8-18 May 2021. Cygnet, Tasmania.
We timed our route from the Tasman Peninsula to the Huon Valley, so that we passed through Hobart in time to visit the only art supplies store in town. It was a narrow window: it shut at 2pm.
Art supply stores are few and far between here. The only other we found, was in Launceston. If we lived here it wouldn’t be such an issue because of online shopping, but that‘s tricky when we don’t have an address!
‘Artery’ was worth the detour, it had almost everything we needed. With potentially a month or so before we get to Melbourne, we stocked up!
Our home for the next 10 days, is Beaupre Farm Cottage. Set on a hill overlooking a peninsula where the Huon River meets Kangaroo Bay. Beaupre Farm is a 45 acre property that our Hosts, Collin and Christine, bought in 2018. They run a South African breed of goats (Boer), friendly and floppy eared.
Theirs was the most hands-on and warm welcome, of the places we’ve stayed. The cottage is across the driveway from their home so I guess that makes sense.
We were greeted with a glass of sparkling wine while they took us through the features and treats of the cottage: an embarrassment of riches!
The welcome treats
- A gift of a lemon juicer, hand-made by local potter, Ian Clare.
- Home-made: wholemeal sourdough and blueberry muffins x6; jams x2; a middle eastern dried fruit compote that Dave described as “the taste of 100 Christmases!”
- From the garden: Apples, lemons, limes, figs, fresh herbs, chilli & fresh cut bright pink and fragrant roses.
- Local produce: potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, broccolini, mushrooms; yogurt, milk, a couple of cheeses
- Besides a cupboard stocked full of the basics and luxuries like pancake mix and actual cake mix, was a bottle of local wine and a carafe of port!
In the bathroom
- Besides the usual luxury toiletries:
- First aid kit, pain killers, tea tree oil; Snake bite bandages and a snake bite kit – should I be worried?
It was a wonderful, surprising and supremely generous welcome experience. No Hotel can compete with the personalised experience of a good AirBnB super-host.
An extensive book collection was another unexpected delight. Tasmanian travel books and field guides, books on the explorers of the region and the early settlers. About ship wrecks, salty (Tasmanian) sea-dogs, and beautify Tasmanian photography. And cook books! Local Tasmanian eateries, Nose to tail eating, and even one on Kosovo street food. Even with 10 days, we knew we wouldn’t get through all the books we were interested in.
The Hosts previously lived and worked in Kosovo. They both have interesting careers. Chris is an epidemiologist and was working with the WHO. Collin is a geologist with a global consulting business.
The changing moods of the morning view, was a constant source of inspiration. Standing on the balcony with a coffee in hand staring out over the bay, we fantasised about living right here.
Beau’s reputation preceded him, many of the AirBnB reviews mentioned how friendly he was. Beau the boarder collie, welcomed us like family. Besides being a beautiful looking dog, he is good natured, energetic, friendly and quite well behaved. I loved him immediately. Even David warmed to him.
Beau is always ready for a walk and on our first morning, we went down to the picnic table on their private beach (river bank) to sketch. Beau seemed to know we were heading out before we did and waited patiently for us. Then, he would run off to the right gate and look back at us indicating ‘this way!’
At first we didn’t think he was going the right way, so we tried a different gate but quickly realised, the dog was right. He lead us through a field to meet the goat kids. They were hilarious. One was hand reared ‘Crusty’ so is especially friendly and loves pats. She tried to climb me in her excitement.
Beau, keen to get on with it, was waiting by the next gate at the bottom of the field. This lead us down onto the banks of the Huon River and to a timber picnic table.
We set up and started sketching and painting. Beau seemed a bit confused, we were neither walking or nor eating. But he happily sniffed around while we painted until our fingers froze. I experimented with using graphite instead of charcoal.
We took the bikes out one day and followed the dirt road along the Huon River, heading upstream. Collin had brought over a couple of orange high-vis vests for us to wear on the road and we strapped on the bike lights. As much as I wanted to let Beau come with us, we knew it wasn’t a good idea.
Beau raced us to the front gate as we rode down the gravel driveway. Chris called him back and the disappointment was written all over his face. But he returned to Chris on command.
We followed the dirt road that traced along the Huon river, past farms and holiday homes.
I rounded a corner to find Dave in conversation with a rather large horse.
“Wait for Carol, she’ll feed you”
“Oh hello big guy!” He was standing on a hill so seemed much taller than us. I wished I had an apple for him. Which reminded me of that time I gave a horse an apple (who may, or may not, have had teeth).
We rode on.
The Huon is a broad, crystal clear, fast flowing river. Some days it looks blue, others it reflects the surrounding hills, dark and inky.
