I had a delicious coffee with my friend Valmai in Christchurch airport
First day on the road in Tasmania I managed only 38km. I was tired as I had not slept much the night before while overnighting in Melbourne en route to Hobort from Christchurch.
Australia is the most expensive country on the run.
Just an idea. I had a couple hundred New Zealand dollars left and was charged $10, discounted from $12 in the airport bank..
Michael Gillan, my support driver for the mainland leg met me in the airport for about an hour as we sorted out my gear for the Tasmanian leg of the run. I was shocked that the car park charge for two hours was Au$24!
Sorting out my gear with Michael my support driver and thats the support vehicle for the mainland.
The US$ and Au $ are almost identical. Let’s just say on a couple hundred dollars the difference between the two currencies would hardly pay for a coke.
That first day I stopped for a pot of tea in the Richmond Maze Tea Rooms Cafe in a small Victorian town called Richmond.
They also had all day fry up breakfasts. Pat and Peter Seekings being the friendly owners, Pat from Wales while her husband Peter a real nice jolly chap from England. We got friendly when I told them what I was doing and straight up asked for a 50% discount, no problem they seemed only too happy to help. I sat for a while with Peter, a very skillful calligraphist.
He wrote ‘ Tony Mangan Running Around The World ‘ in beautiful Gothic handwriting on an a4 sheet of paper. I was wondering how I would keep it nice and clean, then he offered to laminate it. I wrote my Irish address on a large envelope for him to mail it to while all the time aware of my poor hand writing having witnesses his beautiful writing.
What can I say! Thank you for this very memorable gift Peter! A nice jolly old chap!
I had a late start from the airport that day along with many stops so it was dark when I finished.
Just before I finished I heard a noise from a field to my right, then a small animal make it’s way through a fence before running across the road about 50 metres in front of me. It happened so fast and in the darkness I couldn’t figure it out. Then the animal bounced its way up a steep mountain, about a 60 degree slope and out of sight. Later I was told this was a wallaby, that week I was to see dozens of dead wallabies on the road, hit by passing vehicles.
A dead wallaby, a very sad sight all over Tasmania.
I slept that night in a field, a bit terrified I might add about all the snakes I have been hearing about, not only snakes but insects as Australia has more dangerous creatures than anywhere else on earth. Tasmania more snakes per kilometre than anywhere else on earth! Just about anywhere else people will tell you just to make noise and you will as the joke goes ‘ be lucky to see a snake ‘ Australians never say that, they rarely reassure you instead telling you they are everywhere and talk about friends in Queensland that have snake proof houses
That first morning on the road I jumped out of my bivy stone cold awakened at the sight of an ant, later I realised it was probably a fire ant and not a bull or Jack ant whatever they are as I had been told though not dangerous I would best not meet them! This is the only reason I am carrying my bivy here.
Yes folks we are going to have fun here. Those first few days I rarely left the pavement for a pee and as I ran many times my mind was playing games with me as I ran past old pieces of blown off tyre, rope, tangled branches and bungee cords all playing havoc with my mind. A tired ultra runner often zones out for a while. Always aware of my safe passige as I run in the decent two metre shoulder towards the traffic, always aware but with eyes slightly closed, sweat pouring into my eyes only to have a sudden jolt back into reality by such sightings.
Those first days I also saw many charred trees, evidence of the recent burning fires in this area. Next day another poor day only 36km, for I have made many stops, time just seems to slip away so rapidly. I am having to hump my pack as I run as I can’t find an Aussie sim card. I need a phone number to be able to successfully send the pack on by petrol stations as previously described. It’s also a lot hotter here than it was in New Zealand’s South Island.
Running out of Hobort airport for the start of my run across Tasmania and Australia.
No peace at the cafe I stopped in today in a place called Coolbeck.
The guy there told me to watch out for the Tasmanian tiger snake!
He said one passed down a side road only last week. Many older people here and in New Zealand often talk in the imperial system, miles, feet etc.
” It was about 5 or 6 feet long as wide as your arm and had a head the size of a big fist! “
Then he added. ” They say it’s the third most dangerous snake in the world. “
I was told to read an article on the wall, obviously written by a snake lover, must be a Green!
A friend of the farmer!
