GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #021



Finally we reach Tasmania, a few months late, but what the heck.

Apparently, with the inclusion of new ferries and subsidised fairs, Tasmania is in danger of sinking under an influx of tourists.

We haven't noticed that so far but, at the time of writing, we have only stayed in one place, near Hobart. In the next issue we head out of town and maybe we'll find all the campsites taken.

Another thing we found lately is that it's quite easy to get around in Melbourne, at least from the east and heading to the docks.

The main roads are wide and straight and the motorways are even wider and straighter. Compared to the nightmare of Sydney's roads, Victoria's capital is a breeze.

And the ferry was easy to, a simple drive-on, drive-off procedure with no dramas (unless your vehicle is over 3.9 metres high).

All in all things are nice and easy at the moment, just the way it should be.



Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Sat 27 Sep 2003

Boy it's cold here. We had -20 degrees Celsius this morning. OK, I admit that was inside the freezer, but it is indicative of the outside temperature.

The howling wind is still with us, which makes it uncomfortable riding the bike, so we've been mostly hibernating in the truck since we hit Canberra.

I have snuck out a few times to visit friends, for example I went into the ANU (Australian National University) on Thursday to check out David Houlder's workplace.

David is a long-time fellow photographer, but his day job is in computing, and it was fascinating to have a look at the massive arrays of interconnected Alpha computers.

I admit I got a little nostalgic for the bundles of wires and flashing lights. But just a little.

Yesterday I visited David again, this time for a BBQ at his house. It was great to chat about photography and computing for a change. I even spent some time in his darkroom, unloading some film that I found recently while preparing to give a talk at the Bundaberg Camera Club.

I'll get the sheets processed on Monday, I have no idea what's on them, it's possible they are from my last walk into the Budawang Ranges, about five years ago. Maybe there's a forgotten masterpiece waiting to be developed.

At about 9AM it hails, and an hour later we drive up the parkway to stay with fellow motorhomers Mark & Gail. From the parkway we can see the nearby foothills of the Brindabella Mountains, and what looks like snow clouds. Minutes later the clouds part and we see the mountains with a white covering.

There's snow in them thar hills, maybe we should head back north.

Tue 30 Sep

We leave Mark & Gail's and move back down to the lake. There's still some more friends to visit and jobs to do, and they all seem to be located in this part of town.

More rain, and freezing cold.

Wed 1 Oct

More rain, and more freezing cold.

I duck out to get some scanning done, and just get back to the truck before the rain hits.

Waiting for me are two of my old school mates, Chuckles and Pedro. Chuckles lives here in Canberra, and we've seen a lot of each other over the past few years.

However I haven't seen Pedro for 30 years. He looks pretty much the same, just an older version. Much like me I suppose.

After they left, Rod, a photography mate, comes over for a short visit.

Then we relax for the evening in front of the heater.

Thu 2 Oct

Still more rain, and even more freezing cold.

Once again I duck out early in the morning, before the rain really hits. This time it's to deliver some photographs.

For 95% of the time we find that the motorbikes do just fine as a form of alternative transport. But in weather like this they do leave something to be desired.

Last night I received word of a photography expedition in Tasmania. To aid in the production of a new book about the Tarkine Wilderness, it seems that various photographers have been asked to participate in a two-week expedition to the aforementioned wilderness.

It starts in late October, and we're not booked on the ferry until November, this will be a major bummer if we can't bring our booking forward.

I ring TT Lines and find that there are two seats vacant on the 20th of October, not any more there isn't.

For the rest of the day we hibernate inside.

Fri 3 Oct

We leave Canberra and drive all the way to Bungendore, about 30 kilometres.

We will stay with Bruce and Dot, a couple who contacted me some time ago with questions about motorhome design and construction.

First though I want to check out a local photographer's gallery.

Michael Scott-Lees has created a very nice gallery in Bungendore and another in Jindabyne. I spend quite some time browsing the many great photos on display.

Not bad, pity they're mostly in colour :-)

The photos appear to have been produced on an inkjet printer, and they are marketed as "poster prints". I ask the sales assistant about this, but she's "not allowed to discuss that". I can't imagine why not, it's only natural for a prospective client to want to know how a photo is produced.

Most artists are happy to bore you stupid with discussion about their technique. To have a photographer avoid discussing how his prints are produced is quite strange.

We move to a vacant block that backs onto Bruce and Dot's yard.

Bruce (and maybe Dot) is interested in building a motorhome. He appears to be a very capable tradesman with a stack of tools, so I'm sure if he takes on the project he'll be able to finish it.

Sun 5 Oct

We leave Bungendore and head towards the coast. Before us lies the Clyde Mountain, five kilometres of steep mountain pass. The pass has had a lot of work done on it lately, it's not quite the winding goat track it used to be, but it's still very steep.

