Australia, Tasmania, 2013

Preparations

Last day at work, presentations almost done, plans almost made, packing list half-done, packing itself not even started. I don’t like traveling, I just like *arriving* :-). Packing takes time and I always overpack! Except my last trip to Chicago. So, this is the moment of truth. I will be at home in less than an hour and will begin packing procedures. Let’s see.

Day zero

Waiting for my “limo”. How much can I possibly drink before noon? No coffee and alcohol is a wonderful mix. It’s not even 11am and I’ve been drinking since I woke up. I just want to sleep through the whole dang flight!! Please!! How do you cope with 30 hours in the air?  I drink, sorry.

I’m about to disconnect the big monitor and close the laptop. This is it. The time is now. Right now. I really dislike this whole /calm before the storm/ thing. Yawn. Let’s do this!

Let’s go riding!

Car trip there. Whew! Was quite interesting. So, the first leg of my trip was to get over from home to JFK somehow. I was going to take local to NYC then train over around the city. The only problem with that is, if any of you have tried to do this… Well, it takes forever and is, generally, a huge pain in the butt when traveling with a few bags (or alone with a few bags — no fun!). A friend recommended limo service. At first I was a bit reluctant, linking in my mind “limo” with “expensive”. So not true! Tip plus $120 is not much for a roundtrip fare with an interesting driver and pretty cool passengers.  I, for one enjoyed meeting them very much and shuttle ride is more fun than a taxi or a train or, actually, shuttles are a category in and of themselves, really.  Serbian guy, around 50. Very not talkative but did say some very nice things to me at the end of the trip.  Also apparently he speaks Russian so I could have been blabbering away with him in Russki-talk the whole time. Very interesting Persian.  He claims to have only been in Philly for a few months but he speaks English quite well, well-enough for me to understand him completely without any problems.  A few enlightening conversations with him while we were driving to pickup some nice Polish ladies.  They were a mother, my mother’s age, and an 19-year-old daughter who is already done with her first year of college.  Both ladies a pleasure to chat with about an immigrant’s life in the States.

So, there you have it. I think from my overly short description of my shuttle partners you get the picture of what this trio can be like.  Our driver and his kid whom he brought along for the ride were also a small addition to the entertainment; mostly by laughing at our jokes and telling us wher we are at.

JFK

Never was my favorite airport. JFK was always overly busy. This time was no exception. International terminals are always fun, aren’t they?  Interesting people travel!  And where else are you going to run into hundreds of travelers?  International travelers, too.

A Swede, born in the Caribbean, living in Miami, focusing on marine equipment sales, was my conversation partner straight out of the shuttle, sharing a smoke with me. Very interesting fella and kept bragging to me about his 20-year-old girlfriend in Colombia and his ugly 50-year-old wife in Switzerland.  Interesting guy.  I did have to run away, just in case, I wanted to make sure check-in goes smooth.  Little did I know that I will have my next cigarette not in forever from then.  Wait how long have I been awake at this point?!

So, I’m grabbing a sandwich at the airport; my destination is Tasmania.  A Russian, sitting in New York, waiting for a flight to Australia, no, Tasmania. Guess where the girl sitting next to me is from?!  She’s on a layover from I forget where but she is from Tasmania.  How often does that happen to you?!  I now have a list of places :-). Supposed to hit up while I am spending my 36 hours in Tassi.  Let’s see if her advice pans out.

Tasmania

Nothing short of a very pleasant surprise. Tasmania turned out to be far more than I had anticipated from Google flyover map tours and photos I found. In reality it appears to me kind of like a really huge village. Beautiful anywhere you look, although a bit cold this time of the year. I just brought a sweatshirt with me but it was quite survivable (although natives looked at me weird getting out of the car in just a t-shirt and jeans). In the ~36 hours that I spent here I had a chance to drive by six gorgeous towns (I slept over at Launceston). By the way, The Big Lake is technically not a town so it’s five towns and a lake.

Although I did carry both a photo and a pocket video cam with me, I only had a chance to use one at-a-time. I was driving alone and the photo cam is just too dang heavy to take photos while driving, making it quite dangerous to do so; instead, I decided to use the video cam in the car so you can see what driving in Tasmania is like. This video does not really do the place justice — reality is far more amazing. You have winding roads through forests and mountains making the whole experience nothing short of amazing. Here is a video of my trying to drive and take video at the same time :-).

