Wow, it has been awhile since we last blogged! We spent nearly three weeks on our island state but various events prevented us from being as diligent as usual about documenting our journey:
Steve was somewhat exhausted from the incredible endurance required to complete the Tour de Tasmanie; my 90 year old Dad finally succumbed to a long illness and so our trip was punctuated with flights to and from Sydney (luckily I was able to spend some time with Dad before he passed, and we could both attend the funeral); on happier notes, we spent time in Hobart with longtime friends from our schooldays, Mark and Leah and Leah’s mum Kathy; Steve’s brother Tim joined us for the last week of our tour and on our last night we caught up with my cousin Vicki (who I haven’t seen since I was 16) and her husband Phil in Launceston.
To make for easier reading, we are breaking up this blog into three parts, so please, read on!
Week 12: Melbourne – Devonport – Hobart; Tour de Tasmanie begins
Day 75 Melbourne – Devonport
We booked the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Devonport months in advance, so it was exciting for the day of departure to finally to arrive. An early start was required as it takes quite some time to corral all the vehicles, which includes checking for disallowed food-stuffs and removing any gas bottles from the cars and vans. Once on board we settled in for the long journey across Bass Straight in what one can only describe as comfortable luxury! Various seating areas are scattered over three decks with eateries, bars, reading and gaming rooms as well as two small theaters showing recently released films.
Leaving around 9 am we had about 9 hrs to fill in – starting with breakfast. Luckily we had glorious sunny weather and smooth seas and could enjoy eating, reading, chatting and wandering the various decks untroubled by what could be a very unpleasant experience under different weather conditions (we heard from some other Audax riders that just a couple of days later it was not nearly such smooth sailing!) Towards the end of the day we headed to one of the movie theatres to watch ‘Joy’ – I won’t give a detailed run down on the movie, which is basically a feel good rags to riches despite the setbacks style of story, and does star the ‘it’ girl of the moment, Jennifer Lawrence, but we didn’t find the movie all that uplifting , and felt that it didn’t live up to its name (yes, it was the lead protagonists name, but I/we were hoping that the film name was indicative of the content!)
Ah well, not long after we had arrived at Devonport and it was time to return to the car and prepare for the disembarkation routine that included collecting our gas bottles before heading just around the corner to the Abel Tasman Caravan Park for our first night off the mainland. This is my first experience of the island state, not so for Steve who lived here as a young lad in Savage River when his dad was engineer at the iron ore mine there, had hitched around it with a mate when he was 16 and visited in-laws when they lived here in the 90s. The caravan park was pretty unexciting, not surprising as it seems to be a stopover mainly for travellers either getting off the ferry each evening or waiting to board the early morning departure. Hence we went on an exploratory tour around the Mersey river and over to Mersey Bluff where we found a delightful restaurant recently taken over by an architect and enjoyed a delicious meal looking across Bass straight.
Day 76 Devonport to Bracknell
As Steve was riding we chose to take back roads that fairly closely followed Highway 1 to Hobart. The alternatives were generally charming country roads with little traffic and that wandered through small villages and towns such as Railton, Town of Topiary. After Steve set off I spent a few hours doing an oil pastel rendering of Mersey Bluff, then followed a route that would take me a similar way to his.
It was good riding for Steve and he arrived in Bracknell well ahead of me and waited in the pub until I arrived – important to rehydrate after all! By the time I arrive he had everything sussed for a beautiful free camping area down by Liffey River.
Once we had unhooked the pod and set up the solar panels we headed off for some sight-seeing at the nearby Liffey Falls – spectacular, at last a waterfall with a decent amount of water (see main pic at the top)! I was, however, rather freaked out by the steep gravel roads that several people seemed to speed along with little regard for the ravines that the roads edged onto – I insisted Steve take it very slowly to keep my anxiety at bay. It was worth it though, the forest and falls provided a lovely introduction to the amazing landscapes of Tasmania.
Day 77 Bracknell to Oatlands
Another day of riding for Steve, and although it was drizzly and windy at times, the wind for once was favourable (it seems a rare thing that the wind is going in a helpful direction so far on this trip!) After he set off I drove a little way in search of a suitable vista to paint using gouache – I was quickly rewarded with a lovely view across the pastures with mountain ranges in the distance just around the corner. One of the difficulties is finding spots that are inspiring and where I can park with pod in tow. It is helpful to have a table or at least somewhere to put my paints etc, but sometimes I just have to make do with one of our foldup chairs. Today was one such day, and after getting easel, chair, paints, water, brushes and so forth across the road set up finally got on with painting.
After a while a group of cyclists stopped by to chat – yes, they had seen Steve and were interested in our story, but soon were on their way as they were battling the rather strong headwind – the wind that finally convinced me to finish up as it was blowing my easel over and generally making life difficult! As the sky became progressively more overcast I set off to find Steve who had stopped off in another delightful village, Tunbridge, that had its monthly market on in the church hall. What a find – they were doing fabulous meals and snacks at incredibly cheap prices, so we made the most of it. I also snaffled a bargain with a calf length black woollen coat for $20 and which assuaged my fears of getting too cold in the variable Tassie climate. Tunbridge was one of the coach stopovers in previous times and has a beautiful old bridge taking you off the main highway into town, and even has an old coach on show.
