Benefit and Fires
Before we arrived in Australia there was a long drought, followed by brush fires that raged all over the continent. Tasmania was hit hard. Hundreds of people lost their homes, and a massive amount of forests and farmland were turned into weird surreal landscapes of black dead trees surmounting hills of ash. Here is what’s left of a home maybe 70km from Hobart:
The hills beyond are all burnt trees. I think the fires swept through so fast that the tress were not consumed, not turned to dust—but their bark and all the brush is gone. Here’s a bit of woods bordering the road where the power lines (the light green bit) have fallen and the power lines themselves dangle over the trees!
Sometimes a house reduced to cinders would be next to one that seemed relatively untouched; sometimes one side of the road was covered in ashes and the other side was green. The fires took weird destructive paths, sometimes jumping over hills and even across some bodies of water.
So, a week before we arrived in Tasmania, when we were already in Australia, I got an email from Jherek Bischoff—bass player, composer and arranger—who was touring with Amanda Palmer, but was now is supporting her husband, Neil Gaiman. He was already in touch with the festival folks and it seems there was an initiative to do a hastily organized benefit for the fire victims the day after our show. It happened that I was planning to stay on for a couple of days anyway, to check out the day hikes not too far from Hobart, so I agreed to participate. Annie joined as well, singing harmony. We were the opening act—joined by a string quartet, the drummer from Midnight Oil, and Neil. I had some string charts emailed from my office in NY and Jherek hastily composed an arrangement for “And She Was”. It wasn’t super well rehearsed, but it felt great and seemed to go over well. The bigger rock acts followed later in the evening—some big names from the Aussie rock pantheon chipped in.
The following day I did manage to get in a couple of hikes. Down to the nearby Tasman Peninsula I drove, past the fire damage. There’s a national park there and spectacular scenery. This arch is right off the road near Eaglehawk Neck:
Further on I took a dirt road to some less visited hikes.
On this one I was the only person on the 1½ hour hike to a lookout near Waterfall Bay. I thought to myself, “No twisted ankle or injury—as no one is likely to come by here and there’s no cell service.” Here’s a chimney viewed from the cliff walk:
After fish and chips at a café in Nubeena, I headed for another hike at the very base of the peninsula—Cape Raoul. Quite a long hike this one—4 hours, and I didn’t make it to the end. I got as far as the flat area in the distance, and then realized I’d have a long uphill slog on the way back, so I didn’t proceed to the point. Spectacular.
Nearby, forking off this trail to the cape, was another 2-hour trail that leads to one of the most famous surf breaks in Australia—Ship Stern Bluff. There it is, at the point.
How surfers found it is a wonder—maybe they saw it from a boat or from these cliffs and hiked down with their boards. God forbid anything happened to them on a day with big waves, as there’s no way in or out except hiking. Look at the size of these waves! You’ve got to be kidding!
Lots of road kill visible on the roads down here—sadly some small kangaroos and other critters. A bounty for the Tasmanian devils, who like their meat dead and have jaws strong enough to crunch through bone.