Launceston

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Very cool town. As I heard in Scotland, any town with a Cathedral in it is supposed to be called a “city”.  Well, I didn’t see a cathedral so I suppose this place, technically, does not qualify, just saying :-).  No, but this place, the first city to welcome me in Australia, is truly a warm and charming city.  People are superbly friendly.  From the airport staff to the hotel staff to the barkeeps and to the people on the street — everyone is friendly.  I don’t mean this in American-friendly way where everyone smiles at you without looking you in the eye, no, I mean this in a “friendly” way, as in once you start talking to them they respond and are good people in general.  For example, I got a little lost, looking for the restaurant recommended by a girl I met in the street; I asked a random couple about this place and, since the directions were quite complicated, they walked about 3-4 blocks out of their way to show me where it is — good people, friendly.

I start my morning with their “standard” breakfast: coffee, juice, poached eggs, the works!  I had to add a fruit salad to pretend to be healthy.  This trip I plan to work off for a few weeks on a treadmill :-).

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Launceston seems to be somewhat of an industrial city with many companies around with “engineering” in their name.

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First thing that I notice is zero people and exceedingly clean streets.  My first impression is that nobody actually lives here.

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Well, somebody does — someone has to cut all the grass as the entire city seems manicured.

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All the parking meters I see are electronic and seem complicated; even more so than in the US.

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I could not tell if this is a store or a corporate building even by looking at people getting in and out.  Perhaps both?

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Australia seems to pay great attention to the pedestrians.  Push button and wait for audio and visual clues that it is OK to cross.  This comes in handy as I keep forgetting that drivers are on the “wrong” side of the street here.  Something I would not get used to even after two weeks here.

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Even the running track is the opposite direction to what I am used to in most other places in the world that I have been to.

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Astonishingly clean here.  No trash, no cans, no cigarette butts, …

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Oh, and free public bathrooms everywhere.  They are free, they are clean, and they are abundant.  Something US should learn from Aussies.

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The city is quite wet in winter so service vehicles leave deep trails in the grass.

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Graffiti, you see, is in its rightful place — at the skate park; the rest of the city seems untagged.  “Struggle Cuddle” :-).

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I’ve practiced alot of HDR [high dynamic range] images on this trip.  Very interesting and exciting to learn and practice this new technique.

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See the four skaters on the left of the photo?  They were smoking up and didn’t notice me until I climbed on one of the structures and took a few photos [camera clicking noise echoed here].  They were startled but afterwards just ignored my presence.  The city feels completely safe and secure.

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There is alot of wood here and so many city structures and artsy installations are made from it.

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Digger.  Aside from the pothead skaters I think this is the first live person I meet on the street and I’ve been walking around for about an hour at this point.

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Launceston has its own river and a very nice one.

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I see this alot in Australia — the own-weight workout machines by the running track.

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Superbly clean area; and to think that this is next to a skate park…  I think littering fines are very high here.  At this point I begin to look for trash cans to dispose of my cigarette butts, just in case.

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Mountain, forest, and beautiful houses is what this place is all about.  No wonder the running track is empty — everyone is at home watching the sunrise.

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At first I was excited that this is ice floating in the water [keep in mind, the temperature is nearly zero Celsius].

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Nice here, quiet.  I’m also freezing my butt off.  Time to get moving.

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Areas of the boardwalk which are in the shade are still frosted-over from the night when the temperature drops below freezing.

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You can see the frost a little better in this photo.  Looks like dry patches of wood but are not; it’s frost.

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And there is one lonely duck, fishing.

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The riverwalk is quite nice.  I really would have to come here again someday to investigate the city in further detail.

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Here is a different shot with just a bit more sun and a bit softer filter.  These HDR images are 0.5 Gb each…  I’m very soon due to run completely out of disk space, I think…  Dreading this.  Hmm.  Just took a moment to look at some external drive solutions.  Some are quite interesting out there but I will try to wait for Apple’s new Thunderbolt 2 interface, I believe I remember hearing about it, right?

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Anyway, back to our river.  Although the river looks a bit muddy this is due to rains and not pollution like in Philadelphia.  This is the dock area and there are no beer cans in the water.  I am continually impressed with how well the city cleanliness is managed.

