From the past to the future.
 

                                                                          538 km Run across Tasmania in 4 and ½ days. 

Port Arthur represents the Tasmanian past. It is labeled as Australia’s most significant convict sites – a place of paradox, both beautiful and terrifying . Many people visit not only to discover Australia’s convict heritage but also to pay respect at the new Memorial Garden, dedicated to the 35 victims of the recent senseless tragedy.

Situated on the Tasman Peninsula at South East Tasmania it is full of unique features including Tessellated Pavement, Devils Kitchen, Tasman Arch, Blowhole, Remarkable Caves and many others. Superb scenery  will please walking enthusiast who will find a great choice of walking tracks which cover forest areas, wilderness area, rainforest, serene coastal beaches and rugged coastline formations.

We have chosen the Church at the Historic Site as the starting point of my run across Tasmania to raise money for the benefit of the “Make A Wish Foundation”, a charity fulfilling wishes to children and young people up to 18 years who suffer a life threatening illness. We appreciated very much the support of the management of the Site and the local Council.

We all arrived in Port Arthur the day before starting the journey. We spent a relaxing evening in the Leisure Inn where some of the team were spending the night. Afterwards most of us gathered at Terry Weeding’s house (he calls it a shack!)  where some of us stayed over night. Asta was allowed inside the house. I was very grateful for that – she is used to sleeping with me. In the morning most of the team took the opportunity of a free cruise around the Harbor, followed by a barbecue at Terry’s house. The start of our trip is not too far away.

It is 26th November 2002 and at 4.05 pm and my dog Asta and I are on the way  accompanied by 5 vehicles and 14 members and friends of the Burnie branch of “MAW”. Weather is perfect for running and I feel relieved that after  months of planning all I have to do is to concentrate on  my running.

On the way to Port Arthur I already realized that the time schedule I prepared is going to test me. It is about 15 years since my last visit to Port Arthur and I forgot how big the hills were. Undeterred I am running (perhaps too hard) to stay on schedule. The first  check point is Dunalley – just about the first Marathon. In spite of those hills I am arriving well ahead of schedule. It took just under 4 hours. The next check point is Sorell, scheduled arrival at fifteen minutes past midnight.

We have printed special T-shirts for those who would join me for a jog during the run. I did not expect anyone to run with me during the first night but suddenly I am joined by an unexpected companion – a baby Tasmanian Devil. He kept running ahead of me for at least half kilometer. I had to wave down the traffic with concern about the poor marsupial would be hit by a car. The creature returned to the bush short while after. Bobbie Weeding driving behind me was laughing about two Devils running on the road. I could not see the other one but eventually it occurred to me why not – of course - I did not look in a mirror! 

Arrival at Sorell is low key. The streets are already quiet and we are exactly on schedule. It is not far toCambridge where there is a change of the drivers at 1 am. The hard running over the hills is taking its toll and I decided for an unscheduled 30 minute break to recharge my batteries. This is the first break and I can now appreciate the wisdom of Ian Morice who lent his vehicle with a bed and his service to our journey.

The bed is very comfortable and though I do not get any sleep, I feel much better heading towards Hobart.

Dennis Hayes takes over driving my vehicle behind me with my wife Jo staying there as well. Both of them are going to stay with me for the rest of the journey. None of them wants to be relieved. The front vehicle is now driven by David Dare and Dot Hall.

We cross the Tasman Bridge with only 10 minutes behind schedule. However it is much further and takes much longer to get through Hobart than I anticipated. It is about 4 am when we are finally on the Brooker Highway heading towards the next point –Brighton. It is very cold and strong head wind is slowing my progress. I could have made my life easier by giving myself longer breaks but I wanted a challenge and was getting it. It is about 5 am at daybreak and I noticed that my wife is having a little snooze – the first time since we left Port Arthur. I am feeling hungry but did not want to wake her up (she was not happy about that when she found out). It was a mistake for which I had to pay by “hitting the wall”. Suddenly I felt exhausted, had to stop and ask for some food. Two cups of Nutrigrain with milk and some sweet buscuits  soon gave me some strength to continue battling the strong wind. Another lesson – you never stop learning in ultras.  The wind changed direction, the sun is shining and it is getting hot. I am making a good progress through to Bagdad.

