The Spirit of Tasmania

Strong winds and a cold, sideways winter rain followed what had already been a very average afternoon, at least when considering the weather. I guess that was the norm for the greater Melbourne area, cold winds and wet clothes followed by the odd storm. A miserable place Melbourne turned out to be at least when looking at the climate they encounter here. I never understood the people who made it out to be the nicest city in the land. Maybe they haven’t seen much of their own country or maybe they were just oblivious to their surroundings. I on the other hand saw clearly. This climate was not for me. Cold and wet in the winter and dry and hot in the summer, what worse predictions could one get. This made me appreciate the tropics, where the cool and dry winter suddenly shifts to the heat and rain, even more. A much better combination in my personal opinion. I generally wasn’t a big fan of loud and busy cities as it was, but a loud and busy city where the weather is shit most of the year, I couldn’t think of anything worse. But enough rant of my distorted view of the Victorian capital, more important matters were to come.

„She seemed smaller in the brochures“, I said to her. Indeed she was enormous. Twelve stories high, seven for the vehicles, three for the people driving them, one for the crew and one where the captain would watch the auto pilot doing what it was meant to do. She must have been over a hundred meters long and over forty meters tall, made from metal and filled with metal and flesh. A floating example of the worlds engineers greatest achievements. An enormous floating metal block weighing more than one could handle to say in one sentence, only second in greatness to the planes and spacecrafts and satellites and so many other things, the engineering world has brought to us.

IMG_0155 Devonport-Spirit-Of-Tasmania-2008

There was still some time before the engines would start roaring and pushing this seemingly unmovable object across the treacherous waters of the Tasman sea. Indeed the wind predictions hadn’t been the most promising and thirty to forty knot winds were going to make the next twelve hours interesting and entertaining for some, but less for others.

„Do you have any illicit weapons in your possession sir?“ Inquired the quarantine officer. „Well of course!“ I said, and so my compound bow would not be able to join me on my voyage across the ocean, had I hoped to catch a huge blue fin tuna bow fishing from the balcony of the seventh floor deck. What a rip off I though, can’t even shoot over sized fish with undersized gear from a ridiculously unsafe position in the middle of the night, on the Tasman sea anymore! What else were they going take from me I thought. „Are these fuel canisters empty?“ the man continued. „Well of course not, what was the point of carrying empty fuel canisters with me?“ I looked at him with a face that should have showed him, that I was not only confused but also highly disappointed in this nonsense. „You will have to empty them sir, over there in the containers sir.“ How dare you, I thought to myself. With your muscled arms, huge tattoos and your government law enforcement, whatever else outfit, your polite and calm way of telling somebody all the things they are not allowed to do, moving around like a Rambo wannabe. I was not content. First he takes away my right to bear arms on public transportation, then he continues by taking away my flammables! What was to come next? Maybe he wanted my food and drinks also? „Do you have any vegetables on board?“ he inquired…..

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Finally we were on board. Our car was now half a ton lighter than before and suddenly it hit me. They do this not for safety reasons, but economical gain. If there were a thousand cars on board, and everyone had to lose as much as me, that would make their ship five hundred tons lighter and hence they would safe enormous amount of fuel on the way over there. I had triumphed, finally seen through the disguise called quarantine. Another great achievement in my otherwise so boring life.

We decided to have a look at our cabins for the night and meet later on, for drinks and dinner. Three old and grey, partially smelly characters awaited me sitting on top of their bunks, reading the papers and making the already tiny cabin, seem even smaller and more uncomfortable than it actually was. I decided to introduce myself, use the restroom and then flee into the endless labyrinth that was the ship. There were bars and restaurants, souvenir shops and cafes, even a cinema was on board. People were wondering all over the place, no sense of direction or purpose, confused, aimless, gathering in various corners, praying that no one would find out that they were lost. It was a strange place. Suddenly I stumbled into Nina. She too must have left her cabin shortly after entering it. As we looked at each other, it was clear that it was time for a drink before engulfing us in the culinary masterpieces that the captain’s table had to offer. The taste of beer flowing down my throat was not only refreshing but also highly calming and soothing to my mind. I was comfortable once again, a feeling that quite frankly I had for most of my life, and for the better part of the day already.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ship has started to move. Gentle waves could barely be felt as the huge ship made its way across Victoria harbor. People seemed surprised and comfortable, oblivious to the fact that all this gentle sailing would be gone as soon as the open ocean would unleash its full fury upon them. The captain’s table, or whatever the restaurant was called, seemed to be the only place on board where one could eat a half descent meal that was not served out of heated saucepans that one would find in the canteen of an overpriced college, and was hence the logical choice for a meal. After a surprisingly elaborate meal and a couple of bottles of wine, the ship suddenly began to move heavily. Or maybe it wasn’t so much the ship but my dulled sense of balance. Suddenly we realized that the, earlier, so overcrowded ship was now only harboring a few characters stumbling around in small groups, sometimes forgetting to holding on to the wall or railing, sliding and falling over, seemingly embarrassed by their clumsy effort.

