Sunday, February 3, 2013

Moving on ... to the new Annals of Annabelle

I've started a new blog, "The All New Annals of Annabelle" which will take up where this one left off.  The new one is more literary in flavour but hopefully will appeal to readers of the old just as well.

To have a look, go to  See you there!

Friday, January 25, 2013


Tasmanian Devils have an undeserved reputation as being nasty, ferocious little varmints you'd be wise to avoid.  As a threatened species, considered to be on the road to extinction like their distant cousins the Tasmanian Tigers, they've attracted a lot of media attention in recent times. 

Life is precarious for these creatures for a number of reasons.  For the last ten years or so their numbers have been decimated by a rare infectious and deadly facial cancer.  As well, they too often end up as road kill, predisposed as they are to scavenge for the carcasses of other animals on Tasmania's heavily tourist populated roads.  This has always been the case, but in combination with the inroads of the cancer, it's a far more serious threat than previously. 

For an as yet unknown reason, those animals that inhabit the north-west of Tasmania have proved more resistant to the disease than their counterparts in other regions.  Now however these apparently hardier little critters are likely to be impacted by the newly approved mine proposed for the Tarkine region in the north west.  With this combination of adversities, the odds are really stacked against them. 

This is unlikely to be a populist cause, and unless you're a nature conservationist or environmentalist, it may seem just one more of the endless problems we're asked to get concerned about.  The devils have gotten rather a bad rap, not being the most appealing of animals when pictured with their jaws gaping, and the graphic documentaries showing the cancer sufferers'eaten away faces have probably done little to endear them to lovers of the cute and cuddly.

Other than seeing them dead by the side of the road and the stuffed version in souvenir shops across the island, we didn't encounter them on our recent trip until the day we left Cradle Mountain and visited Devils@Cradle

 Devils@Cradle is a world class animal sanctuary located adjacent to the World Heritage area of the National Park and is an amazing place.  In a largely natural environment of eucalypts and flora unique to the region, the sanctuary provides a safe habitat for the devils, as well as other native marsupials, including quolls, wallabies and wombats.

As the only visitors, when we arrived we were lucky enough to get a personalised tour of the facility which housed a number of devils of all ages including babies.  These animals are part of what's called the Captive Breeding Program administered in conjunction with the Tasmanian Government's "Save the Tasmanian Devil Program", an initiative to help sustain genetic diversity in Australia's native animal populations.

The program also conducts orphan rehabilitation through taking in abandoned babies and hand rearing them to maturity, either to stay in the sanctuary or be released back into the wild.  The wildlife carers are exactly that, caring and expert in their knowledge of and skills with these unique creatures. 

While there, we were amazed to see the level of rapport between our tour guide and the animals, which allowed her to pick them up and cradle them like kittens.  Far from being the ferocious miniature man-eaters they can appear to be, we learned they only seem that way because of their huge jaws, fearsome looking teeth and the spine chilling cry they emit when afraid or threatened.  In this case their bark is a good deal worse than their admittedly not inconsiderable bite!

It would be a tragedy to see the devils go the way of the tigers, which are now only a distant and mythologised remnant of our history.  Apart from the fact that these animals seem to have gotten an especially raw deal over recent years, as a part of Australia's world renowned and unique native fauna, what's left of them must be preserved.  Let's not allow them to be crushed for ever under the advancing tread of so-called progress. 

If, like me, you want to be a devil's advocate, check out "Save the Tasmanian Devil" for ways of supporting them.  

Monday, January 14, 2013


The so-called E-book Revolution has been around for five or so years now (precipitated by the introduction of Amazon's Kindle in 2007), but just how much of a revolution is it? 

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal referred to a survey of book readers that showed only 30% of respondents had read even one e-book in the past year.  Another research study showed only 16% of Americans had purchased an e-book and 50% said they weren't interested in buying one.

So, despite such predictions as the death of the book, the demise of book shops and the imminent bankruptcy of traditional publishers, it appears the printed book may be holding its own.  As an avid reader, my experience is that after an initial burst of enthusiasm, the wave of e-book fervour is ebbing.  Like others, I got carried along by the initial excitement of instant accessibility, portability, cheaper prices and the unfailing appeal of the new.  My Ipad is groaning under the weight of numerous books languishing un-read in techno-space while the influx of printed books, which I consume one after the other as if trying to set a  record, hasn't lessened in the least. 

