Southwest Tassy: by wing and foot

Project O goes in search of solitude, surf and seafood in the wilds of Tasmania.

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A bloodless summer is no summer at all. Plainly I remember a December, in my hometown, when the city beaches were swollen and there was no lifeblood in the people’s faces. It was difficult to ignore that fresh wind that came cooing firmly from the west.

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Hank, Bojangles and myself had hired a small plane to fly out into the wild. We had delivered ourselves into the raw of the Tasmanian south-west. I thought of poems I could write, about the mountains and old jungles. I thought about performing them in clubs – all those beatniks and cigarette smoke. Acclaim!

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As it went, the walk became less about spiritual harmony and staring into the diamond void, and more about killing and eating. Maybe there is a certain level of spiritual enlightenment to be obtained when gorging on seafood until you vomit. I don’t know.

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In this paradise there is a no-time, whiskey river. It parts thick jungle; a jungle that always reads over your shoulder. Above us, the summer heat is mixing with frozen, prehistoric thunder-clappers, and the whole procession rolls out to the ocean and all the way to blasted Ant-arc-ticky.

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Bojangles was on his hands and knees working sticks and branches into the fire. Flames really started to get up. He preened the campsite: a proud lyrebird, making it both functional and beautiful. The sun kissed orange tarp was a happy kite above our heads.

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Such a pumping scene! Bojangles danced on the warm dolerite shore, bush birds harked at parrots whipping through the canopy like tearing paper. And Hank the scientist, blissfully half interested in fishing, was tutoring as I submarined in a frothing joy of madness.

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Faraway stars began to crystallise and we rum-glowed right back at them. The crayfish was cooked and cut right down the middle. Its true death confirmed by the opaque colour of once shining black eyes. The mustard gut juice was used as a dipping sauce, but no one liked too much of this.

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I said “You Great Babe!”, giving my palm a fist socking. “Do it! Send someone a message in a bottle!”. Hank thought hard then began scribbling words on a piece of paper – ‘Hey yeah, you with the sad face. Come up to my place and live it up.’ The bottle bobbed and drifted out of sight.

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I thought I saw Bojangles crying as he ripped the orange kite of happiness down. He said it was just sand blowing in his eyes. It probably was sand. The wind was blowing shit across the whole beach.

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We were out of there. The wild had given us all good spirits and good health. The day was glorious as we marched back over the blinding white rocks. Our boots pounded the white walkway into smaller particles and sunscreen made the air smell even better. “Come on down here, all you tough sluggers,” said the wind in the rigging of the fishing boat. And when the sun was highest in the sky and we were all sweating, our thoughts petered out into one true walking line. The airstrip and home lay ahead.

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The aeroplane arrived and taxied us back between the mountains and toward the city. Below, where the big river and snaking highways lasso the land, there are a thousand hidden swimming pools and tennis courts revealed. The air traffic cleared and we landed right down with one neat bounce.

 

 Last summer James moved to Tasmania (my island) from Britain (his island) for some wild time and tubular-surf action. In Hobart, we’d often drink beers and pore over maps of Tasmania. The South-West Wilderness area stood out from the grid most of all. It appeared to be a prehistoric and unmolested landscape; protected by snow-tipped mountain ranges, the gnarly Southern Ocean and World Heritage Listing. We felt compelled to experience this remote and raw place and record what we found.

 

 

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