Hobart (via Richmond) to Copping
We said farewell to Hobart, the capital of Australia’s island state, where houses tiered the hills that rolled right down to the sea. We cycled on the bike paths along the estuary of the River Derwent and headed east over the bridge: no, not the main A-road bridge because this only had a very narrow lane for pedestrians/cyclists, which only reminded us how wide our backsides are.
A long, gentle climb eased us up and away from the city, giving us views over the upcoming countryside. Our first stop landed us in Richmond: a quaint little village where Australia’s oldest surviving bridge seduces tourists to come and see a pretty little bit of history.
On the final stretch to our host, while Will was singing about Maid Marian, a car pulled up alongside us as we cycled. Will’s singing stopped abruptly when the man shouted his name. For a couple of minutes, the car slowed it’s speed down to ours and a lot of loud instructions and exaggerated pointing told me that he must be our host!
Within minutes of meeting our host in the more normal and stationary way, he instructed us to eat the ice-creams in the freezer (because otherwise he would end up eating them and this would be bad and certainly annoy his partner), and demonstrated the art of yumminess: cream and homemade jam on bread, and lots of it. That evening, we enjoyed beating our host and his partner at pool, despite the (friendly) abuse we received about being ‘Pommy bastards’. Though Will’s most memorable part of the evening was helping to cull some redundant roosters – he seemed thrilled to experience first-hand that the bodies of chickens do actually continue to run around once their heads have been detached.
Copping to Cape Raoul
We cycled around Marion Bay before heading to Port Arthur via Eaglehawk Neck – this ‘Neck’ is a thin isthmus that connects the Tasman Penisular. When the British Empire built a prison at Port Arthur, this isthmus formed a natural barrier to stop convicts from escaping…if they had successfully escaped from the prison. We visited the Port Arthur historic site next to the coast, with the deep blue ocean glistening in the background: not the worst place to be imprisoned.
We cycled on to Cape Raoul, where we stayed for a couple of nights and did a trail run along one of Tasmania’s Great Walks, taking us along the cliffs to see dolerite columns and a seal colony.
This was our first proper off-road, get-mucky, thorns-scratching-bare-skin trail run through forest and scrub, up and over rocks and roots, where, by the end, you come running out of the woodland, panting and in shock, looking like you’ve been attacked by nature itself. For the part where I was running in front along a narrow track, my face was completely engulfed when I ran straight into a head-height spider web full of cocooned flies – which were now in my eyes, up my nose and in my mouth. I thought I had repressed this memory, but Will’s journal serves to remind me.
In the afternoon, we walked to Shipstern Bluff, and soon forgot about forgetting our camping stove (no cuppa for us!) when we saw how big the waves were and how explosive they were when they smashed onto the rocks. Apparently this place is globally-renowned for its dangerous surf…the waves did indeed look pretty menacing!
Cape Raoul to Copping
We took a different route back to the Eaglehawk Neck isthmus by cycling up and over the hills to Nubeena, with the coast by our side. Coincidentally, as we pedalled through the forest, we spotted a what we think was a wedge-tailed eagle perched on a low-hanging branch. As we got closer, it clumsily spread its wings and lifted itself into the air with much effort. With two crows as guardians, the eagle sailed over to a neighbouring tree. We parked our bikes and tried to approach it in a stealthier manner on foot, but the crows were on high alert and sounded the alarm. This particular little family of three took off out of view.
Copping to Mayfield Beach
We had a plan: we were going to get up very early in order to catch a ferry for a day trip over to Maria Island. It was the perfect plan – the ferry sailed on this particular day, and we had an extra day to play with before we had to leave. Maria Island is a National Park with lots of wildlife and the ‘painted cliffs’. Tasmania Devils were also brought over to the island as a way to protect them from the facial tumour disease which was spreading through the population on the mainland.
Well, we got up early enough, we just didn’t bank on the clay road we were going to have to trudge through in order to get there. The short of it was that, cycling through the treacle slowed us down…too much…and as we cycled parallel to the harbour, we had to wave at the ferry as it departed, without us on it. In the hope that this wasn’t the one, we continued to the port, but we knew that the alarm this morning was for nothing. Still, we headed off with a new plan and settled for a lovely camping spot next to the sea, where our evening entertainment was watching other travellers reverse their caravans with 27-point turns and Will making a roaring fire. Two older gents drove off in their car to collect ‘better, dry firewood’ as nothing around here was ‘suitable’, yet Will dragged back some trees from nearby and had a fire going before they had returned. Winner.
