Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Way, way down under

The first thing you notice when you fly into Hobart is that Tasmania ain't like the rest of Australia.

For starters, there are the mountains. There are mountains in other parts of Oz, of course, but those we've seen so far are different from these ones. The mountains on the Sunshine Coast are unique peaks -- volcanic plugs that jut up from the flatland with no warning. The Blue Mountains near Sydney are less abrupt, but still jagged and dramatic. The mountains we glimpsed from the plane over Hobart this afternoon are more subtle -- high and substantial, of course, but somehow more serious. The mountains we've seen in NSW and Queensland seem to promise that those who climb them will find more flat country on the other side. These mountains make no such promise. You can just tell that they are just the beginning of a long, long stretch of rolling, challenging land.

When you land in Tasmania, the next thing you notice is the light. It's what I think of as a northern light, coming from low in the sky. It's winter here, and it looks like it. We kept feeling as though we were in Thunder Bay or Scandinavia rather than in Australia, and I'm sure it's the light that was doing it. Even though it got dark at 5:00, it felt familiar, comforting, homey. At 42.5 degrees south, we're on roughly the same lattitude south as Toronto is north. The forests are largely pine, too, with plenty of lakes and rivers to be seen from the plane, so it even looks right.

Of course, Tasmania isn't Canada. Even though we're closer to Antarctica than we are to Perth, and even though it's mid-winter here, it's really not as cold as all the Queenslanders had led us to believe it would be. There are lemon trees growing in the back yard of the house we're staying in, and it was a lovely 16 degrees when we landed -- two degrees warmer than it was when we left Melbourne. We'll be wearing long pants and jackets, but not freezing.

Haven't seen much of Hobart yet, of course, but so far I like what I see. It should be an interesting two weeks.

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