Devonport to Somerset
With time to spare before our flight to New Zealand, we decided that the best option was to battle the rubbish weather surrounded by dramatic scenery – against the advice of a lot of locals who warned that Tasmania weather would be ferocious at this time of year, it still being mid-winter. With our ferry tickets booked we headed off for the overnight ferry from Melbourne to Devonport. Just before boarding, so we didn’t have to pay for over-priced ferry food, we tucked into our cheap and simple meal for the night whilst sat outside of the ferry terminal on a bench surrounded by the flickering lights from the fancy ferry feeling a little like hobo’s – with only the tent we call home!
After a rough night’s sleep on uncomfortable chairs, we departed the warmth of the ferry and entered the cold dark morning of our first taste of Tasmania – it was more than fresh, had we made the right choice of coming here in the depths of winter?
The sun was rising, and so was the temperature as we cycled along the coast towards Somerset, a small town on the north coast. The start was hilly, as we had expected but soon flattened out as we followed the coast, and the turquoise sea shimmered in the sunlight.
Things were looking good and we were pleased with our decision. We then cruised into the town of Burnie, and almost choked to death. Australia has had a remarkably low number of smokers, it seems pretty much no one smokes. Except in Burnie. Perhaps it was not just the prisoners who were sent to Tasmania, and is now a refuge for the choking habit of smoking cigarettes.
Somerset to Lake Barrington
Tasmania is hilly. We have been told this many times, almost warned about the fact. Happily pedalling along following crystal clear rivers, enticingly ebbing and flowing and screaming for a line to be cast into the water in search of hungry trout, we were oblivious to just how many hills we would be pedalling up today.
With time on our hands, and no commitments we decided to gamble with a road sign. The road we wanted to take, the road that would ensure we had a shorter and flatter day and generally easier day, this road had a sign stating “ROAD CLOSED – LOCAL ACCESS ONLY”. A quick look at the map showed that the road wasn’t that long, and with our previous research we knew it was a flat(ish) road that would take us to the next path to follow. We ignored the sign. The road wound it’s way up. And up. And up. “Lindsay…didn’t Google say this road was flat?” The further we went, the higher we got, and the more we dreaded having to turn back due to a road closure. It must just be road works that we could sneakily bypass. Finally, upon reaching the top of the climb, we could see the road ahead… and the lack of it. With the recent storms, the river had flooded, surged …and taken out the bridge crossing the river.
With a hint of sarcasm in our laughter, we turned round, and descended the long winding hill we had just climbed.
Lake Barrington to Quamby Corner
Grinding up the first hill, welcoming it slightly so as it would warm us up, our bikes were firmly set in granny gear mode. Lindsay’s bike decided this was a good gear ratio, and as soon as an attempt was made to change into a higher gear, the cable snapped. Granny gear it was then.
The first town was Sheffield, a small settlement, dotted with sporadic murals covering the walls of houses, shops and even a park area with more thought out displays of the random artwork.
No bike shop here, as we guessed, so a bit of a bodge-job was done (one that I was very proud of) so that Lindsay could change gear. With her gears now shifting as smoothly as the day we bought the bikes, we settled into granny gear for the hills!
We adjusted our route and headed to Deloraine, a much bigger town that surely would have a bike shop in order to purchase new cables. Tricked again, a big town in Australia doesn’t necessarily mean that anything is actually there. Apart from a refuse site. We were informed that there are bikes-a-plenty there so we might just find an old bike with a cable to spare – so off we went to scavenge through a rubbish dump. Surely no one now will stop and ask us about our travels and make comments such as – “wow, you must have a lot of money…”
I was kind of glad that we didn’t find anything of use in the dump, our bikes deserved better than that, and I was sure that my professional bodge would hold up.
Our weary legs finally made it to the comfort of Quamby Corner campsite, run by a lovely couple from England. They gathered up some firewood, showed us the kettle, and we watched the stars appear in front of a cosy fire with a fresh brew.
Quamby Corner to Miena
With Quamby Bluff looking over us we had a big climb ahead. Ascending up onto the Central Plateau in mid-winter was a fresh and chilly route option, but the climb warmed us up. As the sun rose higher in the sky, so our legs pedalled us higher up the mountain. Rather than the sun warming things up, the higher we got, the colder it got and we were soon roaming through snow covered landscapes. Nearby is an Antarctic Training Centre; used to help acclimatise personnel to the cold before they head off to the Antarctic. Safe to say it was feeling pretty nippy.
This was also the place of many rare ‘Pencil Pine’ trees, small pointy conifers standing frozen in the mountain panorama surrounded by a plethora of colourful alpine heathland.
Miena was a strange town, dotted with tin shacks that look deserted. The great lakes are great for trout fishing so a lot are holiday homes for fisherman, the rest occupied by a particular kind of person…
A local man started a sentence with “I don’t know how much you know about snow, but…”
After a sentence started like that I want an interesting fact that I probably wouldn’t know about snow. This didn’t happen. Instead we got told that snow often gets compacted then slippery. I’m not sure how little he thought we knew about snow. But I was certainly expecting a better fact than that.
Miena to Bethune Park
The roads out of Miena took us to somewhere empty, lonely and desolate – it felt like we have the Central Plateau all to ourselves, and it was great. We stopped to watch the water meander down underneath sheets of ice covering the rocks.
There was a peaceful quiet as we wound down through the shadow of the forest…until we saw our first echidna and skidded to a halt in delight as we watched it curl up into a ball to protect itself!
We whizzed down some great descents, and got time to reflect on them as we trundled back up. Just as our legs were tiring, we turned off the main road and took a bridge over the lake and spotted our first platypus.
Bethune Park to Hobart
We woke up in a cloud of thick fog, but within an hour, the sun had burst through and we were in shorts and tshirt again. This weather was the complete antithesis of what we were expecting of Tasmania – in winter!
We followed the river towards Hobart and hopped onto the rail trail to take us all the way into city. We headed first for MONA – the Museum of Old and New Art – an art gallery created by David Walsh, a professional gambler who seems to have many interesting stories and myths told about him. We arrived, and found it was closed. Oh well, odd art galleries aren’t really our type of thing anyway.
With less than a kilometre to go, we fell into the trap of thinking the hills were over…when we turned the corner to find a bloody great bump in the land. After a final, painful push, we made it to our host’s house and enjoyed our view overlooking the city and out over the sea. We liked Hobart for its character, charm and history.
With Hobart as our base, we embarked on an overnight excursion to the South Arm in search of the Southern Lights – here apparently has very little or no light pollution.
We found a secluded beach to pitch our tent, watched some crazy locals surf the icy waters, and kept their dog company while it was waiting on the shore. Though tonight was not the night for the Aurora Australis, watching the stars fill the sky and looking to the horizon knowing that Antarctica was beyond was still worth staying up for.
Posted by Will