On a cauliflower farm near Port Sorrell, I got out a Bruny Island map one day and asked Clement to highlight roughly where on the island I can see them. He pinpointed straight away a desolate caravan park in Cookville and said “walk along the beach, turn right and you should see some there.” It couldn’t be that easy! It had taken me 3 months in Australia to see a wild kangarooney!
I parked as the only car at Captain Cook’s Landing Place. A sign up said “No Camping”, I presumed that also meant “No Parking and Sleeping In Your Car” as well, though it didn’t strictly say. I walked onto the beach. I wasn’t even sure this was the place Clement meant. Bt it was the end of the road. I was on another lonely wilderness walk in search of a white wallaby. The sun was setting and the Southern Ocean looked fabulous. As ever. It’s a great Ocean that, and actually living in Tasmania, aged 29 (and now 30) was the first time I saw this ocean.
My shoes got sandy as I got to a wide part of the beach. There I turned right and sure enough saw a desolate caravan park. I don’t know if the word is desolate or derelict, I don’t really care though, as I hope both can fit. There were three deserted caravans and a few gas bottles. I could hear wildlife but not see it. Dusk was coming. It was getting dark a lot quicker than I was used to in mainland Tasmania. Now we were closer to the south pole. Then I saw a rabbit hop away from me. I walked across a grassy bank, down a verge past the caravans where there was a large field.
Straight away I saw some grey and brown Bennett’s Wallabies! Seeing wallabies in the wild in Australia is hardly anything to be excited about. You get used to it – they are everywhere (outside the big cities). There were quite a lot of them. Some hopped away from me, others stayed there and I was able to take a few quick photos and video them. Then the corner of my eye, spotted in the distance what looked like a white wallaby!
I had to be ultra careful not to scare it away, I thought, as this could be a once in a lifetime moment. I may never see another on of these again. I crept up slow and it saw me. Stared at me. The white wallaby looked cute and beautiful. It also looked sad and lonely. Like an outcast on its own amongst all these darker furred wallabies. It was easy to spot the white one against a green background and a darkening sky.
I was very happy to have seen the white wallabies, but decided I should get up early and see them again, at dawn. I parked my car by a lay by at the “Bay of History”, well Captain Cook’s landing place and I slept comfortably and peacefully there.
No other cars even came down that road. It was so remote. Like being alone on a planet. I woke around 6 am and as the sun was rising, walked along the beach again.
Again I saw the beautiful white wallabies in all their forlorn glory. There were two, and I photographed my favourite close white wallaby.
I gave him the boring nickname of “Whitey.” I enjoyed spending lonely time with “Whitey.” But nothing lasts forever and I had the rest of the island to see – and I wanted to see it all.
I wasn’t worried about seeing seals or penguins though, which is why most people go to Bruny Island. I’ve seen wild penguins at Stanley. And the seals and penguin colonies can wait till Antarctica. It was bye to Whitey and a drive in my car through Cookville.
There were a few nice photo moments on the next part of my trip. Adventure Bay and Cookville seem to be the two names of the “villages” or “settlements” on the south east part of Bruny Island. I photographed the main streets and houses of both.
I walked to Captain Cook Creek. Someone unclever had changed it to Captain Cock Creek, or tried to. Not funny these days mind you I’d have been in stitches back in the 80s or 90s.
I drove along the C630, most of which is tarmacked, and then I changed onto the C629, most of which is gravel. This road is the only gravel road down to Cape Bruny, the south west tip of the island. It was a quiet lonely trip. Not many cars on the road. Freedom from the busyness of a lively Saturday night Irish Pub, or a crop abundant cauliflower field on a warm wet Monday.
I passed manys a dead wallaby on the road. Roadkill in Tasmania is a big problem. Especially in the remote places like Bruny Island, Poatina and the Western Wilderness. Lots of animals die every night.
I’ve driven past wombats, wallabies, possums, Tasmanian Devils, rabbits and even dead deer. It’s sad but these animals are pretty stupid, they always wander or hop onto the road in front of cars and oncoming headlights. I’ve swerved to avoid a few to date and touch wood not killed any. It’s dangerous.
I drove through the two largest settlements on the island. They are Lunnawanna and Alonnah, which without stating it, is the capital city here. I didn;t stop in either, as I wanted to drive to Cape Bruny on the south west tip and then do the two villages on the way back.
After a drive down a winding, gritty gravel track, I arrived at Mabel Bay lookout. It totally reminded me of Sark. Sark, I will mention in future, but it is a wonderous island, one of the Channel Islands, and one of Europe’s last Feudal States. Working on cross channel ferries (England – France) in 2009 presented me with the cheap opportunity to see such places like Sark. I loved my time on Sark, Herm, Guernsey (and almost Lihou – tide was out) and was sad that the lady I asked to come with me declined the chance to see some free natural beauty with me.
Here at Mabel Bay I had the same lonely thoughts, but had to get on with it, enjoying the wonderful sunny landscape on a calm sea with a glorious island in front of the bay. You could see across the bay to the other side of the island. It all looked like the way nature intended.
