Sunday, 23 February 2014

Risdon Dam, Xanthorrhoea & Mr Davidson's home-made champagne

Hobart's drinking water—delicious and you can circumnavigate it

Friday 31st January, 1834

With my way of life, there was no reason to fear sleepless nights when I came ashore. As long as I could withstand the exertion, I was constantly on the move, and so far as my body has not rallied in its duty from before sun-up till dark, even during the long days of the southern summer. The cool nights were most refreshing and invigorating and I did not shirk even the utmost exertion. [...]
Here in Van Diemen's Land I had yet another reason to try my physical strength to the utmost: here in this clean, well-built town I felt sadder than long since. The pleasant houses with their pretty gardens in front breathed a spirit of order, happiness and sociable family life which rubbed salt into my raw wounds . . . For a moment I thought of ringing down the curtain forever on the past and starting a new life here at the ends of the earth. Last night this idea evolved into a firm plan. Quick to take action as I still am, this plan would probably have been carried out had not the memory of my mother restrained me . . . p. 123

Risdon Reservoir in the morning mist

Monday 17th February, 2014

I have visited places and day dreamed of setting up a life there, Hobart amongst them. It's scale is intimate, the landscape and architecture beautiful and the people are relaxed and friendly. There is something familiar in this place, even when everything is new—could this have been the same for Von Hügel?
The Baron's melancholy outburst—his heart was broken when his fiancé left him for another—and his self-professed cure of increased physical activity turn my thoughts to my own state of mind. While walking my mind might wander to other times and places, yet the rhythm of my body in motion keeps me firmly in the present. There is a sense of purpose in walking, coupled with the feeling of weary aching limbs at the end of the day, that seems to propel one's thoughts and work forward; that does indeed make one feel alive.

Clouds hanging low in the trees

Galls on an acacia

Friday 31st January,1834

Dr Scott assured us that he knew the way and could save us the detour. But if the going had been hard before, it was now ten times worse. All Dr Scott could do was to climb the highest point ahead to get his bearings. These hills were all very steep and the sun-scorched ground was extremely slippery. As both hands were often necessary for climbling up and down and I was carrying my botanizing book and bag, I could not travel as fast as Dr Scott. In bragging tones, he urged me to catch up with him. At last we reached a kind of footpath in a valley, and now it was my turn to go ahead and urge him to catch up. p. 125

The fork in the road—I went up on the left and came back on the right.

Wednesday, 19th February, 2014

I have some sympathy for poor Dr Scott. For 'Day 2' of Von Hügel's Grasstree Hill walk I started out at the Risdon Brook Track. This track is an easy walk or bike ride around the Risdon Reservoir. There are various walking tracks leading off the main trail, clearly marked on my 1:250 000 map. 
Von Hügel was hampered by his botanizing book and bag, while in my day pack I had, lunch, water, first aid kit, the map, my smart phone with tracking app and built in GPS, and finally my less than dependable sense of direction. Unfortunately, I was without a Dr Scott to keep me company. But the park is not very big, and fence lines are clear.
The track continued clearly for most of the day. I walked to a place in the park where Xanthorrhoea grew abundantly—evidence of how Grasstree Hill came by its name. I came to a fence line and in consultation with my map decided to follow it until it turned 90 degrees and followed a new course up hill. At this point I stopped for lunch, in the mist and the utter silence. Here the silence persists through the sounds of the air, the birds, some frogs and intermittently there is the solid thump, thump, thump of a kangaroo heading off at my arrival. Even the screech of the sulphur crested cockatoo, which ripped through the air like a frantic fog horn, was not an infringement on the peace in the way the rumble of cars or machinery would have been.
Returning to the main track I set off again away from where I had been. Again I reached a fence line, this time following it deep into a gully and down to a green mossy creek bed. Climbing up the other side I soon felt in a new environment, the mist had lifted and the heat and dryness were reflected in the new plants and little skinks running about. 
Always on a path, or near a fence line, I felt safe enough all day, knowing that I could follow the fence and eventually I would come to a road. But it was a reminder to walk with another, because when I eventually spotted the reservoir again, and I began to recognize landmarks I had passed earlier in the day, I was surprised to join the dam at the same place I had left it.

Xanthorrhoea - namesake of Grasstree Hill

The fence line - every surface a possibility for life

Lunch at the corner

coloured as if a set design

At the bottom of the gully—cool and fresh

Mosses and liverworts??

Up the other side of the gully—dry and heat tolerant plants return

The track

Risdon Reservoir in the afternoon—mists have lifted

The disused quarry—down the bottom agapanthus were in flower

Monday 17th February, 2014

On my second night in Hobart, I had bought some Glen Ayr bubbly to take to Cate and Konrad's for dinner. It was a 2008 Vintage that we all agreed was delicious; Emma (Glen and Strath Ayr) later told me she has only 7 dozen left.  I purchased some more at the cellar door after my day on Duckhole rivulet. Von Hügel's following diary excerpt—tucked amidst entries which observe how the British delight in excessive drinking—may have nothing much to do with restoration, or remnant vegetation, and a lot more to do with coincidence, but nevertheless it acts  as a link between me and Von Hügel. The shared pleasure of a glass of fizzy and new friends stretching across 180 years.

Similar stone to the Glen Ayr ruin

Friday 31st January, 1834

The boat brought us across the turbulent sea, and in complete darkness, to the Botanical Gardens. Not a glimmer of light could penetrate the dense clouds. Here I saw Mr Davidson's pretty wife for the first time and he gave us some of his home-made champagne to taste. It was made from genuine grape-juice and really worthy of the name champagne. It was 11 o'clock when I got back to the Macquarie Hotel. p. 126

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