Tasmania Cycle Tour - 2003
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- Day 1: Saturday 20 December 2003: Sydney to Launceston, then cycle to Deloraine (55.2km)
Bill from Going Boeing Gone picked us up at 7:15 am to take us to the airport. We decided to get a cab to make our lives easier. The bikes needed to be boxed for the flight and that is quite time consuming as the pedals, saddles and wheels need to be removed and carefully packed in the box. We booked the service, which was a minibus so everything could fit in.
He got us to the airport at 8:10 and we immediately checked our baggage in, to board our Melbourne flight at 9:00. We had at first contemplated taking the train to the airport, but actually that wouldn't have been possible as there was track work on the North Shore line that weekend!
We took our helmets and handlebar bags on as hand luggage, and I was stopped because of a small bike toolkit thing, where everything folds out. So I had to go back to check my bag in as well, but luckily there is an express check in.
It was funny as Father Christmas was roaming around the airport with a badge on that said "Frequent Flyer". When we were waiting for takeoff he came on board and gave us all some tips about flying, like lifting your feet on takeoff as it makes the airplane lighter.
The flight to Melbourne took just over an hour and we then had to change planes for the connector to Launceston. Unfortunately Mike and I were seated at opposite ends of the plane, but again it was only an hour long. We had quite a good view passing over Bass Strait and of the Tassie coastline. Coming in to land it looked like the middle of the countryside and it is! Launceston Airport is even smaller than Bloemfontein!
To get your luggage, you go and stand at this carport thing and a guy drives a tractor through one end with little trailers attached with all the luggage piled on. He drives the tractor out the other entrance and unhitches the trailers and drives off. Then the rush is on with everyone running from one car to the next to find their bags!
Mike began putting the bikes together and I found out that you could leave your bike boxes in the airport for collection upon your return. We just had to mark them with our name and the fly out date. There were two women also unpacking their bikes and we got chatting. They were also from Sydney and were planning to do Launceston to Hobart, along the off road trails, which are really just walking trails. As one of the airport attendants quipped "They'll know they've done that!". It's really tough cycling even on dirt roads with all that gear, let alone a mountain track! Anyway, they had given themselves plenty of time to do it in, they were flying out the same day as us, but doing effectively less than half our distance.
Finally we were ready and set off at 14:10, going west towards Deloraine. The road out of the airport was like a country road! Took a while to get used to steering again, the handlebar bag weight makes it a bit unsteady, but we were on our way!
The cycling was easy, it being flat to Deloraine. We crossed the busy Midland Highway, but would be avoiding it using the smaller tourist drive routes to pass through the Highlands to Hobart. Immediately noticeable were the clean air and the beautiful village gardens, wildflowers and tree-lined route. The trip to Deloraine was 55.2 km. We stopped for a snack in a small town en route, arriving in Deloraine at 17:30.
The great thing about Tassie summers is the length of the days. Sunrise is at 5 am and sunset only at 21:30, so you get a really long day. In fact, we didn't even need to use a head torch ONCE while on holiday! We were getting such an early start each day, on the bikes by 7:30, that by 9 at night we were in bed.
At Deloraine we camped at the Apex Caravan Park which was lovely, on the river. It is the biggest inland town in Tassie, so we were impressed to find a Woolworth's to shop at for supplies. Of course there is no braaiing, there are usually barbeque facilities but it's just not the same! We were lulled to sleep by the open air Christmas Carols that night.
(1) Launceston Airport (2) Lunch stop
(1) Camping Deloraine
- Day 2: 21 December 2003: Deloraine to Miena (68.6km)
We were on the road at 8:25, which was a late start really, but we needed our strength; this was the day we would climb up to the highlands. It was really beautiful, and really hard! There were three steep climbs and on one we took out our camping mattresses and lay down!! We passed a little old man flying downhill who had a motor on his bike - good idea! Freewheel downhill and motor uphill! Passed a sign where someone had written "Die Logging Scum!!!". An ominous warning - the timber industry means major logging routes and cyclists are warned about the trucks, but we didn't encounter many, and those that we did meet gave us lots of room, which was a relief. I'd hate to be driven off the road by one!
