When Tasmania reverts to Van Diemen’s Land

I wanted Louis’ visit to Tassie to be perfect. I plotted out places Carlos and I could take him for excellent food (Fish Frenzy), mountain biking (North South Track on Mount Wellington) and opportunities to meet our new friends and community (a Cricket game on Monday that was a fundraiser from the recent bushfires). But we really needed great weather  to make his visit seamless and that’s something I can neither control nor fully accept. Four seasons in a day; It should be my mantra.

We set out on Sunday morning to the Tasman Peninsula for a wilderness cruise. Luis is a phenomenal photographer and I was excited by the prospect of taking him to one of the most scenic spots in the state where he could shoot the incredible sea cliffs and wildlife from the water. My dad did this cruise when he was in Tasmania and his account made it clear that we’d need warm clothes. We layered up and were issued red gortex suits to protect from wind. Even though it rained on the drive to Port Arthur, I was hopeful that by 10 am, the skies would clear. Four seasons in a day, right? The wintery weather would have to shift soon to fit in spring sun and summer warmth.

Setting out in Pirates Bay-- all smiles

Setting out in Pirates Bay– all smiles

The boys sat in the front of the boat for the promise of a roller-coaster ride when dropping into swells. That was also the uncovered part of the boat so when the rain intensified five minutes after leaving the dock, the gortex suits were put to the test. Luis and Carlos giggled as my stomach flew to my chest and I pulled up my hood a little more to shield the sideways rain. “This is Van Diemen’s Land,” I kept reminding myself. This is where the British and Scottish convicts were shipped off from their motherland to spend their lives suffering. This is an island founded on derelicts and drunkards. It’s meant to be rugged and dramatic.

Tasman Peninsula

Imagine the early explorers landing on Cape Huay. It looks like the end of the earth

Imagine the early explorers landing on Cape Huay. It looks like the end of the earth

The boat pulled into Cape Huay cove where Carlos and I hiked on Christmas Day. From the water we could see the hundreds of New Zealand Fur Seals chilling on the rocks. The gortex was failing. We hurled over waves to make it into the next safe haven and were soaked by the freezing ocean water. No one spoke or squealed with delight this time. I hunkered down in my front seat, fearful to look behind me at the other guests who I imagined were either vomiting overboard or passed out from hypothermia. This is Tasmania?! The convicts did not choose to live here. They spent eight months at sea and were jailed upon arrival. They were turned savage by poor living conditions, freezing temperatures and mental desperation.

The water looks warmer than the rocks for the New Zealand Fur Seals, and that's saying something.

The water looks warmer than the rocks for the New Zealand Fur Seals, and that’s saying something.

About half-way through the three hour tour I moved to the back of the boat with hopes of staying a bit drier. Everything was wet and my new seat meant buddying up to an older couple who had gotten sick. The rain was too fierce to look for sea life any longer. I shut my eyes for the remainder of the trip and imagined myself as a prisoner, sent to sea for a crime as simple as stealing bread. We’re at the end of the world and in truth it was only appropriate for Luis to experience it this way.

** All photos credited to Luis Baez

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4 responses to “When Tasmania reverts to Van Diemen’s Land

  1. I practically hurled just reading your account. I thought it was cold when I went but from the photos, I’d say you win in the frigid sea category.

  2. Pingback: When the old life meets the new | 365 Tasmania·

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