The article read something like this: Snakes are the farmers best friend since they attack rodents and other farm pests. The tiger snake hunts in daytime and lives on rodents, it often swallows a whole family of rats in one go, having long fangs it gives a deadly bite. The rats fight back biting the snakes scales which later heal from resulting maggots. They also fish in shallow lakes and streams and can co-exist happily with the copperhead snake ( what another one) as the copperhead has a completely different diet of mainly toads and other defenseless creatures.
Then this absolutely joyous person went on to write…. ” Due to modern farming machinery taking the farmer out of the fields the threat to farmers is significant reduced…. ” Blah Blah! Blah! Snakes are seriously misunderstood as the last person to have died in Australia was in the 1940′s ” Every time I mention this to an Aussie they laugh their heads off!!
What would you like to wrap up in a box, wrapped in Christmas paper for this joker! Yes a tiger snake, see how much he would love it… Here mate, I think you will love this present, you will never guess what it is!!
That day I made it to Oatlands, everything closed very early, like a ghost town that Friday night. Perhaps one of the deadest towns I have been in in my life. I stopped in an expensive restaurant called The Stables. Once again I negotiated a small discount, this time about 25% with a pot of tea thrown in. I was starving, so got no choice. My braised lamb was delicious but far from substantial. I got to carry more spare food with me but I have noticed that petrol stations don’t seem to sell fruit, biscuits, muesli bars or other convenient snacks on the road, only crisps and chocolate. A couple of people eating at the restaurant suggested I find a spot down in a local park to crash out but I had already noticed a cafe bar called TKO. It was closed, I guessed technically knocked out with all the fun in that small town that night. I had noticed that TKO had a veranda with tables and chairs left out, as nobody was about I could place about 4 cushioned chairs up against a wall and roll my summer sleeping bag out, also charge my phone up for I had also noticed an outside socket. I was still operating on my New Zealand sim card.
At last a decent days running still with my pack I slugged out 48km.
On the way a doctor stopped. I think he said his name was Matt. He told me he was an ultra runner who lived in my destination Campbell Town that night and remarked that he had stopped because as he put it ‘ you looked a bit hard core! ‘
Unfortunately he was going to Oatlands (surely not for a fun night! ) otherwise he said he would love to have me as a guest in Campbell Town. Before he drove off he gave me $20 for dinner.
In Campbell Town once again everything was closed very early. I checked the door of a restaurant called Jewel Diner. It was locked but I could see there were people inside cleaning up. The owner a nice man called Glenn and his wife Jo Staples brought me in and gave me a burger and a pot of tea on the house. Glenn said his two young boys Mathew and Ben about aged ten and eight were in bed asleep but as he put it he went to wake them up to show them the special guest they had that night. As the two boys wiped the tiredness out of their eyes I heard myself giving the ‘ old grandfather speech ‘ about how all things are possible in this world with just a bit of motivation, hard work, dedication and honesty.
Glenn and Jo with Mathew and Ben. Thanks for the bedtime story Glenn
I was just leaving for I don’t know where for the night, such things don’t worry me as they always work out for the best. Glenn offered me his pickup truck to sleep in that night as it had a camper shell which he used when he went hunting.
But before I went out he tried his best to give me nightmares by telling me that it’s a mistake for drivers to run over snakes ( I am thinking perhaps he wrote the snake article!) then he says the snakes can move so fast up off the road and get up into a car engine! That he himself has had four snake encounters and listen to this, he says that in Queensland (glad I am not going there) there is a snake which is the pit bull dog of snakes – it’s called Taipan snake as it will come at you for the sake of it
Then he brought out a blanket and pillow to his car. Glad he doesn’t run over snakes letting them get into the engine!
I pounded out another two days, 49km each day and arrived in Perth. That first day a man called Les stopped on the highway to see if I wanted water, I thanked him for two 600ml bottles, refused the offer of a lift some 20km to Perth but he offered to transport my pack to the Caltex petrol station there. At the petrol station the owner Michael Geeves gave me a massive welcome, just as warm as the day had been.
Michael Geeves gave me a massive welcome, just as warm as the day had been.
He told me I deserved as much help as he could possibly offer, how delighted he was to have the chance to help after how far I had been, I deserved help as he said. I asked if I could lay my sleeping bag out around the back on some old pallets and cardboard,
” Sure you can Tony, Anything you want, here are the keys to the toilet and in the morning come in and I will give you a breakfast and lots of coffees for the road! “
I happened to tell Michael about the hassle I was having getting an Aussie sim card, so he pulled one off a shelf.
