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ReportsThursday, 15 August 2002
Langwarrin --> Launceston, Tasmania, Australia This morning I was awakened by David, had a shower and joined in a quick breakfast with the kids. Today I had a busy schedule, not only I was going to make another jump in distance (to Tasmania!), I also was a subject at school!
David dropped the kids to school, the first actual Australian school I was going to visit. For one of the kids I was the Show & Tell subject for today. Every kid has to do a story on something he had taken along from home and today it was me!
Suddenly I was in front of a class full of 9-year-olds and I was introduced to them with pride: “Ramon is a world traveller!” The mouths of the kids on the first row were already wide open before I said something. The teacher asked me to tell me a bit more about that and I explained them all how I travel around the world without spending any money. The kids already knew about Internet and more mouths opened wide.
It was only one hour later that I was in plane towards Tasmania. David and Sue had dropped me off at the airport after my ‘gig’ at the school and a photo shooting for the local newspaper.
It was all thanks to the enormous generosity of Menno and Marian from the Melbourne suburb Beaumaris that I got a return ticket to Tasmania for the coming six days. Menno insisted on paying for it, as I otherwise simply had to skip that Australian island state forever. (Yes, I am VERY thankfull to them!)
On board I had seat 1A, which meant I sat next to the exit and across of me were the seat of two flight attendants. By listening to their conversations I discovered It was their first flight to Tasmania too. The guy told the attractive stewardess about the time he recently spent in The Netherlands and told her the story of his visit to the Heineken Brewery. “You get the entire tour of how the beer is made and then at the end they give you free beer for thirty minutes, that was amazing!” Haha, we Dutch aren’t that bad. It’s only a pity that Heineken is such an horrible beer ;-) .
The flight took about an hour and the plane already lowered in altitude as soon as I saw the coastline of Tasmania.
Tasmania is separated from mainland Australia by the 240 km stretch of Bass Strait and for the Tasmanians themselves the island Tasmania is a land apart – a place of wild and beautiful landscapes, a pleasant, temperate climate, a rich history and a relaxed island lifestyle. It has a population of only 472,000 people (Hobart, the capital city with 195,500 people and Launceston 98,500) and with is about twice the size of The Netherlands (to compare and have fun: The Netherlands has almost 17 million people), but also comparable with the size of the American state Virginia.
The first inhabitants of the island were various Aboriginal tribes. It was the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman who discovered the island in November 1642. He called it Van Diemans Landt, named after governor-general Anthony van Dieman at Batavia (now Jakarta). I couldn’t really find out why this place was named after Abel again…
After landing I got off the plane and walked in the open air towards the arrival terminals where a lady asked me if I had any fruits or vegetables to declare. “No, I am sorry,” I said.
Only a few minutes later I met up with my first Tassie hosts, Gail and Philip (Philby) from the Launceston suburb Youngtown.
Before heading to their home they first took me to a small village nearby to have a welcome drink. The sun was shining bright and it must have been some 20 degrees Celsius. Everybody on the Australian mainland who told me that it would be cold on Tasmania is wrong. It was warmer then in Melbourne, probably because of the dry air. Without any wind I was just sweating my cap off.
After a muffin and a cup of coffee Gail drove us to their home in Youngtown, just on the southeast outskirts of Australia’s third city (after Sydney and Hobart). There on the outside patio of their beautiful home I saw the mountains of Tasmania in the distant. There was even snow on top of them!
Armed with a bottle of water we picked up Gail’s oldest daughter Mel (21) who just delivered Gail her first grandchild two weeks ago. Yes, you wouldn’t say so, but Gail is a granny! For the first time today the couple (mother and baby son Ryan) were going outside.
The weather was perfect for a walk thru the Cataract Gorge, just outside the city centre of Launceston. Mel carried Ryan and Philby pushed the stroller along the rocky path while Gail introduced me with one of the many beautiful places on Tasmania. When Philby told me that people had great wedding parties in the English garden all the way into this gorge, I imagine it must be great and romantic festivities. We walked over the suspension bridge to the other side of the chasm and Gail and me got on the chairlift that took us back to the original track again. The chairlift is by the way believed to be the longest single span one in the world at 308m (924 ft).
My hosts Gail and Philip were very outgoing people, I found out. They like to spend time out with their friends in the pubs than watching television at home. Gail even is a biker lady, with a fabulous Harley standing in the garage.
Back at their home I met up with Gail’s youngest daughter Heidi (19, nicknamed Wally – Gail laughing: “Because sometimes she doesn’t really act smart”).
The family certainly wasn’t going to stay at home today, I was going to be on Tasmania only six days so every day on the island should be enjoyed. “We are going to eat out tonight,” Gail proposed and everybody anticipated. We ended up dining at the Jail House Grill restaurant in town, where I enjoyed a big size rib-eye steak. Heidi and I shared a bottle of great Tassie white wine, which made us go giggling through the rest of the night.
After dinner we ended up walking through the busy-with-cars town centre this Thursday night and passed some of my host’s favourite pubs. In one of them I was introduced with a few new drinks, some green sweet stuff and that really did it to me. I enjoyed it very much, but I was slowly also getting a bit under the influence of that alcohol.
We got to the city by taxi because we knew that nobody was able to drive back their car anyway. At the end of the night, it wasn’t even that late, Gail and Philby headed to bed, while I stayed awake with Heidi.
Sitting on her bed in her typical girlies room we talked a lot (that's what alcohol does to me, though). We talked about life, about school, drugs (hey; young people) and about Heidi’s father. “He was just a sperm donor,” she said about her original German father, “and he left the family when I was four. Fortunately, because he was just –disgusting.”
“After him my mother had another friend, who played a good father to me but could not handle us kids very much. But since my mum is together with Philby, even my life has changed.” She told me how much she loved Philby and how he is the absolute father figure that she never had. She is proud of him. And even I had already found out that Philby was a good man. (Just felt I had to write this here, Philby).
By the time I went to my bed I was really smashed. So much had happened today. And it wasn’t really the plan. Tomorrow would be the real party night, as these folks here had invited me to stay at least a few days, as they were the only ones in the north of Tasmania who had invited me. Of course I’ll stay another day!
Good night Launceston!