The Day of the Jackhole

The Day of the Jackhole

Celebrating 40 years on this earth

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1998. I’m on a boat.

September 17, 2011

I am on a ferry. I am on a boat. I am on the sea. I am going to Tasmania.

I hit land in Devonport and drive my car off deck F and out onto the road. Mainland, I am off you.

The drive is straight and easy as we–my car and I–fly fly fly our petrol fueled road wings straight to Hobart. Through land I’ve never seen before, on roads I’ve never encountered, past mountains I haven’t really even heard of. All I know about Tasmania is rain forests and hippies and being 20 years behind the mainland and David Boon was born here and the Port Arthur massacre and Rainbow Warrior. Oh, and that in some low-class circles (i.e. mine), a ‘map of Tassie’ is slang for a ladies front bottom.

“How far’d ya get, mate?”

“I saw her map of Tassie!”

Stay classy, Australia.

I drive. I don’t stop. Not once, even though there are things I want to look at. Ten days, ten days! I only have ten days, and figure I’ll work my way back up and around the island and there’s plenty of nature’s eye candy for all the boys and girls.

In Hobart, the car dies. I turn it off to go pay for my campsite and when I come back it’s dead. No clicking. No nothing.

“Looks like someone’s tried to get these bolts off with a pair of pliers,” says the guy from the front office, examining the chewed up nut head as he tries to help me get the battery out.

“Yeah,” I say. “That was me.”

“What did you use?”

“A pair of pliers.”

Eventually, we get it out and I swap in the new one. Adventure, back on!

Whiskey tours and breweries. The Cadbury Factory is booked up, which is probably just as well. I eat udon noodles from a pot and sleep in a borrowed tent. German tourists and pretty hillsides surround me.

Down on the peninsula, Port Arthur and is old and sandstony and I tour a downstairs cell. Take a playing card on my way in, each one telling the story of a random convict who spent time there. In all the movies, convicts are there for stealing bread. Not mine. Mine was a goat rapist, and if that’s not an accurate recollection of the card then it is now.

Heading up the coast, I pull off from time to time to examine the serenity. A trip of firsts, I eat lobster rescued from the sea that very morning. Crack its claws with a tool I’ve never seen before. The restaurant is empty, which is just as well. Because I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m making quite a mess.

Storms hit and I spend the night in a caravan. The mountains around here are supposed to have a pink tint to the granite, but I’m not going out to look. Too busy freezing in a caravan. The rain is coming at me sideways. Opening the door is like having a fistful of needles thrown your way.

On a sunny day, I sign the trail register and hike to Wineglass Bay. From atop a mountain, I look down on the turquoise water filling the glass. Soon, I’m down with my feet in the white sand of its rim.

Drive on.

I hot-foot it down a lush rainforest trail and snap photos of ferns unfolding and nearly slip and break my neck on wet ground. I talk to a couple of guys about their fishing trip up on Cradle Mountain. They tell me the temperature up there and I laugh. Yeah, I think I’ll just get the postcard.

Time is running out.

I nip up to the Lactos Cheese Factory but don’t do the tour. Just go in the shop and snag giant, fully ripe wedges of brie for $7 a pop and sit by the side of the road slathering the gooey mess onto crusty bread. I admire my authentic cheeseboard made from a crosscut piece of genuine Tasmanian Huon Pine.

“Did ya get the cheeseboard made from Huon Pine?” someone will ask me on the ferry trip back. “Everyone gets the cheeseboard.”

In Devonport, I stay at the Alexander Hotel in a corner room with an old single bed. The bedspread is rippled and most probably from the seventies. The curtains white and lacy. When I lie on the bed, I am swallowed whole by it. It’s like being hugged by your grandma.

On my last night in town, I eat fresh pan grilled scallops and drink a few pints of fine Tasmanian beer.

All these things, I do by myself. It’s not that I enjoy traveling alone. But…

If I’ve learned anything, it’s this. If you want to see the world, you can’t wait around for someone to show it to you. You’ll never see anything. Just go find out for yourself.


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