In effect, this is a story about the hydro-electric era in Tasmania. In the 1940's, and 50's, Tasmania's Hydro Electric Commission (H.E.C.) embarked upon massive power generation schemes that exploited the state's natural resources and provided bulk cheap electricity. This successfully attracted large power-hungry industries to Tasmania such as aluminium and electrolytic zinc producers. Such a boon was this to the state (economically) that the H.E.C. became a major political force in the state.
To harness the water required for electricity production, existing lakes in the state's highlands were dammed and enlarged and new ones created where there were none before. The H.E.C. opened up new areas of the state to tourists and fishermen, and "hydro" roads were generally considered to be among the best in the state. Electricity consumption rose rapidly to the point where at one stage Tasmanians were using more electricity per head of population than anyone else in the world. All the while, costly propaganda campaigns by the H.E.C. constantly reminded us how much better life was with abundant, cheap electricity.
The "Hydro" became a huge institution which epitomised Tasmania. The H.E.C. was large and successful, and if you yourself didn't work for them, someone in your family or a neighbour or friend did. The advertising campaigns summed them up - hydro power was cheap and clean, it was God's gift to Tasmania and to criticise it was sacrilege. Not that the politics of the organisation ever warranted much attention from the media. Everything seemed just as cosy as their television ads. Cosy that is, until you looked out the back door. Many of Tasmania's rivers and lake systems were doomed to the unstoppable momentum of the H.E.C. hell-bent on progress for progress' sake. Dams and power stations were built without any real reason other than empire-building by an organisation whose own political power through the 1950s and 60s was gaining frightening proportions.
Then around 1970 things began to change. Feeding on its own success, the H.E.C. began to get too ambitious. The environmental alarm bells sounded when it was announced that a new hydro scheme was going to inundate Lake Pedder, a unique and extraordinarily beautiful lake with white quartzite beaches in the remote south west wilderness, and which just happened to be a national park. The HEC announced that yet more electricity was needed and that the benefits to Tasmania were going to be considerable. The government of the day duly passed the legislation necessary to allow the flooding of a national park and the fight was on. It is a matter of history how the fight to save Lake Pedder was fought and lost. But the affect it had on thousands of Tasmanians was pronounced. In 1972, when Lake Pedder finally succumbed to the will of the H.E.C. a collective determination was instilled in the minds of thousands of ordinary Australians everywhere, to ensure this never happened again. Out of the small Lake Pedder Action Group set up to fight the H.E.C. over Lake Pedder, grew the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (now simply "The Wilderness Society"). Public opposition to the destructive policies of the H.E.C. grew steadily during the 1970s, but buoyed by their win with Lake Pedder, the H.E.C. weren't about to back down...
The original Lake Pedder, now submerged.
1982 AND THE WINDS OF CHANGE
1982 was a troubled year for Australia. We were in the grip of a recession, something the country had not known for a long time. The federal liberal government under Malcolm Fraser was unpopular and with the charismatic figure of labor-leader Bob Hawke waiting in the wings the political scene was exceedingly volatile. In Tasmania especially, politics were a hot issue. Once again the Hydro Electric Commission was overstepping the mark. They wanted to build yet another hydro-electric scheme which would flood large sections of the Franklin and Gordon rivers, as equally horrifying a prospect as the flooding of Lake Pedder. Apart from its extraordinary beauty, the Franklin River also happened to be one of the last unspoilt wild rivers left anywhere on the planet. Apart from one road crossing its upper reaches, the river ran free with no roads running alongside it, no sewers emptying into it and no industry or community draining it for any kind of use what-so-ever. It was also successfully listed as a World Heritage site, but even this did not curtail the dam builders' ambitions.
The H.E.C. blatantly put the Tasmanian Labor government of Doug Lowe to the test. For years, under Labor's Eric Reece (known as "Electric Eric") the H.E.C. seemingly had its own way in everything. It was easy enough of course - if the H.E.C. didn't get what it wanted it merely had to hint that it might have to put up its power charges to the Comalco aluminium smelters and the Electrolytic Zinc Works, two of Tasmania's largest industrial employers and huge consumers of electricity. Higher power charges would send the industries back to mainland Australia and put Tasmania back in the industrial dark ages. It was enough to keep most state governments in check. The Lowe government however did not feel quite as charitable toward the H.E.C. in the case of the Franklin River, and both the H.E.C. and the Liberal Party began to turn up the heat. Lowe, who seemed inclined to try and please everyone, called for a referendum, asking the populace to choose between the Franklin scheme or another, not quite as catastrophic dam. Enough people were incensed however at the lack of a "no dams" option to ensure Lowe quickly went as leader. He was replaced by Harry Holgate who, given the almost impossible task of reconciling the H.E.C. and the conservationists, stood little chance of standing his ground. In the end, somewhat inevitably, an early election was called.