We decided to get another bottle of wine and climb to the tenth floor, high up into the center of the ship, to explore the, for us yet, unknown. It was empty, the entire floor void of human life. There were chairs and tables, even a small dance floor in the middle. The swinging chairs were moving in all kinds of directions, something frequently observed in cup carousels from theme parks such as Disney Land. Heavy rain was pounding the outside walls of the ship, and surprisingly I could walk in a straighter line than ever before as if the massive swings of the ship where in tune with my heavily distorted view of the world around me. Suddenly we heard laughter coming from the far reaches of the deck and we decided to investigate. Drunk Kiwis! What a pleasant surprise! We were not the only ones enjoying this for some people seemingly rough ride. We had found our entertainment for the next few hours, and strange discussion, dancing, laughter and the odd cigarette on the windy decks of the tenth floor made my memory of the actual happenings very fuzzy. But I do remember it was fun. A lot of fun! As I stumbled back to my cabin, the smell of puke, from various corners of the ship, even in my state, was hard to miss. It appeared the majority of travelers hadn’t trained their sea legs in a while. I didn’t feel sorry for them, I felt sorry for me! I was the poor guy that had to smell the contents of their stomach, they couldn’t smell anything anymore anyways, as their nasal passages were surely blocked with pieces from last night’s meal.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The dream ended abruptly. I lifted my head and was utterly confused. For a moment I had absolutely no idea where I was. A loud voice from an unidentified source seemed to inform people that we had arrived at our destination. Was this another dream or maybe this was the afterlife. Suddenly it hit me! Of course! I was on a boat. It all made sense to me now. My fellow inmates had already left the room, the lights blinding my half glued together, glassy, red eyes. Time to take a shower, I thought. As I left my room the calm and empty corridors of the ship where littered with peoples green and grim faces. Some clearly still feeling the effects of the seasickness medication they forgot to take. While ordering a coffee and watching the live TV coverage of the US Open, I suddenly realized that despite my lack of sleep and the ridiculous amount of beverages consumed the night before, I felt surprisingly fit and ready for the five hour drive to Hobart, where my brother Simon would await me to join the adventure of the month to come. Nina didn’t appear that lucky. She did blend in however, with all the other people around her, but unlike them would only relief herself of her insides after having left the vessel and sitting next to me in the car. I guess she wanted to take the theme of the ship back on to the mainland. The Spirit of Tasmania.

Advertisements

The blunt dagger and the beast

The following may be disturbing to some readers. Parental guidance is advised. Some of the following story may or may not have been altered for the readers pleasure. No animals were hurt in the writing of this story. 

The wood elf was gently strumming the strings of her harp, soothing sounds crossing the wast plains of the farmstead hidden deep in the woods of the southern regions of the land. Her long blonde hair transformed into gentle waves by the autumn breeze blowing steadily from the cool waters of the southern oceans as her deep blue eyes were watching her baby timber wolves playing with the beasts of the old world, chasing them up and down the fields as they had done so many times before, always close but never catching one. A drunk bard was watching the sun setting over a distant hill, the elf’s lover listening to the calming music, her brother singing along in a language long forgotten, a language that originated from the lands south across the oceans.

The beast became enraged, this time it had enough, the game had gone on for too long. His old body tired of being chased by the young wolves, for him it was no game, but rather a nuisance that had to be stopped once and for all. It stopped running. His head held high up in the air, proud and strong. His tail securely pushing on the ground, ready for the punch that was to come.

