Cycling Tasmania

First of all, our mate took his drone on this trip: check out the results ! https://www.facebook.com/510433652440037/videos/597807060369362/

Sunday 31st January 2016:

I am looking over a sprawling mess of lycra clad limbs, red panniers, drink bottles, corn chip crumbs and sleep filled faces. The boat is swaying like beer being sloshed in a glass. I think we are hallway between Melbourne and Devonport, despite a frenzied morning rush. The Keyser girls, Brodie and Tom went to a party in Nar Nar Goon last night, while Annie, Anneliese, Gui and I packed our panniers and ate warming soup followed by delicious showers and soft, safe mattresses. We all ignored our alarms this morning and woke at 5am, slid into riding pants and cleats for the first time for some of us, whacked a head torch on the helmet and wheeled into the darkness, looking silently hardcore. Until we got to the end of the driveway and Hollie stacked. Cleats take some getting used to. On we pedaled in the pitch black, smashing out ten kilometres before 6am. Tom met us at the station and we all jumped on, ticketless and hoping for the best in all respects. I opened my phone to check our ferry itinerary for the first time in months and almost choked on my Up n Go. I had booked Gui and I for one week later. I thought, I truly thought, I had amended the date but clearly I stuffed up. Before Gui could kill me, Georgia climbed over our legs and snuck up to a sleeping Brodie. We looked on amused as the train doors opened and Georgia’s mum appeared with her phone and wallet that’s she had left on the bench in the house before we left. She was trying to keep her mistake a secret but it got out just like mine. The train ran late and Gui, Georgia and I pushed it hard to make it to the ferry terminal to find out whether we would be able to rectify my dumb blonde moment with a truck full of tears. The tears weren’t required, but a bunch of hard-earned summer job money was. The rest of the crew arrived after two more falls, panniers that fell in mud and a runaway cleat peddle that decided to completely detach itself from Hollies crank. Pink shirted and pink faced, we marched onto the spirit of Tasmania half asleep and pinching ourselves that the adventure is actually going ahead. We sprawled the maps of Tassie across our makeshift onboard camp and have drafted a rough plan. Some mighty mountains await us in the first few days. Last week there were 80 fires across the state, sparking concern for our plans. Never fear though, a heap of rain has just dumped itself on Tasmania, inducing flood warnings. We would all prefer to drown than sizzle, so spirits are high.

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Jeeeesus that looks a bit bumpy!

Tuesday 2nd Feb; Devonport to Sheffield 50km to Iris River 66km

I’m listening to the gushing iris river, while canned tuna and cooing gas fills my nose and the evening sun burns the smile onto my face. We got off the ferry at Devonport to a picture perfect sky and handed our panniers over to our very first host in Tasmania. Julia is the mother of Oscar, my best friends husband. We found our way to their farmhouse, following a gorgeous river path that was just a taster of what is to come. We slept inside Julia’s sons place full of barbecued meat and generosity while the Rottweiler’s guarded our pack of bikes. Our first day of riding was a huge success. Leaving the small city of Devonport in our wake, we hit the stillness of forests only interrupted by our panting. The sun burned strong, and as much as everyone knew the first days would be tough, it was a start reminder. We lay on the concrete of Railton eating left over sausages and checked out the hilariously dismal Topiary gardens that characterise the tiny town. Hollies infamous bike went downhill from Railton. The panniers died and then a crank broke off completely. There weren’t many options but for someone to ride one footed. Earlier in the morning, Gui had been telling me how keen she was to ‘destroy Tasmania’ after all her summer training, and her prayers had just been answered. We had about ten kilometres to go, and I swear she qualified for the para-Olympics. We all heaved and spat an swore with two legs, and there she was killing it with one. I think I’ll get her autograph.

