taz - mania.

so, if you are anything like me, the only thing you know about tasmania is that taz (the looney tunes character) was based off the tasmanian devil.  other than that, i really didn't know what to expect on our trip to tasmania.  

well, it's so much more!  it is absolutely BEAUTIFUL!  and if i had to compare it to anything it made me think of (what i would think - since i've never been there) ireland is like.  

here is the view from the plane as we were landing.  LOTS of green.

right away, we hopped into a rental car and drove two hours down south to hobart.  you will have to excuse a lot of the photos because they were taken from the car, but immediately we were astonished with how many sheep farms there were.  they were everywhere:

when we arrived in hobart it was time to eat dinner, enjoy a little casino'ing and hit the hay.

we woke up the next morning to hit the cadbury chocolate factory.  you might say... why cadbury??  cadbury is their main chocolate/candy company in australia and it is DELISH!  we have fallen in love with it so we figured we would be remiss if we didn't go.

my review:  it was fun, but not what i was expecting.  i have never toured any other chocolate factories, but i have seen willy wonka and the chocolate factory.  now, i know it's a movie and far fetched, but you would think it would set a little higher standard for chocolate factories across the world.  this was just sort of bland.  AND we didn't even get to see chocolate being made in person.  it was all on a video (again, i know it's probably due to sanitary reasons, but still).  the good news is it was only $7/person and the free goody bag of chocolate you get upon entering the door made it all worth it.  plus, you can buy cadbury chocolate for whole sale prices in their store.  i think we all left a few pounds heavier than we entered.

next stop!  a local tasmanian brewery called cascade brewery.  they were booked for tours, but we still enjoyed some fish and chips (i had chicken fingers and chips) and a beer tasting.

anne was struggling with their stout.  ha!

since we didn't spend as much time as we thought we would at the brewery, we decided to drive an hour and a half further south to port arthur.  again, AMAZING scenery.

port arthur is most known as an australian convict prison where they sent second time offenders from 1833 until 1853.   the crazy part is that most of the convict's crimes seem pretty minimal - like stealing something small; but at the same time, this is known as the australian version of alcatraz - in that it is inescapable.  there were a couple of fires that make it the way it is now (you can see the corrosion in the photo below), but you can still get an idea for what life was like as a prisoner.  it was very interesting.

this is the size of a cell.

jim gives the cells some perspective.  there are two levels of cells here.

the view that none of the prisoners got to enjoy was quite stunning.  it must have been hard knowing what was beyond those walls.

prison on the left with the bay on the right.  apparently, the bay used to come in further but they have since filled it.

this is what they fed the prisoners:

port arthur also started something called separation prison where the inmates were not allowed to speak to each other.  they would work out individually and attend church with standing partitions.  it was meant to allow the prisoners time to reflect and cleanse their minds, but most of them just went insane from the lack of light and sound.

this is the church.  jim is standing where the preacher would stand:

and anne is standing in one of the partitions.

the campus surrounding the prison was so pretty:

jim was really excited to have his photo taken with bobby knight.

each person was assigned a prisoner's biography.  this was mine.  he was only like 12 years old.

the other crazy thing about port arthur is that, in 1996, one of the biggest australian massacres occurred there when a man killed 35 tourists, locals and employees of the tourist site and wounded 21.  i believe the killer went insane after killing two targeted victims and that's when the massacre took place.  really sad.

afterwards, we headed back to hobart and had a delicious burger at burger got soul.

what a day!  we were all amazed at what we saw that day and just stunned by the beauty of tasmania.


great barrier reef... one last time.

well, i am sure you all have guessed that having jim's parents out here meant that i got to see the beautiful great barrier reef one last time.  i know... tough life, huh?

even better, jim's parents wanted to see townsville so we decided to do our reef tour from there, which meant a whole new reef to explore!

i was going to dive the reef, but then was reminded that i had to fly the next day (to tasmania!) and you are not allowed to fly until 24 hours after a dive.  so, that left me plenty of time to take some great photos!!

jim's dad is not much of a water person to it was just anne and me on the tour.   we got up bright and early to meet the rest of the group at the marina.  soon thereafter we set off to sea on this baby...

we met some american friends on the boat who were visiting australia for a WWII memorial.  the man on the left was actually stationed in australia during WWII along with the man on the right's father and their other friend's father (not pictured here).  we had a two hour boat ride to the reef so it was great getting to know them and hearing their stories.

once at the reef, we jumped in to let the fun begin!

you can only see half of it, but there is an orange starfish on the top of this photo.

this is a picture of the top of the reef.  when the tide is down, most of this is barely covered with water.

this looked like coral straight out of the little mermaid.

i saw my very first puffer fish!  you can barely see him because he blends in, but he is in the bottom left side of the photo.

big clam!

this is our boat from the water... adrenalin dive was the name of the touring company in case anyone visits townsville and needs to know.

another big clam and i got a video of it as well.  you can see it kind of close up when i get close to it in the video.  look at the white that appears when it shrinks up.

this photo is the top of the reef as the tide is down... you can see the waves crashing over the top and the reef through the crystal clear water.


happy as a clam with the reef in the background!

we had a great time experiencing one of the natural wonders of the world.  the reef truly is amazing and i am so fortunate to get to experience it with so many loved ones!

i will leave you with this last video.  i am sorry about the shakiness.