Our 2023 Circumnavigation of Tasmania

Navigating these pages: In the following itinerary, there are several columns describing the day. Text within [brackets] in the heading line explains the purpose of the link to the corresponding item.

shows the ordinal number of the day of travel. Note that I number the day with 0-origin indexing, whereas travel companies use 1-origin indexing. I do this a) because I am a computer scientist, and b) the "first" day usually goes nowhere.
Date [Photos]
Clicking on a link in this column will take you to the corresponding photo album page for the day. Due to space considerations, the original photos are not stored here (only the "medium" and "large" sizes). If you want to see the originals, please visit one of my other servers at ajh.co
All times are local times. Where a range is given, it shows the hours of travel for the day. For this trip, only Australian Eastern Daylight Times are used.
Activity [Blog]
What we did that day. This is usually a link to a later part of the page, describing in more detail what we did that day.
Locations [Track]
Where we were that day. Where this is a link, it will take you to the track for the day. These are separate html pages. Not all days were tracked, and these days will have no link to open.
Just to show we didn't sleep on the streets.
Sundry other items
as recorded by my FitBit for the day.

Within the diary entries, the date heading is a link to the photo page (as for the itinerary). The day of the week/ordinal number is a link back to the itinerary table, and the day's title is a link to the track (as for the itinerary).

These pages are under construction, and may have anomalous entries. Note that the pages will change over time as I edit in travel progress. Note also that when the document refers to 'John', the author is assumed, unless stated otherwise.


IMPORTANT NOTE: This itinerary is not the original. It has been changed because the Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife Service has changed the conditions of entry to the Tasmanian National Parks, and are not allowing cruise ships to "conduct activities in a Tasmanian National Park". Accordingly, Port Davey and Ile de Phoques have been ruled out, and replaced by Stanley and Frecinet Peninsula respectively. This has occasioned some revisions to the actual timings of the cruise. While I have endeavoured to bring the itinerary up-to-date as much as possible, some anomalies may remain. (Such as the map which follows.) See also Itinerary Change Letter

Day Date Time Place Activity Locations Accomodation Notes Steps
0 12 Dec (Tue) 1350-1505 VA1324 MEL-HBA Trains, Planes and Busses fly to Hobart Henry James Art Hotel, 25 Hunter St 11178
1 13 Dec (Wed) Hobart Not a Patch on the Botanic Gardens Hobart Henry James Art Hotel, 25 Hunter St 14402
2 14 Dec (Thu) 16:00-17:00 embark; 18:00 depart Hobart, Tasmania Barbara, The Resilient Lady - NOT! embark Le Laperouse @ MAC Wharf, off Hunter and Evans Streets, Hobart on board Le Laperouse 11070
3 15 Dec (Fri) at sea Itinerary All At Sea at sea on board 3813
4 16 Dec (Sat) Stanley A Stanley Chasm Not Stanley on board 3932
5 17 Dec (Sun) Grassy, King Island King Cheeses Rule King Island on board 13025
6 18 Dec (Mon) Bell Bay Mine Disasters Tamar Valley on board 5253
7 19 Dec (Tue) Promise Bay Wet Landings Freycinet Peninsula on board 13767
8 20 Dec (Wed) Maria Island The Long Walk Maria Island on board 12941
9 21 Dec (Thu) Port Arthur People are Bastards Port Arthur on board 7538
10 22 Dec (Fri) Tasman Peninsula Life on the Ocean Wave Tasman Peninsula on board 5657
11 23 Dec (Sat) Hobart Salamanca and Oysters disembark Le Laperouse Henry James Art Hotel, 25 Hunter St 9227++
12 24 Dec (Sun) 1245-1400 VA1323 HBA-MEL Home Again! HBA-MEL Fran Court

Trip Blog

12 Dec 2023, Tuesday (Day 0), Trains, Planes, and Busses

Getting up was almost so normal, one could be excused for thinking it was just another day at the office. But we had bags to pack, computers to sort out, and paperwork to gather up, so as soon as tea was finished we set to work. We were slightly taken aback by news on the radio that Melbourne airport had been closed due to fog, and things were a bit chaotic out there, but we reasoned that with a 1350 departure, we should miss most of the hassle. We were pretty well completely packed by 0930, which was probably just as well, as Barb had re-calculated that we needed to catch a 10-something train rather than an 11-something one.

A somewhat tiring walk to the station, as the weather was getting warmer very quickly, and we had raised a bit of a sweat by the time we got there. The 0947 train had just pulled in, so we quickly jumped on and found most of the last carriage was already full, so we plonked into the "reserved for special nerds" seats, and arrayed our bags around us. Fortunately, a bloke got off at Holmesglen, and we quickly took over his seat to gain a bit more room.

No hassles in switching platforms and trains at Flinders Street, and we found our way to the SkyWay Bus at the end of the country trains platforms at Spencer Street. A 23-minute trip to Tullamarine, and check-in went without a hitch, so we were sitting ready in the passenger lounge by 1100, too early to even see our flight on the departures board - which was full of cancellations and delays, due to the early morning fog. But when it did appear, our flight was still on time.

First a cup of coffee and half an almond croissant each, and then half a Valdaston and Ficchi (Italian sandwiches) each whiled away the couple of hours until it was time to head the gate 9 (the furthest from the passenger lounge, of course) for boarding. The plane was 10 minutes late leaving the gate, but 55 minutes of flying time saw us deplaning at 1515 in Hobart.

To no real avail - the luggage took forever to come out to the carousel, so it was 1610 before we were on the SkyBus into Hobart city. The bus dropped us at the Grosvenor Hotel, just across the road from the Henry James Art Hotel, so we made our way over there and checked in. A bit of unpacking, and then we unfurled Plan A, which was to retire to the IXL Long Bar, and have a drink.

We met Julia and Matt behind the bar, and Matt proceeded to lead me through the wide range of beers that they had, while Julia plyed Barb with varieties of gins and tonics. I tried 1) OCHO special IPA, 2) ? Oatmeal Stout, 3) Bruny Island Dark Pale Ale - all very nice in their unique ways, but if pushed, I would say that the Oatmeal Stout was my preferred choice amongst them.

We asked Julia and Matt for their advice on where to eat, and they recommended Blue Eye, a restaurant the other side of Constitution Dock, and a 20 min walk away. So rang ahead and booked (Matt's advice) and then we headed off to find it.

No problem, and we were seated in a nice corner spot at the window, with a panoramic view of the end of Salamanca Place and Constitution Dock. We ordered Thai Fish Cakes, Curry Chowder and "The Lot", each of which we shared, and that worked well. A whole bottle of Gala Sauvignon Blanc went down well, even after our boozy pre-dinner drinks! Incidentally, the Sav Blanc was one of the wines we bought on our Hurst Harmonization Holiday back in 2014 - but not the same vintage!

A pleasant stroll back across the docks to Henry James, and then we were ready for bed.

