Down Under: Tasmania – 52 Ancestors #273

This is part 2 of a multi-part series about my trip down under to Australia and New Zealand. You can read part one about my adventures in Sydney, outside Melbourne and in the Blue Mountains of Australia, here.

This trip was very different from past journeys, in part because we traveled over the holidays. We discussed this with family members first, but the kids are grown and the cruise line, Viking, included free airfare, but on just this one departure date. Clearly, lots of people hesitate to be gone for the holidays and Viking wanted to fill the cabins. For us, the free airfare made the trip affordable and our adult children were incredibly flexible. It also meant that we would spend New Year’s Eve someplace very unique😊

In this article, I’ll be sharing an unexpected New Year’s Eve treat, the absolutely amazing UnZoo, the penal colony at Port Arthur and a stunning drive along the Tasmanian coastline.

And of course, because it’s me, we had a crisis.

Come on along…

Tasmania

Tasmania is an island state of Australia. Separated from the mainland during the last ice age about 10,000 years ago. Tasmania is mostly volcanic – and beautiful.

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We departed from Melbourne and would be putting into the port of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania after a day at sea.

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From Hobart, we traveled by bus to the Tasmanian Devil UnZoo and on to Port Arthur, the site of one of the original Penal Colonies.

But before reaching Tasmania, we celebrated New Year’s Eve!!!

New Year’s Eve

This was a New Year’s Eve like no other, in more ways than one.

Jim and I had been anticipating New Year’s Eve shipboard. We’re not big celebrators at home, and we knew, just knew, that Viking would host a bang-up party.

What we didn’t know, of course, is how rough the seas would be.

I don’t do well with motion, and the remedy for that is to take Dramamine and go to bed.

The remedy does not involve either food or alcohol. And NEVER alcohol in combination with Dramamine. Not only that, but alcohol makes normally stable people unstable, and with the ship rocking to and fro, I needed every shred of stability I could muster.

Additionally, I was still affected by jet lag. It gets better gradually over a few days, but for me, jet lag means I’m sleepy just about all the time that I’m supposed to be awake, and wide awake when I’m supposed to be asleep. My body just screams, “I’m confused.”

Indeed, Viking scheduled a New Year’s Eve party from 9 – 12:15. Yes, you read that right. It ended at 12:15. Fifteen minutes after midnight.

I had to laugh, because Viking does attract many retired people, but really, we’re not THAT old. Why I remember New Year’s Eve’s that I was only getting started at 12:15, but I digress.

While Jim and I were trying to decide if we were going to sleep or going to party, the Cruise Director invited passengers to the atrium to a Chocolate Tasting.

OK, there’s no question. I’m going to that – rolling seas and Dramamine or not! Chocolate is going to be the death of me yet. I already tripped and fell once in the pursuit of chocolate and ancestors, but I was NOT going to miss this event.

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Believe me, the title “Chocolate Tasting” was significantly understated.

The chefs had outdone themselves and created an entire edible chocolate art display, plus buffet.

This event was so popular that they had to rope off the area and a line formed quite some time before the grand opening, or in this case, grand un-roping.

It seems that everyone loves chocolate.

Chocolate

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I slipped in while they were setting up to grab a few shots. This was before the serving trays arrived that held the beautifully decorated and arranged goodies for the guests.

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Musicians were scattered throughout the public areas of the ship. Music may calm wild beasts but I’m not so sure about people being restrained from chocolate.

When they *finally* opened the Chocolate Tasting buffet, it was immediately swamped with eager guests.

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It seems that everyone wanted a photo before the trays were empty. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that you eat twice, first with your eyes. Truth! And this was a smorgasbord.

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There an amazing variety of delectable goodies. I learned that those pastel cookies are French macaroons. Who knew?

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Isn’t this just beautiful?

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There were two very popular chocolate dipping fountains, off to the side, one white chocolate (yes, I know that’s not really a thing) and one “regular” chocolate. As you can see, the tray was empty but held fruit and marshmallows. Nothing remained empty very long.

