Tasmania: apple cider, friendship, and frustrations (persistence)
Day 3,144 since October 10th 2013: 196 countries out of 203. No flight, no return home, min 24 hrs in each country and 1 pandemic!
(The opinions expressed on this site are my own, and do not reflect the position or policies of the Danish Red Cross which I represent as a Goodwill Ambassador).
Ready to fight, always ready to fight
The fight or flight response is an automatic physiological reaction to an event that is perceived as stressful or frightening. The perception of threat activates the sympathetic nervous system and triggers an acute stress response that prepares the body to fight or flee.
As last weeks entry didn’t turn out as positive as I had hoped, I will try to remedy it within this one. Because while I’m sitting here at a Starbucks in Melbourne, writing you with lots of pain in my neck from a poor night’s rest, I can look back at a good week. It did not start out all that well though. The objective has for a while been to reach New Zealand without flying as country no. 197. On May 6th NZ Customs informed that I could enter NZ as a passenger onboard a container ship. And on the same day our friends at ZIM Shipping informed that Gold Star Line was looking forward to welcoming me onboard the good ship Toronto Trader departing Melbourne on May 22nd. So, it was beginning to look good. But then on May 10th NZ Immigration informed that I WOULD NOT be able to enter NZ on a container ship at this time due to COVID-19 regulations. And on May 12th I was furthermore informed that the owners of Toronto Trader COULD NOT accommodate me after all, due to internal matters. What followed on my part was a strong sense of frustration. Why must it be so difficult!! The Saga is more than four years overdue! There are so few countries left. Why, why, why! Should I give up? Should I? Along with the feeling of doubt I was met with a feeling of anger. I work so hard for this project! I offer so much of myself! Should I quit and return to a regular 9-5?
Frustration, doubt, anger...
Are such emotions even useful or simply a waste of energy: frustration, doubt, anger? I thought about that and came to the conclusion that these feelings were necessary for what came next: ingenuity. My mind quickly switches into problem solving mode. That is something I have learned about myself. And now it was fully fueled! Which options were potentially on the table? Could I have my new passport sent from NZ to Australia? How long would that take? Could it be beneficial to leave NZ for later? Afterall, once done with the Pacific Ocean we would logistically need to bridge the way to the Indian Ocean – would it be easier to reach the Indian Ocean from NZ than from Fiji? Could our friends at Swire Shipping get me on a ship from Australia to Fiji? How soon? How soon would Samoa open its borders? Could something be done in relation to Vanuatu, Tuvalu, and Tonga which are currently also closed? My mind was racing ahead looking for “open doors”. For many years my setting has been set to “fight mode”. Thinking further down the line, how will it be to transition into a “normal life” when I return home, after so many years of this?
On May 13th I received an update from Toronto Traders owners which read: “in this case the owners have made an exception to allow this individual to sail with the vessel”. And on May 17th I received an email from NZ Immigration confirming that the information from NZ Customs was correct and that I would be permitted to enter NZ as a passenger onboard a container ship. None of this came to be by coincidence. A lot of work went into getting these reversals and clarifications. And once again I can proudly say: “I get by with a little help from my friends”. The network I hold today surpasses my wildest imagination compared to when I left home. People are just people. And if you can reach the right people then anything is possible. The hard part, of course, is reaching the right people in the right situations.
I’ll tell you about some lovely people. The first two are Isabella (Denmark) and Damien (Australia). They live at Dreamfarm in Huon Valley, not far from Hobart. Dreamfarm is home to a community and also functions as a retreat for creative minds and souls. My plan was to depart Melbourne on Monday (May 9th) and return Friday (May 13th) after a short visit to Tassie. Isabella (@isabella.berg.olsen on IG) reached out and convinced me to stay longer. She sold it really well arguing that I needed more time to see the remarkable nature and offering free accomodation at Dreamfarm in peaceful surroundings. So I changed my return ticket with Spirit of Tasmania to return Wednesday (May 18th). Isabella and Damien have traveled a lot together. And prior to moving into Dreamfarm they lived at a commune in Denmark, and as such Damien speaks Danish! Well done, Damien! Not an easy language to learn. Isabella is really nice and mothered me throughout my entire stay, in spite of being more than a decade younger than me. They both have a healthy interest in flora, fauna, and hiking. As such, one day the three of us set out to hike up to Lake Skinner which lies just across the border of the vast South West National Park. Tassie is for the most part nature and a large part of it is completely untouched.
Damien sanitizing his footwear before entering South West National Park. I've never seen that before. But good idea! Apparently it helps to prevent the spread of e.g. fungi.
Isabella in red and Damien in black.