13 Dec 2023, Wednesday (Day 1), Not a Patch on the Botanic Gardens

The forecast for today was 31 degrees, so our plan was to get cracking and walk to the Botanic Gardens before it got too hot. We enjoyed breakfast in the HJ restaurant, and sample their unique breakfast of a starter fruit platter, before launching in to the a la carte hot breakfasts. Barb had mushrooms on toast, and John had a bagel with smoked salmon and poached eggs. All very filling!

We managed to get away by 0930, and soon found the shared footpath and cycle trail that led to the old abandoned railway line (with rails still in place). It was a pleasant stoll alongside the railway line (no passing trains, though), and the outline of the Tasman Bridge soon dominated the skyline. At the point of passing under the bridge, there were a couple of information plaques about the building of a) the orginal floating pontoon bridge, which John remembered from the late 50s, and then the building of the new Tasman Bridge. Nothing about the collapse of the bridge in 1975, though.

Shortly after passing under the Tasman, we reached the Lower Entrance of the Royal Tasmanian Botanic Gardens, and passed through. We admired the garden beds around us, but our first objective was to the restaurant, the Succulent Restaurant, where we shared a devonshire scones jam and cream, and had a tea (Barb) and coffee (John). Thus refreshed, we next aimed for the lily pond, with the lilies in bloom, and the scene looking very Monet in style. Even the young school boys travelling past in force seemed to be impressed.

Next was the fern gardens, which we both on reflection later decided was the high point of the gardens. Very peaceful and tranquillic, with the trickle of water from an artificial stream adding to the serenity. From there to the sesqui-centenary celebratory arch, which we admired, and then the floral clock, which did not take much admiring at all, as it had only just been planted out with the next cycle of flowering plants, so it was floral very much in name only. Still, it did display the right time.

From there to the section which had been the main drawcard - the so called "Patch", a food garden made famous by the ABC TV program "Gardening Australia". But it was suffering a bit from a lack of air-time and attention, and was not at its best.

We had been entertained in part by a school outing and a presentation/pantomine being run in the garden precincts, and we walked past this one more time back to the Succulent, as we both felt the need for a drink, milkshake (John) and spider (Barb). Refreshed by that, we decided to head back to the hotel, as it was now after 1400 and we felt that we had given the Gardens a good shot for the money (which was, after all, nothing!)

We returned to the hotel via a different, slighly more direct and slightly more hilly, route. Which was just as well, as we did come across a memorial plaque to those killed by the Tasman Bridge collapse, along with information boards about the cause and effect of the disaster. As one can imagine, it quite disrupted the daily lives of all who lived on the wrong side of the Derwent, and had relied upon the bridge for their daily commutes.

We were a bit early getting back to the hotel, and it was only just 1500, an hour early for opening time at the bar. But Matt was there, setting up, and he offered me a beer (another OCHO IPA, different from yesterday's), while Barb went back to the room for a rest. Come four o'clock however, we were both champing at the bit for the bar door to be opened, when Barb immediately hit Matt with our 2 for 1 cocktail hour card, and embarked upon demolishing firstly a "Blushing Clover" (raspberry based), and a "Nice Spice" (surprisingly enough, spice based). Meanwhile John, at Matt's suggestion, tried an OCHO "Hairy Troll", and then a Last Rites "Dead Man's Revenge". Both were brilliant beers, particularly the Hairy Troll, which must have been at least 80 on the IBU (International Bitterness Units) scale, and the second was another in the oxymoronically named "dark pale ale" school. I say "International Bitterness', but it hasn't yet quite made the Australian scene. Matt knew about it, but I have yet to see an Australian beer marked with its IBU score.

By the end of all this drinking, it was time for some dinner. Two doors down from the HJAH was The Drunken Admiral, which sounded intriguing enough to warrant investigation. We had tried to book earlier, but they didn't open until 5pm, and now it was after 1730. So rather than ring again, we just trotted down to the place, and were amazed to see that the placed seemed packed! We had to wait a bit to get to talk to anyone about a table, but when we did, they said "no problem" and took us round a few maze-like alleyways to a room with three vacant two-person tables, and invited us to sit down. As we did so, two more couples arrived, so it was clear that the place was filling fast!

A bit of a wait before we got to order, but it was not long in the context. We ordered a bottle of Arrass bubbly, a plate of cold oysters, prawns and octopus to share, and then fried blue eye (Barb) and salmon and prawn red curry (John). We struggled to get through it all, and neither of us could finish the main courses!

It was all we could do to stagger back to the HJAH, find our room, and collapse into bed.

14 Dec 2023, Thursday (Day 2), Barbara, The Resilient Lady - NOT!

What they said:

Hobart occupies a wonderful location at the mouth of the Derwent River, overseen by majestic Mt Wellington and surrounded by natural bushland. The Tasmanian capital is Australia's second-oldest city, after Sydney, and the picturesque waterfront is bordered by 19th-century warehouses and colonial mansions. Salamanca Place is packed with shops, galleries and restaurants and the fascinating Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is a short ferry ride from the quay. Hobart is within easy reach of some of Tasmania's best-known destinations, from historic Port Arthur and the rugged Tasman Peninsula to Bruny Island, the Huon and Derwent Valleys and Mount Field National Park.

What we did:

A slightly more relaxed start to the day, as we did npt have any specific goals to accomplish in the morning. So we headed down to breakfast at about 08:30, where Barb had the vanilla porridge with rhubarb (not enough sugar was her comment!), and John had french toast with strawberries, which was delicious, but very filling.

At the next table to us were a couple of women, with whom we started talking. Turned out to be a mother (Liz) and daughter (Anna) couple, who were going on the Le LaPerouse, too, so we swapped notes on what we knew about the cruise, which wasn't much! They did at least give us a hint about where to find the embarkation point, but were otherwise not much wiser than we were.

We set off for the city shopping area closer to 10:00 than 09:00, heading for the Cat and Fiddle Arcade, which we had last visited in 1978. The actual cat and fiddle clock seemed much the same, but we did not recognize the rest of the place. We did just miss the 11:00 action on the clock, so we wandered around the place looking for a pharmacy to buy new toothbrushes and toothpaste (we were about to run out of our special travelling toothpaste tubes), and some antihistamines for Barb, who seems to have come out in itchy rashes all over her body. We found a Priceline, but it was only good for the teeth departments, as they had no pharmacy as such!

Sent out a scouting trip across to the next arcade, we did in fact find the real pharmacy that the Priceline assistant directed us to, and purchased the antihistamines there. Had a coffee, and by the time we realized that time was in fact passing, forgot to go back to the Cat and Fiddle to see the 12:00 action! Oh well.

Now it was lunch time. We thought we would gives Mures a go. Just a hop step and jump across Victoria Dock to the restaurant, where we were a bit confused about the arrangements. There was no "Please wait to be seated" sign, in fact no signs at all about what should happen. We did note people sitting at tables and stuffing themselves, and waiters grabbing trays of food and carting them to tables, so still confused, we asked someone. Apparently you order at the counter, grab a table number, and then go and sit down. The waiter then brings the food to you when it is ready, and away you go, stuffing seafood into yourself at whatever rate you feel comfortable.