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The decorations like the “plants” and that loopy ribbon-looking artistic expression on the left are edible.

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The theme was Australia, of course. Just look at those native flowers and pots with “bark.”

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The “barrier reef” with the chocolate fish. Everything was edible, but no one could bring themselves to eat the display itself.

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The bushfires were present on everyone’s mind.

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This chocolate Christmas tree looks like laser-cut scrollwork. I wonder how they did that.

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Very pastel for chocolate. Look at those beautiful lacy butterflies. I bet they worked all day on this. I wonder if the chefs were disappointed that people didn’t eat the decorations themselves, of if they would have been hurt if they had. Maybe that was the crews treat later.

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After falling into a chocolate food coma, we went to our cabin and watched the sun set.

Tomorrow would be an early morning, waking up in Hobart, capitol city of Tasmania.

I probably don’t need to tell you that we never made it to the party.

Never make the mistake of laying down on a cruise ship. The motion will rock you right to sleep.

Tasmania

New Year’s Day dawned bright and beautiful. Happy 2020! I had never welcomed a new year in another country, let alone another hemisphere on a landmass half way around the world.

Tasmania Harbour

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After docking, we climbed aboard the bus to head for the UnZoo, and then on to the Penal Colony, first driving through the city of Hobart.

Tasmania is known for its wool production and exports, both historically and today.

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One of my favorite things about cruising is that you’re always by the sea.

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The entire journey today would be along the beautiful Tasmanian coastline in the golden rays of sunshine.

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Before long, we arrived at the UnZoo.

The UnZoo

That the heck is an Unzoo? Well, it’s the reverse of a zoo.

The animals aren’t caged for human entertainment. The animals live in their natural habitat, without fences, and the humans are guided through that habitat and (minimally) restricted for everyone’s protection, when necessary. Kind of an immersion experience in a native botanical garden that the animals enjoy too.

I have always been very concerned about the ethical aspects of zoos – and I absolutely love not only the concept of an UnZoo, but the UnZoo itself.

We visited the Tasmanian Devil UnZoo whose mission is to save the Tasmania Devils. The Tasmanian Devil, a carnivorous marsupial, was named by the original colonists due to its ferocious voice and aggressive nature. They may be small, but they don’t know it, or sound small. Extinct on the Australian mainland today, they are found only on Tasmania, and may become extinct there soon.

You can hear and see the Devils in a YouTube video here. That voice!

Additionally, the UnZoo serves as a wildlife sanctuary, hospital and preserve for other native Tasmanian species as well.

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You may have heard that the Tasmanian Devils are urgently threatened with a rare form of facial cancer, DFTD or Devil Facial Tumour Disease, a fatal, transmittable cancer.

The bad news is that DFTD is one of only three forms of contagious cancers in the world and more than 80% of the Devils are infected today. The good news is that the location of the UnZoo has allowed a fence to be built across the neck of the peninsula to protect the Devils on the peninsula, none of whom are infected. In other words, the cancer has not spread there – yet.

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To give you an idea of the lay of the land, Hobart is on the left, above, the UnZoo is the red pin, and the fence spans the small neck of land at Dunalley pointed to by the red arrow. If this fence and alarm system fails, the Tasmanian Devil will likely become extinct.

The UnZoo admissions provide funding for building and alarming the fence along with caring for the animals. You can contribute, here.

The guides at the UnZoo are extremely committed to the animals under their stewardship.

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The animals come to know the guides quite well. As a retired wildlife rehabilitator, I can assure you that even though we attempt not to form bonds with the critters, we do – and they do with us as well.

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While the birds in the aviary at Healesville, outside Melbourne, had been reclusive, that’s not the case here for these unconfined birds.

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Look up! Birds are everyplace.

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A little birdseed helped encourage this friendly parrot.

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Jim was quite taken by surprise. There was no birdseed on his head, so the attraction must have been something else. You can see both Jim and the bird are quite pleased.

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Educational signs are posted in many places, helping visitors get to know the animals, along with discussing the history, challenges and surrounding habitat.

