On reflection

On reflection
Dover, Australia

Dover, Australia


Leaving Bruny Island was a far sadder affair than we’d anticipated. Pat and John had become like long-lost family friends so saying goodbye was a bit of a wrench. One of the dangers of AirBnB is the attachment that can quickly form when like-hearted people open their homes to you – it doesn’t always happen but when it does it has the potential to transform your stay into something so much more rewarding than mere accommodation. Pat and John most certainly enriched our stay and we left Crickhollow better for having met them.

We took in our last views of the Island as we made our way to the car ferry. It was only when we were alighting on the other side that I realised that we’d been sitting alongside Mr Donald ‘Flathead’ Fisher from the early days of Home and Away. He was a long way from Summer Bay and I hope he had a lovely stay too.

Not long off the ferry, we made a brief pitstop at Margate for refreshments aboard an old steam train which now sits fixed in place, its carriages converted into a chain of little shops – a second hand bookstore, international foods, arts and crafts and of course, the dining car cafe where we partook of a delightful devonshire tea.

Our next destination was Dover, a small village on the far south coast of Tasmania. As the crow flies, it’s actually not all that far from where we were on Bruny Island – just across the D’entrecasteaux Chanel – but we’re not crows or sea mammals so we had to drive almost all the way back up to Hobart and then back down the south coast of ‘mainland’ Tasmania. Luckily, its one of the most spectacular and pristine stretches of coastline I’ve had the pleasure of traversing. I was surprised to find it so very different from the opposite coast we’d just come from. The water, when we could see it between stretches of apple orchards, was so serene and still, reflecting the surrounding mountains and boats like a perfectly polished, crystal clear mirror. Dad pulled over here and there so we could better appreciate it and take a few photos. It was early afternoon by the time we reached Dover and the best view of all… the one from our new accommodation!

When Pat told me that their place was already booked for the last two nights of our stay, I took it as an opportunity to find somewhere truly special to round off our trip in luxury. That’s when I came across Driftwood Cottages. From my first contact with Rachael at Driftwood, I knew I’d found the perfect place. I explained that I was on the hunt for the Aurora so she recommended The Beach House for its unrivalled south-facing views over Port Esperance and boy, was she right!

From the outside, The Beach House looks like an ordinary enough beach cottage but as soon as we stepped inside we were in the lap of luxury. To begin with, we were greeting by a roaring fire, freshly baked bread and that view, not only across the water but also to the snow peaked mountains – just stunning! The beds so comfy and cosy with electric blankets; the kitchen stocked for our stay; a bathroom with a bath (I love baths but sadly only have a shower at home) but best of all, out on the verandah with the dream outlook … a private spa bubbling away at a heavenly 37ºC! Dad headed out to play a round of golf but neither love nor money could’ve convinced Mum and I to leave the fireside for the rest of the afternoon.

That night, Mum made us a delicious dinner in our kitchenette before we all changed into our swimsuits and jumped into the spa with a bottle of Tasmanian Pinot Noir. Dad was admittedly reluctant to join us but no sooner did he, than he was glad he had. He kept declaring “How good is this?!” and it gave me so much joy to see him so happy. We ruminated about this, that and the other as we gazed up at the Milky Way. Sadly, it went into hiding behind a curtain of clouds which also veiled any hope of seeing the Southern Lights that night.

To buy myself a little more time in the comfort of my toasty bed the following morning, I decided to do one of the increasing number of meditations I’ve downloaded onto my phone. I lost the thread of the guiding voice and went off on a tangent of my own, thinking about the Southern Lights. That’s when a very strange thing happened… I got a very clear, distinct and repeated message “Don’t doubt it, expect it”. It didn’t come from an external ‘voice’ but rather my own by simply making the time to listen in on my thoughts and re-shape them into a more useful order. It wasn’t something I did on a conscious level so it freaked me out a little bit. None the less, I repeated it as a mantra for the rest of the day until I was in a state of excited expectation rather than fearful doubt. That process in itself was a revelation in the power we have to choose our state of mind.

Aside from the Lights, there was one other thing I really wanted to experience while I was in Tasmania – The Museum of Old and New Art (MONA). Officially opened in 2011, MONA is the largest privately funded art gallery in Australia and has been described by its founder, David Walsh, as a “subversive adult Disneyland”. It’s certainly responsible for attracting its fair share of international attention and acclaim and for putting Hobart at the top of many trendy hot-spots-to-be lists. Mum and Dad had already been on a recent visit so Dad opted for another round of golf, whilst Mum was happy to revisit with me. Rather than drive, we decided to catch the MONA ROMA – the galleries own supercool hydrofoil which transports guests (literally and figuratively) from Hobart harbour across to the Berriedale Peninsula where the gallery sits perched atop the cliff. The boat itself is decked out in a style befitting the gallery with astro-turf, graffiti, a fibreglass cow and sheep and of course it’s own cafe and bar. We were met on the other side by a little baby seal on the nearby rocks and 99 steps up to the museum’s entrance.