Page 2.

 The big hills are coming up and combined with the the hot weather they slowing me down a bit. Maree Hayes driving a minibus kindly donated for the trip by Peter Sidebottom our local MP has bought for me a spray bottle – now I can cool down my body by spraying water all over me. It is a big help. It is now mid morning and we are approaching Kempton.  The children from the Primary School are waiting for us on the footpath to cheer us on – most of them remember us from our last year’s run from Hobart to Burnie. After a short stop we keep moving on. Bypassing Oatlands we are going over the second highest point on the Midlands Highway – St. Peter’s Pass – 432 m above the sea level.

Bobbie  and Dennis Greenwood are the new drivers of the car  in front. Dennis is from Adelaide. He met  Bobbie 15 years ago during a by pass operation in the Adelaide hospital. Their friendship remained very strong over the years. Dennis is visiting Bobbie in Burnie. He was due to fly home on Friday but wanted to complete the trip with us. Since his airfare was non refundable, he decided to forfeit the ticket and spent another $200 on a new ticket. He is so happy he did. He is really enjoying every minute of being a valuable member of our team.

After crossing the hill I am asking my crew to find a shady spot for me to have a rest. 15 minutes later we are on the way again. It is amazing how 15 minutes can help. However by the evening I am almost 4 hours behind my over ambitious schedule. My first short sleep is planned for Campbell Town. It is already 11 pm when we reach Ross. I decided to make my stop here. We have rooms in the Hotel available so after quick meal my wife and I hit the beds at 11.30 p.m. The wake up call is at 12.45 am – that leaves us one and a quarter of an hour to sleep!

Ross is one of Tasmania’s earliest rural settlements, dating back 180 years. It is situated in the heart of Tasmania’s premier wool growing area, has on many occasions held the world record price for a bale of extra superfine Merino wool. The Wool Centre is one of Tasmania’s main tourist attractions , receiving over 75,000 visitors annually. The hospitality of the locals is second to none as we experienced in the hotel.

At 1.10 am we are on the way again. It is nice and cool and I am running really well. The decision to bring the rest forward proved to be a good one. We are making a good progress. By 4 am we are at Conara Junction. We have covered 235 km from the start in 36 hours. Considering the big hills and the weather I am happy with the progress. At this point I thought it would be nice to have a 10 minute break. It seemed to be long 10 minutes when I finally got the signal to get up and go again. David said that since I had been running so well they decided to give me an extra bonus of 5 minutes rest. It did not hurt!

It is daylight again and it is warming up again. Though we are moving well we are still about 3 hours behind schedule when approaching Perth. If we stay on our planned route it is very likely that we will be late in Burnie and miss the Christmas Parade. There was nothing major planned for Launceston so we decided to head directly for Carrick saving about 15 km. That would put us back on the time.

There is a TV crew waiting for us in Perth as well as a photographer from the Examiner. It causes some delay but it is most welcome as we need as much publicity as possible to maximize the donations.

Bobbie’s wife Nanette is in charge of the team’s stomachs. She is making sure that nobody goes hungry. She is driving their own car especially equipped for catering for this trip.

The day is very hot again. The road is hilly so I run the flat parts and down hills but walk the hills. My wife got the idea to open an umbrella above me while walking beside the car to shelter me from the sun. Combined with spraying with water it all helps to make my going more comfortable. However, I am developing a few blisters on my toes which is very unusual and in spite of all the precautions I am suffering from chafing around some delicate parts of my body and under the arms. Joan Fawdry the President of Burnie MAW branch and the principal organizer of the event offers some Avon cream to ease the discomfort and later on Anette Apted driving Falcon lent by Burnie Fairford and Dot both obtained some Baby cream.  My lips are badly cracked in spite of applying cream to them. Sunburns are matter of course. All the members of the team are so helpful and so concerned about my wellbeing – I cannot thank them enough.

