Run Around Tasmania

This year it is going to be only a "short" run - 1,270 km. What is very special about this run is that Debbie de Williams is joining me to raise money and awareness for CampQuality. Debbie is the first female who walked around Australia in 2003/2004 breaking 5 World Records in process. Over 18,000 km in 365 days! Who could wish for a better company!

The run will start from Launceston on the 28th March 2007 and will travel anti - clockwise around our great state. Debbie and I will run together doing an average 50 km per day, every day to complete over 1,270 km in 25 days, finishing in Launceston on the 21 April 2007.

Every dollar raised during the run will go to Camp Quality. We have sent information about the run to a number of service clubs, local Councils, sporting clubs and schools and already starting to get responses. Monday - 22nd March  we are departing for Launceston to have logo of our sponsors to put on the van.

On Wednesday at 10 am we start our run from the Mall at 10 am by Alderman Rosemary Armitage. At 2.30 pm first stop at Hagley Farm Primary school.

Friday 30th April and we have already spent 3 days on the road. The start at the Mall was wonderful with many supporters attending - too many to mention all. Students from Scotch Oakley College led by the Deputy Head of the Junior School Nick Kendall came in force and presented us with donation of $475 – very unexpected but much appreciated. Alderman Rosemary Armitage sent us off with good wishes from Launceston Council and we left with a convoy of Launceston Taxis.

Weather was good all day, we kept running to Exton from where we returned to Westbury to enjoy a lovely roast and spent the night camped at the property of Mr & Mrs  Cameron, the parents of our crew member Alistair.

Next day we had one heavy shower, got saturated, but by the end of the day we were dry again. Finished in Latrobe, very much supported by Latrobe Council – with Michelle Dutton the main organizer of all the activities. Two police cars escorted us to Bells Parade, where we stayed at the Caravan Park, sites donated by the owner Gavin Imlach.

We started at 6.30 am, most of the morning was raining but by afternoon it cleared up. In Ulverstone we were met by the Mayor Mike Downie and later in Penguin joined by fellow runners Roger Clark and David Sweetman and closer to Burnie by Les Naunton.

At 4.30 we arrived at Caterpillar – Elphinstone. Chris Symonds organized a sausage sizzle which raised over $640 for Camp Quality – I cannot thank them enough for what they have done for us. I am very proud of having a company like this in my home city. The Lord Mayor Alvwyn Boyd was there as always to offer his support. Thank you all!

This was my last entry in my Blog while staying overnight at home. I was hoping to keep updating it during the run but unfortunately we could not get to internet at all so I had to leave it till we finished the run and returned home. Our “Next G” mobile service proved a disaster. I was not able to send SMS or pictures to the Blog either because we had only about 10% of the time any signal at all. Here is a warning to everyone. We had CDMA service which was very good even during my run to Cape York last year. However we were convinced by Telstra to switch to the “Next G” with the assurance that it was even better than CDMA. Now even at home in Burnie we have a very weak signal  and Telstra is refusing to put us back on CDMA. Even my old digital phone has better reception in most cases.

After leaving Burnie we had beautiful weather. Just before Wynyard we were joined by Christine Wright who ran with us for several hours. “Doc” Hancock at the “Coast FM” had a good interview with us (106.1) and on we kept running until Port Latta where we camped over night before proceeding towards Smithton. The highlight of the day was meeting “Bosom Buddies” from Smithton who were on a training run for their big walk to Hobart. Since I spent two years living in Smithton I knew well many of them. I was actually told by Ian King during my run to Cape York about their intention and he even mentioned that they were inspired by my run to take on this huge challenge. I know now that they have done extremely well. 

We arrived early at Smithton so kept running another 15 km before returning to Smithton to meet with the Mayor as planned at 5 pm.

The Mayor of Smithton Ross Hines and Deb met us with a considerable donation. It was much appreciated especially considering the fact that whole Smithton was in fever with the upcoming walk of their “Bosom Buddies.”  Every shop in Smithton was decorated in pink colours, the whole town was buzzing with excitement. They are a great community.

While camping overnight at West Esplanade there were few showers but morning was fine and we continued to Arthur River staying overnight in a lovely Caravan Park with the compliment of the friendly owners Helen and Darren.