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Ah, here you see the frost, right?  All over the place.  It is chilly, yes, but not windy and not too humid so I am comfortable in a hoody over my t-shirt.  This is their winter and I find it very nice and mild.

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Tried to photograph frost on the grass but this looks more like water droplets.  No, trust me, it’s frost.

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The Wall separates the river walk from the skate park I was just at.  Not sure, perhaps this is for flood prevention?

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Tried to photograph this eagle.  Ah, too bad I only brought with me the 24-70 mm lens.  I could really have used the 70-200 mm here.  My next trip I am definitely bringing the bigger lens.

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The views here are nice in any direction.

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Old technology, yes, but no graffiti and not pissed-on-all-over.  White walls without tags… Can you believe this? :-)

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Parking spaces are marked with these white plastic disks [perhaps reflective?] nailed into the ground.  Very good idea.

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Parking seems quite strict.  No people on the street but the traffic wardens are out.  This is already the second one I see in 20 minutes.

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Ah, a chef collected some herbs from the garden right outside the restaurant.  When he saw me photographing him he waived and invited me for breakfast, said he makes very good omelet for which he is about to use these herbs.  WOW!  I’m flabbergasted :-)

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Zoom-in on the photo.  See, herbs.

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Each building chooses their own style of how to frame the sidewalk.  This is volcanic island, I suppose, so plenty of rock here.

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Wake up.  To smoke.  Alarms.  :-)  You could figure out a better way to get the message across, Australia!

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Decoration…

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Center city is finally waking up.  This is about 10 am already.  I suppose people like to sleep in here or something?

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Sustainable August?  Well there are plenty of the islands all over the center of the city with different plants and herbs growing.  Strangely attractive idea, compared with just flowers.  Not sure what I like better.  Flowers are pretty, yes, and they make the city look better but herbs smell good…  Hmm…  I think this is an interesting decision for city design and definitely something I would consider if I ever have a chance to design a downtown location of a city.  You see, I am thinking that while flowers are attractive, they bloom only for a short period of time while herbs offer interesting smells and also remind residents and guests about healthier living and healthier eating.  I think I would hesitate to order a bucket of fried chicken if I was sitting next to a box full of mint.

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The city os colorful and well-designed.  Like every city it is a mish-mash of styles but, in general, attractive.

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Similarly to parking disks, the white rombs mark the sidewalk separation.

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And another traffic warden here.  Sigh.  Thankfully I am parked in a secure lot.

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Take a look at the housing prices.  Not too far off, say, Philadelphia.  Some places are in the $400k range while you can get a ranch for $120k AUS.  Not bad.  Livable.  I do, however, think that the credit system is not as strong here as in the states.

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As I’m heading back I finally see my first church here.  Not sure if the streets I was on just, by chance, did not have any churches, churches are masked as “normal” buildings, or if there is really less religion here than in the States…  In any case, lovely building.

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Ah, Boarg’s Brewery!  I was asking around for the local beers and they point at the brewery and say “doesn’t get more local than this”.  The brewery being about 2 blocks from my hotel.  YAY. The way they made it sound is that the brewery is open for tours.  Nope.  Not this early in the morning, anyway.

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Ah, found an older meeter! :-).  This is nice.  Still electronic and accept cards but of an older design.  Lovely.

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Very bad HDR image [see the halo around bright objects?], but, anyway, a decent pic of the brewery.  Lovely.  wish it was open for tours.  But then again, like I haven’t seen breweries.  This would have been no different, I am sure.

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AHA!  The first piece of trash!  How lovely.  However, upon further examination I realized that this is not just a coke can but a make-shift ashtray so, technically, not trash as people are still using it.  Alas, I fail thus-far at finding trash.

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A very nice hotel and about half-empty.  I really like the off-season.  You get great prices on everything and you do not have to deal with tourist overcrowding.  Very nice!

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As you can probably tell from the fact that I only had 36 hours and visited six places that I barely had time in each.  No worries there, I’ll try to blow through everything covering as much as I can.  Of course, this is very superficial but both you and I get the feeling for the place; decide if we want to visit it [again, for me].  Spoiler: I loved it!  I will definitely try to visit again and for longer time.