I'm basically disenchanted with the whole e-reading process.  I do too much gazing at a flickering screen already, and prolonging this activity for the length of time it takes to read a book is pure tedium.  As well, jabbing at a hard, unfriendly screen to flick backwards and forwards just accentuates the disembodied nature of the activity. 

Books are tactile, living, breathing organisms.  They look nice, they smell divine, they feel warm and substantial in your hands and they give you something to do with all those bookmarks.  Besides when I read, I like to scribble and scrawl in the margins, turn down the page corners, poke yellow notes in places to go back to, all of which I'm told you can do electronically.  But it's not the same.  Even if I manage to master the keystrokes to take a note, I lose track of where they've gone.  And if, like me, you love the extra fathomless dimension shelves of books bring to a room, those little simulated versions on your tablet are a paltry substitute. 

These are all fairly self-evident objections.  A more philosophical argument in favour of printed books was recently proposed by Nathan Hollier in "The Conversation", and hinges on the idea that the digital reading experience is detrimental to our ability to concentrate.   Opening the gates to the digital playground of a tablet, which reading an e-book demands, he suggests, means you make yourself vulnerable to the lure of everything else that's on there too.

An impairment in concentration might not seem so dire, except when you consider that lowered levels of focus and the inability to concentrate are linked to stress related illnesses, which are proliferating in our society.   One of the triggers for faulty cognitive functioning appears to be a surplus of options, an overload of information, a cornucopia of visual, auditory and intellectual stimulants, the very conditions fostered by our wealth of digital accessories.

The digital age, Hollier says, has become an "age of distraction".  Without concentration, there can be no intellectual development, no thought that can truly be considered rational.  Focus means first of all capturing a wandering attention, becoming adept at bringing it, like a straying toddler, quickly into line. 

E-books purport to offer a rich reading environment.  A universe of books, both old and new is literally at your fingertips.  A few easy clicks of the keyboard and a book you suddenly get a whim to read is open before you.  It's exactly this technological powerhouse though that's the problem.  

As Hollier points out, Web2 technologies, with their hyperlinks, file sharing, animation and graphics  capabilities, have opened up a smorgasbord of  "side orders" to the main course of the book.  What we're getting bombarded with is more, more easily and faster.  Is this necessarily better?  We're told this is a transformative experience, opening up worlds of previously unimagined possibility.  But is it opening up, deepening, revealing;  is it expanding the level of immersion or just shallowing it out?  There is such a plethora of riches, we become spoiled for choice.  Our thoughts flit across the surface of subjects like an insect over water, never staying still long enough to absorb anything but an ephemeral glimmer.

In comparison, reading a traditional book is a singular activity.  The very nature of fixing the eye on a three dimensional, solid object held in the hands, controlled only by your own manipulation, forces you into a kind of rapt communion with that particular collection of pages, curtailed within their cover, inaccessible and separate from any exterior distraction, influence or interference.  For that piece of time, for better or for worse, you and that book are symbiotically joined. 

As well as concentration, reading is an act of contemplation … of other worlds, other characters, other ways of being.  A book is a small window into a world without horizons.  The armchair traveller is no less a traveller because he flies beyond his lounge room on the pages of a book, rather than as a passenger on an aeroplane.  And the travelling experience is a lot more congenial, avoiding as it does the need for booking flights, packing, boarding gate checks and other such indignities. 

It doesn't take much to put me off my game when I'm trying to compose my thoughts.  A case in point, even as I write this, I'm startled by the chime of an email hitting my inbox, immediately sending my already tenuous train of thought skittering wildly off the rails.  And all so I can learn that the Target Back to School sale still has some great bargains. 

The digital age is bad enough.  My own age is another cognitive impediment.  Grasping the thread of a coherent thought and holding on to it is becoming as arduous these days as trying to thread a needle.  Not having any inclination for sewing, I can happily dispense with the latter activity, but not the former.  Conceiving an original idea, tracing its progression in some sort of logical form and then transcribing it articulately is pivotal to the activity of being a writer.  My ideas too often emerge from the mental haze like diaphanous wisps, hover for a tantalising moment just beyond my reach and then dissolve into the ether like fairy floss on the tongue, leaving nothing but a faint forgotten sweetness.

