We having a short holiday at Port Arthur. We have set up the camper trailer at the caravan park here. We have an ensuite!! This makes for a short trip in the middle of the night. We have had some delightful visitors including an orange breasted robin, several green eastern rosellas, pademelons, blue wrens and today, an echidna wandered through. On our walks, we saw two white lipped snakes, one green, one grey, and lots of skinks.
Our first day was very wet so beside a brief walk to the outskirts of the historic park, we read and relaxed. Day 2 was spent exploring the historic site. It is our first visit for eight years. Sunny as we walked around, visiting the old church, a splendid lunch at the magistrates house of cheese biscuits and wine with the music of Chopin wafting out the doorway and then the Separate Prison with its thick aura of madness and cruelty. It was based on the principle of years of solitary confinement and absolute silence. Invented by an American doctor called Benjamin Rush but it’s full inhumanity was only realised by the ideas of Jeremy Bentham who inspired Pentonville.
We left the prison and walked past the museum, uphill to the old hospital, more buildings including where political prisoners were held. Young Ireland and Chartist rebels were transported for arguing for justice.
The commandants house is well restored with furnished rooms and historical displays. It was used as a boarding house so it’s never been allowed to decline as have other buildings. Preservation of the site is first class avoiding the perils of restoration and creating a theme park like Soveriegn Hill in Ballarat. Recreating Port Arthur would be a mistake, the buildings, the exhibits and artefacts, allow each of us to create our own story. It was noticeable that there was no mention of Aboriginals anywhere. Were they gone by 1833 when Port Arthur was founded??
Dinner was at Gabriel’s. Restaurant a nice meal but served dreadfully fast
Day 3 was spent walking to Cape Raoul. It has to be one of the highlights, this walk through Tasman National Park to Cape Raoul. A cool day with occasional stabs of sunshine, made for pleasant hiking. It has abundant ups and downs as you approach then skirt along what are the highest sea cliffs in Australia. This fine view occurs at the half way point. The track is only exposed for a short distance, otherwise dropping down through forest then heath, to enjoy lunch at the viewpoint above the tip of the cape.
Day 4 was a relax day, we walked around the coal mining facility near Limestone Point. It only lasted about ten years, but was a byword for cruelty and deprivation. Much less remains of the old buildings than at Port Arthur. In particular we visited the Semaphore station, well at last where it had been. The forest is thick, the sandy soil that was so awful for growing vegetables is more than ample for the many trees that grow here now.
Day 5 ,that’s today, was spent visiting the viewpoints near Eaglehawk neck, such as Devils kitchen and Waterfall Valley. The sky was overcast, drizzling rain we left the car and visited Tasman Arch then walked along the track. Fire damaged trees giving testimony to the horrendous fires only a few years ago that s badly affected much of the Tasman Peninsula.
Bull kelp wafts in the cold water at the base of the immense cliffs and great sea caves while pacific gulls nest or fly above. The sweeping pavements far below us, churn up the incoming surf even on a relatively still day like this.
Back at camp, an echidna marched around, checking the soil for ants. Wonderful experience of this little Australian.