It is very exciting to be back on the road again…even though we are traveling via 4 wheels instead of the preferred 2!!! For the short term I will openly embrace the warmth and comfort of this caged environment. Our plan is to explore the back roads, engage "steering wheel therapy", and basically just enjoying every moment of campervan madness while my arms and hands heal, regain their strength, and are once again up to no good! You never know we may grow to like it!….The campervan experience that is! I know you were thinking of the "up to no good" part…ha ha ha!!!!
Kev and I decided to rent our Toyota Hiace Campervan from "the Devil himself"…Devil Campervans, this would definitely guarantee us a Devilish good time…ahhh this is already getting old…ha ha ha. The fight from Melbourne Airport to Hobart was just under 1 hour. Within the next hour we had been cleared by the agricultural sniffer dog, been picked up by Devil Campervans, completed the camper paperwork, and were once again excited to be on our adventure again. We looked at the map and decided to head to White Sands Beach, just outside of the historic convict site of Port Arthur, to camp for the night. We traveled through a long stretch that was decimated by the fires Tasmania had experienced a few months earlier. As we drove past a burned out home I noticed a lady sitting in what was once her living room in front of the fireplace talking on her cell phone. She was seated on a camping chair and the entire home was burned to the foundation. It was an emotionally moving image.
We bought groceries along the way, pulled into White Sands Caravan park and they directed us to a spot right next to the beach. The park was nearly empty and it was sprinkling rain as we set up for our first night in the camper cage. Wow, we've got meat, milk, heat, a sink, and, a roof over our head for tonight. If we were on the bikes we'd be setting up our tent in the rain, inflating our mattresses, setting up the chairs and the putting them under the vestibule loaded with our helmets, boots and gear, and then lighting our whisper light backpacking stove, or perhaps looking for a camp kitchen, to heat water for a tuna & couscous dinner, heat another pot of water for an after dinner coffee and then heat another pot of water to clean up the camping cups, bowls and silverware. After all that then packing up for the night so that he kangaroos and wildlife don't run off with our gear, then crawling into our small tent, snuggled cozy in our sleeping bags listening to the rain and wind as we fall off to sleep…hoping that we keep dry during the night! With the camper van we plugged it in, turned on the gas, opened the fridge, prepared a fresh salad, complete with salad dressing and tossed a nice juicy steak into a salted hot pan…and poured a wine! Now, you might be thinking that I prefer the camper van and that's just not the case. I'm enjoying the simplicity of it. I would even say this tiny Toyota Hi-Ace is luxurious compared to motorcycle camping, although, we're not experiencing the world the same way as we do on the bikes. Motorcycling is so "in your face"! You are engaged in your surroundings 110% of the time. I will need to pay extra attention to what is going on outside of the van and maybe ride/drive with my head sticking out of the window from time to time…just to smell and taste the life around… soak it all in!….ha ha ha
Port Arthur is an amazing place. This penal station housed more than 2000 convicts at its industrial height. Men were not only to be punished, they were to be reformed and turned into useful citizens. The Port Arthur Historic Site Management Authority has done an incredible job of preserving, and restoring, not only the structures of this 100 acre Penitentiary and town, but, of telling the stories of the individual prisoners and what life was like for them. Kev and I spent the entire day caught up in the historical moments, touring around the 30+ buildings, ruins, beautiful grounds and gardens. Amazingly enough the British Empire considered the age of responsibility to be deemed at 7 years of age, back in the day…hard to imagine! Located just across the harbor from Port Arthur was Point Puer, the first reformatory built exclusively for juvenile male convicts, infamously known for its strict regime of stern disciple and harsh punishment. Between the years of 1834 and 1849, 3000 boys between the ages of 8 - 12 were sentenced and transported to Point Puer, for reformation.
The Coal Mines is another historical site not far from the Port Arthur penal station. These coal mines produced most of the coal used in Van Dieman's Land and originally opened 3 years after Port Arthur was established in the 1830's.The Coal Mines also served as a punishment station of men who had committed a serious offense. Only convicts who were skilled miners worked at the coal face. They dug an average of 3 tons per day and had 3 convict laborers to clear the coal.
The coastline of this Port Arthur area is absolutely spectacular! There is a distinct harshness in the air that is softened by the raw remote beauty of this land. And as you look out over the cliffs, bluffs and harbors, a chilly wind whips over you and raises the hair on the back of your neck… imagine the fear and dread the convicts would have experienced as they were being transported to Van Dieman's Land...Boy…how frightening it would have been!!
Tasmania has equally interesting animals! We visited a Tasmanian Devil Sanctuary in the area, experienced a feeding and learnt about the Quoll, Pademelon, Bettong and the Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), who's now extinct with the last sighting being in the 1930's. Very cool stuff!