So, here's the latest update from our part of the world . . .
After hosting what can only be termed a successful Christmas, we had a very quiet New Year's Eve with some close friends. We stood on the local train station fence to view the fireworks in the city (and it was a pretty good view too!) and were treated to our own "private" show as one of the people a bit further down the road let off some Roman Candles in the street. I'd never been that close to a firework before, so it was interesting.
January came and went. My birthday was celebrated with some re-acquaintences of Charles' at the Manga Exhibition at the NGV which was great. I forget the artist's name, but he's the guy who created Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion (amongst others). Would have liked to get more information about the artist from our guide, who was inclined to merely summarise the picture(s), which we could have done for ourselves. Then we had lunch at Borsch, Vodka and Tears, a gorgeous little vodka bar on Chapel St that serves 147 different types of extremely good Polish Vodka. The food is also exquisite (this assessment having been made PRIOR to sampling the "liquids of divers residue and thickness". The Pancake Parlour is also a great place according to Charles and I. Also easily located next to the movie theatre ;)
Since November last year (when my exams concluded) I have been working at Uni and this continued throughout January as well. The silly season was upon us as we selected and enrolled the larger part of 1700 students who will be entering the University this year. I was looking forward to the week's leave that Charles and I had planned for our honeymoon trip to Tasmania. I got the week off, but we didn't spend it all in Tassie as planned . . .
We had "organised" (in a very lax and disorganised way) a 9-day motorbike tour of Tasmania where we were intending to go to some of the major cities and find somewhere to stay, then do day trips in order not to have to lug our rucksacks around with us. I swear the trip was doomed from the start! But for a doomed trip, we had an awesome time, go figure . . . The trouble began when we had to push-start my motorbike so we could get down to Station Pier in Port Melbourne. I just thought it was a flat battery and that the ride to the pier would charge it sufficiently to get us on board the ferry. Unfortunately this was not the case. We were bulk early on our arrival at the pier, so we parked the bikes and watched the goings-on for a while. A formidable group of serious biker scum rocked up on their Harley's and we let them board before us (it's a seniority thing). When we went to start my bike again, it wouldn't even turn over. Not only that, it wouldn't push-start either. This is after running the damn thing around the road divider twice with Charles pushing. Needless to say, we were both unimpressed, but him moreso than I!
We ended up pushing the bike onto the frieght level of the ferry (for those of you who've been on the boat and can picture the ramp that most other vehicles go up to park will know why I was extremely grateful to the staff at this point!) which meant that we didn't have to line up with all the other voyagers. A huge thank you must go to the staff of the Spirit of Tasmania at this point, and the Port Authority staff too, who sorted out our predicament. I'm sure they had a good giggle at our expense too!
The trip over was fairly uneventful, despite my being seasick once due to not having been on a boat of that size since I was about 10. The cabin was very comfortable and the food was great (what little I ate of it!). Charles certainly enjoyed his dinner as well as mine . . .
We were woken by the PA system at about 5.45am announcing that we would be arriving soon so after a hurried shower and dressing, we went to see the Tourism Tasmania guy on board about where we could get my motorbike looked at in Devonport. He didn't know, but suggested that we call the RACV, which we hadn't thought of, but decided it was a good idea. After finding out my membership had lapsed and rejoining over the phone, we arranged for someone to come and meet the boat for us. We went down to the garage deck where the bikes were parked and tried push-starting mine again, but due to the fact that it was pouring rain and so the gangplank was wet and slippery (and I locked the back wheel) it didn't work. So we waited under the shelter of the off ramp that everyone else was using for the RACT guy to appear. He managed to jump start the bike and gave us directions to the only motorbike shop in Devonport. Luckily it wasn't too hard to find. Unluckily, since the ferry gets in so early, it was only 7.30am and the shop didn't open until 9am!
We parked the bikes out the front of the shop and wandered up the road to have a much needed and very warming coffee and breakfast. It was still raining and we were soaked! Still, at least we got practice at riding in the wet; something we hadn't really done in Melbourne of late! We returned to the shop just as it was opening, then had to wait for one of the mechanics to arrive to see if they had a battery of the right size. They didn't. The mechanic jump started my bike again after having given us directions to a specific battery shop. We arrived there and they were open and they guy was very helpful although he too was dubious as to whether or not he'd have a battery of the right size. He removed the battery from my bike at this point and realised that it was completely dry, which is why it wasn't working. Charles and I both felt like nuffies, but mind you, this was something that neither the RACT or the motorbike mechanic had checked . . .
