Hobart, Australia (27th Jan 2008)
Our day started like many of our others that have meant spending time on the road, an early morning and having to get on a bus. This morning in particular was the day we headed down to the south of Tasmania and to the state capitol Hobart. Tasmania was first settled by the British as a penal colony and convicts were first transported to what was then called Van Diemen's Land, in 1804; Hobart is the home to one of the main Penal settlements on what was then called Sullivan's Cove. For most of the journey into Hobart we managed to sleep, so the next thing we really remember is being told that this is our stop and to get off! The driver wasn't particularly helpful when we did get off and didn't even know the name of the street he was dropping us off on, so we were left to our own devices as per usual to navigate our way to the hostel. About 20minutes later in the midday sun, up and down hills we arrived at Narrara Backpackers; a charming three level townhouse on the edge of the city sprawl, it was a bit of a dump but at least it is very cheap and since they had managed to screw up our booking they upgraded us to a nice twin room for the same price! The hostel itself is quite odd, like the one in Launceston and not at all like on the mainland. It seems that the hostels in Tasmania are more like a YMCA and you end up with all sorts of people being here and some people living here and everyone likes to keep themselves to themselves, which doesn't really let you meet new people, but we figured it's their loss. The hostel seemed to have a cram them in policy with some of the dorms looking quite uncomfortable and the facilities begging to be cleaned and fixed or replaced, none of which was obviously going to happen anytime soon, since the manager had a nice Range Rover Sport sat out the back; at least the staff were friendly and helpful if you ever needed anything.
We decided that since it was already dinner time we should spend the rest of the day trying to orientate our way around the small city centre and find a supermarket to do some shopping. After leaving the hostel and walking toward the city, the first thing we noticed was the big sex shop on the corner, which stocked everything you could ever want, if you were that way inclined? The city was only a few short minutes walk away from the hostel and was surprisingly small for a city of 300,000 people but at least it seemed to have all the basics that we might need and at least here there were people! We had been looking for quite a while for any sign of a supermarket and were about to give up when we bumped into the tourist information centre which is right next to the harbour, which every year sees the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race end just in time for the new year's celebrations. The staff in the tourist information centre were very helpful and gave us some maps and all the other junk, like brochures on wine tasting etc, but most importantly they highlighted on the map where we could find a Coles and a Woolworths. This gave us a bit of a dilemma now, as the guy had highlighted three different places where we could go and do our shopping, all about equal distance away from here and our hostel, we inevitably choose the one we thought might be the closest, but was no doubt in practice the furthest of the three! To cut a long story short it took ages to get there, the shop didn't really have that much to choose from and the walk home with loads of heavy bags was agonising, but at least we had got stocked up and now would be set for the next week!
We had a total of six days in Hobart before flying back to Brisbane which in hindsight we decided was a little bit too long when you are on a back-packers budget as a lot of what Tasmania has to offer needs a car to be seen or an organised tour, both of which were out of our budget. Still in our six days we managed to keep ourselves occupied nearly every day.
The city centre itself was pretty nice and had a fair collection of shops so inevitably there was another day gone, perusing the sales and treating ourselves to some much needed new items of clothes. It was a nice feeling owning something that hadn't been stuffed in a backpack for the past 3 months!
We took ourselves on a bit of a walking tour of the city and saw pretty much everything there is to see. First there was Salamanca Place which is a row of four story sandstone warehouses, a classic example of colonial architecture, where a huge pretty market is held every Saturday. Unfortunately we didn't get to visit as our flight left Saturday! Behind Salamanca Place is a relatively new development called Salamanca Square, home to a vibrant and creative arts community and many trendy cafes and shops, a nice place to sit and while away a few hours' people watching. Next we ascended up Kelly Steps, an infamous passage wedged between two of the warehouses leading up to Battery Point, an old maritime village. We wondered around the nest of tiny lanes and 19th Century cottages that make Battery Point so famous before making our way back to the waterfront, past some architecturally beautiful houses. Not content with heading back to the hostel so early we walked to the other side of town to see the Cenotaph, set on a grassy hill on the edge of the water. The cold windy weather soon got the better of us and we retreated back to the hostel for a bit of warmth.
As with most of the other cities we have visited e managed to spend a day in a museum and gallery, Hobart is home to Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery and being free, it was a must see! There were the usual displays on the history of the state, aboriginal culture and wildlife native to the area but the most interesting exhibition was about Antarctica. The exhibit documented what the weather is like down there, showed diaries of explorers who have braved the cold and just did a really good job of informing people about an area so alien to so many of us.
On our last night in Hobart we took a walk down to the harbour at sunset just to get out of the hostel and to see Hobart for the last time. We had heard that 'Flippers Fish Punt', a floating take away restaurant in the harbour was the place to get your fill of fish and chips so we headed there for a portion of chips. They were a huge disappointment....there we were expecting proper chips like you get from a chip shop back home but were presented with deep fried frozen chips not to dissimilar to those you would get from a kebab shop on your way home from town on a Saturday night! We slowly made our way back to the hostel, soaking in every last bit of sunlight before getting an early night ready for the flight back to the east coast.