Next morning he spent over an hour online trying to activate it while I ate the massive breakfast of about 3 large sausages, 6 rashers, eggs, tomatoes, toast and 3 cups of coffee.
When I got up that morning I had noticed a $20 bill there on the pallet and didn’t know how it got there till Michael produced a handwritten note that he found in the yard from Les to me. Les had taken my pack there the night before.
The note read. ” Your next big feed is on me Tony! Good luck with the rest of the run. “
I met Les a couple of days later on the road when he pulled up beside me on his motorbike.
Then he told me that he had stuffed the money and note into my sleeping pad, so I guess I didn’t notice it that night when I rolled my blue sleeping pad out, I was lucky it was not a windy night.
I felt strong that day after such a hearty breakfast making it to Delorraine. Once again everything closed including the Shell petrol station where Michael had managed to find someone to send it on with. I didn’t wait till he found a person as I figured it would be easy and right enough a lady called Linda slowed down and shouted across the busy highway that she would leave my pack in the Shell station. A few doors up from the station there was a small cafe called The Thirsty Camel which was closed for business but a couple of painters were painting the walls.
Painting the walls of The Thirsty Camel
I was starving as it had been a long day since breakfast, I had found nothing on the road for all the small towns were bypassed. There were sandwiches which were not priced, nor a price list so I obviously couldn’t buy these as I didn’t know the cost. Instead I just bought two chocolate bars and a litre of coffee milk which were priced leaving the exact change along with a business card on a counter with the painters. I guess I must have looked a sorry sight as I sat there because two men later came in to buy some ice creams and were refused. I didn’t go far that night arranging some cushioned chairs under the veranda of the cafe before settling down in my summer bag.
If that parrot opens his beak in the middle of the night I will strangle him!
Sleeping beside the parrot outside The Thirsty Camel.
At 5am the lady comes to open the cafe long after the painters have departed. I pretend to be asleep. I manage to lie there for another hour till eventually she sends a big tattooed man out to say..
” Wakey Wakey Matey Matey! “
” Good morning, you the owner? ” I ask.
” No but Tammy asked me to see what the story is with you! “
” No worries mate, I will go in and tell Tammy over breakfast. “
Blessing the harvest in Longford.
I retrieve my pack in the Shell station telling the staff there what I am doing. They don’t seem to catch on. I asked their help to find a driver going to Burnie, my finishing point in Tasmania which is two days away. I wonder why I even bother with my pack. I really just need my small summer sleeping bag which I have in a water proof bag in a satchel, a small light weight top for the evenings, don’t need much. The staff there give me a coffee and tell me I would be better going down the road to a roundabout and stopping the drivers. I notice a book on a shelf, a self help book about chronic fatigue. A lady comes in. I think she was called Dianne. She says she saw me on the road and asked me what I was doing. I told her, she asked me how I was feeling. I pointed over at the book and started off..
” You see that book called chronic fatigue over there?… “
” Oh yes Tony that’s my grand daughter that wrote that… She had chronic fatigue and it’s all about her battle against it and how she overcame it and now she has so much energy… “
I just stopped myself in the nick of time. I was just going to make a comparison between my daily fatigue and the terrible condition which is real chronic fatigue. I obviously would never intend to offend but I never really thought it in the manner of two types of chronic fatigue, those that actually have a huge supply of energy, that can recover and crash again, just like me and those that just have no energy at all.. Interesting subject. Just then Dianne went in behind the counter, I asked if she was an owner, she said she was a partner and then got the staff to take care of my pack for me! I left a couple of business cards with Adrian with my new phone number scrawled on them and told him Burnie in a couple of days time would be fine. Next day he texted me they had a courier taking it along to Repco Auto Parts, 106 Wilson Street, Burnie after 4.pm and good luck with the rest of the run. The courier would drop it off with their other delivery. Nice people!