This summer I made the decision to replace my old faithful Specialised, Pos. I bought her when I was 16, and a have ridden through 20 countries and shared unforgettable times with her. But it was time to move on, and I lashed out on one of the best touring bikes in the world, a Vivente Gibb. Dad researched bikes like a madman and spent a few hours on the phone to Noel, the designer of Vivente bikes. Noel is also an intrepid adventurer and legend who has toured India over twenty times. I gave him a call the other day and it turned out he was unpacking his bike at Devonport and riding down to his Tasmanian farm for the week. The stars aligned and I called him once we rolled into the small town of Sheffield to wait for our host for the night, the maker of my bicycle. Bike lover Brodie could hardly contain himself. Either could I. A noticeably tall, slim and sinewy man on a very familiar Vivente bicycle rolled up to meet us. Over his latte, he told us stories and opinions that put our respect for him through the roof. We followed Noel to his farm, which involved a one legged Gui being supported by Noel’s huge hand up the final hill of the day. Linda and Noel’s Tasmanian cabin has a sprawling view of the magnificent mount Roland, complete with lambs coming to the fence to welcome us in. Tom pulled out his drone and impressed Noel with this wild bit of kit we have been carrying (to be more specific, Brodie has been lugging it around the whole time ;)). We set up camp amongst the walnut farm, showered away the dirty parts of the day and gathered in the shed to watch genius Noel tweak every single one of our nine bikes. Brodie and Gui were in bike fixing workshop practicality increasing heaven. I listened as hard as I could but went inside to discuss Linda’s next European holiday. I am a bike enthusiast for the fact it gets you around with your legs, but I wish I had more appreciation for how that works. We have some serious bike novices on the trip. Anneliese called the grease on her leg ink, Annie didn’t know what a spare tube is, I can’t count the amount of stacks the group have racked up with their new cleats, some of the girls can’t remember the last time they own bikes, let alone ridden more than six kilometres in a day. Noel set up hollies bike with a new crank and we were in business again. The sunset put on an Oscar performance for us while we sipped our red and ate farm fresh bolognaise and homegrown rhubarb. We were farewelled after sampling Noel’s honey with breakfast and given many cycling tips. The experience turned out to be surreal for me and I’m sure I will see him again along the road. We are extremely different people; one 63 years old, wealthy, practical and calculating, the other 23, wild, fast, impractical and happy go lucky. However, the energy within us couldn’t be more alike. We set off with raindrops soothing our burnt skin and mysterious clouds shrouding mout Roland. Today has been long, challenging and enlivening for most of the group. We sped past farmland and camouflaged sheep in dry paddocks on the morning hills. There was one extra large valley that we seemed to fly down into forever. The signs demanding 15km per hour around the hairpin turns were actually necessary. I stopped to take photos on one of the turns and watched Annie spin her bike out on the wet corner but somehow stay on, graze-free. What goes down must come up, and we met with a steep, curved 5km mountain into the town of Moina. It was the kind of climb that quote from someone in the group, ‘if you had a gun you’d just kill yourself’. We are really diving into the deep end at the beginning of the trip. Many laughs were had today, we lunched under a shady tree and pushed on toward cradle mountain. The terrain changes dramatically with altitude, and we were in fern filled, moss covered, dappled light goodness one minute, and shadows plains with sunburnt trees the next. Our campsite is set amongst a tree graveyard. For kilometres, we can’t work out if it was fires or logging, but the only trees that have grown back are like twisting, disfigured skeletons. It is reminiscent of the elephant graveyard in the lion kin; the horizontal trunks as white as bone. Anneliese and I just sat by that flowing Iris River watching Brodie fish as the skeleton silhouettes faded into darkness. I feel extremely happy.

Friday 5th of February 2016: Iris River- Tullah (55km) – Strahan (90km)

We woke to rain at Iris river, shook ourselves ready and pedaled the few clicks to Cradle Mountain Village. Coffee with sweetened condensed milk warmed our bellies and we caught a free shuttle to Dove Lake. Cradle Mountain itself was shrouded in heavy mist and throwing sheets of water at our rainbow jacketed group. We trekked to Marion’s Point Lookout, threading our way past glass lakes and the black pearl of Cradle Mountain lake with its vertical slabs of encasing rock wall. After happy snaps dancing with clouds, we trundled back down and that’s when the sun decided to open its eyes on Cradle Mountain.