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People walk along the paths. This border is not to keep the Tasmanian Devil in, but to keep the people out of the Devil’s habitat and to keep everyone safe.

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I had a difficult time getting a good picture of that Devil.

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In another area, the boardwalk is separated from the animal’s area by plexiglass. This little Devil came right up and took a look at us.

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As it turned out, he was a bottle raised orphan after his mother was killed on the road.

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After reaching adulthood, he failed in the breeding program. Let’s just say he got too excited and accidentally hurt the females, so he is experiencing an early retirement, at least from planned breeding anyway. What goes on in the bush stays in the bush though – and he’s not telling.

Lots of human imprinting means he’s quite docile, at least for a Tazmanian Devil, and although he isn’t confined in any way, it’s unlikely he’ll ever leave the general area. As a rehabilitator, I had wild, released, animals that hung around nearby for years, without being fed or encouraged. One swan even came and pecked on the sliding glass door with his beak to get help once when his mate was injured.

One of the UnZoo initiatives, aside from preventing the spread of disease is to care for orphaned animals, help the injured recover and sustain a wild breeding Devil population.

Sadly, sometimes they pass on.

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Devils that have died at the UnZoo are buried here.

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If you look at their “tombstones,” you’ll notice that some of them appear to have lived quite long lives. Freddie, for example, 1991-2007. These may be fictitious dates, because Devils typically don’t live more than 7 years in the wild, although it’s well-known that captive animals with care often live longer than wild animals.

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I have to wonder what is special about Erpol’s genetics. I’m suspecting that it might have something to do with the facial tumors. I sent the UnZoo a query about this but haven’t heard back from the right person.

Interestingly, there is little genetic diversity in the remaining Devils due to various past population bottlenecks where few Devils were left alive. Unfortunately, the immune system of the Devils today can’t recognize the tumor cells as foreign due to a mutation shared by all known Devils.

Devils aren’t the only animals at the UnZoo.

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This Wallaby hopped across the path in front of us.

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These particular Wallabies are called Pademelons. Numbering in the millions, they live in the scrub and eat grass. There are no fences, so these critters are free to come and go.

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Umm, excuse me….

The person had no idea these hopeful birds were creeping up behind him.

Next, it was my turn to be surprised. The guide told us that if we walked into this field, stood very quietly, and did not approach any of the animals, that the kangaroos might, just might, come out to see us.

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A group of kangaroos is called a mob, and they tend to be quite skittish. A gust of wind that startles one of them precipitates a mass high speed exit of the entire mob.

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You have no idea how thrilled I was. Note the joey in the pouch of the Mom in the middle.

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Kangaroos are extremely powerful creatures. When fighting during breeding season, males kick to kill each other and can disembowel with their back legs and claws. Notice the length of their claws in the following pictures.

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“Hey, hi, who are you?”

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This doesn’t look very comfortable for either mom or baby, but it clearly works and keeps the baby safe. The guide mentioned that for the mother, especially when it’s desperately hot, like the days when it rose to 122 degrees, the Joey is like a hot water bottle up against her abdomen. The Joey probably feels the same way too.

Joey’s stay in the pouch entirely for about 9 months and continue to nurse for about 18 months, much like human children, well except for the pouch. The mother can have 3 dependent Joeys at once. One as an embryo developing, one in the pouch like this guy, and one still suckling outside the pouch. You can read more, here.

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Our guide explained we were not to approach any animals, but that IF a kangaroo approached you, that you could slowly reach out and scratch its head. If the kangaroo liked that, and approved of you, it might expose its chest to you as well, which they enjoy having scratched. Kind of like dogs.

They also enjoy kangaroo kibble.

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Jim said this was literally the highlight of his trip.

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“Wait, wait, I wasn’t finished…”

The kangaroo literally reached out and gently pulled Jim’s hand back towards her – like our cats do at home.

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“Hey, no one’s looking are they??? Shhhh, don’t tell”

This kangaroo stealthily snuck up behind the guide and oh so quietly slipped its head into the bucket pilfering a snack.

