Tasmania: Last Time We Were Here

Tomorrow we arrive in Tasmania. It’s been 14 months since we were here with our bikes and got our first taste of travelling together. What a setting we chose! Now we’ll be back in our car, our friend Michael in the back seat, and we’ll more or less be hiking our way around this rugged little island. Here’s a little recap of how our first visit went down.

We arrived in Tasmania on December 1st 2015, having endured 24 hours of train, bus and ferry travel in a 36 hour period. The highlights were some particularly dodgy bus driving, awesome eating in Melbourne, and a solid nights sleep on the ferry. It was 7am when we disembarked in Devonport and found our way to the supermarket, loaded a pannier full of food for the next couple of days, and headed west out of town.

Straight away we were riding up a steep hill with trucks squeezing by, but I was encouraged to see Tanya grind her way up and settle into the days riding. For two whole days we rode into strong headwinds on sometimes narrow, busy roads teeming with logging trucks. Despite that we had a good time passing through little coastal towns, camping in a park, ducking down to the beach a few times, and eating an awesome amount of good food. We reached Stanley on the second afternoon and after a look around we decided we’d stay at the caravan park, pitching our tent out the back and sleeping the sleep of the dead.

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Posing in front of ‘The Nut’ in the distance.

In the morning we headed south, but not before raising Tanyas seat a little as her knees were aching slightly. We wound our way through a farming region, on steeper hills but quieter roads. We took a wrong turn and got a little lost, and then not long after rejoining we unfortunately witnessed a dog run in front of a car that was speeding past us and get hit. It seemed dead for all money as it lay bleeding in the gutter making an awful sound, but as we sprang into action trying to find the owner or a neighbour who could help (while the driver stood around being useless and making excuses for his shit driving), the dog slowly made a miraculous recovery. After half an hour we’d finally found the owners, who rushed the dog off to the vet with what we hope was only a broken leg.

After that incident we entered the Tarkine rainforest, and had a magical afternoon riding in what seemed like an antigravity environment, hardly pedalling at all and still covering plenty of ground. A snack by the river with some elderly caravaners, followed by a 10km ride to a beautiful camp area on the Julius river topped off a solid days riding.

On the fourth morning, Tanya was sore and swollen in the ankles, and we realised we may have raised the seat a little too high the previous day. We tried to correct our mistake, but in combination with diving straight into some strenuous riding, she had developed Achilles Tendinitis. It was a slow and painful morning riding 30km to the junction with the Western Explorer road, where we hoped to be able to hitchhike to the next town and figure out what to do about this new problem.

Waiting for a ride at the top of the Western Explorer.

Waiting for a ride at the top of the Western Explorer.

The Western Explorer is a remote place, one of the more remote in Tasmania. We ended up stranded at the end of the road for nearly 24 hours, in which time we saw less than 10 cars heading in our direction. We flagged each one down, but most of the vehicles were either too small or too full to be able to take two people and two fully loaded touring bikes. Eventually Craig from England in his fancy Land Rover decided to take up the challenge, and the car was bursting at the seams by the time we jammed everything inside. We drove together for a couple of hours through stunning wilderness (such a shame we couldn’t cycle this road), before he left us at Corinna.

Corinna is a beautiful little tourist trap, on the Pieman River, where the town owners operate a pub, camp ground, cabin accommodation, river cruise and the little punt to get across the river. Once you drive in it’s hard to leave without handing over a decent amount of your cash. We paid $45 to pitch our tent on a wooden platform and have a shower, and then spent a bunch of other money in the shop and at the bar as we waited around for another lift to a bigger town where we could stay until Tanya recovered.

Tanya icing her achilles at Corinna Pub.

Tanya icing her achilles at Corinna Pub.

In the end the platypus around our campsite made the cost worthwhile, as did our eventual ride out of there after another 24 hour wait. This time a family in an RV was able to fit our bikes but not us, so they went ahead with all our belongings, and we got a lift with the chef who was heading into town for supplies (avoiding the ferry charge!). She dropped us in Zeehan, and from there we stuck out our thumbs and the first car that came past took us to Strahan. We ended up arriving a couple of hours before our bikes.