We ordered a single serve of "fish basket" (fried fish, prawns, scallops and chips) and a half dozen oysters (for John, Barb cannot stand them) and sat down. Sure enough, the food duly appeared. In the meantime, John had ordered an "Oxymoron" dark pale ale (hence the name) and a Brown Bros prosecco, so we enjoyed them while waiting for the food. We were entertained as we ate by the seagulls outside, who seemed to be playing a game of musical nautical rigging, which involved landing on a radar/navigation light/rigging/fish crane/whatever, and waiting until another seagull came along and pushed you off, whereupon you flew off to another boat to do the same to some other completely bystanding seagull, and so the cycle repeated. All good fun!

Now given that we had had little information about the boarding procedures for this afternoon, we went on another exploratory excursion to the wharf. The wharf we were told to go to (MAC02) had a huge great Virgin cruise ship (2700 pax) tied up at it, so we did have to hunt around for Le LaPerouse, finding it eventually berthed at MAC04. Noting the fact, we returned to the hotel (now about 14:00), and sat down to read until embarkation. We sat next to another couple booked on the Le LaPerouse, Chris and Jill, from Adelaide, and whiled away the next hour and a half talking to them.

Eventually the time came to head into the unknown, and so we all set off towards MAC02. By this stage the Virgin ship Resilient Lady had left, so the terminal was quiet, apart from the growing number of Le LaPerouse passengers. The actual check-in was surprisingly quick, as all they wanted to see were our passports. Issued with boarding passes, and having deposited our bags, we walked onto the very empty wharf (MAC04), up the gangway, and onto the ship, our home for the next 9 days.

We were greeted by hordes of PONANT staff, and the one thing we had worried about, the mandatory health certificate which we didn't have, was glossed over, and we were simply given another form to fill out. The fact that Barb had a crutch was noted, and she was asked whether she could walk without it, and to demonstrate that she could! No problem, they said. We were than given a glass of champagne, and quickly found Anna and Liz on the rear deck sipping their respective glasses. So we sat there taking in the ambience, until it was time for the mandatory safety drill.

This drill did involve fetching our life jackets from our cabins, but we did not have to assemble at the lifeboat, but rather at our muster station, which was the Observatory Lounge on deck 6 (the other one was at deck 4)? And the whole process of fitting a life jacket was done with a short video, like they do on planes.

After that, some unpacking of our bags, now ensconced in our cabin was warranted, and then there was enough time for John to collect a beer in the lounge and drink that just before assembling with Barb for dinner.

Dinner was shared with Gary and Fran from Queensland. We got to talking about cruises we had done, and I commented on the great picture in the photo salon of the King Penguins on South Georgia Island, whereupon Gary shared some of his photos he had taken at SGI of thousands (!) of penguins amassed in giant rookeries! Very impressive! Barb and I both had a lamb shank for main course, but it was huge, and neither of us could finish it. Mind you, John did do the Chef's Suggested Menu from start to finish (amuse bouche, soup, entree, main, fromage, and creme brulee), so he had little excuse for not finishing it!

It had been an exhausting few days, so we lost no time in collapsing into bed. It was a somewhat bouncy bed, as we had run into high seas almost as soon as we left the Derwent Estuary, and the ship pitched and tossed all night ...

15 Dec 2023, Friday (Day 3), Itinerary All At Sea

What they said:

During your journey at sea, make the most of the many services and activities on board. Treat yourself to a moment of relaxation in the spa or stay in shape in the fitness centre. Depending on the season, let yourself be tempted by the swimming pool or a spot of sunbathing. This journey without a port of call will also be an opportunity to enjoy the conferences or shows proposed on board, depending on the activities offered, or to do some shopping in the boutique or to meet the PONANT photographers in their dedicated space. As for lovers of the open sea, they will be able to visit the ship’s upper deck to admire the spectacle of the waves and perhaps be lucky enough to observe marine species. A truly enchanted interlude, combining comfort, rest and entertainment.

What we did:

We couldn't sleep in this morning, a) because the boat was rocking so much (it wasn't us), and b) because although it was an all at sea day, some machiavellian nautical soul had scheduled a mandatory information briefing for 0900, so we had to get cracking, have breakfast, and then front up to the theatre to hear Dain Adamson run through various Zodiac safety drills, excursion etiquettes, and introduce the whole 14 members of the Expedition Team. All very important, but it could have been done at 1000!

After that, Barb worked out how to use the coffee maker in our cabin, and we had a cup of coffee before heading down to the Theatre again to hear Brett Kitchener (geologist) talk about the geology of Tasmania. Quite interesting, especially the bit about Tasmania originally starting out to be a part of Antarctic, before changing its mind, and heading north to join Australia. It was only about 35,000 years ago that the land bridge between Tassie and the mainland disappeared, so that the Tasmanian aborigines had some significant evolution changes before European "civilization" appear. (see also below.)

Then lunch, where we shared a table with Phillip and Elizabeth from Perth, and had an entertaining chat with them. That was followed by John going to a talk on cameras at 1400, which was more focussed (sorry!) on relating your camera settings to the subject at hand, and how to get a good composition while keeping your images technically sound. I learnt a bit more!

At 1600 we went to hear Lachie Long (naturalist) talk about 50,000 years of Aboriginal culture, and he gave a very objective talk about how little we really know about indigenous culture. By the late 19th century, European "civilization" had all but wiped out the native population, and by 1920 there were no more full-blood Tasmanian aborigines. Also gone were all the languages and culture of that civilization. A bit sad, and it is amazing that we continue to adulate those early barbaric settlers. Tasmania was a more drastic case of what also happened on the mainland, but on the mainland, there was more interaction and travel between various tribes, so a lot of the missing information can be extrapolated from the snippets we do know. But in Tasmania, it was all too easy to completely exterminate (there is no other word for it) a whole tribe with their language and unique ways of doing things, so there is just so much we may never know.

There was a small demo of crepes suzettes in the lounge, so Barb and I had a glass of champers and a crepes, while chatting with Anna and Liz. The crepes were very nice!

Then at 1830 a Captain's Cocktail Gala Welcome, where he gave a short welcome speech, and then introduced all the senior staff on board. Dinner followed immediately, and it was an 8 course "Gala Dinner": amuse bouche, soup, cold entree, hot entree, main course, fromage, dessert, and "sweet treats". We did well to get through all that, but on our side was the fact that each course was reasonably well proportioned, so we did not feel too pigged out at any stage. Joining us at the table were Max and Faye (from Canberra), and Doug and Jenny (also from Canberra), so we did have a bit to talk about.

We are all now retired.

