I started this travel blog early so I could practice my craft as well as tell the story from the beginning. I don’t consider myself a writer as such, more of a wannabe with just enough cheek to press publish each week and hope that I am not embarrassing myself or bringing more shame to my mother for choosing to share publicly.
As part of this journey I have every intent to A. write about the places I go and record what I think of them and B. share once a week as a matter of discipline and consistency.
This week as I need to do B. I thought I would look at A. The result is my first travel review, even though I have gone nowhere to get here.
Travel Review – TASMANIA
Mine is an island home. A smallish island south of another island that happens to be the biggest island in the world.
The Place I Live Is Pretty Special… Well I Think So.
Tasmania has the Indian and Pacific Oceans on either side and above the waters of Bass Strait and below the ocean of Antarctica. When you think of this place, you need to align our landmass with the roaring forties. We are more South of nearly everything else in the world, excluding Lower Chile and Cape Horn. The water surrounding our island can be some of the most treacherous in the world. If Bass Strait is in a bad mood on the day or week you happen to be sailing across her, then you can have every expectation that you will be sailing for survival rather than a leisurely cruise. Bass Strait is a place worthy of Greek stories and at least one pissed off god ruling the oceans, taking delight in causing sailors grief. The 1998 Sydney to Hobart gave evidence to the world that this can be a bad arse place to sail.
We have more mountains than the rest of the country and huge areas of untouched wilderness. Our trees are of a jurassic age and stepping into our forests is like stepping back in time. Our coastline is varied and challenging. Pure squeaky sand, turquoise to deep green or blue water, soaring cliffs, massive granite boulders, bush touching ocean and countless bays and beaches that go untouched by humans. Ever.
People come from all over the world to experience some of the last remaining areas of wilderness, unspoilt by the relentless march of humanity on the planet. They also come for incredible food and wine. Much of our wine gives the French, wine envy. Yes it is that good. People come for other reasons as well.
Me I was lucky enough to be born here and call myself a local.
When Australia Is Presented To The World It Feels Different To My View
When you look from afar at Australia with the eyes of a tourist, you often view video with blazing hot sun, endless beaches, tropical fish, white sand, and shiny happy people, from a cosmopolitan city, who are usually skipping across a beach or throwing a shrimp on the barbie.
I the Miss Feel Estranged From This Advertised Country
To me, my island has always felt darker, more dense, more complicated and more caught in time than the other country that also belongs to me. When they make big budget movies in Tasmania they always seem to involve killers, isolation, zombies and other darker reflections of the world. This fact alone tells you this island is different to the rest of the nation.
I should note when I see images and read of Australian deserts this is as far removed from me as it is from the millions of people who live in Europe.
Tasmania’s history is dark and ugly.
Early settlers were the worst of the worst offenders from the British colony, Tasmania was literally used as a dumping ground. Our whole island was considered the penal colony of choice for no future no hope convicts. The treatment of the original inhabitants, the aborigines is so shameful that most Tasmanians choose not to reflect or examine this period. Every full blooded aboriginal was slaughtered after suffering abuse and horror. The aborigines were treated worse than animals and had less value. Women, children, elderly included. Van Diemen’s Land as it were called, was then sister state to North Korea, where only the early ruling elite had any life at all, by all accounts these people hated the place as well.
This sobering past is from what our island was founded.
Others Think We Are Different
People make jokes about Queenslanders being madder than cut snakes and Tasmanians having two heads as a result of being inbred. While the two heads is bollocks and being inbred is ridiculous, it is true we are different and even more so than Queenslanders who just may be madder than cut snakes, I am still reserving judgement.
I believe people here are friendly and open. More trusting, as most people have no reason not to think the best of people and the best of outcomes. When you walk down the street you can smile at others because they look you in the eye as they go by. Asking for assistance, looking lost or making yourself known as a visitor means you will receive the warmest of welcome. I still feel safe to pick up hitchhikers and have met many interesting people who first had their thumb pointed starboard.
For the most we seem to care less about the appearance of things. Ours is a casual approach to life and the world. Live and let live. Politics and religion are warmly discussed at any table and offence is harder to come by. Strangers are welcome and sharing is the norm not the exception.
Living here I have always enjoyed the fact that as a local, I can choose on many levels to engage with the broader world or if I so desire ignore it. This is a happy, safe place to be born, to grow and repeat the process. As a local I am Tasmanian first and Australian second. We fondly call the rest of the country the mainland. I like the fact that our landmass slipped away from the rest of Australia millions of years ago and decided to do it on it’s own. This breakaway makes us different. Our water, our air, our trees, and even our animals are different. Platypus, Tasmanian Devil and Tasmanian Tiger all evolved from this wild isolated place. The Thylacine or Tasmanian Tiger as it is commonly known became extinct, the last known specimen died in Hobart Zoo in September 1936. An interesting fact was when a platypus and it’s egg were first presented to the British scientific community, they said “impossible, preposterous and a fraud. (the poor creature was dead of course)
I don’t care that most of the country either ignores us, treats us with a level of disdain and disrespect and think Tasmania is a bogan backwater. Some say we are a state that does not contribute to the countries greater wealth and economic story. It is said (often by Western Australian premier’s) that we are leeches who benefit from the wealth of the other states without doing much except being what we are now. These men in suits, who shout loudly from afar, forget that not all wealth is to be dragged out of the ground. We should remind them the gold of what we have already is more valuable than any found under the earth.
