Roadtrip in 35mm
Rambling around Tasmania with my Voigtlander Vito CD ‘65
Acute filmmakers, such as Gaspar Noé, have taught me that telling a sequence of events in reverse chronological order might give an incisive aspect to a story. In the case of my Tasmanian trip, the trick perfectly helps me in summarizing the essence of this unique land. The last “mind-picture” I have of Tasmania is the Departure Gate entrance at Hobart International Airport:
“You are about to enter the hug zone. Come through and say goodbye”.
Relatives, friends, boyfriends and girlfriends can enter the Gates area together with the people departing. Because leaving Tassie is so tough: there’s need of human support until your last step out of it!
I decided to travel to the little wild island in the warmest and most welcoming time of the year: the beginning of Summer, from mid December until mid January. A time when the capital city, Hobart, is buzzing over the famous Sydney to Hobart yacht race, ending in the glorious bay, just next to Salamanca Place, where the Taste of Tasmania Food Festival is about to explode in cider and beer waterfalls and yummy local food avalanches. A time when Nature is fully awake and ready to host unmissable event such as the Falls Festival, 3-days of epic music over the New Year, in the stunning location of Marion Bay. But most of all, Summer is the time to pack the car and go for a mission into the Tasmanian wilderness. Time to get over the jet lag — a beer with friends at Salamanca Square always helps! — and buy some thermal clothes — NB: Tassie weather is pretty unpredictable! — and on my 3rd day in Tasmania the engine of our Toyota 4Runner started roaring and didn’t stop for the next 13 days or 2001 Km.
This trip has brought so much novelty to my travel ‘expertise’. First thing first, I wasn’t traveling solo — and the word solo for me includes: without neither idea nor a plan of where to go! I had a pilot/guide/outdoor teacher: my partner, in life and crime, James, born and raised in Tasmania and professional Fly Fishing guide. Second, it wasn’t a backpacking trip: no hostels on the horizons, but campsites in hidden and wild locations. I had never camped in my life before. I had to learn everything from the basics. We have set up/packed up camp every day for 13 days, changing location and moving on the road. Starting from Hobart, clock-wise, towards West, returning to the capital city on Christmas’ Eve.
My memories of the road trip are quirky and blurred. Sometimes by chance: I like to let my wandering mind wonder. Sometimes by choice: I like to let my old camera writing with light its own story. The following photos are taken with my Voigtlander VITO CD (1965). With a 50mm lens — same as the human eye — helps me to fix on a 35mm film what I see. Indeed, the blissfully overwhelming mind-richness provided by the process of discovering such wild locations, transforms my stream of memories in an equally wild and impetuous river. Hence, I let my photos guide me through my ramblings…
The Beauty and Controversy of Lake Pedder
After having spent few days on the Russel River — Huon Valley — and Mount Field National Park — North-West from Hobart — we decided to throw our loyal roaring companion on a gravel road towards Edgar Dam on Lake Pedder, the ending point of every beaten tracks. After that, no access to man: the wild wild South-Western wilderness.
When addressing this place, I often talk about the “Beauty and Controversy” of Lake Pedder. For the Beauty, well, have a look at the photos. For the Controversy, the story gets complicated. Lake Pedder, once a small natural lake with rose sand beaches, is now a man made reservoir (artificial lake) created in 1972 by the extensive flooding of the surrounding areas with constructions of three dams for hydro-electric power generation purposes. The sequence of events is long and intricate (gets political too) still, an open wound that dramatically changed the natural aspect of these once untouched lands. An exhaustive and comprehensive account on the ‘Lake Pedder Case’ is kept at Strahan Visitor Centre. Here, the collection of articles, research and evidences curated by the Australian actor, director and writer Richard Davey gave me a deep glimpse on the story of the South-West National Park and on the convicts history of Sarah Island and Macquaire Harbour Penal Stations. Very much worth to stop by.
The Luck behind the Trunk
On the way towards St Helens, on the East Coast, the Tasman Highway goes down-hill. Our 4Runner competed in roaring with the wind. She won, backed up by James’ driving skills, when overcoming a dry log falling over the road right in front of us! Still both a bit shocked, we found our luck right after a sharp turn of the road. Luck tonight is synonym of ‘Weldborough Historic Hotel’, situated in a desert town right next to the Blue Tier Forest Reserve. The Hotel has a carefully kept camping area, where, right before a big shower started, we manage to set up camp. Then, for the first time in 10 days, we had a pint sitting on real chairs around a real table. There’s no reception so we read newspapers, after having ordered a big local angus steak. The rain pouring outside the little windows.
Filled with an healthy dose of local food and gratefulness, we had a lovely chat with the owners. A British couple that when retired came to Tasmania with the idea of buying a shack. Little they know that the Estate Agency was selling an Historic Hotel in the middle of nowhere. And there they are: Mark smiling behind the bar, pouring us another beer, and Felicity talking to us from the kitchen, already buzzing for the upcoming wave of tourists on Christmas Day.
Where the Sea broke light into a Shrapnel of Silver
The East Coast of Tasmania holds the most worldwide famous gems of the Island. My favorite has been the very most southern tip: the Tasman Peninsula. The imposing and high sea cliffs give an outstanding dramatic halo to this part of the island. The history of the peninsula does the same: the famous Port Arthur Penitentiary for convicts is here. The only way to access the area is a thin stretch of land, Eaglehawk neck, once patrolled by guards and the infamous dog line, to prevent the convicts from escaping. All around the drama of nature: the reflections of the Tessellated Pavement and of the waves insinuating in Remarkable Caves.
Besides our loyal 4Runner, the music, James and his fishing rods, I had another companion for my road trip. The narrating voice of the journey, often echoing in my head: the Tasmanian writer Richard Flanagan and his novel ‘Gould’s Book of Fish’, the story of a convict in Sarah Island Prison, William, who painted fish. And with these words in my mind I woke up, alone, at 5am to see the sun rising in Fortescue Bay:
“…we walked to where green sea broke light into a shrapnel of silver and scattered it over glistening white beaches.”
— Flanagan, R., Gould’s Book of Fish
With the same words looping over and over, I walked back to where the path gets lost in between the eucalyptus trees…
That was on Christmas’ Eve. Last camp. Last day on the road. Everlasting memory, written with light on a 35mm film.
my suggested soundtrack for this article: