Curious Tasmania

Here are a few curious – if not totally weird – places and things we saw on our trip to Tasmania.

As always, if you like what you see, feel free to pass it on to friends and anyone you think might be interested. Also hit the “like” button and leave a comment. You can also click to follow on Twitter (or is it X?) and/or sign up for email alerts on future posts. Enjoy…

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art

Not sure where the ‘old’ art was but I am sure there was some. This place is like a modern art gallery spread over the whole area not just the buildings. It is supposedly Tasmania’s most visited tourist attraction. OK. Let’s get to it…

MONA lies less than 12 km north of central Hobart on the small Berriedale peninsula jutting out into the Derwent river. For the whole experience however you arrive by boat. Special tourist “Mona ferries” leave the port in central Hobart and that is where “the experience” is supposed to begin. (You can tell I am not a fan already – right?)

MONA is the work of David Walsh. A Tasmanian native who developed a liking for the arts. Walsh briefly studied mathematics and computer science in 1979 at Tasmania University, but made his fortune playing cards and by developing a gambling system used to bet on horse racing and other sports. He must have made a shit load of money out of it because this place – regardless of what you think of it – would have cost a fortune. (As an example, it is said that in 2009, Walsh and his syndicate won over $16 million during the Melbourne Cup Carnival.)

What began as a small museum of antiquities then developed into MONA. It is like a  playground up top with a subterranean art museum below. In their own words the museum is described like this: “A temple to secularism, rationalism, and talking crap about stuff you really don’t know very much about. We won’t tell anyone. Come and play.”

In an adult rated section there was some very weird and disturbing works of “art”
A ‘white’ office, some ‘real’ art and a bit of fun
Some of it was intentionally funny. Other parts unintentionally so…

Beer was to be had. Thankfully
Can you guess what these are supposed to be in the big picture?

Chester does MONA

It is easy to spend a lot of time here as there are areas to eat drink and be merry, with live music performances being common. However, by now Dani and his old dad had had enough. So we decided to make it more interesting by taking photos of Chester the chimp (so called as Dani bought him on a trip to Chester Zoo – see here for post on the zoo) in varying states of interaction with the “artwork”. Well, why not? We had fun doing it…

Some of the “Art” at MONA as seen by Chester the Chimp

And here is something that – for me at least – kind of sums up the whole place. This superbly engineered piece of kit is an artificial shit maker. I kid you not! Designed and built to replicate some sort of digestive system, they put food in one end, it passes through several stages of “digestion” and shit appears at the other end. Dani’s mum went along to video one of the regular (no pun intended) demonstrations. I might add that in a future post. I preferred to be “on the piss” (again no pun intended) rather than the shit. So stayed in the bar area for another beer.

An artificial shit maker. Yes, really! (Lost for words)

My personal take on MONA is that it is (at least) overrated. But then I am no fan of most of what passes for “art” in such places. But it certainly is different to all of the other (so called) modern art galleries I have visited. In a way, better even. So I guess I can (perhaps reluctantly) recommend it.

Shot Tower

Less than 12km south from the centre of Hobart just past the town of Taroona, there is one of those little oddities you see form time to time and wonder what the hell it is. Something not quite a folly but looks like it was built for a purpose. What was this tall brick built tower all about?

What’s this tower all about then?

This being right on the coast and at the entrance to the harbour I thought it might be something to do with the military. After all, Sydney harbour was chosen not so much for its natural geographic beauty that brings in visitors these day, but more for it’s natural defensive possibilities – against those darned Frenchies in case you were wondering.

The tower, inside and out

It turn out tat this was built in 1870 specifically to make lead shot. Lead was melted at the top  of the tower. When the molten lead was poured through holes made in a sheet of metal, it formed lead droplets. The tower had to be high enough so that by the time the lead drops hit the bottom they had hardened. And that is how lead shot was made back in the day. The lead fell through holes of varying sizes giving lead shot of different diameters. I never knew that. I had never given it any thought despite using lead shot for fishing ever since I was very young. Now I know, that’s how they did it back in the day.

The drop went further than it first appears. There were lots of steps leading down as well as up. Plus a great little café serving great scones for a Devonshire tea. Always great to scoff those.

A description of the building of the tower plus some views from the top
Beaches and marinas near Taroona

There is one such shot tower in the city of Chester, UK. I only realised when I was over there this (northern hemisphere) summer. I must have walked or driven past it hundreds if not thousands of times but never paid it any attention. Like all of these things; once you know, you know.