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I was standing off to the side when the Mama kangaroo with the Joey hopped up to me. I was very surprised since mothers are typically very reserved when their young are involved. I didn’t have any food in my hand either, at least not yet.

I offered to pet and scratch her, although I fully expected her to retreat. She didn’t and scratching seemed to be exactly what she wanted. She seemed a bit shy around more than one person at a time.

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Look at the length of those toenails. Just sayin’!!!

We had quite the scratch-fest. Not only did Mama let me scratch her head, then her chest, she twisted around so I could scratch her back, AND THEN SHE RAISED UP AND LET ME PET HER JOEY!!!

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The Joey seems to love his little Joey-sized scratches too.

This might well have been the highlight of my trip – although there were so many amazing experiences.

Just call me the kangaroo whisperer.

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Surprisingly, Mama wasn’t interested in food though. Nursing an older Joey requires lots of calories.

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As soon as they realized I had treats, the other kangaroos wanted snacks.

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Then Mama changed her mind. I could have stayed right here all day.

Sadly, it was time to head for the gift shop and to say goodbye to the animals at the UnZoo.

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This shy Devil watched from a distance as we arrived, and he watched us leave too. I think he’s the unofficial guard.

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Tasmanian Devils at the UnZoo even create art. I would have purchased this if it had been for sale in the gift shop, but it was hanging in the gardens. It looks like batik fabric and where else could you find something this unique?

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Even the floor in the gift shop is devilishly cute.

Next, we headed for the penal colony at Port Arthur.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur was the harshest of the penal colonies in Australia. I have to tell you that this was difficult for me. The buildings are beautiful, but the history is dark, horribly dark. I give the Tasmanians a lot of credit for not sweeping it under the proverbial carpet and instead, using this location and history as a learning experience.

While whalers had been using the Tasmania’s islands since 1798, it wasn’t until 1803 that a military outpost of 49 people was established here. Of those 49, many were convicts; 21 males and 3 females.

Eventually, 75,000 convicts would arrive in Tasmania, one fourth of the total sent to Australia from the British Isles. Many of their crimes were menial.

A database of 132,000 of the known 160,000 convicts transported to Australia can be found here. Tasmanian convict records are online in several locations. Check your surnames, even if you don’t have Australian ancestors. You never know who you might find, or from where. The key to solving a long family mystery might be waiting in the convict records.

A New Zealand cousin was responsible for breaking down our Speaks family brick wall, allowing us to find the location in England. Don’t make assumptions that Australian and New Zealand records or DNA matches are irrelevant to you. They may be exactly what you need!

Non-convict settlers began arriving near Port Arthur in about 1820, lured by land and free convict labor.

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Using convict labor meant that convicted men, not animals, pulled plows. Generally convict women were servants.

Established in 1830, from 1833 to 1853, the Port Arthur penal colony was the destination for the hardest of convicted British criminals – secondary offenders, rebellious people from other penal colonies and sadly, those with mental health issues.

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Click to enlarge, photo By JJ Harrison (https://www.jjharrison.com.au/) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5185333

Surrounded almost entirely by (supposedly) shark-infested waters, escape was not possible. One man tried, disguising himself in a kangaroo skin, up until the hungry guards attempted to shoot the kangaroo for extra rations. Luckily for him, they were poor shots. He threw off the kangaroo skin and surrendered.

The isthmus of Eaglehawk, the only possible escape route was fenced, guarded by soldiers, man-traps and literally, intentionally half-starved dogs chained every few feet as sentinels.

Let us just say that not only was the most severe physical punishment and torture used on the convicts, but the concept of psychological punishment and torture was developed and perfected here.

Some men murdered others simply to be put out of their eternal misery; confinement under horrific circumstances with no hope of reprieve or release – ever.

I found the cruelty terribly disturbing, with inmates being whipped long past becoming unconscious, repeatedly, then hooded and confined in total darkness and silence for days and weeks on end. It’s no wonder that beside the prison, a building known simply as “the asylum” was built because the minds of many did not survive the incessant torture. They were literally “driven mad.”

You’ll forgive me if I simply could not take a picture of that building.