Fed up with the lack of decisiveness of the Labor government, Tasmania easily voted the Liberal party in under the leadership of Robin Gray, whose description of the Franklin as a "brown leech-ridden ditch" pushed the conservation movement to new heights of determination. Rarely mentioned at that stage was the utter hypocrisy of a Liberal party winning office on a pro-dams platform when it had campaigned long and hard against the flooding of Lake Pedder!
Robin Gray came to power and promptly gave the thumbs up to the Franklin River scheme. The Federal leader Malcolm Fraser refused to intervene and the fight was on in earnest. The Tasmanian Wilderness Society announced that a blockade of works would commence in December, and a by-election in the Victorian seat of Flinders became famous when a majority of voters wrote "No Dams" on their ballot papers! That was probably the thing that first made me seriously think there was actually a chance of stoping this dam from being built. Whilst many Tasmanians were by that stage thoroughly fed up with the whole business, clearly the rest of the country were beginning to take a serious interest in what was happening.
The Dog House Hotel (now a backpacker's hostel) became a
focal point for the blockaders in Hobart, and hosted more
than one benefit concert for the blockade.
DECEMBER 1982 - HOW I BECAME INVOLVED
As far as the Tasmanian Wilderness Society (T.W.S.) were concerned, it was battle stations. They had been preparing for this eventuality, and now they swung into action. The idea was to set up a blockaders camp on the Gordon River, close to where the H.E.C. planned to build their dam, just below the junction of the Franklin and Gordon Rivers. From this camp, blockaders could travel up river to the dam site and disrupt work. Because of the relative inaccessibility of the area, the T.W.S. effectively controlled access in and out of the blockade to all but properly-trained protesters. And until you had completed the T.W.S. NVA (non violent action) training sessions, there was little chance of getting to the dam site, the main focus for protesters and the media.
Meanwhile, being young and unemployed and living in Hobart, I was busy finding reasons NOT to get involved. "A hundred dollar fine for trespass was something I couldn't afford" was my main excuse. Whilst it was true that I could not afford a $100 fine, it was just an excuse. But whether it was because I was too cowardly to say "no, I don't want to blockade" or because I didn't trust myself not to get too involved I am still not certain.
Another reason for some hesitation was a group loosely associated with the "Nightcap Action Group". This group, posing as an official N.A.G. action group survived more on legend than deed, but they were none-the-less holding their own forms of secret training sessions, one of which I attended. Unlike the official T.W.S. NVA meetings, these ones covered such topics as disabling bulldozers with valve-grinding paste (of which I saw plenty) and destroying penstocks and power stations with gelignite (which I did not see). Their attitude was one of reluctant deference to the T.W.S., in that they would allow the blockade with its non-violent approach to run its course, but they would then move in should the T.W.S. blockade fail. Fortunately it never came to that. In hindsight it seems unlikely this group had any serious affiliation with N.A.G. – whilst the original organisers may have been members of N.A.G. their actions didn’t fit in with N.A.G. policy and I suspect they were using that group’s name merely to gain credibility. Even so they numbered in their dozens and could have posed a threat had the non-violent blockade action failed. This “direct-action” group, regardless of how serious they really were, or how well equipped they were (or weren't) posed a real threat to the T.W.S., because any publicity they received would automatically be linked to the T.W.S. Had they been found out, this group of violent protestors would have been gleefully portrayed by the media as a militant wing of the T.W.S. This it certainly wasn't - it wasn't even a Tasmanian group, but more T.W.S. members than they would care to know about did have some sympathy with them and an uncomfortable number of them would have attended sabotage training meetings – a fact mercifully not discovered by the media.
Two things in particular were responsible for turning my hesitation into action. The first was the Gray Liberal government's legislation which was rushed through the house increasing the penalty for trespass from a $100 fine to $500 and which made trespass an arrestable offence. This was a blatant political act which attempted to dissuade people from acting on their principles. They virtually said "Go ahead and display your democratic rights and we'll hit your pocket hard" which I found (both then and now) disgusting and condescending.
