I had had a glorious day on Bruny, shooting coastal scenes and fungi hunting on Mt Mangana, and now made my way towards my accommodation. My hopes were high. When you pay $650 for one person for two nights, you expect to be really treating yourself. Well; I do. My companions agreed. I am not usually so extravagant, and regard this as a large amount of money to splash out on myself just for two nights, but decided to do it anyway. I have stayed at several places – even on Bruny – that were more in the $230/night zone, and have had very comfortable and quasi luxurious stays. I was expecting something pretty wonderful for this amount of money.
Google implied it was at the end of the Cloudy Bay road, so I drove along, waiting for a sign. I found none, and arrived at the breach. Luckily some locals were there, and they told me to backtrack and I would find, tucked away, a somewhat obscured driveway. With the extra advice, I found it. Not for the first time, I was VERY glad I was not arriving after dark!
I found the lock marked for my accommodation, and applied the code. The thing fell apart as it collapsed onto the sand. I grabbed my key, but didn’t dare put it back into the broken lock box. There were many padlocks on this gate, none marked. I needed to try every single padlock before the key fitted something. Good old Murphy.
The old gate was heavy, and its own weight pulled it back to the centre the whole time. I was faced with the problem of keeping it open while I drove through. I searched around for a rock or a stick to aid me, again happy that I was arriving in the light, which I don’t always do, being a photographer who shoots the sunset and then goes to her accommodation. I found neither rock nor stick. My best aid was a fern frond. These are not very strong, so I was nervous, but made it.
On I drove on the sandy, windy road. B had said ten minutes, but I was sure I would be slower than he was, but as twenty minutes approached with still no sight of my cabin, I realised that my rendez-vous with my friends in the pub for dinner was going to be impossible. I could not do this in the dark. Besides, there were endless turnoffs and choices to be made. Maybe later, but on my first night I needed to get a bit used to this place and its driveway. That was a good decision. In the morning I got lost trying to get out, and landed up under someone else’s bedroom – a someone else who had rented a beautiful cabin made of glass, so I and my car would have been very visible as I approached their bed at 8 a.m.. We were possibly both as shocked as each other.
Anyway, at last my cabin materialised. Marvelling that anyone with a mere two-wheel drive car could make that journey, I headed to look through “my” windows at the grand place I had hired. Oh. The curtains were aged and drab. The mock wood of the kitchen cupboards had been tossed out of most places in the 1960s. It looked tired as well as old.
I approached the next coded lock to get in. Hm. It, too, fell apart in my hands, and I couldn’t put it together either. Oh well; problem for later. I’d keep the house key in my pocket. In I went. The place smelled old to match its look. I examined the books near the couch: I often like to browse at such things. 2006 National Geographic. Oh; thanks. I went to examine the coffee making facilities. None. There was ONE sachet of instant coffee and a Bushels teabag in an old saucer on the bench. WHO drinks instant coffee? I haven’t done that in decades.
Oh well. At least the location was good. I didn’t want to waste beautiful daylight hours mourning that I had just tossed a lot of money away on not very much. I quickly grabbed my camera and set off to go to East Cloudy Head, to see what could be seen there. It was, unfortunately, 4 p.m. by this stage, but I have confidence in my speed, so packed nothing other than my photographic gear and house key. I luckily did have my phone so I could send a view pic to friends and relatives.
The view from up high was wonderful; the sunset, pink and pretty. The track was sandy, so the fact that it was sunset and I was up high with a walk back did not deter me in the slightest. The white sand would reflect any ambient light – although I did know the moon would not be rising to aid my cause. No problems. Down I went easily, and along the beach, stopping to chat to some fishermen who plied me with many questions, thus delaying me so it was now totally dark with absolutely no ambient light. Along the shore I went.
Oh oh. Um … where was my shack? How would I find it in the dark? I had left no lights on, and the shack itself would, in the dark, no doubt be totally obscured by the dunes and shrubbery. Whoops. I wandered along for what seemed a very long time (time goes slowly when you’re not having fun – but actually; I was. This was an adventure, so long as it turned out well. If it didn’t go so well, this was a huge amount of money to spend sleeping on the sand in almost mid-winter).
To and fro. To and fro. How can you be so stupid Louise? I thought of my photographer friend Marley, trapped out once overnight. Hm. Keep trying. Then I got a bright idea: I used google maps on my phone to locate the shack, and my own position in space. Ah ha. I had not gone quite far enough. When the device said I was parallel to the hut, I searched for a gap in the bushes and found my way home. A good adventure livens life up. I phoned my friends to say dinner was impossible. I looked at the emergency provisions I’d packed. Soup for dinner. Fine. I like soup.
But, meanwhile, I was freezing. I had already worked out that I didn’t know how to open the fridge, which lacked a metal casing, so perhaps it didn’t work at all. Nothing was going to go off in a place this cold anyway. I really needed to light the gas fire. I tried everything and failed. In the end I phoned the number I had been given. I was coached over the phone, but that failed too. Eventually someone came to help me. The heater was broken, but he fixed it. While I had been waiting (an hour, wrapped in blankets), I tried to recharge my camera battery using the plug that had been put in especially for me, but it didn’t work. Maybe the person who was coming could fix that too. (He did). Had he not fixed it, I would have been really stuck, as I need to recharge my battery every day.
