Thursday, January 31, 2013

The house of Camelot

From Saint Helens we rode south to Freycenet National Park. We camped in Coles Bay and visited the park and did the walk to Wine glass bay. The name refers to the shape of the bay. The names of the bays and mountains here often are French. This is because of the fact that the Dutch discoverers of Tasmania, that they called Van Diemen's Land, didn't think it worth while to colonize it. In Napoleon's days the French tried to establish their influence here and sent their explorers, thus the names. In the end the British won it by inventing a very fast way to populate this far land: they sent loads of convicts over. In these times in England people often were sentenced to be sent overseas for very minor offences. Just read Charles Dickens. Now the remains of the settlements that were founded by convicta are the major tourist attraction of this part of Tasmania.

From Coles Bay we rode in two days to Spring Beach, were we stayed in the hospitable home of Jenny and Dennis, friends of a Warmshowers-couple where we stayed a while ago. They call the house a shack and named it Camelot, but it's a real house, looking out over the ocean and a beautiful beach, with some more small houses (wooden ex-railway station offices) in the garden. We had our own. Soon we were, it is the continuing Australian story again, more or less members of the family. There were other family members around, including Belle and Rosie, two sweet little grand daughters. Lovely (if not awesome :-) . And to complete it, we know where the key is from their Hobart home and we will live there during the last week or so of our Australian expedition. Now, can we learn something from that?

Today we spent in historic Richmond, the most English-like town of Australia. Again, do not think too much of it, it is just a couple of streets, but there is the oldest bridge here and the oldest catholic church of the country. The bridge was built in 1823 by convicts, the goal (prison) of that time is another tourist attraction of the place. Unfortunately it has been raining more or less all day and the temperatures are below 20˚C. Not the best circumstances to camp in a small tent. Tomorrow it is expected to be better and we will leave for another historic destination: Port Arthur. It's the most important place referring to the history of Australia as the place where convicts were banned to. There are the remains of a big prison there and people say that it is an impressive and shameful site.
To get there we will have to pass through Dunalley, we will even have to camp there behind the pub. You might remember the name Dunalley; it was the first place to be almost wiped out by an enormous bushfire this summer. It was all over the news in the whole world. Still lots of people, many of them volunteers, are working there to get things going again, most of the town seems to be destroyed. We phoned in to check if we are welcome, since so many places are taken by those workers from all over the country. They told us that they want us to come, they want to go back to normal as soon as possible. Thus we will see with our own eyes what a devastating fire can do. Here's a link to some photos of the fire there, frightening!