We packed up our stuff after a nice nights stay at a small cottage resort just outside of Port Arthur, and then the kids and Deb popped over to the community centre across the road to have a game of basketball while I played Tetris with all of our crap, I mean luggage, wet stuff that still wasn’t dry, and food, to put in the car.

Despite having our shoes and gear laid out overnight in the dry cottage, most stuff that we couldn’t put through the washing machine was  still pretty soaked. But we had to get moving in order to get to Bothwell, where we were going to be staying at Ratho Farm, which was our next accommodations for the upcoming few days.

By the time we got our wet stuff packed and closed up the trunk of the car, and piled our basketball sweaty bodies into the car., there was that horrible wet dog smell emitting from the back of the car so we were looking forward to getting out of the car at Bothwell and Ratho farms and letting our stuff air out.

These rental cars and vans are hilarious. They are everywhere with the best sayings on them…

Hahaha!  True!

But we had a couple of stops before we headed out of town.  Since we didn’t have time to visit the prison much before we headed out on the hike, nor did we want to visit in the rain after we got back from the hike, we opted to go back for a couple of hours there before we headed out to Ratho.

When we checked in, each of us were given a playing card that represented one of the featured prisoners that were at the prison.  We then went down and found our “kin” and read about their stories.  Here are the photos of who we were.

It was funny to see that most of the prisoners were young kids, and often their crimes didn’t fit the punishment of being shipped to the other side of the world to go to a prison in the middle of nowhere.  Well not by standards of the crimes done by todays standards.  This place was like maximum security juvenile prison for stealing candy.

This one was wing of the general prison where as you can see the cells were stacked two high, and were very small.

We then headed out to see the various parts of the prison, which had cells that were 6’ wide by 9’ long, stacked on top of each other.  The grounds were vast, and the prison was situated on a piece of land that was only connected to the rest of Tasmania by a narrow piece of land that was guarded by dogs.

The old hospital…

This is where church was held once a day in the silent prison. Each prisoner had a stall where they couldn’t look up, down, or to the sides, so they didn’t know who they were with.

The area had all that it needed to survive.  A large forest with enough wood to keep a bustling shipyard busy in making boats (supposedly they’re some of the best built boats in the world), land for animals and vegetables, and fresh water.  The main diet was heavy on bread, and they consumed over half a ton of flour a day.  So they had to construct a flour mill to keep up with their needs.  They tried to use the stream as a way of powering a wheel that turned to drive the grinders, but the river wasn’t flowing fast enough.  So, they made the wheel human powered.

As one of the punishments, prisoners were told to get on the modern day equivalent of one of those Jacob’s Ladder stair climber machines that we find at gyms.  A couple of them would be on there at a time, and if the prisoner fell off, they got crushed as they rotated down and around the bottom of the wheel.  I guess they would eat blood pudding that night!  Yuck.

There was a hospital, church, and the infamous silent prison, where the worst offenders were sent to be in solitary confinement, and they were not allowed to say anything.  That was supposedly one of the worst forms of torture.  Living inside your own head.  You would turn into something like Golum from Lord of the Rings!  Wilson wouldn’t last 30 seconds.

One of the rooms in the silent prison.

Hoards of the prisoners were given 15 minutes a day in the “exercise yard”, which was barely big enough for all of them to be standing up at the same time.  No weight gym, no basketball hoops, nothing.  Just stand up.  Brutal.

Three exercise yards…each of which led to a solitary confinement room, which was darker than I have every experienced darkness. And wet.

Robyn and I made our way back to the entrance to catch up with Deb and the kids as they were doing their own tour (Robyn and I snuck in on the beginning of a tour so we could hear some of the background history), and got out on the road.

Before we crossed over the Dog Line of the peninsula, we stopped at a beach that was famous for its tessellated pavement.

This is a very cool geologic formation that is only found here in this part of Tasmania, and is the only place in the world you see this.  It is kind of like Giants Causeway in Ireland, but not hexagonal shapes.  These were perfect rectangular blocks of stone that was formed, and continues to form based on the fact that the salt water comes up onto the stone, hits the middle of these blocks and then erodes the centre of the stone, leaving raised edges.  Very cool.

