Convicts and Critters, likely as close to the South Pole as I will ever be.
Port Arthur, Tasmania
Today we left Hobart and started our epic Tassie road trip! We picked up our rental (a big white SUV) at 10am, made a quick pit stop and Kmart and Woolies to grab supplies and then we headed east to Port Arthur.
The drive was great. We passed through a ton of back country with awesome views of hills, water, and all kind of exotic looking forests (for us anyways). The roads are pretty narrow compared to what I'm used to but nothing unmanageable; just need to stay on my toes.
Port Arthur is a pretty important historical place. It's located on the traditional territory of the Pydarerme people, who were driven out by the Brittish (like many Aboriginal people). They always joke that Australia was settled by a bunch of convicts, and Port Arthur is where you go to learn about that history. The jail at Port Arthur was where they sent all of the convicts who reoffended, or were just generally difficult people during the transportation period (when the Brittish were shopping people to Australia as a form of legal punishment in the 1800's).
The penitentiary here was also important as it was apparently the very first to be about reform, or trying to provide prisoners with opportunities to learn or reintegrate back into society. It was also a terrible place where a lot of terrible things happened, including the transportation of thousands of boys (as young as 9 years old), terrible beatings, and experimentations with solitary confinement. The site was super interesting and had so much to explore and learn from.
On our tour the ferry driver told us that we were only about 2000 nautical miles front the South Pole! That's amazing considering it was a balmy 20 degrees and I was more than a little sweaty at some points. When we were out on the water, there was literally nothing but water between us and Antarctica and he said on clear days that you can even see ice bergs from the bay.
After a half day there we hopped back in the car and headed further north. We have a map where we have marked off the free camp sites around the state so we decided to head to a site in the Wielangta Forest Reserve. After a bit of exploring on some old logging roads, we found our spot, where we met another crew of travellers including a few Canadians.
We had a great dinner with them and then packed up for the evening. On our way to bed we had a run in with a little Australian critter. Later we found out that it was actually a possum, but at the time, our hopes were high that it might be a Tasmanian Devil (which is still on the list to see).
In any case it was exciting to see some wildlife up close and personal. I realized in seeing it that I have no idea what we might run into and how we should/shouldn't act around different creatures out here. Let's hope nothing gets too offended or excited by my poorly cooked noodles and oatmeal.
Gonna be an exciting few days out in this backcountry. Service is super spotty so there may be few updates, but they will all come in time.
Stay weird and watch out for Devils!