Orrighty. This is a bit late, but the first time I wrote this post I managed to lose half of it in a moment of stupidity. Tanya and I left Hobart on the 17th (of December), taking most of a particularly hot morning to navigate our way out of the city and onto the highway heading towards the Tasman Peninsula and Port Arthur. We knew we had to cover another 20km until we could turn north on a quieter road, and although cars zoomed by uncomfortably close every few seconds, we made it to our turn in good time. We also acquired a bag of potatoes from a passing motorist. 5km further down the road we hit the dirt and were given local directions to a little known campsite about 15km away.
Having already covered 55km for the day and still conscious of the need to nurse Tanya’s tender Achilles, we made very slow progress over some steep, rocky, corrugated dirt roads, pushing almost as often as we were riding. We were well past starting to fear we’d missed the campsite when we finally stumbled upon it an hour before dark. A pretty average little rest area at the bottom of a hill, completely deserted, bingo.
We slept long and hard, and awoke ready for more struggling over difficult roads. Instead the road flattened out, and although still somewhat corrugated, it quickly carried us another 40km through Orford and into Triabunna, from where we were to catch the ferry across to Maria Island. A few hours and several card games later we made the crossing and made camp, in amongst some very friendly wombats and very funny looking geese. During the night two Tassie Devils brawled their way past our tent, screeching at each other as they went.
The next day we explored Maria Island, which has been home to an array of industries including farming, concrete works, fishing and a convict settlement. There was some nice scenery and a lot of old buildings, and we spent the day cycling about and swimming in the ocean.
After another night, we headed back to shore with our new friends and fellow cycle tourists. We killed some hours at the information centre (charging etc.), and foolishly ate a large steak and fish and chips before trying to cycle 30km to the next campground. Combined with the heat and headwind, it made for a very uncomfortable first hour of riding until our stomachs could digest a little.
Thankfully we made good time after that and had time to spare to spend our night swimming and enjoying a nice view of Freycinet Peninsula. The next morning we left at 6am and had covered the 85km around to Freycinet by lunchtime. We still had to push our way along a steep 4WD track to reach the campsite that had been recommended to us. We ended up camping in a beautiful little bay where the only two people we saw were delivering a yacht to Hobart, and just happened to know some people we know from Newcastle!
We had a slow start the next morning, and didn’t leave the national park until midday (unfortunately Tanya’s ankles were in no state for the planned hiking on Freycinet). We thought we might only cover 20-40kms and find somewhere to sleep, but we ended up digging deep and riding 65km. This left just 15km the following morning to reach the house of a kind stranger that Tanya had met at her work months before, and who had offered the use of his house to camp. We spent a whole luxurious day in his yard eating, reading, washing, charging, playing and eventually sleeping.
With our bodies recharged we cycled into St Helens on Christmas Eve, where the Main Street was heaving with people preparing to spend their holiday at Bay Of Fires. We blew the budget in a big way with our food shop and then cycled up towards the bay for lunch. It was hot and we were both sleepy after eating, so we camped early, knowing that we planned to spend Christmas cycling anyway.
On the 25th we cycled along the Bay Of Fires, and then headed further north for the start of several days of riding on predominantly dirt roads. At lunch we dozed under a tree for a few hours to escape the heat, and made friends with a passing cyclist called Tony who was a lovely Spanish guy with a great beard.
We covered 55km for the day and stumbled upon a completely deserted camping spot, and after a big meal we agreed that it might just have been our best ever Christmas. We were so content that we forgot to bring our food pannier into the vestibule of the tent, and in the middle of the night we awoke to a large possum perched on top of it trying to extract a packet of rice cakes. We managed to scare it off and bring the bag in, but for the rest of the night it was scratching around the side of the tent trying to find a way in.
We slept in after that little disturbance, and then spent boxing day cycling a challenging 70km on bad roads and in frequent storms. We wouldn’t have minded at all (it was actually quite nice), other than the constant stream of large vehicles towing larger boats that insisted on barrelling past us at full speed on their way to the bay. Each one showered us with rocks, and the odd driver who bothered to slow down received a grateful thumbs up. Late in the day we hit the bitumen again and raced a big storm front the final 10km to Tomahawk, where a sign announced ‘Tasmanias best kept secret’.
