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During my travels, my compensation for free accommodation for one night, was for me to write a daily travel diary. Of how I got to my next location, the people who would host me, the food I was offered and everything else. Below you find the archives of the highly extensive reports. Know that English is not my native language and most reports were written at high speed around midnight. Enjoy.

Friday, 16 August 2002
--> Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

After waking up this morning Philby was baking eggs on the barbie and preparing a big healthy breakfast that could subtract any possible form of hangover. After this breakfast we all got ready for today’s special experience. We were going for a bike ride!

Gail and Philby provided me with an extra pair of socks, an extra cover for my jeans and a balaclava for some warmth around my head. Underneath my clothes I wore extra thermic clothing again, so I could not be really cold on the road!

A few friends of Gail & Philby soon showed up at the front door, together with their Harley Davidsons and other big motor bikes. When we were ready to go I jumped on the back of the Harley of this great big teddy bear of a Tasmanian and we headed up north through the Tamar Valley.

The Tamar Valley extends some 60kms north from Launceston all the way to the light house of George Town, where we had a stop and enjoyed our view on to Tasmania from the top and the waters of the Bass Strait up north. The Valley surrounds the Tamar River and the highways offered me sights on many delightful small towns and communities.

Riding on the back of a motorbike is fascinating. As soon as we left the small village roads and got on main highways the speed was kicked up to over 100km/hr and on a motorbike that already feels like going 200km/hr.

We crossed the river over the Tamar Bridge and rode back from the west side of the river, down to Launceston again. Here we took the scenic drive along the river, passing the many wineries along the road and enjoying some heavenly views on the riverbanks on the other side. While we had a lunch stop halfway, enjoying the bright warm sun on a restaurant terrace, I envied all the people that live here. What a glorious morning wake-ups you would have here!

The entire ride around the Tamar Valley took almost three hours and most of the riders were already very tired. They don’t do this very often, so when the weather is any good and others fancy a ride, they all take off and you see this convoy of bikers on Tasmanian roads.

I have been on the back of bikes near in England and on the back of a real Dukati on a race track in South Africa, but today I sat on a Harley and that is quite an experience too! I can finally understand people who are totally nuts about their bike!

Back in Launceston Gail dropped me off in the city centre after I got all the protective gear off of me, because she had arranged a one-hour massage at a masseur in town. I was very thankful, because I could really need some help with my troubled back. And she even paid for it herself!

I had the massage at the practice of massage therapist Kimbal McMahon and I honestly had to tell him that he was good. He found all the problem spots on my lower back and did some pressure therapy on them. I had to say how much it hurt on a scale from 1 to 10 and the pain had to go to 8, where he’d loosen up a bit. That was great! The hour was over before I noticed it.

Kimbal asked me about my travels and when I told him how I travelled he was a bit bemused because he had heard about me before but couldn’t remember if that was from a newspaper clipping or from TV. “And here you are, having a massage.” It’s a small world after all.

The massage really did well to my back. After the massage I had to meet up with Gail and Philby again, who were already enjoying some beers at the pub around the corner. When they met up with the owner of the pub, and introduced him to me, this guy said: “Are you that guy from England that travels the world for nothing? I have heard about you.” However I was England, he knew he was meeting the right guy. And he got us a free beer too!

This afternoon we headed to my hosts’ favourite pub, their second home as they call it, in the Riverview Hotel, just a few blocks from the town centre. Here I met up a big bunch of their pub mates. Heidi also showed up again, as she had been working at a florist today.

The Riverview Hotel shouted me a free meal for dinner and for tonight Gail had given Heidi and me enough money to have a party at various party places in town and to get back home again later this night.

So we were in for show time and I was going to experience the nightlife of the Tasmanian city of Launceston!

After dinner, it was already past nine o’clock, Heidi took me along to The Lounge. The Lounge seems to be the place to be in Launceston, however this night it was very quiet in the beginning. I met up with a few friends of Heidi and charming Em decided to stick around for the rest of the night.

Just after a rock band finished it second set and we were a few alcoholic drinks further, we moved on for a pit stop at The Metz bar in town, where Em has a part-time job. In comparison with The Lounge, which used to be a big bank building, the Metz was a more high-class plass, with lots of people nipping wines and listening to groovy music.

After another few drinks there we moved ahead to our last destination for tonight, The Saloon (before we got in I was dragged in a booth where they make those instant-ready photostickers – I guess we were already a bit intoxicated).
As soon as we entered the Saloon, we were just in time to see the calendar girl of the year competition going on, live on stage. Some beautiful girls walked up and down the stage, dressed in not much more than what would cover their private parts and all trying to get their spot on a piece of paper that would end up in many boys rooms and on many insides of toilet doors. Hooray!

(Glamour photographer Roy Austen took photos for his website, see tonight's shots and discover - hey!)

But we didn’t seem to be here for that party, as Heidi and Em pulled me along upstairs to the karaoke bar. Oh no! And yes, Ramon had to sing a song! “No, no, no, no, I am terrible!” I stuttered out. “We all are!” giggled Em and she ran off to the karaoke host for a request.

Heidi got us a mix of Midori and we were drinking shots by the minute until that mix bottle was empty. Yep, I’ll sing –hick- and I ended up with me easiest song I could ever do karaoke on. With Emma singing the lines on the screens, I only said “It wasn’t me” for 36 times as Em had given us up for this song from Shaggy. Karaoke could not have been easier for me.

Boy, I hate karaoke! But how much fun we had… Was it the alcohol? Yes, must have been! And after the public karaoke-embarrassment (“aren’t we all embarrassing?” Em had said) we got back down again where some good dancing was going on on the dance floor.

Again it wasn’t even that late in the night when we got home with a taxi. “Hey Ramon, tomorrow you can sleep in as long as you want.” Ah, that pleased me, because I have been going out this night and I was totally gone. It has been a long time since I had a night out like this. It would be unhealthy for me if I’d do this every week, though!

Heidi and Em, thanks for that great night out in Launceston!

Good night!