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Cradle Mountain
Tom sent his drone for a reccy and we had picture perfect views from Dove Lake. With its series of jagged peaks, it looks like the resting place of some prehistoric giant. Back on the bikes the group were smashing it; ploughing the ever changing greenery seemingly in preparation for the Tour de France. An exceptionally designed theme park ride captured us for the afternoon until G got stung by a wasp under her eye. Her beautiful Spanish skin didn’t save her, and a few days on it has blown up to almost completely close her eye. We screamed for joy to see a pub in Tullah, and screeched to a stop to pour some sparkling gold into our pumping bodies. We set up camp by the river and returned for a pub meal and more beer, neglecting bike maintenance, stretching and hydration . From my tent in the middle of the night, I saw a frenzy of flashing lights, voices and cars. Listening intently, I heard a van door open, and items being carried. The next day I discovered that most of the group had been listening in, sure that murderers had discovered our quiet spot and getting the shovels and axes ready. I couldn’t handle the suspense anymore, and stuck my upper body out of the tent to watch two slim men taking pillows and camping gear out of their van. I shouted out to them, and they told me ‘the pub closed so we are camping here’, then set up a mere metre from Annie and Anneliese’s tent. From all the space they could have chosen to camp, they decided to late night gate crash our party. I was still convinced they were rapist bike thieves, and it took ages to fall asleep again.

We got our revenge in the morning, waking at dawn to pack. Rolling out of tiny Tasmanian Tullah in heavy fog with frozen fingers, G drove by in a workman’s ute screaming and yelling. She decided to get a lift up the significant Mount Black and scourge for some antihistamines for breaky. Our early morning workout zigzagging up mother natures version of Body Attack class had us all buzzing. Zooming down the other side, a car sat behind me the entire way, secretly wishing he was doubling on the bike. Road kill is abundant here and characterizes one of the main smells of this island. We also see live animals sometimes. Wallabies, echidnas, way too many bees, and road signs for wombats which we hope to run into soon.

We lunched out the front of IGA in Zeehan, too desperate for food to take our picnic to a park or paddock. Mi goring and cabbage all the way for G and I. We haven’t resorted to Spam yet; but I can see that happening to myself in the coming cycling years. Larger supermarkets are few and far between in the west, which is something we need to be conscious of. We truly are a world away from Europe, where you never bother to carry snacks or more than a litre of water. Onward from Zeehan we had the wind in our face, and stuck together in a long line of nine using the slipstream and playing Chinese whispers. Blackberry bushes rewarded us at the peak of long, sweaty mountains, and we waved at foreign cyclists speeding past us on a road so narrow and steep we shouldn’t have taken our fingers off the handlebars. Coming over a ridge, we spotted the ocean and rode to the biggest dunes in Australia. The contrast between white sandy plains and neon green requires sunglasses and a camera. The dunes are so high we were in line with the treetops. With the sun still high in the sky, we arrived in Strahan, the most south westerly town in Tasmania.

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Strahn – Quuenstown (42km) – Derwent Bridge (90km)

