Hobart to Straughn - January 2, 2012

It was a long and difficult drive from Hobart to Straughn.  We left just after ten and apart from stopping for lunch in Queenstown we were on the road till mid afternoon.  The drive had hills, corners, a moonscape appearance and more corners. On the way out of Hobart we stopped at the hardware to buy a new plug for the sink - having survived this whole trip without a sink plug (washing up at camp kitchens).  At the hardware the kids were playing a game and Hannah’s iPhone screen was smashed (this wasn’t an emotionally neutral event - there were requests that we go straight back to Sydney and the Apple Shop).

I arrived at Straughn completely drained.  The campervan and windy hills are hard work.  It takes me coke and chocolate to get though - and when I’ve pushed myself I’m then wacked afterwards.

Queenstown was nothing much a town - a center of mining activity - and a place Cathie’s late dad Wilf, used to work - along with Wittanoon and Mount Isa (being a mining engineer seemed to work in a trifecta of unattractive mining towns).

Straughan was much more attractive and we set up the awning - we were staying two nights (fantastic!).

Cathie and I went down for a coffee at the coffee shop and to check out the cruise timetable etc for the next day.

The Wall

By far the cultural highlight of the day was a stop at ‘The Wall.’  It was well worth stopping for - and a welcome break - about halfway between Hobart and Straughn. A Tasmanian sculptor has chosen to display aspects of his area’s history in 26 wood panel carvings.  Each carving is 3m x 1m of huon pine.

It was absolutely inspiring as a work of art - due to be finished in five years.

There are no photos of this on this blog as taking photographs was forbidden.  There were quite a few unfriendly signs about the taking of photographs - and I get that the artist needs to make money and a way to do that is to restrict the taking of photographs.  However the strength of this message did leave me with a tinge of rejection.

Mobile Phone reception

It really is quite astonishing how bad mobile phone reception is in Tasmania on the Optus network.  I don't think we have had mobile reception anywhere on the west coast of Tasmania (from the outskirts of Hobart all the way through Queenstown, Straughn, Cradle Mountain) finally getting it back as we headed into Sheffield.


New Year in Tassy

Today was New Years Day in Hobart.  I woke about 7 and listened to a talk on line by David Jones on Song of Solomon.  I am reading and listening to everything I can on the Song at the moment ahead of speaking on it in February. Getabout Camper

We touched base this morning with the other owners of a Getabout Camper in this caravan park.  Despite having owned a Getabout since 2008 and spending 4-5 months in the campervan in that time - this was the first time we have seen someone with a Getabout.

Getabout Camper
Getabout Camper

It was good to have a chat with them about what we have thought of the camper.  Overall we have both been very satisfied.  They had problems with the tyres, we had problems with our tyres on our second campervan.  They were five years old, even though the campervan was only 2009.  Our only difficulty with the current campervan is with the door that folds down as a step - the rivets that hold the step up have broken - meaning that we have had to replace them with little nuts and bolts


We left Cathie with the campervan and headed into Hobart.  It was great to walk the docks and check out the Sydney Hobart yachts and then walk around the food and wine exhibition, the museum and art gallery and find the state parliament.

Investec Loyal
Investec Loyal

We saw the winners and the Ella Bache one, sailed by the youngest crew, headed by Jessica Watson - but didn't get to see Jessica.

Ella Bache with Jessica Watson
Ella Bache with Jessica Watson

We did see however - a large scale photograph of the ABC Radio crew on the side of a bus - including a life sized image of former workmate and friend from 2WS Louise Saunders.

Hobart (in population terms) is slightly smaller than Townsville in Queensland but felt much smaller to me.

Crossroads Church

This afternoon we visited the Crossroads Church 4pm service. They have terrific facilities, meeting in the Brethren Church building.  The service was friendly, songs we ones we were mostly familiar with, the praying was tremendously encouraging and the sermon preached by Dan was faithful and pointed us to Jesus.  It was great to catch up briefly with Mikey Lynch and then with Christine and Mike Jolly.

It was also great to get a text from Ian Powell with an update on how things went this morning at Village: “Matt was brilliant.  Church as a whole had a good feel.  Youz were thankfully prayed for.”

Then back to a banquet at Huw and Emma’s home about a hundred meters from Hobart’s cricket pitch.  It was lovely to seem them and Tom with cheering from the cricket in the background.

All in all a terrific start to 2012.

Port Arthur - New Years Eve - December 31, 2011

Today up early and away from Bicheno just before ten.  We drove straight to Port Arthur, listening to David Jones talk on Joshua 1 on the way.  Abraham stayed awake for this one and we had a couple of good family discussions about about church planting, God's promise, God's word and God's presence.  

Port Arthur

Port Arthur is now a significant tourist destination.  When Cathie came here last time in the days after we were engaged in early 1993 the broad arrow cafe was there, but it wasn't the key attraction it is now.

We went on a tour - which was supposed to last 40 minutes and actually went for an hour - and was about twenty minutes too long.  Then coffee, then a harbour cruise - which was excellent.  Our guide was a descendant of convicts and part aboriginal as well.  He told us to google 'black wars Tasmania' to learn about the massacre of Australia's first inhabitants at the start of the nineteenth century.  His presentation was fascinating - although I wondered whether he presented Port Arthur a little too positivelly.

