Saturday, September 13, 2014

State of the Art

A WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 10:  IN WHICH WE MEET THE BIG CHEESE

Day 11:  Hobart to Melbourne.  With our flight to Melbourne not leaving until 10:30 this morning, we took our time getting to the small Hobart airport.  Much to our surprise, the terminal was a hub of activity.  The line for security screening was longer than we expected because numerous flights were scheduled, and non-passengers, allowed access to the gate area, helped clog the queue.  Again for this domestic flight, no one ever checked our identification and we were not asked to present any documents until we actually boarded the plane.

The flight took less than an hour, and we were soon picking up our rental car at the Melbourne airport.  On the drive from the airport into the city on the Tullamarine Freeway, we couldn't miss seeing some of Melbourne's vast collection of public art.  First came the Melbourne International Gateway, better known to locals as the cheesestick and the grater (or the ribcage), the kind of work that provokes remarks like, "What was that?"  The landmark consists of a 230-ft yellow beam cantilevered to loom diagonally over 8 lanes of traffic, coupled with a collection of 39 red beams lurking nearby.  According to those responsible for its installation, the yellow beam is meant to commemorate Victoria's gold rush, while the red beams symbolize the state's wheat industry.

Melbourne International Gateway (photo by Mary Ann Adair)
As we were still scratching our heads over what struck us as a giant french fry reaching out to some streams of catsup, we entered what appeared to be a widely spaced mesh tube covered with transparent skin arched over the freeway.  Constructed as a sound barrier to reduce noise pollution in nearby housing towers, the Flemington Bridge cleverly effects an artistic combination of form and function.

Flemington Bridge sound barrier
Arriving at the Oaks Hotel on William Street just after noon, we checked in and stowed the rental car in the hotel's garage before heading off to the Queen Victoria Market just a block away.  Known locally as "Queen Vic," this historic landmark first opened its doors in the 1850s as a fruit and vegetable market.  Over the years, it gradually expanded until it now encompasses two city blocks.  In addition to the original fare, market vendors today sell gourmet foods, cosmetics, clothing, souvenirs, household goods, and many other types of merchandise, both manufactured and handmade.

Traders like this one contribute to the colorful atmosphere at the Queen Vic.
The Vic's food court offered a large variety of cuisines from many different cultures.  A Malaysian style of fried rice was our choice for lunch, and its bold flavors separated it from the familiar Chinese fried rice of our previous experience.

Owned by the city, the Queen Vic is one of Melbourne's top tourist attractions.  Last year the city committed to the largest investment in its history to preserve and renew the beloved landmark.  After the renewal, Melbourne intends to petition UNESCO to grant World Heritage status to the market.

This trader was selling some amazing handmade books, complete with handmade paper for the pages.
Leaving the Queen Vic, we walked over a couple of blocks to Melbourne Central, a large shopping, office, and transportation complex, to pick up some supplies.  Inside, we found another example of the city's preservation efforts.  When the central complex was planned, an 1881 shot tower, used in the manufacture of ammunition for firearms and retired in 1961, stood on the site.

Shot tower inside Melbourne Central
Nine stories tall, the tower was saved from demolition and incorporated into the design of Melbourne Central with a conical glass roof built over it.  Much of its original equipment remains, and a museum has been installed in the tower to showcase its historic role in the city.

As we have committed to do on this trip, we built some relaxation time into this travel day, spending the remainder of the day resting in our apartment.  Tomorrow, we plan to hook up with a guided walking tour of the city and take in a bit of Australian theatre.

Road Noise:

At the Melbourne airport, officials are keenly aware of the international mix of passengers entering  the city.  This includes visitors from cultures where the sanitation norm is squat toilets with used paper thrown into a trash bin.  Just in case the airport's restrooms offer a guest's first experience with western style toilets, signs offer guidance.


Daily Stats:
  • Started in Hobart, ended in Melbourne
  • Mileage -  403     (Trip total:  11,288)
  • Weather - 41° to 66 °, sunny to partly cloudy
  • Shoppers at Queen Victoria Market - 44,178   
SATURDAY, 13 SEPTEMBER, 2014


Friday, September 12, 2014

Giving the Devil His Due

A WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 9:  IN WHICH WE GO WILD

Day 10:  Hobart.  We awoke to another rather chilly morning with overcast skies and the temperature hovering at 45°.  But with a three-hour outdoor activity planned for the afternoon, we were dressed for the occasion, or so we thought.  Our first stop of the day took us to the pinnacle of Mount Wellington, a 4,170-ft mountain that is one of Hobart's biggest tourist attractions.

Mount Wellington's peak
As early as the 19th century, the mountain had become a popular day trip destination for Hobart residents.  In the 1930s, Pinnacle Road, a 4.5-mile ribbon of asphalt leading to the summit, was constructed as a relief project to provide work for unemployed locals, making the trip much easier today than it was for the earliest visitors.  When we reached the top this morning, snow was scattered about and the wind was steady at 30 miles an hour, frequently gusting to 45.  Air temperature at the peak was 33°, but the wind drove the chill factor down to 11° constantly blowing against your exposed skin.  This we were not dressed for, a combination of conditions that made your uncovered face ache after a few minutes of exposure.  But the views of Hobart, built on the foothills of this mountain, were spectacular, well worth enduring a bit of icy chill.