The harp fell silently, everything slowed, the elf mothers maternal instincts alerting her of the danger that was to come. She began to run, her feet flying across the rocky undergrowth of the forest plains. Her lover surprised by her sudden act not sure why the music so suddenly stopped. Her brother still singing with no sounds accompanying his wondrous voice. The bard, drunk, oblivious to all but the sunset. She was still far away, too far to stop the inevitable.

The young wolf approached with full speed, finally getting a chance of catching the creature, underestimating the sheer force of rage it was about to encounter. The beast struck first, a heavy blow to the side of the head startled the wolf, gashing open a deep wound on the right corner of his eye. The blood pouring, blinding his right hand vision, now also becoming enraged, for the game was over as the tide suddenly turned. The young wolf weighing in at half the size of the beast latched on to its nose. His strong jaws biting down as hard as he could. A crushing, breaking sound echoed across the lands disturbing the gentle birds dancing in the trees. The animals and trees shocked by the tremendous sound stopped all their doings, only the bard remained oblivious to what was happening not so far away.

The beasts lower jaw fractured into a hundred pieces, both falling to the ground now tied down in a unforgiving stalemate. The claws of the beasts strong legs punching and ripping into the rib cage of the wolf. The grip of the young one firming, crushing down ever harder transforming the skeletal structure of the beasts face into a grainy soup of blood and bone. The brother timber wolf that was older and much slower had now arrived. He bit down hard, in the groin of the beast he went, crushing the most holy parts of any being in fierce anger helping its loved one to fight off the beast.

The elf approached, her legs moving swiftly, her mind focused, deep within, fear. The fear of losing her beloved child. A large stone picked up from the ground, yielded high up in the air, crushing down on the beasts head. But the beast was tough. Only becoming more enraged, hitting ever harder, gashing open large wounds in the wolfs stomach. The wolf would not let go. She screamed to her lover not far behind. „Get the horse!“ He turned around and ran. Smashing the stone on the beasts head over and over again. No use. The beats head was as solid as the stone itself and only the timber wolfs bite was strong enough to damage it. The sound of the sharp claws ripping into the wolfs rib cage, creating ever deeper wounds was heard far away, in lands only reachable by boats and dragons. Only the bard remained completely unaware of the nightmare unfolding behind him, keeping his eyes on the sunset, thinking to himself how beautiful and peaceful this world can be.

The horse arrived. Swiftly the elf reached into the saddle pocket, gripping firmly on the handle of her dagger. A dagger she hadn’t had to use since the last great war. It was rusty, blunt as a butter knife, serrated, not meant for the hard task ahead. The beasts throat was tough, a thick pelt hiding and even thicker and tougher skin beneath. The dagger pushed down hard, not cutting but sawing through the mess that was the skin as slowly it would create ever deeper grooves. The wolf struggling, in pain, hurt and wounded gravely. The dagger making only slow progress, the beast kicking ever more fearsome defending his live, until finally the blood poured out the opening, releasing the last life it had left, ending the epic battle between wolf and beast.

For an instance the world had stopped for all. The birds and trees, the wolves and elves, the squirrels, the sun, the moon, the river, only the bard, content and drunk, had no worry in the world, for his world was always turning.

Three lane highways, traffic approaching from all directions, with no real sense of what their next move would be. The birds and eagles, the tranquil sound of the river flowing by, the soothing sound of the humming bees, gone, vanished in this chaos we call a city. I was approaching Melbourne to visit an old and well missed face. The little green one as I would so often refer to in my mind. Though she wasn’t all that little. Maybe in appearance, and maybe in height and weight and all other physical aspects, but strong and huge in mind and spirit. It had nearly been two years since our last encounter and I was looking forward to catching up and telling tales about the old days, refreshing our memories of times long gone, laughing about all the things we had experienced.

The farm was situated north of the city, a quiet isolated place with a small and cosy house overlooking wast paddocks in the direction of the sunset. Cows were quietly munching on stacks of hay laid out across the paddocks, rabbits darted between trees and Kangaroos trying to avoid the sharp teeth of the foxes that were chasing them, while the sun was setting behind an old windmill on the hill, overlooking the evening spectacle. It was a peaceful place. What better place to rest and refresh, wash my clothes, get drunk and prepare ourselves for the crossing over to the southern state on the other side of the Tasman sea. As I stood there enjoying the beautiful setting of the sun, a glass of wine in one hand, the camera in the other, all whilst smoking a cigarette, multitasking at my best, I felt content and wondered what could possible make this a nicer evening.

