Sunday, January 22, 2012

Three Days, Two Islands...Part Two

My parents are amazing. They are very outdoorsy, adventuresome souls who do a lot of bushwalking, kayaking, abseiling etc and I grew up loving those things too. In 2010 they spent several months as the caretakers on Maatsuyker Island for Parks and Wildlife. They were the only people on the island and had to take all their food and supplies with them and were very busy sending weather reports, doing maintenance work on the caretaker houses and lighthouses, etc. Last year they did a similar stint on Bruny Island and are back there again for six weeks. After bidding farewell to Hobart and Jude, Georgie and I set off to visit them. First step was to drive to Kettering and take the ferry across to the island. The drive seemed pretty short as we did lots of catching up in the car and laughed a lot. Here's beautiful Georgie on the ferry.

Once we arrived on the island we had another drive ahead of us- all the way to the other end of the island to the National Park, where Mum and Dad are living in the caretaker's cottage at the foot of the lighthouse. As we zipped along past paddocks and sheep, with no ocean in sight, I remarked to Georgie, "Wow, I can't believe we're on an island." She replied, "Um, we were just on an island, remember?" Oops. Sometimes I forget that Tasmania is an island itself.

After a few stops, including one at the fudge factory to buy gifts for our menfolk back home, we arrived in the National Park and began driving along a dirt road. The drive seemed so long and into nowhere that we began to get a little nervous that we were going the wrong way. However, once we caught sight of the lighthouse we knew we were on track. We arrived at the caretaker cottage and were greeted by my parents, who were waving off some tourists. People arrive to see the lighthouse all day every day and part of Mum and Dad's role is to answer any questions and let them into the small museum. It was great to see Mum and Dad. They showed us the cottage and then Mum asked if we wanted a room each, or if we'd rather "share one and giggle all night". We chose the second option, partly so we could indeed giggle all night if we so desired, but also because as beautiful as the cottage was, it was old and kind of spooky. After we dumped our stuff, we all set off for a walk down to Mum and Dad's very own private beach below the cottage. On the way we passed a lot of graves...three children belonging to lighthouse keepers have died here, many many years ago. It's quite sad to see how young they are on the graves. There was also a pet cemetary with a lot of graves. Again, sad, but adds to the slightly spooky vibe...

Not many people can say they have their own beach, and in such a beautiful place. Pity it wasn't really warm enough to swim. Plus the hundreds of dead bluebottles put us off a little! They aren't always there though and Mum has been enjoying the water.

I love the following shot of Mum and Dad. In the distance you can see the lighthouse, and below it the caretaker's cottage.

We got back to the house to find some more tourists had arrived. Mum and Dad started chatting to them and they expressed shock that Georgie and I weren't wearing jackets. We explained that we had gotten hot on the walk back up the hill from the beach, but they still thought we were "very brave and tough Tasmanians". After they left, we headed inside for nibblies and drinks before dinner, which Mum and Dad call Happy Hour, and all attempted to eat our own body weight in Bruny Island cheese. The turning circle where tourists park is visible from the kitchen window and we noticed another car pull up. Dad went outside to talk to them and minutes later zipped past on a bicycle. I found this quite funny as I hadn't even known he had brought his bike, and when he came back in I decided I wanted a go. Georgie and I went outside and I quickly realised the bike was far too tall for me and posed with it in front of the cottage instead.

However,  not content with this, I decided to run with it up the road, being watched by some bemused tourists who probably thought that I lived there, and that living out there in isolation had sent me a little crazy. I, however, blame the cheese for my bicycle hijinks. Even though I wasn't even riding it, I got distracted by seeing Mum and Dad laughing at me through the kitchen window and managed to crash into a ditch.

Hey, it takes a lot of effort to be this clumsy.

After dinner, which was one of Mum's delicious stir-fries, we headed up the hill to check out the lighthouse, marvelling at the hundreds of rabbits we could see. Bruny Island has a terrible rabbit problem and we couldn't believe how many there were.

