Cruising Australia, Prisoners of Mother England laugh like the devil in Tasmania

On the island of Tasmania, between the mainland of Australia and the ice of Antarctica, I did not encounter a single snarling Tasmanian Devil. But I did crash into the Tassie sense of humor.

Humor is a useful attribute for residents of an island best known for its feisty, carnivorous marsupial and a resident history as a repository for criminals in dire need of rehabilitation.

“We’re all POMEs here,” said a volunteer travel guide with dramatic flair as passengers streamed off a cruise ship, the Celebrity Century, and boarded shuttle buses for a day’s stay in Hobart, Tasmania’s primary city.

“That’s P-O-M-E,” he said. “Prisoners of Mother England. But you don’t need to worry. The pickpockets have been retrained. Now we fleece the tourists.”

Devils need road protection

The only attempted fleecing I noticed was the $30 fee that a country store wanted for the opportunity to see baby Tasmanian Devils.

I passed, so the only animal picture I have is of a sign warning drivers that Tasmanian Devils, one of the most territorial and aggressive animals in the world, might be attempting to cross the road. The sign is meant to protect the devils, not the drivers. The Devils are an endangered species.

There’s a message here. Despite the warning signs, highways in Tasmania have more than their share of road kill, including the carcasses of Tasmanian devils that snarl no longer. Go figure.

Grinding rogues into honest men

My highway route was the Convicts Trail, a drive of about two hours from the cruise ship dock in Hobart in a rental car from Thrifty at a reasonable $56 for the day (no fleecing there, but beware of the need to drive on your left, ala England, native home of the aforementioned convicts). The car was booked ahead on line by a colleague before we left the U.S.

The end of the Convicts Trail is Port Arthur, where England sent criminals during the 1800s “to grind rogues into honest men.” Says the Port Arthur guide: Remote, harsh, with no chance of escape, this was a perfect destination for hardened, repeat offenders.

Today, the ancestors of grist and millers of men live side by side on this island.

Ruins of the prison make up the Port Arthur Historic Site, which guides say is a task of several hours. Without several hours to spare, I didn’t poke around the prison, pictured at right, but I did notice that the prisoners used to have a nice view of the ocean.

Before heading back to Hobart, a colleague and I Iunched in the town of Doo, near Eaglehawk Neck, where prison guards once watched for escaping convicts, which apparently was easy duty.

We consumed fish and chips (fries) and a pot pie made of scallops flavored with curry. The takeout was served from a kitchen built into a house trailer set up to catch the tourists parked to peek at a blowhole along the Convicts Trail.

What might have been the scene for an eating disaster in many parts of the world worked satisfactorily here, perhaps because the parking lot was less than 100 yards from the sea and a fishing dock. The fish tasted fresh, and at $16 for two was priced right as well.

Looking for Dudley Doo-wrong

Houses near the blowhole have assumed punny identities with the community named Doo. Each house has its own cutesy Doo name on a signpost, such as Dr. Doolittle and Dooitright and Doocomein.

So far, no one in the area has initiated a counter-culture of Don’t. As I would prefer some privacy, I was thinking of a home, appropriate also to the days of the convicts, called Don’teventry.

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