The 1646 or more convicts who died here were interred on the Isle of the Dead, right off shore in the bay, but only 180 graves of prison staff or military personnel are marked. The prisoners are interred in anonymous burials, graves dug by other convicts that would, soon enough, sleep there themselves – probably much more peacefully than they lived. For most of them, death was probably a welcome release.

Port Arthur was closed in 1877, the buildings abandoned.

All of these buildings were built with the labor of the men who were confined in them, including, ironically, the church.

I’ll not say more.

I will let these photos speak for themselves in silence – beginning with our arrival.

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Tasmania Port Arthur church

By D. Gordon E. Robertson – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9752214

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Tasmania Port Arthur cemetery

By Star reborn – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9653430

Lunch in The Asylum

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Lunch that day was served in “The Asylum,” of all places, and included a Tasmanian beer if you were interested. I drink very little, but this is very good beer and was quite welcome, as I was more than a little uncomfortable in The Asylum. I could literally feel the agony of those long-forgotten people. Not surprisingly, Port Arthur and The Asylum are reported to be heavily haunted with ghost tours reporting screams still emanating from cells, and more.

Thank goodness, I found a beautiful flower to focus on, and not the brutality that had occurred in the recesses of this building for many decades. How many lives lost? How many minds lost? What kind of human could inflict that level of torture on another sentient being? Death would have been far more humane.

Why is it that humans feel that torture of other humans, or animals for that matter, is ever justified or acceptable? As the guide said, all of this was meant to grind you down into submission and subservience, and to deter others, but sometimes the cogs ground too far.

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Color and beauty, for me, is always a welcome salve.

The Coastline

I was grateful to leave, something many of the convicts were never able to do.

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Heading back towards Hobart, the coastline was beautiful and relaxing.

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We stopped for a short walk and to take pictures of this stunning vista.

I know these are weeds of some sort, but I prefer to think of them as wildflowers. A weed is a flower growing in a place where you didn’t plant it and don’t want it to grow.

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Our trip back towards Hobart took us through a farm that I believe incorporated a golf course with a “country” lodge.

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These ranches are massive, mostly free-range farms encompassing thousands to tens of thousands of acres supporting sheep, goats and cattle, and in this case, a golf course too. The mountains, seen in the distance, are never far.

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This tractor looks familiar and reminds me of growing up.

I can’t tell you how many times I walked to the house because the tractor got mired down someplace in the mud or ran out of fuel. My Dad would just look at me as I walked from the field to the barn, shake his head and chuckle, surveying the scene over my shoulder to determine just how much trouble it was going to be to retrieve the tractor this time😊

Some things seem to be the same world over.

Tasmania ship

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Look, I do believe that’s our ship, waiting for us.

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On the waterfront in the dock area, near the passenger terminal today, the IXL Jams building stands as testament to a company of that name formed in 1891, specializing in jams, of course. The local legend says that someone told the founder to name the building, so he decided on IXL, as in “I excel.” Is that true? I couldn’t confirm, but it’s a cute story.

Inside the terminal, we found a maker’s market, although they were getting ready to close for the day.

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We were just in time and I thoroughly enjoyed perusing these goods. No fabric though, or t-shirts.

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I bought beautiful zippered change purses with helixes. What, you don’t think that those decorations are really helixes?

Kami and Joey approve!

Rough Seas

Now might be a good time to mention that the seas around Tasmania and New Zealand’s South Island are considered to be some of the roughest in the world. We had two sea days between Tasmania and our next port, Dunedin, in New Zealand.

Had I known those seas had that reputation, I would not have booked this cruise. Maybe it’s a good thing I didn’t know, because I survived, and the cruise was amazing. But it was not without challenges.

It’s also a good thing I had unlimited amounts of Dramamine and Viking has room service for food.

So, what do you do on a ship at sea for 2 days?

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At our age, you eat.

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You find food that looks like state shapes. Think of this as adult I-spy. This is the lower peninsula of Michigan.

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You drink. In my case, coffee and tea. Adult beverages flowed freely.

