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vendredi 1 juin 2012

Creation : Vernay's Tasmanian Travelogue: Part I

Boarfish with diver at Waubs Bay, Bicheno – Photographer  John Smith                                            



Tasked with the privilege to report on my ten-day trip to Tasmania’s East Coast as writer-in-residence, following the invitation I received from the From France to Freycinet Festival organizers David and Jennifer Lathwell, I came across a series of mind-expanding adventures that, I feel, could benefit Trouble Magazine readers.
Stopping at Triabunna for the kickoff of the Francophile festival, I met a score of Hobart-based medical students who came to the East Coast townships for their “Rural Week” programme. While debriefing with a PowerPoint presentation that would make trite comments sound more seriously professional to the local community, their genuine interest in their training came through loud and clear. One of the slides listing their various goals read: “Understanding the attractions of a rural community”. Tourism-wise, it is not hard to gather why anyone would visit Coles Bay, Australia’s first plastic bag free town, or Swansea which is home to the multiple-award winning ecotarian restaurant The Ugly Duck Out – almost fresh out of Portlandia, America’s satiric big hit comedy series – or even Bicheno which prides itself on having more than 300 sunny days year in year out when temperatures drop in places like Hobart and Launceston.
If you want to avoid touristy and crowded places like the capital city, Autumn is the best season to discover the serene scenery of the East Coast, a season that puts the impact of colonisation in the limelight, an impact given away by the exogenous deciduous trees displaying their full array of different coloured foliage that sprinkles the landscape – all native trees being evergreen. Fear no stress and no technology that makes people absurdly accessible to everyone else, as American novelist Thomas Mallon once observed (Internet cafés are scarce and there will be no mobile coverage if you are travelling on Vodafone), for the East Coast smacks of the dolce vita. Slow-paced activities make you switch from tee time to teatime, from dry-shod strolls along the Swansea foreshore path bordered by lichen-covered boulders to nonchalant hikes in Freycinet National Park renowned for its distinctive pink granite rock formations and generous wildlife, from shorebird-watching to whale-spotting (alternative spotting also include pods of Bottlenose Dolphins, penguins and Australian Fur Seals that occasionally bask in the sun) while cruising to the Wineglass Bay, and from relishing gourmet food on the Long Lunch Tour to petting and admiring the wonders of nature at East Coast Natureworld. The peacefulness is largely explained by the youth drain that has emptied these townships blighted by unemployment and scant education infrastructure. As a result, families move to Hobart or Launceston when their offspring reach senior high or university level.
Commercials on local channels certainly know their audience like the back of their hands when promoting CDs by Neil Diamond, Michael Bolton and Julio Iglesias, and no doubt that the ageing population on the East Coast will pick up the phone to place an order …if the locals have the time for that sort of thing. Where on the mainland the intellectual elite might take up artistic callings when retiring to avoid being bogged down in a dreary daily routine, educated retirees on the East Coast embark on speculative profitable (and tax deductible) ventures, mostly in hospitality (but also other businesses like logging trailers, for instance), to keep busy and contribute to the dynamism and range of services the local Bureau of tourism showcases to visitors.


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