Glimpses of a sparkling river tease me as I drive the winding road south from the city of Hobart – on the way to my mother’s house. For twenty one years she has lived in a secluded spot at the bottom of a steep driveway, which is not for the feint-hearted.
Rather like the Man from Snowy River, I arrive safely “at the bottom of that terrible descent”. Mother’s glorious view reveals itself in full – uninterrupted. Living interstate, I am an infrequent visitor these days, but I anticipate this moment almost daily.
My parents retired to Hobart after a busy and fulfilling farming life in the Derwent Valley, to an ordinary house – with an extraordinary outlook. Renovations of house and garden successfully turned their new abode into a beautiful home which has stood the test of time.
But the WOW factor is the view that greets you, through huge windows along the front of the house, and from the deck, where one can waste many hours drinking in the unspoiled scene. Father is no longer with us, but Mother, now in her nineties, still wakes every morning to the colourful sunrise, and maybe a lone yacht or a crisp white cruise ship gliding quietly up river.
The Derwent River has many faces – some smiling, some angry, some friendly and welcoming. She has the face of someone who can tell a thousand stories. She’s seen the arrival of the first white settlers in 1803, and river traffic increase, bringing settlers and supplies to the growing colony of Van Diemen’s Land, including the transportation of over 60,000 convicts.
1911 saw the departure to Antarctica of Mawson and Davis aboard the SY Aurora. Nowadays the modern ice-breaker Aurora Australis regularly delivers scientists and supplies to the icy continent. Since Mother has been a ‘Derwent dweller’ she has observed fishing fleets, local and international regattas, exciting tacking duels of maxi yachts finishing the Sydney-to-Hobart race, historic tall ship flotillas, the arrival of solo round-the-world yachtsmen and even US Aircraft carriers.
Daily she observes leisurely kayakers, or pilot boats rushing to meet a large tanker. In summer, cruise ships arrive at daybreak and leave at dusk, tourist boats head down river to observe coastal wildlife, and catamarans ferry visitors to restaurants south of the city.
Some days the river sparkles, dolphins frolic, and frenzied petrels dive for fish. Other days it’s grey and furious, with Easterly winds forcing waves onto the rocks. On these days Mother is content to observe from the comfort of her favourite chair – glad she’s not venturing out into the wind and rough water.
Living with a view like Mother’s is a privilege that only a few are lucky enough to experience. The river is an ever-changing canvas which constantly draws the eye, whatever its’ mood. And for now it’s a wonderful companion and daily source of interest to my dear Mother, and to all who visit her.