Not much has changed in the past 50 years – Tasmania is a barren and beautiful oasis, left dormant and untarnished by the everyday traveller. Tasmania reminds me a lot like New Zealand, with it’s dramatic beauty, lush landscape and easy going and charismatic feels.
It was a steady flight as the aircraft bumped along the tarmac and right off the bat I have a tinnie in hand, with the pedal to the floor, chattering up the East Coast of Tasmania. For this trip we choose a Volkswagon van as our means of accommodation. This way we can galavant and camp wherever the wheels decide. We find refuge in a small park, right by the waters edge and settle ourselves into our new home for the next five nights.
Freycinet National Park is the first destination. It’s turquoise and transparent waters and rugged, whipping landscapes swallow us and we find ourselves in awe at the summit of Mt Amos. From high rocky terrain we descend through the woods to the waters edge of Wineglass Bay. We explore beautiful dense bush, with the sound of wild animals at the tip of our ears and trees that are choked by the persistent winds from the bay. Following the long winding trail churns us out onto Hazards Beach. The mountains shadow the dark unforgiving sand and a lonesome island waits patiently, only to be consumed by the hollow peninsula.
From here on in it’s counting miles and dipping the van to the edges of the earthly track, weaving through the man-made luxuries of the land. Stopping for no man, only fresh seafood to fulfil the hunger for local produce and the delicacies from the island. Tonight, we park so close to the the waters edge the shore laps at our feet. So close, but safe. The moon rises up into the sky and the sun dips beneath the horizon. Tonights resting place is Swimcart Beach, situated in The Bay of Fires. The rocks are crimson, burnt orange with mineral rich red granite. Livestock graze the beachfront, in their vast, green paddocks. This is the dream, the dream we’re forever chasing – total serenity and simple purity. We cook beautiful salmon and scallops caught in Tasmania – contentment. With sand under our feet and our stomachs full, we cleanse our bodies in the oceans salt. It is only ten degrees yet we plunge into the depth of the screaming sea. Tonight we rest our bodies to the sound of crashing waves and wild animals singing in the wind.
Rising early and back on the road we head North East to The Gardens to stop for provisions. We collect an array of seafood, alcohol, dry firewood, some playing cards and enough fuel and water to begin the ascent to the middle of the island. We drive away from the coast for hours on end, climbing thousands of metres into the hinterland, entering the Great Lakes District. We are forever sheepishly dodging our vehicle from the deadliness of animals on the road. Our ears pop, crackle and distort in the cold air, passing through a number of villages high up in the mountains. There are no fences between any houses, no boundaries from your neighbour, just metres of firewood stacked high around the yard. It is in these communities that people are born, live their lives and die with satisfaction. There is a feeling of disconnection being hours from a bustling city – only a church, a pub and a cemetery for each pitstop with dismal phone reception. The landscape is burnt from the snow and smoke bellows from the chimneys by day.
The Great Lake Pub provides beers and an open fire to warm our bodies. The stuffed animals peer across the room and there are ominous trout hanging from the walls. We near Launceston, then dive further West toward our port of call for the night. We visit the majestic Pumphouse Point, a boutique hotel which sits 100 metres from the land, accessible only by a private jetty. The snow capped mountains and glacial lake consume the building and inherit it’s beauty in the reflection of a crimson and grey stormed sky. The silence is deafening, across one the highest lakes in Australia. The weather changes dramatically at high altitude and the rain and fog settles in for the night. We find refuge alongside Lake St Clair tonight. The light evaporates from the sky and darkness fills our minds. The snowy mountains and dense forrest retire for tonight and the pebbles clap in a harmonic pitch for only us to hear.
For coffee, we have Artificer on hand, a Kenyan roast which is brew each morning. By the time we devour our third cup of the morning we are peaking and back on the road. We stop at Bradys lake to cook breakfast; salmon, eggs and wilted greens. One boat trickles across the lake in search of his morning catch. There are remnants of fires where people have been before us. The reflection bounces off the stagnant water and the small vessel hums by. We make our way South to the capital of the state – Hobart. It’s Sunday today and we peruse the farmers market for freshly shucked oysters and custard filled donuts. We visit Pilgrim Coffee, a relaxed and contemporary day spot, coated in copper. The next stop is Battery Point where we drink beers and wine and explore the historical area and it’s beautiful homes and windswept streets.
Off again, we travel towards Bruny Island. We must drive to a small coastal town named Kettering and from here, take a ferry across the body of water. We beeline to Bruny Island Cheese Co for beer and cheese tastings. The rain continues and becomes heavy as my drunkenness dissipates. The island has a ghostly feel, a strong energy. The landscape is severely different in contrast now due south from the previous night on the lake. It is quiet and empty and we entertain this loneliness. The roads are slippery and the rain continues to slap hard on the windscreen – the only thing between us and them. We cross a low lying road at sea level across to South Bruny and continue towards the cape. The lighthouse sits atop the grass hills, providing rugged, panoramic views. We would stay but we are wet and want to find somewhere to park for the night. There are numerous areas that are eroded from the wild weather and crashing waves along the shoreline. Tonight we sleep in a small, desolate beach town on the South West coast. The rain is relentless and ensures a fire will not be lit tonight. There are small waves, two rainbows and a picturesque sunset dances in the clouds and fire lit sky.
The chromatic facade consumes us down the long spiral staircase. The walls which lead us underground are coated in rugged limestone and we slowly lose sight of any natural light. A man greets us with thick round glasses and a silken beard. He serves us hot drinks and sends us on our way. Our minds dance to the melancholic choir, reenacted through speakers inside the museum. We are visiting MONA. The museum highlights the unorthodox creativity and artwork that is cultivated in Tasmania. One artist exhibits seventy vaginas, all hand moulded from plaster, hanging on a lightly dimmed wall which spans for over forty metres. Each fixture represents a different shape or form of a different woman. An artist paints and draws expeditiously into his notepad, creating riveting images for our greedy eyes to digest. The architecture is raw and the steel finishings guide us through the building and spit us out into fresh air.
This is our final day on the island and we make for an area called Eaglehawk Neck. It is a different type of drive we’re used to today being greeted by cars and street signs, dense with people and houses. The rock formations and moments of vertigo justify the long windy drive but it’s time for us to make way towards the airport. We drive like madmen, weaving through the traffic while adhering to the law – something we have managed to distance ourselves from while being on the road. Checked in for our flight, we drown ourselves in lagers ’till the wheels lift from the burnt tarmac, en route home to Sydney.
We’ll be back Tasmania.