Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Hobart - Australia

Bangkok airport/shopping mall

After 50 hours of travel induced misery, including 10 hours in the Bangkok airport - where I found a documentary on the Yukon playing in one of the electronic shops, I finally arrived in Hobart. Where I struggled onto the hotel bus and was whisked away to my hotel. I had splurged a little on this last stage of the journey and had taken advantage of the conference reduced price for a 4 1/2 star studio apartment hotel. What a place! Fancy decorating, my own kitchen, huge bathroom and a giant vase of lilies and chocolates from Stephen. I quickly fell asleep dreaming of how close I was to home.

Looking back towards my hotel and the conference venue, the University of Tasmania School of Art

The conference started at 8:30am the next morning, which wasn't a problem as I was up and about at 5:30am. By the time I left my room I was well educated in the stock of the mini bar and my 7 channels of television. The Imagining Antarctica conference is the second in a new annual conference that explores the ideas, images, art, literature and dreams that make Antarctica. The conference couldn't have been more different from the Oslo conference - 60 people versus +2200, delicious food, small venue, much more focused area of interest yet with a broader range of perspectives, from academics to visual artists, curators to writers. We had talks about interpreting the Disney movie Eight Below and how it displaces native Antarctic species, about analysing the journals of Heroic Era explorers to try to assess their psychological reaction to being there, papers on artists experiences in the various artists in Antarctica programs, and on the ideas of wilderness associated with change in the southern continent. There was even a talk that served as a survey of "bad" Antarctic literature, mostly self-published sci-fi and such. It was pretty hilarious.
Some kids versions of the Aurora Australis, one of Australia's Antarctic research vessels

The evenings were also well planned, although I found myself collapsing into bed at the ridiculous hour of 7pm most nights. The first evening, after wrapping up our day of talks and presentations, we were taken by bus up to the Governor General's house/mansion/castle for a reception with him and his wife. It was very proper with individual introductions to the queen's representative and a fine selection of wines, liquors and nibbles offered throughout. We even got a tour of the ground floor, which included the ball room with the largest Huon Pine floor in the Southern Hemisphere/World?, a seemingly gilt dinning room to seat up to 30 distinguished guests (which I guess we were not) and halls of portraits and sculptures. We were politely indicated that it was time to leave at 7pm and were bused back downtown. The second afternoon, we were taken on an Antarctic walking tour of town. Past the docks (which our conference and hotels were situated on), through important buildings and into a pub where a particularly important stained glass window was housed. Again, a most civilized way to end a walking tour. That evening was the conference dinner, a few of us had opted out (it was pricey for students) and we started our evening at a Whiskey brewery on the water front where we were given a fine tasting of their whiskeys and other liquors. The barman recommended a certain Alley Cat pub for our dinner ($5 burgers always sounds good) and off we went. He was right, after what seemed a longer than 5 blocks we found the place pulsing with people and music. We squeezed ourselves inside and managed to find ourselves a table just as our burgers arrived. Chicken, avocado, tomato, lettuce, cheese, sauce, delicious. The last night of the conference, we had drinks at the museum, in amongst an interactive climate change display. So with Australian wine, strawberries, cheese and crackers we brought a close to this second conference and talked about the next.

A back corner of Salamanca Place

The museum's Southern Ocean and Antarctic exhibit

When I had booked my trip tickets so many months ago, I had decided to tack an extra day on at the end of the conference to explore Hobart. This was before I had spent 5 weeks away from home, from Stephen and from my bed. The day passed so slowly. I tried my hardest to enjoy my explorations, but it is so hard when all you can think of is where you are not. I lolled at breakfast at the cafe I had come to use each morning, I meandered slowly through the shops at Salamanca Place and bought some old Japanese fabric and a second-hand kimono and obi, and I swear I read every single sign/board/interpretive panel at the museum and art gallery. Yet it was only 4pm by the time I got back to the hotel with my fresh piece of tuna and salad to grill up on my stove. Bed at 7pm and up at 2am, bright eyed and bushy tailed for my flight at 1pm.

1pm did eventually roll around and I was off to Melbourne to catch my last flight back to Christchurch. Only our plane was broken and once we did get off the ground, we discovered it was too foggy in Christchurch to land so we landed in Auckland. Not where I wanted to be. But at least I was in the right country. So Air New Zealand shouted us rooms and breakfast and we had to sort out our flights the following day. I was so lucky to have Stephen taking care of me, because as soon as he found out we were spending the night in Auckland he booked me on the soonest available flight at noon the following day. Which was good because by the time I got through to the flight rescheduling people (at 4am) the soonest flight was 8pm.

Hobart waterfront, looking out from in front of my hotel

The next morning I almost cried when I looked out the window into seemingly impenetrable fog. But I soldiered on, eating my breakfast and dragging my bags down to the lobby to wait for the bus to the airport. Once at the airport, things didn't look much better, in fact more than half the flights were being cancelled due to the fog. With fingers crossed and glistening eyes I walked through security and willed my plane to land and then take off with me in it.

I arrived 2 hours later in Christchurch and collapsed into Stephens arms. How happy I was to be home.
PS I don't know if anyone noticed but as my trip progressed I took fewer and fewer pictures, travel fatigue I guess.

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