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You find more food art on the ship.

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This looks good enough to eat.

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OK, now I’m hungry. That’s no problem, because there’s food everyplace.

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The cafeteria is open for all meals, but theme restaurants, like Manfredi’s Italian restaurant require reservations but there is no extra cost. This is the BEST tiramisu I’ve EVER eaten, and their steak is legendary.

Jim went to a cooking class with the chef where he learned how to make the Tiramusu and received the recipe. I’d share with you, except that would be copyright violation, I’m sure.

Can’t make up your mind about dessert? No problem. Have 3😊

You can also swim or immerse yourself in the hot tub, go to the spa, sit poolside for high tea, watch movies in your room or in the outside theater, attend a wide variety of cultural talks – or all of the above.

As a special treat, you can go to the Viking Orion’s 3D planetarium, don 3D glasses and enjoy specially filmed movies about sea life, space or the aurora borealis. We enjoyed all three, but then we’re space and science geeks.

You cannot be bored.

You can, however, have a crisis.

The Crisis

By this time, we were about a week into the trip of a lifetime. We departed on Christmas Day and this was New Year’s, a week later.

When I pack, I make lists.

The most important things on that list are my meds, phone, credit cards, and my technology if I’m presenting. If I’m going overseas, add passport and visa to that. Everything else can be replaced if need be.

You know what’s coming next don’t you.

I obviously have my passport and Visa, or I wouldn’t have been IN Australia. I had my phone or you would have already heard about that, and I’ve already mentioned my computer. I would gladly use Jim’s credit cards if mine were missing😊

That only leaves one thing.

Yep, meds.

I use a 7-day reminder pill box. When I went to refill for the 2nd week, I had every med in the Rx vials, except one.

OMG HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Not that how mattered at that point, because the issue was the same regardless.

I only take 2 meds that I can’t do without – and the one missing was, of course, one of those.

I had a full-fledged crisis on my hands.

I asked my daughter back home to check, and sure enough, the vial was sitting right on the counter, so it wasn’t buried in the luggage or lost someplace – although by that time I had already frantically torn everything apart.

Maybe, just maybe, the ship’s medical department had something that would work.

Nope – but they contacted “someone” on shore. We were dealing with a US prescription, that I couldn’t prove was prescribed for me, a Norwegian ship, New Zealand laws and a ship’s medical staff from ??? licensed in ???.

What are the chances this is going to work out well?

The nurse told me that at the next port, Dunedin, I might have to go to the doctor to get a prescription written by a physician IN New Zealand. They didn’t know for sure, but they were contacting the proper people onshore and would let me know soon.

The hours dragged by.

No news.

I worried. I worked on my computer and wrote a blog post. Thank goodness for wonderful wifi.

Fortunately, I had a couple spare doses in my purse, so I wasn’t out entirely, but would be in another 2 days.

The Viking shore agent was working with pharmacies to try to get my meds.

Finally, news came that the agent “thought” they would have my meds the morning we got into port at Dunedin. If not, then I’d get to visit the doctor instead of going on a shore excursion, which is not the adventure I intended to have. Regardless, I was grateful for any resolution to this problem.

I was so MAD AT MYSELF, not to mention my husband who assured me he put the vials in the bag, multiple times. I could kick myself for not checking.

However, at least there was a solution and the rest of the trip would be just fine.

I took Dramamine and went to bed. The seas were rougher than ever. I just wanted to go to sleep. Something, probably the deck furniture, crashed into the railing on the neighbor cabin’s balcony, jarring me awake. It was going to be a long night.

By the time we woke up in the morning, we should be docked in Dunedin.

NOT Dunedin

I went to bed feeling much better about the situation. One way or another, everything would work out.

I woke up, anxious for docking so I could stop worrying about the medication. We should already have been in port, but sometimes schedules are beyond the control of the captain. Mother Nature has a mind of her own and interferes, as do port schedules and berth availability. I could feel the ship rocking, being tossed around roughly. We weren’t in port.

I slid the door open and stepped outside on the small balcony.

