Heartland Tasmania - big day out in little island

Trip Start Jan 30, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2011

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

It was supposed to be a big event for St Helen's on Tasmania's east coast: a gala with sports events. Something for locals and for the many out of towners holidaying on Tassie's Gold Coast. But not everybody was in a holiday mood.

At least, not the Tasmanian weather. "It will be good for the farmers," was the most repeated phrase of the day, as the grey skies soon delivered on their promise. It had been a severe drought on the usually green east coast of Tasmania, with paddocks dry and stock fraile and malnourished.

Us visitors were not happy. We'd come to see the cycling and running and all those things almost forgotten in the cities. We hadn't come to see the gum trees grow brighter against the darkening skies, as the temperatures dropped and many spectactors either sat in their cars or headed out of the carpark to somewhere warm and dry.

Those that remained, perhaps due to family obligations, sheltered under the branches of trees, under flimsy shade tents and in the stands - three rows of seats offering a grand view of the athletics events not postponed.

We watched those devoted and dedicated. Competitors in the 50m sprint, where each runner raced towards a gateway of flags. Through the mist and rain we watched the bright colours of the race bibs as they steadied themselves on the starting blocks and then once released by the starter's gun, sped towards the finish.

The commentator kept up a lively banter, his voice cutting through the dullness of being a spectator, a watcher, inactive, while younger, fitter, stronger beings showed us how good they were.

In between races there wasn't much to do. Look up perhaps at the clouds and their shades of grey and black. Survey the advertising hoardings from real estate agents, insurance companies and the IGA Super. In the silence between events all that was to be heard was the slam of another car door, and it's exit from the grounds.

The strong wind that brought the rain, brought with it the smell of the sausage sizzle. The mix of fat, grease and possibly meat made me feel hungry. But the show wasn't over yet.

Across the way, past the display of new classic cars, men with beefy builds were chopping trees down in various competitions. Logs were delivered to stands, and once the officials had checked them over, the competitors were allowed to assess and mark up the timber. A staggered start was called out, with the strongest competitors starting last. The best ones, ripped into the trees with huge bites from their hand-made and lovingly-shapened blades. The men, some with Celtic red in their hair colour, ranged in age from late teens to early 60s. I would have liked to stay longer to see them clamber up upright logs to fell them in sections, but by midday, we'd done our dash at this heartland Aussie event.

It was time for a decent coffee. We'd deserved some cake too.

In the cafe, some of the customers even looked like farmers. It was a good day for farmers.
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