I drove to Cape Bruny before it even opened to the public. It was a quiet calm Sunday. Possibly one of the quietest days in the year on Bruny. You are supposed to pay for National Parks entry on Tasmania. And I did at Wineglass Bay (Freycinet National Park) and Cradle Mountain/Dove Lake (Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park). But here I felt no need. The national park is South Bruny National Park.
At the entrance to the national park, to pay, it said you are supposed to submit the money into an envelope and place it in the box below. There was no envelope. There was no box. I had no money. So I didn’t pay and I didn’t venture long there. I simply drove and parked at Cape Bruny, had a look around and drove back out.
I didn’t go to the south west tip, as you were supposed to pay to get into the Light Station, it wasn’t open for another hour or so when I arrived, so I didn’t bother. It was a moment that drew comparisons with the sublime location of Eluanbi in Taiwan. I had gone to Eluanbi with Neil and Natalja back in October 2009. There was a light house and it was the south tip of Taiwan. Here we had a light house and almost the south tip of Tasmania/Australia.
First up was Lunnawanna, where I stopped 3 times for a look around. First stop was at the side of the road by the Lunnawanna Community Hall and some cottage/country style housing. There was also a Memorial Hall there and some free public toilets.
Then I stopped at Lunnawanna Store, which was open. Another car was parked outside.
They had a customer and they sold “Award Winning Bruny Island Pies”, a sucker for novelties and one-offs in life I was tempted to buy one for a brief second. Then my PR brain took over, and I settled for my own salami and cheese sandwiches, later on.
Lunnawanna Store was on the road to Cloudy Bay (the area I saw from Mabel Bay Lookout, but didn’t go to), and opposite were a few farms and houses. A signpost dictating where every “settlement” on the island was stood at this T-Junction.
The world’s loneliest petrol pump lay in the forecourt at Lunnawanna Store. It was like a scene from an old US movie, where there ain’t no petrol station in sight and you find these pumps. Commercialism was missing here and I liked that. Lunnawanna Petrol Pump. Lonely, but as far as I could see it was the ONLY petrol station on the island. I’m probably wrong there.
I drove back onto the main road for my final stop in Lunnawanna, and for my brother. There was no sign saying it was called “Daniel’s Bay”, but my map said “Daniel’s Bay”, so I got out and walked by the beach there. Lots of seagulls had flocked to Daniel’s Bay. I wondered if my kid brother Daniel will ever visit Daniel’s Bay.
I pondered on that and then crossed the road to the farm where two goats were grazing. Friendly and frightened they ran off as I approached, but I back checked and they came over again to graze. They were enjoyed the sun and tranquility of Bruny Island.
But they know no other life. I know of many other lives – the busy city of London, the tourist buzz of Berlin and the mayhem of a crowded train in Beijing were all jolts of life I’ve had away from this type of silence. I left the goats to graze and drove to the capital.
I made 3 stops in Alonnah, the capital. It’s the main settlement on Bruny Island. First stop I got my photo taken at the Bottle-O Sign for Australia’s Southernmost Hotel. The Bruny Island Hotel was one floor, a big car park and yet has a famous selling point.
It may be the southern most hotel in Australia but I also reckoned in a direct line south from there, there were no other hotels until the south pole.
The owners dog scared me briefly as I photographed the hotel sign, and gazed through the windows into the empty bar. There were no cars parked. Nobody was staying there.
The dog must have sensed I was a legitimate tourist rather than a hotel burglar and sat down to watch me. I was gone soon after.
To the “city centre” of Alonnah, where local peelers were getting their gear on and having a smoke. The Police Station is one of the smallest I’ve seen. Beside it lies the post office and medical centres. Again probably the only ones on the island.
My final stop for this lifetime in Alonnah was by the war memorial and sports ground. Here, it was the turn of the sheep to get upset by me. I’d had goats, dogs and now sheep gazing at me. They really must see a lot of people! And probably not an eejit with a camera on a quiet Sunday taking photos of things nobody else takes photos of. And wearing a green Northern Ireland fleece.
I had finished with Alonnah and South Bruny Island, and so I drove up to the north, stopping briefly again at “The Neck” to admire the natural beauty around me. I turned right off the main road (the B66) and onto the only road, kind of a loop road on North Bruny Island. Of course I would do the loop.
I first passed Barnes Bay and then got to the top of the island, the roads were very higgledy piggedly or “winding” as the Beatles would tell you, but not long. The drive was short and I waved to two other car drivers. Locals no doubt.
I parked at Dennes Point and walked along the Public Jetty. There was a picnic area there and you could see across to mainland Tasmania.
I walked along Nebraska Beach, wondered how it got it’s name actually. Where the Yanks once here? It’s only a name. The northern part of the beach was empty. Not a soul in sight. Calm waves hit the shores of North Bruny Island and this little settlement known as Dennes Point.
