Tasmania – Homeward Bound

I have awoken at 0630 on my last day in Tasmania on this particular holiday. Tasmania is always a place to which I know I will return so there is never that desperate, “Just one more…” like there sometimes is on holidays. 0630 is a sleep in in Queensland but is a much more uncommon time in the Tasmania I have enjoyed for the last 2 weeks. The heat in Queensland demands that all living and doing is done early in the morning before the heat of the day sets in. Here, particularly on this trip, we wait until the day brings a degree of warmth.

Having been away for just more than 2 weeks it’s time to go home. I am looking forward to seeing my children and my fur family. No matter how comfortable the home of my lovely hosts, I am looking forward to waking up tomorrow morning in my own bed in my own home.

The rain this morning is constant, not heavy but much more constant than any day since I arrived. My daughter L and the daily storm warning texts that I have received since I have been here tell me that Queensland is stormy, humid, uncomfortable and unpleasant. I have to say that I relish the stormy sound and light shows of the Queensland summer but often they arrive in conjunction with damaging winds and volumes of water that leave a path of destruction. L & S tell me that until now we have personally had no damage. I hope it stays that way!

Yesterday I caught up with two friends, both C‘s. The first C was a colleague when I first started work in 1978 and later became my supervisor. We have been friends since that time and I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with her and her husband. They have their own piece of water frontage onto the river at Perth. Her husband A is quite frail and spends much time surveying the river from a lovely sunroom that overlooks the river. One thing that I like most and admire greatly about C and A is that they delight in their surroundings and are truly grateful for their their lives. It makes time in their company a privilege.

My second C has been my best friend since the first day of grade 1 where we discovered that we lived in the same street, 7 house numbers apart. I caught up with her, her husband, father and his partner, daughter and her partner and grandson. They are privileged to have an extended family of this nature. By any definition her father is an older man but he is sharp, energetic, fitter than I am by far and inspirational. In my new found fitness, I aspire to an old age like his! C and I have shared memories and time spent in her company always beings out ‘Remember When’ stories. As Tasmanian business people it was interesting, quite sad really to hear them speak of the downturn in the Tasmanian economy. I have made comment here before about the fact that Tasmania’s green policies have kept Tasmania as the place I grew up; their picture is much more bleak. They are blessed to have made strong decisions but the picture they paint is not one of a great future for Tasmanian enterprises. I find that very sad.

Today is as I said, my last day. I look forward to spending the morning with my hostess, L. I am then taking her to lunch at Josef Chromy Winery with another friend L. This is one place that I love to visit. I am hoping that the rain stops long enough for just one or two photos.   

Tasmania Day 16, Final Full Day

So the question of the day is, “How is this day 16, when I have been here for two weeks exactly? Clearly holidaying is not an exact science and who really cares anyway? I am comfortable in my decision to allow this to be day 16. It makes my holiday seem longer.

I have once again gone to the Cataract Gorge as I have enjoyed my visits there immensely. This time, I am alone. I am enjoying a hot chocolate at the café and am enjoying the company of my friends the peacocks. Not daring to come here without my camera, I have been rewarded with a private viewing from one of the young males. They are such a stunning photographic subject. As I drink my hot chocolate (it’s cold again today), there is another bird strutting its stuff and at least a dozen Asian tourists have converged. Most Asian tourists do not have the same personal space expectations as westerners and have to be a part of all of their holiday snaps. I am thankful for my previous private viewing but am thoroughly enjoying people watching around this group. What a blessing this place is. Those of you who are locals owe it to yourselves to come here. It is sad that one must go away to come back and truly appreciate what is here.

I have spent time most days since I have been here alone in cafés. I marvel at the fact that I have been most alone during this break in public places. I love my friends dearly and have enjoyed their company immensely but having lived ostensibly alone for the best part of 10 years, I love being alone too. I have started a reflective piece on happiness and contentment and will share that when I am back in Brisbane. In fact I will probably finish writing it on the plane when I am alone but in close proximity to the person in the seat next to me. J

I have lunch with one friend and dinner with another today so I guess it is time for moving on. How am I feeling today? Truly blessed! I hope that you are too!

Tasmania Day 14

Today has been one of those days when I feel privileged to be alive. I visited this morning with my very first supervisor. I am not sure how old he is but has been retired for a number of years. Life and age have not dampened his edge and I thoroughly enjoyed his and his wife’s company for a couple of hours. I know that he too enjoyed the catch up and he made me promise to return with G in tow. It was absolutely awesome to be able to make him aware of what an impact he had on my career and me as a person. It got me thinking about other people who have come and gone from my life who I would really love to see again. I’ll work on that!