I packed up like a magician so I could get time to write. Anneliese is scrubbing a plate, spreading ripples across the slowly moving river. The birds are singing like wild and Brodie just threw in a line to see if the fish had stirred yet. The white and blue fairy floss is reflecting in the river, along with the bushy branches of tall eucalypts. The trees on these plains are part of the Gordon-Franklin World Heritage Site, and riding through such a pristine environment yesterday afternoon after a hardcore slog of a day brought a tear to my eye. The eucalypts are so precious and pure, so safe and comfortable in this pocket of protection. Their only enemy is fire, and yesterday we saw how they regenerate from that. The pastel pink, grey, yellow and white painting of swirls on the trunks are my new favorite view. Our 42km famed uphill stretch from Strahan to Queenstown began late in the morning. We slept in from bellies full of BBQ – again. We had borrowed am egg flip from the caravan next door and Hollie promptly broke it. We were in hysterics for hours trying to decide what to tell the owner. At one point we melted the plastic together and smothered it in superglue – to no avail. G went to the pharmacist about her eye and we set off, with everyone warning us about the treacherous inclines that lay ahead. At IGA we picked up a new addition for the day – Welshman Mark. He is solo touring Tasmania and has never done anything like it before. We pumped up the mountains in our growing line until Brodie realized that Grace’s tire was swaying from side to side. One broken spoke meant offloading her panniers to G, Georgia and I, to soften the pressure on the wheel. The ride was beautiful, comfortable and never too steep. Because of all the mining, we think the road gods zig zagged their way up the mountains, otherwise big loads wouldn’t make it. The microclimate here changes rapidly, and G swore we were in Africa at some points, with mulberry and marone grasses, huge tussocks and sparse bunches of trees. The land transformed closer to Queenstown, with the skin ripped off and scalped from mining ventures. The blood red rock underneath is an appalling site. We spent the afternoon in Queenstown, while Grace and G got a lift to the tip for an old bike with a spoke to spare. We shopped for four days worth of food, which is super fun. The favorite new food of the group is Deb, cheap and nasty instant mashed potato. G and Brodie found a geriatric cycling mechanic and he managed to expose the wrong bearings, lose a part and put the wheel on incorrectly while very slowly telling stories all the while. During all of this, the rest of the group had been spotted by the raucous Queenstown Angels, a mismatch of teenage boys who decided to hassle us for a few hours. I really didn’t mind the ringleader Luke. Knitted somewhere amongst his quick wit for dirty comments, he has great potential to make it far in life if someone grabs him by the horns and guides him to a good track. However, the others didn’t want a bar of him. Hilarious accusations were thrown about mullets, two heads and living the inbred life, while the Queestown Angels retorted about bike shorts, strange sunburn and Tom’s Christmas socks. It was an absolute highlight. We met a guy called Chook who drove home to collect the exact set of tools we needed for Grace’s wheel, and Chook poured his heart out to me about the difficulties of life; the copper mine in town closed down two years ago, he wants a job but doesn’t really want a job, divorcee, pessimist. I had his heartstrings wrapped around my little finger by dusk, and Brodie had the bike going again. We did a runner from the caravan park at 630am, even though we could have slept on the gravel football field gratis (no thank you!). Grace ended up running into Chook’s big brother yesterday in Derwent Bridge. We were pushing it out of Queesntown and Grace’s bike failed again, so she hailed a Subaru Forrester, and we met Dave. He promptly invited us to go rafting with a uni group for the weekend and then giggled and asked for a photo with us girls so he could show off at the mine where he works. Grace nervously jumped in his car and we secretly snapped mug shots of Dave and his license plate. As soon as they left we burst out laughing and continued grinding up the 99 bends, guessing where Dave had dumped her body. The 90km day was one to be stored in the memory cells. We had a wild ride over creeks and rivers, shaking through narrow tarmac up steep forest climbs and released onto spacious plains. We were absolutely killing it, and contemplated lunching at the Collingwood River but pushed on to make it to Brodie’s childhood dream of visiting the Franklin. Butterflies stalk in the long grass, bees sniff us for pollen (one got Tom on the bellybutton), and march flies stab us with vicious intent. We sing on the flats and our breath is our only companion on the mountains. Life is so good. We screamed with excitement to reach the famous Franklin River, and met an English duo who were intent on scaring us with information about the upcoming mountain. I shielded Annie and Anneliese’s ears and scowled at him like a protective lioness. Cyclists, let alone adult ones who have supposedly cycled across the world, are not allowed to be pessimistic towards other cyclists! We stripped down and jumped in the Franklin, bitching about those two until we realized that they were on the bridge above us. Hollie wished them goodluck up the hills and we all lost it with laughter. It turns out the cyclist was right, and we pushed our way up a ten kilometer mountain. The team are unbelievable, and we made it to the top for massages and jellybeans. The Tasmanian sun bore down on us, reaching straight through the imaginary ozone layer to scrape its claws down our drenched backs. A cool beer on Brodie met us at the Derwent Bridge Hotel, followed by a dip in this black pool I am peering over. We retreated back to the Hotel for hot chips, and I managed to grab a quarter bottle of good quality merlot to swig before sleep.