The Great Lake

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Well, I figured a 100 km drive is no problem, got in the car, and off we go!  Now, there seems to be a road on the map.  HA!  More like a dirt road the last 20 km or-so.  Awesome!  And I got a whole bunch of Waze points for mapping this road.  I suppose I’m one of the first ones (if not the first one) to drive here using Waze.

Gorgeous drive!  Basically, this is my view most of the way as I get closer to the lake.

 

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Toldja Tasmania is absolutely awesome, didn’t I?

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Don’t know what the camera is focusing on [bottom left corner?!] but I really like this shot for some reason.  Gorgeous.

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This is my ride.  Note how clean it is.  This is before I hit the dirt roads.  I’m very surprised with Hyundai — great car!

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This is the lake.  I’m getting very close.  Air is quite chilly.  The car tells me it’s 3 degC.

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I love the nature here.  On my monitor now this looks just like it did in real life.  The Hobbit land is quite dramatic like that.  I expect elves to jump at me at any moment.

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Love the clouds.  Did not rain a single drop the whole time I was there but sure did look like it wanted to :-).

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Wasn’t there a scene like this in Lord of the Rings?

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Or like this?  Frodo is somewhere around here, I betcha.

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Driver seat on the right.  I’m almost used to it at this point, 100 km into this.

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I have no words for these landscapes except that I should have totally brought more lenses and scheduled more time here!

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Mix of many different kinds of plants.  The nature just went all at it here.

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Water level is very low, I suppose.  To the right, this is an island on a map.

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Quite cold here.  Two degC according to my car.

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This log somehow just belongs here.  Right there, yes.  No other place for it in the whole world but right here.

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Same for these rocks and trees.

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Swampy.  I have to jump rock to rock and protect my camera from my own splashes.

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The tree stump, same as the log before, perfect placement.  It should be right there and not move.

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I cannot recall any other place on the planet that I have been to with this kind of a variety of plants.

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AHA!  I had to slam the breaks.  WHAT WAS THAT?  Ok, a freaking kangaroo!!!

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Getting away, the wild beast.  Sorry for blurry shots.  I didn’t have time to fix the camera settings and was hoping it’s set correctly… It wasn’t… But the animal ran away already.  The woods, by the way, are completely empty.  There is nothing here that I can see.  Nothing at all.  Sigh.  I wish I saw some crocks and kangaroos.  Alas, nothing.

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See the car now?  LOL  When I was returning it the renter asked me where might I have ventured to get it this dirty.  I told her.  She checked the milage on the car and hummed.  LOL

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I’m back on top of the mountain, looking for some elusive waterfall.  No clue where it’s at.

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I did find the BIG TREE though.  I mean this thing is BIG.  B.I.G. kind of big.

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I need a different lens for this.

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The dark riders, or whatever Nazgul were called are about to come at me, I bet.

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I love this shot.  The way I carry my camera, sometimes I accidentally hit shutter release.  Most of the photos endup terrible, photos of the moving asphalt.  This one I somehow like.  It would be a difficult shot to take if I wanted to take a shot precisely like this one, on purpose :-).

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This is absolutely awesome jungle-like forest.  Yet it is very Tasmania-like.  Nothing like I have seen before.

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Road is getting more and more blocked.

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Nazgul are coming.  Be very afraid!

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Right around the corner, I bet.

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Finally, the promised waterfall.  But this is not much of a waterfall…  Hmm.

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Oh well, I feel somewhat accomplished finding at least some water.  It’s actually really scary here.  I am completely alone in the forest that is making a whole lot of different sounds and all I can think of are the Dark Riders from LOTR…  Nerdy, I know.

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I am brave and strong, when girls are around.  Nobody can see me here.  Fuck this!  I almost run back to the car :-).

George Town

Far far farther.  And fast!  I want to go back to the coast, look at the sea, fly away from the dark knights, shadows of men.  Gosh, I’m taking this Lord of the Rings theme a bit far, huh?

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Yeah, I heard this is, basically, a resort town.  Awesome!

Let’s *walk* around then, shall we?

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We pass by a ship.

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And a kangaroo.  Already day-well-spent, I think.  Especially the perfect placement of the used gum.  Yeah, I went there!  ;-)

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Now, how is this different from Idaho?  Matter of fact, I think this photo is the entire small-city America in one shot — Comfort Inn.  Except we’re in Tasmania somehow.

