Friday, February 15, 2008

Prisons and Tessellated Pavement

Day: 142
Hobart to Port Arthur to Hobart
Time: 10 hours or so
Distance: 372 km
Avg Speed: 110
Terrain: Didn’t Matter

We broke our streak and rented a car for a tour of Port Arthur and the surrounding area. We did it right though and got a big land yacht with bad mileage.
We cruised out to Port Arthur south of Hobart to check out the old prison they had there. The prison was one of many set up in Tasmania for people coming from the British empire as well as Canada and America. I figured that this is where people who had performed horrible crimes against humanity came. I was quite surprised to find out that people were sent here for as little as stealing a shirt. When you enter the site you are assigned a prisoner whom you are to follow around the introductory area. My prisoner was sent here for the theft of £5 worth of drugs from a pharmacy. I really didn’t see the logic of sending someone halfway around the world for a crime of that sort, but I guess the government operated on the ‘one bad apple’ ideal of population management. The Port Arthur prison was chosen for its geographic isolation as well as its location near a bay. The prisoners all had work detail that ranged for cobbling, and tailoring to ship building and road construction. The site also housed a boy’s prison that was isolated from the main men’s prison. The boys were usually 14-17 years old, but there was evidence of boys as young as 9 being sent there. Back then an 8 year old could be tried as an adult and a 9 year old sentenced to death. Times were certainly different. The boy’s prison got off to a bad start though, with the first 68 boys showing up dead drunk, having consumed six dozen stolen bottles of wine on the ship journey down.
The waters surrounding the prison were rumored to be filled with man eating sharks and the alternative route of escape through the forest offered very little hope as well. The peninsula that Port Arthur is located on is attached by a narrow isthmus called Eagle Hawk Neck. Here there were more guards stationed as well as a line of dogs chained up at intervals across the land and on platforms off the shore.
We also visited some geological areas of interest like arches, blow holes and the geometric tessellated pavement. Here horizontal stone had cracked into squares and was regularly being worn down by the sea water and salt crystals.
We felt a little guilty about renting a car to go see these sights, but soon got over it when we covered 100 km in just over an hour. You can see the sights quite well from a car, but on a bike you can feel the sights and the land around you. That is an essence of bicycle riding that is hard to describe and forget.
Vroom, Vroom

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