The uphill went on and on and on, in fact for about 35kms in all, and then you reach the high point of the plateau, 1210m. We experienced a lot of different scenery on this day, from lush rainforest to desolate, windswept plains on top. That's one thing about Tassie, the flora is very rich and diverse, it is very similar to the Cape (South Africa) that way, we felt at home! In NSW you tend to get a lot of the same in terms of vegetation i.e. GUM TREES; you're supposed to say Eucalypts. While still climbing to the plateau, I remember saying to Mike, "Look, mountains! How do I know - because trees don't grow on no mountain!". In Sydney they like to brag about the Blue Mountains, but they are really a range of hills, covered in trees! In Tassie you get real mountains, rocky and rugged.
At last, we came to the final stretch, about 20 km of dirt road, along the shores of the lake. The road took us by lots of fishing "shacks", owned by people who fish on weekends etc. And then we reached Miena, at about 16h30. There's a hotel there and a little shop and that's it. We asked at the hotel about camping and were told we could camp anywhere on a grassy area in front. We could also make use of the showers at the hotel. Bonus! As we pitched the tent and had something to eat, the weather began to turn. It rained all night and we woke to more rain in the morning!
(1) At the top of the long, long, climb (altitude 1,210m)! (2) Downhill to Miena
(1) Camping Miena
- Day 3: 22 December 2003: Miena to Bothwell (62.8km)
A great day - except for the rain. It POURED until we were about 15km from Bothwell. We were soaked! We stopped along the way to look at some sculptures which were a disappointment to say the least. Anyway, they're called Steppes Stones and are actually metal relief work of some kind. The Lonely Planet book describes them as "life size bronze figures" - I was obviously expecting something much more impressive.
It was downhill all the way to Bothwell. GLORIOUS!! Bothwell is famous for having the oldest golf course in Australia, built in 1820's by the Scots. It is open to members of any golf club. The campsite was right next door to the Australian Golf Museum, which is housed in the Old Schoolhouse.
Bothwell was so quaint - like a town in Postman Pat stories or Beatrix Potter. Very English. The curator of the museum was very interesting and she told us that she and her husband had retired to Bothwell from Melbourne and had bought the old Barracks, which used to house British troops when the Aboriginals were being exterminated. Charming. They are in the process of renovating it. We took a walk through the town up a little alley through fields to a river where you can see platypus' in the evening. Behind the river is a staircase which leads to the barracks. I took a walk up there and the place was huge and surrounded by fields of Flanders poppies. Quite something. We paid $5 for the campsite, which had a lovely ablution block next door. Mike spotted three snapped spokes on my back wheel, we hoped that they could be replaced in Hobart.
(1) Camping Bothwell
- Day 4: 23 December 2003: Bothwell to Hobart (70km for Mike, 40km for Judith!)
The ride out of Bothwell was beautiful! After about 10 km the book lists a 5 km "torturous descent". It was wonderful! Mike whizzed down at about 70 km an hour and I of course pulled my brakes most of the way! Not a speed freak. We then had to join the Midland Highway in to Hobart.
On one uphill I heard another spoke go and my back wheel was looking very bad, wobbling a lot. On downhills you don't have good control over steering. Anyway, we kept going. We rested on the top of Constitution Hill and passed through Mangalore, when I heard spoke number 5! I then stopped. We were about 30 km out of Hobart. We decided to phone Danie, a friend of Mikes with whom we had arranged to stay, and who had airily offered to pick us up anywhere in Tassie, as it is only a small place! He said he would call back. I tried to flag down a bus but he motioned that he had to turn off the main drag. Anyway, Danie phoned back to say he'd be there in about an hour and I told Mike to cycle-on in the meantime.