Another Great Little Brewery…

Packed into a small industrial unit near the car hire place we used we stumbled across this little gem…The Last Rites Brewing Co.

Last Rites Brewing Co. A hidden gem…

They really can squeeze these places in almost anywhere. Which I suppose is great news for anyone wanting to start a craft ale business. With beer names like Dead Man’s Revenge, She’s No Bette Midler and Dead Man’s Day Off, this place has a bit of a Halloween feel to it. As it was so close to the car hire office it would have rude not to sample the brews before dropping the car off. Ahem… I mean after dropping the car off.

Check it out at and if you are in the area pay them a visit…


A Little More of Tasmania

Some of the places we saw in Tasmania were only in passing. Even if we did spend a night in some of them, it was mostly on our way to another location. Of course there is always time to do a little exploring even if they were quick one-night stopovers.


One night in Tasmania’s second city, Launceston was never going to be enough but we did visit the Cataract Gorge. Amazingly this place sits almost in the middle of the state’s second most populace city.

Such stunning ‘wilderness’ right near the city centre.

Views of the Cataract Gorge and its suspension bridge

The gorge walk starts at the road bridge, while the river is navigable all this way south to the road bridge. Thanks to its position on the Tamar River – the country’s longest navigable tidal estuary – it is possible to sail in and out of Launceston to/from the Bass Strait that separates Tasmania from the mainland. About 50km as the crow flies.

Old King’s bridge toll house and cottage. Also looking north from under the new road bridge

The city has some great places to eat. We were lucky enough to get a table at the Black Cow Bistro which was an excellent steak-house serving prime free-range beef. We also had a truly excellent Tasmanian red wine there, which I have not been able to find since…  If you are interested it was a Malbec called Obsessionist.

Way out West…

We also spent a night at Strahan on the western side of Tasmania. It sits in the McQuarrie Harbour in an area that is remote even by Tasmania’s standards. This is the end of the West Coast Wilderness Railway. The gateway to the sea. Click on the link for a post about the railway and Queenstown.

Strahan’s old Post Office & Customs House. Plus Strahan station, end of the West Coast Wilderness Railway line.

It’s a short drive from Strahan to the beach lookout. A good place to see the sunset on the west coast.

Sunset on the west coast of Tasmania – with a little car surfing

Another place we only really passed through but still quite interesting.

As always please feel free to share these posts. Also hit the ‘Like’ button and subscribe for email and/or Twitter (“X”?) updates.

Women’s World Cup – That’s Football in case you didn’t know

You may already be aware that the FIFA Women’s World Cup has been full swing in Australia (and New Zealand). That’s Football in case you didn’t know. The world’s most popular team sport by a million miles (or kilometres if you prefer); most popular sport of any kind actually. And it’s not even close…

But this is the women’s game. Not the same one that Pele, Moore, Maradona, Xavi, Zidane and Messi have graced us with. No; this world cup has stars such as…. Hmm… Let me think… Nah! Can’t name a single one. That doesn’t mean that some may be fairly famous to those who follow the women’s game. No disrespect. But seriously hardly anyone outside of the women’s football sphere knows any of them.

Perhaps you can already tell that I am not at all impressed with women’s football. That would be correct. I do not even follow the men’s game any more (for various reasons) so there is no way I was ever going to be jumping onto the fake bandwagon they created for this “world cup”.

My son Daniel loves the game – as I did when I was his age (didn’t we all?) – and for him this is a win-win situation. If any of the two teams in the final win the tournament he will be fairly happy. It will be played tonight between Spain and England.

Too much hype…

The Aussie media were making the semi final game against England seem like the age old Ashes rivalry in the cricket. I can you that it is nothing like that. There is no big rivalry in women’s football. It’s just a marketing/sales pitch. Anyway the “Matildas” (as the Aussie team are nicknamed) lost and went on to lose the 3rd place play-off game against Sweden. None of that stopped the usual politicians trying to make political capital out of it.

It may well all be over by the time most of you read this post. Thankfully. It already is for me. I have already had to concentrate on the really big game this weekend. My son’s team’s final game of the season. Which as it turned out was a very close 1-0 defeat. Great fun to watch. Trust me it was far more entertaining than anything I have seen in this “world cup”. Yes. A game played by boys aged 9 and 10 beats anything I have seen in this world cup tournament.

