Saturday, April 14, 2012


Somebody died yesterday at Marrickville station.  I don’t know who it was, but they fell (or jumped) onto the tracks in front of a train.  It happened mid-afternoon and shut down the whole Bankstown-Inner West loop.  By the time I arrived in Marrickville after waiting at Bankstown for over an hour, there was no sign that anything had ever happened.  

I walked home unusually aware of my vulnerability in this world.

I’ve been wondering how best to sum up the grand finale of my parents’ visit – our great Tasmanian adventure – in a less-than-thesis-length blog post.  Last night, what I really want to say about it finally occurred to me: I’m so glad it happened.


We took the 7.25am flight to Hobart.  I’d spent the night at my Parentals’ hotel so we could all get to the airport together.  I was the last one out of bed and the first one ready to go.  Naturally.

South-eastern Tasmania has a lot of farmland.  I was struck by how brown everything was until we arrived at Port Arthur and the ground turned a violent shade of green.  

I loved Port Arthur.  This was where they used to put the convicts who had reoffended after arriving in Australia.  It was a remarkable place, a mixture of attempted progress and unspeakable horrors.  They had a library with some 13,000 books in the prisoners’ barracks and were pioneering in their use of psychological punishment – solitary confinement and sensory deprivation – in place of physical punishment.  They were also pioneering in their practice of separating boys from men.  The boys were kept at Point Puer, an island just offshore and perhaps 50 metres from the Isle of the Dead, which is, obviously, where they kept the dead.  Free men were buried in graves with tombstones at the higher end of the island and convicts were buried in unmarked graves at the lower end.

Where they kept the prisoners of the 'worst character'

My mom and I went back to the site after dinner for a lantern-lit ghost tour, and oh my goodness gracious.  There were chills down the spine.  Mom shrieked.


We woke up the next morning to a very cold cabin.  I was secretly quite pleased that the Parental Units were experiencing indoor Australian winter temperatures.  Vindication for me.  We spent the morning exploring the Tasman Peninsula and went up Mount Wellington in the afternoon.  It was cold and windy and somewhat other-worldly.  Periodically the sun would come out, and then the angels would sing and you’d briefly remember that you were on earth.  


Day 3 was our big driving day, and we headed northwest into the mountains.  We stopped for lunch partway along and were joined at our table by at least a dozen bees.  I was a little bit scared for my life.  Mom may have had a chuckle then, but she wasn’t laughing when we got to the swinging Frenchman’s Capbridge.


I love mountains.  I love looking at them and smelling them and, most of all, climbing them.  We warmed up our climbing muscles the next morning with a walk around Dove Lake, and enjoyed idyllic views of Cradle Mountain.

We did a scouting for animals tour that night and saw wombats, wallabies – including moms and babies – and two kinds of possums.  Then we huddled up in our cabin with bowls of popcorn, and my Dad taught me how to like ginger beer.


The Crater Lake walk was next on the list.  We started out along a boardwalk, and Mom counted the batches of wombat poo.  Forty-three was the last number I remember.

From Crater Lake, Dad and I climbed up to Marion’s Lookout while Mom continued on ahead.  We talked stats and Dad said that the day he submitted his PhD, he elected to celebrate by taking my mom to a night of bridge.  He’s a man who knows how to party, my Dad.  If anyone is curious about where I got my affinity for social activities, there you have it.


We all loved Launceston.  I may have come home and Googled the University of Tasmania to check the job prospects.  We made a couple stops after that – one for lunch, which we shared with a family of pandemelons, and one in a town whose name now escapes me that had a convict-built bridge and all kinds of character.  When we pulled in, I said, “Hey, there’s the bakery that was in the travel guide!”

“You can’t be hungry already,” said Mom, “We only just finished lunch.”  It was true.  We’d had lunch an hour or so before, and I had eaten a particularly large amount of it.  

“I didn’t say I was hungry,” I told her.  We poked our noses in and had a sniff, and then I had a pecan tart.


It was a trip without a wasted moment, which is just how trips should be.  I don’t hang out on train tracks; I always stay behind the yellow line and I look both ways before I cross the street.  But still.  I'm glad we went.

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