That by itself nearly persuaded me. But then one night whilst having a quiet drink with a few friends, a colleague came rushing in and said we had all just volunteered to appear at the Davey Street headquarters of the T.W.S. the following morning at 8 o'clock to help load the 'communications hut' (whatever that was) onto the truck for transport to Strahan. One of the others, always happy to volunteer other people to do any form of work, cheerfully said we would all be there and then the first guy rushed off again.
The next morning I was reminded of the obligation I had "volunteered" for, but it was with only a little reluctance (and a good deal of curiosity) that I took the walk to the T.W.S. building in Davey Street, not far from where I lived in Hobart. With much effort we loaded the anonymous looking canvas-shrouded container that was in fact a communications centre onto the unmarked Toyota truck and away it went. This in itself was no big deal, but it was the enthusiasm and motivation of the people involved that really impressed me. The genuine commitment to something that offered no monetary gain was such a refreshing experience, particularly in the midst of a recession that it broke down my last barriers of resistance and from then on I was pretty well hooked. From that point everything that happened was transformed into yet another reason for action instead of being twisted into a feeble excuse for comfortable inaction...
Furthermore, the sudden disappearance of two of my mates to Strahan also made quite an impression. I thought they'd be the last two to take action, but here they were actually supporting a cause they believed in instead of just talking about it. The simple act of helping to load a hut onto a truck somehow made me feel a part of the whole deal, and I couldn't just sit around not doing anything anymore. However I still could not bring myself to actually go to the blockade on the west coast - that seemed way too difficult - or so I thought at the time.
With that in mind I telephoned the T.W.S. and asked if there was anything I could do to help in Hobart. I don't know who the lady at the other end of the telephone was, but putting her on the 'phone was a stroke of genius on the part of the Wilderness Society. She exuded such pleasantness and good nature that you could not refuse this woman, and so when she informed me that they already had far too many helpers in Hobart and really needed people in Strahan (the west coast base for the blockade action), I actually agreed to go.
I kicked and cursed myself for the rest of the day, but the following morning there I was out the back of the T.W.S. headquarters in Davey Street waiting for a lift to Strahan. Many people had already volunteered as blockade "drivers", and there was a packed schedule of cars ferrying people and equipment between Hobart and Strahan. Each day people who volunteered to go and protest were allocated to a car for the 4 to 5 hour drive. The first car I was scheduled to go in failed to show up. Then the second one couldn't take quite as many people as originally thought, and I missed out again. Finally I was found a seat with Peter and Shirley Storey, who were travelling to Strahan in their aged LandRover to particpate in the blockade and who had room for just one passenger.
I was grateful for that trip and will always remember Peter and Shirley's unhesitating friendship, optimism and generally cheerful nature. It was a wonderful introduction to the blockade, which was to dominate my waking life for several weeks to come.
This was my first ever ride in a LandRover, which squeaked and clanked and laboured slowly toward Strahan, and was so uncomfortable that I could only tolerate it by allowing myself to believe this was the start of some incredible adventure. Peter and Shirley however were extremely relaxed about it, and really kept it all in context. We stopped frequently to explore little known bush tracks, to admire the scenery and even just to smell the eucalypts. As a result it took nearly six hours to reach Strahan, a journey I was to repeat several more times in the coming weeks, and which usually took closer to four hours. But it was the perfect way to immerse myself in the excitement of the blockade, and the perfect introduction to the wonderful people who were the blockaders...
PEOPLE'S PARK, STRAHAN
Arriving at, and being part of, the People's Park blockade camp in Strahan was a very different experience to say the least. Having been lured into actually taking part in the blockade by what my friends and associates were doing, it was quite bizarre to find myself at People's Park with none of the people I knew. Not that it mattered much as everyone was very sociable and new friends were made in abundance. The park was fantastic. It really was a most idyllic spot, and will remain a fond memory. In many respects it was a real shame that the blockade outgrew the Park and we had to move to "Greenie Acres" on the outskirts of town, but that was still some time away yet.
