Friday, 16 October 2009
It would be easy to say that time constraints have been responsible for the gap between Wollongong and Hobart entries. While I did have stuff to do this past couple of weeks there was still time to watch a few episodes of season six of The West Wing and eat m&ms like they were manna. It's not been laziness either, so shut up! Hobart was a very full week, and as it's taken so long to get this section of the tour up and running, I'm going to break it into a few parts.
Hobart was a revelation to those of us who'd never been and a kind of homecoming for those who had. Truth is, there have been very few places I've been where I've felt more at home...and I include home in that.
But first, as ever, we had to get there. There are some beautiful little jaunts to take on the eastern seaboard: the skip from Cairns to Port Douglas, the leisurely meander south of Coolangatta, an hour from Melbourne in just about any direction, but if you have been the coast road between Wollongong and Sydney you'll know why I include it. The views along the Lawrence Hargrave Drive are worth the detour. Unless you don't like the sea.
Before we left Shaun produced a perverse gem he'd picked up for a few bucks in Wollongong, a multi-CD collection of hits of the 90s. He gave us one of the discs to listen to. It was execrable. The first song was Meatloaf's ipecac substitute 'I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)'...not a good start. Sorry Meat, I can't do it either, that song is pure vomitus. I flicked quickly through five or six before realising that I'd had a very different musical 1990s to most people. No-one in the car minded when I turned it off and put the radio on. If the disc hadn't belonged to someone I liked, it might have ended up out the window.
The traffic built up as soon as we hit the Sydney fringes. I pity anyone in that town who fancies the idea of a meandering Sunday drive. It was pretty chunky all the way from Sutherland to the airport. Having put hearts back in mouths after nearly being sideswiped by a fuckknuckle in a 4WD, we dropped the cars off and went looking for the group check-in desk where I'd been told (via voice mail from Qantas) that they'd received my fax and we were all set. I'll spare you the details of finding a deserted group check-in area.
It was a hot clear day in Sydney and I enjoyed watching it disappear behind us at 300 mph. I took an illicit photo of the city as we flew over it but my bloody camera phone made it tiny:
Having had little sleep the night before I tried to catch a little disco kip but planes, sleep and I don't go, plus I really wanted to see us leave the mainland and cross the Tassie coast. This accomplished, I settled in for a nap, but turbulence jolted me awake after about 30 seconds.
Once on the ground, we grabbed our stuff and went outside to look for transport. Hobart's a small airport, reflected in the number of cabs that were waiting outside for passengers. A maxi-cab rocked up and a brusque sounding Greek man got out and said 'How many?' Without waiting for an actual response he bellowed something incomprehensible and then said 'I will take five!' Why did you ask, then? I thought. He had room for more, but as we were leaving he explained that the other cab drivers accused him of stealing all the fares. People waved at him as he drove out and once he slowed to swap loud pleasantries with a man on the kerb. By way of explanation for this, he turned to us and said, 'We brothers from different mothers.' He rabbited on most of the way into town but we couldn't hear him, and were all glued to the view outside. It was very Irish looking, but unmistakably Australian.
Like Canberra I'd expected Hobart to be much colder, but while the sky had a definite swirly, wintry quality it was mild. Mount Wellington, the great igneous rock in whose shadow Hobart rests, is normally flecked with snow, but our first view was of a bare-topped mountain.
Over the Tasman bridge, into the centre of town. We were given an explanation by the driver as to the roundabout way he'd got us to the hotel (The Old Woolstore) but the one-way streets kinda made it self-explanatory. As we hauled our luggage out, the cabbie thrust a couple of business cards at us and near bellowed 'You need ride back or things, you call Mister Yianni. Mister Yianni.' He was a very friendly and scary man.
Once settled, we all met up to discuss dinner plans. Most of the group were in twin rooms, but a few of us had two-bedroom apartments with kitchen and laundry facilities. A great relief. Cat suggested she cook a big spaghetti bolognaise. This was greeted with unanimous acceptance, for a couple of reasons. 1) Cat is Italian and knows how to cook up a storm and 2) everybody loves a home-cooked meal when they are on the road.. well, I do anyway. Off we tromped to find a grocery store. Our iPhone wielders told us there was a late-closing Woolies only ten minutes walk away, so in fading light we headed up Campbell Street to find it. Twenty minutes later we gave up. There was no sign of a supermarket, indeed after we turned back towards the city centre we found little sign of anything open in Hobart on a Sunday evening. It was a nice walk though, punctuated with little gasps as beautiful buildings including the theatre we were to play later that week.
We ate at a Hog's Breath across the street from the hotel. It's in a clutch of listed buildings including the old Hobart Gasworks. We were very happy to find a bottle shop right next door. We all loaded up on booze and I on cigarettes. The prices were very reasonable. I'd had it in my head that everything in Hobart was going to be quite a bit more expensive but it's really not.
It was during dinner that I first heard about the Pixies tour. I'd gone outside to have a quick ciggie and when I came back Emma and a waitress were talking about it. That lit me up. The only other notable thing about that meal was what was happening outside while we ate. We'd walked in from cool, calm early evening. We walked out into a gale and stinging sideways spits. This was more like it.
My memories of the first night are cloudy...drink might have been involved, but I can't be sure.
The next day was cold, clear and very much awake and open for business. The mountain showed small but definite signs of overnight snowfall. With Steven as our guide, we set out on what would be the first of many little love affairs with an enchanting part of the world.
Posted by Nx Doyle at 18:56:00