If favouring printed books over e-books is going to help me in my fight against the great mental decline then there's no argument.   If the thought of the e-books I've wastefully purchased but not read bothers me, I can placate my conscience by thinking of all the reading material I'll have next time I go away somewhere.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


With crystal balls in short supply, looking forward is at best speculative, and at worst purely wishful thinking (New Year's resolutions anyone?)  Still, with the refreshing picture of turning over a new leaf that the flip from 31st December to 1st January brings to mind, we all like to indulge ourselves in the somewhat bipolar activity of reviewing the old and anticipating the new.

In terms of the new, if the recent influx of joggers, walkers and cyclists in the streets is anything to go by, many of us are embracing the New Year: New Me idea.  Not least among them I too have vowed to get more exercise, adopt not just one but two AFD's (alcohol free days) per week (gasp!), bitch less and empathise more, write in this blog regularly (ha! I hear you say), not take criticism and rejection personally and other such absurdly unrealistic, not to mention unoriginal, figments of someone else's imagination.  What's important about any of it I suspect is that it keeps us subscribing to the idea that, with sufficient motivation and determination, we can take control of our lives, notwithstanding those hefty slabs of it that are beyond our grasp.  Reaching however never did anyone any harm and illusory though the concept of self revitalisation may be, it  feels good to give it a shot.

A friend of mine recently adopted the phrase "shameless self promotion" in describing her venture to put her current, very exciting writing project, as they say "out there", by means of a personalised website.  At the risk of being (again) unoriginal, I'd like to take a similar approach (ideologically at least) to my own writing.

What this means is convincing myself, first of all, and then that many headed monster, the market, that I've got something worth selling.  My natural instinct has always been to hide my light under a bushel (whatever the hell a bushel is), a practice that leads to fumbling in the dark and getting stepped on.  

Shameless of course implies being prepared to let it all hang out, without fear, timidity, anxiety or any of those other self-defeating inhibitions I imbibed at my mother's knee.  It means letting go of the idea that trying to flog your work implies seeking favours to which you're not really entitled, embracing the idea that if I think my work has merit, I shouldn't let anyone else convince me it hasn't, and finally abandoning for ever any fantasy of achieving perfection.

As much as the ability to string words together, a writer needs persistence; that vastly underestimated quality that probably takes you further than any other.  I recently found a perfect (ok, pretty good) analogy for the persistence a writer needs in a quote from Edward Hoagland's "The Courage of Turtles".  Here it is:

"Turtles .... don't feel that the contest is unfair;  they keep plugging, rolling like sailorly souls - a bobbing, infirm gait, a brave, sea-legged momentum - stopping occasionally to study the lay of the land."

So for me, it means cut the whingeing and whining, stop resenting other writers' successes, forget expecting anything to be fair, listen to valid criticism and let the rest roll off like the proverbial duck and reminding myself every day that writers write.  Pausing, like the turtle, every now and then to take stock is allowed.  Stomping off in a huff, thinking I'm a loser isn't.  It's as simple as that really.

I haven't devoted any space here to reviewing the old, but if you've read previous versions of the blog you'll pretty much know last year was a biggie, in that I got married, practically finished off my Masters and moved gratefully into semi-retirement, which pretty much sums it up.

At this time of year, the coming months shine with promise, especially as we surge forth renewed and optimistic.  I don't know what will unfold but I doubt I'll get many clues from crystal balls, astrological charts or Chinese horoscopes and if ever I'm tempted to waste time looking, I hope I remember this quote from Shakespeare

"The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars.
But in ourselves, that we are underlings."

Underlings arise! Let's make 2013 the year of shameless self promotion!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A Room with a View

I’ve lived in a variety of residences over the course of my life so far, and have liked some more than others.  In none of them have I yet been able to create what I call the perfect room.  Such a space is somewhat resistant to definition, but I know I’ll recognise it when I see it.  There is possibly only one non-negotiable feature, and that is a view. 