People's Park was actually a small caravan park and camping ground, owned and run by the local council. The caravan section was incredibly small, and was located close to the road, while the camping area was set in eucalypt forest either side of a small track that led into the bush for a kilometre or so, coming to an end at an idyllic small pool fed by a stream. This spot was to prove extremely popular with the blockaders as a wonderful area to get away from everything for a while. The camping area was necessarily long and narrow, with people pitching their tents in small semi-cleared areas off the track, so the overall effect was that there seemed to be fewer people there than there actually were. The only reasonably large area was used by the training tent, kitchen tent and meeting area. It was all very compact, and wonderfully comfortable. In all, just over a hundred people were camped there before things got really big, a little later on.
The park was ideally situated just outside of Strahan, hidden and unobtrusive, so the townsfolk hardly need know we were there (although they most certainly were more than well aware of our presence). We all loved it.
Getting used to the People's Park blockade was a strangely comfortable experience. I knew I belonged straight away - the feeling of belonging and inclusiveness that group had is indescribable. It all felt so natural, and yet it was such an alien life-style for so many of us. Quite impossible to explain.
Put simply, the people were bloody marvellous. From Peter and Shirley Storey with their "pet" LandRover, to the organisers, the NVA trainers and generally everyone who took part. They were all so friendly and accepted everyone as "family". It was odd really, because I imagined that as the majority of those already there had already done NVA training and been involved in the organising of the blockade I would not have been surprised to find a modest "us and them" attitude, but they were quite simply without bias or prejudice and treated everyone as if we'd all been in this together from the start. It felt so good! And there was no tension or stress at all. This wasn't a "military" campaign, despite being well organised. The pace was easy-going, even though there was a lot to be done. Everyone did their job in a relaxed, efficient manner, and everything fell into place.
The NVA training was indicative of this. There was never any doubt in the minds of the trainers that all those involved would quite naturally feel at home with group hugs, role-playing and reaching consensus as a group. This was affinity at work - there was solidarity through understanding. It wasn't until much later, when Greenie Acres became a relative metropolis, that this feeling began to fall apart. I still consider it to be a real privilege to have been there in those early stages.
The two-day NVA training I undertook gave me a huge insight into how to deal with people and situations. I really learnt a lot from those two days and still use a lot of the tactics to this day in everything from conflict resolution to running a meeting.
Strahan and the Gordon & Franklin Rivers
The west coast of Tasmania is wet and rugged. So remote, so isolated and so apparently God-forsaken is it that when the British wanted to find a hell-hole, a fate worse than death for their criminals, they could hardly have chosen better than Tasmania's west coast. They shipped their unwanted convicts to the bottom of the world - three months in the hold of a ship, on a one way trip to the remotest corner of the planet. From their homeland of old England to the rugged, desolate prison of Van Diemans Land. But not content with sending them to a remote colony in the farthest corner of the Earth, they put them on a tiny island on the wind- and rain-lashed west coast, where the nearest habitation was across an unexplored, mountainous expanse; where desperate convicts vanished forever or returned as crazed madmen who had survived on the flesh of their fellow absconders. Conditions were so deplorable, and the soldiers in charge so cruel (being little better than the worst of the convicts themselves) that the prisoners would murder one another in order to get relief from their ordeal through hanging.
Downtown Strahan, if there is such a thing, is at the bottom of the hill as you drive into town along the main road. And there, just as you reach the bottom of the hill near the wharf stood the T.W.S. Information Centre, where newcomers could register; blockaders could get the latest news or make a phone call and where they could get legal and logistical help. It was the real focal point for the blockaders, much more so than Greenie Acres or even People's Park. You could sit outside on the benches in the sun and chat, and sometimes you could even sit outside on the benches in the sun and cop abuse from some of the locals. There was always something happening, and there was always a line of backpacks, bags and packages out the front which gave the Info Centre a look of action that made it stand apart from every other building in the normally sleepy town of Strahan. The Info Centre was the place where you first encountered the blockade and blockaders as you arrived in town. It was also the place you always came to when you had a chance, and it was the last place you went to before you left Strahan, unless you did so in the back of a police paddy wagon.
There was nothing special about the building, but it became a focal point because the Info Centre had the all-important phones, the telex machine (no FAX machines or email back then!), and the people with the latest news. It also served as a liaison point between the blockade and the police and media. Generally the relations between police and protesters were excellent. Many policemen would quietly indicate their sympathy to us by displaying the inside of their caps, where they had hidden their "No Dams" stickers! Considering many of them had their summer leave cancelled because of the blockade, this was greatly encouraging. The media on the other hand were somewhat more aloof, and not a little frustrated at times by the lack of phone lines out of Strahan. Their motels also tended to be a little way out of town, and so they tended to be a bit detached from the life of the blockade.
