Travels Downunder – A Reminiscence – Part 7

Our last instalment left our travellers marvelling at the unexpected ways of the Australian Parliament

With Christmas soon to be upon us we left Canberra and made our way over to the coast of to meet up with our son who had travelled south from Brisbane with his Australian girlfriend to spend Christmas at her parents house. Our daughter had flown out from England to spend Christmas with us as well so Christmas that year was very special for us. After Christmas we all travelled up to Sydney for New Year’s Eve and the firework display from the Harbour Bridge was unbelievably spectacular. New Year’s Day in Sydney was the hottest temperature I’ve ever endured, 47C, and it was strange to see that the Christmas decorations still showed Father Christmas with his reindeers and sleigh with fake snow everywhere.

Back on the road we followed the coast all the way round to Melbourne where the Australian Open Tennis was just beginning. The son of a friend of ours worked in an office building which overlooked Melbourne Park and the Rod Laver Arena and we were able to get a good view from there.

Our next stop was to be across The Bass Strait to Tasmania. We booked passage on the Spirit of Tasmania for the car and the caravan and settled in for the ten hour crossing. Tasmania is really beautiful, it’s about the same size as the island of Ireland, and we spent a month there and really loved it. By now it was February, the middle of summer down under, so we were a bit surprised when we were setting up camp at Cradle Mountain and it started snowing.

There is lots to see and do in Tasmania but one memorable visit we made was to the historic penal colony at Port Arthur near Hobart. It’s where people, mostly from Britain, were sent (transported) often for very minor offences. It is in a really beautiful setting which belies the brutality of the place. The most used form of additional punishment was solitary confinement in a tiny cell which, once the door was closed, was totally pitch black, you literally could not see your hand in front of your face. Today’s visitors are given the chance to experience it for themselves and I have to say I found it very frightening even after just a minute or two. Imagine spending several days or weeks in there; the era of human rights had not yet dawned.

One evening whilst we were in Hobart we went to an open air theatre production of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. As you may know it is one of Shakespeare’s comedies, but what we weren’t expecting was that half way through, whilst one of the actors was in the middle of a long soliloquy, a kookaburra started up in a tree nearby making an almighty racket. The actor came out of character and screamed up at the kookaburra, WILL YOU SHUT UP!! , went back into character and finished his lines. It brought the house down!

Having spent a month in Tassie we again boarded the Spirit Of Tasmania and headed back to Melbourne to continue our journey……….to be continued…………