We enjoyed looking through the museum facilities and the 'separate prison,' an early experiment in solitary confinement.

One thing that did disappoint me was the memorial to the victims of Martin Bryant's massacre in April 2006.  The victims were well remembered but the story wasn't told at all.  All our kids were born after the massacre, none of them knew about it at all.  

It was a sharp contrast to Beaconsfield yesterday where there was a historical presentation stretching back on mining over two centuries but a special focus on the mine emergency of a few years ago.  

Today, I felt disappointed that there wasn't a room in the display to tell the story of what happened in 2006 and how people responded - as part of educating a new generation about that terrible page in Australian history.  


We drove to Hobart and registered at Barilla Caravan Park where we will spend the next 48 hours.  As I write this it's just before midnight on New Years Eve.  As a family we have just watched Harry Potter Seven Part Two.  The caravan park is delightfully quite (in fact we were the noisy ones - someone came and asked us to turn the speakers on the movie down).  This is such a delightful contrast to Currarong Caravan Park the last five+ years where we have faced consistent drunken unpleasantness on New Years Eve - and the kids a sitting around now debating whether or not to stay up to midnight or not.  

We decided to stay up.  So Sol is serving everyone an extra plate of ice cream! 


 This morning ...


This morning the kids and I headed into Straughn, checked out the tourist center (I bought a copy of ‘For the term of his natural life’) and we headed up the hill to an old codger’s twisted wood exhibit.


Then it was back to pick up Cathie, have some lunch and head down to the ‘Lady Jane Franklin’ for a cruise of Macquarie Harbour.


Macquarie Harbour

The harbour itself is enormous about six times the size of Sydney Harbour and really is quite extraordinary that it is such a safe place for shipping.  Especially considering the fierce strength of the winds.  


Hell’s Gates

We headed out on the cruise ship through Hell's Gates - so named because the awful torment inflicted on the prisoners 1822-1833 at Macquarie Harbour was like going to Hell.  They were also notoriously difficult to travel through (one can only imagine how hard this would have been for a boat powered by sail).


Sarah Island

This was the awful place that prisoners were taken to as a secondary punishment place 1822-1833 before Port Arthur.  I thought that the guide’s tour of Sarah’s Island was far far far better than the presentation at Port Arthur.  There was much more humor, more stories of real people, and particularly much less glossing over the extremely unpleasant stories of the past.   

Sadly our guide did choose (to several times) mock the island’s chaplain, his faith, family and assistant.  I thought this mocking was gratuitous and unnecessary.  The chaplain here (like the chaplain at Port Arthur) was a Wesleyan Missionary who she described 'in today's terms as an "evangelist fundamentalist Christian"'.  The implication being that they were naive stupid do-gooders who were never going to succeed against the brutal military might.  

I couldn’t help but admire people who for the cause of Christ would (newly married) choose to come to the other end of the world to minister a gospel of grace in impossible odds to prisoners.  

Further, the chaplain refused a dual role of working in administration under the prison governor (so he could focus on the cure of souls) and so that he wouldn’t be compromised (again things to admire).  

I felt our tour guide mocked him and his beliefs in a narrow minded and mean spirited way.  I am sure that this mocking would not have been acceptable had the man represented 


At Port Arthur I didn’t so much think that the guide mocked the chaplain as misunderstood him and his relationship with the prison commandant.  My assumption is that the relationship was difficult along the same fault lines as the governor-chaplain relationship in the colony of Sydney, where the chaplain wanted to preach God’s free gift of grace and the governor pressured the chaplain to preach morality.  

This point was lost on our Port Arthur tour guide and actually our Sarah Island one as well.  

Excitingly though, it is clear that the Sarah Island chaplain did preach grace - one could grasp that from the very clear understanding of the gospel that one prisoner articulated in a letter. 

Gordon and Franklin Rivers

Our boat headed up the Gordon River not as far as the Franklin but enough to see some quite significant wilderness area and we went on a walking tour of wilderness areas.

We had a brief recap of the protests that would have taken place their in the early 1980’s as environmentalists campaigned to save the area further upstream from being dammed.  

I can’t remember what position I had on this damming in 1980 but now thirty years later having come as close as I am ever likely to come to the area that was fought over - and not being able to go far enough upstream to see any of the area that would have been affected by the damning (and we have taken the standard tourist package) I am not totally sure that the protests were worth it.  

Yes I know some of my friends took part in the protest and the area further upstream is probably spectacularly rare and beautiful - but so few people are ever going to see it - was it worth saving?  I wasn’t totally convinced.


Tim George

Tim George celebrated his 50th birthday today. There were about 70 people there for the lunch in the backyard of his and his wife Liz's home at Epping.

I've known Tim for 25 years exactly. He was the first person to systematically read the Bible with me.

My key memory is of sitting with him as he insisted that we contribute nothing to our salvation and that it is all of God, from Ephesians 2:8-9.

This was the first time I had really grappled with that idea.

I am very grateful to God for Tim and for his 25 years of example of Christian manhood, marriage and family life