That was a long day on the road, 51km, I had been dreaming of a snack place and couldn’t believe it when I rounded a bend in a place called Salssafras. The Caltex station there had chips, bananas, delicious homemade soup and sweets, yes a real oasis
Eventually I pulled myself away from there and made a run for Devonport where I could have very easily have gotten a ferry to Melbourne and the mainland from. Instead I decided to finish Tassie one further days running up the coast road as Tasmania’s toughest and most famous ultra runner Vlastislav Skvaril lives there. Burnie is also the hometown of my old buddy Phil Essam. I have known Phil for about 7 or 8 years having exchanged thousands of emails. He has been of great help and strength, an advisor of sorts during my competitive career and now here during the world run. He was also a co-coordinator of my friend Jesper Olsens first world run www.worldrun.org He knew I would eventually start this run after years of talk about it. In fact that is how I got to know Phil, it was because I offered to crew for Jesper across Ireland. I offered to meet him off a flight to Shannon in the west of Ireland and crewed him across Ireland in a few days.
Jesper had originally planned on flying from New York to the UK and bypassing Ireland. I emailed Jesper and got him every night and meal sponsored in Ireland.
Myself and Phil who I felt I had gotten to know very well over the years had not even talked over the phone until a couple of days ago!
On I ran that day towards the port town of Devonport. It was another tough hot and humid day in which I passed many dead snakes, rats and wallabies on the road. I was wondering about where to sleep there. Phil had texted me to suggest a couple cheap hotels and a hostel on the west bank of the river. A cheap hotel here would still be $50. I think the most I have paid on the entire run for a single night is $26. I didn’t see the backpackers and followed the road for the ferry terminal. I figured I could sleep there. I stopped in a 24 hour cafe on Tarlton Street called All Things Nice. All things nice included the nice lady there that allowed me to lay my sleeping bag out on the floor when the cafe quietened down for the night. I got about five or six hours sleep that night, not much especially as I had only a couple of hours the night before, still I was fine. As I packed up my stuff around 6am another lady that had come on for the day shift had heard ‘ the story ‘ and gave me four meat pies and two battered sausage rolls for my breakfast! I saved just one meat pie for the road and gobbled down the rest.
So it was another 48km to Burnie. A tough and sometimes hilly run. About half way Vlastislav or Vlastik as he prefers to be called came out to meet me in his camper van. We had a nice chat about races and runners we both know so well from competition. Especially Yiannis Kouros the most prolific ultra runner of all time, light years ahead of the second greatest. In a class of his own. Some of his incredible world records will probably never be beaten. In this race the Colac 6 day race Yiannis went out from the start as he always does like an express train. He usually slows down after a few days but still manages a decent pace. Here Vlastik is helping Yiannis in this classic race when he hit a bad patch. Yiannis went on to break his own 6 day world record. Unbeaten in competition for over 25 years, the holder of every ultra record for 24 hours or over, well except two! To be honest he couldn’t be bothered with a treadmill and for some strange reason he never bothered with an attempt on an indoor 48 hour track record. That is till I set the new world record in 2007 in Brno. The luckiest break I ever got in my life, (and I have said many times on the blog how luck I am)
was the following year Yiannis entered the Brno 48 hour indoor race to have a go at breaking my indoor 48 hour record but finished 17km short as he had a bout of flu! This is the first time I have ever mentioned that in public. The man is a legend and we all trail in his wake.
Vlastik drove on ahead, parked and ran back to run with me to his camper where we would take a break for a while, slow progress, but so what.
Yiannis Kouros, the most talented and toughest athlete of all time. Nobody outside of ultra running has even heard of him!
Vlastik is from former Czechoslovakia, now the Czech Republic from a town near Brno, a city as many readers will know will be close to my heart till the day I die
He is now 73 having started running when he was 57! I always thought runners were stupid, then I started running!
I asked him how he ended up in Burnie and this was his story.
” Living in former Czechoslovakia was terrible, we had not much food, meat was rationed and potatoes were scarce. I was a cheese making technician and wanted my family to have a better life. I wanted to take my wife Jo. sons Vlastislav and Peter to Austria as there were many Czech people living there.
” The people in my country were protesting, the Russians were not happy and invaded the country in 1969.
But because there was so much opposition to the Russians it took a full year for them to get total control.
” In the meantime I found out that if I had an invitation I could visit Austria, so I wrote an invite myself and made up an address and remember in those days it was not so easy before internet for the Russians to check every address.
” I waited till I knew someone going to Austria and I got them to post me back my letter.