On the assumption that most rooms have a window, it can reasonably be assumed that most rooms have a view of something, even if only the neighbour’s galvanised iron fence.  What I have in mind however is a vista.  This means, at least to me, a panorama; a landscape, seascape, treescape or hillscape to enchant the eye.  A streetscape won’t suffice, although I could make an exception for the Champs Elysees. 

It must be something about the drawing out of the visual field, the possibilities conjured by the ability to look to a horizon beyond your immediate reach.  My reach has ever exceeded my grasp and distant fields have always looked greener, but it’s more than that.  Opening a physical window to the world serves to open the mind and the imagination.  What is that speck far off in the distance?  A man, a wildebeest, or just that damned floating vitreous again? 

Focusing on something distant works, paradoxically, to sharpen that much more intimate perspective, my thoughts.  The view seems to spark off a simultaneous process of inspection and introspection.  As a writer I read recently said, to paraphrase, attempting to see anything past the racket in my head is often futile, so whatever helps that process is good.  To paraphrase yet again, there is something to be said for a room of one’s own, but a room with a view is infinitely superior. 

This was just what greeted us as we entered The River House, a bed and breakfast establishment on the banks of the Tamar River just outside Launceston; our next port of call after leaving the Bay of Fires.  From what I had read of the place beforehand, it promised to be good.  However, as anyone who’s used the Internet to book accommodation knows only too well, lyrical self-promotion and stunning photo galleries can often be misleading.  Not in this case though. 

The River House is a gracious building set in an expansive garden which on one side slopes down to the Tamar River, affording the guest rooms sweeping views of the river frontage.  The house was originally a family residence, to which substantial additions, renovations and refurbishments have been made, to brilliant effect, over the years. 

On our arrival we were welcomed by the host, Carl, a charming man who made us feel at home immediately.  Although having established himself in the hospitality industry only later in life, Carl has taken to his role (not to labour any puns here) like a duck to water.  Not only has he mastered the art of anticipating his guests’ every need and ensuring it is promptly met, but he manages to do so in the calmly unobtrusive and unselfconscious manner of an old friend. 

Leading directly off the entry foyer where the business side of arrangements are conducted, is the guest lounge, into which Carl ushered us once the formalities were out of the way.  This was the room with the aforesaid view, the room that was made for me, or should have been.  It was large, spacious, furnished with solid, comfortable, people-friendly sofas and chairs, and one wall of it looked directly out over manicured lawns, native shrubs, statuesque gum trees and the broad expanse of the river flowing past just a few yards away.  Along one wall a welcoming fire roared in the large stone fireplace.  This faced another wall lined entirely with books, which as anyone who knows me is aware are my favourite things in the world.  The concept of a desert island book is one I find impossible to envisage.  There's no way I’d survive anywhere without a security blanket of at least several dozen. 

In terms of the room, about which I am being so unashamedly effusive, there was nothing about it that would necessarily strike others as impressive; no delicate fabrics, priceless antiques, cutting edge design, gleaming or glamorous ostentation of any description.  Subtlety was probably a large part of its charm, that and taste, the acquisition of which of course, is not guaranteed by the heftiest budget.  It was very much the view, but also the open fire, the bounteously stocked bookshelves, the broad chunky coffee table, the elegant lamps, the comfortable chairs and the ... well all of it.  All the elements combined discreetly and seamlessly to create an ambience of peace and comfort that seemed perfectly effortless.  It was the sort of place where you’re tempted to start spouting rubbish like all I need is a jug of wine, a hunk of bread and thou, so long as it’s here, and I’ll be happy forever.

No sooner had we deposited our belongings in our room, freshened up and re-oriented ourselves to our new abode, than Carl had conjured up a pot of tea and some home-made apricot slice which he set out on the table in the guest room “in case we might feel like it”.  Naturally after driving all day, we did, and it was a delight to sit back and relax in the lovely surroundings.  Tea eventually progressed to an evening refreshment of stronger kind and as we appeared to be the only guests in residence we were fortunate enough to have the guest room to ourselves to observe the gradual onset of dusk over the garden and the river outside. 