16 Dec 2023, Saturday (Day 4), A Stanley Chasm

What they said:

(Nothing about Stanley - it was to have been Port Davey)

What we did:

Nothing about Stanley. We didn't stop there, the weather was too windy. My first thought on looking at the tracking was to think that the port authorities had slept in, and were not ready for us, but soon the captain came on over the Tannoy and announced that the wind speed was 45kph, and the port is closed whenever the wind speed is 25kph or higher. So the fall back plan was to head for Burnie.

IN the meantime, we were able to have a leisurely breakfast, whereas previously it would have been very rushed. Not that we had a big breakfast, after last night's Gala. We both just settled for a ham and cheese omelette, and that seemed to satisfy us both.

There was much chaos in the Expedition Team, as you can imagine. At 0915, we had a fill-in talk by Ben Miller on the Great Migration, all about whale and bird long-distance migrations, why they happen, where they happen, what happens along the way. and so on. All very interesting. It was about this time that the rumour went around that we were heading to Burnie, and indeed the ship did head off in that direction, but we never heard formal confirmation of the rumour, and once we reached about 5kms offshore from Burnie, we turned around and headed back towards Stanley! We were grateful for this, since neither of us particularly wanted to visit Burnie again.

Following the Migration talk, we went and had a coffee in the Main Lounge, and were there at 1030 when a trivia quiz started. We had not intended to do this, but lots of ad hoc activities were being thrown at us to keep us from getting too rebellious, so we decided to just sit and listen to the questions, and keep our own track of our answers. Barb managed 9 out of 20, John 11/20. The top score was 17, from two teams with about 6 players on each, so I don't think we did too badly, particularly as we were not able to share answers when we didn't know.

The quiz was followed by a learn to tie knots programme, which we didn't go to, although John listen to the first 3 knots, and decided that he knew 2 of them already, so he didn't bother staying. Barb went and read, joined later by John, who caught up on his diary edits.

At 1230 we went and had lunch, and joined Gay and David (from Canberra) at a table, and again, swapped stories about Canberra. Then back to our cabin, Barb to read, John to blogging, until at 1500 we went and had a chat with Gaelle from Future Cruises, about where we might go with Ponant in the New Year. We discussed the Adriatic Coast, and Sicily-based cruises, but didn't reach any conclusion. We shall think o'nt.

There was a special "UK afternnon tea" at 1630, to which we repaired, and had a few non-UK patissieries. That was followed immediately at 1730 by a wine and cheese tasting, but it was not very effectively run. We had to keep chasing the sommelier to refill our glasses, as they only gave us two glasses to taste from, and yet there were 2 reds, 2 whites to taste, so you had to keep track of just what you were tasting. 1 white, 1 red were quite passable, but we were not that impressed with the other two. Don't ask me what they were! The cheeses were all right.

Then at 1830 off to the theatre to hear a short (20min) talk on whale strandings. It finished with a rather entertaining vidoe clip of how not to dispose of a dead standed whale - blow it up! The sightseers who had come to see the "spectacle" all got covered in whale blood and gore, and one large lump of whale flesh smashed through the roof of a car!

There was just time for a short briefing on tomorrow's activities, that is, assuming that they do happen, before dinner where we met Martin and Perry from the Gold Coast. I ordered steak, but it was a mis-steak, as it was a bit tough, and I had great trouble chewing it because of my two missing molars. Barb had much better luck with the portobello mushrooms. Incidentally, there was quite a speccy sunset while we were eating.

Then back to cabin, diary writing, and finally bed. Maybe a real early start tomorrow?

17 Dec 2023, Sunday (Day 5), King Cheeses Rule

What they said:

King Island is anchored in the middle of the Bass Strait between Victoria and Tasmania’s NorthWest coast. Surrounded by some of Australia’s most beautiful beaches, King Island imports the world’s best surfers and exports produce sought by the world’s top chefs : succulent beef, rich gourmet cheese and crayfish plucked from the Island’s crystal-clear waters. It's quiet and easy going here, but there's something interesting at every turn – from a lighthouse and offshore shipwrecks – to the island's great nature walks and unique wildlife. You will have the opportunity to uncover the island's stories at the museum and cultural centre in the town of Currie or to take a guided trail of the island's produce, culture, history, flora and fauna.

What we did:

We did in fact get an early start - we had to be ready to board the Zodiacs at 0805, and our first attempt at boarding and sailing in Zodiacs proved to be quite the adventure we had expected. We didn't disgrace ourselves getting on and off, but once on we did admit to hanging on for grim death, as we shot across (or more accurately, down and up) the big waves that were rolling across our line of travel. We were both at the front, so we got a bit wet from the spray as well!

Once in the small harbour, the water was much calmer, and disembarking a far less traumatic event. We quickly boarded the bus which was to take us round the island, and we had a very informative driver who told us a lot about the history of the island, its economics, its politics (they voted against installing more wind turbines!) and its relationship with a) Tasmania (pretty good) and b) the mainland (not so good!)

Our first stop was at Reekara, a small community school that had boasted winning "best school on King Island" a couple of times. It did prompt the question of how stiff was the competition, but there did seem to be a good community spirit behind the hype. Besides, the display of kids' drawings was quite enthralling!

The next stop was the KI Dairy Factory, where we had a cheese tasing of a half dozen cheeses, 4 of which we already knew and loved: Surprise Bay Cheddar, Stokes Point Smoked, Roaring Forties Blue, and Lighthouse Blue Brie. The other 2 were Three Rivers Bay Triple Cream Brie and Furneaux Decadently Creamy, both worthy of inclusion in our regular purchases, providing we can find them at the supermarket!

Then to Currie, the main "town" on the island. The double quotes indicate that it was not very big, with a selection of basic shops (1 only of each kind) and a pub. We stopped there for 20 minutes, and found the KI Bakery, where we bought coffee and a florentine to share. We just managed to polish them off when the bus returned, and we then headed back to the ship - or rather, the Zodiacs, which this time did seem a little more friendly and less adventuresome.

Lunch on board, and a short quiet time before reboarding the Zodiacs for a trip to the harbour, and a short walk out along the harbour breakwater. I say "short", but it was 3.3km in length, so much like our regular Monday walks around Jells Park. We did see a (fairy) penguin hiding in his/her rookery, trying to look very inconspicuous, but that was the only one, in spite of there being an estimated 3000 penguins in the area.

We walked right out to the tip of the point, which was challenging, as the last 100m was on loose rocks, about fist size, which meant that one did have to look carefully where one trod, lest the rock was loose and rolled over, taking a foot with it, and then returning with pain. We did try to take some photos of the waves breaking over the rocks, but their timing was not helpful.

If we had thought that this morning's Zodiac ride was adventuresome, then the return trip was twice the excitment! The wind had sprung up, the waves were about 3 metres, and Lauchie, our helmsman, did not believe in going gently into the night or waves. About all I can say is "WHOOSH!".

We dined with Penny, Chris and Graham, but dinner was a little marred by a bit of a pong coming from somewhere. We could all smell it, and agreed it was a bit of a "drains" class smell, but it did cut short dinner somewhat.