Further along, and we passed a section of Tassell’s salmon cages out in the river. I have mixed feelings about seeing this. On the one hand, we love hot smoked salmon and have been eating it for years. On the other hand, there appears to be damning evidence for the ecological damage done by farming Atlantic salmon in Tasmanian waters. I resolved to research the most sustainable salmon farmers.
12 May – Sketching on the beach
“It’s a nice day, we should do something.”
David drained his coffee cup and looked out of the window from the breakfast table. The view from here looks over the main farmhouse; across the neighbours empty paddocks to the end of the peninsula; across the water and out to hills on the horizon. We can see salmon nets and the occasional trawler. It never gets old this view.
“The best walk looks like Hartz Mountain, but that’s an hour and a half drive away.” David screwed up a eye. That’s a ‘no’ so I continued, “…or the nearest walk is at Eggs and Bacon Bay.”
“Who named that? I want to go there!” Dave chuckled.
It was a short drive back into Cygnet and around the bay. Passing through lush green rolling hills, our conversation drifted back to where we’d like to live next.
“Let’s live there! / Imagine living on this hill. / Would you sell everything to live here?”
The road dropped down to Randall’s Bay.
“Dave, pull over. Let’s stop here first!” We pulled into a sandy waterside parking area, and climbed out to investigate; walking onto the sand and into an Arthur Streeton painting.
The water was so calm it struggled to make waves. Let’s call them ripples. A couple who had been sitting on the sand, dusted themselves off, climbed back into their Kayaks and paddled out into the bay. We were alone on the beach now.
“Let’s paint here.” Rather than Eggs and Bacon Bay.
“Yes. It’s beautiful!” I agreed and we walked back to the car for the gear.
We walked along the beach for half an hour or so before spreading out a picnic blanket in a patch of sun. It was pretty comfortable on the sand and we settled into sketching mode.
A few people wondered along the beach and passed with a friendly greeting. One trio of ladies approached to see what we were painting. We held up our unfinished sketchbooks and they were very complimentary. But you’d have to say positive things if you ask to see someone’s work in progress, right? Chuckle. Still, I found I’m getting more confident with showing strangers my work.
By the time we’d finished, clouds had moved in and changed the light completely.
Back in the car, we drove to the next bay along: Eggs and Bacon Bay. It was a fairly nondescript bay, though attractive.
“Talk about false advertising.” I chuckled. “Where’s the eggs and bacon?” A missed opportunity if you ask me.
Perhaps it was the name, but we were getting hungry and decided to try a cafe that looked good back in cygnet.
The Red Velvet Café gets a good wrap, justifiably. A large converted warehouse, complete with pressed metal ceilings and an old piano in the corner. It managed to keep a nice vibe even though the furniture was spread out for social distancing. We ordered up, roast chicken confit for me, succotash for him and a mound of piping hot chips. Oh yes! We haven’t eaten out in ages and this was perfect.
13 May – Beau takes us for a walk
After spending the morning painting we were keen to get out and walk. Beau seemed to know what we had in mind and his excitement grew as we got ready. By the time we clomped down the stairs in our hiking boots he was grinning and headed towards the gate. He turned to look at us, tail waging his body, and said “This way. Let’s go!”
David unlocked the gate while Beau pushed his nose through the crack, while the kids trotted over to investigate.
Beau, waiting patiently for me to stop playing with the kids, and smiled when we walked down to the bottom gate. He trotted happily along the beach stopping for a quick sniff here and there and headed into a path hidden from view.
As he lead us through the forest walk, he would trot ahead but stop and wait for us to catch up. When we came to an intersection he stopped a few meters along the path leading right.
“Is that the right way?” I wondered out loud. My internal navigation system was telling me to follow the coast and that we should turn left here. I looked at Beau. “Are you sure it’s that way?” He looked at me and then looked right down the path.
To be fair, I also challenge SatNav instructions, so I walked a few meters in the direction that ‘felt’ right and found the path lead to what looked like a dead-end lookout at a cliff.
“Trust the pup!” I conceded walking back to David and Beau.
And trust the pup we did. We followed him through a beautiful tea tree forest, along cliffs and down to a broad riverside beach.
“Let’s run this one day!” Dave suggested.
“Beau would love that too!” I agreed.
On the return Beau, turned off at the path I had investigated earlier. We happily followed, curious to see where he would take us next. An overgrown track followed along a narrow peninsula and ending on a rock with a view upstream of the Huon River.
He stood on a rock and looked over the river. Do dogs enjoy a view? It sure seemed like it.
“Nice view, Beau! Thanks for showing us the way.”
14 May – Day trip to Hobart
Cygnet is about an hour from Hobart. Living about an hour from a major city is one of our assessment criteria, and today we put it to the test.
The drive in was pretty easy. We spent the day mooching through outdoor gear stores, art stores, book stores, and chilled in a hipster café.
