Driving through Liawenee and the "townships" that dot Tasmania's Great Lake, one could be forgiven for thinking they were holidaying on the moon.
Vast, desolate landscapes emerge from the fog that has settled around the rocky quoins that form part of the 1065 metre high "up-country" lands of Liawenee.
While the region might look foreign, even intergalactic, to some, Lake Country - the Central Highlands municipality - is made up of a community emblematic of the life that was lived by European settlers that worked the land in the region over 100 years ago.
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About a 10 minute drive from Liawenee, Miena is the closest township that has a shop and two pubs.
It is the kind of place you would see represented on the silver screen as a small Australian country town.
Though some residents have never left Lake Country, others are newer to the area and have come in search of serenity, silence, and even the cold.
Meet the locals
Twenty-two year old Jamie Miller ended up living by Great Lake about 18 months ago after leaving Myrtleford in country Victoria, now she works at the Central Highland Lodge - one of two pubs in the 87 person town of Miena.
If anyone represents a 100-year-old spirit of resourcefulness it is Ms Miller, and in her 18-months she has had to learn fast.
"The shacks where I used to live up at Breona don't have any electricity so you live off a generator or solar power," she said.
"It's a bit hard to live up there because I'd get home from work and have to get the fire going and if it was really cold sometimes my water would freeze for a whole week.
"The water came from a natural spring and the pipe that came from there would always freeze. I'd be running up there with a kettle and pouring hot water down it."
She has since moved to Miena, about 20 minutes south where there is electricity, but she continues to be as self-sufficient as she can, shooting and fishing to supplement a weekly trip to the shop in Deloraine.
Kaye Haywood and Mick Gleeson, from Wynyard, have a shack slightly south of Breona.
A knock on their door is met with a "come in" from Mick, despite him having no idea who just rapt.
Earlier at the pub a couple of regulars were adamant that if you knock on the door of a shack owner they will welcome you in and offer you a beer, and sure enough, Mick was true to their word.
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" Kaye asked. "How about a beer?" added Mick.
Their shack is well lived, and well loved and everything has a place. The shower, for example, has a pulley system so hot water can be added to a tank before taking a shower. And outside, without the risk of heat, there is a meat safe that Mick will hang his catch-of-the-day in before it gets cooked up for dinner.
Shack life for them is the chance to get away from normality in a place that is so far from what they are used to in Wynyard, or what anyone from Launceston or Hobart might typically do.
Down the road, at Miena, the Miena General Store is a relative hive of activity.
A car will pull up and the store staff will know who it is, and probably what they want.
But if they want a copy of The Examiner, they will have to wait for certain days, as it takes someone to drive up to Deloraine on a paper run for the news to filter down the road. But living by Great Lake, the news is not necessarily a huge concern.
Liz Lang moved to Miena in 2000 with her husband.
For her, the sheer serenity of the wintry town is the drawcard.
"There's all sorts of things you get to be aware of when you're here," she said as a smile spread across her face.
"The beauty of the snow falling and how the landscape becomes rounded with the snow, and everything is quiet, and you gradually start to lose your TV channels because the snow is on the dish.
"You're aware of the beauty of the world and you go out into the sun and you can feel the warmth coming into your bones. You're in tune with the environment. We can hear the wings of a bird as it flies over."
The old 'up-country'
Though many of the shacks by the lake seem like someone has found a flat spot among the rocks and decided that is where they will build, they hark back to a time before sealed roads, and even before Liawenee was even a place (it was named by Hydro in 1920).
The area was once solely grazing land for sheep and was scattered with huts that helped workers tend to the herds.
Gwen Hardstaff grew up around the Lake from 1939 and wrote a book about the history of the region.
Ms Hardstaff said the workers of the land were shepherds - "the only shepherds in Australia".
At the turn of the 19th century there was basically just "up-country" and "down-country".
Typically, the shepherds were convict workers given tickets of leave and working on the unrestricted land was a remedy to nights spent cooped up in prison. And they tended the herds for wealthy land owners who could not leave their "down-country" properties.
"The earliest workers up there were ticket of leave men," Ms Hardstaff said.
"For some of them it would have been just heaven to get away from the confines and to go up to the Lake Country where they were their own boss, they had the sheep to tend, their rations gave them basic food and they had dogs."
Working as shepherds, the workers would take sheep on a five or six day journey across the terrain from down- country to up-country as the season and weather changed. On their own they had to be resourceful and, with the help of the basic huts, make their way to the top of the central highlands, near Liawenee.
Though over one hundred years have past, and the shepherds have since become shack dwellers, the Central Highlands still exude an atmosphere that transcends time and offers a glimpse into the life of the only shepherds in Australia.
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