No great matter, as we wanted to go and hear the Stargazing talk from Brett and Lachie. The talk itself was interesting, but when it came to the hands on part of the evening, up on deck 6, the sky was rather overcast, and there were only a few stars to see. Still, we did manage to pick out Orion, the Southern Cross, and the "fake cross" (aka The Swan) through breaks in the clouds.

But there were few breaks in the wind, and the wind chill factor was likely off the scale, so we cut short the stargazing, not because of the smell (or too much of it) that cut short dinner, but more because of the sight (or too little of it) of the stars, and the feeling (or too much of it) of the wind. So bed it was.

18 Dec 2023, Monday (Day 6), Mine Disasters

What they said:

Tasmania is a land that should be savoured slowly…with a glass of fine wine in hand and friendly locals to guide you on your way. The Tamar Valley Wine Route is regarded as one of the world’s top 10 wine routes with over 32 wineries to explore. Showcasing some of the finest award winning wines. The unique cool climate location produces elegant wines of exceptional quality. There is so much more to the Tamar Valley than just wine. There’s the Tamar Valley Arts Trail, a unique space where you can meet the artist in their studio. The Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre, which shows the workings of the old mine, recalls the boom days of gold, the events of the 2006 mine rescue and Tamar Valley history.

What we did:

A slightly leisurely start this morning. We were on tour group 3, which had the latest start time: 0915. So we were able to have a more leisurely breakfast, before the other big advantage this morning - a static docking, and gang-plank landing. Off in the bus at 0930, and a bucholic view of northern Tasmania and the Tamar Valley, as we headed across towards the impressive Batman Bridge and our first stop, Beaconsfield, where we were to visit the Beaconsfield mine.

It was most fascinationing. Not only were there many pieces of equipment on display, many of which we working, but there was also an extensive display about the mine cave-in that happened on Anzac Day, 2006. I'm sure you know the story - three miners trapped by a cave in, one died immediately, but the other two survived for 14 days before they were finally rescued, to a great cheer all around Australia, and part of Canada too, because we were in a bus of Aussies doing an APT tour of western Canada, when the tour guide simply said "they are out", and the whole bus immediately knew what she meant. It was a world wide moment of great emotion, and some of that emotion came back to us as we saw the memories of that time. I even took a photo of the mine cage that was background to the moving scenes of the two survivors emerging from the cage.

We spent 90 minutes there, and at every stage, our tour guide, Tony, had to jolly us along to the next stage, so spell-binding were the stories of persistence and doggedness that saw the men rescued. But the winery beckoned, and we had to tear ourselves away.

The next stop was Moores Hill wines, where we tasted a champagne, 3 whites (riesling, chardonnay, pinot gris) and 1 red (pinot noir). The last was my preference, although Barb preferred the pinot gris, as we both agreed is was more in the pinot grigot style (and incidentally, so did the wine maker!) We didn't buy any (some fellow passengers did), but I did make a note of the web page in case we might feel moved on returning to Melbourne.

Then back to the boat and lunch, and then a quiet afternoon. John went to hear the two talks at 1700, firstly a talk on Australian (especially Tasmanian) marsupials by Ilana Archer (one of the on-board naturalists), and then a documentary on "The Kimberley: Land of the Wanjine", both quite fascinating especially as I learnt something new from both of them.

Just time at 1800 to taste the Gravlax Salmon tasting and enjoy a beer, before the 1830 recap and briefing. The recap was by Alicia Watt, who got the giggles when talking about the gin tasting part of the day, which infected the whole audience until we were all giggling with her. Quite threw Dain off his pitch when he came on to talk about the morrow!

Then to dinner, which was a "white night", where we all had to wear something white and/or black. Neither of us had brought anything special on that front, but we did find one or two things (I wore a black T-shirt, for example). The reason for the white night was that we could book a table with a couple of the staff, which we did, and we drew Leccia ("Leshia") and Fanny, the front office manager and staff captain respectively. Both were French, and we had a very chatty time talking about life on the sea and the French language, inter alia. Good fun!

You know what comes next.

19 Dec 2023, Tuesday (Day 7), Wet Landings

What they said:

(This is now the Frecinet Peninsula, not Ile de Phoques.)

Ile des Phoques, or Seal Island forms part of the Schouten Island Group, lying close to the east coast of Tasmania, ten nautical miles South West of Freycinet Peninsula and ten nautical miles North east of Maria Island. The Nature Reserve is home to several breeding seabird species including little penguin, short-tailed shearwater, fairy prion and common diving-petrel. It is a regular haul-out for Australian fur seals sand there is historical evidence that it was once a major breeding colony. Landing on the island is prohibited. If time and weather permit, you will have the opportunity to explore the coastal environments and view the wildlife from our fleet of zodiac.

What we did:

A leisurely breakfast again this morning, as the ship had not yet arrived at its mooring point. Barb has Eggs Florentine, and John had French Toast. Our first activity was not until 1115, when we boarded the Zodiacs via the Marina, which is a big flat deck that can be lowered down to water level, allowing passengers to just step across to the Zodiacs.

Today was to be a "wet" landing, which means no pier or jetty, and jumping from the Zodiac onto the beach directly, while the waves are splashing around you. Hence the "wet" part! It was a pretty bumpy ride across the bay anyway, so we were somewhat wet before attempting the landing. The crew tried to make it a bit easier for us, by reversing in, sitting at the back of the Zodiac, and then swinging one's legs across the side and (onto the beach)/(into the waves). There were some instructions about watching the waves, and choosing one's moment to lower the legs, but it was a bit hit or miss about the waves part. I got wet up to my knees, and I think Barb fared much the same. Once ashore and moving around, we did dry off fairly quickly though.

We then set off along the track that we had explored 9 years ago on the Hurst Harmonization Holiday. It was touted as a "short walk", and notionally 30 minutes, but it took the pair of us about 45 minutes. I have little recollection of how long we took to do it 9 years ago, but we were 9 years younger, and that probably made us 9*100/75 = 12% fitter than we are now. By my calculations, that should shave about 5 and a half minutes off our time, so I think the 30 minutes was optimistic even for a 66 year old.

We did see a wallaby or two along the track, and there was also one on the beach at Wineglass Bay, once we reached it. The weather was not as exciting as it was 9 years ago (there was certainly little risk of fire as there was then!) So that meant that, apart from taking a few more photos of the wallaby, and record shots of the beach, there was not that much to hold us there. Most of us set off fairly soon on the return journey, once we had all visited the long drop loo there.

