Ho­bart on the hop

Tango, tea and tan­ta­lis­ing tales in Tas­ma­nia’s cap­i­tal city

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - KENDALL HILL

1. Party peo­ple: Bo­hemia comes to Ho­bart ev­ery Fri­day evening in Sala­manca Square as Rek­tango, a kind of im­promptu block party, kicks up its heels be­hind the Peacock Theatre from 5.30pm to 7.30pm. The weekly j am and dance session is no se­cret among mu­sic-lov­ing lo­cals (it’s al­ways packed) but vis­i­tors of­ten miss the city’s best night out.

Ta­nia Bosak formed the eclec­tic band Rek­tango in 2000 and they kicked off their Sala­manca slam the same year; and since then the band’s exuberant mu­sic — a deliri­ous mash-up of gypsy and swing, Croa­t­ian folk and tan­gos — has been a favourite way to farewell each work­ing week.

Fes­tiv­i­ties are fu­elled by freeflow­ing beer, with gluh­wein and fires in win­ter. En­try is open to ev­ery­one — old, young, chil­dren, pets — and dancing is de rigueur. A great way to kick off a week­end away and meet the lo­cals. And best of all, en­try to the party is free. 2. Wa­ter course: Above the sub­urbs of Ho­bart a his­toric track traces a path through bush­land and fern gul­lies, past re­minders of the in­ge­nu­ity of city founders. The Pipe­line Track hugs the flank of Mt Welling­ton for 3km be­tween the ham­let of Fern Tree and the Water­works Reser­voir, Ho­bart’s fresh wa­ter sup­ply.

As well as of­fer­ing strik­ing bird’s-eye views of the city, the path re­veals un­ex­pected sur­prises. From Fern Tree the track slopes down into green gul­lies and a gor­geous minia­ture aqueduct in sandstone that spans the bub­bling Longhill Creek. Its stone arches and the ma­sonry troughs date from 1881.

El­e­gant plumb­ing aside, there is much to ad­mire along the pipe­line’s route, in­clud­ing or­chids and sas­safras, swamp gums and stringy­barks. Hikers, bik­ers and j og­gers can oc­ca­sion­ally be en­coun­tered along the route, as can pink robins, brown tree frogs and echid­nas. In spring, daf­fodils flower on the clear­ing where McDer­mott’s Farm once stood. The un­mar­ried recluse Bill McDer­mott lived here with his dog, Brandy Sham­rock McShane, un­til 1967, when he was gored to death by one of his bulls.

Fur­ther along lie Gen­tle An­nie Falls (so gen­tle that they no longer flow) and, at the end of a steep and rocky path be­low, the reser­voir it­self, which is an ideal pic­nic spot. More: ho­bartc­ity.com.au. 3. Cap­tive’s au­di­ence: Louisa Re­gan, dressed in sim­ple grey smock, flo­ral scarf and white bon­net, meets our group across the road from the Cas­cade Brew­ery. ‘‘To­day I will be tak­ing you back to the 19th cen­tury, into the heart and the soul and the spirit of my story,’’ she says. ‘‘I hope I will make you laugh, and at times I might even make you cry.’’

Louisa’s Walk is a strolling theatre per­for­mance through the Cas­cade Gar­dens and the World Her­itage-listed site of the Fe­male Fac­tory, Ho­bart’s in­fa­mous women’s prison. Ju­dith Cor­nish plays the role of Ir­ish­woman Louisa, trans­ported to the colonies on a seven-year sen­tence for nick­ing a loaf of bread in Lon­don in 1840.

The self-con­scious might flinch at the prospect of be­ing bit-play­ers in such a pub­lic drama but Cor­nish and hus­band Chris play their roles so con­vinc­ingly, their audi- ence soon em­pathises with the in­jus­tices of life in Van Diemen’s Land. Guests are drawn gen­tly into the per­for­mance (Cor­nish’s char­ac­ter has an in­cred­i­ble mem­ory for names and weaves them into the nar­ra­tive) and chil­dren es­pe­cially en­joy the ex­pe­ri­ence. And, like all the best sto­ries, there’s a happy end­ing. More: live­his­to­ry­ho­bart.com.au. 4. River highs: The most ro­man­tic way to dis­cover the Der­went River is aboard the Lady Nel­son, a faith­ful re-cre­ation of the 1799 square rig­ger sent to the an­tipodes to map the coast­line (and even­tu­ally dis­patched by pi­rates j ust north of Timor in 1825). Built for the Bi­cen­te­nary pro­ject, the Lady Nel­son Mark II is op­er­ated by the Tas­ma­nian Sail Train­ing As­so­ci­a­tion, a vol­un­teer group that runs plea­sure cruises to raise funds.

Pas­sen­gers can try their hand at tall-ship sail­ing if they wish, or sim­ply sit back and ad­mire the hand­some cel­ery-top pine deck, sturdy dou­glas fir masts and the fan­fare of sails un­furled over­head. The 90-minute ex­cur­sions are also a good op­por­tu­nity to try out a new vo­cab­u­lary of gas­kets, jibs and hal­yards, or test your skill with rat­lines and sheepshanks.