As the shadows lengthened and crept towards the house, the river seemed to slow, along with the day, and take on a different persona, darkening and merging into its surroundings.  Like rooms, there can be something magical about a body of water, changing and transforming itself constantly in response to the fluidity of the light over and around it.  Looking out at this, I noticed within the shadows some deeper shadows that moved.  These turned out to be wallabies, many of which live around the house and adjacent properties and come out to graze on and in some cases gobble far more than they should of the grass and shrubberies.  Hard to see them as pests, with their sweet, doe-eyed faces, however they can obviously outstay their welcome, to the extent, Carl told us, they sometimes end up as wallaby pie.  He and his wife, we were pleased to know, don’t discourage their marsupial visitors, seeing them as adding a bit of local colour, which they clearly do. 

When we woke the next day it was to a transformed world.  A feathery grey blanket lay heavily all along the river, a not uncommon phenomenon apparently on autumn and winter mornings.  Because the house was situated so close to the river, the mist had expanded over the garden and everything outside the window seemed shrouded in a dense grey cloud, through which the silhouettes of bushes and trees could be discerned only vaguely.  If any early rising wallabies were out there breakfasting, they would have been well camouflaged. 

As we ate our breakfast, which lacked for nothing, and was enhanced by the convivial company of Carl popping in and out to ensure we were nothing less than completely satisfied, the mist lifted slightly from the garden but still hovered persistently over the river.  We discovered later, when we set off down the highway which runs parallel with the river, the fog extended all along the estuary which stretches for some 70 kilometres.  Because of the topography of the Tamar River valley, the area is renowned for fog which can play havoc with air and sea traffic in and out of Launceston.  Indeed Launceston has the dubious honour of being the most fog-bound commercial airport in Australia.

It was with considerable reluctance that we took our leave of the River House and Carl.  We didn’t meet his wife, whose role appeared to be confined to chief cook and bottle washer in the kitchen, however she certainly cooked a mean breakfast.  No doubt the economic downturn has impacted on the tourism business and sustaining a small business in the industry in such times would be difficult.  Carl is therefore keen to attract as much custom as possible, and encourages his guests to submit reviews of his establishment on Trip Advisor, providing they are favourably impressed, and I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t be.  I was only too pleased to do this of course and would urge anyone who is looking for somewhere spectacular to stay to try this lovely spot.  Compared to other places of comparable standard, the River House is also extraordinarily good value for money.

To check it out go to:

Hopefully we will return one day for another taste of gracious riverside living.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Say Cheese

As a child I wasn’t much enamoured of cheese.  Not surprisingly, given that about the only commercially available variety in those simpler times was Kraft Cheddar.  This, for those who can remember and those who can’t, was a block of processed rubbery material encased in a colourful blue cardboard wrapper.  Those who have feasted on it will never forget its uncanny resemblance to soap, in both texture and taste. 

There may well have been a wider selection available but this was the only one that made it to our table.  In fact by the 1960s there were around 20 cheese varieties being produced in Australia, a quantity that was to double in the next ten years.  So it may just have been that Mum was an unimaginative shopper, or a slavish brand follower.

Something else from those times that can’t be forgotten is the old admonition whenever a camera hove into view, to say Cheese!  While the stuff itself was unlikely to bring a smile to childish lips, its articulation demanded it.  Rebellious kids probably gave it a shot, but it’s pretty well impossible to say the word, given its obligatory stretching of the lips and baring of the teeth, without giving the appearance, at least, of smiling.  It wouldn’t work in French of course.  Fromage doesn’t cut it in the facial grimace stakes, despite the suggestiveness of that husky rolling “r”.  Happy snappers in France apparently encourage grinning in their subjects with the request “dit souris”, (say mouse); not too far a stretch when you think about it.

Smiles and mice aside, cheese was very much on our minds when we visited Pyengana in Tasmania, not far from St Helen’s and requiring only a minor detour from the route that would take us to our next destination.  The Pyengana Dairy Company has been making cheese for the last hundred years or so.  There was therefore good reason to believe they had perfected the art. 