Unusually, the way back seemed longer than the way there, and add to that perception the fact that it started raining about two thirds of the way back, the return did not seem quite so exciting. Once back at the ocean side of the peninsula, the weather had definitely taken a turn for the worse, and as there were quite a few of us assembling on the beach, contenting for the Zodiacs, which seemed to take a long while to get there, increased. We did get shunted on to the second Zodiac to leave, somewhat as afterthoughts, but it wasn't all that big an advantage, as Barb fell in the water anyway while trying to get into the last seat on the Zodiac. She says (I didn't see it, and she wouldn't do an action replay for me) that the Zodiac moved just as she tried to sit down, but none of the rest of us had that problem. Oh, not quite true - there was one other woman who had the same fate befall her, so maybe there was something in the moving Zodiac hypothesis.

It poured with rain the whole way back, so we all got wet anyway, whether we got in vertically or horizontally. I was worried about my camera, which although it was safe inside the camera bag, the bag itself was beginning to show signs of not being all that waterproof! The camera did survive, but it took a while for the bag to dry out adequately.

Back on the ship, we had a hot shower, and scrouged around to find enough dry clothes to put on. My shoes were hopelessly wet, so I had to wonder around for at least the next 12 hours dressed in sandals, as I only had the one pair of shoes.

At 5pm, Barb went off to the Spa to have a "pedicure", while John went to the dining room to partake in a wine tasting. Run by Anthony, who impressed by having lots of little phials of "wine smells", which he passed around while talking of the individual wine characteristics. We had:

  1. AOC Sancerre, Vincent Gaudry "Melodie de veilles vignes", 2019, Sauvignon Blanc
  2. Burgundy, Pouilly-Fuisse "Le Clos", Chateau Fuisse 2018, Chardonnay
  3. Burgundy, Chambolle-Musigny 2019 David Duband, Pinot Noir
  4. (anon): a Shiraz, aka Hermitage, from the Rhone Valley
  5. St Emilion, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot, from Bordeaux
Of these, John's favourite was no.5, and he put in a request to finish the bottle at dinner time! Barb came back from her pedicure with nicely painted pink toenails, somewhat making up for falling in the water.

We dined with Gary and Fran, and were joined by Ella and Robyn, so we had a full table for a change. (The ship is only 50% full, so people have been spreading themselves out at meal times - no reflection on their eating habits, mind.) We polished off the St Emilion from the wine tasting, and all agreed that it was a very fine drop.

We were quite exhausted by bed time, so there was not much alternative.

20 Dec 2023, Wednesday (Day 8), The Long Walk

What they said:

Located off Tasmania’s east coast, Maria Island is a natural wildlife sanctuary and off-shore retreat with historic ruins, sweeping bays, dramatic cliffs and plenty of stories to tell. Originally inhabited by the indigenous Tyreddeme people, it has also been a whaling and sealing post, penal settlement and an Italian pleasure resort, and is also one of Tasmania's great bird watching hot spots, home to the the endangered forty-spotted pardalote and the rare and unique Cape Barren goose. Grasslands, open forest and tall wood land also provide a home for abundant wildlife including wombats, pademelons, Forester Kangaroos and Bennetts wallabies. Join members of your expedition team for a guided walk on one of several trails on offer. If time and weather permit we will explore the shoreline with our fleet of zodiac.

What we did:

As we had motored across from Frecinet the night before, there was little movement this morning ship-wise, and breathing a collective sigh of relief, the ship's company gave a sigh of relief that this morning's landing would be a dry one, at the local pier. We were in the first tour group to depart, at ostensibly 0900, but the delayed arrival of the biosecurity team to check us all ashore meant that we did not leave the ship until about 0920.

No problems once ashore (a cursory look inside my camera bag was all it took), and we gathered under the leadership of Brett Kitchener for an (ostensibly) 1 hour walk across part of the island to see the fossil cliffs. Brett is a geologist, and could talk for hours about schists and geoclines, and pointed out some of the various geological features as we walked along. But he also knew a bit about the local flora and fauna, and explained some of the features of them as well.

We saw lots of wallabies, cape barren geese, and even a few wombats, who appear to be quite diurnal, and strolled around munching grass, quite oblivious to the humans intently gazing at them and madly clicking shutters. The cape barren geese were also quite tame, although the wallabies kept their distance, and hopped away if approached.

The only other thing of note on the outward journey was the ruins of a lime kiln, built to process limestone into cement, which was exported from the island. This closed in the 1960s, and there was not much of the kiln itself left, although the silos used to store the processed cement were still standing next to the harbour pier where we landed.

The next thing of note was a huge great hill, which we struggled up. There was a wonderful view of the limestone cliffs from the top, and Brett gave us the run-down on that. Apparently the limestone seam was exposed here, so the mining of it was a simple scratch and collect operation, thus rendering some economies to the remote location.

Of course, what goes up must come down, and we then had to scramble down a long steep incline to the next stop, which was the target of interest, the fossil cliffs. John was pretty knackered by this stage, and elected to sit and recover at the entrance to the rough flight of steps that led to the actual fossils. Barb elected to go down, but it wasn't long before John had a bout of FOMO, and went down the steps somewhat gingerly. But he did miss most of the explanation from Brett, and had to content himself with a photo or two. Read Barb's diary if you want the gory details.

The jpourney back to the pier was much longer and difficult than the outward journey, even though it was quite flat. We had expended so much energy and effort on the outward leg, that the return leg had pretty well fallen off. Added to that, John felt some other pressures that gave him added impetus, so it was with great relief that he finally staggered into the facilities at the pier. The one hour walk had turned into a two and a quarter hour trip, and it was 1150 before we were ready for the Zodiac.

A fairly dry (in comparison) ride back to the ship in the Zodiac, and it was time for lunch. Our afternoon "expedition" was confined to the Zodiac, and we went first to see the "painted cliffs", which we sandstone cliffs stained by the passage of water through the sandstone, depositing various coloured oxides as it went. The cliffs were subsequently weathered away, leaving inticate patterns of colour in the cliffs.

Then back across the bay and around to the cliffs that we had admired in the morning. There was quite a lot of seabird life around, and we sploshed around a bit looking and trying to identify all the birds that we could see. See-birds and talk about them!

Then back to the ship, as there were two other sessions of Zodiac rides to fit in, and not enough Zodiecs to do us all at once. But we were grateful for the couple of uncommitted hours before we had to do anything else. Back at the ship I realised that I had gone out without applying sunscreen, nor was wearing a hat, so my face had gone quite a nice shade of red. On Anna's suggestion, I did apply a generous layer of skin lotion from the dispenser in our bathroom, and that did help take away to hot flushed feeling, if not the lobster-like look.

Afternoon tea was macaron flavoured, and we compared notes with Anna and Liz about the day until 1830 when we went to the day's (de)briefing, to hear all about Port Arthur and the "expeditions" tomorrow. We had dinner by ourselves, but that we did not mind too much, as were we happy enough with our own company, and Barb was happy to look at Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Bed was very welcome today!

