MONA may be the first and last attraction you’ll hear about when visiting Tasmania. An eccentricity of modern art in form and function, the art gallery was built on the shores of the river Derwent by local millionaire David Walsh. A deceptive single storey building hides a labyrinthine showcase of dark, challenging, and often fun works in the bowels of a sandstone peninsula.
In concert with local and national government, a walking track was unveiled on nearby shoreline. GASP (Glenorchy Art and Sculpture Park) is a distinct outdoor setting designed for the exhibition of outdoor works, freely accessible to the public.
N.b. When I visited, there was simply a sign stating the existence of one sound exhibition, which is active for one week in early January.
The GASP trail is a short walk, so I decided to set out from my home in Mount Stuart to make a two hour trek through the suburbs.
I diverted onto the intercity cycleway, a shared project between the Hobart and Glenorchy local municipal councils. The 15 km track hugs the train lines from the piers of Salamanca to the outskirts of Hobart’s conjoined twin Glenorchy. A majority of the cycleway is a stretch of long, flat shadeless concrete: a narrow stretch of fenced boardwalk facing the crumbling rears of Hobart’s homes and businesses. It is not all bad, though.. there are a few views worth taking in, especially towards the city.
I rejoined the main road at Rosetta and followed an underpass into Berriedale. My phone had somehow lost it’s charge already so at first I was wandering, a little confused. Main Road rejoins the highway on the eastern side of this underpass, but you need to actually follow the side of the highway to find the track beginning just before Montrose Bay High School.
The track follows Islet Rivulet, sharing ground with the highschool towards the shoreline. Dozens of sea birds crowded the grounds, with views to the north of MONA’s ferry terminal and a deceptive drab exterior view of the museum.
The highschool has erected signs detailing the plight and rejuvenation of local plant and animal life. Warning signs sprout from the ground guarding against those who might swim in the dangerous waters or eat from the polluted river. (Apparently two larger fish per week is the safe limit for consumption. Personally, I’d rather not gamble with mercury poisoning.)
The walking track snakes in an intentionally picturesque fashion around the shoreline, passing dilapidated wooden jetties, a yacht club, and barbecue sites swamped with families enjoying the summer heat. Tall trees throw shade across well-kept lawns.
An open shelter in MONA’s trademark neutral colours declares the opening of GASP. Coloured walkways cross the shallow waters of the shoreline in an extended shallow curve passing the Derwent Entertainment Centre. Unkempt grounds of split concrete, wild grasses, and disused jetties marr the surrounding landscape, but the grasses surrounding the immediate track are well-kept, the mountainous backdrop and MONA’s curious pseudo-buildings have a habit of drawing your attention.
At the end of the track, a large luminous shelter declares itself property of the community. Coloured walls throw unearthly light into GASP’s dark interior. The gorgeous surroundings have been framed with care within the interior of an open shelter cum architectural art piece.
Circling the building, I met a fisherman balancing three rods on the pavement. Eager to converse, he introduced himself.
‘You don’t eat from the river, do you?’ I asked.
‘No, no.. Do I look crazy? Don’t answer that. No, I’d be dead. Everyone asks me that.’
He opens a fish to demonstrate the way mercury collects against the spine and discolours the meat. It’s for bait, he explains, he takes it out on a boat to catch bigger, healthier fish.
A boat flies past, water skier in tow, disrupting his fishing. ‘Arrgh, fuck off!’ the fisherman cries.
I notice Bowen Bridge across the water (visible beyond the jetty.) In 1975, a ship named Lake Illawara collided with pylons of Hobart’s Tasman Bridge, collapsing a large portion and sending five cars plummeting onto the ship and into the river below. With 30% of Hobart’s population stranded on the western side of the river, the smaller Bowen Bridge was created upriver, as an alternate route to inhibit the impact of any future disasters.
I wandered back from Elwick Bay into Glenorchy and caught a bus to return home.. but for everyone else:
If you’d like to combine a picturesque walking track with a MONA experience, GASP would be the most accessible. It is only a 15 minute walk from the museum buildings. MONA is also the easiest point of reference for access: transport options include helicopter, ferry, private or public bus, private taxi services, walk, or cycle. In this case, I am going to palm you off to MONA’s directions.
To arrive at the walking track proper, set a course for the Montrose Bay High School (865 Brooker Hwy, Glenorchy) and look for surrounding footpaths.865 Brooker Hwy, Glenorchy