That little issue solved, we proceeded to begin the big adventure. Well, the travelling part of it anyway! We rode into a strong head wind all the way to Launceston, so we made several detours along the way. The first was to a chocolate factory where we sampled the wares, watched the staff making chocolates and wandered around the gardens (because we were already soaked to the skin, so walking in the rain didn't phase us!). Our second stop was to the Ashgrove Cheese Factory where we were able to read about the cheese-making process and see the factory and aging room but there was no activity there on that day as it was a Saturday. Again, we sampled the wares and I was most impressed with the cheese that contained "bush dust" which as far as I could tell was the same stuff as "bull dust", that extremely fine red soil grit from the Northern Territory. It tasted REALLY good! In the end we settled for buying some Wasabi cheese - an unbeatable combination.
After there, we continued to the Christmas Hills Raspberry Farm where we stopped in for morning tea/lunch of Devonshire Tea. YUM! Homemade raspberry jam on homemade scones with fresh cream! I was in heaven! And especially as it was out of the wind although the rain had stopped by that time. We succumbed to the lure of the raspberries in dark chocolate too and popped them in Charles' saddlebag for later.
By the time we arrived in Launceston at the Tourist Information Centre, it was only about 12.30pm but we were bushed from fighting the head wind the whole way. We found a promising-looking backpacker's hostel and rang to see if they had any vacancies. They did and they also had a lock-up garage for the bikes, so everyone was comfortably accommodated. We had a bit of trouble finding the place as I think we were both a bit directionally challenged (couldn't find North!) but eventually we got there, checked in and kipped out!
On the Sunday, we got organised and rode to Georgetown for a look around. We went to the old Watchhouse (now a museum with a model of Georgetown as it was when founded, very interesting) and poked around, then on to the Bass and Flinder's Centre where they have a full scale replica of the boat that B&F circumnavigated Tasmania in to prove it was an island. It looks like a bathtub! But the boat is most impressive. You can go aboard and into the cabins and galley and there's information about Bass and Flinder's and various other boats in the centre too. There is also a boat (that may or may not be a replica as well, I can't recall) that is (or was based on) the boat the Flinder's sailed from Sydney to Westernport Bay (near Melbourne!) in! It's about 16 feet long and has no "below decks", it was truly amazing. They don't build 'em like they used to (men or boats)!
We continued on from Georgetown to Low Head where there is a historical Pilot's Station that is also now a museum and guest house. That provided a most enjoyable afternoon's browsing as they had all sorts of exhibits about what exactly a pilot does (navigates the ships into harbour) and explanations of the Plimsoll Line (marking how much cargo can be loaded into a vessel in different kinds of water/weather) and various "things" that divers had found at the wreck of the John Eton (I think?) that was wrecked at Low Head in 1906. It was fascinating!
We returned to Launceston for some hardcore nappage at this point as the winds had again been fairly vigorous during our ride. We then spent some time exploring Launceston a little and went out for tea at the pub across the road from the one we were staying at (the hostel didn't do bar meals). We retired early, but were awoken at about 2.30am by a phonecall to say that Charles' mother, Lucy, had passed away. We both had a weird sense of dejavu here because you may know that when we went to visit Dad in the UK for Christmas in 2005, we had a nasty phonecall saying that Charles' father had passed away. I think that also came in the middle of the night.
However, it's much easier to return from interstate than intenation, so we caught the boat back on the Monday night and spent Tuesday and Wednesday organising funeral arrangements. The funeral was yesterday (Friday) at Fawkner and was well attended by various colleagues of Lucy's, as well as Charles' cousins (which was nice to see this time as they did not attend 'Burt's funeral last year). So I finally got to meet some of Charles' family although not, it must be said, under the best of circumstances.
All in all, what we learned from that trip is that the weather in Tassie is much nicer than Melbourne at present. Who decided we would be a tropical city anyway?! I never voted for it! But uni and work keeps us here at present. I think we'd both like to move to Tassie at some point, but we shall see what we shall see. Mum has decided she doesn't want us to go, but she's also decided that we aren't allowed to go on any more holidays in case she follows in the way of Burt and Lucy! :D