In spite of these little problems I am making a good progress but we are two and half hours late at Elizabeth Town. This means that instead of planned 5 hour break it will be only half of it if we depart on time.

I decided to leave one hour later which would enable us to have the longest sleep yet – almost 3 hours!

The hotel does not have accommodation for guests any more but we are going to experience another generosity from the owners Cathy and Grant Lee. They accommodate my wife in their mother’s room and I slept in their grandson’s room. Not only they did not accept any payment for it, they stayed awake till 1.15 a.m. to wake us up. Dennis slept in Ian’s car. Both my wife and I felt like zombies when getting out of bed.


 

Page 3.

But as soon as we hit the road, the fresh air of the night woke us up and I was surprised myself how good progress we were making. At Parramatta Creek we stopped at the picnic ground and I had another 15 minutes rest. This was the first time that I actually fell asleep during a short break as soon as I hit the bed. Josefa Kristensen and Mary Moore have been driving the car in front from Elizabeth Town and are taking turns between driving and running with me. Shortly after 8 a.m. we reach Devonport – right on time in spite of the late start.

There is some problem with traffic due to extensive  road works. A police car is providing an escort for me while the other cars have been ordered to go ahead and wait for me behind Devonport.        

 Kaye and Ellis Bakes have taken over driving the front car. Kaye started walking – jogging with me but soon I am joined on a bike by Graeme Milburn – a champion cyclist and well known for his charity rides around Tasmania. He accompanies me most of the way to Ulverstone. I have heard a lot of interesting stories from him about his travels on the bike in many parts of the world. He is an endurance rider so we have a lot in common. He said that he would like to do something for “Make A Wish”. Maybe that one day we could do something together. I would like that.

The time went really fast with him and we are in Ulverstone. Unfortunately it is starting to drizzle.

 Normally it is not a problem but it does not help in collecting money on the way. In spite of that the donations are really pouring in – my friend Mrs Zvatora of  Penguin donated $200! Jo Van Dyk, Trudy and Rozzie Connlley, Pat Marshall and later Michelle Lamprey are all running around shaking tins. Their effort is truly rewarded – between Devonport and Burnie we have collected $2,800. As we approach Burnie the drizzle stops and once again it looks very promising for the Christmas Parade. We are on time  so I feel very relaxed. At Wivenhoe we are met by a contingent of Burnie Dockers footballers who joined Asta and me on our run to catch up with the Christmas Parade. Amazingly I feel so fresh when arriving in the center of the city  that I feel like keep running on and on. Dulcie and Don Mole are joining as well.

A utility from one of our major sponsors Weldquip is waiting for us to take us around the route of the Parade. We are joined by a popular Burnie fireman Craig Machen who became famous last Monday for appearing on  Who Wants to be a Millionaire and winning $32,000 for Make A Wish Foundation. We watched it on TV at Port Arthur on the eve of the start of the Run. A very nice man involved in endurance water sports hoping to paddle one day around Tasmania  in a kayak. Perhaps we too can combine our efforts to do something more for Make A Wish. We receive very loud welcome from the crowd – it is a good feeling and a great reward for all the effort put into this venture.

As soon as the Parade is over it is starting to rain again. Bobbie and Dennis, keen to get me home to bed ASAP are driving with me still siting on the back of the ute. Not surprisingly it attracts the attention of a Police car and we are being followed to my home with the Police women signaling something at me but I did not want to know about it. Finally we stopped in front of my house and I was expecting the worst. Bobbie was trying to explain to her that I have to be back on the road at 11 p.m. It is now after 7 p.m. so by the time I have a shower and get to bed will be lucky to have 3 hrs rest. I do not think it would help but fortunately for the driver it was a lady I knew well and she displayed some sympathy with our endeavor so Bobbie got away with a stern warning and wishes of good luck for the rest of our journey. He even had the cheek to ask her for some donation. She gave it to him!  