The ship was still sailing and port was nowhere in sight. I turned on the TV to see how much further we had to go on the map. It appeared that we were beyond the port – but those maps aren’t exact by any means. We interpreted this to mean that we would be in port shortly.

We got dressed and headed to the cafeteria for breakfast, ready to leave for shore excursions, or the doctor, whichever our aadventure for the day turned out to be, as soon as we docked.

During breakfast, the Captain began speaking over the intercom and informed us that, indeed, we were NOT going to Dunedin after all, because the seas were too rough and the ship couldn’t dock safely.

Rats!

Wait!

OH NOOOOooooo – my meds are supposed to be waiting in Dunedin!!!!

Now what?

Back to medical, but the door of the medical department was closed and locked. Uh-oh.

Bless those customer service agents on the ship, because they are amazing.

After several phone calls, the word was that Viking would “try” to have the med shipped from Dunedin to Christchurch – but the problem was that we were only to be in Christchurch for a day. The meds would likely arrive after we left. This wasn’t going to work, and unless we got meds in Christchurch, I would be out entirely.

To make matters worse, we were now relaying messages between me, the customer service agent(s) including a supervisor, the medical department personnel and two port agents in two different locations. Not to mention a pharmacy and who knows who else was involved.

Lord have Mercy – this is never going to work. Disaster is written all over this scenario.

The customer service agent told me that “someone” would call me in my room as soon as they knew something. There were a lot of anonymous someones and somethings in this equation.

Passengers were informed that the ship would be docking that evening in Lyttleton, the more distant of two ports where cruise ships dock whose passengers are headed for Christchurch – not in Christchurch itself, further complicating an already complex Rubik’s Cube.

So off I went to deal with another rough day at sea, worrying and waiting for a phone call.

Minutes stretched to hours.

No news.

Maybe I have new MyHeritage triangulated segments or SmartMatches.

No news.

Maybe I have new bucketed matches at Family Tree DNA.

Still no news.

Maybe I have new shakey leaf hints. Nope.

Is that phone EVER going to ring???

I spent the day writing and reviewing a business plan with a jeweler I had met with in Melbourne, Australia to discuss a DNA jewelry line. (No, I didn’t mention that little detail😊)

Tasmania sea.png

The seas were still rough and the sky was grey. I was feeling blue.

Would we even be able to dock? Lyttleton was said to be as difficult as Dunedin, snugged into a U-shaped bowl of mountains.

New Zealand Lyttleton aerial.png

Yay!!! Docked at Lyttleton

I have never been so glad to see land!

New Zealand Lyttleton port.png

We’re here! What a relief!

New Zealand Lyttleton Harbour.png

Lyttleton is beautifully tucked into a lovely harbor, but at that moment, I was pretty much oblivious to the beauty and awash in relief.

New Zealand Lyttleton Viking Orion.png

What I really cared about is that we had indeed managed to thread that needle and were moored to the dock.

New Zealand Lyttleton clock tower.png

I did manage to notice this very unusual tower as we sailed into the harbor. That ball would drop at a specific time, allowing navigators on ships docked in the harbour to set their clocks appropriately. Hence, the saying, “you’re on the ball.”

It’s now called Timeball Station, originally constructed in 1876 but rebuilt in 2018.

You can see the tower on the hill just above the point of the bow of the ship in the photo above.

Where Are the Meds?

Not wanting to be a pest, I had *only* called customer service 3 times that day at sea. They were supposed to let me know something about the plan, but I never heard back.

I was trying my best not to be “that person” any more than I already was. After all, they were trying to help me.

It might be possible to see a physician that evening, if I had to, so that I didn’t miss the following day at Christchurch. Fingers crossed!

The very minute we docked, I was standing at the customer service desk. The customer service agent took one look at me, knew what I wanted and called the nurse’s cell phone, who said that she was literally in line to be the first off the boat to retrieve the med from the port agent who was waiting at the end of the gangplank.

GLORY BE!!!!!

Five minutes later, I had my meds in my hot little hands.

I need to say this right here and now.

Viking and the staff was amazing!!!

