We met some interesting people and enjoyed the comings and goings of the town walkers, runners, dog walkers, and the lovely lady who swam with her horse every day.
We stopped at a wildlife park and rehabilitation centre to see wombats, and Tasmanian devils, having given up on seeing either of them in the wild. We were allowed to hold Kojak the 20-kilogram wombat and watch the devils funny social feeding antics. However the event for me was to come at the very end, just as we were leaving. An orphaned baby koala, about the size of a grapefruit, held my little finger with its tiny pads and claws while it gummed eucalyptus leaves. Now I know the meaning of the Aussie phrase to, “go all sooky.” I will never forget the moment, the sweetness and the beauty of that tiny creature.
December 21, Longest Day of The Year Down Under
Penguin Pandemonium at Penguin, Tasmania
Through the dark, flashes of white and a hint of iridescent blue bobbing and darting between breaking waves; frantic bird cheeps mix with the clatter of beach stones, and we wait, breathing shallow, anticipating. Penguins, tiny penguins take form; they duck under a wave, just miss a rock, and push out on the beach stones, flop on bellies and stand in a small group. They shake off, first head, then flipper wings, then small tail; they look around, seeming to ignore our dark shapes seated quietly a few metres away. Then they begin the waddle up the slope to their nests, wings held wide for balance, they stumble and belly flop, regain their feet and waddle on. Chicks appear from nearby, begging to any adult passing. They know the craws are all full of food gathered over the long day at sea. We watch with red filtered light so as not to disturb them, and refrain from taking flash photos for the same reason. These are far to precious to scare away, and safe nesting sites far to rare. Lance is our guide for our two-person tour of his back yard. He and his wife built a house here a dozen years ago and have dedicated themselves to preserving the penguins here, and to educating the public. They are in no danger of getting rich at $10 per person ($5.50 U.S.) We have a two-hour personal tour and learn a great deal about the life of penguins and see them up close along with the young chicks. On the way back, we see a pair of penguins grooming each other, and Claire grooms me, what little hair my buzz cut allows. Special evening.
.December 23. Rain all day again. We took an unloaded ride to a lovely headland, 85 kilometres, rainbows, sun, rain, the lot. All rugged up by the fire, surf pounding the headland below us, a gale blowing, reading, listening to Classical Christmas music on the wireless, rain on the tin roof of our kitchen shelter. Precious moment in Penguin, Tasmania, never to come again, this moment in our lives, passing, and in passing blessing us.
The sea; waves breaking on rocks, throwing spray up and over a 15 metre embankment, big boomers of gray green and white barrelling hard against the rocks, breaking out to sea and over and over again. Walked to the Penguin Fair: crafts and goodies, Chrissie crowds despite the wind. Bought a Christmas Pudding. In the afternoon, the clouds thinned to sunshine, the wind turned and flattened the sea, turned it to emerald under blue sky. Our neighbour Trent brought us fish he’d caught in his gill nets. Trent has been visiting with us off and on for a few days. He is 48, looks much older than me. He was injured in a mining blast and cave-in and has a small disability income he supplements with his fishing. He has a million dollar waterfront view from his old caravan, so close the waves of winter sometimes knock down his telly antennae. He can (and does) piss off his back porch while watching the sunrise over Bass Strait. One morning he came over to smoke and have his first beer of the day. “Suppose you noticed I drink all the time? Well, it’s my life.” It was said softly with no defensiveness; a resigned sharing.
For Christmas Eve tea we have Trent’s fish, wrapped in alfoil with rashers of bacon and slices of yellow capsicum, laid on the barbie for half an hour. Claire picked up a good Hunter Valley chardonnay from the bottle-o uptown. While she was gone, I made a Chrissie tree from a pine branch and the large red blossoms and shiny leaves of the New Zealand Christmas Tree plus two traditional candy canes we’d carried for weeks. After tea we napped until time to go to candlelight services at the Uniting church a short walk away. The people were very friendly, despite our decidedly un-Christmas-like clothes. Enjoyed a 12:30 walk home beside the now quiet moonlit sea.
Boiled the Christmas Pudding for breckky, made a billy of tea. Trent came over to visit. Says he won’t see the grandchildren until, “Tomorrow.” He touches the corner of his eye with the cigarette hand and looks at the ground. “They’re all pretty busy today. My daughter has a barbie tonight…” His voice trails off. We listened, and hope we made his Christmas a tiny bit better. We had an easy ride into Devonport with only light Christmas traffic, folks going from one set of grandchildren, or grandparents to the other; got waves from incredulous people, wondering who we were, and no doubt what we were doing riding such a heavily laden push-bike on Christmas Day. We had a tailwind, sunshine and a route along the beach most of the way, ideal cycling. Meat pies, crisps and beans for tea, nothing open.