As the days are passing away and the kilometers are piling up it is getting harder and harder to get up after a short rest. As we are waking up after little less than 3 hour’s sleep, I am disoriented, cannot find my shoes though my wife made them ready with all the other gear. Also it is always hard to know what to put on. For start I usually end up with wearing more than I need to play it safe since I have a mild chest infection and have been taking antibiotics for the last three days. We are 15 minus late for the start and that makes me even more agitated to see all the people waiting for me. And on the top of it is starting to rain. Finally at 11.15 p.m. we are on the way. The wind is getting stronger and rain heavier.  I am wearing my bushwalking Goretex raincoat with a hood . It protects me from the element. I used to go bush walking in all sorts of weather so mentally I am prepared for all night’s running in this conditions.


 

Page 4.

The worst problem is that I cannot eat on the way as I usually do. After covering 7 km in the first hour I stopped at a Petrol Station under the roof to eat something and put some thermal gear underneath. I am absolutely saturated, shoes full of water. It is getting hard to run. Partly due to the stop I have covered only 3 km during the next hour. Fortunately the rain starting to ease and eventually stops. Mary and Robbie Moore are now in the front car and are taking turns in driving or running with me. I am starting to dry out and decided it was time for a 15 minute rest. Feeling much more comfortable now I am starting to take off some layers of my clothes and it is getting easier to run. However by daybreak I am again 2 hours behind time. Not a big problem since I am feeling good and full of confidence. The sun is out and it is getting hot again. There are big hills  ahead of us but I am not too concerned. My planned average speed for this section is only slightly over 6 km/hr and I know I can do that easily. When we get past Sisters Hills there are not many hills left and I think that I deserve another 15 minutes rest.

Harvey Kay and Norm and Beth Richardson from the Smithton Rotary Club are arriving with their tandem bicycle. They are going to ride it along to raise money for us. It epitomizes  the spirit of the people from Smithton. The presence of Smithton’s  rotarians and friends will be with us until we reach the finishing line. Marushka Vaclavikova is driving in front, stopping vehicles and with others collecting money.

Approaching Rocky Cape shop I get a craving for a meat pie. It really tastes nice in spite of difficulties eating with my cracked lips. While munching on it we are looking at The Advocate with our picture running with the Burnie Dockers and the report on our progress. By the time we get going again we are 3 hours behind schedule. Peter Moore is joining me now and  I am running hard from now on. By the time we get to Smithton I made up an hour so the arrival is only two hours behind schedule. John Aalders a fellow runner from the Professional Cross Country Club is joining me and giving generously. He has just returned from Himalayas so we have a lot to talk about. The later arrival at Smithton does not spoil the welcome we are receiving. There are many people in the main street including Bev Parker from St Lukes presenting us with $500 cheque. It is very emotional moment. Everything what happens afterwards is a bit of an anticlimax.

I spent two years in Smithton helping to establish a new cheese factory and while there I was a member of the Rotary Club and made a lot of friends. It is still my second home. While many Rotarians are involved in our fundraising effort there is one whose contribution is above anybody’s else – Ian King. Nothing is too much trouble for him. He is one of the local quiet achievers and very popular and respected by everyone. He is making sure that my “home coming” is very special. I really appreciate that.

After an hour I am on the way again. From now on I am not running alone any more. Helen Anderson has been riding with me since Stanley’s turn off – in total over 60 km raising funds as well. Rotary’s President Arnold Lane is another runner to give me some support.(There were many other runners and bike riders who joined us for the final kilometers before Smithton).

The owners of the Bridge Hotel in Smithton donated our accommodation for the entire team free of charge – another shining example of the generosity of the Tasmanian people and businesses. Some of the members of our team returned to Smithton , some are following me. There is a function in the hotel planned for 8.30 p.m. I cannot see any benefit in reaching the finishing line today. Most of us are too tired to really enjoy it and on the top of it we are going to have a tour of the newly established Wind Farm tomorrow. I decided to keep going till 7 p.m. and leave the finish till tomorrow. When I stopped we were 11 km from Woolnorth – the end of our journey. It was a good decision. We had time to get to the hotel, have a shower, nice meal and plenty of time for the evening entertainment. About 9 p.m. I was in bed for the first good sleep in 5 days.