IMG_1167  IMG_1114

As I returned back to where the car was parked and Nina, her brother Forest (who had lived most of his life in New Zealand) and her partner Anton were sitting, I was surprised to find no one there, the car was gone and I found myself left behind in the middle of the paddocks. This appeared strange to me and as I continued wondering towards the direction where they were last seen I realized Forest appearing behind a tree seemingly shaken and not as relaxed as when I last left him. Even though given the circumstances, that I would only get to the bottom of at a later stage, he couldn’t have been more relaxed. Suddenly the troop carrier appeared around the corner, driving at a faster pace than usual. My half tipsy mind began to wonder and faded into a semi conscious state of being, lost in my contentedness not expecting what was to come.

IMG_1231          IMG_1199

„Get in the car Frank! Thea (Ninas dog) was attacked by a Kangaroo!“ Her look, voice and behavior seemed to indicate that this was, in actual fact, not a joke. As I stumbled in the back of the car, my sharp, tipsy senses quickly realized that there was blood everywhere. Thea appeared rather shaken up, still excited and stunned from what had happened in my absence. Her face was covered in a thick deep red layer of not quite dried Kangaroos blood. At this point of time I must admit I was rather confused and decided that another sip of fine Cabernet Merlot would help me get a grasp of things. It was difficult to understand various parties, trying to explain to me what had happened in the last few minutes, and as my not fully functional brain was piecing together the information thrown at me we arrived at the site of the incident to see what epic battle had just taken place in the peaceful surrounds of the farm. It was not the prettiest of sights, and having finished the last of the bottle of wine didn’t help to digest the gruesome scene I was about to encounter. The enormous grey Kangaroo must have weighed in at close to a hundred kilos. His nose snapped in half covered in its red oxygen transporting juice, a huge cut through its throat indicating what had ended the epic battle between dog and roo… a rusty dagger.

IMG_1258                   IMG_1261

IMG_1264

(Thea has made a quick and trouble free recovery and has since given birth to twelve healthy and very cute puppies!)

Imaginary borders

The sea eagle was tilting his head back and forth in a slow and purposeful motion, his feathers pushed around in the afternoon breeze, looking for its next prey hiding somewhere underneath the surface of the swiftly moving border. His eyes focused, his motions gentle and deliberate, ready to drop from his tower and burrow its fangs in the flesh of its unsuspecting prey, so he could once more feed his waiting young, hidden somewhere on top of a mighty tree. As his fully focused mind was waiting to signal his body to spring into action he suddenly became aware of my presence and decided to flee to places more secure for his hopefully successful hunt. The magpies had spotted him as well and soon a furious pursuit of five against one would be the result of my sudden arrival. The chase disappeared behind the windmill on the other side of the divide, that was slowly turning in the afternoon breeze, pumping water from deep below, or was it there just to look pretty, long abandoned and not functional? Some things will always remain a mystery. A flock of unidentified birds was moving east, high up in the heavens passing the only cloud that was disturbing the otherwise endless light blue colour of the sky. The waters were running fast, a deep blue tinge surrounded by the rapidly created foamy bubbles of the rapids, that would vanish so soon after their creation, were pushing wast volumes of liquid gold down the longest river of the Australian continent. I had reached the Murray river, that vast stream separating New South Wales from Victoria, now setting foot in yet another state that was waiting to be explored and embraced. A good place to set up camp I thought.

