It really was a trip into the cool chill of a Tasmanian wilderness in early February 2010. Ten years earlier I would have been back in Bangor, Northern Ireland stacking shelves in Tesco listening to the (then) new Oasis album, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. An album which never got the critical acclaim it deserved. This was a journey far from a boring Bangor winter. The coldness of that Oasis album could have fitted in. It was a case of “Where Did It All Go Wrong?”, and for Daniel, “now you understand that this is not the promised land they spoke of…”
It was also the end of an era trip for myself, Paul, Daniel and Neil. I had known Neil for 6 years (and been in 4 different continents with him). I had known Daniel for 4 months. I had known Paul for little over a week. Yet for the four of us, we had spent the last 10 days or so together and that was our group, our team. Yet now it was time for us to part, after the random southern adventure in my hired car. Something had to end.
We left Hobart city centre around 6 pm in the green Magna I had hired from Devonport. The original plan was to drive to the very south tip of Tasmania, savour the air and then head back to Hobart for a farewell drink with the guys. Once in the car, we were supposed to drive on the A6, the A road down to Southport. However for whatever reason, we ended up instead on the coastal slow B road, the B68. This leaves Hobart behind and heads right along the coast past Taroona, Kingston, Margate and Snug.
Anyway whatever happened, meant we were on it. There wasn’t a lot of sightseeing, but some beautiful coast line, scenery and barely a car in sight. The first stop was just past Taroona, where there was a “shot tower”. We had no idea what it would be, but it was simply just a very narrow thin tower, which obviously was closed at that time of night.
Then further along the road we saw a large building and car park, bearing the entrance sign “Australian Antarctic Division”, this was the place I had seen on the internet, where the Aussies plan and send ships full of scientists down to the Antarctic. Antarctica has always interested me. I have longed to go there for a long time, and I will one day. Perhaps now while I’m in Tasmania is the best chance I’ll get. Basically the three best places to be to visit Antarctica are New Zealand South Island, Australia Tasmania and Tierra Del Fuego Argentina. There are organised boat trips and flights from there. I seized this opportunity to get a photo by the sign instead.
My fascination with Antarctica will continue…and so did the car journey. The road was long and winding and slow. There were no cars about, but it kept twisting. The sun was setting and the amount of kilometres to the town of Southport was so long. Its a pity we hadn’t taken the A road…but it wasn’t to be. We passed by random towns, villages and settlements, none of which took our fancy to stop. The ones I recall were Margate, Electrona (really!), Snug and Kettering. Though there were also names given to the bays – Blackman’s Bay and Peppermint Bay.
It was remote and surreal. We passed a sign saying “Australia’s southermost province” or something like that and we knew we were pretty near the south tip (in reality probably about 100 kilometres off it). We pulled over by the peaceful, tranquil and surreal village of Gordon. There was one camper van there. And one fisherman. And us. Life had truly stopped. It felt so weird. It was so quiet. At Gordon we stared out at the sea from the small pier. There was a small island opposite. I think the place opposite was Isthmus Bay. And the island Bruny Island.
A lonely yellow and white boat was sitting in the harbour. The sea was calm, the air was warm and it was a relaxed evening. There were shells washed up against the rocks on the beach. There were pillars, which Daniel and I jumped on.
The place doubled up as a prime fishing spot called Toonaweena (we believed – that was what was written on the sign). It was Three Hut Point. There was a beach, the water and the south Tasmanian Wilderness. I necked a tin of Coke there for energy and it was back into the car for a more inland jaunt, and we were still heading south. A town called Cygnet seemed to be the largest settlement around. There were houses there, pubs and hotels and even a petrol station. We ducked our way through Cygnet, across a bridge and we were well into Huon Valley.
The gorgeous landscape of Huon Valley. I had known of this area previously when randomly looking on the internet for Apple picking jobs (a plan Daniel and I had in early January). There were a few excellent places to stop for views and photos. Huon Valley (and this area in general) seemed to be all desolate farms. It was peaceful. We passed through another small village before realising we were not yet in Southport. By now it was almost 9 pm and we thought of heading back to Hobart. So we pulled over at the next layby.
I got out of the car and looked down. This was the closest (and still is) that i have ever been to the South Pole, or Antarctica. I breathed in my final breath of that air, got back in the car and headed back north. The guys were all very quiet. It was a quiet evening. We took the A road back (the one we should’ve took earlier) through Huon Valley, yet more wilderness and within 40 minutes saw the city of Hobart at the base of the hill from our highway. Hobart ain’t that big really – we found the hostel instantly.
We chilled in the Pickled Frog hostel for a while before deciding to head into Hobart for a final drink and chat together before parting ways. We walked down Liverpool Street and there were no obvious pubs open. Hobart is more of a ghost town than Canberra. I knew of an “English Pub” so decided we should go there – however on arrival at the said pub – the Victoria Tavern was closed. All pubs in Hobart seem to close around 8 pm on weekdays – and its the island’s capital city!
The next pub we found, the Brunswick Hotel was also shut. We met a young lady crossing the road. She looked local so I stopped and asked her “Do you know any bars open round here?”. She did and gave us directions to one on the next street. I asked for her name and she said “Jedda”. “Thanks for your help” said I and “its the return of the Jedda”, which raised a smile. Whether real or false, it still raised a smile.
It was on round the corner where we found a pub, probably not even the one Jedda meant, for all we knew. But it was open. And was called “The New Sydney Hotel”, a confusing aspect of Australian society is the fact that “hotel” just means “pub” – you cannot stay overnight there…normally. In there I chose a local Big Reg pint of beer. We sat down and savoured the final drink together, chatting about not much. There was a Newcastle United shirt on the wall and it was a wannabe irish pub with a few bits of memorabilia here and there.
The drinks were finished and we chilled back at the Pickled Frog hostel for a while, before saying goodbyes. Neil would head to Sydney to work in the school. Daniel had given up on the idea of his “working” holiday visa and was just going to have a long holiday. Paul would return to England soon. And that was that. A few handshakes and goodbyes and we had parted. By the next morning I was already in my next hostel in Devonport ready for my next jaunt – farming work.
“When one door closes, another opens”
Who went – Jonny Blair, Neil Macey, Paul Demciuch, Daniel Evans
Where – Hobart down to Gordon, Huon Valley and the southernmost county/region in Australia and back
Pub – The New Sydney Hotel, Hobart
Hostel – The Pickled Frog Hostel, Hobart
Key Song –
THE VERVE – NEON WILDERNESS: