|January 9 -- So
here we are in Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, and probably further south
than we'll ever get to be in this world. There's a bit of chill in
the air, even though it's mid-summer. This is, I noted, the last
stop before Antarctica.
This was also the birthplace of the Green Party. Back in 1980, a fight to stop a dam on the Franklin River had led to UNESCO recognition and the formation of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
These days the Greens were busy lobbying against the looming possibility of war in Iraq.
Hobart reminded me a lot of Halifax, and well it just seemed like our kind of town.
Carol and I had been picked up at the airport by Marie Kennedy and her daughter Shuky. Marie and I had been housemates and traveling buddies back in the very early 70's, but it had been over 25 years since we'd seen each other. Our reunion was a little hard to believe at first. We both had lots of stories to tell.
We'd been in town less than an hour before we ran into our first anti-war protester. A woman had hung her laundry between two trees on the grounds of the State Legislature and was there with two young children protesting the presence of an American warship in Hobart harbour. Effective and thoughful protest can take many forms.
Marie had a full social calendar lined up for us, with visits to fruit orchards and koala parks, cafes and markets, and a trip over to Strahan on the west coast, in the middle of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. We hoped to see it all.
"Have you seen Lord of the Rings yet?" she had asked me over the phone before we had arrived.
The little fishing village of Strahan is located at the head of MacQuarie Harbour on Tasmania's west coast. The 300 kilometer road wound through mountains and dense rainforest. Not surprisingly, the trip took us all day, as we picnicked and hiked along the way. This was the ninth World Heritage Site on our trip so far.
We did a boat trip through the harbour and up the Gordon River to a rainforest hike. The next day we took the train to Queenstown, a nearby former mining town. I like trains, and this was a good one.
The Abt Wilderness Railway was over a hundred years old, but had been
closed for several decades. They's spent the past three years restoring
it, and had only reopened the line two and a half weeks earlier.
Our conductor played tour guide, trying to explain about the bridges and
trestles and the environmental devastation from the mine, but between his
Australian accent and the grinding of steel on the rails and we bounced
over those hills, we could barely make out a thing he said. It was
a rainy gray day, but great for a ride.
|On our journey through the rainforest of western Tasmania, the engine on the Abt Wilderness Railway used a special rack and pinion gear assembly to haul the train up and down the steep grades. We stopped a few times along the way for hiking and lunch.|
|Shuky and Marie Kennedy, enjoying life in Hobart and Tasmania.