The nurse and the customer service agents went WAY, WAY above and beyond to help me. Never, not once did they make me feel as stupid as I was already feeling.

And yes, it did cost something – but only $45 for the port agent’s efforts which included the cost of the med, which is far, far less than a medical emergency or ruined vacation. I was completely at their mercy.

I am eternally grateful. I LOVE VIKING! They did not have to make my problem their problem, but they did and solved it.

Viking Love.png

I learned a valuable lesson.

Never, ever again will I leave without physically checking my meds one last time myself. That’s probably a good precaution anyway – four eyes are better than two. We were actually very fortunate, all things considered. All it takes is one misstep to cause an awful mess.

After 3 rough days at sea, a missed port and a crisis averted, we were finally connected to solid land and looking forward to touring wonderful New Zealand. Trust me, we wouldn’t be disappointed.

New Zealand Lyttleton sunset.png

Tomorrow promises to be a GREAT day!

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12 thoughts on “Down Under: Tasmania – 52 Ancestors #273

  1. G’day Roberta, Irish German descent, with a touch of Manx and Yorkshire thrown in. A South Australian by birth, a New South Welshman by choice. I thoroughly enjoyed following your trip as I have visited many of the places you visited. Part of my last Tasmanian trip was in 2010 as a 4 day International Egan Gathering, our accommodation was at the Woolstore. I have also had misadventures with meds twice so now it is a Triple check before travelling. Really enjoy your blogs Thank you. Gerry

  2. What an amazing trip and such great photos. Your meds experience resonates as I’m always terrified I’ll leave something behind. Thanks for taking the time to share your experiences.

  3. This article was fascinating to me, on many levels, and you have presented so many interesting aspects of your journey. I feel for you with the med crisis; I have a “meds in two places” plan I use for traveling, in case a purse or carry-on gets stolen.
    Seeing the photos of Port Arthur and reading about the horrific details was very powerful. For two decades I pursued my husband’s great-great-grandfather John Freeson, and eventually pieced together his history: born in Leicestershire in 1820, his mother died when he was 2 years old, his father and a sister died when he was 5, and his eldest sister died when he was 12, leaving him with one 14 year old sister. He worked in a coal mine and was arrested for stealing shoes, and on the second burglary offense, was “transported” to Port Arthur. From the convict records, I know that he escaped once and was returned – I believe this was when he was close to completing his 10-year sentence and was allowed out of the prison to do some labor. Eventually he was released, and settled as a brickmaker in Bathurst NSW. Given his history, he seemed to have an amazingly “normal” life after his release, passing away at the age of 87. Through all my years of researching, I had never actually seen photos of Port Arthur or read such details about the incarceration, and it was something I needed to learn about.

  4. Roberta, could you share the tour company, website, tour number etc you booked for the tour of the Unzoo etc. How long was the tour. etc. My wife and I are on a Holland America cruise starting March 19th in Auckland and will be in Hobert on March 29th. The unzoo experience it seems like something we would enjoy

  5. Hi Roberta, love your blog and these travel details about your cruise holiday also so interesting to read. As a kiwi I can tell you that most families here and Aussie have well documented family histories. I think it’s because our ancestors traveled such a long distance, by ship, from their home. They knew they would likely never see their parents and other relatives again. They were starting a new life, but always remembered where they’d come from. Accordingly, family history details were noted and passed down with pride to younger generations.
    I have two convicts in my tree who came to NZ on their release from penal servitude.
    Looking forward to the next installment!
    Dee

  6. Hi Roberta,
    Love your story telling even if I am reading about my homeland.
    Was there mention at Port Arthur about the 1996 Massacre that changed Australia’s attitude to gun ownership? There were 35 people killed and 700,000 firearms were voluntarily surrendered by Australian in a federal Government buy-back scheme.
    Cheers
    David

  7. I also suffer from motion sickness. I swear by a product called Sea-Bands, which rely on acupressure to the P6 point in the wrists to control nausea. It’s all I use for travel and won’t leave home without them. sea-band.com Only $8.54 at Walmart.

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