IMG_0958

It was warm again, no need for double sleeping bags and finally a chance to get the old board shorts out and rinse my body in the cool waters of the Murray. Finally clean again, a feeling so often missed on a journey through a dusty continent where water can be hard to find indeed. The fishing rod rigged and ready to be deployed, my efforts would once more be fruitless. Even though fish were plentiful in the river they didn’t seem to be interested in my offerings. Not even the humble carp, sometimes referred to as the tilapia of the south, would take a nibble on corn and worm combination. When you can’t even catch a carp it’s probably time to take up another activity like golf as the Australian likes to say. The problem was that I already played golf and so I persisted with my unfruitful efforts and enjoyed the view of this wild river, that was not so wild anymore as countless agricultural stations pumped millions of litres out of this once pristine system to water their crops, later polluting the waters with sediment and fertilizers as was so often the case in countless places around the globe. Nevertheless the river seemed healthier than many others that I had seen, at least from above the water line, what lay underneath the rapids was not such a pretty site I must admit. The prolific carp had taken over this once wild river and fish were everywhere, omnipresent, disturbing the ground and feeding on every last thing they could find buried in the sediment of the gentler parts of the system. I would have liked to catch a Murray cod, that fish that was so difficult to get, shy and hiding among the sunken trees now getting rarer and harder to find as the southern tilapia had infiltrating every inch of its habitat.

IMG_0962

A red necked wallaby appeared on the other side of the river gazing over towards my direction wandering what the Victorian side, of the impassable border, may hold for her. It was a calming sight, the gentle wallaby standing on the sandy edge of the river, every so often taking a sip of water that is not so easily accessible for many marsupials wondering the Australian mainland. Its eyes every so often wandering towards my direction, as if it had an urge of exploring what lay beyond the other side of the stream. She put her arms into the cold running wet and suddenly, unexpectedly lunged forward submerging her entire body in the quickly moving waters. Surely she wasn’t going to attempt the crossing I thought. But as so many times before, I had been wrong. The current was becoming stronger as she ventured further into the middle of the stream, that was now pushing her rapidly in westerly direction. Only her head could be seen, her eyes focused on my side of the bank, only ever swimming across the current never panicking or turning back, purposefully moving as if she had done it a million times before. To my surprise she reached the other side of the stream at that precise point where the beach was at its shallowest, having timed the current precisely drifting a good sixty meters further downstream than where she had started. And so it was that I suddenly realized something that I never had thought possible. Wallabies can swim, and they can swim very well indeed. Some obstacles and borders are only imaginary and migration will always happen one way or another. A bridge is not always needed and if the will is strong enough some obstacles are only in once mind, easier to overcome than one would think, if one only chooses to try and not turn back on his/her decision, no matter what other people may be thinking.

IMG_0976IMG_0982IMG_0993IMG_0997IMG_0999IMG_1002IMG_1007

The Eucumbene river

The snowy mountain highway would lead me further south, right into the heart of the park, climbing ever higher up the tallest mountain range of the Australian continent. There were open plains, encircled by dense woodland, large crystal clear lakes lining the side of the road, and an ever increasing feeling of solitude and peace, as now late in the season, travelers were far and few between, trying to avoid the cool autumn, heading for warmer places along the New South Wales coastline. My goal was reaching the gentle flows of the remote Eucumbene river, a trout fishing Mecca right at the heart of the snowy mountains.

As the road was slowly winding up another mountain pass a strange sight suddenly came upon me. There were trees, a whole forest indeed, standing tall and old, dead, dried to the very center of their thickened stems, telling a tale of a time long ago where a lush forest must once have stood, supporting a prosperous system full of birds and marsupials, full of live and prosperity, now left dead and bare after the cold, mighty mountains had won the battle, suffocating the endless forest beneath the dense fog that was now omnipresent around me. It was an eerie place. It seemed like time had forgotten these parts of the mountains, leaving  a reminder for those passing by that natures endless cycle will destroy and replenish all parts of the globe, even long after we have vanished into a dusty mist of ash and dirt, fueling the ever repeating cycle of life and death that many people are so afraid of.

The lifeless forest slowly disappeared in the rear view mirror and the fog seemed to be vanishing with it. A small dirt track on my left indicated that I was now close to the Eucumbene river. Trees were now far and few between and their short stumpy growth suggested that this was indeed a harsh environment for the mightier members of the plant kingdom. Cushy patches of thick grass were mixed with short colorful shrubs and twining bushes, distinctly patterned on the shady and sunny sides of the shallow valleys, a sight that reminded one of an age where knights and squires, mounted on their steeds, roamed around the European highlands in search of their next glorious conquest.

