“I love it! I just love it!”
Those were the phrases I uttered with regularity on our recent European cycling adventure. The sights we saw, the places, scenery and landscapes we were lucky enough to feast our eyes on daily, sent me into paroxysms of delight. Travelling though, does make one think a little more about home and what we have on offer ourselves.
Do we take our part of the world for granted?
Yes, yes I think we do.
Do we wax lyrical in the same tones of wonder and delight at our own Tasmanian landscapes?
No, not as much as we should.
We do have some fantastic places on our little island and we admitted we haven’t seen enough of our own backyard, so for a weekend, we set off to remedy this situation and explore a bit more of our Tasmania. Destination was the East Coast and Coles Bay. I had visited this area once as a small child but the only memory that remains of that time, is of a tent. We were not a camping family at all, so the novelty of spending a night in a tent and seeing the moving silhouettes of the night-time world beyond the nylon walls, has remained an image from childhood. I would never have guessed that I would spend months as an adult, living in our Nylon Palace in far away places overseas. For now though, it was time to explore a bit of Tassie and see what Coles Bay had to offer beyond a childhood memory of tents and shadows. We set off for the three hour drive, passing through bush, with stands of gums, many still showing the signs of bushfire and the regeneration from the ashes. We have also vowed, as we travel around our own state, to view it with more open eyes, to not take for granted what we see, but to better appreciate the landscape that we have, so I made a point of looking this way and that, taking in the colours, the change in environment from town, to farmland, to bushland and then to coastline.
Coles Bay itself is a tiny little place, with a pub, a general store, an ice cream shop and a scattering of houses and accommodation. It is small, unhurried and blissfully lacking in the flash and brash of modernity. We arrived, checked in to our room, which was set right on the edge of the Bay, with trees and bush and visiting wallabies around us. Our view was straight across to The Hazards. These looming, granite hills were really something special to look at. I am not a relaxer. I find sitting and doing “nothing” incredibly difficult. My mind races with things to do, jobs to be done or places to go, so simply “being” and relaxing is a learned behaviour I’m working on. This place though, was just the classroom I needed to learn the skills of taking it easy, relaxing and appreciating the moment. The pink of the granite caught the light and as I sat and looked at the view, the colours changed as the light changed.
As the sun went down, the rock took on new tones and was definitely the diva on the stage, going through multiple costume changes as the day drew to a close. I happily sat with a cup of tea and just took in the view. Steve, on the other hand, is dux of the school of relaxation, he needed no lessons at all in how to take things easy, so he happily snoozed, followed by couch time, enjoying the snooze-to-couch interchange like a relaxation relay. Gotta get me some of those skills.
With the sun finally going down, I did the big twenty metre walk to the beach and watched the sky become an artwork in its own right, with one of the most vivid and spectacular sunsets I’d seen. What a top spot.
As a new day dawned, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast on the verandah outside our room, watching the visiting wallabies again, taking in the morning light across The Hazards and then we set off to roam. Freycinet National Park was our destination, just a few short kilometres down the road, not so much for a roam as a bushwalk / hike / ramble.
The sun blazed and we packed our drinks and elevenses into our small backpacks, threw them across our backs and off we went. It occurred to me that I was embarking on what I was sure was my first bushwalk as an adult. As a kid, we would go for the occasional weekend walk through bush or rainforest, but I have no memory of actually carrying anything. I’m sure a parent or two were carrying necessary provisions and I just scuttled along at their heels, no doubt interrupting the serenity with regular bursts of ,”How much furthaaaaa?” This day, setting off along the track into the National Park, I was sure, as embarrassing as it is to admit, this was the first time I had bushwalked with a backpack, even a small one, in my entire adult life. Yep, I’ve gotta get out more!
The track into the National Park was great; well marked and compacted enough to be easy to walk along, while also being natural and just rugged enough to feel like we were doing a fair dinkum bushwalk. Again, I made a point of taking in my surroundings, seeing them through the eyes of a visitor, not a resident and it didn’t take too much effort to truly appreciate the beauty of the environment, the vivid colours of the bush and sky and the vibrant blues of the water below. We learned that this area was once home to the Toorernomairremener First Nations people, who lived along the coastline, meeting their needs with their knowledge and sustainable use of the natural environment.
We reached the lookout, giving a view down to Wineglass Bay and took a moment to take in the vista. One of the things that remains so remarkable about Tasmania is how many unspoiled places we have. The beaches and bushland that we have, in many other places, would be crowded with people. Here, you can still walk along a pristine white beach, with vivid blue water, safe to paddle and swim (if you don’t mind the cold water!) and not see another soul. Tasmania’s East Coast is one of the holiday destinations on the island for locals and visitors alike, but I never cease to be amazed and delighted at how you truly can have a place to yourself and walk along a beach solo, completely owning the moment. Looking down on Wineglass Bay, I was reminded again, of how lucky we are. Even with tourists, this place never feels crowded. There were a handful of other visitors at the lookout with us and it was great to hear the variety of accents being spoken from a variety of countries. Nice to know there are folk from far and wide, being able to take in what little Tassie has to offer.
We continued our leisurely trek, along the path and through the bush, making our way back to the car park. Then, a short choof down the road and we called into Honeymoon Bay, where we stopped for elevenses. A short walk along a track to the beach and we sat ourselves on one of the granite boulders, looking out at the water and across to the hills and just enjoyed the sun, the sea and the peace.
Next stop was a walk through another part of the National Park, to Cape Tourville Lighthouse. This was an easy walk, along timber walkways, but with more magical views. We could look across the Tasman Sea to Cape Forestier, named after one of Napoleon’s Generals, to Mt. Graham and Mt. Freycinet and across to Wineglass Bay and The Hazards in the distance. So many of our places are named for our European history and heritage, but as I stood and looked at the untouched environment around us, I thought of the First Australians, our Indigenous people who walked amongst these rocks and trees, in this environment that gave them everything they needed to survive and thrive. When we walked the cobbled streets of European towns and cities on our travels, we marvelled at the history, yet here we have history in the trees and rocks and mountains, that tell the stories of the oldest living civilisation.
We walked up to Cape Tourville Lighthouse, a small, unmanned light that nevertheless had an important job to do, helping marine traffic navigate their way along the coast. More great views, more unspoiled environment and I really did take in the colours around me. Sometimes, it’s a matter of just noticing the small things around us. We see a tree, we see a rock, but how often do we take the time to LOOK at the tree or the rock. The colours and contrasts were amazing and the simplicity of nature really did show the complexity of its beauty.
Back we went, to our peaceful spot in the bush beside the Bay, to round out the day with a cuppa, looking across the water to The Hazards and greeting again, the visiting wildlife. A top day exploring our Tasmanian backyard. A day to see and learn more of our own island state and rather than taking what we have for granted, to take the time to truly see and appreciate it. We must do more of this. We will take the time to discover some more of what we have here, in between our overseas adventures. Home has its own magic, we just have to take the time to find it. Where to next? Time to dust off the map.