundland)

Hobart is picturesquely set along a series of little bays with the towering Mount Wellington in the background. We drove to the top for the stunning view. It’s only 12 km but took about 20 mins along a very windy road. At an altitude of 1,271 m the wind was blowing ferociously and it felt colder than Vernon when we left! We didn’t stay long.

 Cascade brewery is Australia's oldest operating brewery so obviously we had to have a sample. 

As expected my favourite was the stout with its distinctive coffee/chocolate flavour!

Wednesday, January 22, 2020


With an area and population comparable to New Brunswick it’s understandable that there are great stretches without much civilization. We started at the top of the island in the small city of Launceston. Although it has a population in the 80 thousands it'a pretty quiet. We arrived on a Monday at the end of a festival weekend and were able to take in one of the attractions. Architects of Air is an inflated series of bubbles that make up a maze of colours and shapes. It takes about 20 mins to make your way through and is quite the experience of light/colour.

The outside looks like this:

And inside:

The Cataract Gorge at Launceston is an area that was developed in the 1890s and is a premier recreation area. We took a chairlift across the 'lake', then walked back over the suspension bridge. You can also walk all the way from town (1.5 km) along the side of a cliff.

We wanted to drive down the east coast but the only way to get there was via a very boring 2-3 hour drive along a windy, narrow, forested road. About 1/2 way was a lavender farm, 100s of acres. 

The highlight of the day was the baby echidna we saw on the road. 

It made its way safely across but judging by the roadkill a lot of wildlife is lost.

We ended up in a small (very small) coastal town called Scamander. Not much to say about it but when we woke up the next morning it was pouring rain and the prospects for the day seemed dreary. About an hour down the road (beautiful coastline) we stopped at an animal sanctuary just as the sun came out.

The Tasmanian devils were being fed and they Don't. Like. To. Share. (See video!)

We got to see a baby wombat ...

...and some spotted quoll

There was a magnificent white peacock roaming the grounds.

And 2 wedge tailed eagles - both rescued with broken wings

Ross also got photobombed by a kangaroo (or is it a wallaby?).

By the end of the day we were in another small town, Triabunna. The day may have started out a bit damp and dreary but it ended on a good note as we were having our dinner. 

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Down under again

We started our Australian trip at Gold Coast - a city just south of Brisbane on the east coast. This area is known for its sandy shores and surfing waves and there are plenty of both. The city is also made up of a maze of canals so it seems that about 90% of the houses have waterfront access. The place we were staying backed onto a canal and our friends Rob and Carmen picked us up on their boat for a little tour. It was a beautiful day on the water.

The next day they took us up into the hills to a national park, Springbrook, where we hiked down to a waterfall. Then to a place known as the Natural Bridge, due to the formation carved out of the rocks. 

The most easterly point in Australia is Byron Bay which features this lighthouse. 


From here you can see to South America I guess. Or maybe New Zealand?


In Melbourne we stayed at Liana's family’s place and of course I can’t get over the amazing birds - their size and colours, and being woken up to such different bird song. 

These (and many more) just hang around the yard. 

The Healesville sanctuary is just outside Melbourne and has most Australian animals you can think of and a bunch I’ve never heard of such as quolls, bilbies, and potoroos.  

We saw lounging kangaroos and cute cuddly koalas. 

 The pelicans took me by surprise - they are gigantic!

Many of the marsupials are nocturnal so they don’t appear much during the day. We did catch a platypus rolling around in a darkened aquarium and saw some 'cubed' wombat poo (?) but no wombats. 

And the ferocious looking Tasmanian devil was surprisingly small. Loony Tunes was a bit deceiving. 

The bird show was quite an experience when the birds such as this barking owl swooped over the crowd. 

Topped the day off with lunch at a winery with Mike and Liana. 

Ross managed to do a bit of shopping at the Sanctuary and emerged with his own zoo! Might need an extra suitcase to get them all home. 

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