I had also tried to get hot water and failed, and, as so many things were broken or not working, I decided the gas failure had meant no hot water either. However, there was hot water, but by the time that was ascertained, I and the house were so cold that the idea of stripping off to shower was intolerable. The bathroom would have kept the beer cold, but not Louise warm. Gradually, as the heater did its work, I warmed up enough to go to bed, but without using the bathroom. I was too cold to try the astro photography that I was actually there for.
Normally for breakfast, I have porridge, followed by espresso coffee and a bun or pastry heated in the oven. The porridge bit was fine, although there were only four bowls in a place that says it sleeps eight. The nicest bowl, shape-wise, was made of plastic, so I chose a cheap, thick, crockery one. Then came the problem of second course. I had brought my own espresso coffee, so boiled water on the stove (there being no electric kettle; fine). I poured hot water on the grains and waited for the grinds to sink. Not exactly the luxury I had been anticipating. The oven didn’t work. I pointed the fire gun at every single hole available, but nothing happened. I had old cold bun with my coffee. I thought a place charging that amount might have bought a modern stove that self-ignited, but I was wrong.
Ah well. Off I set for more fun and adventure, today selecting Mavista Falls on the east of the island for my fungi hunt, returning shortly after lunch to then go exploring above the house again in the afternoon. I left the house at 2.30. Why would you pack a torch at 2.30?
I climbed the headland again, chatting to nice people I met along the way, photographing a few fungi and the scenery. I had made excellent time, so decided to go offtrack and explore the enticing cliffs that I had eyed up the day before. Perhaps there were some dramatic shots to be had. (There were.) It was glorious and I was afloat, unaware of almost everything in a world of beauty. The sunset was red but brief, not really worth photographing, as the bank up of clouds obscured the horizon … and made it get dark much more quickly.
I was off track, and could see no hint of a path that would take me from where I was back to the main track. It was safer to follow the treacherous cliff line than bushbash and get stuck, so backwards I went. Fine; I am bush-capable, and found the pad that led to the track and followed it in the dark, which was now proper dark and not just a hint of darkness. But I am confident in the bush. On I pressed and got to the beach without incident.
I followed the shoreline along. I heard the sound of splosh, splosh. Oh. I was in water. Hm. It must be very dark. I went up higher, onto the rocks, treading carefully now. Could I find the tell-tale sign I had left for myself, just in case it was dark again? Of course not. Anyway, I did find my shack. I didn’t have time to get changed, so went to the hotel to meet my friends in my walking gear, with boots and gaiters.
It was a fun meal. Everyone had had a great day exploring, and all had tales to tell; snaps to show. “We” on this occasion were my camera club, NTCC, and although all of us shoot with proper cameras and tripods, most of us also take phone shots for messaging family and friends, for dinner show and tells etc. But meanwhile, we are also all looking forward to seeing what everyone else managed to capture later, when we post on the club site.
As if I hadn’t had enough of an adventure by this stage, I felt what seemed to be a tick on my head during dinner. A big one! Friends doused me and Mr Tick in pure alcohol. He was reported missing, but nobody knew where. I envisaged him just changing spots in my hair, but anyway, life went on. I was so very grateful to have discovered his presence during dinner when I could get help and not later, when alone and inaccessible. I am also, of course, grateful to the army of alcohol dousers and searchers who got rid of my intruder.
As the night was cloudy and the forecast bad, the Astro shoot at the lighthouse was cancelled. Home we all went.
Now my little cabin was very warm and cosy, as the helper-guy had said not to turn the heater off. Not wanting to burden him with a two-hour journey again, I had obeyed. I read a bit and, because I was now operating from a warm base, I decided to take a night shot of the cabin in the dark. Maybe I’d get in a few stars. It didn’t seem to be as cloudy as it had been earlier.
I went out and shot, looking east. But then I looked south. It was clear, and I could detect, not quite subliminally, beams. I almost yelled. I actually ran down to the beach through the bushes in the dark along the sand track with camera and tripod (yes, again neglecting anything else helpful, such was my sense of urgency) and shot south. BINGO. An aurora. A BEAUTIFUL aurora. Oh; I can’t tell you how happy I was. I messaged two friends from the club to alert them, and then spent until 11 pm shooting. I just couldn’t stop. Auroras do that to you.
Meanwhile, I have forgotten to mention the drive to and from the Hotel. Maybe driving along a sand track with more paddymelons on it than blowflies at a midsummer barbecue is not your idea of fun. It certainly meant I didn’t dare go more than 15 kph, but I absolutely loved it. These cute chubby bottoms hopping away and towards, across left and right while I tried to inch forward … I loved them all (especially as they are not eating my garden). I said “Goodnight” to them as I finally went to bed, leaving them nibbling the grass in front of my lodgings.
Next morning I awoke at 5.30 a.m. and looked out my bedroom window. The sun wouldn’t even think about rising for another hour and a half; it was still pitch back. The stars twinkled in the window, just like they used to at home before the gottverdammt Health and Safety maniacs who pollute the planet ruined my view by lighting up the place next door, just in case an octogenarian felt like a 3 a.m trot around her place and tripped in the dark.
But meanwhile, I realised as I gazed at the stars that I was warming to this little shack, now that it had warmed up enough to allow such a change in attitude. However, I did think the owner was greedy charging so much, but spending so little. How much would new curtains or blinds, some slightly nice crockery, a modern stove that self-ignited, and a heater that worked really cost?
Such criticisms aside, I was sad as I drove that sandy track for the last time. I went to Cloudy Bay Beach to bid it farewell from that side, and drove to meet my club friend for another fungi and waterfall shoot. I had had a great holiday. Life needs adventures.