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Tasmania - From Abel Tasman to the Bruny Bridge

Dernière mise à jour : 31 mars 2022

Tasmania, or Tassie, the forgotten part of Australia. Melissa and I had spent a few days there in 2015 and we got engaged in Lake St Clair. How could we not go again? The timing was perfect: after our first 2 weeks looping back to Melbourne around the South East coast, we were ready to sail on January 22nd, the best time of the year to visit beautiful Tassie.

Spirit of Tasmania – Rock the boat

It all starts with boarding onto the Spirit of Tasmania, with a little apprehension for the big rig, but it all went easy. The Spirit is actually a Finnish-built boat, and it first tested the waters between Greece and Italy, before making its debut in the famous Bass Strait separating Tasmania from the Australian mainland in 2002. Although I have spent many hours on the Adriatic sea in mild waters, I do tend to get a bit seasick…

The shipwrecks on the Tasmanian and Victorian coastlines number in the hundreds…

On the Bass Strait, Wikipedia says: “strong currents between the Antarctic-driven southeast portions of the Indian Ocean and the Tasman Sea's Pacific Ocean waters provide a strait of powerful, wild storm waves. The shipwrecks on the Tasmanian and Victorian coastlines number in the hundreds…”. Hmm… . Then I read that in 2005, the ship carrying the usual load of passengers sailed into 20 m waves that severely damaged multiple deck levels, forcing it to return to port... There is even an entry for The Bass Strait Triangle! Friends were worried for us.

Guess what: we had the smoothest ride. Kids quickly found the “games room” on upper deck, and enjoyed a rare prolonged session of Minecraft collaboration on big screens. Needless to say the parents simultaneously enjoyed (well-deserved) extended quiet reading time. We had a day cruise with a nice nap in our mandatory (COVID requirements) cabin, before landing in Devonport, TAS.

Abel Tasman and Van Diemen's Land

Tasmania is twice the size of Switzerland, and with less than 600’000 inhabitants, it is 15 times less populated. It has been an island for only about 8 to 12’000 years, when the end of the last Ice Age raised the sea water and created the Bass Strait. Its average depth is only of 60 m.

Dutch explorer Abel Tasman was the first to land in 1642, not knowing it was an island. He was sailing for the Dutch East Indies Company, under the protection of its Governor, Antony Van Diemen. It is only in 1798 that George Bass and Matthew Flinders could sail through the Bass Strait and determine that it was fully separated from the Mainland. When the first British settlers arrived in 1803, the name Van Diemen’s Land was kept (listen to U2’s song). The colony was known for its penal settlements until 1877. In 1856, with the introduction of a self-government, due to the “demon” connotation of the colony’s name, it was changed to Tasmania, in honour of the early explorer.

Abel Tasman commemorative fountain in Hobart

Walking around Hobart’s buzzing Salamanca Market, we spent some time with the boys reading and learning about that part of History. The fountain monument was inaugurated by Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands in 1988. How do you explain to the kids that the Dutch discovered Tassie, the English took possession, and the Dutch come to cut the ribbon in Hobart! History is fun.

In more recent history, the Tasmanian Governement has started building a gigantic bridge to connect its southernmost gem, Bruny Island, to the Tasmanian mainland. Rumors have it that the Chinese are trying to buy Tasmania and develop the new Singapore… Ok, that’s for those who enjoy a good book and conspiracy. Melissa and I both read Bruny, by Heather Rose, a fabulous read.

Launceston, here we come

We have decided to spend 2 weeks in Tassie. We can tell you, it is not enough. We were lucky to have the best weather ever plus the luxury of COVID times: less people visiting. However, we were at the tail-end of the Summer holidays, so we still had to book our campgrounds and plan our trip in advance. This left us with little room to manoeuver.

We drove out of the Spirit of Tasmania into a beautiful evening light in Devonport, and headed out to our first site in Launceston, 100 km down the road, at the mouth of the Derwent River.

The Derwent River

There, our Tasmanian adventure would begin in (vintage) style… Part II coming soon!

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