General

Letter from Hobart

Hobart is the state capital of Tasmania, which is the smallest state of Australia, and Tasmania is also the name of an island, which together with many other islands, form the Tasmania State. Tasmania is 240 km away from the eastern side of the Australia Continent, and geological evidences suggested that the island broke off from the continent in the most recent ice age about 10,000 years ago. Australia and New Guinea in turn, broke off from the Antarctica 40 million years ago. Tasmania is actually the closest land mass from the Antarctica. During the Eco Cruise which operated from the Adventure Bay of Bruny Island, the Captain said that we were only 2,200 km from the Antarctica. I reckon that it could be slightly more than that, though not a lot more.

For the purpose of comparability, Tasmania has a gross area (land and water) of nearly 91,000 square km, but its population is less than 500,000. Compared with Hong Kong, it is over 80 times bigger in size, but with only about 7% our population. Hobart is situated near the south-eastern end of the island, and is the largest city of the state; the second largest city being Lauceston, which is near the north. The two cities together have nearly half the population of Tasmania.

In this trip, we began with Hobart and journeyed up north to Lauceston along the east coast, visiting key attractions, before returning to Hobart via the Midland Highway, also known as the Heritage Highway, stopping at two historic and picturesque cities, namely Ross and Richmond.

Back to the trip itself: it began as a small party. Let me try to piece the facts together. There were three friends who are now in their late 70s and early 80s. When they were much younger – could well be over 30 or 40 years ago – they decided to commission a boat or a yacht. It happened that only one of them had a daughter, so the boat was named after her, for it would have been problematic to name after any one of their wives. The boat had since been decommissioned, but the three remain very good friends. They have all largely retired. One went to Sydney, but one has recently resumed working, for reasons I would not go into here. The two friends in Hong Kong decided to visit their friend in Sydney and had decided to visit or re-visit Tasmania because the wife of one of them had studied there not so long ago, i.e., about ten years ago. This couple asked me to come along during a drinking session, and I agreed. The son of the other couple decided to come along to look after his parents – good for him. So, it was meant to be a party of six, which could nicely fit into a 7-seater.

Soon, friends and relatives of the two couple got wind and decided to join, including a couple from LA and another from Melbourne, so that the group grew to 12; and while I was cruising in the Antarctic, the good son decided to hire a tour operator to take over. I was in the fortunate position of not having to play any part in the planning, organizing, directing or monitoring of the operation.

Now that the tour is nearing the end, I am happy to say that I have thoroughly enjoyed the tour. We never had to rush or be rushed; we never had any arguments; and we had a first class tour guide. In fact, I would commend this model to anyone contemplating to have a good holiday.

In this context, it seems that the single most important ingredient in a good holiday is good company. In other words, find some good friends to go on a holiday.

Another key success factor is the guide. We are lucky to have had one that agrees with our chemistry. She is a great communicator, a problem solver and a mediator; and she makes things work. She provided us accurate and informative notes on almost anything we came across; she was careful about the historical and cultural background; and she would supplement such facts, where appropriate, with her personal insights.

For example, in discussing the sad life of Truganini (1812 – 1876), the last Tasmanian Aborigine, she alluded to the Australian forefathers committing genocide; while passing through highways which had been built to improve the road system and transportation, she pointed out that such highways had actually produce unintended consequences: some small townships and villages off the highways had become financially unviable and died off; and while visiting the Sunday Market of Evandale, she told us the village was the site for an annual National Penny Farthing Championships. You may be interested that the 2008 event would actually fall on 23 February, Rotary’s next anniversary.

Tomorrow, I left Hobart for Sydney, where I would stay for the evening before flying home, thus ending an almost 6-week absence, apart from a few days in between.

I would try to catch up with you from Hong Kong.

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