Though a straight line appears to be the shortest distance between 2 points, life has a way of confounding geography. Often it is the dalliances and the detours that define us. There are no maps to guide our most important searches; we must rely on hope, chance, intuition and a willingness to be surprised.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tasmania (Part One)

(Barn Bluff, early morning, day 2)

Yesterday – the 4th of March – was the half-way point of the Big Trip. No particular celebration marked the passing of this landmark and though I did have a number of beers, it would be misleading of me to suggest that such was anything other than normal, daily Big Trip behaviour. It was nonetheless a pretty exciting day as I found myself a new and very special home - for the next few months at least. But I’ll come back to that. First off, and after much delay, I’ve got to update the blog on my trip to Tasmania…

(View from the top of Mount Ossa, at 1600m, the highest mountain in Tasmania)

Sydney is such a successfully modern place, and has such an aura of first-world confidence, that it’s easy to find your perception of Sydney’s place in the world drifting north and west, eventually nestling somewhere in the atlantic between America and Europe.

Since I’ve arrived in Sydney, I’ve taken to imagining a line through the centre of the earth, starting at my feet and ending up at a spot on the other side of the planet. I imagine someone standing on this spot, my doppelganger.

As I head north, he heads south and as I head west, so does he, always staying at a point exactly opposite my own position. Though we may have some inkling, neither of us is more than notionally aware of the other’s existence. Age, appearance, even sex are all a mystery.

(Right - amidst the trees, the track was often like a scene from Lord of The Rings... but with leeches)

However, I do picture a young Italian gentleman as my doppelganger as I reckon this line through the earth’s core emerges somewhere in Italy, and just for the sake of making things interesting, perhaps in the centre of Rome. That may indeed explain my recent hankering for strong coffee (and mopeds).

Anyway, aside from providing an illustration of the sort of meandering thoughts that one can indulge in after half a year away from the pressures and grind of daily life, I mention this because my trip to Tasmania suddenly obliterated the need for any such fanciful notions. Tasmania truly is at the bottom of the earth – and it feels it. When Chris and I stepped off the plane, we were deeply affected by the thought that less than 0.01% of the world’s population were further south than we were. Chris did point out that 100% of the world’s population of emperor penguins were further south than we were, but that didn’t do much to alleviate my own feelings of remoteness.

(Left- Christopher Reid, 5,11, blue eyes - is available for modelling and promotional work and has extensive experience with Timotei, Oil of Olay and Old Spice).

In fact, it was isolation that had attracted us to Tasmania in the first place. Separated from mainland Australia for the past 10,000 years, Tasmanian flora and fauna has gone its own way, resulting in a land of beautiful wilderness and bizarre wildlife (of which more in part2).

Our research had suggested that the most exhilarating way of experiencing Tasmania was to complete the week-long trek across central Tasmania that is the famous Overland Track.
(On day 2 the sky was tinged grey and red by bushfires to the north of us. This isn't just a danger to the wildlife and native forests - a few months ago, a bushfire came close enough to the track to spark an evacuation of every walker by helicopter.)

The Overland Track stretches 80km north to south from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. These names won’t mean much to anyone who hasn’t been there. And I’ve rambled on at length in this update already. So rather than give a detailed description of our adventure, I’ll just say that it was a fabulously rewarding walk through incredibly varied scenery, accompanied by some rather sweaty fellow-walkers and a host of bizarre wildlife… and leave it to the pictures (and captions) to show the rest.

Chris – I have to confess that, on reflection, and in spite of everything else that’s happened on the Big Trip, this was “one of the most exciting things I’ve done in the last 12 months” and yes, I was being overly conservative when I ticked the box marked “It was ok. It was only another bushwalk” on the ranger’s survey form. I’m sure the ranger wasn’t personally offended and I hope you’ve recovered from your disappointment in me... :-) If it’s any consolation, surveys have always confused me to the extent that I frequently tick boxes saying I do think the government is doing a good job, and I would like to receive further information on double glazing and how I could earn large sums of money without getting out of bed.

(Mount Oakleigh. This is the view from one of the huts on the route, at sunset on Day Four. Tasmanian National Parks and Wildlife do a wonderful job of providing top class facilities and support to walkers. Mother nature does a fairly decent job of providing the evening entertainment.)

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