We arrive in Tasmania to discover that although it was about 10 degrees cooler than Sydney, the sun was still shining brightly and it looked spectacular. Everything had gone to plan, our Qantas flight wasn’t cancelled despite the strikes and we picked up our car and arrived at our Surfside Cottage without too much fuss. It is a delightful little cottage, with beautiful views of the Southern Ocean. The view is both stunning and mesmerising and the sound of crashing waves almost deafening!
We run down to the beach but the water is freezing and we both fight shy of diving in. We are excited to be here and after devouring a hot cup of tea, toasted sandwiches and the cheese & crackers we discovered in our fridge we drive in to Hobart for desert. It is Saturday night and the place is buzzing and we find ourselves a cosy cafe in the plaza behind the Salamanca Markets and enjoy desert and hot chocolates as we people watch.
We wake up excited. It is another sun drenched day in Van Dieman’s Land! Our cottage is on the eastern side of the island and hence ideally placed for a trip down to Port Arthur. Steve has never been to Tassie before so it is exciting to be here with him and discover it together. We drive through beautiful tree lined back-roads (are the gum trees taller here?) on the Tasman Peninsular to reach our first scenic stop where we find a great example of tessellated pavement at Eaglehawk Neck.
As explained in Wikipedia, tessellated pavement is a rare erosional feature formed in flat sedimentary rock formations that is found on some ocean shores. The pavement bears this name because the rock has fractured into polygonal blocks that resemble tiles, or tessellations. The cracks were formed when the rock fractured through the action of stress on the Earth's crust and subsequently were modified by sand and wave action. It is a beautiful spot and we go for a walk, take pictures and marvel at the display of colours – the stark black of the pavement, the green moss and the blues of the ocean. There are many strange rock formation on the Tasman Peninsular but the Devil’s Kitchen seems to be an appropriate lunch stop. This area is all part of the Tasman National Park and has spectacular coastal walks that hug the cliffs and provide great views of more formations like the Tasman Arch. The arch is what is left of the roof of a large sea cave, created by the wave action thousands of years ago. It is a beautiful sight that I almost missed because it is right at the car park! It is past midday now and we decide we should make tracks to Port Arthur, the main reason for our trip today.
While the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first explorer to land on Tasmania, it was originally named after the Dutch East India Governor Van Diemen. The British colonised Van Diemen’s land in 1803 as a penal colony and while it was initially part of NSW it became a colony in its own right in 1824. From 1833 to 1853, Port Arthur became the destinations for the most severe offenders in both Britain and Ireland. Generally, it was the re-offenders and the rebellious who found their way here. Port Arthur became an example of a system based on the ‘Separate Prison System’ theory which was a shift from the old school thinking of physical punishment to the newer thinking of psychological punishment. Ah…let’s play with people’s minds!The layout of the prison was also interesting with each of the prison wings connecting to a hub from which they were controlled. The ‘silent treatment’ was meant to give the prisoners the space to reflect on their crimes and hopefully become ‘reformed’ human beings! Many of the prisoners developed mental illnesses from both the lack of light as well as sound and ended their days in the mental asylum built right next door! The prison closed in 1877 and is a great open air museum that gives us a rare insight into the colonial era of Australia. We finish a wonderful and exhilarating day with a boat cruise around the prison surrounds before we head back to base.