Melbourne-based writer and journalist. Purveyor of finally crafted radio plays. A Muppet of a man.
Driving into Launceston on the last day of the year ended up being a stranger experience than I bargained for. It’s a small, quiet city (the word ‘city’ is applied a bit generously), without much in the way of excitement. Restaurants are few and far between, there’s no night life, and the bars are scattered and deserted. Bottleshops are either well hidden or don’t exist. The main strip consists of a few shops on an open mall with a couple of dodgy cafes that wouldn’t make it elsewhere.
It was deserted, like the opening scene of a zombie movie. Myself and Mrs Smith quickly learnt that all the action for the night was down on the waterfront – fireworks, local celebrities, and all the high priced drinks and hackneyed entertainment you could stand and expect on New Years Eve… for the door price of $15 a head.
It was the first time we’d ever been charged entry for such an event, and we balked at the principle of it. After quickly assessing whether it was worth the entry price to ring in the New Year amongst drunken Tasmanian revelers, we opted to instead retire to the Bed and Breakfast we were staying in, watching an old James Bond movie and drinking cider. We agreed on a New Years resolution rather quickly – leave Launceston.
I know, I know – I’m being harsh on poor old Launceston, but it’s a bit difficult not to be. While it’s quite fine to stay there, there is little to do, and you find yourself using it as a launching place to go anywhere interesting. The waterfront is nice to walk along, but that’s a pretty common feature in an Australian city, and there’s much more interesting waterfronts. Launceston seemed to exist because it’s far enough away from Hobart for people who can’t be bothered to drive that far.
It’s worth stopping by Cataract Gorge, which is fifteen minutes walk away from the centre of the city (seriously, the place is small). You can marvel at the sight of a swimming pool next to a river, walk around a bit, and for the right price experience the wonder of… wait for it… the world’s longest single-span chairlift. Admit it, it’s what your life has been missing.
At the Launceston City Park is an enclosure of a dozen Japanese macaque monkeys who seemed as bored with Launceston as we were. Medium sized with a large red face, they mooched around their enclosure to the delight of the watching Launcestians. This is clearly the most excitement they got in the area. ‘Launcestians’ is a guess at what the locals call themselves by the way. I’m not sure what else it would be.