The Info Centre was also a focus for those whose motives were quite different from ours, and it had more than one brick hurled through its windows while we were there...
The police video-taped everything that happened.
We got to know these two quite well, who were
more than happy to pose for our cameras.
Security was in fact quite a serious issue, and right throughout the blockade we had pairs of people keeping watch through the night at both the welcome tent in People's Park (and later at Greenie Acres), and at the Info Centre. Two way radios were used to check in with each other every hour to ensure that all was quiet, which for the most part, it was. I actually enjoyed doing these two hour watches through the night because it was a rare opportunity to escape the constant activity of the daylight hours and actually talk to someone for a while. There was also a sense of importance, because there was a small but real danger, and there was quite a feeling of satisfaction in keeping watch over a group of people you came to consider family, and who had a very important and worthwhile job to do.
When I arrived I had volunteered my services not only with security but also with the communications team, most of whom were upriver. From the beginning good communications were vitally important, but in the first weeks of the blockade they were somewhat less than satisfactory. Communications between Strahan and Hobart were fine, but the only communication with the people at the upriver camp was via boat!
News from those on the Gordon River was limited and confusing. Attempts to make and maintain 2-way radio contact were futile. Our "secret" radio site in an anonymous location in West Strahan tried to keep a regular schedule with the Gordon River camp several times a day, but contact simply could not be made. Therefore the only information passing between us was via the blockade transport vessel, the J Lee M. This simply wasn't adequate, and so on Thursday 16th December I and two others got approval to board the J Lee M and head upriver with the intention of setting up a much needed relay station, or at least finding out why the up-river team hadn't already done so.
The "J Lee M", the blockader's transportation to the upriver camp.
Getting approval for the upriver trip was actually very difficult. The J-Lee-M could carry a maximum of 55 people and their gear, and as people were being arrested in rapidly increasing numbers, the top priority was to get trained and ready protesters to the Gordon River base camp. As the boat could only make one trip per day, getting anyone aboard who was not going up to be arrested was near-impossible. None-the-less, the communications situation simply had to be remedied, and so at the last minute the T.W.S. relented and we were on our way.
To get to the Gordon River camp from Strahan required crossing Macquarie Harbour, an often rough passage, and then travelling up the beautiful Gordon River for several kilometres to the blockade camp near Butler Island, which itself was just short of the dam site. It was a long trip, but on a crowded boat with 55 excited, nervous people and a small mountain of camping and hiking gear, the time passed quickly. It was an exhilarating feeling, although no-one really knew what to expect.
Tying up to the communications shed, which sat atop its barge by the shore at the upriver camp was such a strange thing. The camp itself was spartan - a miniature version of the People's Park welcome/meeting tent, a notice-board and a few small tents were all that were visible apart from the communications/ first aid hut, everyone else having secreted their tents in the rainforest. In true west-coast fashion it was cold and wet, despite being summer!
We made ourselves known to the communications people and discussed our plans. There was in general a feeling of paranoia about the communications. Many felt we were being closely monitored on many levels, including our radio transmissions. Certainly, they told us, the police monitored the frequencies that they knew about, and when it suited them, were quite happy to jam our channels. And so the upriver team's priority had been to provide 2-way contact during the incursions to the dam site. Further, hostile terrain at the likely relay points had meant that the relay station which would provide radio communication with Strahan just hadn't happened.
My stay upriver was brief. The J-Lee-M was readied for her return to Strahan pretty quickly, and it had not been my intention to stay as I had to return to Strahan and organise the extra radio gear that we needed to improve the situation at the Gordon camp and beyond.
The other two people I had gone with started making preparations for the relay station while I chatted with a few people (including one of my flat-mates, who to my great surprise was there as well) and returned to the boat. Only one other person was returning to Strahan that day, and we were besieged with requests from people to pass on messages and obtain supplies etc. The single greatest thing people wanted were newspapers! Right in the middle of an internationally covered protest action, they were bereft of news!