I put on rain pants, beanie, jacket and snuggled up against my panniers to wait. He arrived true to form and drove me in to Hobart. We didn't see Mike along the way, which was because he had found a cycle path to take him to the town centre. The have a great cycle path system in Hobart. We got to Danie's office and he took me and the bike around the corner to a bike store. They were too busy to take on new work, but suggested we try Ray Appleby cycles further in town. It's all very tiny, town I mean. Probably smaller than Bloemfontein.
There they could help and would re-spoke the whole wheel by the next day (Christmas Eve). Super! I phoned Mike who was by then 10kms out of Hobart and told him I was at Ray Appleby Cycles on the corner of Elizabeth and some other street. Danie then left me and went back to work. I waited outside the store for Mike. It was all very busy, people and cars and I started thinking "This is crazy, how is he even going to know where the street is?". I must have waited for about 30min, and had taken my eyes off the road checking out a cyclist coming out of the shop with a new bike, when suddenly a flash of yellow caught my eye and there was Mike, cycling right past! I yelled and he saw me. With all his panniers still on his bike. I had said that he could have left them with me, I was sure Danie would have space for them, but you know, he had to do the job properly til the end! So he came inside to speak to the guy about what spokes to use (I only know they are long and pokey and make a wheel). Then we walked the three blocks to Danie's office to leave Mike's bike.
Danie had a Staff lunch on so we amused ourselves for the afternoon, walking Hobart FLAT of course. We went to the harbour and had delicious CADBURY ice-cream. The Cadbury Factory Tour doesn't run the week before Christmas, but Mike took a photo of the sign! He was rather disappointed, as I'm sure you can imagine! We went to Danie's flat that evening and met his wife, Dora and three daughters, Annike (11), Heidi (8) and Elise (2). All very nice people and it was good staying with them. They are renting a furnished flat until they find a place to buy.
The next day (24th) Danie took us up Mount Wellington, which at 1270m is higher than Table Mountain in Cape Town. There is a road built right to the top, so you can park there. There are lots of walking trails all over, I assume that you can walk to the top too. The view is magnificent and perhaps it is because of this mountain that Hobart reminded me of Cape Town. When I am in the City in Sydney I often feel that the mountain is missing. We passed a couple of very fit people cycling up. Tour de France stuff! It was cold and windy at the top. To the west you can see the immense wilderness area that you can hike in, it looks very wild and desolate and HUGE! A bit like the Drakensberg!
We spent the rest of the day in Town, walking through the parks and going to Salamanca Square, which is the "in" place. Very Larney and "trend-oidy". Didn't stay long! Everywhere you go in Tassie, even the tiny towns like Bothwell have beautifully laid out public gardens with benches and playground equipment. It's impressive. Oh, we picked up my bike which was all fixed. On Christmas Eve it was cute because we watched the kids open their gifts, we rushed into a shop on Christmas Eve to buy them each something small and had the things wrapped at a stall in the arcade. After presents we had cold meats and salads for supper and a PAVLOVA!! Apparently an Aussie invention, people here will say "As Aussie as pavlova". I don't know!
(1) Bothwell to Hobart...
- Day 6: 25 December 2003: Hobart to Richmond (32.4km)
Christmas Day! We set off at about 8h00, Danie took us back to the office to collect our bikes and we packed and left from there. Cycled through the streets of Hobart on Christmas morning! Stopped at the harbour for Mike to repack his things. We set off across the bridge using the cycle track, but the space allowed for cyclists was a bit narrow for our packhorses (especially with the wind) and so we pushed over the top and cycled down the other side.