21 Dec 2023, Thursday (Day 9), People are Bastards

What they said:

The Port Arthur Historic Site was established in 1830 as a timber station and was soon built into a small town designed for the housing and punishment of over a thousand of Tasmania’s most notorious convicts. Over its long history, Port Arthur has been a place of hardship and punishment, a place of opportunity, and a place of leisure. Now it is one of Australia’s most important heritage destinations, where the story of Australia’s colonial history is written in stone and brick. Port Arthur was included in the National Heritage List on 3 June 2005 and is one of 5 World Heritage listed convict sites in Tasmania. Join your expedition team and local guides for an insight into Tasmania's tumultuous past.

What we did:

We anchored this morning in the very sheltered Port Arthur, and as we were not due to go ashore until 1015, were able to have a leisurely breakfast. At 1015, we duly joined the queue of red passengers (including some with red faces!) to board the Zodiacs, and it was a smooth short ride to the jetty at Port Arthur.

On the dock we were met by our local guide Tony (?) who regaled us with lots of salty yarns about the convicts who came, or rather, were sent, to Port Arthur. He took us through the Penitentiary, the big obvious ruin in the Port Athur complex, and explained the elaborate and heinous incaceration system. Prisoners would get 20 lashes for crimes such as leering at an officer's wife, and there was little mercy or compassion in dealing with offenders. It was a very dark time in Australia's past, matched perhaps only by the treatment of early aborigines, who were regarded as "savages" and beyond redemption - whereas at least there was lip service paid to the notion that convicts would get some mercy if they were "of good behaviour".

After the sobering visit to the Penitentiary, we were in need of some sustenance, so we walked to the cafe. (Note: The Broad Arrow Cafe is now closed, and gutted, and the walls are kept as a memorial to the 35 people who were killed there in April 1996. The bastardry that happened in the Penitentiary did not stop there. "tumultuous past", and present gruesome present.)

After coffee and a shared biscuit, we walked back to the jetty, and caught the next Zodiac returning to the ship. Neither of us felt much enthusiasm to see more of Port Arthur, in spite of the nice weather.

Back on the ship we had lunch on the back of deck 3 by the pool, with Andrew and Kim. Barb felt like a burger, so I joined her - quite filling! We did have a nice rose to wash them down.

The afternoon was spent reading. John had bought a book at the Port Arthur cafe and gift shop. He had been intrigued by some of the lectures given by the Expedition staff on the Tasmanian Aborigines, so he bought an eponymous book. Quite interesting, although it is rather dry stuff.

Then we tried talking to Nathan and Lynne, it being Thursday. It was a mized success - while we got through, we kept being interrupted by ship borne distractions: captain's announcements; pianists playing; Expedition staff meetings; and doof-doof music on the back deck. Then we lost the connection when the ship started to move, and we went out of range of the Port Arthur mobile towers, whence cometh our internet connection.

At 1730 there was a presentation of all the staff on board, to much whistled and applauded gratitude by many passengers. This was done with the backdrop of Tasman Island, which, if you know the Tasman Peninsula, is a spectacular granite/dolomite promontory, complete with lighthouse and brilliant evening sunshine. It was a fitting tribute.

In the evening we had the second gala dinner. Anna had invited us to join her mother (Liz) and her, as well as another friend, Lynne, and then organized Andrew and Kim to join us as well. It was a lively and noisy table, and we had a great evening, with good food and wine (St Emillion Merlot/Cab Sav). We were about the last table to break up, thus honouring a great tradition set last year on the Noordam (q.v.) We also saw albatrosses, dolphins, a gannet, and some very impressive scenery.

All in all, a most memorable day!

22 Dec 2023, Friday (Day 10), Life on the Ocean Wave

What they said:

The Tasman and Forestier peninsulas lie in the far south-east of Tasmania, linked to the rest of the island by a short bridge over a dredged canal. Established in 1999, The Tasman National Park protects the eastern and southern coastal regions of both peninsulas. The park's varied coastline and offshore islands provide abundant habitats for Australian fur seals, little penguins, whales and dolphins flourish in the rich waters. However the park’s greatest features are on land, with spectacular woodlands and forests and Australia’s highest sea cliffs. Striking dolerite spires rise from the Tasman Sea, culminating in capes Hauy, Pillar, and Raoul. Enjoy a refreshing swim in the pristine waters of Fortescue Bay, or join your expedition team for a guided walk to enjoy the spectacular view from Cape Huay. If time and weather permit we will also explore the shoreline from our fleet of zodiac.

What we did:

Some of these mornings seem to get later and later. We were not due to embark on our expedition until 1100 this morning (although there was some confusion as the briefing last night said 0930, but we asked, and that was wrong). So consequently we did not rush breakfast, and turned up at 0845, only 15 minutes before breakfast was packed away! But we managed our more or less usual breakfast (although John did struggle to finish his bagel and salmon), and we skipped coffee.

We had nearly 2 hours before departure, so a cup of coffee in the lounge was in order. We met Liz and Anna there, and heard all about their expedition: they saw seals, albatrosses, and dolphins, and said that it was a great finish to the tour. We had in fact seen the pod of dolphins that they saw from the water, but we saw them from the dining room. Talking with Dain a little later, he said to me that he thought there were "80 to 100" dolphins in the pod, and I would believe it - there were so many of them frisking in the water.

We finished our coffees, and then returned to our cabin for a few catch-up things (like this diary), before heading down to reception to await our call for the Zodiac. Barb had requested a "console" Zodiac, as they had extra handles to hang on to, but we got gazumped by a party of 7, and had to wait for the next but one Zodiac, driven by Ben Miles. He was a reasonable driver, and did try to predict what the waves would do, and adjusted his speed accordingly. But conditions did get a little rough, and Barb got jolted on the hip a bit too vigorously, and complained for the rest of the day that it was under a little pain.

Heading off from the ship, we first looked at the cliff features, interesting enough in their own right, with lots of kelp growing at the base of them. Before long, we found what we had been looking for - seals! There were lots of them, mostly sunbathing, but a few swimming around in the water, and frolicking a bit. We took lots of photos, they are so cute!

In between the pods of seals, there were various sea bird rookeries, glaringly obvious from the white poo trails down the rocks, often to the extent that the rocks had become all over white! We also saw a white-bellied sea eagle, perched in a tree.

We went through a cleft in the rocks, and emerged on the ocean side of the peninsula, with a much larger swell, and attendant bouncing of the Zodiac. Up and down, up and down, we made our way across to the next cleft in the rocks, where the majestic Candelabra stood. This was a 75m high square section rock, with the square section of about 10m square. That was impressive enough, but next to it was a shorter column that was not much more that 4m square! It was perhaps only 40m high, but it had a couple of rock climbers half way up it! Oo-err! Rather them than me!

After that excitement, we turned to head back to the ship, but we did go via several of the sites we had already visited, just to check what the seals had done, and to giggle at their antics again.

Back on the ship, it was time for lunch, and we joined Chris and Jill on deck 3 aft, to have some fried calamari (quite nice) and salad, followed by dessert (Tiramisu, rice pudding, and a something-or-other tart). We chatted with Chris and Jill, and enjoyed the Vertoux Rose (several glasses worth) until 1400, when Barb disappeared to go and hear about pinnipeds (seals), and John (a bit later) went to do a bit of work on his computer (downloading photos in particular).