Meanwhile… Shine on you Aussie Diamonds…

While all the spotlight has been on the women playing football, Australia actually won a world cup in a different sport. A women’s sport actually (cos men do not play it). It happened just 2 weeks ago and they won it for the 12th time in their history. That was the Australian “Diamonds” Netball team who just won the Netball World Cup. It’s a sport they take very seriously in Australia and I can tell you that whenever we take Dani for his football games there are always plenty of netball games taking place near by for all ages.

Well done to you “Diamonds”! It’s a real shame that the shine has been taken off your tremendous victory by the football.

And finally…

One good thing may come out of this “world cup”. And it’s not that more girls will take up the game either. No. It’s that, due to the relative success of the tournament in terms of ticket sales etc., Australia (and New Zealand) may just land the real world cup when they next bid for it. Now that might be of some interest to me…

Queenstown and the West Coast Wilderness Railway

Queenstown is a town in the West Coast region of the island of Tasmania, Australia. It is in a valley on the western slopes of Mount Owen on the West Coast Range. Queenstown has a population of less than 2,000.

Queenstown’s history is basically tied to the mining industry. This mountainous area was first explored in 1862. It was long after that when alluvial gold was discovered at Mount Lyell, prompting the formation of the Mount Lyell Gold Mining Company in 1881. In 1892, the mine began searching for copper. The final name of the Mount Lyell company was the Mount Lyell Mining and Railway Company.

Approachin Queenstown form the east. Horsetail Falls and a reminder of old mines…

While there is still mining in the area the prosperity of the town has declined from its peak but there was another brief reprieve in activities when several hydro dam schemes were built nearby in the 1980s.

Overlooking Queenstown and view up Orr Street
Queenstown from the approach road above plus closeups in the town

West Coast Wilderness Railway

The west of Tasmania and especially the Queenstown area was mineral rich. First gold was discovered but later it was found to contain rich deposits of copper. Until 1932 there were no roads linking Queenstown to Hobart (or anywhere else really). Building the railway was the only way to get copper from the mine at Queenstown to the markets. In fact to the sea at the port of Strahan on the Macquarie harbour on the west coast. Until 1932, when a Hobart road link was completed, it was the only access through to Queenstown.

Some notable Queenstown buildings

When a guy called Anthony Edwin Bowes Kelly discovered what was thought to be the richest copper mine in the world at the Mount Lyell Mine, he realised he needed a route to transport his riches to the growing market places. Bowes Kelly lived by moto; We find a way, or make it. Well: He made it. The railway was built in just a few years despite having to cross dense rainforest and incredibly steep climbs and descents. The line operated from 1892 but was officially opened in 1897.

Queenstown station

The steep inclines were overcome by building a rack and pinion railway – using the recent Swiss invention by a Dr. Roman Abt. He made the design based on the cogs of a clock and involved a third central rail of solid bars with vertical teeth that engaged with small cogwheels on the underside of the locomotive engine. The system enabled trains to haul loads up steep hillsides, and (just as importantly) created a braking effect on the downhill side. The steepest gradient on the rack section was 1 in 12 (8.33%).

Up the track. Rack and pinion design enabled the steep climbs

It is a real testament to how well it was built that all these years later it still functions despite the ever encroaching rainforest and unbelievably steep drops right at trackside. After so many years of weathering by rain and landslides. It’s another example of “they just don’t make them like that any more”.

A stop along the route through the dense rainforest
Another station. The oddly named Dubbil Barril
The Empire Hotel. Another example of “they don’t build them like that any more”
The Paragon Theatre, Queenstown complete with murals

As always, if you enjoyed this post hit the like button and feel free to pass it on to friends and anyone you think may like it. Also follow us on Twitter (X?) and/or sign up for emails of all posts. Till the next..

The mighty King River
A walk around part of the rainforest near Dubbil Barril station

Beer Wenches – A (Not So Old) Aussie Day at the Cricket

Not so long ago… in the merry old land of Oz…

If you follow cricket there is a chance that you know what the term “Beer Wenches” means. If you are familiar with Australian cricket fans then you almost certainly know what it is all about. I heard something about this on the radio the other day and was fascinated. So here’s what I found…

As recently as 2003, Australian cricket fans could hire young girls – usually dressed in not much more than a bikini – to serve them beer during the big games. Only 20 years ago. Incredible eh? Yes, this fits in nicely with the stereotypical view of the Aussie male. But so what? Read on…

Of course this would have been in the height of the summer so the clothing would actually be appropriate. Many of the fans (both male and female) would themselves be wearing very little. But the fact that this whole thing seems almost made up – even to me, the virtually unshockable old dad – tells its own story. Times have really changed. But far more recently than you might think. Only in Australia eh…

Who were the Beer Wenches?