We picked our way through the suburbs and finally reached the road to Richmond. There was a bit of a pass to go over which was not too steep. Over the other side and freewheel to Richmond. The camping site was just at the start of the town. It is a tiny place with literally a museum, a hotel and cute bakeries and sweet stalls. In Oz EVERYTHING closes on Christmas Day, so nothing was open. Not even the prison museum, but we did go to see Richmond's claim to fame, Australia's oldest stone bridge, built in 1823. By criminals. It's other claim to fame is that it was a convict station. The Richmond Gaol is the best preserved convict prison in Australia, "with original locks, cells and relics". Could these be the long forgotten inmates? Also, it has the oldest catholic church in Australia (1836). All very impressive and quaint.
Back to the campsite, which was a really strange place, bit of a dust bowl and with one other crowd of campers who looked fairly normal, but were obviously there for a while, with a few tents, children etc. We couldn't understand why someone would choose to camp in this place for more than a night! But it did have an indoor swimming pool. Weird. It was the only swimming pool we saw in Tasmania, and the only time we donned our swimmers (oz for costumes), except for another occasion which I will get to. There was another strange lady there who was warming soup in the campers kitchen wearing what looked like all her clothing. She had lots of small glass bottles.
We ate some salami and a box of Turkish delight chocolates that Danie & Family had given us for Christmas. And went to sleep in a howling gale.
(1) Camping Richmond
- Day 7: 26 December 2003: Richmond to Orford (60km)
We left Richmond in the howling gale and had a terrible crosswind for a few km. When touring, a crosswind is worse than a headwind, because with all that stuff on the back, your bike just gets shunted across the road into whatever traffic there might be. Fortunately for us, that wasn't such a concern 5 km from Richmond on Boxing Day!
Two long and steep hills in this section of the trip and beautiful forest scenery. And then nearing Orford, which is on the coast, the road becomes very narrow (like Chapman's Peak, but not so high) and you pass through a gorge along a river. Very beautiful. This area is normally a concern with logging trucks, but luckily it was a public holiday.
The campsite at Orford was very picturesque, you camped right on the beach. Looking out you could see Maria Island, which you can take a boat to. It's a tiny island that is now a national park. We would have liked to have gone there, but, like a couple of other trips we didn't due to time constraints. We have learnt through this trip that you need a lot more time as there is lots to see. We could have done with more rest days to fit more day trips in. But, now we know for next time. We walked up towards town for some food, it's amazing - one day without shops and you just go mad!
Then, a group of scumbag teenagers pitched up to camp right opposite us. Mike had asked the caretaker if we could charge our digital camera battery, not the whole camera, just the battery, at the site, we don't get a power point because we don't need one. Then doof-doof and co. pitch up. I said to Mike he'd better fetch his battery, and as he walked over there, one guy sees the battery, unplugs it, saying "This is someone's" and sticks it in his cubby hole! Total delinquents. Then the doof-doof, and the make-shift tent, just a tarpaulin stretched out around the van and some trees, and the crates of beer being offloaded. And two little babies in the midst of all this. So Mike goes and asks Mr Caretaker if we can move to ANYWHERE else. Mr Caretaker admits they look like trouble, and we move our tent to another spot, between the road and the ablutions, but at least it's quiet. We see delinquents dragging huge branches from the beach in order to make what can only be a bonfire of sorts. Then we hear, can it be? A CHAINSAW!!! This guy whips a chainsaw out of his van to cut up branches! So it's true what mainlanders say about Tassie. All a bit "Deliverance" if you ask me. Mike says if you meet someone from Tasmania, you should ask "Are your parents blood-related? No? Oh, well then you aren't a true Tasmanian!". Too rude!
We took a walk down the beach. You get a lot of people fishing everywhere, fishing is big. There was one crew, I swear it was like a circus. There was even a dwarf. I just kept walking. That was Orford. We phoned home from Orford to say Happy Christmas to the family and at the phone box we met a guy doing the exact same ride as us, from Sydney. He was trying to phone his mom in London. So it was great meeting someone who was doing the same thing! Except he was staying in B & B's, so he had much less stuff to carry. As result he had cycled from Deloraine to Bothwell all in one day!
