Field Guide to Falling in Love in Tasmania

Currently showing posts tagged Walls of Jerusalem

  • Boy Miles

    Boy Miles

    There is no track between the Mersey River and the Middle East. On the sea, you cut a path across emptiness; the wilderness of waves covers over it immediately. Boy Miles was on a ship coming home in 1942 when the enemy intercepted. He was taken as a prisoner-of-war and forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. The Death Railway.

    It’s a long way from the jungles of south-east Asia to the Central Plateau. Further still, perhaps, from the shrill screech of human depravity to the silent warmth of friendship and family. In monsoon, Boy toiled with body bared, his hide riddled with ulcers and sores. Around him, fellow-slaves took on cholera, starved, went demented with illness, and died by the thousands.

    But maybe in moments of pause Boy Miles took himself back to the grazing plains beneath that mountain range, where, alongside his brother, he rode through the valleys, trapping possums and rabbits, sleeping out, swimming in the river. It may seem like a small life to some, especially compared to what they called ‘the grandeur of war’: but what a mighty stage.

    The war ended. The medics discharged Boy Miles just as the waratahs came into bloom in the summer of 1945, and coming home, the bright bush gleamed, the clean air shimmered and the broad country beckoned him. Things weren’t the same; any fright would send Boy to the floor, curled up in the foetal position. People were difficult creatures to be around. There were scars, things mangled inside him. So it was only in the mountains that any solace was to be found.

    In the years to come, Boy Miles felled pines and split shingles and built himself some huts to shelter him at night when he went out with a dog and a gun to Liena, Deception Plains, Lake Ball, Dublin Road. They were simple buildings: a fireplace, a bunk, somewhere to hang the skins. It was all he wanted from a home. To keep him safe and sound, and more importantly still, to keep him free to roam the bush.

  • Jorgen Jorgenson and the Walls of Jerusalem

    Jorgen Jorgenson and the Walls of Jerusalem

    They say that Jorgen Jorgenson was the first European to lay eyes on the Walls of Jerusalem. Jorgenson, the Danish-born explorer, was employed by the Van Diemen’s Land Company to try and find a route through the centre of Tasmania. He found no easy passage. Now the island is fully mapped, we know that there is none; that all throughout the centre, the west, and the south, Tasmania is made up of protrusions of dolerite mountains, countless of them, now named after Greek mythologies or biblical toponyms, Pelion and Olympus, King David’s Peak and Solomon’s Throne, Jerusalem.

    To get to the Walls of Jerusalem, you scramble up a steep slope onto an altiplano. To the east and the west, mountains rise like walls around you, as a track passes through spiky scoparia bushes, beneath stands of pencil pines over a thousand years old. The landscape seems Jurassic. Strange grasshoppers skip erratically; skinks’ shadows melt between the boulders.

    Jorgenson managed to spend a lot of time in the bush, between his other employments of writing treatises and working for the police. He saw the harshest side of the wilderness: a rushing river swept away one of his colleagues before his eyes. One night in the Walls of Jerusalem, he watched a log burning in its middle with snow still fixed firmly at each end, so cold it was. But he was drawn to the bush. There was something magnetic about the brightness of the stars in the dark, the little movements of birds in the bushes, the exhaustion of climbing a mountain, the exhilaration of walking with complete freedom – without restraint.

    There are days when I feel like Jorgen Jorgenson and I could have had a good conversation, sitting outside our tents by what is now called Lake Adelaide, pausing with pen poised over a journal as mosquitoes buzzed around us. Perhaps we would talk about politics or religion; perhaps we would yarn about the adventures we’d been on, the places we’d seen. I suppose we would talk about women, at some point. Jorgen might remember the Scottish girl with whom he was almost married, or the Bavarian belle who embarrassed him at a ball. Who knows what bullshit I’d tell him.

    An explorer, a seaman and something of a revolutionary, Jorgen Jorgenson also turned out to be somewhat romantic. He fell in love with an Irish convict, a drunk prostitute named Norah, and they got married in a church in New Norfolk, southern Tasmania. It was almost the death of him. That’s another thing we might have discussed, had Jorgen and I somehow found ourselves on a bushwalk somewhere, some time ago.