First I heard of Van Diemen’s Land was back in the 80s when my Walkman was partial to a bit of Rattle & Hum*. Little did I know, it was real place that one day would be on my doorstep. Nowadays it’s an Australian state called Tasmania.
We fly to Hobart and make a long weekend of it. It’s calm for a capital and not much public transport. So once you’ve had a stroll round Salamanca (market), the docks, and Battery Point. You need wheels.
An hour and a half away is the penal colony at Port Arthur (where we used to send our wrong ‘uns). It’s Tasmania’s top tourist attraction, but back in the day it was brutal. Psychological punishments, inmates as young as 9, some prisoners would commit murder and receive the death penalty – just for a way out.
To avoid the rain one day we visit MONA (Museum of Old & New Art). Privately owned and only been around since 2011. It’s already touted as one of Australia’s top art galleries. The old stuff wasn’t my bag, but the contemporary was a different story. Greg Taylor’s slightly risqué look at female genitalia, and Erwin Wurm’s “Fat Car” stood out.
On the other days we took in some countryside; Huonville, Franklin, Peppermint Bay and some places in between. In the 20s the tourist board dubbed it, “The Switzerland of the South”. From the top of Mount Wellington it was easy to see why. Outdoor types will be in their element.
A trip to Tazzie’s not complete without seeing the devil. I usually avoid zoos (the animals always look moody), but the Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary is all about rescue and conservation – I can’t argue with that. Devils are endangered now apparently, but are not the most endearing – so there was no sympathy from me (badum tish).
In a nutshell Tasmania is an outpost. Any further south and you’re in Antarctica. But being a relic of the British Empire and a stomping ground of the great Charles Darwin – adds historical intrigue. Ultimately though, when an island’s the size of Ireland and has only a 12th of the population – you better like the quiet life!
For the playlist:
*For the anoraks: It was track 2. The Edge was singing, and the song was dedicated to the Irish poet – John Boyle O’Reilly (who was jailed and sent to Australia for his part in the Fenian uprising). Strangely, O’Reilly never set foot on “Tazzie”, but he did do a stretch in Fremantle Prison (Perth).