I thought I'd try a classical "influencer pose". Check out my Salomon X Ultra 04 atop Lake Skinner. Fun fact: I left home in 2013 wearing a pair of X Ultra's :)
The trail was nothing short of wonderful. Dense forest in the beginning and open towards the end. The water tasted amazing!
There's always room for a pie. In Australia a pie is not sweet like in the USA. Pies are more lunch-like. E.g.: a meat pie. But they come in thousands of varieties.
During the hike it was raining lightly and later on it became windy as well, which aren’t optimal conditions. Tassie was cold enough already. I’m fully aware that I originate from a “cold country” and "should be used to it", but I have long ago acclimatized to tropical conditions and find 9 degrees Celsius (48F) to be cold. However, out on the hike it was no issue - and I felt happy! That is generally the effect nature and exercise have on me. And I was in good company too. Damien would tell me that Tassie is twice the size of Denmark. However, being a proud Danish, Dane from Denmark I had to correct him as it’s closer to 1.5 times the size. That still makes Tassie a really large island, although you wouldn’t think it seeing Tassie next to the Australian continent. If Tassie was a country then it would rank in size as the worlds 120th largest ahead of Sri Lanka.
Such good people!! Right side: Hanni, Tom, and Damien. Left side: Nico, Helena, me. We went to Salty Dog Hotel to hear Elisse play flute during a performance. I've never before heard anyone play flute so well. It helped elevate the music.
The community life at Dreamfarm was really nice and very interesting. The "farm" consists of two main buildings which look rather Austrian to my eye. They are nearly off grid somewhat up a dirt road and I had no telephone signal. Wifi and electricity was available. Water was drawn from the nearby Judds Creek which is surrounded by nature. Heat was provided by firewood and I was for the most part struggling to keep warm. Apart from Isabella and Damien, I met Alex, Elisse, Amber, Nico, Helena, Tom, and Hanni. As everyone keeps busy, a week can easily pass by without everyone seeing each other. Therefore, once a week, they all meet up, sit down in a circle, and pass "talking sticks" around while individually giving a brief update on what’s going on in their lives. I had the pleasure on sitting in on such a session and everyone began their sentence with: “I feel…”
Testing apple cider at Willie Smith's.
Say hello to Stuart (@worldmotoadventure on IG). We met in West Timor back in 2019 as he had launched his motorcycle adventure from Australia to England!! Needless to say the pandemic put that on pause. Stuart happened to be cruising about on Tassie while I was there so we met up again! Great guy! Looking forward to crossing paths again.
Damien works as an electrician and Isabella works at a café. But in Huon Valley there is also seasonal unskilled work picking apples. Tasmania is apart from “Tassie” also known as “the apple isle” and one night we all went out to Willie Smith’s Apple Shed. A really cool bar/restaurant with live music within an old wooden barn. Apple Cider was the primary beverage and came in several forms. I had the pleasure of trying the tasting paddle with four different ciders. Good stuff. The Dreamfarm community consisted of some really interesting and likable people. Alex strives towards having a one-day work week. And Nico once traveled for four years!! I don’t know that I have even met anyone who traveled for four years before? That is almost like coming across a unicorn.
Jam session at Dreamfarm.
After five nights at the Dreamfarm I said farewell and Alex gave me a ride back into Hobart, which is Tassie’s largest city by population. The entire island only has about 500,000 beating hearts. I’ve heard several people say that Tassie is the kind of place which people visit and then afterwards talk about moving to – but they never do. That has however changed in recent years as the population is now growing fast. As such I also noticed a lot of vehicles in crowded places...and a lot of roadkill in general. I got the sense that people had it pretty good during the pandemic with lots of freedom although the tourism sector would have been hit badly. I actually haven’t met many people from Tassie. Everyone at the community (apart from Isabella) came from mainland Australia. And that continued to be the theme relating to most people I met across the island. Hobart is pretty nice but it never managed to catch my interest. The history is however interesting dating back to the time of whalers and Antarctic exploration. Some historical buildings and neighborhoods have been preserved and a city by the ocean is always nice. I just personally like Launceston so I returned there for my remaining days. But not before making a stop at the famous Museum of Old and New Art (Mona).
Battery Point in Hobart.
Mona has its own ferries which run to and from Hobart city center and the museum. The trip takes about 25 minutes and can also be done by bus. However, the ferry ride offers a much more interesting arrival and some great scenery. At the ferry terminal I met Robin who works for the museum. We struck up a conversation and before I knew of it, I had received a complimentary ticket!? I wasn’t even fishing for one but Robin liked my story and wanted to support the Saga. It is hard to hide my story if I stay honest in a conversation. All it takes are a few questions to make people suspicious: “are you here as a tourist?” or “when did you fly in?”. I really liked Robin who told me to talk to Steve when I reached Mona. The catamaran ferry took off and was elaborately decorated. Artistically painted, blasting out trendy music, serviced with several bars, and fitted with a real size plastic cow and some sheep which people could sit on. We headed along the beautiful coastline and came past Nyrstar Hobart which is a zinc smelter that delivers zinc metal to the world. It looked like something which is poisoning the world – but I’m sure that they are living up to strict code being in Australia and all. Besides – I suppose the world needs zinc.
