Tasmanian Tales Part III (+ vlog)

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13.08.2017

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.”
“I don’t much care where –”
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

— DAY THREE —

Just as I was slurping the last of my breakfast protein shake, Sarah comes barging into the room and surprises me, landing me in an almost-choke situation.

“Port Arthur!” she exclaims, and pauses to catch her breath.
“I’ve just met two other guys who are driving down to Port Arthur for the day… they’ve got two extra seats in their car and would be open to taking us with them. Would you be keen?” she proceeds to ask.

“Well, yes?!!!” I squeal breathlessly.

"Al, I'm happy here," I whispered into the Antarctic wind that dispersed my words into oblivion as quickly as they were uttered. This day was one of those which tasted like gold and glitter, and which left my cheeks aflame from adventures and emotions. This picture was taken a little way away from Maingon Bay Lookout, just as the sun was slipping away and leaving streamers of colour and hope in the heavens. Our heavens. This snippet of my life — a clear highlight — mirrored others I've taken in that my favourite moments were never planned. This day was supposed to be an adventure through the lushness of Fern Tree, but life, as chock full of surprises as it is, gifted Sarah and I with two new souls to befriend and experience the next 12 hours of life with — Irish Luke and French Matt. In quick, almost impulsive, succession, Sarah and I said yes to what was soon to be the most special of adventures. We packed the little that we brought with us, settled our transport from Sorell back to Hobart (the plan was for us to join Luke and Matt for a day trip southwards to Port Arthur and then they'd drop us off at Soller before they continued their journey north to Launceston), and off we journeyed on board a rocker of a car that was Zebra (ref. to my post on Zebra on 01.09.2017). What happened after this was pure magic. I'd love to stay and chat all about it, but my work beckons. I'll continue with the story about Port Arthur tomorrow and then about Maingon Bay Lookout the day after. ✨🌕 For now, look outside — the full moon in Pisces is bright and light. Go forth, set intentions, and find Your space of peace xx Love always.

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^ A little excerpt of what played out on this day.


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"Meet Zebra," they uttered seconds apart from each other, patting the rusty, dusty thingum of a car, and struggling to keep straight faces as they did. "Who?" Sarah and I exchanged glances before chiming together, a smile playing on our lips. "Our car," Luke laughed, "she's getting a little old, but she's been a real good girl". Zebra, whose name was given to her by fellow backpackers who had the car before Luke and Matt, had a smell to her — she smelled of adventure. There were hints of alcohol, cigs, the ocean, and the forest. The seats, too, were sunken in after what I presumed to have been months of carrying the load of adventurer's hearts (You know, these hearts, they get loaded with stories, and stories weigh a ton). So, with John Butler Trio's 'Ocean' on the speakers (Zebra's sound system doesn't function anymore), we journeyed on. With the occasional pats and whispers of encouragement, "Come on Zebra, you can do it," we journeyed on. With the lush forests of unknown suburbs and the breath-taking blue of Norfolk Bay whizzing past our windows, we journeyed on. We drove for miles on end from Hobart to Port Arthur — hearts aflutter, dreams appeased — with two strangers who've become friends in the blink of an eye. The moment felt perfect because it was. // And that, was the first of the many sprinkles I plan to share of Sarah's and my Tasmanian Tales. 🌊🌤🌟

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The drive to Port Arthur was blue. I’d glance toward the heavens to see a gleaming blue sky, I’d look to my right to see sparkling blue bays, and, to my left, I’d catch a glimpse of Sarah’s beautiful blue eyes marvelling at the world around us.

It was also very heart-warming because it was during this drive that the four of us new friends introduced ourselves to one another and delved a little deeper into each other’s lives. We learned of things like how Matt used to work for Airbus, how Luke used to work as a computer engineer, and how, because both didn’t see their fit in their careers, spontaneously booked a trip to Tasmania to work in potato and strawberry farms in Launceston, which was how they got to know each other as bunk mates. They called this ‘a little detour’, I called it ‘the recipe for a great adventure’.

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Stop 1: Port Arthur

Driving into the slightly secluded driveway of the Port Arthur Site, we were abruptly gestured to a halt by a traffic warden, and informed that we wouldn’t be allowed to go any further because the main carpark had already been fully occupied. We subsequently had to settle for a make-shift lot atop a muddy patch of Earth, which was approximately a 20-minute walk away from the main historic site.