The photo doesn't do justice to the view.
On the way back down the mountain, we stopped at 1,000 meters to plant a letterbox near the trailhead for the Organ Pipes Track.  Then we continued down and, with a couple of hours to spare before our afternoon appointment, drove to the historic town of Richmond (pop. 880), also popular with tourists, not the least because of the many shops and cafes along its quaint streets.  What first put Richmond on the tourism map was its historic bridge.  Constructed with convict labor, the bridge was begun in 1823 and completed two years later.  It is recognized as the oldest bridge in Australia still in use.

Richmond Bridge
From Richmond, we drove just ten miles west to Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary.  Established in 1981 as an animal exhibition center, Bonorong, whose name comes from the Aboriginal word meaning 'native companion' was visited in its early days by a seven-year-old child named Greg.  A passion was ignited, and Greg determined then and there that he would someday own Bonorong.  By age 25, he did.  And he has completely transformed Bonorong from a zoo to a sanctuary where indigenous animals are rehabilitated and released or sheltered because they are no longer able to survive in the wild.

Bonorong Wildlife Sanctuary
We had booked a "Feeding Frenzy" tour, which would offer opportunities for close encounters and personal tutoring about the native animals sheltered at Bonorong.  Greg Irons' father-in-law, Bob, happened to be our guide.  Extremely knowledgeable and an obvious animal lover himself, Bob was also equipped with a natural teaching ability that made him ideally suited to this task.  He explained to us that Bonorong has expanded its rescue mission to all of Tasmania by organizing a network of volunteers to help save the few survivors of the more than 300,000 animals hit by cars in Tasmania each year.  Often the survivors are babies hidden in the pouch of a mother animal who was killed.

A survivor
This wombat, Max, was one of those orphans when he came to Bonorong.  Though he looks like a cute little mammal in this photo, he already weighs more than 45 pounds and will reach 90 pounds or more in adulthood.  Wombats adapt well to human care as infants, but when they reach adolescence, they begin to 'turn' back to their natural instincts, making them excellent candidates for rehab and release.

Just a visitor
Bonorong has three koalas in residence, two dating back to the time when the facility was operated as a zoo.  Not native to Tasmania, koalas do not fit in the current mission of the sanctuary, so they will not be replaced when these have lived out their lives.  That day will come a bit later than once thought.  Several years ago, a storm blew down a tree at Bonorong, compromising the partition between the habitat of the last male and the last female koala.  A few weeks later, the sanctuary had three koalas. Koalas sleep more than 20 hours a day, and we woke this little guy to say hello to him.  He was back asleep in the blink of an eye.

Forester Kangaroos
With Bob, we entered the large field which the sanctuary's 70+ Forester kangaroos call home.  The Forester is the largest marsupial in Tasmania and second largest in the world.  Adult males can reach more than 130 pounds and, on their tiptoes, more than six feet tall.  This mob is left over from Bonorong's zoo days and not candidates for successful release into the wild, though they do nurture injured and orphaned 'roos who are introduced into their midst and later released.

Baby on board
Quite desensitized to human interaction, the kangaroos eagerly greeted us when they realized we had food pellets for them and happily ate what we proffered on open palms.  Since they give birth throughout the year, joeys of all sizes could be seen peeking from their mother's pouches.

Tasmanian Devil
An animal who definitely was not humanized, and we did not enter his enclosure, was one we had been eager to see since arriving on Tasmania—the Tasmanian Devil.  Like all the mammals at Bonorong, the devil is also a marsupial.  With carrion as their main food source, Tasmanian Devils are often attracted to the smorgasbord of roadkill on state roads.  This penchant and their lack of speed result in 3,000 deaths per year in a dwindling population.  Devil facial tumor disease, a contagious form of cancer unique to the species, is also decimating their ranks.  Without human intervention, experts fear that the disease may wipe out the species within ten years.  Bonorong is leading the efforts to prevent extinction with a breeding program of healthy animals.  Some have already been released on an isolated island where they cannot be infected with the fatal disease.

After three hours with Bob, we had seen and interacted with too many animals to mention here.  We thoroughly enjoyed the visit to this sanctuary, the most Tasmanian of all the places we visited on the island.

Tomorrow we'll fly back to the mainland for a few days in Melbourne.

Daily Stats:
  • Started in Hobart, ended in Hobart
  • Mileage -  76       (Trip total: 10,885)
  • Weather - 45° to 57°, overcast with occasional sun
  • Tourists from South Carolina at Bonorong today - 2
FRIDAY, 12 SEPTEMBER, 2014

More Photos from Today

An excursion hut at the summit of Mount Wellington
This glassed-in observation deck was a welcome shelter from the wind.
Loved these restroom "doors" at Bonorong
Never too old to want just one more taste of mother's milk
The charming tawny frogmouths.  Wing injuries prevent their release.
Albino possum's coloring prevent his release, as he would be killed by other possums.  A female has been rescued,
 and they will meet when she is full-grown, offering an unprecedented research opportunity.
Bob and that cute little wombat Max


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