As we sat and reminisced, I found in him someone who has truly made the most of every opportunity and every decision throughout life and I aspire, in my retirement to be able to look at life as he does. Life has not been easy for him with a brush with cancer for himself and some significant health issues for his wife. They both however exude a sunniness that makes time in their presence a privilege and a gift.

After my time with them I headed out to the sleepy town of Lilydale and lunched on a sandwich in a small park there, the same one that I have now returned to, to write. I was disappointed to be told that the W A G Walker Rhododendron Reserve was no longer open to the public as a visit there was the purpose behind my trip to Lilydale. Not being one to accept the word ‘no’ easily, I ventured down the road to Lalla and found the very poorly signposted reserve.

Glad I took no notice when I was told it was shut because it was very much open!

I was super privileged (and not surprised given the lack of reliable information about the place) to be the only person there and had the gardens to myself. I spent only 30 minutes there as the gardens closed at 3PM, which I discovered at the gate. I took some photos of the magnificent blooms but the greatest privilege came from drinking in the overall vista. Situated on a hill with views over lush green farm land, I could not imagine ever wanting to be anywhere else.

Now, back in Lilydale, I am about to head back to the home of my lovely hosts. I have promised to cook them Tasmanian scallops curried to the ‘Downie secret recipe’. The Downie secret recipe is a basic old fashioned home cooked version with a particular blend of stock and milk to provide just the right creaminess, a spoonful of chutney for zing and the key ingredient is old fashioned Keen’s Curry. None of the new-fangled curries cut the mustard when it comes to currying scallops. Hmmm, I’m guessing that my family secret recipe is no longer quite as secret as it was a few moments ago!

Just before I go, I must share a little more of the story of Princess Lily Flippers, the Penguin from Penguin. Now Lily was an adventurous girl and managed to stay in my presence for somewhere between 24 and 48 hours before hightailing to somewhere new (I suspect I left her poking out of the wall of the Penguin Observatory at Burnie). So anyway, I rang the Penguin Newsagency and happened upon the person who had served me when I purchased the original Lily Flippers. I knew that she was definitely sending me a replacement for the young girl I had purchased the original when she said, “Yes, of course I remember you. I will go through the rest of the penguins, select the second prettiest and post it to you in Queensland.” Sometimes strangers just know what to say to make my day!

Tasmania Day 13

Today had a lazy start which was just what I needed. Having been ‘doing’ pretty much all the time I have been here in Tassie, a chance to catch my breath was welcomed. Then a lovely friend, J, picked me up for a road trip and lunch. We headed north east and lunched at Piper’s Brook Vineyard. I would highly recommend that as a place to go. Food and wine were lovely and the service was excellent. The place is itself is atmospheric with a feeling of French provincial.

J and I then headed to the beach. J is a real estate agent and was showing me that you can buy water front in Tasmania at the seaside town of Lulworth for under $230 000.00. I have to say that I was impressed but having just bought in Sydney, even that is out of the question at the moment! We have often thought we would like to buy here and spend half of our time in retirement in Tasmania and half in Queensland… Maybe a plan for the future?

J and I then explored the areas around Weymouth and Tam O’Shanter Bay. These are not areas that I knew well when I lived here but the afternoon was thoroughly enjoyable.

Tomorrow I will be visiting with my supervisor from when I first worked as a scientist. He was the person who instilled in me my love of Haematology. I think too often that we don’t tell people how important they are / were in our lives and I am looking forward to the opportunity to let him know what an impact he had on me.

I am then going to take myself to the W A G Walker Rhododendron Gardens at Lalla. I feel a half day of photography coming on!

Tasmania Day 12

My catch up with Mil yesterday ended up being a beautiful walk from Ritchies Mill to the Cataract Gorge Cliff Grounds. The weather was absolutely perfect for the walk, sun shining, not too hot and not too cold. The Cataract Gorge is a ‘must see’ in Launceston. Mil commented that it is not a place that they go anymore and I marvel at the complacency that you feel about a place when it is on your doorstep. I can easily say now that if I lived here, I would visit this place regularly. In reality I know that I would be the same as Mil and take for granted that the beauty would still be there when I made time in my busy life to enjoy it.

I was very thankful that I took my camera with me on our walk as the photo opportunities were abundant. The gorge was in flood with water washing over the public baths that I remember so well from my childhood. Surprisingly, despite the floodwater, which was very brown and must have been cold, there were children swimming in the pool with their parents watching on.

The majority of the people I saw in Launceston yesterday had shorts and t-shirts on; I remember well the desperation of living in a cold climate and shedding layers at every opportunity to ensure that you make the most of the weather. I feel sure that we who remained covered, like me, hail from warmer climes. I however must admit to the cat-like delight that warm sun elicits. Sometimes I wish I could purr.