(1) Close to Orford (2) Camping Orford
- Day 8: 27 December 2003: Orford to Coles Bay (83km)
This was a good day, but long! We had originally planned to go as far as Swansea (52 km) and camp there, but we were going to get there too early. We cycled most of the day with Guy from Phone Booth, and it was good. At Swansea Mike phoned the Ferry Man from Coles Bay. If you take the ferry (it's a tiny boat really, Mike and I and Ferry Man and our bikes only just fit in), then you cut off about 50km going around the peninsula. Ferry Man said yes, he'll take us, but the tide's going out and we've got to be there in an hour. Fine. It's 20km on dirt road. We jumped on our bikes and went for it.
So there's me, who actually wanted a nice rest at Swansea, racing along trying to keep up with the two guys. Phone Booth Guy actually asks me once, "Is this pace okay for you?" What do you say? You don't want to be the girl! So, we get to the ferry place, Ferry Man said that he'd watch for us which he did and came zipping across, shoes off, bikes in and away we go. It couldn't have taken longer than 4 min to get across and it cost $10 each, we knew that beforehand though. I tell you what, if he'd said "No, actually it just went up to $20" we would have paid. Phone Booth Guy was charged $15! Ferry Man's wife was there with a complimentary map of the area and a towel for us to dry our feet! Nice touch I thought. But his untruth was revealed when we overheard some locals at the jetty saying "Gosh I haven't seen the water so high in ages!". Anyway, we were there and that was all. Still another 6 km to go before Cole's Bay itself.
Gosh, I was tired that day! I had never cycled 80 km in a day in my life and we'd had to race to the Ferry AND with my house on my back! We parted company with Guy from the Phone Booth in Coles Bay itself and set off in search of the campsite. He was going on to Bicheno that day, so that was a 120km cycle for him. We left him at the bakery and then cycled all the way around in a big circle in vain. We discovered that the campsite was actually just behind the bakery! It was a big place and we got the last campsite, we booked for two nights as we wanted to have a rest day there, exploring the Freycinet National Park.
We had initially considered camping at Freycinet, but when we arrived at Coles Bay we realised that it was better to be close to the town. With this kind of travelling you really don't want to have to get back on the bike and go to the shop to buy supplies. It's nice to have the little luxuries of a fridge (most campsites have campers' kitchens) so that you can buy milk, cheese and yoghurt etc. We could also wash our STINKY clothes at the campsite! It was across the road from the beach, although only the crazy kids were swimming. It is a lovely area and we spent the afternoon watching the waves.
The next morning we set off on the bikes for the national park. It was a 12 km round trip. The park is lovely with wonderful exhibits etc. We wanted to do the walk to the lookout for Wineglass Bay as it was an hour. The actual walk to Wineglass Bay was 2.5 hours return. But when we got to the lookout we had to go all the way ! You can't look down on something that beautiful and then turn around and go back! So we ended up hiking on our rest day! Typical! It was a lovely walk and very touristy. The bay was the most beautiful colour, the water so clear you could see the fish in it. That afternoon we "parked off" along the rocks overlooking the sea and relaxed!
(1) Orford to Coles Bay (2) Coles Bay
(1) Wineglass Bay
- Day 10: 29 December 2003: Coles Bay to Lagoons Beach (68km)
This was one day on a bike we would not like to repeat! We were warned that a cold front was approaching and decided to get as far along as possible. We had originally planned to camp at Bicheno, which is about 40 km from Coles Bay, on the coast. But with a howling headwind we decided to press on and see if we could make St. Helen's, which was 90km or so.