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Ah, back to Tasmania.  Pristine-white walls, chairs, and table; and wet fisherman shoes.  Perfection.  I really love this photo, actually.  This is where I want to retire and this is *how* I want to retire.  Well, this is missing an ashtray and a beer; otherwise, perfect.

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This is the back of someone’s house and they still keep it up very nicely; even though this is an older building.  Splendid, really.

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Ode to public restrooms.  They are everywhere here, in Tasmania, and they are clean.  There is no graffiti, there is toilet paper, the sink has water, frequently hot as well as cold.  WOW.  I am amazed, awed, and charmed.  Government actually recognizes here that a weary traveler like myself needs to take a leak after a beer and two coffees.  Tasmania, I take my hat off for you.  I thank thee for thinking of my bladder and being considerate for my oh-so-human needs.

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Didn’t I say “clean”?  I am in shock.  I left a dollar on the window.  Perhaps another person will pick it up and perhaps a cleaning person.  I hope for the latter.

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View from the bathroom, in case you were wondering.  ;-)

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Not too many birds here, but they are here.

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Coins soldered into copper.  Copper let to naturally corrode.  Awesome!  Simple and … hmm… a bit out of place, really.  But, every city has its city budget for garbage art.  Oh well.  I still love this place for the awesome bathrooms.

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According to the security dude, these buildings are only a few hundred thousand AUS$.  Not too bad.

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BOO!

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I wish I knew how to fly; well, more than once.  LOL

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See how calm the water is?  I got extremely lucky with the weather here.  Even though it’s nearly freezing I am perfectly fine here.  Very nice.

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Just a few boats.  I asked about parking prices here and apparently it’s “quite low” [didn’t tell me how much].  Why so few boats then?

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Some fish are poisonous but most are edible.  Great fishing here.  I can totally see settling here and writing a few books over a few years.  Then selling my place and moving on to a new country.  Eventually I want to endup in Sicily, Italia, but not yet.  Here I will write a book.  Sicily…  There will be a next chapter.

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Differenty grass here.  Lovely.

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This is, apparently, private property.  Whoops.  Had to backtrack for a while to find the way around the fence.

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Here we go, sandy beach.  Must be awesome here in summer.

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The water is very deep here.  Deep enough to handle large cargo ships.

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I’d run here every morning.  I am tempted to drop the camera and run a mile.  Funny thing is that I don’t think anyone would actually steal the camera.  Still, I am too American, too afraid of people.  I need to let go sometimes, I think.

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Lovely.

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I want to go back!  :-)

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From the previous shot I just turned 180 deg.  People live here with this view.  Grill the fish they caught.  Write books.  I’m upgrading from 2 years here for 3-5 years here :-).

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The weired oyster attached to a rock…  Hmm…  I figure it’s just one anomaly.  Happens in nature, you know.

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Let’s walk up to the water, shall we?

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Oh, my, there is a ton of these rock-attached oysters.  Look, that middle rock has about 5+ of them.  Cool!

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And these are the houses behind me.  I need to find a real estate agent here!

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Side of the road.  Recognize anything?  Of course you don’t.  Had this been U.S. there’d be 100 beer cans here.  And cig butts.

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All sorts of mailboxes here.  All different.  All somehow fit right in.

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I just had to do the Barrack street…

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See, everything is manicured here.  Come to think of it, I don’t know how well I’d fit in here…  Doubt it will be all that flawless, my yard :-).

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Oh, I think this is the first cart I photograph.  This is not the first one I see but I disregarded the first 5-10 of them and, by this point, I begin to wonder what the story is behind all these carts all over the place… Any ideas?  They are always empty and always kind of parked in the middle of nowhere.

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Ah, the flowers in every backyard.  Lovely life these Tasmanians have.  And I’m walking *every* backyard :-).

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Found it!  Elizabeth street is where I parked.  Whew.  Took me about an hour.  time to catch up with the schedule, after I get a coffee.

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On to the next.

Bridport

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Another 100-some km and I’m in the new port town.  These are fisherman here.  True kind.  No bars or restaurants that I can easily find.  Just a bus stop and fishing docks.

Speaking of the but stop…

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And the view fight behind it.  WOW, each city is more beautiful than the previous.  Let’s see if the trend continues.

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There is a nice walk by the river which I will try at, first.  I give myself 30 minutes tops for this.  I’m hungry, too, but nowhere to eat here.  Grr!

