Road Trip Tasmania
Touring the island of sheep in a campervan
A JOURNEY TO THE ORIGIN
An invitation from Tasmanian merino wool farmers
SHEEP, MAN AND SOLITUDE: THE ROAD TRIP BEGINS
After over 26 hours in the air, the ORTOVOX team lands in Hobart, the Tasmanian capital. Almost half of the around 500,000 inhabitants of the island live here. The small city at the mouth of the Derwent river in the south of Tasmania is characterized by Victorian buildings around the fjord-like port and is strongly reminiscent of the colonial era.
Suffering slightly from exhaustion and having picked up the huge, luxurious camper van, the five-person team can begin their road trip: At the Montecute farm, the two farmers Richard and James – the fifth generation to manage the farm – welcome the crew. Over 25,000 merino sheep live on over 8,000 hectares of land. An impressive expanse and unlimited freedom are not just for the benefit of the animals. The rules of life here are determined by nature. The day begins with the first rays of sun and ends with the last.
From the sheep herds, the sheds, and living together, to the motocross tour and a shared evening meal: The ORTOVOX crew are not treated as guests, but rather spend their time on the farm as members of the family.
Two days, one drone collision with a tree, and a hole in the campervan roof later, the journey continues: The Rothamy, Lewisham and Ashby farms are next on the list. At each of the farms, Martina, Hendrik, Sebastian, Franz and Markus experience the friendliness of the people, the coexistence of man and animal, and the feeling of contentment.
The reason why the merino sheep are happiest in Tasmania – and therefore produce the best wool – is down to the diverse landscape and the climate. From snow-capped mountains and moors through to luscious heath, Tasmania offers the perfect environment for a diverse range of the most unusual animal and plant species. The eastern part of the island is perfect for the sheep: Protein-rich sources of food and moderate temperatures.
The climbing range Ben Lomond is in a national park, which is roughly 200km2 in size. The massif is noteworthy for its bizarre rock formations and its rust-red dolerite. Dolerite is a subvolcanic rock and harder than granite. The climbing range is about three or four hours from Hobart and is one of the best alpine and trad climbing ranges in Tasmania. The area is well known for crack climbing routes in particular – so don’t forget your friends!
The best time for climbing: December to March.
The Tyndall Range is in the west of Tasmania and is characterized by a multitude of impressive glacial lakes. The rock is conglomerate: a coarse type of rock. Round, smoothed stones transported by rivers form powerful gravel deposits that are then pressed together by other layers. The pressure causes the formation of rocky conglomerates which, as in the case of the Tyndall Range, provide excellent climbing. The 300-meter tours of the Tyndall Range can be reached from Hobart within four hours. What’s special about this range are the lonely, remote and exposed climbing tours high above the lakes.
The best time for climbing: December to March.
Bare Rock is a 200-meter, black and orange rock face around three kilometers south of Fingal. In the last few years the range has come to be very popular among climbers. There are very steep, overhanging climbs here. Along with countless sport climbing routes, Bare Rock also offers traditional multi-rope routes. The dolerite stone is also of the highest quality. The range can be reached from Hobart within two to three hours.
The best time for climbing: February to July (closed in spring).
In the middle of nowhere
After arriving in Ben Lomond, Hendrik, Sebastian, Franz and Markus stand at the foot of rust-red dolerite stone walls up to 200 meters high. The endless hand and finger cracks are strung together, rising menacingly into the sky. It’s no surprise that Ben Lomond in the north east of Tasmania is one of the first-rate crack climbing ranges out there. Hendrik and Sebastian look at the first route in awe and respect. “Start steady,” says Sebastian. Hendrik nods. An approach that proves to be a good decision, given the demanding tours and ever-worsening weather that are to follow.
On the second day Hendrik, Sebastian, Martina, photographer Franz and film maker Markus explore the area. Here in the east of Tasmania the landscape is a little smoother, the climate milder. In the west, on the other hand, the rocks are wilder, nature rougher, and locations more sparsely populated.
It takes them over seven hours to drive to the second spot, the Tyndall Range. Past locations like Interlaken and Flintstone, the Little Pine Lagoon and Lake King William, through an ever-denser jungle, into the former center of the Tasmanian mining industry. The streets are empty, the houses deserted. It’s the end of the world. Rock landscapes, lichen, dwarf shrubs and
ruderal plants dominate the area around the Tyndall Range. In the early evening, the ORTOVOX crew arrive in a parking lot in the middle of nowhere. Hendrik and Franz want to check out the location and wait in a cave. A cozy bivouac with wine and pasta. Sebastian and Markus will follow on later. Well, that’s the idea.
Two hours later and it’s already getting dark as Hendrik and Franz take a quick rest. 10, maybe even 20 leeches have bitten into their legs. They keep fighting through the jungle. Every step is harder and the darkness is menacing. As they arrive at their bivouac spot – an uncomfortable, cold, dripping cave – the light drizzle turns to showers.
Two hours later, Hendrik and Franz sit huddled together in the cave. No sign of Sebastian and Markus, who have the gas cooker and wine in their backpacks. After trying light signals, shouting and searching, Hendrik and Franz give up – the other two have probably found somewhere else to shelter from the rain. Exhausted, the two of them fall asleep.
As the first rays of sun reach the cave, Sebastian and Markus are suddenly standing there: Covered in mud, tired and
exhausted. They couldn’t find the cave in the darkness and set up an emergency bivouac. There’s no time to relax: The sun is rising and the rock is calling.
They arrive at the cliffs, where a 300-meter rock face extends beneath them in front of an almost pitch-black lake. The climbing routes are airy, exposed and on the best conglomerate rock. “How Hard Can It Be?” is a 165-meter, seven to eight-grade climbing route that Hendrik and Sebastian want to climb. They abseil down, Franz gets in position to take photos, and Markus gets the drone ready.
The location seems surreal: Hendrik and Sebastian climb 300 meters above a dark-green, near-black lake – surrounded by the best, most solid rock and endless jungle. They each enjoy every maneuver, every movement, and every look down. They climb in the seclusion of Tasmania. No rope team in front of them, none behind them. The climbing bolts are the only clue that someone must have been here before them.
After the climbing tour they sit on the brink of a rock outcrop and look silently into the distance. The sunset, the view and the solitude of the Tasmanian wilderness: No words are needed here.
And see you again