The clarity of the sunlight, the dry and shush of brush after we pointed our bicycles away from Hobart
the rippled farmed but somehow not wholly tamed ground, we would see shade mirages in the distance that sometimes turned out to be a place to take a break, nod and shake hands with locals, remark on the heat and pedaling and the other side of the world as this was before heading onward.
Tasmania registers a conceptual far away, even to the Aussies among us. Sparse like a poem with just a few words on each line, gappy typesetting the distances over open spaces are to be thought about, too, a line on the GPS translated not into physical space but historical, where this place was with whom, how and now and reckoning but also the serenity of a still being told tale.
of camps every kind, in fields at the edge of towns with roos to watch, humid green hugs, inside a brewery next to the yeasting tank, next to a historic gravestone because it’s the only flat ground we can find.
We work to not get lost in the vacuum of distance as if it exists apart from the people in it, so we walk in, sweat grime palms black from lifting the dirt off of the handlebar tape making us sheepish, none of which is remarked in the least. We order crisp beer, whatever is being served, we banter and we try to connect voices to the land’s textures.
This part of of Australia is forthright in its ruralness, in its different economy, the cleft between here and mainland more than ocean and boasted of. As outsiders our only baggage is ignorance so we nod at analogies—”it’s like West Virginia in your country”— but remain open to not taking them seriously.
Steep Hills 90 second descents 10 minute climbs, friendliness, browns and tans, wallaby roadkill, heat, agriculture, quiet roads, wombats, quiet, scrambled starscape, the Climies Track, humor, poppy fields, awayness, beer: these stand out.
Straight roads tell us something about crops and cultivation, curved ones are geology or contingency. Craig stops for a late afternoon tea break, firing a small stove while sitting in the low grass edge and manifesting the wisdom of cooling off with a hot drink. Tim is still riding singlespeed from a twig tangoing with his derailleur, it doesn’t warrant complaints, they would just be strange wisps lost among uncertain clouds. Mike and Densy ahead, Densy falls down for comedy.
We meet up with Scott M from Launceston, he takes us up sublime mountain turns, shows us incredible hospitality at his home, arranges for a dinner and night’s stay at Van Dieman Brewery. Laughter, drinks, locally sourced food, I fall asleep to the hum of machinery on Will Tatchell’s farm. Hearing the love of Tasmania from those who live here animates our images into better ones, lets us hear birdsong and see distant treetops
Mines and mining roads usually imply a rubble desolation, but not here where we tunnel into something like a jungle to rail along old mining car beds, where we dig into our bags for headlamps to visit cracks into the earth, where we accelerate into lost elevation turns twist hopping out of ruts and chocolate milk puddles. As abrupt as summer after springtime, again into the open wards and ways.
On the west coast with its wild surf and animals that peek out nervously when the sun is just a blushing lump on the waves and then scamper in earnest in the darkness and ignore our light. It will be an exhalting roll over more populous but certainly not crowded roads to the ferry in Devonport. We’ll catch a sailing to Melbourne and sleep in the berth to awake to more sunshine