Back in the 1970s drinking at cricket matches got out of hand and authorities tried to curb the amount of booze being consumed in the stadiums. First (in the 1980s) they limited how much booze you could take in to the stadiums then (by the 90s) they banned it so you had to buy beers from the site bars. But even then it seemed fans were drinking too much and getting too raucous.

Amazingly people did not want to wait at the busy bars to get their drinks. So in the first years of this century some decided to hire girls – the ‘beer wenches’ – to fetch their drinks all day.

Companies quickly sprang up providing suitable ‘beer wenches’ to fill the increasing demand. Who doesn’t like a bit of free-market capitalism eh? The long-since-gone website promoted their company offering ‘only of the bubbliest of girls which fit the persona of a beer wench’. They also insisted that sexual harassment would not be tolerated.

‘Our clients tend to be sportsmen driven by his passion to watch their favourite team equalled by his desire to be served by the loveliest of ladies, and of course drinking the finest of cold beers,’ the website said.

That’s not just classic Aussie cheek. That’s typical bloke banter – anywhere on the planet.  Another beer wench provider – Sex Bomb Promotions – claimed that all of their girls had been properly trained in the responsible service of alcohol. No substitute for good training I say.

Usually the ‘beer wenches’ were back-packers. The sort of student aged, transient work force that used to do all kinds of menial jobs in Australia; and still does. Many beer wenches were earning over $60 per hour for a 4 hour shift. Not bad money at all for what is basically unskilled bar work. I guess they also got to watch some live cricket in between waiting at the bars. Probably even sneaking in a few free (or paid for) drinks too. So just who was being exploited in this scenario?

What a great idea I say. But of course it wasn’t long before the usual suspects began to complain, for various reasons, and by January 2004 the beer wenches were gone. The killjoys had won (again LOL). A very short lived, but interesting period in Aussie cricket.

Yeah. I hear the cries of “sexism” and “male chauvinism” from the feminists; the do-gooders; the haven’t-got-a-cluers (yeah I made that one up). But I just think some people need to lighten up. Let’s try and put it all into perspective…


In fact it can’t really be much different from the girls you see at the side of the ubiquitous roadworks, holding up the Stop/Go signs for the traffic. All while their male colleagues do the “manly, hard work” (or not as the case may be!). That must be as boring as hell but they do it; dressed in their mandatory protective work clothing complete with hard hats and high heels visibility vests. I wonder are they earning as much as the beer wenches were 20 years ago? I also wonder how those jobs are advertised?

Wanted: Road workers. Willing to stand for hours on end directing traffic. Must be able to flip a double-sided sign when required. Plenty of spare time in between flipping to mess about on your mobile phone. No need to get your hands dirty on the actual roadworks (the men will do that part). Protective clothing will be provided. No bikinis allowed. Females only need apply.

Yeah that would about do it. Seriously. Is that any less (or more) sexist than advertising for, or working as a ‘beer wench’? I don’t think so particularly, but you see these girls at just about every roadworks. Certainly in Sydney.

Here’s a good question: How many of them would prefer to walk around half naked serving beer in the sunshine instead of hanging around sweating in protective work clothing? I am willing to bet most of them. Even those who don’t like cricket.

Other Similar Work?

You can also compare it to serving beers or coffees in a pub or restaurant. Is that any less degrading? Does it pay as much as being a ‘beer wench’? I have no idea. But at least the ‘beer wenches’ were outdoors (mostly), getting a tan – a pre-requisite for many back-packer labourers. And presumably getting to see a fair amount of the cricket. Maybe an ideal job for female cricket fans? Also by the end of the day when your clients were almost certainly drunk I bet they also got some very generous (drunken) tips.

I’m sure the last time I watched the IPL (Indian Premier League) cricket there were scantily dressed cheerleaders on the pitch. Such (mostly) female groups of paid fans appear in plenty of stadiums around the world for all types of sport.

So I ask again: Would you object to seeing/working as a ‘beer wench’ at the cricket this summer? Is it all just harmless fun? I will let you decide. Please tell me with some comments.

