A postcard from the unknown.
Michał Lachowicz, Middlesex University Graduate
It took us six years to finally hug each other on one of the main streets in the centre of Launceston, where I spent the last few days trying to surrender and connect to the blissful rhythm of the island, which I knew would change my life forever. The images of what I have already experienced were intensely flashing in my head like a herd of wild horses running along the shore of the beach.
I climbed the wooden stairs at the Launceston Backpackers hostel that creaked under my feet and suddenly found myself lying down happily on a faded mattress, carefully catching whispers scattered around the room in search of a travel soul mate. Launceston, nicknamed by the locals as ‘Lonnie,’ charmed me with its beautiful parks, gardens and incredible examples of Edwardian, Victorian and Federation architecture. I secretly fell in love with this city. I knew that I could not leave Tasmania without facing a majestic mountain with a mysterious name given it by Joseph Fossey in 1827 because of its resemblance to a baby’s cradle. It has repeatedly flashed in front of my eyes on various postcards during this Australian adventure. I took one of the morning buses, meandering patiently along the winding Tasmanian roads full of broken old trees and ancient forests that hide secrets that I will never know. When I finally got off, the wind gently blew my hair, and I simply felt like a Dutch navigator Abel Tasman who bumped into Tasmania in 1624, naming it Van Diemen’s Land after the Dutch East Indies’ governor. I think if he was here today, he would be delighted.
While with Dove Lake, we exchanged smiles, looked into each other’s eyes and I finally felt ready to move on South. I was thinking about our 6-year friendship while leaving behind miles of a historic ‘Heritage Highway’ connecting Launceston and Hobart. The invisible trace of a dream that has sprouted in my heart for years, now gently and more tangibly was marking itself on the road that led me through the Tasmanian Midlands. A flash of the afternoon sun tenderly illuminated the velvety glided landscapes blurring outside the car window. All I had was a present moment, which I held tightly in my hand like an imaginary key to the world that only requires me to humbly accept everything it offers.
Each city encountered along the way brought me closer and closer to solving the mystery of one of the most magical islands my mind could ever wander to. The route is enriched with many historically significant townships, where examples of early Australian architecture such as colonial sandstone buildings or charming taverns, are beautifully preserved. A short visit to Campbell Town provided me with a unique insight into Tasmania’s convict history. I was quietly strolling along the high street, letting my eyes wander through the names written on red bricks embedded in the pavement, commemorating the tens of thousands of convicts transported from Britain to Australian penal colonies such as Port Arthur, for 50 years. Further down, in Oatlands, I visited The Callington Mill- the only working 19th-century tower mill in the Southern Hemisphere and the third oldest in Australia. I was utterly delighted to learn that farmers actually grow grains in the area, just as they did in the past and locally produced flour from the mill forms, the basis of the quality of many signature products.
After a two hour journey, I finally made it to Hobart. I knew it only from various stories and a few photographs. It was like a mysterious house from the end of the world, which appeared in my life because of one postcard. I was joined by Sue and Chloe, who came to meet me in Launceston and soon I would meet the rest of their wonderful family. I consider my friendship with them one of the greatest gifts that life has ever placed on my path. It all began in 2011 when the only way I could explore the world was through my imagination. I set up an account on a website named postcrossing.com which allowed me to exchange postcards with my pen pals from all over the world. Sue, whom I accidentally discovered among millions of users, joined this project to enrich the home educating experience of her younger daughter, Meg. We could instantly feel the connection, and after we exchanged our postcards, we moved to annual Christmas parcels and even recorded videos to introduce ourselves to each other’s distant cultures. Two weeks, which I spent in their house, was one of the most surreal adventures I could ever ask for. I stayed in a room that overlooks Hobart’s iconic Mount Wellington. I knew my soul was at home.
I knew that the same energy that about 10,000 years ago swamped the land bridge connecting Tasmania to mainland Australia would help me to meet every unique experience with love and compassion. We spent an incredible time together, camping under a starry sky of the Freycinet National Park or leaving our footprints on the warm sand of the Wineglass Bay while the sun was slowly rising. I left pieces of my heart on The Tasman Peninsula - known for its high coastal cliffs and on the magnificent Tessellated Pavement.
In Bonorong Sanctuary I had my first encounter with a Tasmanian devil, whose jaws are five times stronger than a pitbull’s and I met Fred, the cockatoo who celebrated his 100th birthday in 2014 and even received a special letter from the Queen. In Dromedary, I met one of the bravest women I have ever encountered - Veronika Ross, a real snake catcher who professionally removes those widely present in Tasmania creatures from people’s properties. A spark in her eye and the way she was telling me about how over the years she has managed to develop a kind of mystical relationship with snakes made my jaw drop.
On the last day, just before my return to Sydney, we sat in the kitchen, gently lit by the afternoon sun. There were names of places that we have not visited, hanging in the air. For me, travelling has never been about getting swiftly from one place to another but rather finding the little delights in the everyday. I got up from the table, passing by photographs on the orange wall of the corridor. I looked at the man in a hat with a horse by his side. It was Sue’s father. They both had rust-coloured sand underneath their feet. The way Australian life should always be. The next morning, I left the letter on a table covered with the most beautiful shells I had found during a morning walk through a blissful Hazards Beach. I still could not believe that all of this happened, because of the one little postcard I decided to send six years ago.
I was saving Tasmania in my heart all the way back to Sydney.