Just then, a staff member rocked up in a buggy and told us he was on his way to the Site and that he’d be able to bring us with him. “What a blessing,” I thought, and, in an ordered manner, we boarded the buggy as per instructed. I shuffled in my seat, perked myself upright, and excitedly held on to the metal bar-cum-buggy divider in front of me, mimicking the way I behaved upon boarding my very first school bus as a little girl. I was very thrilled! :’)

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Each site entry ticket entailed:

– A visitor guide with a map of the Site;
– A 40-minute guided walking tour—a great introduction to Port Arthur, its people and its past;
– A 25-minute harbour cruise on the MV Marana;
– Access to more than 30 historic buildings, ruins, gardens and restored houses on the Site;
– Fun, interactive experiences for all ages including the Lottery of Life, as well as our Museum and Convict Study Centre in the Asylum building;
– Access to the Convict Water Supply Trail, and the Dockyard.

First impression of Port Arthur: A quaint village with well-preserved penal colony buildings. Not just the site itself, but the surrounding too, was beautiful and serene. It came across friendly — a stark contrast from the dark, dreary, horrific past.

We later learned that the site was established in 1830 as a timber station, but was later built into a small town to house and punish over ‘a thousand of Tasmania’s most notorious convicts’. At this point, I could only think of how the convicts must have felt being tortured in an environment this lovely-looking. Did they see the beauty as hope for the existence of goodness beyond their darkened worlds… hope of life if they were to ever be able to escape/ be released? Or did they see the beauty as a cruel tease to their dire living situations? The tour we went for filled us in with powerful stories of hardship and loss.

Three things got me excited for Port Arthur: 1. Knowing that it was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site and that it is Australia's most intact and evocative convict site (i.e. chock full of history to be learned about wew!); 2. Sarah (she has this special, endearing ability of 'infecting' those around with her own excitement); 3. Our new friends (because new friends are never boring, especially when they're Luke and Matt). We embarked on a site tour with a guide (picture 2) who passionately exemplified the very antonyms of monotonous and disinterested. He became a quick favourite in my book of guides if I were to ever take the time to compile one. He was wonderful. :') Instead of telling You the drier facts like the site having over 30 buildings (ruins and restored period homes) set in 40 hectares of landscaped grounds, the penitentiary (picture 3) originally being a granary (became a penitentiary because the environment was too wet to grow cereal), or the use of a 22-m treadmill (dubbed the 'calf killer') to churn energy in the past, I'm guessing this might interest You more: 1) the first flushing toilets in Australia were built into the penitentiary, and they were invented by a guy named Thomas Crapper (yes, that was his real surname.. fitting no? 😅); 2) the convicts tattooed each other, and, amongst tattoos of initials or loved ones, a common one was an anchor, which was a symbol for hope; 3) during the construction of one of the buildings, a folded crease in the hard copy of the site plan led to the accidental construction of an extra brick wall. // After a beautiful short 'cruise' around the waters surrounding the site (picture 4), Sarah and I split from the boys as they ventured off for lunch, and we found ourselves sucked into the terrifying world of the prisoners as we entered the 'Separate Prison' (picture 6). It was dark and confronting. It was unsettling, too, especially as one contrasts the morbidity and brutality of stories that live within its walls, to the gorgeous London-countryside-meets-Sydney-harbour-esque landscape (picture 5, as described by Sarah) right outside. (continued below…)

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(cont.) Within the ‘Separate Prison’, there was great focus in separating convicts from each other to punish them — I suppose it isn’t a surprise considering its name (the inherent need of humans for social contact was the weapon of choice here) (picture 7). What shook me was the extent to which this weapon was exploited: prisoners had to stand within narrow cubicles (picture 10) during chapel service just so contact between them could be kept to an absolute zero. Religion, i.e. what could have been the only humanising aspect of imprisonment, was dehumanised and depersonalised. And that, all of that, was only a fraction of what we experienced. I left with doubts of humanity’s existence in Port Arthur’s past.

