THE DEVIL IN TIM – PENELOPE’S TRAVELS IN TASMANIA
‘When Tim Bowden went back to Tasmania to explore his state of origin for the first time in many years as a tourist rather than a local, it evoked many memories of his boyhood. In this cheeky and warm rediscovery of Tasmania and its at times dark history, Tim and his wife Ros explore some of the quirkier outposts of island civilisation (stopping at a winery or three along the way) and travel through landscapes of incomparable beauty and devastating desolation. This book is a fascinating and humorous account of a rapidly changing Tasmania, told by one of Australia’s most infectious raconteurs and highly regarded broadcasters.’
‘Tasmania is the testicle of Australia – suffusing the Mainland with strength and vigour. What a pity there is only one of them…
I thought I knew Tasmania well, after having lived there for my first 28 years of life, but travelling around and through the island some 30 years after I left it to head off to Singapore and New York as a foreign correspondent for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, was a moving and surprisingly productive experience.
When I was ten years old in 1948, my parents, Peg and John Bowden, very bravely took me through the 50 miles (as they then were) bushwalk through the now iconic Lake St Clair – Cradle Mountain Reserve with some of their friends, which had some primitive wooden huts for shelter, and no timber walkways over the mud and slush of button grass plains and swampy valleys, which we slogged through in our soggy boots and gaiters. Although I am sure I must have been a pain in the posterior to the adults of the party from time to time, they coped with me very amiably really. I have vivid memories of this walk, and dictated a diary to my Aunt Nora – a shorthand typist – when I got back, which I still have. There are wonderfully dated references to ‘the womenfolk cooking the evening meal’.
Certainly the hazards of walking in the Tasmanian bush were brought home to me when my father became involved in the sad case of a Mainland student walking with some fellow students who stopped behind the main group to have a pee – with extraordinarily bad luck favouring a poisonous tiger snake with her contribution, who happened to be on the other side of the log she was sitting on. It bit her, shall we say, in a part of her anatomy impossible to place a tourniquet around.
At first she was too embarrassed to tell her companions, until she collapsed. All Tasmanian snakes are poisonous, and the tiger snake among the most venomous. The unfortunate young woman died within 24 hours, and my father became involved in a dash to contact a doctor and the police, but of course nothing could be done.
One thing the walk did do for me was to reinforce a love of the bush and camping which has stayed with me all my life. And Tasmania has come incomparable locations for that.
Six weeks was hardly long enough to explore the varied landscape of Tasmania, which surprisingly yielded a visit to some ancient Aboriginal rock carvings on the rugged West Coast which I did not realise existed. The island is redolent with its history, first as a convict colony, and the second oldest European settlement in Australia after Sydney.
At the time we were there, the island was involved in a conservation versus timber harvesting imbroglio, which has still not been completely resolved. Of particular concern to conservationists was Forestry Tasmania’s insistence on harvesting old growth forests for wood-chipping, clear felling huge trees more than 400 year old, and burning the cleared land to plant mono-culture plantation timbers for more wood chipping.
But for most of our travels we enjoyed meeting the quirky characters that about in the island state, and capturing their and others terrific stories. You might be able to take the boy out of the island, but you can’t take the island out of the boy. Once a Tasmanian it seems, always a Tasmanian – and my passport has never been taken away despite decades away from my birthplace.
Where else could you find a road sign indicating the turn off to Paradise 400 metres ahead?
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