Day 3 - Tuesday 11 November 2008

I wake up having no idea what the time might be. Itís windy, overcast and cool and thankfully there was no shaking of my window last night, just a good solid night sleep. The wind is coming in from the NE, this is new. The word, wind swept, comes to mind when living on this place. The grass always seems to be moving and a whistle of the wind is always in the air, its very cleansing. Iím feeling very relaxed today.

John said to me yesterday, midway through hauling buckets of water, that this was classic Tasman Island time, thereís no rush to do anything, itís monotonous, and you just have to get on and do what needs to be done.

My first full day on Tasman yesterday contained many moods, moments to reflect upon, some amazing views, intense exploration, and much contemplation and consideration of the geography and the wild elements.

After a breakfast of cereal and coffee, itís decided that we go for a walk and head down the main track towards the Whim and the always exciting climb down the steep Haulage-way at the very northern end of the island. At about three-quarters of the way down the track, shortly after Q1 we stop and clear a section of track, in an attempt to straighten it a little. With eight hands on deck, Alan decides to stay at Q3 and paint; we manage to clear it pretty quickly. We then make our way down to the Whim to commence the climb. Bob leads us followed by Pat, then myself and the others.

After about 5 minutes of following the path down the old haulage-way track through thick 2-3 metre scrub and bush, it eventually clears to show the top sections of the cliff face but for the first time I am looking straight at them rather than looking down at the them from above.

The cliff face is made up of many splendid shapes with sharp tonal contrasts in light grey though to dark blackness of the crevices and shadows in between. The view to the north is equally impressive across the Tasman Passage with the stylish looking and commanding Blade dwarfed only by the three clunky looking curves of the peak of Cape Pillar.

As we slowly move down the old haulage-way track the landscape just gets more impressive, particularly the cliffs looming down on us from above. Out to the north east the vast ocean stretches out to the horizon with its surface mirroring the deep blueís, whites, greys and silvers of the sky. At times it is streaked with all four colours mixed in with highlights of white wash and sea spray.

The haulage-way path is mostly covered with grass, but a handrail, that has collapsed and is very low to the ground, occasionally gives us something to grip onto. About two-thirds of the way down the path flattens out slightly, but then drops to its steepest over the final section before finishing on the Haulage platform.

The cliffs above appear like they are falling onto you, hanging above making you feel very small and vulnerable. The angle of the track on this last section Iím sure is steeper than 45%. My knees are sore and wobbly by the time I reach the bottom. The lactic acid in my legs is working overtime. Itís very exciting.

The haulage-way is very deteriorated; the timber on it has been worn through in some places from the bashing by the waves below. A mean feet considering that itís 30 metres from the haulage platform to the sea. The wire line (flying fox wire) still connects Tasman to the small rock off shore (Anchor Rock) to which a basket was once connected. Back in the islands heyday the flying fox would act as the sole means to bring people and supplies onto the island from a boat bobbling away in the waves below. The winch room continues to stand, its peddles, wheel and levers are all there but they are in a very sad state of decay. A small building behind it has collapsed, next to it, and also fallen over, is a large timber crane. The same one used to build the Hobart GPO apparently.

We wonder around for about an hour, or at least it feels like an hour. It could have possibly have been less but I was so excited that time seemed to distort. We have some morning tea, I take a lot of photos, watch a couple of tourist boats come and go, view many birds circling around as the sea continuously crashes dramatically against Tasman and Anchor Rock.

I take a series of staggered photos of the vertical cliffs Ė almost panoramic in sequence - and of the haulage-way landing platform. (I must remember to put back together when I get them processed back in Hobart.) We head back up the haulage-way. It feels much easier this time. The north-westerly wind has died down. Alena and Pat charge off up the climb first. Bob and I follow with Mike right behind. I pick up Mikeís jumper that he drops and take a bunch more photos. Bob and Mike stop but I carry on occasionally stopping and starting for photographs until I eventually make it to the top. Hot, sweaty and stinky I feel as I still havenít had a shower since being here, in fact its been Sunday morning since I last had a shower.

The others slowly make their own time back up to the top. The north-westerly can be felt again and itís picked up since the morning and is rather fresh. Chris and the others decide that we will flip over whatís left of the one the old carts that used to haul everything up and down. After digging it and its wire cable from its shallow grave we are able to flip it over. Both carts now stand side by side again. Itís a splendid sight and everyone is pleased by it.

Itís 1pm and we wander slowly back up to Q3 to have lunch and plan the afternoons activities. I get back to Q3, have a quick wash then tuck into lunch like someone who hasnít eaten for a couple of days. Following lunch I head down to Q1 for some weeding with Bob and Sue. Lunch has revived the energy burnt from trekking down the haulage-way. What an incredible morning that was. Truly a marvellous place we have just visited, with incredible views and scenery and an almost unreal, fantastic even, sense of scale of space, a strong sense of history, deterioration, calmness, intensity and energy. It really is something very unique and overwhelming.

After lunch I wash up the dishes, and then wonder around looking for a chore to do, deciding on Q1 for some weeding duty. Firstly it was collecting seeds from the metre high patch of yellow weeds, and then collecting bulbs which meant digging down about 30 cm to get them completely out. Tricky little things they were. After collecting 4 patches of roots and filling a bag full of bulbs, Sue, John and I move into the large bracken patch tucked away east of Q2 and in one of the few valley sections of the island with the most southern end of this section being a cliff face down to the sea.

This is a calm, strange part of the island that almost feels like you could be anywhere else but Tasman. Within this patch we find radish and garlic and possibly what could be some potatoes and a few other vegetables. John tells us that this area used to be vegetable and garden patch back in the day when he was stationed here.

My back starts to hurt from being on my knees so I slow down and take it a little easier. It gets to 5.15pm and Mike finds us on our hands and knees hacking into an orchid patch. He informs us that its afternoon tea time so we all head back to Q3 for scones and tea. Following afternoon tea I take my first shower since being here and it feels great. To be clean like this is a wonderful sensation, although my scalp is itching like crazy.

We settle down to a wonderful dinner that John makes of beef stew on pasta, which warms my whole body, particularly seeing as a cool change has hit the island bringing with it low clouds shrouding the surface of the island with cool air and some sporadic down pouring of rain. After dinner, and a fascinating story from Mike about the time he once got lost in the landscape around Port Davey, I once again help with the washing up before making my way back to Q2 and what feels like a well earned sleep. Iím tired, my body is sore after such an exhilarating day. The greys and blues, and silvers and yellow greens, black greens, yellow oranges, flashes of dead grey trees, slithers of bright sunlight on the horizon, and cliffs and that extraordinary sense of vast space. Wow, views of space, distance, sea, grass, scrubs, sky and clouds all around.