When winter arrives, there’s nothing more rewarding than rounding up your twelve most compassionate mates and going to Thailand. Well this year I did the opposite. I went south, to Cradle Mountain. Filled up the esky, stuffed the boot and fired up the Golf. We’d packed the tools for lamb stew, cinnamon whisky, walking in the rain and Settlers of Catan! And amongst the Pencil Pine and the famous Fagus Tree was a glowing wooden hut, the fire roaring and the kettle boiling up a storm.
They build em tough over in NZ. And they need to be if they want to sink fifteen Heines before bed, and still not wake up with an axe clean through the forehead. A long lineage of lumber jacks come from the place. That’s why they invented the Swanny! A fine piece of apparel you can buy even in Aussie. But it’s not gum trees they’re chopping, it’s pine mate. Drove past a couple testing out the two dollar petrol they do there. I’m only used to the buck-twenty stuff so it was a bloody treat. A few blue skies and it was nothing but a true blue time.
It can be hard to tell the kids from the grown-ups when everyone’s having a good time. The people you haven’t seen in years are like school mates after a summer holiday. And how good is it to be back together playing four square before the bell goes off. It’s ok though, we’re older now, we can pace ourselves. Especially when the Cascade lagers in the bath tub never end, and when another log on the fire won’t hurt anyone here. But finally the bell did ring – and as it did, the sun broke out to warm our fingers.
As the weekends became less warm, I took the camping box and a mate to the coast. Somewhere we could do a burnout at sunset and set up tent by the car, cook on the gas stove and look at the stars for a while. The clouds were blue and the waves were hard to predict. Darkness came over and we scrambled up the dunes.
My old bedroom in our family home still faces west, just the way I left it. While my eyes were still adjusting to the light, I checked the weather from my window each morning. White-caps on the water, she-oaks in the wind, swell between the islands and snow creeping down the mountain. We were all on Nokia’s in those days. On the morning of Josh and Lindsay’s wedding there was no exception, and it couldn’t have been a more Tasmanian day.
Bring out the salty swim shorts, put on the mix matched bikini and grab a faded bath towel from the cupboard. Throw that into an inside-out tote bag, along with a tube of Banana Boat that’s been carking it for years. One leg out the door you start rummaging around for the sunnies with one bung arm and the remainder of that half read book, before filling up an old Mount Franklin with warm tap water and finally jumping into the greenhouse that your car has become. Halfway down Punt Road you’re bloody over it, so you stop off at the servo and grab a pack of chilli & lime corn chips, always making sure you save a few coins for a Weis bar on the way home.
Johanna Beach is just over there, depending on where you are actually. There’s a couple of good dogs, one’s Rusty and the other’s a white Kelpie who likes sunsets and chasing sticks. The beach is pretty remarkable but it will fuck you up if you go swimming. The campground is immaculate, like a golf course, but there’s a tonne of flies to get in the way when you’re trying to serenade the sweetheart with a piping hot cup of coffee and some electrifying discourse. There’s also an old couple who look like rangers, but they just got a 2 for 1 deal on the khaki vests. They’re alright.
Down by the highway I pulled over for a leak and a look around. The wall of eucalyptus trees must have had some fire in recent years, their trunks alight with fresh regrowth. Behind them were some cows doing much the same as I. They looked healthy too, probably from the all the rain down that way in recent months. Good grass and lots of paddock for roaming.