By the time we got to Bicheno it was still early, and the wind wasn't so bad, but just around the corner it hit us. What a shocker. We stopped once along the side of the road, with me in tears because it was all so CRAP. Anyway, Mike decided we would camp at a free campsite at Lagoon Beach. There are a lot of these in Tasmania and they seem well used by the locals. They are very like national parks, they have no facilities and no drinking water. Some have water for showering, which is fine for us because we can filter it for drinking.
nyway, Lagoons Beach had a long drop. That was it. We didn't care! It was about 6 km from the turnoff to St Mary's, and a beautiful stretch of road. There were a lot of people camping there, but mainly all down by the beach, so we camped up nearer the main road. It was lovely and peaceful. At these free campsites people are often allowed to bring pets and they are always well-disciplined. Then there was the issue of water. We had passed a stream just before the turn-off to St Mary's (Mike had obviously spotted it, not me!), so we hopped back on the bikes and rode there, taking the water filter and Dromedary Bag (a fantastic foldable canvas bag that can hold 10l of water). We use it often hiking especially in the Drakensberg, so you don't have to camp right at the water source. We left our bikes in the long grass at the roadside and clambered over the wire fence. The river passed under the road and was obviously frequented by cows - turd everywhere! But you've got to drink, and that's why we had the filter and chlorine tablets!
This brings me to a point I made earlier, the one and only other time that we donned our swimmers, to protect our modesty whilst washing in knee deep water under the bridge! You feel so great after a cold wash! We took turns washing and filtering the water and then got back on the bikes and cycled back to the campsite.
While sitting on our sleeping mats, alternately relaxing and jumping up every 10 min to chase the shade, who should come driving in to the campsite? Danie and family, enjoying a daytrip from Hobart to St Helen's!! It was good to see them and I was tempted to ask him to take us up to St Mary's, where they have Pancake Barn with as many kinds of pancakes you can think of. But, I have my pride! We had a good sleep there as it was very quiet. Many Aussies seem to like camping this way, they set up a HUGE CAMP, but how they stay there so long without a shower is beyond me.
Later that evening we took a walk to the beach.
(1) Camping Lagoons Beach
- Day 11: 30 December 2003: Lagoons Beach to St Helens (43km)
We looked forward to getting to St. Helen's as we were having a rest day there! It was a lovely ride to St Helen's, we stopped for a drink at a little place called Scamander. The sign outside the shop said "Thick shakes" and we asked for two. The guy behind the counter said, "The machine broke two years ago and they never got it fixed!". So we picked something else. We sat at this shelter, overlooking the beach.
The road to St. Helen's was a bit twisty towards the end, but very pleasant. And short! St Helen's is a town on the coast and the campsite was just before the town. It was very warm when we arrived and remained that way for the rest day too. We walked into town which had a very nice supermarket, very busy as it was 30 December. The next day we really relaxed and bought some magazines to read. We sat under a beautiful tree, on a grassy spot on the main street and read. At lunchtime we bought a roast chicken from the supermarket, Mike was a bit worried that we wouldn't be able to finish it. There was a fridge at the campsite, but someone had kept fresh fish in it and it HONED!! We didn't really want to put half a roast chicken in there as it might start to smell too. It turned out not to be an issue. We sat under the tree like two country bumpkins and devoured the entire thing with our hands! It was delicious. Needless to say, none of the passer's by attempted to sit on any of the vacant benches under the tree. They looked a little afraid!
That evening a woman pitched up at the site, a cycle tourist like ourselves. She came and chatted to us that evening for a long while. She was from Brisbane and single. She looked to be in her mid-40's. She had put all her stuff in storage in Brisbane, and was cycling Australia! She had already spent 2 months in Tassie, cycling all over. But she took her time, spending 4 days in each spot and doing lots of day trips. She was a lovely person, and very heavily packed too, considering she had to have her tent and all the camping things you need, even if there's only one of you, as well as bike tools etc. She said that she didn't find it too lonely, as if she wanted company, she sought it out, as she did with us, but the rest of the time she didn't have to put up with anyone else and their schedule. She was just doing the thing her way! She said that she would do South Australia next, but would first get work there to earns some money to keep going. How fantastic! Neither Mike nor I would like to do it alone though.
