(Dec 12, 2020 – written by Dave)
We’ve made it to Hobart and start our riding adventure tomorrow. We’ve got everything all mapped out and are excited to see what Tasmania brings us. We’ve been down here to Tasmania a few times but mostly stayed close to Hobart. It seems to us that Hobart has changed a lot since we were last here (in 2010 we think). While it still feels a little bit like the end of the earth, it seems bigger and busier now than we remembered.
Getting here was interesting. First there was the trip through Sydney Airport – the busiest airport in Australia. Well, busy is a relative term in the age of Covid. When we went through on Thursday, it was a virtual ghost town. Many of the shops are closed and normally bustling hallways were empty. There is clearly hope on the horizon though, as a good number of shops appeared to be re-stocking and getting ready to re-open. Everyone is holding their breath that we can have a safe and mostly normal Christmas season.
Our plane was only about a quarter full but nearly everyone still wore a mask. Here in Australia with less than 100 known cases in the entire country and most of those cases in quarantine, masks are not that common. They advise that you fly with one but they are not mandatory. We had no issues wearing ours – taking one for “team Australia” seemed like a small price to pay in order to travel.
We were both shocked a bit by how cool and crisp the air was when we landed in Hobart. Of course it is just turning into summer here but we are now at the latitude of southern Oregon. Sydney is closer to the latitude of San Diego. Summer comes later in Oregon, same for Tassie. We hope that we’ve brought enough warm clothes, especially for the nights we camp! And as for the fresh air, well, that’s Tassie – surrounded by mostly ocean for 1,000s of miles in all directions, there is almost no pollution and heaps of fresh air.
While Hobart has grown in the last 10 years, it still has many old buildings and thus its old-world charm. We’ve had a good walk around and are also happy to report that there are many “proper” coffee shops that take their coffee serious and often roast their own beans. Besides coffee, fish is still big. The harbour here is still a working port with a good number of fishing boats coming and going – for us that translates into fresh seafood and visits to the dockside fish restaurants. We’ve had fish for four meals here so far in only 3 days. And somehow, I even managed to grab a couple photos before digging in – see below!
When we were here last time, the only beer in town was Cascade – a local drop that’s been around for yonks. It’s a basic lager, drinkable but not overly exciting. Well, I’m happy to report that in the past 10 years the micro-brew culture has made it this far south and there are a number of Hobart and Tassie micro-breweries putting out very interesting beverages. We’ve sampled a few but need more time to report on a favourite.
Saturday in Hobart means Salamanca Market. The market is one of the biggest in Australia and we certainly do enjoy visiting. We learned today that it has been operating in skeleton mode since lock-down with some stalls only getting to set-up every other week and some stalls were only back today for the first time in almost 6 months. It was slightly smaller than during our past visits but for the shop owners, today marked what they hope is the beginning of the end of restrictions on the market. Lots of safety precautions are in place for the market – we were all required to log in (via an app or manually providing our details) to facilitate contact tracing should someone who had attended the market be diagnosed with Covid. Actually this is required any time you want to dine in at a restaurant or cafe and at many other places. Fingers crossed that we don’t get more cases here forcing the market and others to hibernate again.
There are quite a few mainlanders down here already for a holiday. Talking to locals, you get the feeling that they’ve enjoyed the quiet winter but are now more than happy to have guests and the tourist dollars that they bring. For sure the Christmas spirit is flowing. We spotted a couple Santa Clauses, several carolling troops, a group of young violinists and even a proper drum and bagpipe band. All were wearing a Santa cap and spirits were high.
At least for the next few days there are sunny skies forecast and we are looking forward to our first pedal tomorrow morning. We are only riding to Richmond but we are taking the “long-cut” there in order to visit Bonorong Animal Sanctuary. The sanctuary is not really on the way to Richmond but most of their animals are rescued from car accidents so we want to have a look and support their good work. On one of our previous visits, they had a couple juvenile wombats that transfixed us.
We’ve been talking to lots of locals to get advice on routes and things to see. To us Hobart feels like it is a long ways from Sydney, and of course Sydney is also a long ways from everything. I think that makes Hobart close to the end of the earth. The locals that we’ve spoken to have confirmed that our planned route is good and that indeed in the next 4 weeks, we will reach the actual real end of the earth. Of all the folks we’ve spoken to, only one or two have made it to the far northwest of Tassie and the small hamlet of Arthur River. We should reach there just after New Years and will report back later on what the end looks like – steep cliff falling off to nothingness or perhaps more gradual curving off out over the ocean. Time will tell I guess…