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Standing on the edge of the world.

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Today found us making a fairly early start to Smithton, about 20 kilometres from our temporary home at Stanley. Smithton is dairy country. It’s surrounded by richly grassed farms with very high concentrations of healthy-looking Dairy Cows per paddock. It’s a fairly regional centre but we didn’t spend a great deal of time in the town, opting to explore the surroundings.

Not far from Smithton is the Tarkine Forest which remains one of the few, if not the only, Blackwood sinkhole swamp in the world. This amazing place has a history of logging, particularly the beautiful straight and enormous Blackwood trees. We took in the views over the tree tops from a landing high above the forest. Kerrie was infatuated by what she called the best view from any toilet she had ever been in.

We proceeded on to the little hamlet of Marrawah where we lunched on the beach just below where the Tasman Sea meets the Bass Strait. It’s a wild but beautiful place directly in the path of the notorious roaring forties, or latitude 40 degrees south, where the prevailing westerly winds circle the globe with the only landmass in their way being Western Tasmania and the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. We had the bonus of being able to clearly see the Woolnorth wind farm, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. We would’ve liked to have gone onto the farm but you can only go there as part of a tour and it’s quite costly.

We proceeded on towards our next destination which was to have been the Arthur River mouth but on the way, we spotted a sign which said “Bluff Hill Point” so off we went down a dirt road to take a look. We came to a lighthouse perched above a wild and windswept coastline that was awe inspiring. The sea, although calm, gave us a hint of what this coastline is often like with waves pounding the rocky reefs and sending spray high into the air. Apart from the lighthouse, there was no sign of human existence until we saw in the distance a roof of a house. Off we went to investigate and we came upon an absolutely unique place.

There were about 8 houses on this tiny sandy beach surrounded by treacherous rocky headlands. There were a number of powerful small boats dotted around and we noticed 2 refrigerated trucks near the beach each with drivers. We realised this was a base for a few Abalone fishermen. As we soaked in the wild and remote atmosphere some of the boats returned. They run the boats up onto trailers with massive drawbars and hauled the boats directly up to the refrigerated trucks.

We asked if we could watch and photograph and they were only too pleased to let us and talk to us about the catch. One boat alone unloaded 8 of these cases at 33kg each 264kg of Abalone!

Off we went again, this time to the Arthur River where we had the wonderful experience of standing at the most westerly point of Tasmania. In a direct line West of where we were standing there is no land whatsoever until Tristan Da Cunha in South America.

We were in effect standing on the edge of the world. A poem carved into a rock at this wild place says it all:

I cast my pebble onto the shore of eternity
To be washed by the Ocean of time
It has shape, form and substance,
It is ME.
One day I will be no more,
But my pebble will remain here
On the shore of eternity
Mute witness for the aeons
That today I came and stood
At the edge of the world

Brian Inder

The Arthur river flows through the dense Tarkine forest washing down massive trees and logs from deep within the forest to end up in their thousands washed by the tides onto the lonely beaches to be bleached white by the sun and the wind. It’s hard to imagine what has drawn the population of 121 people of Arthur River here. Is it the solitude, the desire to escape from the type of social interaction that makes up modern communities? Is it the wild scenery? Have they got an income source that is hidden from the obvious? Who knows? The fact is 121 people have chosen to live in this place regularly lashed by the gales of the roaring forties with no industry, no shops, not even a servo.

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This was yet another day of unique and breathtaking experiences.


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