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We also went on a short (~25 minutes) harbour cruise, which brought us around the entirety of the MV Marana. The waters were choppy and the winds were strong, so it became difficult to hear what the guide was trying to tell us over the speakers. Other than the few stories of the ‘Port Arthur Massacre’ which left 33 dead and the passages of convicts’ through these very waters, I was unable to catch very much else. I shifted my attention to the nature around me — the therapeutic whirl of the waters below me, the sun which shone deep into me, and this land structure in the distance that resembled Uluru.

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Stop 2: Maingon Bay

Sarah and I thought Port Arthur would be the last of the day,

not knowing that Luke and Matt, who had done some diligent googling beforehand, had something else in store before the day came to an end.

not knowing that my highlight of this entire adventure was still to come.

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Nature loomed large here with the dramatic coastal rock formations and towering cliffs lining what would seem to ‘Flat Earth’ theorists as the edge of our planet.

Gaining distance from the historical site of Port Arthur, we approached Maingon Bay (picture 2). Luke's googling had landed him on a tip to visit a sea cave a short hike away from the bay. 'Remarkable Cave', they called it, and remarkable it proved to be (picture 3) — when viewed from the observation platform, its opening is the shape of Tasmania. Standing at a skyscraper-worthy height, it towered over the few of us who jumped down from the platform and approached incoming currents. Life was lived dangerously, but man did it feel wonderful. Luke initially wanted Matt to take a picture of him in front of the cave, remaining patient as Matt 'positioned his camera' and instructed, 'wait, Luke wait…', until Luke realised that cheeky Matt was waiting for an incoming wave to surge over him. Up went Luke's third finger (picture 4) and we collapsed into fits of laughter. Goofballs and a childlike mess we were ahhah. 🌈🤷🏻‍♀️🌟We ventured into another trek (picture 6) that brought us along the coast to 'Safety Cove' (pictures 7-9). With the endearing warm glow of the setting sun spilling all over the heavens and seeping into our hearts, the world was beautiful here. Bless. We came upon a new territory, previously unknown to us or only vaguely suspected, which contained a veritable wellspring of positive energy that surged with every crashing wave. My hair was dancing in the wind, and we were dancing with life. Here, we stood atop a cliff, dead focused on the waters below us, patiently waiting for the shy Southern Right whale trio to make another appearance so we could capture them in all their humble glory. Oh how we squealed when they did (picture 10 features a slice of one of their tails)! If the emotions that consumed me whole in that moment weren't happiness and gratitude in every sense, I wouldn't know what is. Life glowed. :')

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Trekking paths hid themselves well around Maingon Bay. I wondered if this was because the trails were purposely left untouched to deter more adventure-seekers from trekking there (hence the overgrowth of shrubs which slightly concealed the entrance), or if it was a ploy to leave these treks (because they were the best of them all) only for those with keener eye for the hidden treasures… in other words, to leave these treks as shared secrets of only the bravest (or, arguably, the most careless) of adventurers.

I chose to believe the latter.

Only to realise later that the latter was the truth.

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Scraping our legs past bushes, smelling flowers, sliding down sand dunes, and patiently waiting for whales to reappear was how we spent the last hour and half of daylight. We didn’t manage to get all the way to the end of the trail for who knows how long more that would have stretched out for. Where we did get to, though, were some cliffs, where we sat in periods of silence and excited giggles. There we were, young, with feet perched in the talus slope the southernmost tip of Tasmania, and as close to Antarctica as we were possibly ever going to get.

I think am pretty sure this was what that little voice in my head told me to continue trying for when I was at my lowest and closest to giving up… when all else seemed futile and worthless.

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With this sunset that had gradually robbed the land of light, Sarah’s and my time in Tasmania came to a screeching halt. Luke and Matt dropped us off by Domino’s Pizza in pitch black Sorell, where we were punctually picked up by the ride we had booked. Alighting at the airport in Hobart, we boarded our plane that took us up, up, and away into the Tasmanian sky only to find ourselves entering Melbourne’s land within the next hour.

The whole return was quick, almost making it seem as though Tasmania was nothing more of a dream, which was — I guess — true to a certain extent.

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Good night, Melbourne.

— MORE PICTURES —

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— VLOG —

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