Just because I’m away from home, doesn’t mean I’m on holidays completely. I’m still working remotely, very remotely, on my job back in Sydney. This has meant that the lion’s share of my days have been spent on my laptop, locked in battle with a wavering Internet signal whilst Mum and Dad go out gallivanting. Far from complaining, I love that I’m able to do this, I enjoy my work and if you could see the view from my ‘office’ window, it’d be jealousy you feel for me, not pity! The only reason I mention it at all is by way of explanation for not having filled my days to the brim with adventures as I may otherwise have.
Still, all work and no play makes Patches a dull girl and we wouldn’t want that! Truth be told, Bruny Island isn’t the place for an action-packed holiday anyway so even between deadlines, I managed to make my way around the southern part of the island a couple of times.
Adventure Bay in one of the biggest settlements on the Island which has a total population of around 600. Of course, these numbers don’t include the wallabies and pademelons who seem to have the people outnumbered. Sadly, the easiest place to spot them is squished by roadside. Driving anywhere in Tasmania at and after dusk is a risky proposition in terms of dodging wildlife. Nowhere more so than through the vast tracts of undisturbed wilderness on Bruny Island.
Not only did we manage to avoid all hopping targets on our way to Adventure Bay (and back), we actually went out of our way to get up close and personal to them. We’d been assured that the best place to spot them was in an abandoned caravan park at the end of the road in Adventure Bay after dark – how Scooby Doo is that?! Mum and I snuck in while Dad stayed in the car, shining the headlights so we didn’t break our necks or run into any ghosts. Sure enough though, there on the lawn of a long forgotten holiday home sat the ghostly image of a snow-white wallaby. Of course she was very real, her dirty tail was a dead give away. She showed very little regard for us and let me get close enough to take my happy snaps, but not quite close enough to pat her.
Continuing with the wildlife theme, I’d also discovered that there is a fairy penguin rookery at ‘The Neck’ (an isthmus of land connecting the north and south of the island). While it was still daylight, I ascended the long, steep set of stairs adjoining the rookery to a viewing platform where I took in the most breathtaking views (seriously, there are a lot of steps!). The climb was not only worth it for the geographical perspective but for the social and historical one as well. At the top sits a monument dedicated to the memory of Truganini – a woman widely considered to be the last full blood Aboriginal Tasmanian. Her death signified the successful completion of a deliberate campaign to wipe out the indigenous people of Tasmania. It was nothing short of genocide. If you’re not familiar with Tasmania’s (and indeed, Australia’s) shameful history in regard to its Indigenous heritage, I urge you to look it up.
After watching the sun set over the same raw and rare landscape that Truganini would have known as her home, I headed back down for a spot of penguin watching. Dad cleverly stayed in the warmth of the car again whilst Mum and I climbed up and over to the opposite beach to see what we could see… which wasn’t much! As it got colder and darker, I played with the settings on my new camera to shoot into the night to get a better picture of what was happening at the water’s edge. As the number of fellow would-be penguin-bothers dwindled, it became increasingly apparent that we weren’t going to see anything, even if there was something there to see. Just as we were about to give up, we heard what we are determined to call penguins noises but hearing them only confirmed that we couldn’t see them. With that, we turned tail and waddled away.
Yesterday, we took a ride out to the southern most tip of the island accessible by road – Cape Bruny. This time Mum stayed in the car to work on her yarn bombing (yep, Mum’s become a wild and wooly guerilla graffiti artist) while Dad and I trudged up to the lighthouse perched on the cliffs edge to look out over an ocean that doesn’t stop until it reaches Antarctica… and couldn’t we feel it in the wind gusting back at us! Now before you go thinking that my Mum is the tear-away, I hasten to mention that my Dad didn’t go up the hill unarmed. No, he came prepared for his own act of civil disobedience in the form of a golf ball and club! He lined up his shot and belted the ball out into the horizon. I only hope that any whales out there had their blow holes covered – Dad has hit a few holes-in-one in his time!
It was a truly special moment to share with my father. To the outside world, he is a very straight arrow. It was nice to see this playful side of him and to take the opportunity to let him know how much I love and appreciate him. Being one of six of his children, these moments alone are rare and treasured. As we wound our way back down, Dad hit another ball off towards the mainland for good measure – I like to think that it’ll wash up on the shore somewhere for a curious wallaby to find and put in her pouch for safe keeping.
Despite several false starts, I eventually managed to get up and out early enough one morning to watch sunrise. In a turn up for the books, Early-Worm-Dad slept on while fellow Night-Owl, Mum, and I headed off into the freezing half-light. The windscreen of the car was covered in ice and the landscape around us had turned white overnight with the thickest layer of frost the Island had seen this year.
We didn’t get far before we were stopped in our tracks by the unspeakable beauty of Daniel’s Bay. Its frosty waters perfectly mirrored the intense colours of the day’s early light. Birds played in the reflection, impervious to the cold that was numbing my unstoppable trigger finger (camera being my weapon of choice). We stayed there, marveling at the majesty, until the pink subsided to blue before continuing on our way to see the surrounding farms and forest still blanketed white. We drove on to a higher vantage point to see mist rolling on the water and for the first time that day, around 8.30am, to see the sun itself piercing through the trees, bringing warmth to the earth and air.
We wend our way back, stopping here and there for photo opportunities which abound at every turn – be it light dappling through the forest canopy; wildlife wondering by; or yet another cute-as-all-get-out caravan (turns out Bruny Island is where the coolest caravans come to congregate!)
Bruny Island is also renowned for its seafood – although I abstained myself, Mum and Dad picked up some freshly shucked oysters from Get Shucked to enjoy with Pat and John. My preference was for Bruny Island Cheese. I was keen to wrap my laughing gear around their raw milk cheese with saffron having tried it for the first time not so long ago at my friend Gabby’s house. We also got a slab of another hard cheese named Tom and a particularly stinky soft cheese called 1792 (presumably after the year it started to go off) that would haunt us for the rest of the trip.
In between all of this, a friendship continued to grow with Pat and John. Before long, we were sharing all our meals and conversations together. We even sat down and watched Babette’s Feast one evening – I don’t think my Dad’s watched an entire foreign language film before but I think he enjoyed it despite the absence of John Wayne. Pat and John called their neighbours for Aurora insights and camera lessons – anything they could do to help in my mission to see the Southern Lights. Tonight, they even arranged a late-night excursion across to Cloudy Bay, the best vantage point on the island. They made a big batch of mulled wine, put it into a thermos and off we headed into the pitch-blackness.
I’m very sorry to say that the lights weren’t as accommodating. The stars did their best to compensate by shining brighter than I have ever seen them before. I also got some practice in on my night photography so I’ll be ready when the Southern Lights do come. Pat and John headed back with Zack, the Labradoodle (50% labrador; 50% poodle; 110% adorable) while Mum and Dad held vigil with me a little longer against all odds. Although I didn’t see the Aurora, I did see a most wonderous display of my parents love as they stood by me in the cold, dark night at the ends of the earth in pursuit of my dreams.
Tomorrow we leave Bruny Island but not Tasmania, there’s time yet…