Bruny Island, Tasmania

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February, 2015

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Newly retired Andrew Morris has dragged his wife Gill with him to Australia for 5 weeks. The main, wholly selfish, reason is to complete the tennis Grand Slam – sadly as a spectator, rather than as a player. Wimbledon, New York and Paris were conquered over the last four decades, the Australian Open in Melbourne will complete the set.

It’s a long way to go for a game of tennis, so they are also visiting Adelaide and Tasmania.

Part 3 – Tasmania, by camper van – Bruny Island

We spent 10 days travelling through Tasmania in a camper van, before ending our 5 week Aussie adventure with 3 days in Hobart.

This article is about the time we spent exploring the remote wilderness, alpine interior and wild wind-swept beaches of this amazing island, courtesy of the freedom afforded by travelling in a camper van.

Flying in from Melbourne on a beautiful, hot sunny morning, we headed straight from Hobart airport to the Apollo van depot. Except that it was a few kilometres and a short taxi ride away. With hindsight, we should have rented from Britz or Maui, or any of those situated within easy walking distance from the arrivals area.

The camper van was a Euro Tourer, Apollo’s flagship 2-person vehicle, with a comfortable double bed (convertible from the daytime “lounge” area), fridge, microwave, gas hob, toilet and shower.

But not much storage space, so it did feel as though we were living out of our suitcases for 10 days.

And we didn’t actually use the shower. Don’t worry, we did embrace Tasmanian waters….we just preferred to use the more spacious shower cubicles and hotter water on offer at most of the excellent camp sites.

The van was easy to drive and economical, costing us just A$220 (around £120) for 1,900 km worth of diesel, with fuel 1/2 the cost of current UK prices.

First stop: the remote Bruny Island, off the south coast of Tasmania, after a brief stop in a Kingston supermarket – just south of Hobart – to fill the fridge with local wines and ciders, and an idyllic 20 minute ferry crossing from Kettering on the mainland, through the D’Entrecasteaux Channel. A$50 return for a 6m to 10m long vehicle.

We had an interesting conversation during the crossing with a couple of charming old adventurers, parked next to us on the ferry. They were going to see an old mate for the first time in 55 years, who had stolen one of their girlfriends – and married her – a lifetime ago. No grudges seemed to be borne, and we didn’t hear about any murders on Bruny Island, so hopefully the reunion went well.

We passed quickly through North Bruny, soon scrunching along the gravelled thin famous Neck, joining North & South like a home-made Christmas cracker and feeling like the two ends could soon break apart.

Here, hundreds of fairy penguins migrate to their sand-dune rookeries at dusk every night and return to their watery playgrounds at dawn. Also, make sure you climb the couple of hundred timber boardwalk Truganini steps to the top, for spectacular views of Bruny Island and across to Tasmania.

Sadly, the steps are a small tribute to the indigenous Aboriginal lady whose people populated Lunnawannalonna (their name for Bruny) in the 19th century, until marauding Europeans killed most of her family and sexually abused her.

Throughout our Tassie adventure, we didn’t pre-book any of the camp sites, other than perhaps with an enquiring phone call a few hours ahead. This allowed us flexibility and spontaneity, but we were just outside the main holiday season and it’s probably advisable to pre-book during busier periods.

Our first camp site was tucked away in an impossibly beautiful spit of land on South Bruny, near Cloudy Bay. We met Phil, the owner, who gave us free rein to pick our site – “bush nook” or “lagoon” – as there was only one other occupant that night.

We chose a lagoon site, in splendid isolation and only a few steps through towering eucalyptus “gum” trees to a pristine Robinson Crusoe-like white sandy beach. The water was inviting but with confused and potentially dangerous tidal movements, so our swimming cozzies – and still pale Pommie bodies – remained on dry land.

We lit a fire for supper, almost like real explorers, but it turned out to be for effect only as a squall blew through and we scurried inside the van. Maybe we’ll barbecue those skewered garlic prawns tomorrow…..

We eventually drifted off to sleep, wispy smoke still rising from the fire up towards the eucalyptus tree canopy, full moon illuminating the beach through the bare tree trunks, and waves and wind uniting in a natural lullaby for our first night in a camper van on remote Bruny Island.

In the morning, chirrupping exotic birds were our alarm call and we were soon strolling along the deserted beach, heavy walking boots sinking into the wet sand like a spatula in cake mixture.

Back in the van, we headed even further south, into South Bruny National Park (fees apply, best to pay A$60 for 2-month access to all Tassie National Parks), as far as Cape Bruny Lighthouse. No longer manned or lit, it still holds incredible history, and this whole area is a spectacularly wild landscape of towering cliffs, muttonbird rookeries, coastal heathland and long sandy beaches. And not many people.

Heading back across the Neck to North Bruny, make sure you stop for a bit of cheese tasting – and cider guzzling – at the excellent Bruny Island Cheese Company. Nanna’s Undies tasted a lot better than the name suggests.

I’m not a Scotch fan but the Bruny Island Smokehouse and Whisky Bar is also on this part of the island, just 3 km from the ferry terminal. The Get Shucked Oyster Farm is also nearby, and with several other foodie places dotted around Bruny the small island is clearly punching above its weight, as it attempts to lure people across the Channel.

We just about had enough time to loop around to blissfully peaceful Barnes Bay, beyond the ferry terminal and feeling like a waterside community unchanged by time, before heading back to Kettering on the mainland.

The first part of our Tasmanian camper van odyssey had been even more remote than we’d anticipated. 1 night and not much more than 24 hours on Bruny Island probably didn’t do it justice, but we still had the whole of Tasmanian mainland to explore….

Andrew Morris

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