If you stripped the gallery of all its artwork, it would still be a masterpiece. You enter at the top level and then catch a glass elevator three floors down into the subterranean belly of the cliff. It’s like exploring the underground lair of a superhero whose power is art curation! The collection as a whole is very experiential right down to the iPods distributed at the entrance to guide you interactively through the exhibits – there are no plaques, everything you need or could want to know is at your fingertips instead, including the power to ‘love’ or ‘hate’ each piece.

I won’t go into all the different exhibits but special mention does need to be made of the CLOACA machine by Belgian artist, Wim Delvoye. Technically, a ‘cloaca’ is a single orifice some poor creatures have to serve all the functions that we humans have two or three for – yes, I’m talking about poo, wee and miscellaneous. In this context however, the Cloaca machine replicates the human digestive tract – it gets fed at one end and then several hours later, after passing through a series of tubes and chambers, it actually does a poo! A real poo! You can smell it when you walk in the room! What fascinates me most about this (other than learning that people have paid in excess of $1,000 for one of these poos) is the idea that somehow it’s OK for us to marvel at this ‘end’ product, indistinguishable from a human poo, which most of us would never willingly watch being produced (although I’m sure those who are so inclined are probably also doing so in dark, underground rooms, albeit less exquisite ones). Like the significant difference in the perceived value of a mined diamond over a human-made diamond despite them being geologically identical; or hair – so beautiful when attached, yet repugnant when detached – these objects that are the same and yet we place such different values on. To me, it speaks reflectively of the human condition… or maybe it’s just a poo on a plate.

I could happily have spent the entire day playing and pondering. I’m not any sort of art expert but I’ve had the great privilege to visit many of the world’s most renowned and lesser known galleries and in my opinion, MONA is up there with the best of them. Mum and I re-boarded the MONA ROMA to make the 30 minute trip back across the water. At one point, we were kept company by a small pod of dolphins who popped up to say hello. Very exciting!

We rendez voused with Dad to head back to Driftwood Cottages. The drive back was spectacular as the sky transitioned through its sunset colours, reflecting gloriously in the glassy waters. It was dark by the time we reached Dover – the only thing blacker than the sky itself was the menacing cloud cover which I was willing away with my mantra “don’t doubt it, expect it”. We stopped at the local RSL for a quick round of drinks before returning to the Beach House for a last supper and dip in the spa.

I stayed up until 2am in expectation… but alas, it was not to be. It was lights out for my chance to see the Aurora Australis, this time around anyway. I still maintain that my experience of the day was far better for being hopeful rather than doubtful so I’m grateful for the insight. I am disappointed too of course but if I allow myself to indulge in a little revisionist history, I can go back to that first night on Bruny Island when I took that green glow on the horizon to be a sign of things to come and say that, technically, I did see the Aurora. In fact, according to certain nerds on Facebook, that night was quite the show – my mistake was expecting them to be as active as the Northern Lights when we’re so much further from the magnetic pole in the south. There you have it, history rewritten in a single paragraph – hooray! I saw the Southern Lights! Mission accomplished!!! Time to go home.

We headed off bright and early this morning, leaving enough time for a quick lap of the Salamanca Markets back in Hobart. With a new Huon Pine rolling pin in tow (thanks Mum and Dad), we rushed off to the airport only to find our flight was delayed two and half hours. Without too many distractions at Hobart airport, we were eventually driven to drink – Mum had a vodka & ginger ale while Dad and I supported the local economy by knocking back a couple of Cascade Stouts. When we finally took off, it was with a certain melancholy that our adventure was coming to an end. We landed back in Sydney, possibly more tired than when we left, the finalisation of my house still unresolved and genuinely sad to be going separate ways to my parents. And yet, despite all that, I know I have just had one of the best, most memorable and treasured weeks of my life.

Patches McMum: It was cold in Sydney but when we got to Hobart there was snow on Mount Wellington – it was really, really cold. Luckily the car was warm as we headed across to Bruny Island with our supplies for a few days. We reached Crickhollow in Lunawanna just as the sun was going down and we were greeted by Zack (Labradoodle with a loving personality) and two other wee dogs, Ruby and Sapphie (Maltese Shih tzus) and most importantly, Pat and John (humans, hehehe). We were showed to our rooms and then sat down to an evening of high entertainment playing ukuleles, singing old songs and generally getting to know each other. We were all well lubricated with red wine and port. A great start to our Bruny Island adventure.

At about 1am, we ventured out to try to see the Aurora Australis (aka Southern Lights). The camera picked up some lights but we didn’t think it was enough to go venturing out, especially because it was freezing cold and we’d imbibed too much. But we did see the best stars ever (including a shooting star!). I’ve never seen the Milky Way look so magnificent.

