Keep Walking

Queenstown (left and right)

If you offered the average Australian a month-long holiday to Tasmania, their response would most likely be an appreciative, albeit half-hearted, smile. The ‘holiday’ part of the bargain would undoubtedbly excite them, but ‘Tasmania’ and ‘month-long’ holiday are two terms not often used simultaneously. Many perceive the island to be a momentary getaway, a novelty last-resort; an unimportant addition to the mainland.

Yet that’s where the masses are wrong.

The apparent empty basement of Tassie may be small in frame and light in population, but the isle is packed full of hidden surprises. It’s simply a matter of bothering to get down there to unearth them.

Prior to leaving, a number of friends questioned me as to how my Dad and I could fill a month away from the mainland. At the time I struggled to concoct an answer. Yet wo weeks into my chock-a-block full itinerary, I am left to ponder how I am going to fit everything in. Our UBD street directory is already beginning to crinkle, our GPS has collected a fresh layer of murky fingerprints, while the back seat of our car is littered with an assortment of used and never-to-be-used brochures. The mess, however, has been negated by the multitude of experiences collected by my father and I. Some have been more memorable than others. But I’ll commence with the positives…

It would be typical of me to use this opportunity to confess my love for a number of Tassie’s natural wonders. I could exhast hackneyed adjectives such as breathtaking, slendiferous (sic) or fantabulous to describe the postcard favourites. For instance, the peaks of Cradle Mountain have occupied centre stage in at least ten dozen of my photos, the Freycinet Peninsula has given a new meaning to rugged coastlines, while the white and rocky beaches of the Bay of Fires could potentially have consumed hours more of my time.

Yet I would be cheating myself to leave out the scruffy mining town of Queenstown, an area so removed from the lush rainforests of the nearby Gordon River, or the gorgeous mirror reflections of Lake Burbury. I’m not sure whether Auntie Victoria would have been happy to have this dirty industrial hotspot named after her, but Queenstown is one of those cities you either love or hate.

Anti-loggers may chastise the place for its utter lack of green, and commuters may lament aboutthe steep and tedious routes to work. But infrequent visitors such as myself are capable of tasting the distinict charm of the place. The mountains may be bare and orange, but at sunset this city may just be the prettiest sight on the planet. Or at least in Tassie.

Dad’s fascination with mining and natural resourcesd has seen us detour through many towns not unlike Queenstown. It’s also taken us through a lifetime supply of hydroelectric dams; we’ve been subject to one dam lookout after another. While some of these attractions may not have tickled my fancy, I’ve nevertheless tried my best to appreciate them. After all, Dad has had to put up with my continous barrage of smartalecness and pretentious attempts at artisitc photography (many of which feature close-ups of ants, or grass, etc.)

Our major point of difference between Dad and I can be observed during bushwalks, of which we have done over thirty. For example, a two hour circuit will take me roughly ninety minutes on a tired day. Yet Dad is at that age where the par completion time is an unrealistic expectation. As a consequence we now have to add an extra 50% onto whatever walk we choose to embark upon. I can’t blame him for this. When I’m his age (he’s more than three times me) I probably won’t be any fitter. In fact, I’ll probably be slumped on a couch, watching Australia get mauled in the Ashes.

Wakling slower has its positives. The luxury of hiking with Dad enables me to spend more time admiring Tasmania’s endless national park beauty. This has hence meant that my face-to-face encounters with native wildlife have been frequent and uninterrupted. In addition to the extremey rare platypus I have met wombats, echidnas, tiger snakes, kangaroos and a countless amount of pademelons (not a fruit, but the impalas of the Tasmanian wilderness – they’re practically everywhere!). Viweing such a plentitude of fauna makes me feel like a genuine stereotypical Australian (that is, from the perspective of a naive foreigner, at least). That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Except, of course, if you’re driving.

Apart from the Tasmanian government’s no-bins-in-national-parks policy, the state’s biggest flaw is its immense collection of roadkill. I’ve been determine not to add to this horrific toll, but a 9pm drive from Mount William National Park made this seemingly simple task a driving nightmare. With my high-beam lights providing the only source of illumination, I couldn’t afford to lose concentration for a single moment. You see, Tassie mammals have this innate appeal to light and sound; when they hear a roaring engine, their natural reaction is to check out what it is. For some reason, the fight instinct overwhelsm their flight response. As you can imagine, they rarely live to tell the tale.

At the time of driving, I found time to reflect on the irony of the situation. If given the chance I would have had no hesitation in gobbling one of these creatures down (cooked, of course). A the same time, I felt such a repulsion to the notion of hitting one of these little critters. Perhaps I didn’t want the blood on my hands (or wheels, for that matter). After all, when Elton John sung about the great circle of life, he said nothing of my Dad’s Honda Civic.

The car – and animals – survived the long night without a scratch. But a furious dog was determined to continue the night of stress. As he welcomed us with a series of incessant screams – loud enough to wake up the entire rural neighbourhood – I was feeling more and more on edge. With the adrenaline pumping, I raced around the deserted hotel carpark in search of an open door. The barking continued.

Dad eventually found the concealed entrance and the night of hell was able to find relief. But the story wasn’t the same the morning after. The car refused to start…

The rest of that story can be reserved for a rainy day. For now, though, I’ll alight your curiosity by throwing up some bite-size pieces of the past week. Since I have last written, I have been thrust into the middle of a stage production, been lost in a national park in pitch black darkness, been soaked by a torrential downpour for two consecutive hours, and been attacked by new favourite animal… leeches.

Call that a holiday? Meh, I’ve only got another fortnight to go…

(I actually have one, but lack of internet access has prevented this blog from being published sooner. Nor that you really noticed, I’m sure…)

(Btw Mum, please excase any spilling errers, I had to rite this in a ruush. And dont gett engry about nething that sunds like it was dongerous. It really was’n’t. Im just makin it sound that way 4 criative appial. Love ewe.)