Much has changed in this part of Tasmania due to increasing tourism since I was here last time many years ago.  It is developing rapidly with obvious increase in prosperity.

This was our last chance for a shower for next few days. For the first time I was on the new road “Western Explorer.” 124 km of unsealed road, very winding with short but very steep sections as the road follows the hilly countryside. Some very steep parts had bitumen as it would be very difficult to get up on gravel. I found it very interesting and enjoyable since this was one of very few places I had not visited inTasmania before. Called Tarkine it containsAustralia’s largest temperate rainforest. It is remote and mostly unchanged over 65 million years of Gondwanic history. Inside the Tarkine live 54 threatened species including the world’s largest Lobster which can grow to 1 meter in length. It is also home to ancient Huon Pines over 3,000 years old and old Eucalypt trees that reach 80 m tall and 17 m in circumference.

We ended the day after 62 km on a roadside of a very narrow road but as expected there was no traffic overnight. By 6.30 am as usually we were on the road again towards Corinna and a ferry across PiemanRiver. Corinna was between 1850 to 1890 bustling river port serving numerous goldfield in the district. In 1883 a 7.45 kg gold nugget was found at Whyte River and a 4.45 kg nugget found a month later.  Corinna was one of the most populated towns in Tasmania. It is now a nostalgic collection of small well kept timber cabin. The Ferry runs from 9 am till 5 pm so if we did not make it by 5 pm we would have to wait till 9 am before getting accross.I thought it was too much to expect from Debbie to make it by5 pm so I suggested to take it easy, to catch the ferry at9 am next morning, staying on this side of the river. After all we had enough time to make it to Zeehan next day by night time.

The reason for my reluctance to push too hard was the fact that Debbie was last year diagnosed with breast cancer and only in December had her last chemotherapy. I doubt that there is another person in the world who would in this situation take on such a challenge – running 25 days average 50 km per day. But even mentioning this idea made Debbie very upset – she is not going to take the easy option – we were supposed to end up on the other side of the river and there is no way settling for anything less. And this was the admirable grit and determination Debbie was displaying all the way. No wander she is the first and only woman to walk around Australia in all sorts of conditions breaking  five World Records. We crossed the river on the ferry well before  5 pm with the compliment of the owner and camped on a roadside. Very cold night again and some rain overnight, overcast next day cold strong wind but no rain. We are very lucky with the weather.

Next stop at Zeehan, this only time we had to pay for stay in the CaravanPark. Zeehan like all other towns looks million dollars. As all towns on the West Coast it was built as a mining town and many mines are still operating along the coast as well as many are being re open with the mining boom we are experiencing at this moment which together with tourism is creating the prosperity which is so evident.

Next stop is Strahan on Good Friday. It was very generous from the owners of  the  Strahan HolidayPark to book our three vehicles in for a free stay in spite of  the heavy booking due to Easter Holidays. Strahan was the major port for exports of the West Coast’s mineral wealth for nearly 100 years. Today it is both fishing port and the major tourist getaway to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.

Very cold night again but sunny day so it was back again to shorts and T-shirts. During our run through Queenstown – another major mining town with rich mines I was twice asked by people where was my dog Asta. Sadly she died before Christmas but it showed that even people so far from Burnie remembered us for our charity runs

Big, bare and colourful mountains are in our way so we have long steep claim ahead of us. We both ran most of the way so it was not long before we reached our next stop –Lake Burbury. Found a lovely camp, watched a beautiful sunset and enjoyed a lovely dinner as always cooked by Debbie’s mother who with her husband Owen were part of our support team. Debbie’s husband Glynn and business partner and friend Alistair were taking turns to look after Debbie and Jo was looking after me. It was a great team work during the run. And not to forget to mention Maggie. She is Debbie’s dog who did a lot of running with us

We are now again in wilderness, running through World Heritage Area of Franklin and GordonRivers. Overnight stop at a car park for bushwalkers heading towards Frenchman’s Cap Track. I walked it once, at that time there was only a “Flying Fox” as the means to cross the Franklin River. Now there is a bridge. A lot of real adventure is taken out from these bushwalks to make it easier for tourists. I think that it is a pity. Frenchman’s Cap is a very spectacular mountain and the views from the top cannot be adequately described by words. It must be seen!

