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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 4, 2011 Drive to Hobart/Hobart

Our drive from Cradle Mountain was interesting enough, as we seemed to enter and leave one small village or hamlet after another; some sparsely populated, some abandoned and yet others were more like small outcroppings of a few homes and then nothingness. We could see that this is valuable farm country. Tasmania ranchland generates some of the finest meats and cheeses in this part of the world. Suddenly the landscape turned ugly. If land could be described as eviscerated then this would be it – even more so than what we saw up the mountain. Just on the outskirts of Queenstown we noted, firsthand the effects brought about by the gold mining industry before safeguards and restrictions were put into place.  So now we have seen what lumbering and mining have done to tarnish some of the beauty of Tasmania, but there is so much more to see that is now protected and untarnished. We did spotted lots of wallabies and other wildlife along the drive, which made it particularly enjoyable.

Around mid-day we came upon an inviting sign pointing to a turn off for a town called Tarraleah. What a musical and delightful sounding name! This town is not mentioned in the Lonely Planet. In fact, nothing past Queenstown is mentioned in the Lonely Planet??? It is as though the writers just cut out a chunk of Tasmania along the A10 roadway. Hmmm. It was lunchtime and we felt this town needed to be explored and besides as far as we knew, it was the only town between here and Hobart (several hours away). We took the turn-off to Tarraleah. The short detour revealed the most adorable, quaint and picture perfect village we’ve ever seen. We thought perhaps we had driven onto a movie set. It was too perfect! There was a main road that circled through, past a café, a schoolhouse that is now a hotel, some cottages and a very impressive lodge. We pulled into the only parking lot visible and entered the café. As we browsed the menu, Frank picked up a book that gave a short history of the town. It was created in the late 1800’s as part of the Hydro development off the Derwent River as a settlement for the Hydro engineers and the company directors. Apparently no expense was spared in the endeavor and the result was a luxury settlement and accommodation for the employees. It boomed into an impressive, high-end town until the 1980’s. I suppose after the work was completed the town just died away, although there is no explanation why by 1996 the population had dropped from 1600 to 4 and the town was closed. In 2006 someone, from somewhere came along and infused a large amount of money into purchasing and revitalizing the town; refurbishing the buildings, converting nearly every structure into a resort style setting. Now it is an exclusive getaway for those who want peace and tranquility among nature and basically anything else if you are willing to pay. It’s philosophy somewhat reminds me of Neiman Marcus: if you want it and can afford it you can have it here at Tarraleah. We enjoyed a delicious lunch, browsed the impressive gift shop and walked about admiring the allure of this special place. We were even interested in spending a night here but it was completely booked. So off we drove, ambling toward Hobart in our jalopy.

Landscape continued to impress as we noticed traffic picking up a bit (from 1 or 2 cars every half hour to several cars every 15 minutes or so), as we neared Hobart. Then suddenly we were on a real highway that delivered us into the heart of Hobart town. We had no trouble finding our boutique hotel, which was at towne center and only two blocks from the waterfront. We checked in, dumped our bags and set off to explore this famous seaside town. It was utterly walkable. It is rich in history and charm. We were drawn to the waterfront where we did a little recon for our Tuesday activities and then settled on a recommended Vietnamese restaurant for dinner.

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