Era 3, May 18

“My bum is sore” I believe was one of my first waking thoughts. And when my brain had duly processed that one, it dispatched some feelers out to check if indeed this thought was true, or perhaps I had dreamt that I had sat on an Ikea chair for several days. Some sort of bizarre furniture challenge. The feelers went out, had a check around and eventually reported back to the brain that yes, this was indeed a correct thought. They reported a kind of stiffness residing obstinately in the buttock region, but assured the brain that a hot shower would indeed flush them out. The brain by this time had returned to the semi conscious state of partial sleep and was slightly distressed to be disturbed by the returning feelers. It had apparently forgotten that it had sent them on this mission in the first place and needed to be reminded of the painful rear situation. Once my brain and the feelers had all sorted themselves out, and come to an agreement that yes, a hot shower would do the trick, they all combined to set about waking me up.

That done, bike packed, bill paid after enduring another round of ‘sirs’, I suited up, duly mounted and left the Waterloo Motel behind.

This was where I discovered my second dilemma. Anyone who remotely knows me, is also well aware of the fact that I have an arch enemy in this world, and that enemy is morning! I will never be able to do mornings, will never be able to make even the slightest sense either in or of the morning, and if I had the power to make every day start at about midday, I would do it without hesitation. I really don’t know why mornings were invented, and nor do I wish to discover the reason for their existence. However, mornings and I have duly accepted the fact that we unfortunately both need to exist in this world and both grudgingly reached an agreement that we will tolerate each other as far as is possible. For this agreement, I am grateful. Unfortunately, my dilemma has suddenly arrived and completely tossed an open ended 3/16ths into the equation. The morning, and I can’t believe that I am about to put this in irrevocable black and white, is the best time to ride. There! I’ve said it. And on the few occasions that I have arisen, wrestled with trying to find the start button for my brain, and hit the road early, I have always been pleasantly surprised at the agreeable state of the world. But don’t tell anyone.

The 50km ride to Triabunna was fabulous. Open plains, wide road, coastal scenery, fresh air and a complete absence of anything remotely resembling traffic made for an awesome start to the day. It was here in Triabunna that I decided to get myself a notebook and start to jot. I found a newsagent (also a Supermarket. I was starting to understand the complexities of Taswegia) grabbed a notebook and went to sit by the dock with my pen and thoughts.

People asked me “Why Tasmania?” I answered “Why not.” I’d never been, I needed to get away, somewhere new, and needed to relax. Seemed like the perfect plan. Except for one thing. This damn relaxing just wasn’t happening. At work it’s a million miles an hour, think on your feet, hit the ground running, avoid cliches like the plague and get the job done. It’s how I am. So here was supposedly the ideal time to stop, slow down, chill out and relax. And while it was great fun and my body (except for my bum and those damn feelers) was relaxed. But my mind did nothing but race. I found myself urging this relaxation thing to hurry up and get here because I only had a few days left to use it before my fan at work was to be smothered. I didn’t get it. Until now. Sitting on my park bench, I was watching an old dude on his boat. His pride and joy. He was engrossed in a rope. The world around him was going about its boaty business, and he had his rope to attend to. The waters surrounding him were perfectly mirrored, the wind was startling in its absence and the world was blissfully silent. I found myself listening to trucks about 3 kilometres away, reminding me of the time I had spent in the Nullarbor on a roadhouse. The generator there would drop out occasionally, usually at night, and I could hear trucks pulling out of the 24 hour servo, motors groaning in anguish at the fact that they had to haul again, and I would lie in bed and listen to them go through all 15 gears. By this point, they were usually 5 or 6 kilometres away and doing up to 120km/h. This was the sort of deafening silence I was now in. And here was this guy, immersed in his boat. A couple of years ago, I went overseas to see my sister. I had been there about 10 days and one day felt all the wind go out of me. What was going on? And it hit me. I had relaxed. I remember this all too well because it was not something I had been expecting, and as far as I was concerned when I left Australia back then, I was extremely relaxed. I hadn’t been conscious of needing to or even trying to relax. I was just doing it. Little did I know. So on this trip, that was my aim. To get to that relaxing point as fast as I could so that I could enjoy the rest of my time to the fullest. Unfortunately, as I was starting to realise, if you have to try to relax, you never will. Man that was frustrating. I was so anxious to just chill out and achieve that Nirvana I had felt in Laos, that I was missing all that it took to get there. Exactly the same as a motorcycle odyssey, relaxing is the destination, but all the fun is in the journey. Now where have I heard that? I looked again at my boat guy. My train of thought had been charging along on its merry way for about 20 minutes now, knocking over all things in its way to get to where it wanted to be. And my boat guy was still engrossed in his rope. Now, I don’t know if he was tying it, untying it, rebraiding it or simply practising magic rope tricks. I know that if that was me, and I had to spend 20 minutes with a rope, I would probably have set fire to it and bought a new one. I wanted his Nirvana. Unfortunately, I wanted it NOW. I decided then and there that today would be a slow day.

Leaving Triabunna, I silently bid my boat guy farewell, wished him all sorts of ropey luck and continued with my foreign enjoyment of the morning. I grudgingly noted that morning too, sat back and observed my enjoyment with a strange curiosity. The road to Orielton was fun. Very fast and very sweepy. It became a nice distraction from the harsh but fair realisations of Triabunna. It was in Orielton that I rejected the advice of my book, and took the recommendations of Chris Cook, the TMRA president who had advised me on several good motorcycling roads. One of these was the delightfully named Finger Post Road. This is a relatively short 20 or so kilometre link between the coast road leading to Sorell, and the town of Richmond (does every state in Australia have a place called Richmond?) on the main Launceston to Hobart road. This was a great choice. Fast, lots of small dips, rapid direction changes and lots of cows. Thankfully, they were next to the road, not on it. Finger Post Rd ended all too quickly and I debated whether to go back and do it again. But my old mate Common Sense arrived from nowhere, tapped me on the shoulder, kicked me in the bum and sent me on my way. I beamed a mental thanks to Chris, and left before Common Sense could assault more of my anatomy.