 Some distance from the esteemed cheese making establishment, the scenery began to take on a distinctly pastoral appearance.  Situated in a river valley, the region is climatically perfect for the rearing of dairy cattle.  Some of the brochures we’d read described the countryside in these parts as “lush”, a word that struggles to do justice to the picture postcard gorgeousness of the scene that unrolled itself before us.  Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 could have been composed with precisely this little spot of cow heaven in mind. 

The Pyengana Dairy Company has, to its credit, capitalized on the Tasmanian foodie tourism trend and set itself up well to capture the interest of passing travelers.  It has an attractively presented shop of course where one can buy in addition to cheese, a variety of cow related objects, spanning the spectrum from eclectic to kitsch.  The cheese offerings include a commentary by the assistant (with samples) on the range of cheeses manufactured.  There is also a café called (what else) the Holy Cow.  It is all tastefully done with a minimum of crass commercialism and a view to die for from the Holy Cow café, which looks out on the surrounding pastureland and the original cheese producers – the contentedly grazing cows. 

Having discovered as I matured (like a good cheese) that the world of cheese is not as insular as my early Kraft Cheddar years suggested, I must confess to now being an unregenerate cheeseaholic.  My judgement in regard to cheeses is therefore possibly suspect, in that I pretty much love them all.  At Pyengana they specialize in cloth-bound mature cheddars, ranging from mild (matured for up to 6 months) to mature (12 months and more).  There are also flavoured varieties, including “devilish” (spiced with chili) which is a popular choice.  After sampling them all, I found it hard to go past the ultra mature cheddar, which although bitey, as one would expect, had a mellow and almost silky texture, rather like fine chocolate, or wine.

As there was an inviting open fire and the aforementioned view, we decided to stay for lunch in the Holy Cow Café.  In between ordering and partaking, David decided to step outside for a first-hand look at the producing side of things.  As he was born and raised on a dairy farm at Woodside in the Adelaide Hills, he harbours some nostalgia for those days, notwithstanding the rigours of early morning milking and other such delights.  He was therefore keen to see to what extent progress had caught up with the industry.  By the time he returned, lunch had been well and truly served and mine, which was delicious, already consumed.  It would be a pleasant life, I imagine, tending the cows and mixing up the curds and whey, especially in such delightful surroundings, however life on the udder side sometimes looks better than it is. 

And now that every suburban supermarket seems to boast a specialised cheese counter to rival the best of the old David Jones’ Food Hall days, there must be so much competition for the consumer dollar that small companies such as this no doubt work very hard to make a profit.  It is gratifying to see that they are able to do this in Tasmania and not only survive, but maintain such high quality products over so many years. 

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bay of Fires

As far as eateries go, Binalong Bay boasts only one, so the burden of choice was minimal as we drove into the small beachside town right on lunchtime.  The solitary cafe is, as we discovered, excellent, superbly located with a million dollar outlook over the southernmost stretch of the famous Bay of Fires.  As we approached, it looked like there might be a bit of a line-up, hardly surprising in a one cafe town at lunchtime, so we prepared to get behind the couple who were waiting outside the door.  What they were hoping for wasn’t sustenance however, but an elusive network connection.

“No, nothing.  Dead as a dodo,” the middle aged man said gazing despondently at his phone which he’d been waving around in the briny air.  Spotting David’s IPhone, he said, “You’re not on Optus are you mate?”

“Well, yes,” David replied.  “Why?”

“Have you got any bars on yours?”  He wasn’t referring to drinking establishments but those little symbols on the screen that show the strength of your connection to the network.  Which had, as it turned out, entirely disappeared from David’s phone as well.

“See, there you go,” he said, turning to the woman with him, who judging from her expression of resigned forbearance, must have been his wife.  “Pathetic.  We’ve been travelling along the coast for the last five days and can’t get a connection anywhere.  What kind of service is that?”

We commiserated with him, as we were obviously expected to do, even though we hadn’t suffered quite the same degree of inconvenience.  Apart from a few fadeouts, our connection had been reasonably reliable until we arrived at Binalong Bay.  This bloke wasn’t in the mood to be placated however.  He seemed to take it as a personal insult that his carrier of choice was failing to deliver and what’s more no-one had warned him.  He’d been left in the lurch with no means of communication, other than, heaven forbid, a landline.  Almost enough to make you switch over to the big T, and perhaps he was planning to do just that. 