I just see the funny side of all of it. All the while ruing the fact that I missed out on a good day at the cricket back in 2003. But then again I am from a generation where none of that stuff ever really mattered. Everyone just seemed to get on with things without needing others to interfere on their behalf. Those days I thought were long gone. But it seems they only left us less than 20 years ago, back in 2004. Now that, I really do find amazing…

Remember to hit the like button and leave a comment. Also, please feel free to share this blog post with anyone you think may enjoy it. You can also follow us on Twitter and sign up for email alerts of future blogs posts. 

Film Review – ‘Wake in Fright.’ An Australian Cult Classic

Wake in Fright is a 1970 Australian film that was formerly called ‘Outback‘. (Personally I think the original name should have stuck.) It was a combined British/Australian effort and two of the main stars are British actors.

A good friend sent me a message asking about the movie. I had heard of it as it was in a list of movies that had been filmed in Broken Hill (which is a place I have blogged about a few times – search this site for those). This film is famous for several reasons so I just thought I had to find it.

A Little Film History…

Some 20 years after being made Wake in Fright had developed a kind of cult status as a great Australian “lost film” because its master copy had gone missing. Other copies were of poor quality and this impacted on TV showings and VHS sales. Then in 2004, the original film and sound elements were rescued and the film was digitally remastered and re-released in 2009. The film was again shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2009, making it the first movie to be shown in two separate film festivals at Cannes. 

It has more recently been made into a two part TV mini-series. Maybe I need to check that out too…


It is a curious film set in the outback town of Bundanyabba – referred to by the locals as ‘The Yabba’. Basically John Grant (played by English actor Gary Bond) is a a school teacher in the even more remote outback setting of Tiboonda. When he heads off for Sydney for the summer holidays he passes through the town of Bundanyabba (which is actually Broken Hill) where he gets sucked into the debauchery of constant beer drinking, gambling and violence. Grant gets sucked into a game of Two Up (see related post on the game here) and loses all his money. 

“Tiboonda” – in the outback

Grant then gets offered the hospitality of some “yabba” locals. Which basically means plying him with free alcohol (mostly beer) and inviting him to crash at their place(s). He also gets given a gun to join some of them on a kangaroo hunt. It is probably these scenes that shocked viewers the most. 

The kangaroo hunt scenes were filmed during a real hunt. I am sure you will all know that scene in Crocodile Dundee where Mick Dundee turns the tables on the hunters in favour of the roos. Well, this movie is most definitely not that! After the hunt – and barely able to stand up – the group of drunken men brawl with each other and smash up a remote outback bar. Just another excuse to show some (perhaps stereotypical) violence really…

Grant eventually tries to hitch-hike his way to Sydney but by a curious (yet believable) twist he ends up back in the “The Yabba”. Spoiler Alert: Grant then ends up tying to shoot himself with the rifle he was gifted. But after what must be several weeks in hospital he walks out and goes back to Tiboonda for the start of the new school year. Seemingly content. The End…


Personally I think Outback was a better title than Wake in Fright but that is hardly a big deal. As you might expect the movie is very dated. But it painted a picture of the outback – or small town Australia – that would not have surprised many over recent decades. It was how most people outside of the country thought Australians behaved. Right up to and including the time when Crocodile Dundee more or less glamourised such a lifestyle.

The acting was fine and the scenery exactly how it should be – it was after-all filmed in and around an outback mining town. The story just never really took off though for me. It was mostly a pointless excuse to show a load of drunken debauchery and violence. As if the film-makers wanted to show the world what the outback male was like. It certainly will have fuelled the stereotypical image of the Aussie male. And that may still be true in some places but certainly not for the majority who live in the big cities.

The kangaroo hunt may be a bit gruesome perhaps for some – even these days. But it’s not like roos are an endangered species and hunting them is (as far as I know) still legal. On any road trip you will see hundreds along the roads that have been hit by (mostly) trucks. Maybe we really have become soft? Yet even at the time the film was made the crew were apparently sickened by the orgy of blood and guts. Also (apparently) during the 2009 screening at Cannes several people walked out during this scene. I must be a hard old bastard as I didn’t think it was that bad. 

Martin Scorsese arranged for the movie to be included in the 2009 festival. He was quoted as saying that Wake in Fright was “a deeply – and I mean deeply – unsettling and disturbing movie”. Imagine that. With the movies that Scorsese has made! Personally I do not share Scorsese’s sentiments but that was another reason I wanted to see the movie. 

I would not class it as a must-see movie but I do recommend it. If you can find a copy on DVD or online then give it a try.