After foggy and cold morning the sun came out again.DerwentBridge is our next stop. It is on the edge of the world famous CradleMountainLake St Clair National Park which is also listed as the World Heritage. To our surprise we arrived there much earlier than expected due to my mistake in calculating the distance. It was a bonus and it was agreed to give our “chef“ day off from cooking dinner for everyone and we all looked after ourselves by either eating in the pub or having something from a can. She deserved a bit of rest too. As we were getting to camp outside the pub, Alistair decided to move the vehicle to a better spot forgetting about his bike leaning against the camper trailer. The result was a very twisted bike with the wheels more like figure 8 then round and the pedals badly bent. Without any fuss Alistair with Owen produced a small miracle and the bike was useful again. But as you will learn later, it was only temporary reprieve.

The next day was extremely windy. It even broke the flag pole on the campervan while Jo was driving 2 km ahead as always. We found it on the roadside stuck in very thorny blackberries. Alistair again demonstrated his shills by freeing it without tearing it in spite of the wind ripping it out of our hands. We are now in the highlands full of lakes from which water fuels many of the power stations. Apart from few wind turbines all the electricity in Tasmania is generated by Hydro. Our next stop at Taraleah is the centre of Hydro development. The lakes around feed eight power stations.

After the building of the dams and power stations was completed the town almost disappeared and what was left was badly ran down. But now it is a thriving town again, the houses lovingly restored and a number of modern facilities for tourists and fishermen who come to this area for their big catch. The caravan park is spacious and comfortable with all facilities first class. Thanks to the owners once again we could stay free of charge. After several days of roadside camping it was great to have a hot shower, electricity and an opportunity to refill our water tanks.

More rain over night but fine, cold morning with temperature slowly raising and by11 am it was very pleasant condition for running and sometimes a bit of walking. We are still covering our average 50 km per day without any drama. The road is very hilly, gradually the bush is being replaced by pastures. The soil on the highlands is not very rich so it is used for grazing sheep and beef cattle – it will not feed too many heads per hectare but there are thousands of hectares available making it still worth bringing the cattle and sheep on. We arrived in Hamilton after dark – the daylight last only till 6 pm – our ”canteen” as always had already settled down in a lovely camping spot near the river with delicious dinner already waiting for us.

This was the coldest night so far, frost in the morning but with gloves and balaclava on we could survive till the weather warmed up again. After running through New Norfolk where we were met by a journalist from the local newspaper, and had the opportunity to visit a supermarket to replenish our supplies. The night was spent about 13 km past the town on a roadside. During the night I had a strange dream. I somehow ended up with a dog on a leash, did not know whose dog it was and had no idea what to do with him since I did not want to abandon him. Then I woke up. In the morning, a few kilometers into our run we came across a large white, friendly dog wondering near the busy highway and when he saw us he started following us. I did not have the heart to leave him there since it was too dangerous so close to the busy traffic. I asked Debbie to keep going and headed with the dog for a near house to find someone to take a care of him. In the first house I was referred to another where I was told lived people with dog kennels who might help me. When I reached the house, the dog decided to keep going further heading towards a railway crossing just as the red signal went on and train was approaching. I was in a panic but luckily the dog turned back and started heading in the opposite direction. Eventually I was lucky to find a piece of rope and once I tied it around his neck he was happy to follow me again. The house I was referred to had a sign on the gate “We love dogs!” and a couple of ladies were in the backyard exercising beautiful Afghan Dogs. I knew I was in the right place. They said they sometimes saw a man walking this dog past their house so they took care of him. I had to run hard to catch up with Debbie since I lost at least half an hour but they were going to stop for a breakfast so it took only about 5 km to be with them again. I still wonder about the timing of the dream. I had never before had a dream like that!