IMG_0930

The river flowed gently, its crystal clear waters difficult to penetrate with ones vision as the setting sun reflected even the smallest leaves of grass growing along its shores. It was smaller than I had expected. Only a few meters across and mostly running shallow, easy to cross in various locations and freezing cold when one would attempt to do so. Indeed I was wondering if I had brought enough clothes and blankets to keep me warm at night, a question that would soon be answered as I lay freezing, covered in more layers than I had ever worn before in this country, the ground shimmering in a thin layer of frost as I left my shelter in the morning. Never before had I experienced subzero temperatures in my tent and I was certainly not eager to repeat the process if I didn’t have to. This was a predicament, as I needed to spent a full days fishing and exploring this wonderfully harsh terrain. Not harsh in a way that Australia is so famous for, there was plenty of water, plenty of life, a sealed road was relatively close by and indeed this was as far from the outback as one could think. It was a different kind of harshness, that in the middle of summer would clearly not exist, but it was autumn now and the seasons were making their presence felt. Winter here would remind me of home I thought.

IMG_0939    IMG_0936

Two pairs of socks, thermal underwear, thick trousers, a long sleeved shirt, a pullover a jacket and a raincoat against the wind should be sufficient to keep me warm on the hike I had before me. The fog was thick and moist, making me quickly realize that I was probably not exaggerating with my choice of wear. The Epirb and satellite phone in my bag along with all my fishing gear I started a long and slow walk up stream towards the upper reaches of the Eucumbene valley. Snakes, I thought, shouldn’t be problem here, surely it was too cold at the moment and they would be hiding in some state of hibernation before the next hot day would awaken them to feed. Of course this assumption was completely wrong as a sudden movement brushed my foot and the black body with its distinctively red underside disappearing in the dense grass made me realize I had stepped a little too close to a red bellied black snake, one that could potentially have given me a deadly bite but was luckily too old and wise to waste its precious venom on some unsuspecting tourist. Suddenly the fogs opened up and the sun was now reaching the skin on my face for the first time since I had been up here. It felt pleasantly warm and it didn’t take much time before the sudden surge of heat made my clothes covered body sweat profoundly. Time to take off some layers I thought, something I didn’t expect would happen and actually an inconvenience as my backpack was rather full with fishing and safety gear.

I had now walked for quite some time and decided that this would be a good point to turn around and start catching some dinner. Finally a trout for a feed, wouldn’t that be nice! The first cast in the rapids was followed by a quick and strong hit leading to my first Eucumbene rainbow trout. Small but pretty she was followed by a second one only minutes later. This was going to be too easy I thought and was quickly dreaming of catching dozens of these beautiful creatures. But the tides had turned and after a few hundred more casts and no further fish, my hopes of a fresh dinner suddenly faded away. I was nearly back at the car and even though I had seen plenty of fish, no matter what lure I choose to throw at them, they appeared to be smarter than me. I decided to continue my mission downstream past the camp site. It was getting late, only an hour or so before I had to give up and return to camp, starting a fire and preparing myself for another chilly night. No matter how hard I tried the fish that day had the upper hand and my butter and lemon trout quickly turned into tasteless macaroni and cheese, that I had since then crossed from my shopping list.

An extra sheet and an extra layer of clothing made the second night half bearable. The residents of the Eucumbene had won the battle and once more I had to hold my head up high in defeat. It was time to leave this magical land and head towards the lower reaches of the snowy mountain range. Maybe there I would get myself a feast of trout, I thought.

Blowering reservoir

It was a calm and cool morning. The sun had not yet risen behind the range in the south east. The sky was blue and only few clouds were observed in the distance. The Kangoroos that were so plentiful last evening were nowhere to be seen and one could only guess their whereabouts. A small flock of unidentified parrots was making swift maneuvers over the short grasslands, while a heron stalked its prey in the shallow waters among the weeds. „How long before he would launch his head forward and capture his well deserved breakfast?“ I thought. It was time to lower the boat of the roof and go for a good old fashioned cruise to the other side of the lake, where I was hoping to potentially catch myself a decent fish or maybe even dinner.

