Tasmania – Food and festival

Australians in general seem to consider Tasmania to be a little bit backward - many jokes are made about Taswegians behind inbred, having two heads, and general not quite being up to mainland standards. It would be interesting to find out if this was in any way accurate. I was visiting primarily to attend the Falls Festival - a music festival which would culminate on the New Year with the Flaming Lips playing (I'll write a separate post on Falls). I had wanted to see the Flips for years, so combining travel and music seemed worth the cost of crossing to Australia's largest island. I also enjoy sailing, and so it was also great that the Sydney to Hobart yacht race was due to finish at about the time I landed. In the end, I missed the winner (Wild Oats XI) by about two hours, but still had time to see it as the only competitor in the harbour in Hobart, and watch a few of the other boats come in. Also around the waterfront, the Taste festival had just started. This annual foodie event gathers local Tasmanian producers and consumers to sample the best food and drink the island has to offer. If I wasn't trying to live vaguely on a backpackers budget, I could quite easily have eaten there all day - everything looked fantastic, and the range of wines and beers available were almost unbearably persuasive. In the end, I only had a couple of meals there, but was very happy with both of them 🙂
Wild Oats XI in Hobart Marina

Wild Oats XI in Hobart Marina

Cheese platter at Taste Festival

Cheese platter at Taste Festival

Hobart water fountain

Hobart water fountain

Utility boxes in Hobart

Utility boxes in Hobart

One of the newest tourist attractions in Tasmania is the MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) gallery - this is the personal art collection of one very wealthy resident, who made his money primarily through gambling. The gallery itself runs a shuttle boat service from Hobart Harbour up the Derwent river, docking right outside the museum, which is embedded in a waterside promontory. MONA itself? Breathtaking. I have never been to an art gallery or museum like it - and in a good way. A wide variety of exhibits, from Egyptian sarcophagi and jewellery, Damian Hirst, and Roman coins, to specially commissioned pieces from up and coming Tasmanian artists, all housed in a building which is a minor work of art itself. Even the 'guide book', an iPod running a location-aware app which would tell you which works were nearby, was fun. In addition to basic information about the artists and pieces (in a section entitled 'Art Wank', complete with a penis icon) a freestyle section titled Gonzo occasionally approved of, but often also dismissed various aspects of the work. Apparently the $500k purchase of a Damian Hirst work was quickly regretted, although the owner now thinks 'it looks pretty where it is'. I'll confess that MONA won't be everyone's cup of tea, and some of the work is very shocking (covering the entire gamut of mature content), but I would personally recommend that anyone visiting Tasmania (or even Australia generally) spends a day there.
Fat Car by Erwin Wurm @ MONA

Fat Car by Erwin Wurm @ MONA

Tracing Time by Claire Morgan @ MONA

Tracing Time by Claire Morgan @ MONA

The boss' parking spot at MONA

The boss' parking spot at MONA

My final full day was spent on a tour around some of the nearby mountains - Mt Field and Mt Wellington. At Mt Field, a forest walk (complete with almost obligatory waterfall), and another walk around a gorgeous lake further up was a welcome relief from the heat of the city. While lunching on Mt Field, a park ranger warned us that the mountain would be closed to the public later due to fire danger. The tour continued to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary, which cares for injured and displaced wildlife. Feeding the kangaroos was fun - they hold your hand in their paws while slurping the feed from your palm - and the other animals (including koalas, Tasmanian devils and quolls) were also very cute. The 40c+ heat was a bit hard to bear though, and the most of the kangaroos seemed to have the right idea, falling asleep in the shade. We headed up to Mt Wellington, which overlooks Hobart, for the final part of the tour. It was a lot cooler, and the views were phenomenal, but the wind was very strong and often threatened to knock you off your feet. The drifts of smoke visible in the photo taken later in the day from Mt Wellington were the first fires of Tasmania's worst bushfire breakout in decades - I felt fortunate to be leaving the days after they started, but would be constantly checking back over the next weeks to hear of the devastation that the fires ended up causing. If you're feeling altruistic, you can donate to the Red Cross appeal here http://www.redcross.org.au/tasmanian-bushfires-appeal-2013.aspx
Russell Falls at Mt Field

Russell Falls at Mt Field

Lake Dobson on Mt Field

Lake Dobson on Mt Field

Koala at Bongorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Koala at Bongorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Tasmanian devil at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

Tasmanian devil at Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary

View from Mt Wellington, fires visible in the distance

View from Mt Wellington, fires visible in the distance

Links: Taste Festival - runs from the end of December to the start of January Museum of Old and New Art - MONA. Tours Tasmania provide a variety of day tours from Hobart
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