We had a very eventful day ahead. Running across the Tasman Bridge in Hobart was a very special moment with views of beautiful Hobart with Mount Wellington towering over. Running past Constitution Dock made me proud to be Tasmanian and have such a beautiful city as our Capital. TV crews from both Southern Cross and Win were waiting for us as was a journalist from the Mercury and a call from ABC Radio. The Acting Lord Mayor Alderman Eva Ruzicka welcomed us to the Hobart Town Hall where we received reception fit for VIPs. We were very moved by being welcomed with so much attention. Ms Ruzicka showed us through the building. It is simply magnificent and charming. It is situated in most important historic site in the City of Hobart. When Lieutenant Governor David Collins arrived in the Derwent early in 1804 to take over Bowen’s settlement, he quickly rejected Risdon Cove, the place where Bowen first landed and started searching for a better place. He wrote: I fortwith commenced and had satisfaction in finding what I sought for in a very fine cove on the west side of the river. The grounds on each side of the run is of a gradual descent, and upon the next to the cove I had formed my camp.

He pitched his tent on Tuesday 21 February in the area where the Town Hall now stands.

The manager of Camp Quality Tasmania Peter Croswell was waiting for us as well with some children from Camp Quality and their mums. It was a very special for us meeting them especially since one of them I met last year during filming a commercial for the Cape York Run. Unfortunately she is not doing very well at the moment and we can only pray that she makes it through. All we can do is to raise the money for the camps to give these children some joy.

Our destination today is Middway Point, 18 km past Hobart where we are staying overnight outside Debbie’s house.

Tonight Jo and I are visiting Polish Club, where by shear luck our Czech friends are having dinner and their monthly meeting. To make it in time, Jo and I had to turn back still about 2 km short of Debbie’s house while the others kept going. It was worth doing that. The dinner was delicious with the compliment of the Club and we were very pleased to see some of our old friends we had not seen for some years. Received some generous donations as well and it was time to drive back to the spot where I stopped running before to finish running the rest. The road was very narrow and of course dark. I was relieved when we got to our destination at 9.45 pm!

We had a late start in the morning – 8 am. We both were a bit sluggish and huge hills waiting for us. Names like “Bust-Me Gall Hill” and “Break-a-neck Hill” demonstrate the terrain adequately! As the day progressed, we both got second wind and moved so well even through the hills that we finished running just before dark only about 2 km short of Orford. The road was too narrow and winding – too dangerous to keep going after dark. But our “Advance Party” found a very good camping spot so we were saved.

We are now on the East Coast – a place of a natural coastal beauty. This area received some rain lately . Apart from the beauty of the Freycinet Coast and Oyster Bay the paddocks are green as we expect in Tasmania. There is a growing number of vineyards and olive and walnut orchards, all new development since the climate and soil was found to be very suitable for this purpose. Fishing and tourism add to the prosperity of the whole coast. More recently many retirees from the mainland discovered the beauty and cheap properties comparing with coastal areas of the mainland and are moving south. There is a lot of new development everywhere and it is only matter of time, before the property prices will be too high for many ordinary people to be able to afford. This is a bad news for young generation of Tasmanians.

From Orford it was a long slog to Swansea – 63 km. We arrived in the Caravan Park after dark, last hour running in rain. But with a hot shower and possibility to wash and dry our clothes it was no problem. And on the top we had a beautiful spot right next to the beach with breathtaking views in the morning.

The next day was to Bicheno, only 47 km. It is a lovely place, used to be a small sleepy fishing village when we used to spend there school holidays with our sons. It was our favorite spot. But now like all the other places it is getting very commercialized, it is not the same any more. Lucky again our “advance party” found a Caravan Park with beautiful sea views, again with the compliment of the Manager of the Park.

Next morning was an early start again – we had 60 km to Scamander and to another stay in a Caravan Park. The owner Frank offered free sites and when I went to thank him I discovered, that he used to live in Burnie only one street from ours and we both knew well few of his friends in Burnie. On the way we had a couple of unhappy incidents. First one was when Alistair’s pushbike final broke down with broken spikes so instead of driving ahead and then riding back on the bike to assist Debbie, he had to walk. I think that on many occasions even before this he would have covered at least the same distance as we did either on the bike or on foot. But I never heard a word of complain from him!

The next trouble was when while running Debbie suddenly realized that she left her mobile on the wheel of their camper trailer during the last stop. It took some time to go back and find it. Unfortunately it was run over but at least she could retrieve the phone numbers stored in and has a peace of mind that nobody else could run a huge bill on it. She had to contact her husband Glynn to buy a new phone and bring it when relieving Alistair in a few days time. Otherwise the rest of the day went without any further incidents and we finished in a good mood in spite of all the dramas.

Again early start as we had an appointment at St Helens at 10 am. We are now running through bushland where some five months ago fierce bushfires burnt thousands of hectares of bush. It could have been very depressing to run many kilometers of burnt countryside. But the marvelous capacity of the nature to recover from such a disaster was evident all around. New life was appearing from the seemingly dead trees – new leaves, green colour taking over from the blackened trees and ground – it was simply marvelous. A new beginning, feeling of great optimism, that was the overwhelming feeling we were experiencing. What a wonderful world!

The deputy Mayor meeting us in St Helens  was a very friendly lady and after meeting us and offering much appreciated Cappucino at “Benjo” she accompanied us to St Helens District School. We had a very enjoyable meeting with the students in the gym – we were very surprised to see so many students in a relatively small town. I talked to them about Camp Quality, Debbie about our other exploits, they had a lot of questions – it was very well spent time. Finally the students advised us about their forthcoming fundraising for Camp Quality. We were very impressed with their enthusiasm and their desire to help raising funds for the less fortunate children. I believe that such an interaction is useful for everyone. Hopefully the students will grow into more charitable people and some may get some inspiration to achieve more in their lives than they would otherwise. And for us it is even more motivation for future fundraisers.

On the way from St Helens we discovered to our horror, that the road ahead was going to be closed the next day for several hours due to the car race “Targa”. We decided to run hard to make to Weldborough and stay there during the race. Actually we did not have any other choice. The road there is very hilly and winding through beautiful Myrtle Forrest and some green pastures. We camped behind the pub and once again had a dinner in the pub, giving our “chef” much needed rest. The historic pub is Heritage listed and was built during the town’s mining heydays.

After watching the cars competing in Targa – huge variety from historic cars to most modern and powerful machines like Porche and Ferrari – we were on the way as soon as the road was re opened. I should mention that one Jaguar stopped at the pub unable to continue with engine problem. Multi talented Alistair came to the rescue and after some searching he found the problem and fixed it for the very grateful owner who didn’t have any idea about what to do. He took a part in all Targa races so far and was due for some special award if he completed this one. We hope that he did!

On the way to Scottsdale we are passing through vineyards and fertile farmlands, hop farms, lush dairy pastures and dense rainforests and up the hills where miners scoured a fortune from the tin-bearing gravels – the heritage of thousands of Chinese diggers remain today.

Scottsdale is a beautiful town full of lovingly restored heritage buildings. We stayed overnight at the Camping Ground – well kept by local service clubs. It is a credit to the whole community.

The road ahead is again very narrow with long, steep hills. We decided to camp at Myrtle Park – large camping area where we found a lovely spot on the bank of the river. Debbie and I kept running another 8 km before returning to the camp. It will be only about 28 km to Launceston making it very easy for the last day.

It is 21st April, after 25 days and 1,270 km we are approaching Launceston. Again fine warm day. Our second last stop is at Scotch Oakburn College which is holding it annual fete  where we are meeting our friends to thank them for their support and then to the Mall to arrive there exactly at 3 pm. It was a very special feeling when Maggie, Debbie and I made our last steps to the Mall with cheering supporters and media including Southern Cross TV. Tracy from Camp Quality was there with some of the children, Michael Ferguson, local MP and many others. As always I had a mixed feelings. On one hand looking forward to see our family, sleep in own bed and a bit of a rest. On the other hand, it is again back to normal life. I sometimes think that I prefer the “abnormal” way with some hardship but with everything so simple. All you care about is to get from A to B, have some food and some sleep. Perhaps that is all we really need.

It is also sad to say “good by” and “see you again” to all members of our team with whom we spent 25 unforgettable days.

I end now with “THANK YOU” to everyone involved in any way with our “Run Around Tasmania”.

How much money we raised? We might never know exactly but it was enough to put smiles on a lot of faces of children with cancer. We had cash donations of several thousands dollars, some fundraising is still in the progress and also there are donations through Camp Quality website which will be very difficult to add up. But even more important is the fact that the run contributed considerably to the increased awareness of the children with cancer and their needs. And that is very satisfying for all of us.


Vlastislav Skvaril

Burnie, 25th April 2007 (ANZAC DAY)