IMG_0920      IMG_0923          

 There was no one on the lake but me. A distant caravan, sleeping along side the waterfront was the only sign of neighboring activity. The lake was mine to enjoy, at least for now, and so without further ado, but not without having a good morning coffee I drifted out onto the lake. There wasn’t a single ripple on the water surface. Not the slightest breeze interrupted the mirror I was now sitting on, only ever so often disturbed by an ever growing, miniature circle, created by an insects, so frequent, fatal mistake. The dark blue waters of the center of the lake held many mysteries. What creatures of the cold and deep sections of the lake would lurk underneath my metal hull, waiting to jump at any opportunity to gulp an easy prey, unaware of their monstrous presence. „Can I get my lures that deep?“ I pondered. „Will they bite if I did?“ I decided that dreaming of the glorious capture of an enormous Murray cod would not benefit my fishing efforts, and so headed across to shallower waters along the southern banks of the lake, always moving slowly, purposefully, hoping for a sudden and aggressive bend in my fishing rods. The other side of the lakes shore was comprised of open grasslands with a distant forest a few hundred meters back from shore, marking the highest level the reservoir had attained in the years since its existence. Some sunken trees were seen in small but deep and long bend in the lake, and it appeared like the perfect spot to slowly  drift past and perhaps stop for a quick snorkel, to better understand what secrets this lake held in its depth. The water was cold, a sudden chill went down my back as I fully submerged myself in the dark greenish, blue. As I dove to the base of the trees I was overcome with a feeling of eagerness and suspense, hoping that at any moment a huge shape would appear behind one of the trunks, surprising me with some unexpected creatures presence. No such thing would occur. Only old fishing line rapped around the sunken branches was my reward for getting wet.

As I slowly trawled back towards the mouth of the small inlet, two large birdswere majestically   approaching, seemingly unphased by my presence, wandering ever closer towards the shoreline, their heavy feet compressing the thick grass beneath them, only ever so often gazing towards my direction. One of the emus was rather small, too big to be a chick but not grown enough to be left on its own devices. It seemed like he had never seen a metal tin floating on the water and so wandered ever closer towards my boat. Just as I unzipped my camera bag to try to capture this rare moment an abrupt bend followed by a screaming reel focused my attention elsewhere. The choice was easy of course, who cares about a rare and wonderful bird, curiously approaching, to get his one chance of interacting with this strange creature, floating past him along the shores of the reservoir, when there is a fish on the line. My feathery friends were quickly forgotten as a furious fight unleashed itself on the now boiling waters. A fight between man and fish, a fight of the ages, a fight that would make any marvel superhero wet their too tightly cut underwear resulting in an even stranger mix of colour patterns around their so sparsely hidden private parts. The epic fight between me and my first golden perch would last a mind blowing minute and half or so and quickly was won by the unfair advantage of modern technology.

image

And so there I was, happy, satisfied, calm and relaxed, finally having caught a decent fish that I was happy to have released back into its familiar habitat. My goal was complete, one is good enough I thought.

IMG_0911

It was evening when I returned to shore. The Kangaroos were back at their afternoon resting place, and I was ready for a long nights sleep, preparing myself for what was to come next, on this long journey that had only just begun. 

The way to the Snowy Mountains

Canberra finally lay behind me, the flag pole slowly disappearing behind the horizon, and the madness that was the city, left, soon to be forgotten, replaced by simpler and more fulfilling memories.

There were two ways out of the city that could be taken to enter the Kosciuszko national park. One way led south, a well traveled sealed road that would go around the mountains and head up the valleys of the southern ranges. The other, the more direct way, would lead straight up the mountains, past the highest pass and the deepest ridges, leading through treacherous terrain to hidden places forgotten by society and only reached by those who dared venturing into uncharted territory. I, of course, chose the latter and soon found myself on a steep climb up a dirt road leading to the center of the snowy mountains. Progress was slow, as corner after corner forced me to travel at an average speed of twenty or so, the car working hard towing the camper trailer full of equipment behind me. After what seemed hours of driving up and down and back up dozens of passes, I noticed that the sun was getting closer to the horizon, and I wondered when I would finally reach a place suitable to set up camp and bunker down for a good nights sleep. I had passed the highest ridge and was now heading back down the side of I don’t know which mountain as all of a sudden the trees gave away to open paddocks and a small farmstead hidden among all these mountains. A clear river run through this peaceful valley and expect for the farmer that I never got to meet, it seemed like I was the only person in this little save heaven. IMG_0892

I found this place rather nice and so decided to spent another night here, exploring the region on foot, equipped of course with a fishing rod and a couple of cold cans of beer that kept me company throughout my days fishing. Only two small trout were the result of all my efforts, big enough to keep but too small not to feel sorry for the little fellas, and so they were released to be caught some time later by a more fortunate guy, leaving me with nothing but delicious lentils and some stale bread to keep my belly warm at night.

