Home to the Spirit of Tasmania I and II, Devonport is a little city on the north-west coast of Australia’s island state. Only classified as a city on the basis of a technicality, it’s the kind of place where your phone signal is non-existent and night-life is unheard of. Local hangouts include the car park of a dingy McDonalds, a graffiti-covered bus stop, and the car park of a dingy Hungry Jacks. Life here is repetitive. Life here is set at half-speed.
But life in a sleepy seaside village has its upsides. It’s almost guaranteed you’ll never have to queue for entry to a club. There’s pretty much always a nearby bush to pee in. And if you know what you’re doing, you can lift up a the seemingly lifeless rock of the city to find it is teeming with a whole ecosystem of ants and insects.
Growing up in Devonport means I had access to all these secret wonders. Visiting a small town like this, you HAVE to know the locals. Sure, you can pop into the tourist centre and book a trip up to the mountains, or stroll aimlessly around the sad excuse for a mall. But the real excitement of the place is something you can only know if you’ve lived here your whole life. The flower-speckled glades hidden at the end of a winding dirt road, the trashy milk bar with the best hash browns on the coast, the secret waterfalls. The small population means you get your pick of your place in the sand, encounter only wallabies on your bush walk, hunt magic mushrooms in solitude. There is a kind of majesty in experiencing your youth in such a forgettable city.
Nightlife somewhere like Devonport most certainly isn’t as vibrant as Melbourne’s 24/7 carousel of fun. One nightclub (open for six hours on a Saturday) and a sprinkling of sad looking pubs can’t compete with underground raves and multi-story clubs. But what we do have is something entirely different and magical. A BWS slack on ID checks and an abandoned maternity hospital to break into are a great combination for an evening of drunken graffiti and ghost hunting. No real club culture means there are house parties instead. Parents go out of town and their children hire crappy DJ’s and party photographers and build seven-foot bonfires in the backyard. 15 to 21-year-olds flock from all sides of the city wearing flannies and gum boots, the “dance floor” just a patch of thick, pasty mud, the “bathrooms” just a broken porter loo with a severe lack of toilet paper. The booze is endless, the bongs aplenty, and the trees provide great cover for a sneaky fuck, or a quick chunder if you “went too hard on the paint”. These parties are filthy, dirty paradises, and something you definitely need to experience at least once.
No trams, no regular buses, most certainly no trains. The only reliable way to get around is by car. But driving around isn’t just a mode of transport here – it’s a favourite pastime for most of the youth, rolling around aimlessly in the night, sticking their heads out the window like dogs, tongues flapping free. Occasionally we stop at the beachside playground to share a spliff on the swings, or skinny dip in the frosty Tasmanian waters. But mostly we just drive, eating up petrol playing midnight rounds of “car chasings” or trying to get bogged in the mushy green paddocks. To the teens that grew up with shopping malls and warehouse raves, it might sound a little dull, but there’s something wild about turning the heat up and putting the windows down, letting the wind tangle your hair while you scream along passionately to Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You.
Nowheresville is confronting. Bookended by a rooftop apple sculpture on one end and an onion factory on the other, this single-story city is full of racists, homophobes, misogynists and a whole hoard of other bigots. But if you’re willing to brave the redneck farmers and the meth-head bogans, truly immersing yourself within the small town culture is a rewarding, mind-expanding, unparalleled experience. You walk into a bar with one friend and walk out with ten. You go to a gig and know everyone in the room. You scream the lyrics back to the bands playing because the bands are your bestfriends and the lyrics are written about you and your friends and the life you all share. Every drunk bathroom trip results in a beautiful reunion with a girl you went to primary school or high school or kindergarten with. Nowheresville is confronting. But it is also beautiful.