RETURNING FROM UPRIVER
In contrast to the trip to the Gordon camp, the return trip was incredibly peaceful. Apart from the crew, who remained in the wheel-house or below deck, there were only two of us on board, and so it was blissfully quiet. The twilight of evening was still and cold, and unlike the trip in, this time the reflections for which the river is famous were stupendous. The water on the west coast is stained tea-colour by the button-grass plains which feed the rivers, and so when the river is calm, the reflections are glorious and unique. We had all been a little disappointed to have not seen them on the trip in, but now, just on dusk, they were at their best. And the rare honour of having them virtually to myself is something I shall never forget.
So intoxicating was it, that my fellow passenger and I simply sat on deck and hardly spoke a word. Once out into the complete blackness of Macquarie Harbour however we did chat. We did not discuss the trip along the Gordon with its reflections and grandeur - words were inadequate, but we understood.
The harbour itself was forbidding. Such a deep, vast expanse of freezing anonymous water is it that I couldn't help but feel an empathy with those convicts taken there only 150 years before. But for me it was an almost perfect solitude, even though it was "shared". Despite the cold and dark we stayed on deck and enjoyed a break from the frenetic efforts of the previous few days. I felt that trip could have lasted forever, it was such a joy, but as we neared Strahan the cold started to get through to my bones and the first lights of civilisation were welcome. Even so, I could not bring myself to go down below, where I might find some warmth, so wonderful was the journey.
HITCHING A RIDE BACK TO HOBART
The serenity of that evening was a stark contrast to the frantic activity of the following day. One thing the trip upriver had proven was that our radio equipment was inadequate. And so Friday morning was spent discussing our needs among the communications group; 'phoning the Wilderness Society headquarters in Hobart to get approval for funding of some new gear, 'phoning suppliers to see if it was available, then working out how the heck we were going to collect it and get it to Strahan that same day.
Just after lunch, with the help of the media liaison person, we sweet-talked the ABC TV news crew into letting me hitch a ride to Hobart with them in their chartered light aircraft. Which meant a 4-5 hour drive was cut down to a 1 hour flight! The reporter was none other than Hendrik Gout, a man I was not so much destined to work with, but to keep running into, meeting him again some years later on Maria Island (of all places), and then again even more years later when we both ended up working for the ABC in Adelaide. I was quite pleased with the idea of aerial hitchhiking, and even more delighted when the news crew gave me a lift from the Hobart airstrip to the ABC in Davey Street, just a quick stroll from the T.W.S. headquarters!
Meanwhile, once I was in the air, the Strahan mob got in touch with Hobart again and organised a lift back to Strahan for me that same afternoon. Upon presenting myself at Davey Street I was told to my great disappointment that I had precisely one hour to collect all the gear we had ordered before my return transport (this time by car) left for Strahan.
So I spent a panicked 60 minutes rushing around Hobart on foot, buying communications equipment and not even getting a chance to call in at home, before I returned to Davey Street and was seated in the back of a Leyland P52 heading out once more for Strahan, only this time with armloads of radio gear instead of tents and rain-jackets. Coincidentally, one of my other flat mates was in the same car so we spent the time exchanging news and gossip. Needless to say, there was a great feeling of camaraderie.
The next week was a busy one of communications and security work, kitchen duty, forming an Affinity Group (you had to be a member of one before going up-river), and more NVA training before finally we began to slow down for Christmas. Well, not quite. Right up until Christmas Eve I was scheduled to do a reconnaissance trip "under cover" to check out the H.E.C.'s progress on the Crotty Road. Their intention was to upgrade the existing old Crotty Road and push it further south toward Kelly Basin, making the same site more accessible to road traffic. While we had adequate aerial reconnaissance, the T.W.S. wanted some people to go in on foot and observe the works close-up. This was particularly important because recent rains appeared to be causing some serious erosion problems.
The government had made this reconnaissance work more difficult by closing the Crotty Road to the public, so the only choice was to trek in overland. Technically, we would be trespassing, so it was important to remain unseen (as much as possible). Christmas was thought to be the best time to undertake the assignment, when there would be fewer workers and less security than normal. Even so, it was a tough assignment, and I wasn't therefore unduly disappointed when it was cancelled at the last moment due to illness in my "spy"-partner's family.
Christmas and New Year were instead spent with one of my Affinity Group member's family in Queenstown and bush-walking in the Cradle Mountain/ Lake St. Clair National Park, which was a very welcome break indeed.