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Just about every walking route into the center of the park requires an hour or so of hard, sweaty, uphill slogging.But at the top I entered an enchanting Lost World landscape, dipping into mossy little hobbit forests, passing alpine tarns filled with living fossils and emerging into open moorland crowned by primordial-looking buttes.Civil unions are now legal, anti-discrimination laws are among the toughest anywhere and children receive mandatory anti-homophobia classes in school.Here's an example of how far things have come: While we were chatting in a Hobart cafe, the speaker of Tasmania's parliament stopped by to shake Croome's hand, and a waiter asked him for his autograph.Bligh Street commemorates the erstwhile captain of the HMS Bounty, who planted fruit trees here en route to his mutiny.And residents of a certain age will remind you that Hobart is where native son Errol Flynn first honed his swashbuckling moves on the local female population.So loathsome was the colony's reputation -- "The Stain," it's called to this day - -- that, in a bit of 19th century rebranding, the island changed its to Tasmania in honor of Dutch Capt.
Because an estimated 15 percent of the criminals transported here had been convicted of sodomy, and because it was feared others had picked up the habit in prison, Tasmania maintained Australia's most draconian anti-gay laws.
(See "If you go.") Errol Flynn slept here Hobart, the handsome little capital on the River Derwent, is filled with Georgian buildings made of honey-colored sandstone reminiscent of Bath, England.
Rows of old stone warehouses along the harborfront have been transformed into shops and inviting cafes.
"The popular myth is that only people who stole handkerchiefs and loaves of bread were transported to Australia," said Elizabeth Fleetwood, who runs historic walking tours in Hobart.
"But why would they send those people down here and keep the murderers and rapists in England?Up into the 1980s, Tasmanians were sent to prison for homosexuality, and hundreds were arrested merely for circulating petitions to change the laws."It's impossible," said Rodney Croome, a gay rights leader, "to overstate how repressive things were." Things were so bad that both the United Nations Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International got involved. Not only did the Tasmanian parliament repeal the laws in 1997, it has since enacted some of the world's most progressive same-sex legislation.The songs and shrieks of unfamiliar -- and sometimes unnerving -- birds filled the air.