The gorge is picturesque in any of its personas. The one that yesterday presented is wild, anything but tranquil but the location takes me back to my teenage years when the youth of Launceston would bask in the sun, preen, swim and preen some more. I was a strong swimmer in those day. We would enter the basin and swim across taking up positions under the natural waterfall that develops under the suspension bridge. We would sit with the water rushing over our heads, breathing in the natural pockets of air that the water flow produces. It’s in my imagination today as the flowing floodwaters mask my special spot.

I looked across the gorge to a spot that always held a degree of fear for me. The spot is called Hogs Bottom and the legend of my childhood was that no one had even found the bottom; it was so deep and dangerous. I remember distinctly my brother taking the leap of faith and jumping from the ledge over Hog’s Bottom (several metres up) but I don’t remember doing it myself. I can’t remember whether I was afraid of the height, the legend or my parents should they learn of my folly. I just remember good times, great times, carefree times when it comes to the basin, a lovely walk down memory lane.

We then walked back and visited the providore and art gallery at Ritchies Mill, another absolute must visit in Launceston, with fine displays of Tasmania art work and crafts on display and sale.

Last night I went to our wine tasting, a monthly event that started more than 27 years ago; a group of 16 friends who enjoyed each other’s company, enjoying lovely wines and a monthly get together. I was saying last night that we left Launceston 21 years ago and the group was incredulous; no surely only a year or two ago; surely you were here for longer than that. The lovely fact is that with that group it feels like we never left. Last night I learned that the group has the same arguments as they did 21 years ago (about whether you number each bracket of wines from 1 to whatever or whether you number the reds for the evening from 1, with the second bracket starting at 5 (if there were four in the first bracket).. It is still unclear whether the one that you like the most is number one or the one you like the least is number one….. In fact they stopped ranking a few years ago (maybe because they couldn’t decide). It’s not just the tasting though. This is a strongly opinionated group of colourful characters. They hold strong and diverse opinions about everything and friendly banter is a sport. I love this group of people with all my heart. Every time we come back to Tasmania we try to catch a wine tasting. They never disappoint.

Today I am being picked up by a lovely friend, J, and we are heading out for a road trip lunch to Piper’s Brook; looking forward to it, must move!

Tasmania Day 11

Sitting in a café in Launceston waiting on lunch and the Tasmania I was expecting is here. Not only am I not cold for the first time since I arrived, I am positively warm. I am sitting in Yorktown Square. It is a spot that I never really frequented but always liked when I was here. Clearly form the relative number of people here to elsewhere in Launceston, people still don’t frequent this area often.

We farewelled Dolphin Sands yesterday. I had a lovely walk on the beach before leaving. It was cold and blustery; the ravages of the storm still well apparent with no blue at all in the sea but the distressed mutton birds were either flown away or out of their misery so it was a much easier place to be. The sea had grafittied seaweed on the sand and the foam still remained. The beauty of The Hazards cast their spell. Out of the wind, the day was superb.

Larger than life Tasmanian icon normally axe wielding David Foster is sitting at the table next to mine and he is charming all of those around. I had seen the ‘man-mountain’ order in front of me but not realised who he was. Clearly, from his interactions with all around, his persona as well as his prowess are the stuff of his legend.

Mostly from here on, my Tasmanian adventure will be about people. Tonight I am headed off to our Wine Tasting Group. I still say ‘our’ despite our 20+ year absence from the group. I am well aware that tonight, it will be like I never left.

This afternoon, I am meeting my dear friend, Mil (not her real name but the name I have called her since I first met her in 1977). To her I am Maud. We country cousins are set for a walk around the Tamar River foreshore to Seaport. Seaport did not exist in my Launceston but its presence is a welcome addition for both locals and visitors alike, a truly lovely spot.

My catch up with Mil and visit to Seaport beckons….

Tasmania Day 10

I may have been slightly misleading in my last writing. The day was dark and stormy, rain consistent and The Hazards were no closer than dwelling where they often do, in my imagination. The set in rain continued until after lunch, maybe 1300 or 1400 but then cleared. The sky was still threatening, ominous in its blackness but the rain had ceased. I ventured to the beach and witnessed the horror of the storm; the beach was covered in thick foam, the water brackish as far as the eye could see and the saddest part; there were dead and dying mutton birds in the shallow water and foam, clearly exhausted from fighting the storm. It is incredulous that these creatures can migrate across hemispheres but cannot withstand the worst that Great Oyster Bay can meter out. Feeling somewhat sad and very helpless, my visit to the beach was shorter than it might have been under happier conditions.

As the day progressed, the clouds lifted and the sky blued and my mountains appeared in all their majesty. I returned to the beach and was heartened by the small number of birds that actually remained on the beach and by the number that were flying. Clearly, the birds that I had imagined as dying were resting and recuperating. Yes, nature took its toll, but not the toll apparent in the early aftermath of the storm.