From Richmond, a quick jaunt to Cambridge just outside Hobart and I headed left, after some quality control assessment of the local pub. I was aiming for Port Arthur, as I’d never been. This consisted of traversing two of the longest bridges I have ever seen on the way to Sorell, and travelling through some of the most amazing scenery this state has to offer. Once I’d passed Dunalley, the road twisted majestically through ever changing forestry and I must have seen several thousand shades of green. So many places begged to be stopped at, but I figured I'd do all my stopping on the return trip. I made a note of places like Eaglehawk Neck, the Blowhole, Tessellated Pavement, Tasman Arch and the Devil’s Kitchen.

I had no idea what to expect at Port Arthur. Stark. Barren. Open. Chilling. I wish I had longer as there was so much to see. It was a lot bigger than I thought, and so many ruins. I thought I’d get back to the boaty thing and take a cruise as it was included in the entry fee and I could return to the water fascination that I discovered I had. Unfortunately, the boat was inside only, thereby denying me the chance to check out the wake, and while it was informative, it never really strayed past the boring. I think perhaps I was conscious of the fact that my day was short and I needed to get away. But the most chilling sight was a little rock. Several years ago, a man for reasons best known only to himself decided to make target practice of tourists whose sole idea of a good day was to wander the ruins reflecting on our nation’s past. He killed 33 people that day. The cafe remains as a roofless reminder of past atrocities, and the names of those killed are etched there. A small reflective garden is maintained for those touched by the senseless nature of that day. However, there were those that were killed, not in the cafe, but fleeing the scene. And in the middle of the vast lawn lies a small square rock. On this rock is the name of the person killed in that spot. That got me. The silence of the place somehow brought home the events of that day, and I wandered, not saddened, but regretful that such a thing had taken place.

Beer. The rest of Australia knows three Tasmanian beers. James Boags. Cascade Premium and Cascade Premium Light. There are of course others, but Australians can be forgiven for thinking that these are the only brews in this state. Not only are they not the only brews, they are not the best. I discovered that the Cascade Brewery makes many things. Juices, soft drinks and many types of beer. So it was here in Port Arthur, this convict desolate place once filled with rum runners and home brewers, I decided to try others. Somewhat fitting I thought. I found a Cascade something or other that took my eye; probably because it was red. I tend to shop like that; if the colour gets me, it goes in the trolley. I made a note then and there to test all Cascade products before I left, purely in the name of research.

The sun was thinking about retiring, so I joined it in its thoughts. Recalling the names of the places I wished to stop along the way, I retraced. What I now discovered was that as we were surrounded by hills, the sun, this solar supplier of things toasty, was now behind most of them, and had selfishly taken its heat with it. It got cold. Nowhere near the arctic conditions of the first jaunt off the ferry, but cool enough. I stopped at the Tasman Blowhole, which like all blowholes the world over (a small natural hole carved from the rock by the relentless pounding of the sea, through which waves supposedly shoot skyward) steadfastly refused to blow. Maybe it’s just me, but I have visited many natural things all called blowholes, and I have been singularly disappointed each time in the complete lack of any blowing action whatsoever. But I tried it again, hoping to prove my depressing theory false. But it wasn't to be. The Tasman Arch was exactly that: an arch carved through a cliff face, and the Tessellated Pavement proved to be marginally more fascinating: a geological anomaly in which perfect squares appear to be etched in a flat rock base through movements of the various plates on which we are seated.

But the masterpiece was to come. I began noticing the sky changing colours as the sun began its daily retirement. I stopped next to a stretch of water and watched the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. The sky changed colour so quickly I found it hard to keep up. Deep reds morphing to purple, brightly reflected off stringy clouds that seemed to hang in the air in the same manner that bricks don’t. I stood transfixed for an undetermined period of time, solitary, fascinated. Again, my Lennon-McCartney issue joined me and I very successfully failed to discover any words to accurately represent this sight. So I packed up the sunset, took it with me as well, and returned to the road. 

I arrived in Hobart in the dark, and while I didn’t really want to stay in a city, as that meant people, a short jaunt to the satellite suburb of Kingston completely failed to produce anything like a motel, so I checked in down town. I amused myself in the restaurant by taking a window seat and staring at the most amount of traffic I had seen in a while, and eventually retired upstairs.

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  • Era 7, May 22

    With no PA to help me out of bed, I had a little lie in. Gently rolling with the swell of the boat, I allowed my brain to join me. We arose together, grabbed a quick shower and went outside for a look.

  • Era 6, May 21

    I awoke with a mission. Maybe it was the environment, or maybe I was just cold, but I had a mission. All I needed to do today was to be in Devonport to re-greet the orange overalled brigade and be ushered places by around 2pm and it was only 30km away.

  • Era 5, May 20

    I was becoming used to my grudging acceptance of all things morning. Morning, I’m sure, was mildly tolerating my existence also, and we met again. I had a quick wander through town, buying film and other necessities, and continued on my way.

  • Era 4, May 19

    Today, I wasn’t going to travel as far, so I allowed myself the luxury of a short sightseeing jaunt. This was a good call. Battling my morning dilemma, my fast was broken so I got the hell out of Hobart and headed South.

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