Leaving Tasmania


Three weeks is not nearly enough to see this beautiful island, but here we are, boarding the ferry.

We spent our last days at Mt. Field National Park, which boasts a fine campsite (v. cheap) with hot showers! We went on bush walks and explored the Styx River with its massive Swamp Gums, some of them 400 years old.

R looking up at s 400 year old Swamp Gum
The top of the Swamp Gum
Getting on the boat

On on the third day we woke to the smell of smoke–Tassie is experiencing an especially bad fire season.  And R had a fever.

We packed up and drove three hours north, hoping to camp at Bakers Beach.  As we got closer, the smoke grew thicker. Then we saw a helicopter with a bucket of water dangling beneath. That’s when we turned around.  I cursed myself for not checking where the fires were earlier.

We drove through the smoke to Devonport.

On the way, R threw up in the car. We pulled over and cleaned it up as best we could with wet wipes, but she kept saying, as we drove, ‘I can smell vomit.’

In Devonport the smoke was too bad to camp and every motel, hotel and cabin was fully booked.  At six pm, we booked a motel (our first) in Burnie and drove the extra 40 minnutes there.  Lee and I took turns eating in a restaurant. It was bliss to sit there on my own with food someone else had cooked.

R is better now; we’ve cleaned the car and we’re getting on to the Spirit of Tasmania. On the other side, we’ll visit a friend on the Mornington Peninsular before heading west round this big country.




The Southernmost Point in Australia

Cockle Creek is the end of the road in southeastern Tasmania and the furthest south you can drive in Tassie.  You can walk a further seven kilometres to the southernmost point, which Lee and I were lucky enough to do.

Lee and the girls at the beach at Cockle Creek
Paddy melon on the south coast track to the southernmost point in Australia 

Located within Southwest National Park, Cockle Creek is also, quite possibly, the most beautiful free camp in the world.  Clear calm blue-green waters lap the shores of the vast Recherrche Bay.  Paddymelons hop around the bush at dusk.

The colonial history–like all Tasmanian history–is violent, dark, heart wrenching.  Aborigianls lived here for tens of thousands of years before the Europeans arrived.

What’s interesting is how different the French explorers were from the British.  Of course the French have their dark chapters of colonial history elsewhere on the globe, but when Bruny d’Entrecasteaux arrived on his ship to what is now known as Cockle Creek, he  came to observe.

He took on board with him artists, botanists, zoologists and philosophers.  The French explorers were there in 1792 to gather information about the people, flora and fauna.  They learned and recorded some of the local language and one Frenchman on this trip wrote in his journal (echoing Rousseau) that the locals were, “close to nature . . . whose candour and kindness contrasts so strongly with the vices of civilisation.”

The British, on the other hand, saw Tasmania as the perfect place for a prison.

They came and chopped down thousand year-old Huon pines.  Logging remains a significant industry in Tasmania.

In something that many call genocide, the Aboriginal Tasmanians (except for a few remaining descendants) were wiped out.

And they slaughtered whales in the name of progress, for their precious oil.  It’s hard to imagine those calm blue waters running red with blood and stinking to high heaven with smouldering whale blubber.

Recherché Bay

There used to be around 100,000 Right whales.  Now there are 1-2 thousand.  The baleen from the whales was used to keep women corseted half a world away in England.

It makes you wonder about the meaning of the word, “civilised”.



Scenes from Bruny Island

Located in the southeastern tip of Tasmania is the stunning Bruny Island, really two islands, joined by a ‘neck’. There are no grocery stores, just gorgeous views everywhere you look.

R on the ferry to Bruny
Fairy penguin
Sunset, at Cloudy Bay


K at the ‘Neck’ of Bruny, where there is a memorial for Truganini
The Neck 

We spent four nights camping in the Bush–just $5 per adult a night and $2.50 for for K.

At the first campsite at the Neck, we met a family who’d been traveling for seven years! They looked surprisingly clean, but they did have a caravan with a shower.

The second site was four wheel-drive only and we had to drive on the beach to get there. Cloudy Bay was gorgeous and we could’ve stayed weeks except for the Blow Flies and the fact that we  ran out of chocolate.

We’re headed for a caravan park in Dover tonight for showers and a shave and the dreaded laundry.  Then, back to the bush!

The Joys of Free Camping

On the way down to Melbourne, via the Great Ocean Road, we went inland and found the perfect free camp at Dando’s.  The sites included picnic tables and fire pits and were set among 200 foot gums growing straight up all around us. There was even a river to swim and fish in.

The next day we did a walk in the treetops, ‘The Otway Fly’ in the rainforest.

View from above; the Otway Fly
View from my kitchen; free camping in near Lorne, Vic

The next night, we stayed in another free camp, complete with blackberry bushes. See above.

On the 23rd we took the overnight ferry to Tassie.

Leaving Melbourne on the Spirit of Tasmania

We found stunning free camping in the Bay of Fires, a rugged part of coastline in northeastern Tasmania, famous for its pounding surf and granite boulders covered in orange lichen.

Cosy Corner Campground, Bay of Fires, TAS


Doubling back

Because we had to rush to get to Deaf Games in Adelaide, we decided to go back and see a few sites that we missed. . . And so we drove south on Highway One towards Melbourne. We have a ferry booked for Tasmania on 23 Jan. We’ll spend three weeks there then carry on around Australia clockwise.

First stop: Little Dip Conservation Park.

