Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Hobart 1/1/2013

The infamous Tasmanian Devil

The "Lonely Planet Travel Guide" advises to see Tasmania before others discover it. 

After the welcome we received last evening, we were eager to begin our discovery of this city which lies in the shadow of Mount Wellington. The highlight of the trip was to be a visit to the Bonorong Park Animal Centre, where we would meet the Tasmanian devil.

Our guide was a native “Hobartian”, who was more than eager to share the pride she felt for her home, a land rich in history, wildlife, flora and fauna. As we traveled through the countryside she explained how bees are taken into the rainforest and later collected with a very special honey, how farmers grow a wide variety of lettuce, pink-eyed potatoes, apricots, cherries and poppies that produce an opium that is legal and used by the pharmaceutical companies that are on the island. This is a place where sheep are prevalent and one can buy the very best Merino wool. She spoke of the large lavender farm on the northern coast and the unique native conifers on Mount Read, some estimated to be 10,000 years old. We knew that this was home to many mammals and the only place to see the Tasmanian devil in the wild. We did not know about the Theater Royal, the Sympathy Orchestra, the Royal Botanical Gardens and a synagogue, which is the oldest in Australia and a rare example of an Egyptian Revival synagogue. We also did not know that it is internationally famous for its clean air and pure water that Australian’s Olympic team sends it to wherever they are competing.

Our first stop was at the historic town of Richmond, a small town that has changed little since its beginnings over 120 years ago, and yes, Jon found the bakery and the candy shop. Then we were off to meet up with the waiting animals.

Look for the baby

After a brief introduction by a ranger, we entered the Wildlife Park and were met by a gorgeous peacock that was roaming freely. Many kangaroos were also roaming freely and we could feed, pet and pose for pictures with them.

After visiting the kangaroos we were asked to follow a path that took us by, among other things wallabies, which look like kangaroos but are smaller, emus, a large variety of birdcages and the final stop where we could see the koalas. 
These were also in cages, but in environments that resemble their homes in the wild. Some were sleeping and some were resting in the trees. A ranger was holding one and explained to us about their eating and sleeping habits. How much fun it was to see all of these animals up close. We returned to the bus and headed back to the ship, but not for long.

Hobart is internationally famous among the yachting community as the finish of the Sydney to HobartYacht Race, which starts in Sydney annually on December 26th. The arrival of the yachts, three days earlier marked the beginning of the Hobart Summer Festival, the Taste of Hobart. We headed to the pier; saw the yachts, walked through part of the festival. Everywhere you looked, partying was the order of the day. We returned to ship feeling that we had experienced a unique New Year's Day.

But there was more to come. Later in the afternoon, it rained in the mountains and we could see the beginnings of a rainbow. Rainbows kept appearing and disappearing. Some of them were half, others whole, some weak in color and others strong. Some touched the land and some touched the water. We watched  this fireworks display, put on by Mother Nature for the longest time. It was a remarkable way to begin the year.

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