We went for a walk along the beach to get to where it wasn’t, not realizing that you could pretty much drive there and access the other end of the pavement area.

We stopped at the grocery store, and a roadside fruit stand for some fresh fruit, and eventually got to Ratho.

We were looking for apples…the elusive Pink Eye Apple. Until we figured out that they were actually potatoes….

The stores trying their best to decorate for Christmas.

And the residents too!

The drive was nice as it wandered from the lush forest where the prison was, to the more inland farmlands that looked dry other than where the farmers had actively been using irrigation systems.

You have to watch out for car eating kangaroos!

It was a super rustic farm and hasn’t changed much since it was built in 1892 by prisoners from the Commonwealth nations.  The farm was the initial homestead of the Reid family, and has stayed in that family since.

Just before sunrise….

We were staying in a building that used to be the horse stables, and the beds were super comfortable, and best of all the kids had their own room.

Robyn was in her last 24 hours with us, and the kids were starting to get bummed out that she was leaving.  We were too.  She was a joy to have around, and injected a lot of fun into the crazy antics that we were having.  She bought in to the sense of what we were doing on the trip and fit in like a glove.

The “kids” found where the chickens were supposed to live, which was the oldest chicken coup in Australia.  Go figure.  We didn’t know that this place was a place of obscure historical significance!

Most of the chickens were not in the pen, and were running free around the outside perimeter of the pen.  So, the kids were making it their mission to chase the chickens and for them to get back into the pen.  This was absolutely hilarious to watch as the chickens were surprisingly fast!  This was an activity that repeated itself over the course of our stay at Ratho and provided hours of entertainment!

Chickens are actually hard to catch!

Eventually the kids got them all in there and it was time for Robyn’s last dinner with us.  We had a nice feast and send off on the porch of the horse stables, and watched the sun go down.

Robyn got up early in the morning with us and we saw her off with one of the managers of the farm as they were going to Hobart, and she was able to hitch a ride…which was way easier than getting her on a bus at an even earlier time in the morning.

It was sad to see her go, but there were a lot more adventures that we were going to have.

Wilson and I decided to play 9 holes on this course, which was the oldest golf course in Australia.  We dropped our money off in the honesty box on the front porch, grabbed some balls from the “free ball bucket”, and went into the old brick outhouse which served as the rental shop.  Except you looked through the pile of golf bags and grabbed a smattering of clubs you wanted to take with you, and then put it on a pull cart.  These were fancy golf carts as they had seats and storage bins!  I have never seen that before!.

The course was in the traditional links style as the landscape, and the former farm pasture, dictated that style (not many trees there…), and this was one of Wilson’s first times on a full golf course.

It didn’t help that we didn’t have any golf shoes, and Wilson wanted to play in his flip flops.  We didn’t really care about the score, we were just out there to have fun.

It was a lot of fun at that too, and Wilson did very well.  He is going to be a good golfer when he figures out some of the intricacies of the game and how to make the ball go far and straight.

That afternoon after golf, we got picked up by Mike, who was going to be our fly fishing guide down at the local river.  We had never been fly fishing before, so this was purely an introductory lesson.

My Papa was a fly fisherman in his day, and I have some of his poles back at home in the basement.  My dad had tried fly fishing as well, but this was our first time.

I don’t really like fishing other than deep sea fishing since the fish you catch are big and often plentiful.  Standing at the end of the dock or spending a lot of time in a tin boat fishing in our lakes back home does not appeal to me at all.

However, once we got the rod in our hands and had a go at it, there was something different about fly fishing.  It was rhythmical, graceful, and had an art to it.

Mike taught us about the technique, the physics of the rod and line, and the way to confuse the fish into thinking that the lure is an insect on the top of the water.