We have no problem with the mountain. Sitting in second gear on the exhaust brake, I hardly have to use the brakes at all.

We reach the Princes Highway and turn south. The countryside around here is very hilly and progress is slow at times. As we found in northern NSW though, there's plenty of overtaking lanes, so we don't hold up much traffic, and we're not in a hurry.

At about 5:30 we pull into a rest area. I've certainly earned my beer, if I haven't changed gears 4000 times today then I don't know anything about quantum physics.

Tue 7 Oct

We've spent the last few days in Merimbula, my old home town. However, unlike the song, "the old town doesn't look the same".

When I lived here the population was about 800, now I believe it's more like 8000. Places in the bush I used to walk around, that were miles from anywhere, are now just urban sprawl.

If I can mix my songs, it's all "tar and cement".

I caught up with a few more people as well, most of whom are doing pretty much what they were doing the last time I saw them, 30 years ago.

We camp at a spot near Middle Beach, a place I played in as a child. It actually hasn't changed that much, just more overgrown.

It sure looks smaller than the last time I was here. I guess a 9-year-old with a stick sees things differently to a 49-year-old with a 14-tonne motorhome.

WARNING: Self indulgent nostalgia trip follows.

It's the mid-60's and two young boys are the best of friends. They live almost next-door to each other, and have the entire Middle Beach bushland as their private wonderland. With forests, beaches, winding tracks, and cliffs to explore, the two lads slay many a dragon, and shoot many a bad guy, over the years.

They both want to join the navy, and spend one particularly sunny day practising their abseiling technique on a dirt cliff face.

The fact that abseiling ability is not a high priority for the Navy seems to escape the boys. And what does it matter anyway?, abseiling with an old rope, and a stick-rifle under one arm, is fun.

As the sun lowers they amble home, dirty and tired, but satisfied that they have what it takes for a life on the waves.

A few days later one of the boys flies to Sydney for the school term. He won't see Adrian, his friend, again.

Forty years later, one of the lads is back in town. He's standing on the very same cliff, and imagines he can see two nine-year-olds abseiling below.

He shinnies down the cliff, ropes are no longer required, there's plenty of undergrowth to cling to.

Briefly, just for a second, he is nine again, but it doesn't last.

It did for Adrian though, while fishing alone on the Spencer Park jetty, he fell into the lake, and drowned.

Adrian never made it to ten.

So long Adrian, when we meet again I'll be an old fella, and you'll still be nine years old.

Wed 8 Oct

We had a visit from the ranger this afternoon. It seems that a local has rung to report a strange vehicle parked on the nature strip.

He's pretty good about it, but has to give us a "move on by 5PM", notice because a member of the public rang.

He emphasises that he's back on duty at eight next morning. Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.

Thu 9 Oct

At 7AM we leave Merimbula.

After a long day negotiating the hills of the Sapphire Coast we camp at Nowa Nowa.

Just before dinner an old-ish man with two young kids walks past and says g'day.

He used to have a large 5th-wheeler, but sold it when he married his current wife. He now has two young children, "I'll never get back on the road" he says, "I'm 74 now, and what with the kids at ten and eleven, I'm buggered".

I could only agree, he is buggered.

We're camped right next to a river, and there's an unusual amount of fish jumping from the water.

With just a little imagination we can magnify both the temperature, and the fishes, to picture ourselves back at Ningaloo watching the whales.

 A nice campsite on the river at Nowa Nowa

Fri 10 Oct

We're staying with Laurie (the CMCA's webmaster) and Keith on their property near Bairnsdale.

Late in the evening it starts to rain. Before long however the patter-patter of water on the skylight turns to the rat-tat-tat-tat of hail.

It lasts for several minutes, and blankets the area.

I get on to the truck's roof to find it covered in small icy marbles, up to a couple of inches thick in places.

Sat 11 Oct

Laurie drives us around Paynesville, it's quite a nice area with plenty of camping spots. We'll have to visit again some day.

 Some routine maintenance at Laurie & Keith's

Tue 14 Oct

After shopping in Bairnsdale we carry on down the highway, dropping off the main road into the town of Moe, where we pick up our mail.

I also collect some photos from the lab, repackage them, and ship them to their new owner.

The mail consists of the usual assortment of club magazines and telephone bills, but there's also a letter from the tax man. Fortunately it's addressed to Chris.

It seems the he wants money, now there's a surprise. Because Chris did some contracting two years ago, the Australian Tax Office thinks she did the same this year so, as part of the PAYG (Pay As You Go) system they want money now, rather than at the end of the tax year.

Well we'd all like money now rather than later.

I propose a new system called RAYG (Refund As You Go), under this system the tax office pays me my refund monthly. Each payment is 1/12th the amount of my annual refund from the previous year.

