From lazy day to prison day!

From lazy day to prison day!

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Sea days are enjoyed in a variety of ways; for some there is a host of activities to be sampled (see what Ann did!), whilst others enjoy the gentle breezes on deck reading books they have been promising for months to pick up. For Carolyn and I came the temptation of Super Bowl being shown on the cinema screen in the theatre. I have to say that Carolyn is more of a devotee than I, but frequent visits to the USA have spiked my interest and I did get additional commentary and explanation of the rules from my neighbour! The audience were hugely in favour of the ultimate winners (The Eagles), whereas I happily cheered each touchdown no matter which side scored!

But today was our stop in Port Arthur and we went to prison. Actually, we were looking around the former penal colony which, in the mid 1800s, housed nearly 2000 prisoners of the more serious variety (2+ offences) deported from the UK. When I first arrived at this beautiful spot I did think, well, if you have to be a prisoner what better place, but hard labour was hard and not all survived. A guide from the World Heritage Centre, was keen to point out that they built a hospital, employed doctors and a surgeon and taught skills and crafts so the prisoners could eventually leave with a trade. I was amazed to learn they had a library the prisoners could use with 13,000 books. The Australians wanted to provide an education so the men could leave better off than when they arrived.

Today, the prison is largely a ruin (in a glorious spot overlooking a truly beautiful bay). Some of the buildings (the Commandant’s house and the junior doctor’s house) have been maintained just as they were and are open for the visitors. The asylum (a later addition to the prison) has cells which can be viewed, again, as they were. Prisoners were often sent here for punishment and they were in solitary and silent confinement, often for a year.

The weather is just perfect today and I sit here in quiet contemplation of our Tasmanian experiences to date….quite wonderful. The tenders are busily ferrying passengers back to the ship across the sparkling water. In less than an hour we shall be on our way to Hobart, where we have a couple of days in port before heading to New Zealand.

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Carolyn’s Curios & Curiosities

Little things intrigue me. I like to know why. So, when I spotted an upside down keyhole in a restored house in Port Arthur, I asked why? Foolishly, I asked out loud of Kath whose flippant (I hope!) response was, “Because we’re Down Under?” I momentarily paused for thought – quick riposte or further query – but then espied one the correct way round so concluded it was a mistake.

The next wry smile was engendered when I spotted that the Town Hall doubled as an Asylum albeit used erstwhile as a church as well.

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Finally, why does the tender (aka lifeboat) have an open window at the top to let a significant swell and spray come in?! Especially onto me?!

Yesterday’s sea day coincided, as Kath mentioned, with Super Bowl. I last watched it live in the ‘80s when ‘my’ team was Walter Payton’s Chicago Bears. I don’t have a particular favourite team these days but have great admiration for the playing of Tom Brady of the New England Patriots. He didn’t win this time and Kath and I were reassured that we had visited Philadelphia, home of the Eagles, last fall. I’d noticed a number of banners there advertising The Eagles with the clever play on the Autumn season with “We rise again every fall!” A superb game which, despite two controversial decisions, was played in seemingly good spirit.

Today at Port Arthur, for me, was affected by the thoughts of what those prisoners (and staff!) went through all those years ago. Extrapolate to today where we still allow physical and mental punishment for crimes. Of course, people do not need to commit crime. And, “If you don’t want to do the time, don’t commit the crime” is accurate but trite. However, there are cases of men being transported half way round the world not that long ago from their families for stealing food for their children. We have moved on and our excellent guide today was at pains to point out that the inmates here were serial offenders and the ‘worst of the bunch’. Even then, she explained, some form of education and training was provided. And now, it’s a World Heritage Site. Progress, indeed. I was moved by thoughts of my own childhood when I read the raison d’être of the prison, “To tame the most mutinous spirit”.

And, yet, in the mid-1990s, an Australian, Martin Bryant, committed a massacre of several dozen people here. Strict gun laws were almost immediately introduced. Too late for those killed but, hopefully, will save the lives of others. America, please take note.

Ann’s Additions

Should you ever think that a ‘sea day’ on a cruise would be dull, please allow me to change your mind. Today we’ve been sailing between Burnie and Port Arthur at quite a gentle speed, to ensure that we arrive tomorrow morning at the appointed hour. My day began with 5,000 steps on the Promenade Deck before breakfast. The staff had, obviously, been up much earlier ‘swabbing’ the deck in preparation for we early morning walkers and joggers.

Resisting the temptation of watching the Super Bowl, I set off for the Crow’s Nest to learn a little about the flowers on the ship and to watch her two florists as they created some beautiful arrangements. Apparently, flowers only come on board at the start of a cruise and last at least two weeks. Orchids, for example, are ‘fed’ two ice cubes a week and, in the controlled environment of the ship, it certainly does the trick.

Almost immediately after this learning experience, I join some more American ladies to learn how to make a Maori poi. We all had fun with foam, scissors and wool, instructed carefully by the Maori group who are on board with us. The poi is used in Maori rhythmical dances.

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So, having enjoyed the morning session, I return after lunch to learn about Maori designs and their meaning. Carving in, for example, wood, stone and jade and even on human skin i.e. tattoos and paintings. Their meanings become clear when explained by the Maoris themselves – whether it’s good fortune, good fishing or handing down culture and family traditions. Hopefully, we shall see some of these designs as we travel New Zealand.

And finally, before dinner, there is a very informative talk about what will be our first glimpses of New Zealand – Milford Sound and the fiords. (Geography rules ok!) This will be followed, for us, by visits to Dunedin, Christchurch, Picton and Wellington. Hearing about ports of call from someone whose job – lucky Kelly! – it is to explore these places on our behalf, makes it possible for us to gain even more from a comparatively short visit.

To conclude the day – dinner, a magic show and blues at BBKings.

All that and a total of 13,000 steps! At this rate I shall need a holiday to recover from the holiday!

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