IMG_0900

Early the next day I left the Brindabella ranges. My plan was to head through the valley and across a mountain pass only accessible to four wheel drives that would spit me out right in the center of the snowy mountains. After a long drive through private properties that did not seem too inviting to the naked eye I came to a small river crossing which was blocked of by a gate, clearly stating that no matter who you were, there is no way through these lands. Disappointed, my only option was to turn around and look for another way to my destination. After consulting the map I quickly realized that my choice of taking the more direct route may have been the wrong one. The southern road may have been a wiser choice after all but that’s what exploring is all about, you don’t know what you’ll get and where you’ll be until you get it and reached it. My new itinerary would lead me through the town of Tumut and I decided to make haste as I already wasted a good hours drive. The way there was long and similarly slow than the previous drive. A strange noise that had bothered me for quite some time now, but that I chose to ignore, was now more present than ever, unmistakably originating from the front right tire.  Suddenly the car began to drive in a swaying motion and the steering didn’t seem to be as smooth as it used to be, simultaneously the sound that had previously come and gone had now reached a continuous, loud, rather concerning screeching noise. I decided it may be wise to stop and investigate.

IMG_0902        IMG_0905

The car securely mounted on stands and jacked up with any adventurers must have tool, it seemed that the wheel was as easy to wiggle as wiggles tail (whatever that might mean). It quickly became apparent that the wheel bearings were not only lose but severely damaged and any further travel might not be the smartest of ideas. I had not seen another fellow traveler all day and phone reception was non existent in these parts of the country. Luckily I was carrying spare bearings and swiftly had the car back on the road. In a blink of an eye, approximately three hours later, covered in grease and dirt, I continued my journey towards Tumut.

The township of Tumut was nothing out of the extraordinary and after enjoying a cold beverage at the local pub I decided to quickly drive south to spend the night along the shores of Blowering reservoir. As I came around the corner an enormous lake lay in front of me. The sun, sitting deep on the horizon, giving me a colorful display and a feeling of inner peace, was about to disappear while a herd of kangaroos were feasting on the lush green around a tiny creek running into the reservoir. This was a good place, I thought. And so I set up camp once more looking forward to good days fishing on the pristine waters of the lake, as I suddenly realized I had finally made it. This was the beginning of the Kosciuszko national park and the Snowy Mountains.

IMG_0917

 

The gentle wombat

Strange creatures they are. Fat and friendly, cute but tough, fluffy but hardy, an ass as hard as concrete and a face that makes one wish they were stuffed animals laying next to ones pillow to protect us from nightmares that so frequently haunt our peaceful dreams. Getting close and personal with these, so often elusive creatures, can be hard work or sometimes a nice surprise. Unexpected scratches on the bottom of the car give away their presence as they try to ease the itch of the flee invested regions of their upper back, unreachable otherwise, by their short and powerful legs. A strange way of getting introduced to, undoubtedly, one of Australia’s friendliest creature. As they graze peacefully in the evening sun, seemingly wondering around aimlessly, feasting on the wast grasslands, acting like a naturally born lawn mower, a mixture of guinea pig and cow, it is hard not to fall in love with these not so little guys and girls.

IMG_0888  IMG_0853

The playful opossum used to be on top of the list of creatures I would keep close to me at night. A cheeky fellow, full of energy, a seemingly clumsy animal when walking on the ground, yet so agile and elegant when running up tree trunks, conquering the highest branches of the tallest trees with playful ease, hiding behind the worlds warmest and softest fur. Yes, the possum was a great candidate for the coolest terrestrial animal in the wast Australian land, but the gentle wombat, fat and slow, seemingly not caring about anything around him, a hippy among animals, living slowly and peacefully, like a giant overweight Fijian guy, that just had another shell of Kava, playing the ukulele to the sun setting behind the horizon, just took its place, and deservingly so.

Spiel over…