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This is a mailbox for the boat?!  Cool!  I suppose someone lives on the boat.  Why else would they have a mailbox there?  Well, also this is the new kind of a mailbox we have not seen just yet.

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Yeah, winter here.  I take my sweatshirt off.

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I’m standing in somebody’s backyard….

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and their boat parking area.

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Let’s check out the boat, shall we?

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Ah, can’t go there since it’s private.  Oh, well, you get the picture.

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River is way down but still pretty somehow.

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So are the big boulders.

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Somehow reminds me of rural Ukraine.  Just a little bit.

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Nope, definitely not Ukraine, I was mistaken.

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Would be nice to kayak through here when the water is high.

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I mean I’b be boating near this…

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and this.

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This is my path-by-the-river.

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Pears.  Old ones.

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Oh, yeah, awesome, there is actually a car here.  One is more than zero, right?

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Back to the river bend.

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Right by the houses.

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And into the woods.

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Next to my favorite chair thus-far.

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The chair is surprisingly comfy and has a better view than any of the chairs at my place.

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No walking!  This is *real* forest.  Can you imagine Americans [or Russians] obeying this sign?

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Winter, huh?

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Definitely winter.

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This is where I was.  I only took the pic at the end.

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Right by the docks where the dead boats hangout.

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Well, not all dead.  These ones fish for crabs, I suppose.

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Or take a ride on a real fishing vessel.

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Look all these crabs!

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I mean, look at this zoom-in!

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There are about a billion of them…

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Ond more pole….

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I finally make it to the pier.

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Many fishing boat here.  USA would put a big Red Lobster right here.  Alas, nothing. I wish for one but there is nothing.

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Time to move on.

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There is the river walk here which I took and it seems that is about it.  So, those houses were where fisherman live?  WOW!  Amazing!  I am very jealous.  I wish I had a similar residence as well.

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I’m in the car and off to the new town.

Scottsdale

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At least this time I am a bit closer.  Only about 40 km straight shot.

Ah, I should have stayed in the port town.  This city is bigger, sure, but there is little to see.  Some lady tells me I need to explore the city more and that there are nice churches.  Don’t have time, the flight leaves in about 4 hours.  But I have time for a quick walk-around of this area and a snack.

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Views, still, are amazing.  This is wine country.

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So clean!  Did I mention how clean it is in Tasmania?

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The electricity boxes are covered up with paint.  Nice.

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I can see most of the town from here.  Colorful, don’t you think?

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Winter in full bloom here.

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Lyric Opera.  LOL.  And the local trash cans.

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Moving riiight along, thank you very much.

Lilyday Falls

I heard I need to go by here.  Got lost twice since this is not on the map.  Let’s take a look at Google.

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Yeah…  Not on Google, either.  I have to ask and ask but finally I find it!

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Public fireplace?

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OK.  Supposedly it’s up there…

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Since I left the black riders back at the Great Lake I don’t even know what will be jumping at me here.

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Water!  Falls are close, I can hear them.

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Here is the obligatory giant tree by the falls :-).

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AHA!

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Well.  Small but nice.

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One of the few humans I meet on my journey.  She is a pro photographer specializing in Tasmania nature.  I gave her my card.  Julie, if you are reading this, Hello!  :-)

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Wet and dirty but I put on in my sneakers.

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The top waterfall is quite refreshing but rather cold here.  And wet.  And humid.  Humid cold crawls up my spine and chills everything.  My fingers click the shutter release without the same efficiency they had just a half hour ago.

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Time to head back, run to the airport or I will miss the plane.

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Beautiful here though.

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Hobbits might be nearby, not sure.

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Somebody loves cock.  Very uncreative but this is the first graffiti I see around here.

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Well, what can I say?  First, I did not miss the flight (though was very close to).  Returned the car and ran to the gates in my dirty sneakers.  My overall impression?  Amazing!!!  Very impressive, indeed.  The nature is something out of this world.  The people are not annoying, unobtrusive, nice, polite, and simple.  Very great place to relax and loose one’s mind.  I will come back when I have a clear plan for a novel and a year to waste on it.  I mean spend.  Year to spend on a great novel.  Then I will go back to visit my grand kids or something.  LOL

Hope you enjoyed Tasmania and we are off back to the big island: next we will visit Geelong, nearby Melbourne.

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