January 15, 2016
I arrived at the Hobart airport early afternoon with expectations of having to deal with more logistical problems in getting out of the airport and finding my way to our accommodations at our B&B with duffle and bike box in tow. Instead, I met my buddy Barry in the baggage area, dragged our stuff out the door onto the street to the friendly Airporter Shuttle and were dropped off 1/2 block from the Gattonside Heritage Inn. I had arrived in Sydney early that morning from Dallas on the longest non-stop commercial flight in the world – 8577 miles and 17 hours long. I had had thoughts of being cramped in a cold window seat with little leg room and a snorer and maybe a crying baby nearby for this seemingly endless flight but happily I found myself with two empty seats next to me. Hallellulah! I stretched out in luxury and found myself enjoying a good movie, a pleasant time with my book and a nice long sleep. The connection in Sydney went smoothly and the airport in Hobart I ended up in was so small that there was only one baggage carrousel and our transportation sat waiting within vision just outside the door.
I had met Barry a year and a half ago during our Andes bike ride down the length of South America. It was a group ride of over 7000 miles and four and a half months long. We had become good friends with all the mutual experiences shared along the way. He is what you might refer to as a stand up guy. Genuine, honest and fun loving, this Aussie loves to tip a beer yet is a very organized traveler. His three boys had all graduated from school, Barry had retired at age 57, and his wife Trish was gracious enough to give him the freedom to venture out on these long bike adventures. Our trip here in Tassie will be 3 weeks long and include the circumference of this beautiful island just south of the Australian mainland. Two longtime friends of mine, Dave Taylor and his wife Amanda, will be joining us for the first half of our adventure, then they move on to Melbourne for a visit there. Dave is an emergency doctor and his wife works for a large firm in the health insurance industry. They have a home in Duluth. Dave and I have a long history of cross country skiing together and share many mutual friends. He is quite an athlete. Amanda is also very athletic but this will be her first biking trip.
Hobart is a robust port city which has retained its quaint flavor. It was founded in the early 1800’s when England was looking for a place to transport convicts and determined that Tasmania and Australia were perfect for this purpose. Much of the infrastructure in Tassie was built on the backs of these convicts including the beautiful period homes and commercial buildings that still dominate the architecture here. Despite being 13 degrees latitude further north from Antarctica than Punta Arenas and Ushuaia in South America, it is still a launching point for many people heading to the bottom of the world. Many of the boats we see in the harbor here serve that purpose. What we don’t see any trace of is also significant. The story of the fate of the aborigines here in Tassie after Europeans arrived is a sad one. The last full blooded aborigine died in the 1870’s.
Today we are going to put our bikes together and go for a little shake down ride. Temps are expected to be a pleasant 24 degrees C. Blue skies. It’s now 5 am and I have enjoyed a seven hour sleep despite the significant jet lag. Hobart is 17 hours ahead of Minneapolis.