Our year in the Tasmanian Wilderness

Back in 1994, Australian Geographic’s second wilderness couple Deanne and Damon Howes survived 12 months in the Tasmanian Wilderness.
By AG Archives August 28, 2018 Reading Time: 3 Minutes

WE’D FINISHED a wearisome day’s hike through some particularly thick scrub. The rain had fallen spasmodically during the day. Not enough to soak us right through but enough to make things unpleasant. So when we crawled into the tent that evening it was with a sigh of heartfelt relief

Rolling thunder and hammering rain disturbed our sleep during the night and went on into the morning, making us reluctant to forsake the snug comfort of our sleeping bags. “It sounds terrible out there,” Damon muttered. I opened an eye. “Why don’t we have a rest day?” I asked. Damon agreed, and so it was that we spent the day in our tent at the foot of Innes Peak, about 12 km north-east of our but in south-west Tasmania.

It was June 1993, mid-winter and halfway through the year we’d volunteered to spend isolated in one of Australia’s most rugged regions as Australian Geographic’s second Wilderness Couple. We were continuing an experiment devised by AG publisher Dick Smith to see if ordinary city couples could survive in the bush as the pioneers had done. As we lay there, we compared the suburban life we’d left behind in Brisbane with the freedom and flexibility that had become an integral part of our wilderness experience. This set us reminiscing about how our adventure had begun. I’d been reading the January—March 1992 issue of AG when an article caught my eye. “Hey, Damon, listen to this!” I called out.

“‘Adventurous couples, where are you?”‘ I read aloud. “‘How would you like to escape the urban rat-race and spend a year in a remote spot … ?'”

It sounded fantastic, and although we thought we had as much chance of being chosen as we had of winning Lotto, we applied.

Damon and I had known each other for two and a half years and been engaged for seven months. He had an office job with the Army and I was a registered nurse. We were due to marry in April 1992 and saw the AG adventure as a great opportunity to break out of suburbia. Most important, we believed it would make a unique and strong foundation for our marriage.

The months rolled by and we were soon caught up in the excitement of planning our wedding. Then one night soon after our honeymoon the telephone rang. “Hello, this is Dick Smith,” the voice at the other end said. I had a feeling our lives were about to lift off into a totally new dimension.

And that’s how it turned out. Dick invited us to a formal interview at Terrey Hills in July, and a week after that he phoned to ask us if we’d be the next AG Wilderness Couple. It took us a week to come back to earth.

By then we had only three months to get everything organised and we often thought we’d never manage it. For weeks we passed like ships in the night and, looking back, it seems strange that we spent so little time together while making preparations for 12 months with no one but each other.

This is an extract from Issue 36 of Australian Geographic.