I found it to be very relaxing, even if it didn’t result in catching anything.  It was just the gracefulness of it all that I liked.  Mike noticed it as well.  “He has the bug”, he said to Deb.  I think that I will have to try this when I get home!  Maybe I can get my dad’s rod to give it a go, or better yet get Wilson to give it a go.

We all had fun doing it.  Deb was very good at casting, as was Wilson.  Lulu….not so much, but she didn’t give up.

We headed home without any fish, and no one really cared.  We had had a lot of fun!  That night we indulged in having dinner made for us at the farm, which was quite good.  After dinner, the general manager of the lodge sat down and gave us a bit more history about the farm, and then read us an excerpt from a historical document that described what it was like to live on the farm back in 1892.

The kids had a lot of fun playing with the hairy cows and the two sheep that were on the farm.  They were very friendly, however, the cow with horns didn’t like me too much as it kept trying to spear me with its horns.

On our last afternoon, we had a nice friendly game of whack the stupid white ball with the kids.

All of us weren’t on our game, which made for a longer than required game of 9 holes of golf.

Lulu got frustrated quite easily, especially when she tried to hit the skin off of the ball…and then missed.

At least the golf carts had seats on it, so the kids took turns pulling each other around as they had had enough of walking.

We packed up and got ready for our last day in Tasmania, as we headed to Sydney for one night before we headed to New Zealand.

No sure what they were growing, but it was pretty!

The old homestead…

and the fancy signs as to where things were.

I got up early the morning that we left to finish off the back nine, which we didn’t complete yesterday with the whole family, which was nice…having the whole golf course to yourself.  No one to hear you when you curse out loud for a crappy shot.

At least the sunrise was awesome before I got out on the course…

The drive out of Ratho was once again full of ups and downs and twists and turns through an undulating landscape full of farmland.

We came across an abandoned house in a field which was “quintessential” Australia to me.  Deb her quintessential photo around Canarvon, where she dropped me off on the side of the road and then took off.  This was my turn.

So, as always, I am anal about my photos.  I need the right angle, with he right height/composition, and the right lighting.  I tried to take a picture from the side of the road, but I was too far from the house, and I didn’t want to zoom in too much as it would distort the image and add in too much “noise” (aka, it wouldn’t look sharp).  So, I looked around, there was no one, no snakes, no animals that would attack me, and there was a wood fence that was leaning over at one spot, so I could easily just walk along the upright and hop off the other side.

Deb and the kids were parked on the side of the road watching the whole ordeal, waiting for “dad the photographer” to get the perfect shot.  They saw me head  into the ditch and toward the fence (I would have loved to see what they were actually seeing) in my flip flops.  They watched me do a balance beam walk along the fence and then they suddenly lost sight of me as my now overweight body disappeared from view.

You see, I was at the end of the upright and my flipflop toe got caught on the wire part of the fence, which sent me flying into the ground, landing with a thud.  I had my camera in my hand, so, I did a tuck and roll…which my natural reaction was to land on the side that I had my bike crash on before we left.

“It just a flesh wound”…circa Monty Python

But the camera was largely ok.  Thank god, I don’t think that Deb would have allowed me to buy another camera on this trip due to my stupidity and photographic adventures.

But I stood up quickly and waved back to the car where all I could see was Deb hunched over the wheel killing herself with laughter.  I am so glad that it provided comic relief.  Anyways, picture taken, and we hopped back in the car and took off again.

We stopped along the way to do a quick hike to a set of waterfalls on the way to Hobart and the airport.  It was a nice hike, but we knew we had to get back to Hobart.

While we were in Hobart, we needed to do a couple of chores, including posting a package, or two, back to Huntsville, and drop some of the clothes that we no longer needed off at the local hospice shop.

Never wasting any time, we dropped off the car at the rental agency with about 2 minutes before the return time, after which time we would have been charged another day…memories of Salzburg.  Damn people at Budget (they did refund us eventually, but it was pretty stupid and bad customer service).

Blue bottle on the beach at the tessellated pavement.

Checked in, lined up, and we were ready for another day, another flight (two in fact), and another part of our great family adventure.