When planning this leg of the trip I had noted down a rest area just outside of Oatlands, Saint Peters Pass Rest Area – it looked lovely, and had an amazing array of topiary (it seems popular in Tassie) but was not really suitable for setting up camp and way too noisy, so we continued on to Oatlands where we found a beautiful spot down on Lake Dulverton and near to the working flour mill. We had been pre-warned of the abundance of old sandstone buildings and were not disappointed, however we left sightseeing for the morning as it was rather cold, windy with rain threatening so we repaired to one of the pubs to catch up on blogging.
Day 78 Oatlands to Hobart
A part of the well known strategy of ‘the taper’, Steve elected to join me in the car for the last leg of our journey to Hobart. This meant we had plenty of time for sight-seeing including a gentle ride part way around Lake Dulverton. It is a rather marshy lake that didn’t have much water as Tassie has been suffering quite a dry spell, though not as dry as it has been in the past when locals discovered many interesting tools and farming machinery from bygone days and which now are scattered around the lake edge with infographics to read. As we rode the bike path we were lucky to get a close up view of a couple of Wedgetails hunting. Oh, and there were some topiary animals lakeside as well!
I was not feeling 100% so had a day off from art making (sadly not the only one for our Tasmanian leg…), but sent Steve off to photograph my chosen subject – the old Flour Mill, though the lake would also make an excellent subject. I am determined I will create works for all the places I miss on the way once we return to Perth – we always make sure there is plenty of reference material to work with by taking lots of photos on various devices.
After wandering around town for a while we set off for Hobart where we had planned to have as our base for over a week (though for part of the time Steve would be gone while doing his mad Audax tour). However, it was while we were in Oatlands that we found out about my father’s turn for the worse so decided I would fly to Sydney in a few days to visit Dad in Gosford and while Steve was riding. We got to our caravan park near to Risdon, about 10 km out of Hobart city centre in the afternoon and after setting up headed for Salamanca for a late lunch and a bit of a wander to familiarise ourselves with meeting places for ride participants.
Days 79-80 Hobart
After dealing with domestic requirements we headed back into town to take in the Tasmanian Gallery and Museum, ensure Steve had all the bike spares required for his upcoming tour, stock up on some more art materials (you can never have enough!), get glasses repaired and purchase an awning to attach to the roof racks in preparation for the trip further north (hoping that it would prove an easier setup for me of the arthritic hands than the shade tent!)
Once back at camp we were joined by our friend Mark who was also doing the Tour de Tasmanie and wanted to check some last minute repairs to his bike were in order, so rode over from where he was staying for a beer or two. We were treated to some interesting weather – freezing winds, but it was quite warm when sun peaked through the clouds. There was even snow falling on Mt Wellington.
The next day was sunnier so we set off in the morning to have a look at the view from Mt Wellington – spectacular! A long and winding road that Steve was happy did not feature in the upcoming Audax event. Later he rode into town for the all important bike check and I was picked up by friend Leah (another long suffering Audax widow) and her mum Kathy to meet up with the boys and do a bit more sight seeing in central Hobart. Later we all attended the traditional night-before carb loading repast at an Italian restaurant. Then it was back for an early night as Steve would be heading off around 5am, while I was being picked up by Leah around 7am to go to the airport for my flight to Sydney. Steve will tell you all about his tour experience…
Day 81 Tour of Tasmanie begins
All too quickly 5am came around and 29 starters primed with coffee and pastry from the nearby 24hr bakery left the Whaler Hotel in Salamanca for a 1200km 90hr anti-clockwise circuit of the Apple Isle. Stage 1 was 356km in length, offered 4,155m of climbing with equal measures of pain and cursing. First check and refuel point was the lovely seaside town of Orford – no time to look about the town however: after a quick coffee and snack Mark and I headed northwards, hugging the coast most of the way to St Helens, our next check point. On the way we passed by the convict built ‘spiky’ bridge and the fishing villages of Triabunna, Swansea and Bicheno.
We arrived in St Helens late afternoon and Andrew, the ride organizer, seemed to take great delight in telling us that there was only a hundred or so more kilometers to go, but that we had climbed about 2000m and there was only 2000m more in front of us….great news for the already tired legs!
More re-fueling then back in the saddle heading westward and inland toward our destination for the night, Scottsdale. As the sun set and the temperature plummeted, we came across a large field with many small fires burning lighting up the night in a most unexpected way. Stopping to take some photographs a sign on the fence made it clear this was an opium poppy farm disposing of the debris from a recent harvest. The sign warned passers by not to experiment with any of the crop as people doing so in the past have died from various concoctions they have tried to brew up from the poppies. As an aside, Tasmania is responsible for more than half of the world’s legal poppy crop providing the raw material for the manufacture of painkillers, but the industry is facing challenges, both due to recent deaths and other states changing their legislation to enable farmers to grow poppies for the pharmaceutical market.
Mark and I pedalled onwards and upwards at an ever slowing pace due to our exhaustion and the extreme chill in the air and were very relieved to arrive at Scottsdale for a much needed meal, shower and sleep at about 11pm. We would need to rise at about 4:15 the next day for another 5am departure.