If, at the end of the year, I received too much, I'll reimburse the tax office, or not, according to the results of a coin flip.

After misreading some directions to a campsite we wind up in the town of Nah Nah Goon after dark. I've had enough so we pull into a small car park just off the main street.

It's not quite what we had in mind, but this town is tiny, at least we should have a quiet night.

Ding, ding, ding, ding, BAAAAR BARP!, kulunk, kulunk, kulunk, kulunk, kulunk.

Looks like we're fairly close to the railway line.

Still, this is a tiny town, how often can the trains run?

Wed 15 Oct

About every half-hour as it happens, we're very close to Melbourne.

After a refuel at the nearby roadhouse we continue down the freeway, heading for a small national park on the outskirts of Melbourne.

As we enter the park we notice a sign saying that that the gates are closed at 6PM daily. That probably puts the mockers on camping here, but we can at least spend the day.

After lunch we go scouting for a campsite. We find a good one near the local Rural Fire Brigade shed, and determine to stay there if we get moved from the park.

At 5:55 a ranger drives up, gets out and circumnavigates the truck. It's cold and wet so the shutters are closed, but we can watch him with the security cameras. Just as I'm opening a shutter to see what he wants (as if we didn't know) he gives up and leaves.

Oh well, maybe they'll just lock us in.

Ten minutes later another ranger arrives. He's more persistent, and probably more senior, and he knocks on the cab door.

He thought we were a film crew, but that doesn't save us, we have to move out of the park, he'll wait at the gate.

As we pass through the entrance I lean out of the window to thank him, "Have you got somewhere to stay?" he asks.

I explain that we have identified a spot, but ask if he has anything in mind.

"You can stay just in front of the gate if you like".

That'll do just fine, I thank him again.

That night, just as we're browsing the map deciding where to stay tomorrow, the phone rings.

It's Tony, an old mate of mine from my electronics days in Canberra. He's now living in Frankston (just out of Melbourne), and he has a driveway.

Perfect, and I get to catch up with another old mate.

Thu 16 Oct

After a short drive we enter suburban Frankston and squeeze the truck into Tony's driveway. It's a fairly tight fit but no drama.

Just a few months ago I was saying that we can't really visit people with normal driveways because we either won't fit, or we'll break the concrete.

However, lately we have stayed in the driveways of friends, some of which have been quite small.

It seems that Wothahellizat is just about the right size, large enough to be comfortable, and small enough to fit in most places.

 We fit into Tony's driveway. The brick wall was like that before we arrived, honest

Mon 20 Oct

We leave Tony's at about ten, drive up the Nepean Highway, then turn off onto Marine Parade and make our way along Beaconsfield Road until we reach the wharf.

There's a fairly large car park outside the wharf gates, but it has a three-hour limit, so it's no good for spending the day before you embark.

 The car park outside the wharf. If you get here early parking is no problem, later, as sown here, big rigs will have trouble.

 The entrance to the wharf terminal area. If your vehicle is lower than 3.9 metres in height you'll enter through here

Still, we need to get our tickets and make sure there's no problems. Now call us cynical, or maybe just experienced, but we thought we'd arrive very early to check out the lay of the land. You just never know.

And a good thing we did. The wharf's entrance has a 4.6-metre height restriction, no problems there.

We walk through and approach the terminal building, the road winds under this building then u-turns back to the ship. And there, on the front of the building, is a sign stating that there's a 3.9-metre clearance.

Now we specifically asked about the height when we booked, and the documentation states 4.2 metres. So what's with the 3.9?

Nobody knows, the girl at the desk looked at a photo of the truck and said she "thought" it would fit, and "maybe we should give it a try". Yeah right, with 2000 cars banked up behind us trying to board the ship.

The supervisor didn't know either, and also thought it would be OK. "So why is there a 3.9 sign?" we ask, "did they just run out of 4.2's?".

Eventually they decide we should use the freight entrance. Both entrances wind up at the same place (the bow of the ship), it's just that the freight vehicles drive straight on, not via a convoluted path under the terminal building.

 View towards Melbourne's down town district. Note the freight area (with the FCL trailer) with direct access to the ferry's bow entrance

Having sorted this out we move the truck a kilometre back along Beaconsfield Road to wait the day out.

Shortly after we park Geoff turns up. He's a Melbourne local who has been helping us (via the internet) to find a campsite.

He stays for a while and we discuss the truck. He's still got school-aged kids, but hopes to head off in about five years.

We also have a visit from Peter, he's using a new technique to imprint ceramic tiles with photographs, and wants to use some of my images.

He shows us some examples and they're quite good, so lookout, a Rob Gray photo may be coming to a bathroom wall near you.