Camping at Little Dip. In South Australia, National Park sites are just $14 a night.
View from our campsite

We met a family with three boys who’d just spent nine months going round Australia and were on their way home.  They carried with them less then half of what we had.

They showed us their favourite spots on a well-worn map, mostly off-road. ‘I’m allergic to bichimun,’ the mum said with a glint in her eye. As a child she’d sailed across the ocean to America.

I watched with admiration as she reversed the four wheel wheel-drive with trailer attached. (I haven’t even driven the four wheel-drive yet!) This mum–so enthusiastic, so game–was inspiring.

When I asked about homeschooling she said, ‘Every day? We were lucky to get the school books out once a week!’



Thank you to Lee’s Relatives

We had a lovely two nights with Uncle Bryn and Aunt Susan in Victor Harbour where the girls were spoiled with cakes and ice cream at all times of day.

Thanks also to Lee’s cousin, Helen and family for a visit with chickens and kittens and horses–heaven for K and R.

And thank you to Cousin Fay and family for a night at their beautiful house.

Sunset at Fay’s house on Tinpot Road, SA
Tinpot Road, near Mount Barker


Australian Deaf Games 2016!

The history of interstate deaf sport in Australia dates back to 1895 when the Victorian deaf cricket team travelled to South Australia for a game.  Deaf Sport Carnivals have been held from 1914.

Deaf Sports Carnival, 1933 (courtesy of deaftennisaustralia.org)

“Whilst sport is clearly core, the Australian Deaf Games also constitutes a major social and cultural festival for the whole Deaf community.”  —Australiandeafgames.com

We arrived to a sea of hands on 9 January for the opening ceremonies in Adelaide.  Teams from every state and territory, Fiji and Vanuatu were involved and hundreds of spectators from around Australia welcomed them.

Highlights of the week included:

–Watching the Fijian team enter the stage of the opening ceremonies with smiles and traditional dress. Fiji has a very strong deaf community.

Fijian team arriving at the Opening Ceremonies

–Interpreted tours (by generous volunteer interpreters) of the stunning Art Gallery of South Australia and the South Australian Museum.

–Watching K catch up with her oldest deaf friend, Tobian–they’re now eight, but still holding hands.

K and her friend getting ready to cool off on a hot day in Adelaide

–Meeting people from all over Australia–such a friendly atmosphere.  I’ve always found the Deaf community warm and welcoming, even when I only knew about three words of Auslan.

–Watching Helen coordinate 50+ kids  learn the routine for the closing ceremony, “like herding cats, but more fun!


If You’re Driving From Melbourne to Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road is on Fire

Consider getting off Highway One and taking the inland route, where you can visit the magical Little Desert National Park.

K next to red river gums and the Wimmera River, Little Desert National Park, Victoria

On the fifth of January, after a long hot drive from the other side of Melbourne, we arrived at our campsite hungry, tired and hot.  At 6.30 in the evening, it was still 31 degrees C.  I had a headache, the girls were fighting, but we pressed on—we had to—and set up the camper.

The drinking water was warm and the flies swarmed and there were more ants than I’ve ever seen in my life, including bull ants—no thongs here!

Then it was past 7 and I knew I should cook dinner, but instead I said, “I’m going to put my toes in the river.”  K followed.

The river, just 20 meters from our campsite, was green and wide with a slight ripple.  We put our feet in, looked at each other, took off our clothes and jumped in the water.

The effect of being submerged was instant—we laughed and splashed, feeling cool and free and fully refreshed.

That night it was quiet and light until nearly 10.  Even at 10.30, the stars weren’t completely out.  At 11, when the girls were finally asleep, Lee and I started to see shooting stars.  There were only two other campers in this large campsite, Horseshoe Bend, named for the bend in the river.  And although there was a live redback in the women’s toilet, there were no mosquitos.

The next morning, when I was tidying up the camp kitchen, I turned around and found myself face-to-face with a large emu.  It gave me a shock.  Close behind was an emu chick, who was still larger than my four-year-old.

Emus at our campsite, Horseshoe Bend, Little Desert National Park

We stayed three nights.  One morning K and I biked into town past a large olive orchard.  When we saw a rope swing hanging over the river, K stared longingly at it.  “I wish I lived here,” she said in Auslan, “then I could go on that every day.”  And she made the sign for swinging on a rope, letting go and splashing into the river that described the action in a perfect visual manner.  It’s something I would never have thought up myself, despite the fact that I’ve been signing for five years and have a Diploma in Auslan.

This happens all the time when I’m signing with deaf people.  I try to describe something, fail, and then they give me the visual language for it—paint a picture in the air so succinct, so apt.  I wish my brain worked like that.  For me, Auslan will always be a second language.  K’s chosen not to wear her hearing aids lately—excited by the prospect of going to Deaf Games in a few days, where she’ll communicate with everyone in Auslan.



New Year’s in Nowa Nowa

K on Highway One at sunset in Nowa

Nowa Nowa is a lazy town in Victoria on Highway One with a river, a caravan park, a pub across the road and a population of 144.

We came for two nights and stayed four when we met a friendly extended family from Gippsland. They hosted us for New Year’s on camping chairs outside their caravan. We chatted into the wee hours about campsites and blogs and dogs, while the kids slept and we listened to free live music from the pub across the road: a perfect way to ring in the New Year.


Next stop, Melbourne (for trailer repairs). Then we’ll make our way to Deaf Games in Adelaide, via a National Park somewhere . . .