Every time our state is forgotten off a map at some major event I am never offended. For me it means this place remains an ongoing secret, and for the most part we will be left alone unless visited by those who truly want to come and see what it is we have to offer.
To Be A Tasmanian Is To Be Part Of The Water
Tasmanians are a water people but not like you expect from the rest of Australia. It’s not life saving and surfers who dominate, rather fishermen, sailors and beach goers who walk rather than swim. Our beaches, lakes and rivers are safe, spectacular and roomy. Tasmanians use their water. This is a fact that surprises many.
Watery Facts Of Tasmania
Water, water everywhere. Hence we all expect a water view from our homes. If this is not possible we then insist upon a mountain view or at least the ability to step into the bush within 5 minutes maximum from our back door. This is achievable for everyone, unless you are living under the courtesy of her majesty at the local Risdon Prison and even prisoners get to look at the bush next door.
Our water ways entertain and feed us. My favourite fish is flathead. Everytime I go out in a boat I love catching them and then eating (perfectly filleted fish, thanks Captain Eric and My Captain) that very same day. Anyone can have a fishing licence and if you try even a tiny bit you can catch a fish. Try a little harder and you can have crayfish, abalone, flathead, bream or flounder and so much more. To catch a fish, as a minimum all you need is a jetty, a rock from the beach, of which there are plenty, a piece of line and a hook with white plastic bag to entice your prey.
Our water is clear and clean. Our air has been purified by the great Southern Ocean. Need I say more.
Our water is our playground. Yes some of you may need a wetsuit but if it involves water we do it. Most importantly you don’t have to share with thousands of others. You will always have plenty of room to spread your towel on our sandy beaches. The idea of paying to sit on a European beach is the definition of foreign to me.
The water keeps us safe from others.
Bass Strait acts as a barrier from any Tom or Harry jumping in their car and coming to visit. It takes real commitment to come and leave this place. The water between Us and Them means we are often forgotten, therefore unwelcome guests or distant family don’t bother us and we don’t bother them. I like this.
Boat ownership per head of population is greater in Tasmania compared to the rest of the country. Tin dish, fancy speed boat or sail boats in every shape or size, it does not matter. We Tasmanian’s love our boats. It would be a rare family not to have at least one family member with or access to a boat, or the ability to grab a ride in if you really want to.
One of the great boat races comes to us – the Sydney To Hobart Yacht Race. Originally began in 1945 as an idea for a cruise, it instead became one of the most sought after sea racing titles in the world. You don’t need to win, leave this to the Maxi’s, this is a tough race, you just need to finish in one piece. If you don’t know this race check out either of these documentaries on the game changing 1998 race. Film One or Film Two
People. Not too many and the norm is warm, welcoming and genuine
If you love food and wine Tasmania is a gourmet mecca
The best beaches and protected amazing waterways in the world. Fact. If our water was warmer it would make the Great Barrier Reef sailing look ho hum. Did I mention that people ignore us because they think it’s cold?
Long twilight summer days
Beach or bush in five minutes in housing that is still affordable
Four distinct seasons. Great winters with snow in the highlands. Summer perfection with seductive autumn and spring. Think Goldilocks weather – just perfect, not too hot, not too cold but just right. In Tasmania you really do have a winter and summer wardrobe unlike most of the country.
Work. Getting a job is much harder and you often get paid less for the privilege.
It costs more in general to live here. Petrol in particular (it’s a good thing to live close to work if you have a job)
Events and seeing top entertainment usually means a trip to Melbourne the nearest interstate city via plane
Our water is cold. In winter bloody cold. It’s the cold that kills so many fisherman when they fall overboard. In summer we all swim but in winter only the hardy venture in.
If you are a recluse you will hate it. Your neighbours will talk to you, as will people in the street. If we don’t see you for days it is accepted practice that someone will check to see you are OK.
I’m not sure if it’s our history but at times it does feel like an Island State. We are still not confident of our place in the world. I am saddened when our politicians scramble to make us like other states and ignore or refuse to capitalise on what it is that makes us special.
Service. It is getting better but the qualities of laid back, mean at times the service you receive is so laid back you think the waiter may have turned into a zombie and is never coming back.
Our reliance on the Commonwealth government for our major industry which is our public service. I don’t have any answers to this but I know in many areas we could do better.
My Favourite Place
For me the Miss, my favourite places are on the beach edges, where sheoaks form part of the bush and the beach. Sheoaks are endemic to Australia, from the Casuarina family and grow in colder climates. These are the best of trees, even better than our Gumtrees. Grey, green, long pines with small berry shaped nuts, they look like God took hold of a crayon and decided to smudge a tree that is always happy to twist and grow in whatever shape takes it’s fancy. When you walk under a canopy of sheoaks it’s like entering a place where if you linger too long, enchantment is a strong possibility. The smell, the closeness and the relationship to the ocean mean I love these spaces above all. If the beach has large granite rocks on the surrounding walls then I am in heaven
There is no view better than coming to a sort after beach, and seeing it first through the frame of sheoak pines.
with love from my home
PS It’s a strange process….. Even thinking of leaving has made me appreciate more of what I currently have.
PS I once had a close encounter while camping with a Tassie Devil in the front area of my tent. Like any gangster intruder, my reaction was “Of course sir, take whatever it is you would like”.