The secret turned out to be a pretty nice little beach, but the promised free camping was actually a caravan park filled with big families, big utes, and big dogs. We paid our $25, cooked and ate, slept through a rainy night and got going as early as we could the next morning. We’ll be continuing the tradition of keeping Tomahawk a secret.
Following the pattern we’d developed, we spent all of the 27th promising ourselves that we’d have an easy day, once we found a good camping spot just up here. By 6pm we’d cycled 75km, stopping for a long lunch in Bridport, and found ourselves riding onto a little dirt road after Pipers River turned out to be a lot smaller than it looked on our map (literally just a roadhouse). We thought we’d have to find a quite spot in the forest reserve up ahead, but after cycling past a large and impressive garden full of fruit trees, Tanya suggested that we try my favourite old trick from previous tours. We went back and knocked on the door, and soon we were pitching our tent in the midst of our dream garden and enjoying a very peaceful night.
We were sent on our way early the next morning with a huge punnet of freshly picked raspberries, and made relatively easy progress across to Beaconsfield, about 40km of riding before lunch. We did one final food shop for the trip and aimed for Narawantapu National Park, just 30km away. After 7km, we turned off the highway, and rejoined the bumpy dirt roads that we’d become so familiar with. This one had an added feature, a giant hill about halfway along that had us pushing for around half an hour, taking care with each step as the loose gravel and our heavy bikes combined to make sliding backwards down the hill a frequent occurrence.
Once over the top we rode over a steady series of lumps, steadily getting more sick of the loose surface, and gratefully arrived at the park late in the afternoon. We spent two nights in the park, trying our best to eat all the food we still had, talking to an American woman who was just starting her own Tassie cycle tour, meeting up with a friend of mine and her family to spend a couple of hours at the beach, and generally resting up after a tough few days of getting across the north coast of Tassie.
When we left on the morning of the 30th, we had just 40km to go to Devonport, which we completed easily enough before lunch, although not without several decent sized rolling hills to get over. We shopped and then made a beeline for the caravan park, where we camped one final time and spent the arvo doing all our usual favourite activities (reading, cards, swimming, eating). We boarded the Spirit Of Tassie on the morning of the 31st, and proceeded to play one epic card game that consumed much of the 9 hour trip.
When we disembarked, we cycled for a couple of hours across Melbourne, stopping to eat pizza, before arriving at the house of a friend of Tanya’s where we were graciously hosted. We were asleep by 10, and I was woken briefly to the sound of 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, HAPPY NEW YEAR from the park across the road. I was asleep again in seconds.
We started the new year with a luxurious trip back into the city, taking all day to ride 15km as we stopped in parks and at several eating spots. We boarded our bus at 7pm, but not before a little squabble with the stubborn guy at the check-in counter who claimed that because we were booked to travel right through to Sydney we couldn’t possibly get off at Gundagai or nearby. Thankfully the bus driver remembered us from the trip down and was less rigid, and was happy to add a stop to the trip. At 2am we stepped into the streets of Gundagai, and headed down to the river to pitch our tent and grab a few hours sleep.
At a certain point we couldn’t ignore the sun searing into the side of the tent any longer, and had to get up and face the final 60km of cycling for the trip, this time heading to my Uncles place at Cootamundra. Despite the heat, we managed to knock the distance over in around 4 hours, and found ourselves grinding up one last little steep road to finish the trip early in the afternoon. The rest of my family arrived a few hours later, and we spent the night playing with my four little cousins and catching up.
From there we all drove back into Victoria for a week on a houseboat in Echuca, which featured an incredible amount of food, an awful lot of water skiing boats, some skiing of our own, lots more cards and cricket and just a generally nice week. Once it was over Tanya and I loaded the bikes up in Mum’s car, and drove 10 hours back to Newcastle.
Overall our month in Tasmania was basically what we expected. It was beautiful, it had many challenging moments, the process of propelling ourselves and all our gear to the next destination was as rewarding as ever, and we’re both looking forward to doing lots more of the same in the not-too distant future. For now it’s back to working in Newcastle, saving what we can, and enjoying life with our perfect little friendship group.