Apple Of Our Isle

WORDS: Bridget Daley PHOTOGRAPHY Supplied

Former Gold Coast radio star Bridget ‘Bridge’ Daley has gone from a top-rating breakfast radio show to life off-grid in the pristine and untamed wilderness of Tasmania. Bridge continues her first-hand account of how she and her partner Jamie found their piece of off-grid paradise – and the brutal reality involved in bringing their new lifestyle to life.

I’ll paint the picture of where I’m scribing this story. I’m sitting on my vintage, lime-green wrought iron seat, perched on top of a behemoth granite outcrop, next to a metallic blue Bedford school bus on the summit of a 200m-high mountain on an island off an island off an island.

Chapter 3: The Purge and Plan

 We had to sell our old lives. The only life we knew. Every gadget and mod con that served us was no longer required. I sold my convertible sports car, my beloved Sandman Panel Van, the house, white goods, fridges, washing machines, kitchen appliances – practically any device you plugged into a socket. We said goodbye to 24-hour convenience, shopping centres, takeaways and I must have been serious about saying goodbye to pizza deliveries! We weren’t just selling, we were leaving convention. Bye-bye running water, hot water and electricity!

Word of warning for those folks following this with a whimsical heart. The setup to live off-grid is not cheap. You swap luxury for grit and that ain’t cheap. Four wheel drives with bull bars, winches and roo lights, and we bought our Bedford bus – 10m of thumping metal. This iron armadillo had done many trips around Australia and was fitted out to live in a way before van life was a hashtag. Our plan is to live in her until we build.

The list of off-grid items is long. Trailers, camper trailers, a bobcat for the property and income; shipping containers to store our past lives in and transport over Bass Strait. Solar power setups, sheds, water tanks, generators and chainsaws, to name but a few. And of course, we HAD to purchase a wood-fired pizza oven. That was a major priority! All of this had to somehow traverse the barbaric Bass Strait, before being skull-dragged to the top of a mountain to its final resting place.

The planned landing of the shrapnel took more than nine months of military-precision-like planning. This is not a tale for the faint-hearted. You have to want your savage, to the magma of your core.

Chapter 4: The adventure begins

In December 2021, we hit the road with Jemima, our elderly pugalier, our special needs rescue poodle Gertie, our Hilux and roof-top camper hauling a car trailer. The wanderlust began.

We were so exhausted physically, and emotionally and it all felt so surreal. This wasn’t a holiday – this was life as we didn’t know it yet. I knew it would take a while for the defragmentation of my old way of living to occur; for this to really sink in.

Days of travel ended with our departure from the big island and we entered the belly of the beast, The Spirit of Tasmania. We could hear three stories up from the dog enclosure, Jemima squealing like a banshee the entire trip.

Tasmania was like we had time travelled backwards with sandstone cottages, fields of flowers and lavender and fresh, crisp air.

From Devonport, we drove to Bridport for the next compartmentalised portion of the journey. The car and trailer were delivered to a barge and we flew in a single-prop sky mosquito. The scary five-seater plane tumbled its way in high winds to Flinders Island and yes, Jemima continued to perform her screaming banshee-in-distress wail in the cabin alongside us.

Finally, we were on the terra firma of our new home on Flinders Island! The feeling of relief, freedom and excitement hit like a freight train. I recall us standing on the grassy airstrip with our pooches, embracing each other and crying with pure joy. Our fresh new era had begun.

Chapter 5: Heaven’s Nest

If I had lost God, I found him here. He is omnipresent. Flinders Island is where David Attenborough meets Clint Eastwood. We were in the middle of a saltwater spaghetti western!

More than 900 kindred folk call Flinders Island home. This wild, pristine, pure, rugged, mountainous and breathtakingly beautiful island is a place time has forgotten. There’s an abundance of wildlife due to a lack of predators such as foxes. Wombats look like round

anthills in the pastures, echidnas waddle past, curious wallabies and pademelons are plentiful and wild peacocks strut in packs while monstrous wedge-tailed eagles soar above.

The tumultuous Bass Strait, with its roaring forties winds, has carved its best work – soaring mountain ranges encrusted in gigantic granite outcrops, iridescent turquoise waters teaming with lobsters and scallops and the odd seal. Sea-sculpted granite adorns the beaches and is veiled in tangerine lichen. Wildflowers abound with purples and pinks. The flora near the beaches seems like it’s been curated and landscaped with exotic species.

Don’t get me started on the shells! Glorious, intact shells from the nautilus to the sea urchin. From huge conch shells to minute, delicate, dainty teeny ones. It gives me so much joy to beach comb after big seas and unearth a new treasure the sea has rejected. In fact, we discovered a humpback whale jaw recently.

Very quickly, we began witnessing nature through fresh new eyes. I’d never seen such abundance and beauty. What sorcery was this? Was I dreaming? I know I sound like a Mills and Boon novel describing nature, but this place is sexy.

The savage dwells on Flinders Island. The coastline is littered with shipwrecks from doomed explorers. There are skeletons of old piers and battle-scars from nature’s beastly past.

There’s a reason it’s called ‘windy Flindy’. The roaring forties Tradewinds and gale-force icy cold gusts you must befriend or they soon become your enemy. I’m talking more than windswept. The Bass Strait tempest drags you forcefully by the hair. It’s a beast to contend with, plan and problem-solve around. It can be scary but exhilarating at the same time. In saying that, being surrounded by the ocean keeps the temperature warmer than Hobart in Tasmania. In fact, Jamie only stopped wearing shorts and tee shirts during the day in May.

Our slithery residents are also quite an exception to the rule. From the copperhead to the tiger snake, they are twice as venomous as on the mainland and pack quite an aggressive punch.

This little old Queenslander is used to toads as the only night stalkers to contend with, but unbeknownst to me, scorpions live here rent-free. They hunt and mate at night and their sting is like a hot coal pressed firmly on the skin.

The inch-long jack jumper ants also have anger management issues, with their sharp orange pincers. They pack one hell of an anaphylactic bite.

But it’s the yin and the yang, right? The light and the shade. The stuff that keeps you present and alert and wakes you up from your slumberland state. You’ve gotta be tough and resilient to make it here. The savage has engaged.

Flinders Island is serious business, too. The farmland and lush pastures are roaming with the main export of the island, Black Angus Cattle. These rich, fat, healthy-coated specimens often possess million-dollar ocean views from their pastures. Sheep graziers also call this island home.