Once we reached the lighthouse, Dad pointed out some landmarks, looking very official in his Parks and Wildlife uniform. The lighthouse isn't open to the public, but one of the perks of being the daughter of the caretakers is that we were allowed inside.

We went inside and started to climb the steep, 100 year old spiral staircase, with thirteen metres to the top. Now, I should say here that I never used to be scared of heights. From the age of 12 I have abseiled from bridges, sheer rock faces, water towers, etc. But 5 years ago I had an accident while abseiling (the details of which can wait for another day) and ever since then I haven't felt comfortable with heights. I honestly thought I would be fine climbing to the top of the lighthouse, but about halfway up I felt sheer terror hit me. I kept going and made it up but was not feeling happy. Dad took Georgie out onto the ledge but couldn't convince me to go. I told Mum that I couldn't go back down. Going up had been bad enough but at least I hadn't had to look down as I went. Mum and Dad assured me that I would be fine, and that it would either be head down or sleep there. Neither option was particularly tempting, but I started down. I felt truly frightened...sweaty, breathless, pounding heart. I am ashamed to say that I, a grown woman of 27 years, had to hold my mother's hand the entire way down. She was great, very reassuring and gentle but also no nonsense. Example, about halfway down:
Me: "Oh hell, oh hell, I shouldn't have come up here in the first place."
Mum: "Well, you did. Keep going."

Obviously, I made it down, gave Mum a hug and thanked her, and then took a photo of Dad and Georgie from below as they merrily skipped down, terror-free. I think I prefer the view of the lighthouse from solid ground.

After an evening game of Canasta back at the house (which, despite a shaky start in the first round, Georgie and I won), it was time to meet Blondie. Blondie is an albino possum who has been fed by caretakers for the past fifteen years. We went outside, Mum called his name, and lo, he appeared.

So did another possum, who ran at Georgie and made as if he was going to climb her leg. Understandably, she made a quick getaway.

Most possums that are used to humans can be a bit bold and greedy, and you have to be very careful if handfeeding as they can bite you instead of the food. However, Blondie is very polite and gentle. Mum and Dad were calling Blondie a 'she' until I noticed that 'she' had two, ahem, things that lady possums don't usually have. Mum calls the other possums Pirate Pete, collectively. Blondie (or Blondo as we surmised HE should perhaps be renamed) is really quite gorgeous.

Mum and Dad have to be up at 5.30am every morning to do the morning weather obs, so they headed off to bed soon after our possum feeding expedition and Georgie and I hung out in the lounge room, chatting, and went on an excursion outside with headtorches to look for wildlife. We managed to give each other the creeps- it was so dark outside- and having a bird flying at our heads out of nowhere didn't help matters. We went back inside and into the kitchen, only to have the same bird bashing against the window staring at us. Creepy.

We were up talking (in whispers) until pretty late, so when Mum burst in at 8am declaring "Wake up, it's the fun police!" we were both a bit groggy. After breakfasting and checking out another beach we farewelled Mum and Dad and set off, stopping to buy more fudge as we had, ahem, 'accidentally' eaten our gifts for the menfolk the previous evening.

After a drive back to the ferry, and then from the ferry into Hobart, I decided to hang around at Georgie's for a while to break the journey, as I still faced a long drive on my own back to Launceston. I got to go with Georgie to the Dogs' Home to pick up the twelve-week old puppy she is foster caring. His name is Zeus and he is just adorable.

After reluctantly farewelling Georgie and Hobart, I set off, and one loooong drive later I arrived home at 6pm, was greeted by two very enthusiastic dogs, and even though I was sad my adventure was over, I was happy to be home. Be it ever so humble...

Tomorrow I'm off again, taking Jude and Sophia to my parent's home in the North East to check up on things while they are on Bruny, and head to the beach. On the road again...

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