I always feel a closeness to my parents when I visit the sea, and this sea in particular as the ashes of both my parents were scattered at Coles Bay. I love the concept that all seas join together and that I can visit with my parents by visiting the sea at any of the world’s locations; this location however is the ultimate. I have for a number of years collected penguin paraphernalia and last time I visited Coles Bay and was thinking about my parents, a lone little penguin swam by. I felt that penguin was the sign that mum and dad were there with me.

It’s quiet here; that is a major part of the attraction. Time to appreciate it some more!

Tasmania Day 9

Late yesterday evening I really came home. We arrived at Dolphin Sands to a temperature edging onto 20 degrees. The sun was shining and my mountains, The Hazards, were standing sentry as they have done forever. My mountains protect Coles Bay, they provide a narrow but strong barrier between Coles Bay and Wineglass Bay; in my childhood memories that barrier is between Coles Bay and the rest of the world. The Hazards wrap their arms around the residents and visitors alike and cast them under a spell, ‘the magic of Coles Bay’.

Now Dolphin Sands is a new destination for me. I came here, nearly five years ago for the first time to celebrate my 50th with our Tasmanian friends. The beach here is pristine, always virtually deserted and long, spanning the space between Swansea and Swanwick, just near Coles Bay. The view of The Hazards brings memories of Coles Bay flooding back. Coles Bay has changed a lot since my childhood. The arrival of sealed road (and a pub) some years between my childhood and my middle-age changed the feel, the accessibility, the demographic and the lifestyle.

I summered at Coles Bay for probably 20 years. It is the place on earth that holds my memories and keeps my secrets safe.

Coles Bay of my childhood was safe. It wrapped its arms around my family and was for the most-part idyllic. It did not matter whether we came to Coles Bay at the height of summer or in the depth of winter; I love the beaches and the sea no matter what face they present. Let me share some memories and some firsts from Coles Bay.

We had a mini bike as kids and rode that bike around Coles Bay as though it was our own backyard. There was an elderly man who lived next door to us and would appear each time we rode with his shotgun. Now I am not sure in retrospect at the safety of our folly. Mum and Dad used to just say that he was nuts and to ignore him. My adult self would probably not have ridden near his house but my child self was selfish and unafraid. Perhaps our parents did not enjoy parenting and thought our neighbour would solve their problem. 🙂

I learned to drive at Coles Bay. We had a property with a turning circle and I drove round and round from probably about age 11. I learned to reverse park between trees and had not actually parked between cars until my driving test. I parked perfectly in the much busier Launceston with the arrogance of youth and got my licence on my 17th birthday thanks to that summer in the trees at Coles Bay.

I had my first kiss at Coles Bay; I was terrified and about 14. I experienced my first crush and had my heart broken for the first time all in the space of one summer at Coles Bay.

As we grew up we owned a heavy old dinghy with an old inboard motor, lovingly called the putt-putt. I would launch the putt-putt into the sea, my 12 year old self proud of my driving prowess. (The long arm of the law did not provide a presence until my very late teens.) Dad would take us out to the centre of the bay (not the centre exactly, rather dad’s secret location) and we would fish for flathead. We fished well. There was an abundance and a morning would produce a harvest that would feed us and our friends for many meals. At $40+ per kilo now, I wish we had appreciated them more! Dad would tinker with the putt-putt while the rest of us fished. We always imagined that the putt-putt would one day not start when it was time to make our journey home. This added to the adventure as we told stories of where we might end up. It feels so safe now to this adult me but those stories elicit a smile and the excitement of childhood wonder.

We used to help out the local fisherman and it was an adventure to go on his boat beyond the safety of the bay. We would harvest crayfish, scallops and trawl for barracuda, being ‘paid’ at the end of the day in scallops and crayfish. Again, what a treat these are today but then it was more a matter of what we could do with them to have them taste a little different. Sometimes you just look back and smile at how wrong things were back then. Our lack of appreciation of our spoils is clearly one such example.

Each summer, we would walk several times over the saddle between Mt Amos and Mt Mayson and make our way to the then unknown but now famous Wineglass Bay. It was a time when we as teenagers would leave our parents and the world behind and embark on our own adventure. Our world was a safe place back then and there was no thought that there could be any danger. When we were a little older, we would also climb Mt Amos and conquer the world!

I skinny dipped in the sea with my best friend one June long weekend. Now in Tasmania June is cool, no cold. It seemed like a good idea at the time. And with that friend, I still reminisce about that particular folly.

I always imagined that we would be holidaying at Coles Bay forever but following the death of my father, life got in the way and our ‘shack’ became a burden to my mother as both my brother and I forged busy lives of our own. Sold! At a tidy price that made mum’s life comfortable; that phase of our lives was over. I have driven past our old place and reminisced but of course, it is now more a matter of looking into the lives of the new owners.