Waking up refreshed we drove back to the spot where I stopped last night to re start our run to our final destination. It is 8.30 a.m. and we aim to be at the finish at 10 a.m. After such a long break I have stiffened up a bit so I found running very difficult. Most of the last kilometers I spent walking enjoying the beautiful scenery of Circular Head. It is now only a formality. At 9.50 after running for 4 and ½ days covering 538 km we are reaching the end of our journey – Woolnorth.

An official welcome by the Mayor of Circular Head Ross Hine accompanied with a substantial donation from him has started the emotional finale of the journey.  Cameras all around, everyone is trying to capture the special moment. There are signs of joy and relieve everywhere. Just one more formality is waiting for us. After driving to the site of newly established Wind Farm we are met by the project manager Andrew Pattel who presents me with a cheque from Hydro Tasmania for $1,000 and  takes us for a tour of his baby project.


 

Page 5.

The first stage of the project – 6 wind turbines - started operating only last month. Each of them produces enough power to supply 600 homes. They are manufactured by VESTAS – a Danish company which has the largest share of wind turbine manufacturing in the world. The turbine towers are 60 m high and are manufactured in Tasmania. Diameter of the turbine blades is 66 m (wing span of a Jumbo Jet) and they rotate at 21 rev/min which equates to a blade tip speed of 260 km/h. Each blade weighs 5 tonnes, the total weigh of each tower is 180 tonnes.

North West Coast of Tasmania is well known for the “Roaring 40s” and is ideally suited for this type of development. While the windiest site in Europe is averaging wind 8 m/sec all year around this site has an average of 10 m/sec. The turbines generate electricity when the wind speed is between 15 – 90 km/hour. In here it is 90% of the time. Today the turbines are idle. There is hardly any wind, the weather is nice and calm. Since this happens only 10 % of the time I realize how lucky I was to avoid running into the prevailing strong North Westerly wind. It is not a good news for the Hydro – they are not making any money at this moment.

Hydro purchased 3000 Hectares of land from Van Diemens Land Company. When the project is completed there will be 79 turbines operating. Only 10% of the land is used by the turbines and the roads. The rest is leased back to VDL for grazing. It is in a perfect harmony with the nature. This is the future of the non polluting renewable energy generation. That’s why we call my run “From the Past to the Future”.

Before leaving this fascinating place we look at the Cape Grim – the site of a scientific station used to measure the long term movement in the quality of air. There is nothing between this and South America. We are breathing the cleanest air in the world!

 As we are leaving with our brains loaded with emotions from our trip and  the tour of the Wind Farm, the wind starts to pick up and the turbines, one after another, are starting to spin. They are back in business doing what they are supposed to do – generating electricity. A perfect scenario.

Everyone has mixed feeling – excitement associated with finishing this mammoth task on one hand and on the other hand a relief that it is all over and we can go home and have a rest.

The donations are still coming in, the total amount raised during the run is around $15,000. Even children from my grand daughter Roxanne’s class at Stella Maris Primary School collected money and donated to the cause. That will bring a smile on the faces of many special children. Thank you Tasmania.

A week has gone since we got home and the inevitable question is on everyone’s lips: WHAT  NEXT ?

I have had a week’s rest from running  and my feet are getting itchy  again. But I realize that I cannot expect others to do this every year. I am starting to think of something local which does not involve so much time away from home for the support team and so much travelling. Craig Machen is thinking about something special he could do on his canoe as well so I am sure that between us we will come up with some good idea. I am already starting to look forward to my next challenge.

 

Vlastik Skvaril

Burnie, 10. 12. 2002.

 

Joandvlastik@bigpond.com