latitude = Portland ME
A short ninety minute flight brought us to Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. I think of Tasmania as the Alaska of Australia. It's far removed from the rest of the country, an island in the southeast corner. Its relative proximity to Antarctica gives it a totally different climate than the rest of the country. While there are no glaciers, its cool temperatures and frequent rains give it a unique feel. Many people on our plane had backpacks and clearly intended to march out into the wilderness and do some hiking this holiday weekend. The trees are beginning to change colors, a sign that it really is autumn here Down Under in March. From the air it was easy to see that the land is rough and many areas did not appear to be accessible by road. We made two cruise stops here ten years ago and suffered through nothing but rain as we visited national parks and struggled to see their wonders through the mist. Raincoat and umbrella in hand, we got off the plane today in bright sunshine. The forecast is iffy, but we treasured the day.
At times Tasmania's relative isolation from an isolated country has caused difficulties. When the British off loaded their convicts to Australia after our Revolutionary War closed our doors to their riff-raff, the worst of the worst of the prisoners were sent here. Up north the folks who stole a loaf of bread to feed their family lived in warmth, but here was a life of real privation for the murderers.
We got here a few hours before the rest of our group arrived. The receptionist at the hotel suggested we go to the Saturday market at Salamanca Square. It was a fun way to spend a few hours. You get a insight into an area when you see what commerce they have. Many booths sold local honey, leather goods and things carved out of wood. After a delicious breakfast of sweet balls on the plane (many jokes ensued), we were ready for a little lunch and foods from every corner of the world were being vended. We had empanadas, but could have opted for Persian, Thai, Chinese, Korean, veggie friendly, freshly caught seafood, etc. etc. If there is a typically Aussie food, we don't know what it is.
Our first impressions of our guide and travel group are very positive. People who chose to travel with Overseas Adventure Travel, which specializes in small groups and alternating tours and free time, are usually our kind of people. Some of them have been here a few days and others just flew in today. Our bodies still are not on this time zone and we were sad to hear that with Daylight Savings Time we are going to gain an extra hour since fall arrives tomorrow. We'll be waking up at 3am instead of 4! It appears that we will have more free time and more meals on our own than we have had on OAT trips in countries like India and Tanzania where it is more challenging to navigate our way around by ourselves. There is much more here that is familiar and we can always ask questions if we are lost or confused. Australians do speak English, but the more we speak with them, the more we realize how different many of our expressions are.