Monday, March 24, 2014

Launceston: Politics and Hikes

First, some political theater from Launceston. The sticker below was on a vacant shop window. As we took the picture a couple kept looking at us, but didn't ask what we were doing. The state elections were four days off (the Greens lost seats), so they may have assumed we had an agenda.
The business? "Cash advance centre" IMO not a loss
Further on we saw an advance polling place. We walked in and talked with an election judge about voting in Tasmania. Voting is mandatory (AUD 250 fine). All Australian are registered as voters at age 18. Within Tasmania on Election Day (always a Saturday) you can go into any polling place and vote.
Campaign ads include a  statement of who paid for the ad and the name of the spokesperson. Direct attacks on individual politicians (by name and without permission) by political opponent can result in a criminal conviction.  Parties can run ads against a specific politician (see the picture on the left - markedly more negative than any other ad that we saw), but it appears limited to the State Prime Minister candidates.  Advertising ends two days prior to the election.

And there is true political theatre, a satirist ran as "Fast Freddie" and campaigned on killing off the iconic Tasmanian Devil, turning the top 300 meters of Mt. Wellington into a duty free zone, and other "outrageous" policies to address Tasmania's problems.

The helpful staff at Launceston's Tourist Information Center suggested hiking in Cataract Gorge that was short drive out of town. We had no trouble finding the gorge; it is a major recreational area with well manicured lawn, peacocks, and a swimming pool. After the long Rocky Cape hike we wanted something less stressful. The name alone of the Zig Zag Track was enough to keep us off that trail. The Duck Reach Trail sign suggested that we might have a challenging walk. We were wrong. The trail was good with a sturdy fence between the trail and the gorge. A hiker we met on later hike accurately described it as a pleasant walk

A view from the trail
A tight squeeze
The construction sign was to cordon off work being done on a lookout, not to signal a premature end to the hike. We walk around the fence and continued on to the Duck Reach museum housed in the area's first power station. The museum described the process and impact of introducing electricity to a community and the process used to generate electricity.

The pipe pictured below was the end of a 850 meter tunnel drilled through rock to provide water to the power station.

The only wildlife we met on the trail
Another view from the trail
Next we went to the Tamar Island Wetlands Center, which was one of our favorite walks. A boardwalk took us through the wetlands  - no climbing or walking on stony surfaces. The brochure was far superior to others that we had received. It told us what to look for at numbered points on the trail. It pictured the most common birds in the wetlands and we saw many. We took pictures of unfamiliar plants to ask the volunteer staff if they could identify them. The walk, the brochure, and the conversations with the volunteer staff made the walk memorable.

Perhaps a marsh harrier - it wasn't about to give us a close look

Bindweed - a threatened species in Tasmania

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