On the Peninsula

Over the past few years I’ve had a backlog of potential galleries mounting up for Detail, partly because these few years have involved multiple trips to the same places, meaning that just as I’ve thought about dealing with one trip’s photos I’ve had new ones from another. Nowhere has this been more true than with pictures of the Tasman Peninsula, where my parents have lived since 2003. My earlier visits were recorded in Tasman, Tasman II and Tasman III, with photos taken on December trips there in 2005, 2007 and 2009. Then followed a gap of five years, after our second baby arrived, our mortgage went up to pay for an attic conversion, and the pound languished against the Aussie dollar: trips home became more difficult, and we had to rely on family members coming to us instead.

In July 2015 we finally managed another three weeks back in Australia, with half of those spent in Tasmania, where I had a chance to photograph some landscapes in winter rather than summer. On the peninsula, the weather was still largely sunny and warm (relative to a Scottish winter, anyway, or even an Edinburgh summer), only with shorter days. The kids even went for a splash about in the sea once or twice. We visited some places I’d never seen before, like the convict site at Point Puer and the tranquil Safety Cove, and walked to Maingon Blowhole and admired the perilous view (it’s literally a hole in the ground right through to the sea, with no fence). We saw Remarkable Cave again, which is, and the remarkable sight of three echidnas strolling across the road up to Hobart. They’re all captured in Tasman IV:

Tasman IV

Only days after returning from that trip, just as I was getting ready for a new semester of teaching, my brother called with some awful news: Mum and Dad had been in a car crash, and were in the Royal Hobart Hospital. They would be okay, we were told, but weren’t in great shape. He was about to fly down there to help out. I hurriedly arranged family leave and a ticket back to Hobart, and a few days later was back on a long-haul flight, arriving only three weeks after we’d said our goodbyes.

My focus was on helping Mum and Dad around the house, especially after my brother had to go home to Sydney, so there weren’t many scenic photos from that trip, but the first and last slides of the gallery above are taken from it. The last slide shows their resident kookaburra, hunting for worms in the lawn—and catching one. I considered not including it, as kookaburras aren’t indigenous to Tasmania; but then neither am I. (They were introduced to the state at the start of the twentieth century, and are now part of the landscape.)

I didn’t post about my folks’ accident here at the time, as it was all too raw and real—and for quite some time, its outcome was still uncertain. It was a dreadful reminder of our mortality—theirs, mine—and of the impact of living at such a distance, on all of us and on the kids. Their recovery was slow and uncomfortable, although luckily they were able to look after themselves and get around. I wanted to head back as soon as practical to see how they were doing and help with more chores around the house, so in February 2016 went back over, though only for six days (plus a few days in Melbourne beforehand to see some in-laws and friends). I timed the trip for a gap in my own teaching aligned with the Edinburgh school holidays, so that I could take my son, who was also concerned about his grandparents.

My photos from that visit are largely from White Beach, Roaring Beach and Saltwater River, all places I knew well and which are represented to different degrees in earlier galleries. For Tasman V, as always, I’ve tried to include images and scenes I haven’t covered here before, including three out of the four echidnas that W. and I spotted by the road at different times.

Tasman V

In the summer of 2016, instead of flying everyone out to Australia yet again—which is hardly cheap, even without having to pay for hotels—we instead made our first family trip to mainland Europe in years, to Denmark. A couple of other short European trips followed in 2017. I didn’t want to go too long without seeing my parents again, though, and giving both the kids a chance to do the same. To eke out our resources and make the most of our combined leave, I took the kids over to Australia again in July 2017 while J. stayed at work in Edinburgh.

On that trip we stayed on the peninsula for almost two weeks. Tasmania’s weather that July was again unusually warm and sunny, and I came away with countless photos: some of places we’d visited already, like the Tasmanian Devil Unzoo (née Park); some I had visited before but we hadn’t together, like Slopen Lagoon and Lagoon Beach, where they swam happily all afternoon, and the spectacular walk from Fortescue Bay to Cape Hauy, which took so long that we only just got back to the car before dark; and some that none of us had seen, like the long beach at Slopen Main and the weathered cliffs of the secluded nearby Whalebone Beach. It was also a spectacular fortnight of sunsets, looking across the water to Mount Wellington; and I even managed a pretty decent hand-held photo of a full moon, in its proper orientation (cf. these upside-down ones).

Tasman VI

As well as these two galleries, there are panoramic photos of my 2015 and 2016 visits (and one from 2005) in Panoramas 4 and my 2017 visit in Panoramas 7. You’ll see a little overlap with the Tasman galleries, but (deliberately) not too much.

I’ve made one more visit to the peninsula since: a quick trip at the end of August last year, on my own this time because the kids had just started school. Mum and Dad have now recovered from the effects of the crash, which is a great relief, but it would still be better to see them more often, of course. My peninsula photos this time were mostly of them and their place, so I haven’t included any in these galleries; instead, there’s a bunch still to come of a trip we made to Bruny Island.

Sorting through thousands of photos for these galleries, and refamiliarising myself with the older ones, has reminded me how large the Tasman Peninsula looms in my thoughts of Tasmania these days, even though I grew up a few hours’ drive away and in those days only visited it occasionally. Looking through the finished galleries is a way of reconnecting with a landscape that has come to signify family and home, even though I’ve never lived there; and with flora, fauna, and architecture that typify the entire state, and in many cases are unique to it. It’s almost a meditative act for me, and even though it might not be that for you, I hope you get something of the feel, the pace, and the weather of the place from these images.

Six galleries of the Tasman Peninsula, with almost 350 photos across them all, and still none of Port Arthur and its famous convict ruins. I’ve seen them many times throughout my life, including in the years since the horrific 1996 massacre, but haven’t taken the kids yet, as they were always a little young to appreciate the sombre history of the place. Next trip, I think.

13 January 2019 · Travel