1500 Barb reappeared, and we went to the main lounge for tea, and we filled in our survey form for the cruise. Although we ticked many of the boxes on the positive side, there were a few things that had left us feeling a little less than satisfied, and after writing them down, we had a bit of a chat with Liz about some of the safety issues that we thought were not handled well. I shall talk to David about them when we get home - I think there is some scope for his software company to do some work with Ponant.

At 1730 we attended the disembarkation talk - nothing surprising there, and most of the process and concepts we had encountered on our previous travels. So back to the cabin to start work on packing.

Packing went on until after 1900, when we realized we were missing dinner, so we shot off to the dining room, where we dined with Lynne (from last night) and Fran and Gary whom we had met before several times. It was a nice farewell dinner! Then back to the cabin to finish packing, including getting this computer packed so that we can get our bags outside for 0600 pickup ...

23 Dec 2023, Saturday (Day 11), Salamanca and Oysters

What they said:

Hobart occupies a wonderful location at the mouth of the Derwent River, overseen by majestic Mt Wellington and surrounded by natural bushland. The Tasmanian capital is Australia's second-oldest city, after Sydney, and the picturesque waterfront is bordered by 19th-century warehouses and colonial mansions. Salamanca Place is packed with shops, galleries and restaurants and the fascinating Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) is a short ferry ride from the quay. Hobart is within easy reach of some of Tasmania's best-known destinations, from historic Port Arthur and the rugged Tasman Peninsula to Bruny Island, the Huon and Derwent Valleys and Mount Field National Park.

What we did:

The final stages of packing this morning, as we squashed everything into our bags. Because the ship suggested that we not put laptops into the checked luggage, both our laptops went into one bag, which we kept, and all the other (heavy) stuff like books and papers somehow found themselves space in the suitcase. Off to breakfast with a clear conscience that comes from meeting your own deadlines ...

At breakfast, said goodbye to a few friends and collected email addresses. Then, since everything was done, we disembarked a bit before 0800, and made our way to the shed where our checked luggage was waiting for us. Thus further encumbered, we walked along the wharf to the Henry Jones Hotel, and checked in. Of course, we could not get into our room, so our bags had to sit waiting until early this afternoon, when we could access the room.

We decided to visit Salamanca Place, as it was Saturday, and the market was on. We strolled across the docks to Salamanca Place, and noted that the crowds were not impossible, as it was just after 0800, and some stalls were still setting up. We did a lap of all the stalls to the east of Parliament House Gardens, and bought a couple of things, such as a Huon Pine spatula, and a little wooden angel. Then it was time for coffee, so we found a stall that looked like the real McCoy, and bought coffees and sat in a nearby seat.

There was a young girl there as we sat down, and she was happy for us to share the seat. We had a bit of a chat with her until she had to go and meet someone, and then we were joined by an older bloke (early 50s, I guess), who turned out to be a meteorologist who had been posted to various exciting places, such as Macquarie Island and Antarctica, and who was an award-winning photographer to boot. His name was Barry Becker, and he shared his web-site address with us, and the photos on his gallery were quite stunning. I particularly liked one of a colony of penguins on Macquarie - much like the colony we saw in the Falklands. Just lots (and I mean lots!) of penguins, all standing cheek by jowl, looking very pleased with themselves.

We left soon after Barry left, and by then the crowds had grown quite a bit. We did check out Salamanca Square, lots of art galleries and the like, and then went and sat in Parliament House Gardens for 30 minutes or so. Looking at the other half of the market, it all looked too busy for us, so we called an early lunch and made a beeline for Daci & Daci (which we had visited before) and bought a ham and cheese croissant to share, and another coffee with mince pie each.

We walked back along Davey Street just for something different, and on reaching the hotel, retired to the Jam Packed Cafe where we read our books, and had a glass of gewurtztraminer until our room was ready.

We then had a bit of quiet time in our room, although it wasn't all that quiet, as there was a noisy protest meeting up on Davey Street, which seemed to be about the Israeli-Palestine War, but we inured ourselves against being distracted by it. John did some computing, Barb read.

At 1600 we had a date with the IXL Long Bar, where John had another Hairy Troll and Mountain to Mountain Oatmeal Stout, and Barb used her "two-for-one" cocktail discount card to try the raspberry one she had last time, and then a new one, called Brandy Humbug, which had the added theatre of being flamed, and poured from one cocktail shaker to another while on fire! All very exciting, and we enjoyed chatting to Matt and Jen, the bar staff, while being so entertained.

At 1800 we traipsed across to Pearl and Co., a seafood restaurant next to Mures, where we had an excellent dinner, much better than either Mures or The Drunken Admiral, which we had sampled when here before the cruise. John had half doz oysters natural, oyster soup, and curried scallop pot pie - all brilliant - while Barb had cauliflower soup with scallops, and then fried fish and chips. She liked them both, but the F&C came back to bite her later in the evening - she doesn't get on with heavily fried food!

Then back to HJ for an early night, ready to return home on the morrow.

24 Dec 2023, Sunday (Day 12), Home Again!

What we did:

Packing was a little more challenging this morning, as we had to keep things within their regular weight limit. Didn't do too badly, as when we weighed the carry-ons at the airport, Barb's was 6kg and mine was 8kg, so our average of 7kg was right on the money.

We breakfasted in the HJ lounge, but neither of us felt all that hungry. (I wonder why?) We settled for a shared plate of fruit, and poached eggs on toast for each of us. It was fine.

Then came the challenge of getting to the airport. We decided to catch the Sky Bus, but where to catch it and how to get tickets? Both questions were easily answered at the front counter. They had a timetable, and said that we had 20 minutes to get to the last stop on the city loop, which was just the other side of the Grand Chancellor Hotel, just across Davey Street. And we could buy the tickets on the bus. So we headed off across Davey Street, one block north, to Macquarie Street, and found the bus stop right on the corner. But with our luggage we had a bit of a weight, and a bit of a wait.

After 20 minutes of waiting, the bus arrived, 10 minutes late from the advertised time. But the bus driver (a woman) [is that sexist, commenting on the fact that the bus driver was a woman? I don't think so, it is unusual, and especially as I am about to comment on her politneness] apologised profusely, and helped us to get our luggage on board.

A 25 minute run to the airport, where we had plenty of time to connect with our flight, so we had a cup of coffee each and shared a croissant. There was a Qantas flight scheduled to Melbourne at the same time as our Virgin flight, so you can imaging the confusion that caused! But we boarded OK, and after 1h07m59.27s flight time, landed in Melbourne, where we caught to Skybus back to Spencer St, then a Glen Waverley train, and then, the hardest bit of all, walking home exhausted, wheeling our luggage.

After a most interesting trip, it was still good to be home. Now for Christmas!

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