Sammy doesn't look like someone who enjoys much of the outdoors and sun.
Even so, it cautiously celebrates the already long period of good weather in the Tasmania and from Hobart, the capital.
“It's been fabulous, but don't think this is always the case, the teenager assures us, under the little round glasses, while we share a fish & chips oily. “Antarctica is already down there and, even from December to February, we have periods of rain and wind that lead us to despair”.
The esplanade we live on occupies part of one of the docks in the harbor of Hobart and holds us back with a view of hundreds of sailboats and other boats moored in their shelters.
Sydney-Hobart: A Deadly Regatta
The competition takes place every year on the 26th of December, on the Anglophone Boxing Day holiday.
As the name implies, its route of almost 630 nautical miles (almost 1200 km) starts in Sydney, continues south along the Tasman Sea, continues along the coast of the island and ends at its capital.
The competition is known for its toughness and the amount of dropouts and accidents.
In the 1998 edition, for example, the participating vessels encountered a storm brushing against hurricane status. The winds passed 70 knots and generated huge waves.
At the same time, even though it was midsummer, it was snowing in southern parts of the big island. Of the 115 sailboats that set sail from the Australian continent, only 44 managed to cross the Bass Strait and reach Hobart, five boats sank and six crew were killed.
This was just the worst case.
From Tasman Discovery to Exile
Also Abel Tasman, the first European to sight Tasmania, in 1642, must have faced adverse conditions. And with the same fury of those southern seas they would have aggravated the suffering of the thousands of convicts who, from 1803, were first exiled to Risdon Cove – the second British colony in the Australia – later to other parts of Tasmania.
In just a few years, Hobart replaced Risdon Cove and stood out from other pioneer towns. It became the second oldest city in the country (after Sydney) and the southern Australian state capital.
Its houses are squeezed between the steep slopes of Mount Wellington (1210 m) and the wide estuary of the River Derwent where the maritime structures of Battery Point – the historic heart of the city – and Constitution Dock extend.
Salamanca Place: An Old Fashioned Market
As we walk through these riverside areas organized around Georgian warehouses built to support the trade that has developed in the meantime, we discover the architecture inherited from those old times when, until the announced extinction, the aborigines were forced to give up the land they held.
We also discovered a market faithful to the atmosphere lived there in the first decades of the colonial era. It's Saturday morning and the streets and garden of Salamanca Place come alive once again.
Despite being a weekly event, the event makes Hobart hot and attracts people from all over Tasmania.
Hundreds of stalls succeed each other in a rectangular space where shoppers and visitors huddle together and wander over and over again.
Some display natural and homemade products, such as the most eye-catching fruits on the island and the sweets and jams they gave rise to. Others promote crafts, the typical and the creative, designed and executed in the homes of local artists. Others still suggest eccentric pieces of clothing and decoration or propose addictive skill games.
The atmosphere is mystical, with remnants of a XNUMXth century era that the distance from the big Australian cities continues to validate.
The yellowish sandstone walls of the old warehouses, once at the hub of Hobart's whaling and commercial activity, stand out from the crowd, now transformed into restaurants and bars that concentrate the city's nightlife.
There is more history in the name of the place and the market that honors the distant victory of the Duke of Wellington at the Battle of Salamanca, fought in 1812, near the Castilian city.
A Band of Pipers in skirts. Hobart's Scottish Heritage
A group of formally dressed pipers play with determination in the garden.
Next to it, dozens of buskers vie for the time and attention of passersby.
While some act, others wait their turn and rehearse or mess with whoever passes by to disguise their anxiety.
Musicians and jugglers, poetry reciters and contortionists appear. The more versatile ones bring together a little of each art and, when reconciled with humor, are boasted by ecstatic audiences.
We stop as long as necessary each time a new busker announces itself and shows off to the crowd. Using unicycles, diabolos, maces and even chainsaws, the talented beggars entertain the fair's customers without haste.
In return, they fill their hats and shoeboxes with Australian dollars.
One of them – El Diabolero – is still in a good mood to play with those who leave without contributing. "You guys down there who don't have change, don't worry. Just come here to the ATM!".
There is spontaneous generosity among the population of Hobart and Tasmania in general. And an unconditional admiration for alternative ways of life.
The British Condemned Who Condemned the Aborigines
Of the first 262 Europeans to inhabit the British penal colony, in 1863, 178 were convicted. For many, the adventure in the antipodes represented an extension of the violence, thanks to the permanent clashes with the semi-nomadic aboriginal tribe Mouheneener.
As in other parts of the Australia, the firepower of the settlers reinforced by the biological devastation perpetrated by the diseases they brought from the Old Continent quickly demobilized the indigenous people.
In addition to ceding their territories, between 1829 and 1834, they were moved to a reserve on the island of Flinders where they were to be converted to Christianity and civilized ways.
Almost the entire indigenous population died of disease and despair, and by the end of the XNUMXth century there were no longer any natives of fully Aboriginal blood in Tasmania.
Although their culture has almost completely ceded to the European, the genes are present in mixed communities generated since 1798, when some seal hunters formed families with aboriginal women and settled in Flinders and other islands of the Furneaux group.
Three hundred and sixty-eight years after the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman Having discovered the island to the West, several thousand of Tasmania's 500.000 inhabitants are descendants of these communities.