I had never met Gillian and Matt. They were friends of Jes and Duncan, a fellow yachtie couple they met it Sydney. So can I consider them friends without even meeting them? Yes!
But I did sort of invite myself to stay with them. Well, I said I’d be in the area.
They weren’t exactly set up to host guests, with a spare room or anything. They were staying for the moment in someone’s furnished – but uninsulated – shed. Pretty rough, simple living for a family with a four-year-old, but they’re getting their life in Tasmania set up, building their own shed to live in on their acreage down in Dover on their free time. And besides, it’s a matter of perspective, right? After years of living on a tiny boat, a shed is incredibly spacious! For them, and for me. O great luxury, how rich I am when I can take a shower and charge the batteries to my headlamp. I also did a much needed load of laundry – I was afraid to give Gill a hug when I arrived due to my “aroma” – but the drying turned out to be a bit of an issue. Hanging clothes do eventually dry in Tasmania’s winter, but it takes days. And it was so cold! I needed those clothes to stay warm when I sleep, so leaving them to dry was not an option. I’d rather be dirty & warm than clean & cold. So I accompanied Matt into town one day to visit the laundromat. Clean and warm – now that’s a luxury!
Dawn over the valley
I made several trips around the area with Matt and Jess. Gillian had gone to Sydney to sing in the Opera House.. It was perfect to tag along on some car trips, actually. I could explore without the big loaded rig to worry about, and some serious walking was a welcome change for my leg muscles.
On a trip into Hobart I eventually found a mechanic who had the right wrench to remove my rear wheel’s freehub body, but it turned out to be unserviceable. =( I guess that wheel my cheap Giant came with was just never meant to handle loaded touring, neither spokes, nor hub, nor probably rims either. From the very beginning I should’ve taken the advice I’ve given others countless times: if you’re going to upgrade anything before a tour, anything at all, spend the money on a high quality hand-built rear wheel. I bit the bullet it Hobart and bought a great wheel from the self-proclaimed “OCD mechanics” at Bike Ride. What a shame though; I had just respoked that bloody thing! At least now I can really trust it.
It was nice to have some down time, and hang out with like-minded folks. And it was refreshing to hang out with a smart four-year-old Lego aficionado! And I think it was good for Gill & Matt too; they said they were happy to have a chance to “give back” after being helped so often in their own travels. I can definitely relate! And I am a pretty good guest: low maintenance, even call me helpful, and I like to think, pretty fun, too. =)
The night before I moved on we went to a fundraising dinner at a place called the Living Boat Trust. Franklin is the home of a famous Wooden Boat Festival and the LBT is trying to develop the riverfront into a place where yachties can find top of the line services. Dinner was held in a rather frigid wood shop, but wine and gourmet food, not to mention lively conversation with the local color, kept us warm.
My next visit was to Jess & Peter, who we met on their yacht in New Caledonia. They’ve since bought a cozy home in Cygnet – just across the river from Franklin. I should’ve taken a wooden row boat across! But it was a very pleasant ride, and after a few days off, my muscles felt strong.
Being so far South, I thought it would be appropriate to try the local fish, and Peter and Jess were quite pleased to have a reason to get dressed up, so we took their car into Hobart and had a delicious fancy dinner. I expressed a bit of concern over my appearance – dressing up for me is an old collar shirt that smells like a bike pannier and the same stained jeans and shoes I always wear – but they weren’t the least bit worried. “This isn’t New York City – this is Tasmania!”
I spent the whole next day doing artwork, a rare pleasure while traveling. I challenged myself to construct a collage using only pages from a single publication – in this case, the beautiful info ‘zine for the City of Hobart “Dark Mofo” festival that was on, celebrating the solstice and the darkest days of the year.
By the time I got to Hobart with my properly loaded rig, solo on the road again, I had already been around the city enough to satisfy me. Save one thing – the Museum of Old and New Art.
MONA’s “x+” symbol
MONA is built into a cliff. It’s got a huge spiral staircase going down into the rock around a space-age tube lift. It reminded me of a James Bond villain’s fortress. But its four high-ceilinged levels were full of nooks and crannies, auditoriums and echoing chambers, and one of the most eclectic collections I’ve ever heard of. But that’s not all; there is also a music stage, a tennis court, a winery and craft beer brewery (the Hefeweissen was delicious), a swank hotel, and their very own ferry stop. And MONA are the ones that put on the Dark Mofo festival all over the city. Quite an experience!
But the sun started setting. I went down the road for a rare stay in a campground. I hate paying for camping, but I was able to shower, and charge my batteries again, and use the common kitchen to cook and sit and write. So it was worth it. This time.
I was up and away early finally heading North, and this time up the East coast of Tassie, which promised to be flatter, and drier.
Knock on wood!
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Gillian and Matt and Jessica and Peter for their wonderful hospitality. It means a lot for a bloke like me to have a place to call home for a few days, and I truly appreciate it. I am so happy we got to know each other more, and I hope we meet again somewhere down the track! All the best in your idyllic Tasmanian wonderland!!!