The following days consisted of exploring the pristine landscapes of Southern Bruny Island. The first few days were wet and cold but the scenery was still beautiful even with the inclement weather and slippery roads. We went to the Southern most point by road, Cape Bruny, where we overlooked islands shrouded in mist. A couple of days later, we went back and the outlook was crystal clear. Both views were equally spectacular.

We went to Cloudy Bay – once by day with unspoiled views and habitat and once in the dead of night trying to spot the Aurora but it escaped us again. Luckily, we had the consolation of a ‘few’ sips of mulled wine to keep us warm.

We visited Adventure Bay a couple of times to go White Wallaby spotting with success! But we weren’t so lucky with the penguins at the Rookery – too bloody dark (and cold – even for penguins!).

We went to the pub a few times to eat but mostly we enjoyed our meals cooked with love by John and Pat and accompanied by fair few bottle of red wine. Other than that, we enjoyed long drives through untouched wilderness and lakes, passed buildings and caravans that time has long since forgotten.

One morning, my darling daughter Naomi dragged me out of bed to go take photos of the morning sun (it hadn’t even gotten out of bed yet!) and it was spectacular. It was the first heavy frost for the Island this year and the paddocks were blanketed in white, as were the roofs of houses, driftwood, grasses, everything – it looked like an entirely different landscape to the one we’d become used to.

I’ve now seen Bruny Island in rain, frost and sunshine and I feel lucky to have been able to see this beautiful part of Tassie that I’d love to visit again. Even though I didn’t see the Southern Lights or the penguins, it was still a wonder-filled time to have with our daughter.

Having gotten to know the residents of Crickhollow over the week, it was a sad, but fond farewell as we headed for Dover on the ‘mainland’ of Tasmania. We stopped along the way at Margate. Richard and I had been there before and wanted to show Naomi the old steam train which is now converted into shops in each carriage. The dining carriage is now a café serving yummy pancakes smothered in cream and jam (we won’t mention the coffee). We then continued our journey to Dover passing exquisite reflections in a mill pond lake – it was like looking into a polished mirror (see the beaut photos).

We arrived at our destination, The Beach House at Driftwood Cottages and we were greeted with freshly baked bread, a roaring fire and the best views over Port Esperance and, the best is yet to come… a warm (37ºC), bubbling spa!!! We enjoyed sipping red wine from the comfort of it while the outside temperature dipped to around 2ºC.

The following day while Richard played golf, Naomi and I visited MONA (Museum of Old and New Art) to see the Red Queen exhibition. We both enjoyed the gallery immensely especially the ‘excrement’ machine – the cloaca which produced real poo. I also enjoyed all the other exhibits as well. One of the highlights of the trip was getting there and back on the MONA ROMA – the galleries own hydrofoil creatively decorated in camouflage (again, see photos). On our way back, we also saw dolphins which are always beautiful.

The day after that was time to leave back to the bigger mainland of Australia. We had a quick trip to the Salamanca markets before our flight which was delayed for a couple of hours.

We farewelled Naomi back in Sydney airport, thanking her for a wonderful adventure in Tassie before catching out train back home to resume our life full of family escapades and other joyous occasions.

Many thanks to my wonderful family for sending me on another amazing journey

Patches McDad: The opportunity to chase the night skies in search of the Southern Lights in the winter cold of South Bruny Island, Tasmania, would not ordinarily appeal to the agenda of this fanatical golfer, but, when wife and daughter are in pursuit, it seems I had little choice. And, what a wonderful week it proved to be. It led us to the airbnb of John and Pat in Lunawanna where food, conversation and song were in bountiful supply, our accommodation was cosy [and warm] and they joined us in the illusive hunt; more than that, we now have 2 new friends.

Wildlife abounds on Bruny Island, in the sky, on the ground and especially in the pristine waters of the Tasman Sea and the D’entrecasteau Channel; there even dwells a Glenmore Heritage Valley ‘golf ball’ somewhere south of Cape Bruny on its way to Antarctica. Naomi is a Master of seeking out the real beauty of our planet and I am delighted that includes this country of Australia, which I love so much.

It is quite a number of years since I travelled with Naomi [and Rebecca] across Scotland, a time I enjoyed so much. Quaffing Guinness at 6.00am with Rebecca at Heathrow Airport on that same trip was one of those occasions when you realise your children have also become your friends, and so it was again at Bruny Island, another heartwarming experience [this time with a Moo Brew in hand]. Above all, it is a most rewarding experience to see ones children assume the lead and do so with great love and care.

Naomi has more than adequately detailed our travels on this occasion, so I will not revisit each of those wonderful experiences and places. Rather, I will record that I got to play golf at the southern most golf course in Australia, at the Dover Golf Club on mainland Tasmania. I was to take another golfing opportunity at the very nice Llanhearne Golf Club, adjacent to the Hobart Airport, while the ladies visited the Mona Gallery.

Thank you Naomi for a truly wonderful trip together.


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