We set off fairly early (for us), eating a yummy breakfast in Bicheno then heading south to Hobart along the beautiful coastline. The winding road kept opening out into these amazing vistas of water and hills, and at times it was hard to keep my eyes on the road.
Our room at the Salamanca Wharf Hotel was ready even though we were early, so we checked in straight away, and after the manager showed me how to use their nifty car stacker (like the ones in Japan!), we went up to the luxurious one bedroom apartment to eat some cheese and have a nap.
I chose that hotel because knowing we’d have less than 24 hours in Hobart, I wanted to go to the famous Salamanca Markets on the Saturday morning, and the hotel is only about a hundred metres from Salamanca Place. I didn’t realise that we were going to be in town at the same time as Mona’s Dark Mofo festival (until the penny dropped when I found it difficult to book a room anywhere), but it turns out the hotel was the perfect location for that too.
After our nap we wandered through the shops at Salamanca Place, then headed over to the wharf for the Dark Mofo Winter Feast.
It was expensive ($10 to get in and of course you end up buying lots of food and drink that costs between $10-20 a plate), but worth it. There were pillars shooting jets of fire into night sky, dozens of fire pits all along one side, with people grouped around, sitting on log benches. Stalls with roasting meats and all manner of beverages ran down the outside area, which was festooned with red lights. Inside, the wharf heaved with people escaping the light drizzle and sitting at long trestle tables with their food and many candles, under red neon crosses and backdrops of lush red velvet curtains (reminiscent of the styling of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet). This was about 5pm, not long after the doors had opened, so it must have been even more packed later on in the night.
A group of people dressed in long robes and carrying sticks of fire walked and chanted solemnly through the crowd outside. They were doing something to celebrate the winter solstice, no doubt, imbued with lots of ceremony and ritual, and it all looked very theatrical and impressive, though mum said, “I wonder if they know what they’re doing.”
I got us a couple of delicious hot toddies, and we ate very well; mum had some sort of roast lamb with cous cous and I had a roll with roast duck and sauerkraut. Later on we had some crepes, mine with apple and quince and mum’s with banana and salted caramel.
I was most taken with a harpist who played contemporary music. It sounded otherworldly. I took some video of her playing Radiohead’s Creep, but realised later that for some reason it hadn’t recorded any sound (d’oh). But that’s just as well for it to live on in as a jewel of a memory, rather than some grainy footage I’ll probably never watch! We sat around one of the larger fire pits to listen, and realised we were sitting next to the harpist’s mum. She and my mum struck up a conversation while I went off to buy crepes (I figured they’d have something in common, being the mums who sit alone in a crowd, watching as their daughters perform and feeling slightly on the outer, yet a bit resentful because they are actually the ones in the performer’s inner circle).
Satisfied and full, we headed back to our accommodation and turned in for the night. I ran a bath (a bath! Luxury!) and washed the smoky smell out of my hair.
Next morning, I headed off to the markets while mum had a more leisurely start at the hotel’s cafe. I wanted to see as much of the market as I could, knowing we had to leave for Launceston by 11am (we hadn’t really planned our trip when we booked the plane tickets, otherwise we would have left from Hobart, but it would have cost too much to change the tickets and it was only a two hour drive so we didn’t bother). It’s a great market, with a good mix of made-in-Tasmania jewellery and things, clothing, fresh food and other bits and pieces. I bought a vest for myself and some earrings to thank Emma for cat-sitting our neurotic cats.
We hit the road and only stopped for a quick breather and a look around a bookshop in Campbell Town, and got back to Launceston airport with plenty of time. We checked in and got moved to a row by ourselves, and barely had to wait five minutes before boarding commenced. Before we knew it, we were in the air and flying over the glittering rivers, back north to home and tales of our cats’ misbehaviour in our absence.
We really loved it. Aside from the one slightly weird pub meal in Mole Creek, every experience was great. It helps that mum and I travel pretty easily together, with similar tastes and the flexibility to do (or not do) whatever we feel like at the time. I am so grateful that I get to travel on occasion. It’s quite a luxury, really, and I know I took it for granted in my youth.
There’s still so much left to see!