“I’ve learnt two significant things: that we don’t want a 30min drive on narrow, winding, dark roads to get home.” Dave said the next morning staring out over the bay.
“And what’s the other thing?”
“.…I’ve forgotten.” We both chuckled. We’ve got to write these things down.
His eyes lit up as he remembered. “We can’t just look on a map and say ‘I want to live there’. You have to physically see the place. To see the reality.” He’s right of course.
The assessment criteria for our new life, is talking shape. And after our experiment, we realise that 45 mins is better than 60mins from a city.
Our cottage is splits over two levels, connected by an external set of stairs. It’s effectively two self-contained apartments that Chris and Collin let out as one place. We chose to live upstairs with the bigger kitchen and nice view, downstairs was for the bikes and our travelling art and music studios.
“It’s hard enough to start when you can see the studio – you get inspired when you see it, but to have it downstairs and out of sight is more difficult” David observed one morning. ”Although I can really focus down there.” And so, another learning for our assent criteria: Studios on the same level as the main house.
We made good use of the huge dining table, it was such a relief to leave the studio set up each night and come down in the morning. I was busy working on an oil painting of the Hazards in Coles Bay, and Dave had fun experimenting with watercolour, practising being “fast and loose” as Debbie Mackinnon would say.
16 May – Port Cygnet Cannery
Collin had recommended the Port Cygnet Cannery restaurant and the cellar door for ’Sailor Seeks Horse’ so we made a booking for Sunday Lunch. It’s been such a long time since eating out and we were quite excited.
Because of restrictions lunch was a Set Menu, which suited us fine. I like to outsource decisions sometimes. Looking at the other people in the restaurant, they seemed like ‘our’ people. Can you tell from just looking at people?
While waiting for our meal Dave pulled out his note book and we brian-stormed our assessment criteria. A young waitress, shyly asked us what we were planning and we got talking about moving to the country, possibly Tasmania.
She is Italian, early 20’s, and has lived in Cygnet for a year. She said “the more I live in the country, the more I like it. By the time I’m an old lady, I’ll probably be living like a hermit.” She was inspired about our year-long ‘creative sabbatical’ and encouraged us to move to Cygnet. “You’ll love it.”
Another waitress told David he looked familiar. It turned out that she was also from Brisbane, in the 90’s worked on the door of a club called “The Zoo” that David’s band used to play. Amazingly they recognised each other. She’s been living in Cygnet for about 5 years (I think) and loves it. It seems like a nice and creative community.
The meal was absolutely delicious and we really enjoyed the wine. A Pino Noir from Sailor Seeks Horse, the cellar door is in the same warehouse as the restaurant. After lunch we walked over to the cellar door and got chatting with the wine maker, Paul.
He was really friendly and we got talking about his story of quitting a corporate life to become wine makers. An inspiring tale.
17 May – Tour of the Farm
On our last day we walked the grounds with Collin and Chris while they talked through their plans for the property.
Beau was thrilled we were all out and followed us happily chewing on a Quoll skull, he was so proud of that gruesome skull. I swear he was smiling about it. Later he swapped it for a wallaby’s hind leg bone complete with a furry paw. That was the moment David’s affection for Beau diminished. He hated the thought that Beau could kill the native animals.
Collin lead us up to the site above the upper damn where they will build an artist studio, with picture windows and a piano. A French couple booked for 4 months to write a book on Tasmania, but was forced to postpone because of COVID. It inspired them to build a studio up here with this gorgeous view.
“Wow! We would love to stay in an art studio with a view like this!” I said enthusiastically.
We walked over the hill with 180 degrees of water views. They are regenerating the forest up here. The trees remain and they’ve cleared away the bracken and the introduced weeds in preparation for growing grass for the goats.
As we passed the neighbour’s blueberry farm Collin told us the story of buying the farm. In 1901 Beaupre Farm, the neighbour down on the peninsula and the blueberry farm were on four titles were owned by one family. It was passed down to two brothers. One brother sold off the land Colin and Chris bought, and the peninsula owned by another couple. It caused some family drama apparently. Colin and Chris were living and working in Kosovo and bought the property virtually site unseen. I guess you know, when you know!
Getting rid of weeds seems likely a mammoth, multi year project. Their lower paddock was bulldozed and three years later the weeds were as tall as me. Back in the 80’s the family spread black plastic over the paddock and years later it’s still there and not controlling the weeds. They are starting a worm farm to generate some sort of ‘tea’ as they call it to help improve the quality of the soil. If anyone can do it, these two clever people can!
After our tour, I went down to stay good bye to the kids. I just love these guys. They are really soft, curious and playful. The hand-reared one is also really friendly. They made me want to keep goats too! These guys are being bred as breeding goats, ultimately for meat. They’re a South African breed called Boer.
Goats are too cute to eat. These guys might be another step towards becoming vegetarian.