Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tasmania, Day Two

Tasmania. It's as close to New Zealand as you can get without actually crossing the ditch.

What a great place! Our first full day, and I'm already pretty impressed. We started with a drive up Mt. Wellington, which is right outside of Hobart. It's a common road for cyclists, and Cadel held the record, until some Porte kid snatched it up. It looked like a beautiful day from the bottom, but at the top there were light clouds just coming across the top putting a bit of haze on the view.

It was pretty cold up there, and there was still frost on the road, and on all the rocks that hadn't seen the sun yet.

There is a massive radio/TV tower at the top. We read that the design is controversial, but the intent of it has to do with problems on the original tower with ice formation.

There are signs all over saying that there may be issues with electronic devices up there. We thought it was all crap until the remote for our rental wouldn't work.

I can't imagine it's good for your health to stay up there too long.

Passing back through town, we made a pass by the Cascade Brewery.

From what we've read, most of the beer that they brew never makes it to Victoria, and I'd be keen to try some others, but in this case, we just passed by to have a look at the building, because it seemed cool from an architecture standpoint.

After leaving Hobart, we passed through a region of rolling plains into the highlands. We made the requisite stops at infrastructure projects to satisfy the inner geek in both of us. Shannon was especially smitten with some penstocks.

A while later, and it was off Lake St. Claire. It's a world heritige site, and I'm confident that we didn't spend enough time there.
It was already fairly late in the day, and we wanted to make sure that we made it to at least Queenstown before it got dark (animals in the dusk/dark are bad here, plus really windy roads) so we motored pretty quickly.

This is also the southern end of the Overland Track, which is a five or six day trek through the mountains. One day, I'd love to check it out.

Onward more, and it's into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. There are some pretty brilliant plains that look (to me) like something out of Africa (thanks to pictures that friends have showed us). Pretty stunning.

The Franklin River also runs through the park (believe it or not), and Shannon got her jollies on a swinging bridge over the river.

Just before exiting the park, we got a great view of a double rainbow. We had seen a cloud covering a gap between mountains, but on the far side, the rainbow appeared.

Just before starting the last windy descent into Queenstown, we crossed Lake Burbury. This was perhaps the strongest reselblance to New Zealand that we saw all day, although a few other bits were pretty similar. The late afternoon light and the cloud cover made for a fairly dramatic view. I'm not sure the photos capture it that well, but it was stunning.

Finally, on into Queenstown. I'll leave it to Wikipedia to give all the history, but it's an old mining down that's more or less beat. You can't drink the water because of toxins from all the mining that have made it into the water supply.

It's tiny. There are two pubs, and about three other places you can eat. Everything shuts down early and opens late. We shut down one of the pubs at about 9:30. I can't imagine living here. The pub owner summed it up nicely when he said "we couldn't sell a quiche in the restaurant, but we could probably sell it if we called it an egg and bacon pie."

That said, the people are extremely friendly (as people in rural communities all over the world seem to be), and we got an excellent reminder of how life is outside of cities.

As I write this, we're staying in pub accommodation (the same one that kicked us out of the bar), which is really part of the Australian experience. It's not our first time, nor do I expect it to be our last. Small but clean rooms, shared facilities, right above the bar.

In fact, here it is.

Tomorrow, Cradle Mountain National Park. Another World Heritage Site. I have high hopes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Tasmania, Day One

We can't all stay at the Ritz. Ralphy.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Do you ever get the feeling that some higher power is trying to tell you something?

Two weeks back, we ran into this guy at a local cyclocross race. It was sort of strange meeting someone from just over the bridge riding for a SF team all the way down here.

On Sunday, July 4th, no less, Shannon and I were walking home. We had just finished talking about jobs and locations and the like, including a discussion about SF. About three minutes later, two guys come up to us asking for directions to the Morrocan Soup Bar. We tell them, and they ask if we are American. We respond, and they confirm that they are as well, they had just finished at UC Santa Cruz. We spoke about living in SF, and they indicated that they were moving to Buena Vista Heights after this trip.

Are we missing something?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cyclocross Hits Melbourne

About two weeks back, Melbourne played host to the first cross race that I've seen (but supposedly not the first ever) in Victoria. It was the first of a three race series, and came with the most reasonable entry fee that I've ever seen for anything in Australia, and a damn fair fee for the US (even considering that a Cycling Australia license is required) at A$10/race.

Generally, the course seemed pretty good. I thought the barriers were a little high, but generally well done. Rather than skill groups, they had a class for cross bikes and a class for everything else, including a prize (or at least shout out) for most inappropriate bike. I think the guy on the BMX won that contest, but you could argue that the dude on the brakeless fixie with cross tires should have won it. He wound up getting second in the real race anyway.

Random pictures from the race:

The big win for Shannon and me at the race was meeting this guy:

After a few laps we figured out his jersey, knowing that it looked familiar. It's the Zeitgeist/21st Amendment team from SF. We yelled questions and answers at each other for a few laps, and determined that he is from Fairfax, and he knows Steve Fisch. So, if you know Steve, or are Steve, feel free to confirm :)

We spoke to him after the race, and he and his wife are both trauma nurses. She's from Melbourne, and they have lived here before, but are considering leaving due to the ever rising housing prices (and he's from Fairfax!) and the rampant alcohol fueled violence (and they should know...) Interesting guy to talk to.

Fourth Of July

I hope everyone in the US had a good Fourth. It was a pretty quiet one here, as the day is pretty much a nonstarter in Australia. We did put together a mixed six pack of US beer. It will from here on be known as The Most Expensive Six Pack of All Time.

Friday, July 2, 2010

UA Sale to Sydney

Cargo must be good business, because we can't be making money on this.

Fare Sale, from