I drove down a wee bit more and parked again next to an information board. This brung a surprise and the closing of a circle for me…
I had bought a really shit travel book, the Berlitz Australia guide and it had 5 photos from Tasmania in it. Totally random photos, and the guide didn;t really explain the best places to go, or even state where the photos were took. By chance I had managed to travel, visit and photograph the locations of four of those photos. The final one was simply a red hut on a piece of grass by a beach somewhere.
The book didn’t even mention where it was, and to be honest there are so many of these red huts that it could be anywhere and no tourist will ever find it, or need to. But glancing at this exquisite wee hut in front of me, the bells rang and it was the same hut. I had now seen all five photo locations from my shit book.
The photo in my book didn;t even match with the writing, and it simply had a caption “Rustic Charm in Tasmania”, I had always assumed it to be on the mainland somehwere. But here on the north west tip, at Dennes Point, was this lonely, infamous red hut.
Despite not really liking my book, I liked that caption “Rustic Charm in Tasmania”, I stole it for my article on Lonny, calling it “Architectural Charm in Lonny”, but here there was something charmful of this red hut. There were a few huts beside it. They are used for storing boats, canoes, fishing equipment etc. They are probably owned by the locals. They are pretty.
At that moment, some locals dandered up the beach with their dog. They all said “Hello”, they were walking their dogs. It was time for me to leave the red rustical charm of Dennes Point, close up the Tasmania chapter of my Berlitz Guide and set off on my merry ferry way.
A quick drive through Killora, not even a village, just a few farms and i was back passing Barnes Bay (where the North Bruny Fire Station was the main attraction). Within minutes I was the fourth car parked for my ferry back to mainland Tasmania, not before a few random coincidences mind you.
I went into the “kiosk” at Robert’s Point (the ferry ‘terminal’/departure point) and wanted a few Bruny Island postcards. One guy was working there.
I picked out two really nice postcards (one of a white wallaby, and one of “the neck”) and also fancied a Passion Fruit Juice drink, which was $1.50. I asked the guy if I could take a photo of the wee kiosk and he said yes.
There was also a postcard which I though was of my ferry boat – The Mirrambeena, but I turned it over and it was a different boat – the previous one, so I didn’t buy it. “Have you got any postcards of the Mirrambeena?” I asked the kiosk vendor. “You know, you’re the first person to notice that it’s a different boat!” he said, wondering where I was from.
I told him I was from Northern Ireland and was working on farms in northern Tasmania. He said he was looking for someone to work on his farm as a “WWOOF” project. Most people will know “WWOOF” as an international farming organisation to help travelers find work. It stands for Willing Workers On Organic farms.
He basically offered me a job to live and work on his farm for free accomodation and free food, but obviously to earn no money! It was great to be offered such a job, but I’m earning $18.18 an hour here nowadays so I had to decline the chance to work on such a remote island. These chances only come once in a lifetime you know…
It was like what Tim Beattie (my friend and co-founder of the SOENISC) once said to me “you never know where and how you can easily get job offers sometimes”, he was right, even in my life before that I had experienced this. I got the job working in a bar in a theatre (in 2007) only because i had worked two years before that with the manager, who was then a fellow supervisor with me down at Bournemouth Beach.
Here in a remote kiosk (which sells souvenirs, food and drink) at Robert’s Point, I could have worked for a few days for free easily. I took the guy’s number anyway, his name was Dave and I told him if I change my mind and fancy the job, I’d do it. It would be quite something to say you once worked on Bruny Island, I’d guess. During all this, Dave had another customer in between times, who had asked me where I was from.
When I said Northern Ireland, she said her Mum was from there and by coincidence was waiting in the car a few cars behind mine, and that I had to go and talk to her, as she wouldn’t believe it! After a brief chat with Dave, I headed for the car a few behind me.
An old lady with wisdom and charm. Here on Bruny Island. Whoever said it was a small world needs a slap. It’s a massive world and there’s a hell of a lot to see. What they meant was you will find a lot of coincidences and links to your roots when you travel around. So the only two nationalities I met on Bruny Island were Australian/Brunayan/Tasmanian (delete as they want to be called) and Northern Irish.
The day of charm wasn’t yet over and there’d be a real twist of fate for me later on at Glenorchy. For now, the Mirambeena ferry was docked and I was headed back to the Tasmanian mainland. The Bruny Island adventure was over in the blink of a young girl’s eye. Glory days. They’ll pass you by.
Crowded House – Saturday Sun:
SOME OF THE VIDEOS I TOOK ON BRUNY ISLAND, THERE’S MORE ON YOUTUBE….
WHITE WALLABIES PART FOUR:
LUNNAWANNA COMMUNITY HALL:
DRIVING ON GRAVEL ROAD FROM ALONNAH TO CAPE BRUNY:
DENNES POINT JETTY:
CAPE BRUNY LIGHTSTATION:
ADVENTURE BAY BEACH:
MIRAMBEENA LEAVING KETTERING FOR BRUNY ISLAND: