Sunday, April 13, 2014

Six,....I mean ONE Degree of Separation

People talk about the phenomenon "six degrees of separation", in this massive world, but here in Tassie, six gets reduced to ONE!  At least this is what I'm finding as I make my way around this "small town" kind of island.  I’ve said it many of times now....Tasmania is a tiny island and within the world of cyclists and those passionate about bikes (and coffee) it feel even smaller.

Rob and I on the Gordon River Cruise
First there was Rob and Lynne, the camper van couple I met my first night camping north of Hobart.  I spent three consecutive campsites with them and my day off in Strahan on the Gordon River cruise.  I had so much fun with Rob and Lynne, I mentioned them in a recent blog post.  They were completely unrelated to the world of cycling, but just wait,… will see how they play into the Tassie’s “one degree of separation” phenomenon. 

Rodger, an avid sewer, fixed my Keen sandals 
Rogers little gold car, aka "The Cho".  He took me on a tour of the NOrthwest corner of Tasmania

Next comes Rodger, a Warmshower host in Somerset, on the northern coast.  Rodger used to live in Hobart.  Talking about the city, I mentioned I had been to a bike store there to switch out some components on my bike.  Turns out Rodger went to the same shop in Hobart and knew John, who runs Cyclingo in the western part of the city.  Not so ironic, I know, they are both cyclists…..but listen to this.  Rodger rode with me from his town to my next destination, Devonport. Later that day, he went to another town to visit a friend, the exact place where Rob and Lynne happened to be staying in their camper van. Rodger recognized their camper van from my previous blog post and went over and introduced himself.   Rob, with his sense of humor, sent me the following text message:  Well stone the flaming cows! We are camped in Burnie tonight and next to us is a little golden Toyota car who recognized our vehicle and his name is Rodger! We have a good old yarn and he tells me about an American pushbiker who stayed with him and ate him out of house and home.  It’s a bloody small world  P.S. I helped him out with a few quid so he could afford a fresh meal-HA!

Rodger was an interesting host.  Not only does he love to sew, but he buys old antique sewing machines, fixes them up, and donates them to a non-profit organization in Africa. The non-profit organization isn’t sending another container in the near future and so he has some extra machines hanging around his house and he was looking for a loving home for them.  One of the machines is the same as my mom’s first machine back how. I love to sew but obviously I can’t bring a michine along with me.  However, Nerida Warburg, Jesse’s wife back in Hobart does as well, so I put the two in touch and now Nerida has a neat antique Singer sewing machine.  Of course there is one little contingency with the machine....if I move to Australia, the machine is mine (enough incentive on it’s own to get me back here).  Now these two random people know each other because of the pushbiker!

Now on to Greg who lives in Devonport, a small coastal town in the north of Tasmania.  He loves to bike and paddle. Greg is a cyclist, a friend of an Australian Thomson Bike Tour client I know on mainland.  She put the two of us in touch. He met me on the road on the way to his house and the first question out of his mouth was, “Were you just at the cafe Playfish having a coffee date?”  “Yes,” I answered suspiciously.  I was at that café having a coffee and cake with a teacher from my school visit, who is actually the cousin of the Udine International School in Italy, one of the first schools I visited on my trip.  It turns out Greg’s wife and daughter were also at Playfish, their favorite coffee shop, and recognized me, still wearing all my bike attire.  Devonport is small, but has plenty of cafes.  It just so happens we chose the same one!

Me and Rachael outside Playfish, doubt the place to go for coffee and sweets in Devonport.....

Here I am with Andy, the captain of the boat, a good friend of Greg's

Talking about my travels up the west coast, it turns out Greg knows the captain of the boat on Gordon River cruise.  I wouldn’t have known his name or even him, but since I was with Rob and Lynne on the cruise, Rob and I went wondering on the boat and met the captain.  Andy was a Strahan local and I asked him all about the roads in the area.  After the cruise he wanted to see my bike, so I showed him. If Greg mentioned me to Andy, surely he’d remember that girl cycling around the world….

Greg and I were also separated by “one degree” with two other people.  On my first morning he took my paddling on the ocean at the crack of dawn.  Two other friends came over at 5:30 and we set off together.  I paddled with Bob, who worked for Tasmania’s forestry department and also biked.  He started explaining all the visitors he gets thanks to friend in Sydney who is a Warmshowers host. He mentioned having several Spaniards and one couple stood out in particular, Javi and Claudia.  I don’t personally know these two Catalan cyclists, however, they did a similar Oceania bike tour a year ago and I’ve stayed with the same hosts in New Zealand and Australia.  I have read a lot of their reviews on and I have stayed with hosts who constantly make reference to them.  In fact on the New South Wales coast, I tried to make a tortilla for a couple who hosted me, but their frying pan was not ideal for the famous Spanish omelet.  Turns out Claudia had attempted the same Spanish meal and was equally embarrassed by the outcome.  I wrote Claudia and Javi later that day to introduce myself and let them know I had been paddling with Bob, who is actually getting ready to go to Barcelona as part of his European tour this summer. 

Ambleside Cafe: That's one serious coffee machine for a passionate coffee drinker
An important detail about Greg is his amazing coffee machine.  After paddling or riding with his friends in the wee hours of the morning, they always end up at his place afterwards for coffee.  His house is called the Kayak club and the coffee, “Ambleside Café”.  In Tassie, I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter what kind of car you drive, but rather the coffee machine you have at home.  Greg’s was impressive and so was my next host’s machine.  Georgie and Steve Brown had a built in Miele espresso maker.  In fact, one of the first comments I made was about their state-of-the art coffee machine and how I’d just been with a host who also had an impressive coffee machine.  As I was describing it, Steve piped up and asked,….Did your host live on the river in Devonport?  Does he cycle early in the morning with a group of guys?  Here we go again!  Turns out Steve and Georgie have a beach house close to Devonport.  One morning Steve went for a bike ride and found Greg and his crew on the roadand joined them.  Afterwards he found himself at the Ambleside Café for a coffee.  Steve was also impressed by the coffee and Greg’s cycling group.  One person stuck out in his mind in particular,….a Bob who worked in the forestry industry, like himself. 

Georgie and Steve Brownie were introduced to me by the Udine International School principal.  It's no wonder he wanted to connect us, Steve and Georgie are part owners of the  The Avanti Plus bike shop in Launceston, and Georgie actually runs it, not Steve.  I love Tassie women!
The Avanti plus bike shop in Launceston. If it weren't for carrying minimal gear, I would have loaded up on stuff here.
Me, Georgie, Izzy, and Henry on the gorge walk in Launceston

It’s a small world, all brought together through cycling and coffee here in Tasmania!  As I go cycling around the island, I’m connecting the dots from person-to-person discovering that there is one degree of separation here amongst the locals.  Not to mention, I still feel like everyone knows me, like a small town celebrity.  On the west coast everyone recognized me as the girl with the yellow bags who they’d passed on the road earlier.  Here, up north, I’m known as the girl in Saturday’s newspaper they read about.  In fact, I pulled up to the supermarket in a town today and a lady there gave me money for lunch even though I insisted she didn’t.  She was inspired by my story and wanted to do something for me. 

I’m headed down the East coast now back to Hobart.  Perhaps I’ll go in cognito there as it has more civilization than Tassie’s west coast.  However, something tells me it’s impossible to go off the radar cycling around Tasmania…..It’s just that "small town" kind of a place!

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