- Day 13: 1 January 2004: St Helens to Weldborough (46km)
This was a short day, but the book warned of a very steep climb up the Weldborough Pass, which I was dreading a bit! It was steep, but so beautiful up there! Forests of ferns, beautiful flowers, and so quiet! We were pleased to be away from the coast, as strange as that sounds to most people. The inland areas were stunning. The entire region has been preserved as an example of the original rainforest that covered most of inland Tasmania. All in all it was two steep 4km climbs. We got to the top, well, of course Mike got there first and waited to snap a picture of me!
Then it was not far to go to Weldborough. It isn't actually a town, it is a hotel and some old buildings no longer used. The hotel, well actually just a pub, is really old, it smells old, and is called "The Worst Little Pub in Tassie". It might well be! We were told we could pitch our tent out back, they had showers and toilets there. Lunch was served from 12-2 and we were the only patrons. The old guy running the place was sweet and there was also a young woman who cooked. I had sausage and eggs and bacon and Mike a burger and chips. It was really yum, farmhouse style. Then the woman got to talking. I suppose in these little country towns you just latch on to anyone who'll lend an ear. When the conversation turned to how she had dreamt of the Twin Towers exploding before it happened, that was our cue to leave.
Another couple pitched up later on a tandem bike, but they took a room, so we didn't get to talking. That evening we took a stroll and again phone family. As I stood at the phone booth while he spoke, the weirdest looking people I have ever seen pulled in and out of that pub. Longhaired men with sad-looking dogs, one had a limp. They could have been extras from some hillbilly movie! Maybe they were!
(1) The final climb before Weldborough (2) Camping Weldborough
- Day 14: 2 January 2004: Weldborough to Scottsdale (55km)
A beautiful day of cycling, some hills but not too bad. We saw two other couples along the road, also touring, but coming from Launceston.
Scottsdale had a campsite as you go into it, free camping but with facilities, showers and toilets. Behind it lay the Botanical Gardens, really pretty. There is also a stream and a pond and we were lucky enough to spot a platypus. We spent some time watching him forage for food on the pond floor.
We walked into Scottsdale to go to the supermarket, takeaway etc. The takeaway had a board up with prices for chicken and chips. So, Mike chose something and then saw a group being served hamburgers. So he thought, great, I'll have one. The lady behind the counter says, okay, but we ran out of buns, will you have it between two slices of bread? Mike thinks not! He then settled on a pie and chips. These country towns are cheap and without pretension.
There was a bit of excitement that night. We were in bed and suddenly saw an orange glow and heard a lady ask if anyone had a fire extinguisher. We poked our heads out to see a big fire, but we couldn't see what was on fire. A neighbouring camper had a blanket which he threw on the fire. The people who had the fire were a bit panicked I think. We'd laughed at them earlier as they were unpacking, you know how most people have SO MUCH STUFF, well they even brought a rake! Maybe they should have brought a fire extinguisher instead!
(1) Camping Scottsdale
- Day 15: 3 January 2004: Scottsdale to Launceston (63km)
This day was marked by a big climb after 10 km (1050523), the climb is 7 km long and is up a pass called The Sideling. Again, so beautiful! Through the forest, lovely tree ferns. At the top is the Lookout where Mike waited for me (as always!). It's amazing to look back and see where you've been. I think the climb lasted 50min, but it didn't feel that long, of course Lance and co. would take the road to pieces!
Thereafter the ride was uneventful, except for the never ending array of stinking dead creatures that litter the roadways everywhere in Tassie. Hoppers, possums even a Tasmanian Devil were spotted. Trouble is, on a bike you smell them at least 200m before you see them, all in various states of decay. And of course, they always get hit right in the shoulder of the road a.k.a. the cycling lane. I took to holding my breath. Mike would shout "It stinks hey?!!!".