Vlastik Meets me on the road with his motor home. Jo his wife crewed for him for many of his runs
” I thought the Russians would let me take my whole family there, but no the bastards only let me go saying the rest of the family could go when I returned. Of course I returned after 3 days as I had only $20.
” A few weeks later I replied and they refused me as they remembered me. So I waited a few months just before the permit which expired after 12 months was almost out of date till I tried again. Luckily that time I managed to get the four of us to Vienna for our short visit to see our fictitious friend. A few weeks later the Russians had complete control. I don’t think I would have gotten out after that. We did not get independence till around 1989 and to be honest we would have been much older and not have bothered, besides with independence it would not have been necessary for us to escape like we did.
” I found out Australia had a shortage of workers and my profession was in high demand so the government gave us residency visas and paid our fares.
” I had no certificates for my profession but the people could see I was good at the job even though I couldn’t speak any English.
I was a dairy technician and didn’t even know the English words for cheese or milk!
Vlastik and Jo
I was living in Adelaide and another man from Czechoslovakia was the boss of a huge cheese processing plant here in Burnie. By that time I could speak English and this man was keen for me to work for him so that’s how I ended up in Burnie. The cheese factory employed a lot of people in this area at that time, so it was very important. “
Vlastik got into ultra running by accident more by his love of trail walking.
“I loved walking a trail route, eventually I decided to run a race event on my favourite trail, the Overland Track which is an 85km trail I used to love walking so much. Just to train for running after I had heard about the Sparthatlon race in Greece on the National Geographic television station. The Sparthatlon is a tough 246 km race from Athens to Sparta. I was mesmerized by it. That’s why I did the race over the Overland Track because the Sparta entry requirement said you had to be a famous runner in your country. So after running the Overlands I made a lot of phone calls before finding out about the Australian Ultra Running Association. I entered one of their races in Adelaide and because there was nobody of note running in it I finished second to some girl, I was the first man.
I asked the organisers if they would sign my Spartathlon form saying I was a very famous ultra runner in Australia! And they did.
I finished the Spartathlon in about 60 or 70th place in about 35 hours – even though I was an old man and usually only 33% of runners finish as they have 75 tough cut off points when you have to be through by a certain time. The race is over several mountain passes.
Speaking of Yiannis Kouros and the Sparthatlon that was the very first race he ever ran in his life. He was obviously an unknown who turned up to run when it was easy to get an entry. He absolutely destroyed a world class field finishing something like three hours ahead of the next runner. He finished so far ahead of the expected time that the mayor of Sparta who was supposed to greet the winner was still sleeping in bed when Yiannis finished. Nobody could believe Yiannis ran this incredible time. He was labeled a cheat, not given his prize and disqualified. He did not race for another year till he turned up at the Sparthatalon the following year. This time a car followed his every step and what you think happened? Well he broke the record he set the previous year! So everyone had to apologize and eat humble pie for an extraordinary new talent had now been born in the sport of ultra running.
Since then Vlastik has run many times across Australia and Tasmania. Sometimes on a push scooter as he did when he went from Darwin to Adelaide
Vlastik on the road to Darwin. This is what I got ahead of me in the Northern Territories!
He always did these events as a fundraiser for children’s charities. Young Australians living with cancer. Smiles for Children
is one of his catch phrases.
And on yet another run in Australia Vlastik ran with his baggage in a rickshaw
Yes we had a great old chat before I splashed into the Bass Straits to finish off running Tasmania. Part of Australia has been run.
Tasmania has been run!
I spent three nice days and nights in Vlastik and Jo’s house.
Vlastik gave me a much needed haircut before parting for Launceston where I will stay for the night with another ultra runner called Davo originally from Nottingham in England.
Haircut time. I told Vlastik that it doesnt matter if it's not neat as I will have my desert hat on for a long time now!
Davo came out here for the fun of it almost 50 years ago and has not been home since, He is married to South African born Anne who also came here when she was very young..
Davo and Anne
Tasmania will surely be literally a warm up for the real thing on the mainland. I can hardly wait, right through the middle, through Alice Springs, the real pioneer route. No woosie beach routes up the coast, yes I can hardly wait, snakes and all. :)
As Davo said the ten most deadliest snakes in the world live in Australia.
A special request for my sister Ann Salmon!