After dinner we wander along the foreshore to look at the ferry. There's quite a queue of cars waiting to embark, the gate opens at 6:30 but you just sit in your car until 7:30 anyway, so there's no need to be early.

 Views of the ferry at dusk.

 Cars begin to line up on the wharf for their security inspection

At 7PM we front at the freight entrance, they raise the boom and, as per instructions, we park and wait for a security person.

After checking that our gas bottles are turned off and legal, looking in a couple of storage bins, inspecting the fridge and some inside cupboards, and asking if we are carrying any dangerous goods, the guard is satisfied and Chris accompanies him back to the terminal to pick up our boarding passes.

 Waiting for a security check in the freight section of the wharf

This done we wait. At 7:30 we move closer to the ship, then wait again. We're not in a queue, just us and a coach, but the loading of the ferry is done in a certain order.

At about 8 we finally get the nod, and I drive the truck down the narrow alleyway formed by the ship's central structure and a row of semi-trailers.

We're on deck three, which is the first to disembark at the other end, and we're the third vehicle from the exit, so we'll be off to an early start in the morning.

We grab our backpack (With jackets, books and snacks to get us through the night) and make our way upstairs.

Like many people on a budget we elected to spend the night in the "cruise seats" at $105, rather than fork out between $184 and $380 for a cabin (all prices are offpeak, per person one way).

The seats could be more comfortable, but at least the area is quiet, unlike the main lounge where everyone else is socialising. We settle in to read our respective books.

At 10:30 the lights are dimmed, bugger, now what?, we're not really ready to sleep, and the chances of catching any Zs in these seats are minimal.

We decide to venture out into the main lounge, at least the lights will be on and we can read.

As we enter the lounge we realise that most people have gone to bed, and there are plenty of places to sit. We quickly commandeer a couple of chairs and the adjoining section of settee, and settle in to continue reading.

After a while I finally become tired and migrate to the settee where I lie down "for a minute".

At 3AM I wake to a slightly surreal scene. The lounge area is covered with bodies, as is the cruise seat room. Despite the regulations about sleeping out of your cruise seat, they're so uncomfortable that most people have in fact taken to the floor or, if they can, a section of settee.

It looks like someone has slipped some Saron gas into the ventilation system.

I return to my dreams, waking a couple of hours later to find that Chris has found her own section of settee, on the other side of the room.

We break out some food and get chatting to the neighbours, a nice couple from Mackay in Queensland.

From discussions we had, and snippets of overheard conversation, we realise that a lot of people with cabins found it difficult to sleep in the confined space, and wound up on the floor or settee with the "poor people".

By seven it's getting light and we can see the Tasmanian coast.

At eight, those with vehicles on deck three, are instructed to return to them, as docking is imminent.

Soon after we emerge into the Tasmanian light and, after a quick search by the fruit police, we're on our way.

Although we are feeling bright enough as we leave Devonport we quickly get drowsy and pull over in a rest area about 20k out of town.

One thing I'm already noticing is the creeks and the greeness of the countryside. It's common in Australia for waterways to be entirely dry, even the large rivers.

But here the country is riddled with what can only be described as "babbling brooks", something I don't think I've seen in years.

It's kind of nice.

We pull over into the rest area at St Peters pass about 80k from Hobart. It's an early dinner and an early night for us today.

 The rest area at St Peters pass

Wed 22 Oct

It's 4 degrees this morning. What have we come to?

I'm due to go on a two-week walk in the Tarkine wilderness in a few days, and I'm beginning to wonder about the sanity of the idea.

We continue towards Hobart, taking the back road through the historic town of Richmond, and arriving at Glen & Annette's house just after lunch.

 Interesting flowers on the side of the road. A slow shutter speed emphasises the plants movement in the wind

Glen is also going on the Tarkine walk, and we have been communicating via email for some time.

Their driveway is narrow and steep, but we manage to get Wothahellizat settled without difficulty. We're getting much better at fitting the truck into awkward spaces.

 And we thought it was tight in Tony's Melbourne driveway

After dinner Glen and I drive into Hobart to attend a pre-walk meeting. In attendance are some of Australia's best known wilderness photographers, Chris Bell, Rob Blakers, Grant Dixon, Geoff Murray, to name a few. Some of them I know, others I don't, and it's a great opportunity to mix.

Fri 24 Oct

We spend most of the day sorting camera and bushwalking equipment. The resultant backpack, while as light as possible, is still quite heavy due to the 15kgs of camera equipment that I carry, on top of all the normal gear needed to be self sufficient in the Tasmanian (read "potentially cold and wet") bush.

I hope I'll be able to handle this walk.

 Sorting bushwalking equipment on the deck

Later: I decide to remove the large-format equipment from my backpack and only take a 35mm camera. I hope I don't regret this decision.


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