[Warning: this post contains sexually explicit imagery. Also, I have quite a few posts I need to put up here–more on Melbourne, plus Hobart and Bruny Island–but I thought instead of playing catch-up I’d just start with today and add the others when I have time and reliable WiFi.]
Mount Wellington stands about a thousand meters over Hobart, the largest city in Tasmania. It’s not a big mountain, but it has a commanding presence, looming over the city and visible for miles around.
Just off downtown Hobart there’s a fashionable spot called Salamanca, home to many restaurants and, on Saturdays, a huge market (more on that in a future post). Mt. Welly towers over that, too. Leading from Salamanca, named for the 19th century battle, is Napoleon Street, which goes rapidly downhill.
Napoleon goes downhill after Salamanca while Mt. Wellington rises above. Ha! I love military history humor!
Today, on my final day in Hobart (I’m picking up a rental car and heading off into the hinterland tomorrow), I decided to do what ol’ Boney never managed: to get on top of Wellington.
I took preparation very seriously by purchasing a massive almond croissant from Jackman and McRoss bakery, one of the finest I’ve tried in the Southern Hemisphere (which is not saying too much, since I can count the number of decent Kiwi bakeries I know on one hand, but no matter…). At A$4.00 (about US$4.50), the croissant is one of the few bargains I’ve found in Tasmania.
Girded for battle, I took a city bus out to Fern Tree. From there, the interpretational signage advised it was a 2.5-3 hour trip, one way. And that way was up.
I wasn’t sure what to expect on the trail. I’d heard it was pretty steep, and when I mentioned I’d be heading up it, both the manager and night manager of my hostel shuddered and asked “Why?”
Oh, you know. Because it was there.
(Actual reason: because I worried that if I spent the day in town I would buy yet more clothing I don’t need and can’t afford but find adorable and would then eat my way out of fitting into the clothes by hanging around Jackman and McRoss… both topics featured in greater detail in upcoming posts, I swear.)
I was pleasantly surprised by the Mount Wellington trail. The way was steadily uphill, but the first 80% or so was at an easy grade. The last part, called the Zig Zag, was steeper but not difficult. It was rocky as well, but the rocks were fixed in place, in many areas carved into stairs, so it was straightforward and easy on the ankles. Compared with Byers Peak in Colorado or the sadistic Mount Alfred in New Zealand (the two day hikes from hell by which I measure all others) it was a stroll.
I took my time, snapping photos and at one point putting my feet up on a bench for a while, stopping to talk to the few other hikers on the trail (odd it was so deserted considering it was a Sunday and the weather was fine) and generally ambling. I still made it to the summit in about 2.5 hours.
You may be thinking “hmm, that mountain looks kinda igneousish*” and, if so, you would be correct.
(*igneousish is not an actual scientific term, but I think it should be.)
The top of Mt. Wellington is dolerite, formed when angry magma shoved its way up through the earth’s crust. The mountain itself is not volcanic, but its summit resembles lava plugs.
Another cool fact I learned: Mt. Wellington has a big impact on Hobart’s weather. Its location west of the city protects Hobartians… uhm… Hobartoids… uhm… Hobos? from much of the wet and windy nastiness that slams into the island courtesy of the Roaring 40s (that would be latitude… Hobart is roughly the same latitude as the South Island of New Zealand, but its position means it gets the full force of the winds from the west).
And hey, how about another cool fact: Charles Darwin climbed Mt. Wellington, too, back in 1836 when he was Beagling about the Southern Hemisphere.
Earlier that day, enroute to my croissant (which I had been thinking about since yesterday), I stopped by the Visitor Information Centre to check on bus times. I had the option of walking back down to catch the public bus, hitch-hiking or getting a one-way ticket on the tourist shuttle that runs twice a day, bringing the less-upwardly mobile (get it? hahahaha) to the summit.
I knew I could walk back down well in time to catch the final public bus of the day, but ability and desire are two different things. Rain was in the forecast, it was starting to cloud up and well, my ankles, for once, were so happy despite hiking half the day. It was early for the tourist shuttle, which was supposed to arrive at 2:10pm (it was only 1:45), but I saw a bus parked near the lookout.
I walked over and asked the driver if he was the guy Shaun from the Visitor Information Centre had called this morning to check on the possibility of a one-way ticket for A$15 back to the city from the summit.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” replied the driver. “But I’ll do it for $10.”
So I took the early shuttle back down, ending up back in Salamanca where I provided reinforcements for the croissant by stopping at a fancypants chocolatier, Norman & Dann.
This was an error.
Sure, it looked lovely, and while I don’t particularly like chocolate I do enjoy doing research and sampling new flavors, seeing how things are put together packaging-wise, etc.
When I got back to my hostel I lined up my purchases. Hold on to yourself… this is what A$12.50 (about US$14) buys you at Norman & Dann:
To make matters worse, I was unimpressed with the lot of them (though I did think the penguin was adorable… They made the beak by sticking a piece of almond into the ganache before dipping it. Cool idea, but no one told me the product had nuts. Good thing I’m not allergic. I know, I know, I’m taking all the fun and excitement out of chocolate. I can’t help it. I care about the details.)
None of the chocolate had any snap. The coatings were too thick and had that mushy texture that I equate with cheap and/or poorly tempered chocolate. Not only that, but the passionfruit and mango ganaches were nearly tasteless, the caramel was sweet with no bitter notes as it should have, “Insanity” tasted like bad cough syrup and well, the last one was a waste of a perfectly good fig. Boo!
Lest I be too hard on the chocolates–no, wait, for the price I paid I could have bought three almond croissants and still had change in my pocket. Screw the tact. Bring on the blowtorch! It just reminded me of so many places I’ve been to where the chocolate is crap but with the right “look” they make money hand over fist.
Though I will say that I’ve noticed Tasmanian tastes seem to lean, much like most Americans, toward sweet and plain rather than intense. I had a walnut caramel mini-tart from Jackman and McRoss the other day (yes, ahem, I have been there more than once) that really surprised me because the caramel was blond, basically just sugar, with no depth color- or flavor-wise.
Me, personally, I like a caramel that looks like it was forged in Mordor, but that is another matter.
And yes, I felt it’s been far too long since I threw in a LOTR reference. So there it is.
On the walk back to my hostel, I passed this sign, which I found hilarious. Maybe it’s just me, but if you had to create a character that screamed “untrustworthy” I’m guessing you’d come pretty close to this guy… excessive hand gestures as if deflecting attention from the fact he’s lying, bad tie, generally questionable look. Would you go to this guy for a loan? He looks like one of the wheelers ‘n’ dealers from a Guy Ritchie movie.