We said goodnight to the moonlight over the sea.
Mayfield Beach to River and Rocks
A beautiful glow of sunlight woke us, and we cycled off in shorts and t-shirt to the horror of our neighbour in the motorhome. We had picnic on ‘Devil’s Corner’ and appreciated the marvellous view over Coles Bay.
We cycled along the Esplanade to admire the glistening sea before accidentally burning popcorn on the fire at our next campsite and being captivated by a giant spider trying to escape from his burning house (a big chunk of wood now burning to keep our feet warm). As his feet were now too warm, the spider made a dash for it at Will, who then catapulted it with a twig into the grass away from us.
River and Rocks to Friendly Beaches
To jazz things up, we bought a pass for the Freycinet National Park, left our bikes at the start of the track and completed a trail run of the Hazards Circuit, taking in Wineglass Bay and Isthmus Beach, with white quartz sand and glistening water.
We cycled back to the Information Centre, where we had stored our luggage, had a sneaky shower, and then bumped into another cycle tourist, from New Zealand, who was spending his 2-week break from work cycling around Tasmania!
Though only a short distance to our next camp site at, Friendly Beaches, we were greeted by a very friendly wallaby who kept us company until the sun set.
Friendly Beaches to St Helens
St Helens was beautiful but the best thing was meeting a sweet older couple who let us camp on their lawn with the chickens. We sat by the log fire, talking about all of the splendid walking to be done in New Zealand, and found out that the gentleman was a botanist responsible for the discovery of new species, and had a plant named after him!
St Helens to Gladstone
We woke to a gorgeous sunrise and when we left, we were given lots of fresh veg from the garden and fresh eggs from the chooks. To avoid the inevitable mess (and nasty smell) a broken egg would create in our bag, we boiled the eggs and left St Helens very happy.
We cycled along the coast to the Bay of Fires and stopped at a pristine beach. We must have been so excited about the eggs that we forgot to pick up our plastic colourful mugs. Some creative thinking was in order, and in no time at all, I sat drinking from the stove pan and Will was drinking from a glass jam jar. Oh the jam jar coffee cup will soon be the hipster’s choice of beaker.
We turned off after reaching ‘The Gardens’ and cut across back inland (or rather up and over a hill). Fire trail and gravel road meant zero traffic, and tonight was the last camp in Australia – in a park under a street lamp wasn’t quite how we had imagined it, but hey, we had survived out in the wilderness and dodged all the snakes and spiders and creepy crawlies and crocs. It really isn’t scary at all.
Gladstone to Bridport
Although the wind did it’s best to try to stop us, we made it to Bridport and were greeted by our lovely host and his dog. With enough energy to expend, I ran along the Historic Trail trying to spot seals in the sea and then relaxed in the beach shack, where we ate dinner…with a metal knife and fork…sitting at a table. It felt pretty novel.
Bridport to Launceston
We pedalled fast to keep the warmth in our toes. The frost on the grass glistened when we set off, but the sun soon thawed us. We were staying with the same host (and his dog and his wife) who also had a place in Launceston. They were a terrific, outdoorsy couple who took us on a tour of the town and showed us how to make pasta!
Launceston to Devonport
Getting out of Launceston was steeeeeeeeeep. There was a point when I looked up and instantly got off my bike, shaking my head at what was before me: it must have been a 24% gradient. I could barely push my bike up this thing.
Still, we stopped at a lovely little village called Williamstown, and then finally made it back to the same picnic spot where we originally embarked on our loop of Tasmania. We were very proud of each other and so happy that the weather had been kind to us. Tonight, we caught the night ferry back to Melbourne, where our flight to New Zealand was waiting for us.
Our adventures in Australia were coming to an end; and on reflection, they had been better and more diverse than what we had expected.
It was now time to think about the land of the long white cloud…
Posted by Lindsay