As we approached Launceston you get a "glorious descent" as it's described in the book and it was glorious! Then we had to pick our way through the town to find the campsite. We ended up in this avenue with an unbelievable hill, so steep that there was a sign "Very steep ascent not suitable for heavy vehicles". Well, as far as I am concerned, that bicycle cum packhorse of mine qualifies as a heavy vehicle, so I got off right there and pushed. Mike ,of course tried to ride it and I must say got impressively far, although I wasn't pushing much slower. It was unbelievable! Anyway, we finally turned right onto a three-laned highway to find the campsite, but then realised we had to turn back. A really nice guy on a bike turned round on his ride to help us with directions. We were soon there.
The campsite was on the other end of town from the water and shops etc, so it was a long walk, but quite enjoyable. There was a takeaway place down the road and we asked what time they closed, they were open 24 hours! One wonders how much business they get, it's a tiny place!
Anyway, Launceston was a disappointment. It was quite a dump actually. We walked around a lot to try to find the attraction, but consider it sadly lacking in any redeemable qualities. Except one! The monkeys! In one of the parks they have this amazing cage full of Japanese Monkeys that are so fascinating! The enclosure is only a year or two old and replaced a previous one. Apparently they have always had monkeys in the park. There were quite a lot and they were totally at home there. I've seen a documentary on these monkeys, they're the one's who go into the natural hot springs in winter in Japan. They like water. They had a flowing stream in the cage and lots of rocky caves and rope swings. Many of the females had tiny babies and one in particular looked only a day or two old. They were amazing. We spent a long time watching them.
The parks were also really nice. That's the great thing about Australia, like those monkeys in a really first class exhibit and it's free of charge, the government pays for it. The parks are also beautiful and green. Even the public toilets wherever you go are clean and I always felt comfortable using them.
We met a very friendly girl from Berlin who had spent 4 months cycling from Darwin to Perth. She caught the bus part of the way but still clocked up 3 000 km! Unbelievable. She said you don't get the hills, but it's obviously very hot and the towns are further apart. You have to cycle 100 km a day really. She had only been in Tassie two weeks and had just decided she had had enough and wanted to go home.
There was another couple too who were from the Netherlands and had cycled from Sydney to Melbourne. That's a hell of a thing as you have to go through the alpine region (Kosciusko). And much of it is on dirt road. They were kitted out, but it had been their first cycling tour. They said they had found it very tough, as I can well imagine! They were planning to get the bus to Hobart and holiday a bit.
(1) Nearing the top of The Sideling (2) Camping in Launcestong
- Day 18: Launceston to Airport (and then back to Sydney) (12km)
Well, this doesn't even count as a ride. We got to the airport at about 9 am and our flight was only at 13h15, but what with all the packing up etc and two cappuccino's later, the time went quite quickly!
The plane took off at 13h20 and touched down in Sydney at 14h40. Amazing! Then it was unpacking again! But we left the pedals off as it would be easier hopping on and off trains! We disposed of the bike boxes and headed for the station which is in the airport about 100m from the baggage claim. Bought two tickets and only had to wait about 7 min for a train to Central. That took about 15 min and then changed trains at Central for Hornsby. All stations have lifts so we were using those to get to the platforms. So at Central we had to go up in the lift and then down to the right platform. We just made a train from Central, we ran from the lift and jumped on, bikes in tow. The conductor on the train said "Where your pedals?". The trip to Hornsby took about 50 min I suppose. All in all we were home in our unit at 17h20. So even travelling all that way, we were home in 4 hours!
So, that was our trip! Unpacking was a dream as we didn't have anything! I unpacked in about 30min. EVERYTHING went into a good wash in the machine.
Would we do it again? Yes, definitely. It's the way to see the world really. You go at a slow enough pace to really take everything in. Australia is certainly cyclist-friendly, but we are thinking that our next trip will be New Zealand, South Island.