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Kim’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 12 Feb 2008

Location: Launceston, Australia

MapWhat an interesting day yesterday was. We left Nubeena and made our way to Port Arthur. A must for anyone that is visiting Tasmania.

Port Arthur is the site of the penal colony and is just breathing history and tales of the past. My biggest regret is that we did not spend nearly enough time there. The experience starts upon arrival at the site, it is not a paper ticket you are given but a playing card and by following the card around the museum, you trace your character and their time spent in prison. It turned out that I was deported from England for robbery and sent to Port Arthur after trying to escape from Van Diamens land, made to work in the mill and eventually became a shoemaker and stayed after my term of imprisonment was up - a wonderful way to make history come alive and then once out of the museum, you get to see the grounds. The prison was very carefully thought out and built - everything that related to staff or wardens built on the slopes of the hill and all prisoner dwelling and work places on the flats, they were always looked down on. The prison was mainly used for prisoners that had escaped from other prisons in the new land and it got to the point were people escaped just to be sent here. The regime was hard and harsh with heavy manual labour but the prison itself was set in a wonderful setting with a harbour on one side, heavily wooded forest on the other and the air was clean, climate not so extreme and it rained!!!!!!. The Governors of the prison were also very forward thinking with skills being taught - furniture through to shoes and the liberary at one stage had over 17,000 books with regular lessons being given to the men daily. Punishment was harsh too for those who did not obey, chain gangs sent to fell trees that were used in the building of the ships with just hachets and within the flour mill, a human grinder was set up. At one stage it covered 2/3rds of a mile and prisoners were made to walk on it for 4 hours a day, only held in by their chains as the wheel went round and around. I could go on for hours about this place but will not bore you all. After a look around the site, we went on a cruise around the harbour, you can see why no one managed to escape from here and why people tried to get sent to Port Arthur. They even have their own island for the dead, prisoners and wardens buried side by side and at one time, set the other island up as a boys only school ( women were held elsewere). Port Arthur is also know for another disaster that happened there when several people were shot and they have added a wonderful garden to them within the grounds. As you can all guess, I could have spent a lot more time here and maybe one day, I might get back and have the chance to revisit.

Onwards to Swansea, stopping to eat oysters (ughh) and a brief wine tasting session. All over the island are small vinerys and they all sell direct, the couple from Japan are having a wonderful time and are so excited by everything. Tonights stop is in Bicheno and we are going to see the small blue penguins that live in the area - wonder what the accomodation will be like??