Once clear of Con­sti­tu­tion Dock and un­der full sail, the ship glides placidly, cap­tur­ing pic­turesque city views. And if the crew en­coun­ters a run of fish in the har­bour, they will drop a line, haul in the catch, clean it and then raf­fle it to pas­sen­gers to raise funds for the Lady’s up­keep. The sail­ing trips de­part from Con­sti­tu­tion Dock at week­ends. More: la­dynel­son.org.au. 5. Sun­day lunch: Just shy of its first birth­day, Garag­istes, a self­de­scribed wine bar that hap­pens to also serve phe­nom­e­nal food, has been anointed one of Aus­tralia’s hottest ta­bles by The Week­end Aus­tralian Mag­a­zine (among oth­ers), so get­ting a ta­ble here is a rare test of a Ho­bart diner’s pa­tience. Beat the queues by re­serv­ing a seat at Sun­day lunch, the one day of the week when book­ings are ac­cepted. The four­course set menu costs a rea­son­able $65 and Luke Burgess’s lo­cally fo­cused but glob­ally in­flu­enced fare might run to seared veni­son with glazed beet­root, net­tle puree and new-sea­son’s truf­fle, or a jerusalem ar­ti­choke and goat’s curd ice cream with cider pears.

The vibe is com­mu­nal — share plates among friends, share ta­bles with strangers — be­neath a soar­ing ceil­ing in a suave in­dus­trial space that was once a Holden assem­bly plant. Burgess’s part­ner Ka­t­rina Birch­meier is the brains be­hind the assem­bly of 130-plus small-vine­yard and or­ganic, sus­tain­able or bio­dy­namic wines, many with a pro­nounced French ac­cent. More: garag­istes.com.au. 6. Writ­ten in stone: Next time you’re trawl­ing the stalls of wood­work, woollen socks and har­vest pro­duce at the pop­u­lar Sala­manca Mar­ket, duck into St David’s Park for a glimpse into the lives (and deaths) of Ho­bart Town’s pi­o­neer­ing set­tlers. This mod­est ceme­tery fea­tures sandstone me­mo­rial walls set with the head­stones of the founders of Aus­tralia’s sec­ond-old­est city.

Among the buried are hardy souls who ar­rived in 1788 with Cap­tain Arthur Phillip aboard the First Fleet, such as ‘‘coura­geous wife and mother’’ Alice Stan­field. ‘‘As a founder of our nation, she bore the tri­als and suf­fer­ing with great strength and char­ac­ter and pur­pose,’’ her epi­taph reads. Some head­stones bear just the sim­plest of de­tails while oth­ers in­clude snip­pets of in­trigu­ing sto­ries, such as that of poor Richard Hames, ‘‘whowas un­for­tu­nately killed by a horse, March 30, 1833’’.

Notable early Tas­ma­ni­ans such as city sur­veyor Thomas Browne, who died af­ter a long ill­ness ‘‘which he bore with Chris­tian for­ti­tude’’, and James Ebenezer Bicheno Esq, reg­is­trar of records of Van Diemen’s Land, are re­mem­bered along­side more poignant de­par­tures, such as those of brother and sis­ter James and Anna Hol­well, aged five years and 18 months — ‘‘These lovely buds so fresh and fair’’ — who died within weeks of each other in the win­ter of 1853. 7. Tea break: When Vi­o­lent Femmes bass player Brian Ritchie and his aca­demic wife Varuni Ku­lasek­era moved to Ho­bart from Man­hat­tan in 2008, there was, un­der­stand­ably, a lot of ex­cite­ment about this sud­den boost to the city’s cul­tural cred. Three years on, the pair has def­i­nitely made an im­pres­sion — Ritchie as or­gan­iser of the an­nual MONA FOMA mu­sic fes­ti­val and cham­pion of the new ArtBikes cy­cle­shar­ing pro­gram, and Ku­lasek­era as the city’s favourite tea lady.

Chado — The Way of Tea is a dou­ble-storey tea­house on El­iz­a­beth Street; its walls are stacked with ex­otic leaves such as the revered sil­ver nee­dle from Fu­jian and or­ganic turmeric tea from Sri Lanka (it’s said to do won­ders for hang­overs). Each is pre­pared pre­cisely and with suit­able cer­e­mony for guests. The 22-page tea se­lec­tion is com­ple­mented by a sim­ple menu that runs to bento box lunches and rice-based don­buris.

Ritchie is of­ten in res­i­dence, ser­e­nad­ing tea-drinkers on the shakuhachi bam­boo flute. More: (03) 6231 6411. Kendall Hill was a guest of Tourism Tas­ma­nia.

dis­cover­tas­ma­nia.com.au

TOURISM TAS­MA­NIA/SEAN FEN­NESSY

Ho­bart’s glit­ter­ing fore­shores, with moun­tain­ous bush­land pro­vid­ing a back­drop for this is­land cap­i­tal on the Der­went River

TOURISM TAS­MA­NIA/BRIAN DUL­LAGHAN

The Lady Nel­son is a re-cre­ation of a 1799 square rig­ger

TOURISM TAS­MA­NIA/RAY QUINN

Louisa’s Walk per­for­mances dra­mat­i­cally re­visit the past

TOURISM TAS­MA­NIA/GARRY MOORE

In­trigu­ing tales can be found on St David’s Park me­mo­rial walls

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