Nyrstar Hobart - zinc smelter. Pretty steam punk to look at!
Mona was something else!!! As the ferry arrived, we climbed up a lot of stairs and arrived to a magnificent view of the surroundings. Mona is about 8km (5mi) outside of Hobart and the museum itself is mostly carved into the sandstone deep underground. As a privately owned museum it has a very interesting background story which you might want to look into. I liked it right away! At the ticket office I met Steve who looked at me, presented a big smile and said: “Thor, your reputation precedes you!” Robin had called Steve who saw “Thor” written on my jacket. In no time I was set up and followed the long winding stairwell deep into the underground. I quickly found that I had discovered a new favorite museum! Some other favorites include Vasamuseet in Sweden, Kigali Genocide Memorial in Rwanda, and M+ in Hong Kong.
"Fat Car" - 2006. By Erwin Wurm. Based on the chassis of a Porsche Carrera.
"Requiem for Vermin" - 2019. By Christopher Townend.
"Extension" - 2005. By Charles Robb.
Sometimes the building itself becomes as fascinating as the exhibits themselves. That happened to be the case at Mona. I also found the staff really kind and furthermore Mona probably has the best app I have ever experienced in connection to a museum. You could easily spend the entire day at Mona but 2-3 hours will give you a pretty good idea if you are in a hurry.
Mona Roma (catamaran) got me back to Hobart in time for my three-hour bus ride back to Launceston. Everyone I met has told me that public transportation is rubbish on Tassie and that having a car is the way to go. I found that Redline did a good job connecting Devonport, Launceston, and Hobart by bus. Somewhere in between everything else I did a COVID-19 rapid test as I was informed, I had been in close contact with someone who tested positive. I tested negative (as usual). I don’t know what it is about Launceston which speaks to me? Perhaps the size, the nature, the history, the streets, the parks, the river, the historical buildings? Who knows? But I like it there and returned to the same hostel I had stayed at before, within the charming old house from 1888. I went for a couple of runs along the river, watched a couple of movies/documentaries, replied to a lot of emails, ate well, and slept well.
Alexandra Suspension Bridge, Launceston. Momentary happiness during a morning run in nature. Healthy body - heathy mind. I believe in that.
Launceston Red Cross had invited me to visit their event: Hands Up for Humanity. The event took place to raise awareness for “50 ways to do more good”. The weather was nice and several tables had been set up at Civic Square where I got to meet Susan, Julie, Sharon, and Rita. At least those are the names I remember and I apologize to anyone else. Everyone was really nice but especially Rita left an impression. She joined the Red Cross when she was 11 years old. Rita was born back in 1938 just around the time WWII broke out. Yes! Rita is 84 years old and is still going strong. Rita (Richards) sits as chair on the Divisional Advisory Board for Tasmania at the Australian Red Cross. We spoke about many things and when I asked her how she got around Tasmania she looked at me with a questioning stare and replied: “I drive myself”. Rita was born on Tasmania and knows her family history really well. So, I can now claim to have met a Tasmanian.
Hanging out with Rita. Civic Square, Launceston.
The good ship Spirit of Tasmania I, Devonport, Tasmania.
After a few nights in Launceston, I boarded another Redline bus to Devonport and arrived in time to join Spirit of Tasmania back to Melbourne. Before boarding I had a look at the weather forecast as the Bass Strait has a reputation as one of the world’s most treacherous bodies of water. It separates Tassie from mainland Australia and although the ferry crossing is only about 450km (280mi) it can become a bumpy ride. There wouldn’t be much I could possibly do about it - but I prefer to know. The forecast indicated slightly more wind and swell than my crossing a week earlier. No problem.
The evolution of the fleet and information on the route.
Onboard I enjoyed a pizza and caught “Belfast” in the onboard cinema. A full-bodied movie from 2021 which left me with emotions and thought. Then I went to sleep in my reclined seat which led to all the pain in my neck. It was a calm(ish) crossing of the Bass Strait so I’m not sure what it could have been other than a bad sleeping position? Back in Melbourne it will be good to get some rest at the Brookes family again. The departure from Melbourne is set to be around May 22nd. And now we know more about where Her Royal Highness, Crown Princess Mary of Denmark is from. A fine place indeed.
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Mr. Torbjørn C. Pedersen (Thor) - Loving Aussieland - looking forward to NZ!
"A stranger is a friend you've never met before"
Once Upon A Saga