We spent four long days in Strahan, mostly hanging around our tent in the $10 a night caravan park (including wifi, bbq’s, common area, etc…not too bad!). We went on a cruise around Macquarie Harbour, which was pretty cool but not really our thing, although we did destroy the buffet lunch. We made friends with touring bikies of both the motor and non-motor variety, and went more than a little stir-crazy being confined to the tent for days on end. After lots of icing and stretching and sleeping, Tanya felt ready to give riding a go, and we headed east.

Trying to avoid insanity while stranded in Strahan.

Trying to avoid insanity while stranded in Strahan.

It was 40km to Queenstown, where we had lunch and moved on quickly. Before we got to the edge of town, we encountered another cyclist coming down the hill, and it turned out to be our friend Jono who we’d hosted a few moths earlier in Newcastle. He was a couple of days ride away from completing his dream of cycling the equivalent of the length of the equator! After a chat and some photos, we headed up the pass out of town, over some truly alien landscapes from all the mining over the years killing the vegetation.

Ran into our friend Jono just out of Queenstown.

Ran into our friend Jono just out of Queenstown.

The climb out of Queenstown.

The climb out of Queenstown.

We camped 20km further along the road that night. It poured all night and the next morning it was still coming down. We hit the road anyway,riding into the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park and towards the end of the morning we encountered a long pass that Jono had warned us about. For the next two hours we were chugging away, riding close to 10km (I think) to the top of the pass. It was raining the whole time, but the climbing kept us warm. When we reached the top we had 20km to the next town of Derwent Bridge. We absolutely flew down that distance, but unfortunately by the time we reached town we couldn’t feel any of our extremities, and Tanya was in quite a state of distress. It didn’t take long to decide to ride back to the big old pub we’d just passed and ask about their cheapest rooms.

We spent the night in a converted shipping container. The room was nothing special, but the showers were hot, the food was good, and we were able to spend most of the night in front of the huge fireplace inside the pub. When we woke in the morning the ground outside was covered in snow, and we were glad that we hadn’t tried to camp. Despite being an Australian summer, the weather looked pretty horrendous (ly cold) for the next couple of days, so we opted to take our friend Kate up on a lift to Hobart.

Our luxury shipping container in Derwent Bridge, so grateful to be dry and warm.

Our luxury shipping container in Derwent Bridge, so grateful to be dry and warm.

A few days in Hobart did some more good for Tanyas Achilles, and we managed to head out of town to Mt Field and spend 10 hours walking up and down a ridiculously beautiful mountain. In Hobart we hit up some markets, cafes, and a couple of museums, and although we’d only managed 6 days cycling in the first half of our trip, it certainly hadn’t been a waste of time.

Halfway up Mt Field West.

Halfway up Mt Field West.

The last two weeks can be summarised much more easily. The east coast was hot and sunny. The roads were still narrow, but now there was more traffic and so the cycling wasn’t quite as fun. Still, we found lots of nice camp spots, spent a couple of nights on Maria Island with lots of wildlife (including a couple of feisty Tassie Devils), visited Freycinet, stayed at the house of a stranger Tanya had met in Newcastle, had a lovely Christmas riding on some quiet dirt roads and chatting with a Spanish cycle tourist we met, and having very few issues with Tanya’s ankles.

A day spent exploring the very dry Maria Island.

A day spent exploring the very dry Maria Island.

Freycinet.

Freycinet.

Much of the last few days riding in the North-East was on roads like this.

Much of the last few days riding in the North-East was on roads like this.

All in all the first half of the trip through the west and south of Tasmania was the beautiful setting we’d been hoping for, without any luck with our riding. The second half of the trip we got plenty of riding done, but found the east coast less inspiring. This time we won’t be on our bikes, but we’ll still be focusing most of our attentions on the west and the south, as well as the central area of Tasmania which we had to completely skip due to lost time. Can’t wait to be back in this beautiful part of the world 🙂

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