Optus has indeed been a non-presence in many parts of Tasmania, where Telstra has maintained a monopoly for some time.  In the spirit of competition however, about a year ago Optus announced a major investment in expanding their coverage and this, it is hoped will improve the situation.  In the meantime, Optus customers who visit patchily serviced areas like this section of the east coast, have to make do with old world technology, or resort to archaic holiday practices like sending postcards.  Another one of those what did we do before Gladwrap scenarios. 

The last we saw of the disgruntled pair, they were munching their takeaway hamburgers on a bench overlooking what Lonely Planet named the world’s “hottest” travel destination in 2009.  Hopefully they got over their pique about Optus and were able to fully appreciate it.

Lonely Planet’s article painted a vivid picture of “white beaches of hourglass-fine sand, Bombay Sapphire sea, an azure sky – and nobody.”  This is just how it was when we were there.  In the height of the holiday season it may be different, at least along the stretch adjacent to Binalong Bay, where it is closest to civilisation. 

The Bay of Fires stretches from Binalong Bay north to Eddystone Point, a distance of about 56 kilometres, with part of the northern section included in the Mt William national park.  It was named not for the fiery colour of the rocks that border much of the shore, but by an early explorer, Captain Tobias Furneaux, a crony of Captain Cook who sailed along the coast in 1773 and spotted many fires burning along its length.  These were the fires of the local Aborigines who were numerous at the time, as evidenced by the many middens (shell and bone deposits) which can still be found in the sand dunes.  Whether they were roasting kangaroos for dinner or just trying to frighten off the approaching invaders isn’t known.  What is known is that the Aboriginal relationship with fire, like their connection to the land, was an integral part of their culture and mythology. 

There are a number of tour operators that conduct guided walks along the full extent of the bay.  It is about a three day trip, with overnight camping, offering varying levels of communion with nature, from the elemental to the luxurious.  Depending on your budget and willingness to get up close to nature in the raw, you can have a spiritually cleansing experience, forfeiting showers, soft beds and other such comforts, or a relatively civilised one where the encounter is cushioned by such rituals as afternoon tea and scones. 

Time not permitting, we didn’t pursue the full Bay of Fires experience on this trip, although it is definitely something to include on the longer term “to do” list. 

What we did see of it lived up to the Lonely Planet hyperbole.  Even on a grey and cloudy day, which it was when we first arrived, it was picture postcard material, with the whitest sand I’ve ever seen, turquoise waters of a limpid blue and the aforementioned orange lichen covered rocks, which lie like gatherings of great sleeping beasts between the shore and the land.  So entranced was David by the first sight of these, he sprang from the car and in no time was leaping from peak to peak like a mountain gazelle.  Not to be outdone, I followed, forgetting I have zero sense of balance and my leaping days are long gone.  I ended up horizontal in a short space of time, but fortunately David was too busy doing his king of the world impression from the top of the highest rock to notice. 

 When we awoke the next day, it was to one of those lustrous mornings when the world looks like a newly minted coin.  Everything gleamed.  The sun shone in a brilliant blue sky.  The sea sparkled, and the long curve of white sand curled away into the far distance.  Our accommodation was, although not five star, spectacularly situated, on a hill looking straight out over the sea.  Far along the beach we could see, from our bedroom, a couple with two Labradors walking along the shore.  To say the dogs were enjoying themselves would be a huge understatement.  Those two were in dog heaven, gambolling about, frolicking in and out of the water, chasing birds, kicking up sand and having one hell of a time.  Not too shabby a place to enjoy a morning walk.  We couldn’t help but think of Lottie and Fergus, cooling their heels in the boarding kennels, no doubt wondering whether they’d been abandoned for life.  It’s a good thing they didn’t know what they were missing.

This is another of the breathtaking places for which Tasmania is so renowned.  Despite it having been publicly rated on a par with the best the world has to offer, the amazing thing about the Bay of Fires, as is the case with many of Tasmania’s attractions, is that it is still so unspoiled and seemingly immune to the depredations of over-commercialisation.  Let us hope it remains that way.