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Wed 10th of Feb 2016

Derwent Bridge – Duck Point (80km) – Launceston (100km) – Bridport (100km)

The past few days have been an absolute whirlwind of broken bike parts, stunning views, dream run downhills, chafe cream, sweat rash, sheep skulls and baked bean sandwiches. We breakfasted on the sandy shores of Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Claire, sat in a silent line being cleansed by the pure air on a downhill roller coaster before we hit gravel at Bronte Park and had the first major crash of the trip. A kaffufel of dust and tires clipping resulted in Graces’ bike upside down, and Georgia’s skin grazed but all in all we kept the spirits high. About a minute later Grace hitched to Deloraine and rode to Launceston to get her wheel replaced on the Morvern Star. Our bright pink shirts that shouted 9 in texta on the back was incorrect for two days because now we were only 7. The gravel road continued and we got even more remote. A passing car commented ‘I don’t know where you’re going, but it’s a long way to anywhere!’. We smashed out the kilometres against the headwind and the blistering heat. I’m starting to get the same rash on my neck as when Mum and Dad and I hiked the Lycian Way in the European summer. Late in the afternoon we hit the place we had been the most worked up for this trip – The Great Lake. For days we have been on the incline, ensuring one another it was all worth it for the Great Lake. Georgia and Brodie were here in winter and told us it was an absolute winter wonderland. We passed another lake despite Annie begging for a swim and pushed on to the Great Lake/ We reached over a crest, and before us lay hundreds of metres of red clay earth strewn with logs, and a dried up lake in the distance. We lost it with hysterics and sat down to devour our chocolate reward. Hollie (and secretly all of us) spat the dummy a few ks further along the gravel road and we bounced along a stone road to settle amongst the cobwebs, spindly bushes and bones off the side, rebelliously close to a no camping sign. The sun sunk over our sunburnt bodies washing the salt-crusted sweat in the lake. From the safety of Launceston, Brodie and Grace warned us of the remaining morning uphill, but our legs hardly felt it. We are machines fuelled by condensed milk from a tube. We rode past divine lakehouses that had my mind pondering a life in Tasmania. Every wooden shack is named and dressed with character. Lifestyles are easy; remote and unhindered and I am in touch with nature. It turns out the Great Lake is only 17 percent full, and if it goes below 14 percent, the hydro electricity will stop working. The locals are upset about this, but life will go on. Without warning, we hit the highest point on the Lakes Road, over 1200m. After essential picture posing, we tested our brakes and prepared for the next battle; riding back to sea level. Brodies had told us to take the utmost car, stay separated, be ready to crash and burn etc. Knock kneed from nervousness, and our jackets zipped tight, we rode up over the edge. The 20 km downhill that followed was plucked from paradise. It was smooth, traffic-less, Pantene hair add goddess. Waving sayonara to the mountains we had been neck craning to peer at for the past days, they soon became a blue silhouette horizon at our backs, and gave way to luscious farmland. Calves munched turnips and black stallions whinnied, cows darted all over the hillside when they saw our loaded crew death wobbling past. Picnicking in Westbury for a few hours left the final hot stretch into Launceston. It’s set in a huge natural bowl, which always sends a heavy gulp down a cyclotourists throat. Brodie and Grace met us with platters of bikkies and dip at the Big 4 caravan park, and we all scrubbed up and dressed to the nines with our singular crinkled dress for a night in Launceston. It’s like a city stopped in time- all the buildings are old but not dilapidated or dirty. It has a very close hipster vibe, and our first hand crafted beer was served by a bearded babe in a dark room on deep mahogany leather couches. The group is like family now; and it felt so good to be together and see one another out of bike shorts. In the morning we set up camp in a café and bought some new essentials, like a tent for Annie and Anna. The girls brought along a throw away tent that Dad probably picked up at a garage sale before I was born. Last night they resorted to sleeping on top of the pathetic tent. We threw an imaginary dice and took a new route, following the Tamar river north of Launceston and snaking our way across bridges and relatively flat gravel roads rather than bursting our heartstrings on the islands’ giants that provide the most direct route to our goal destination of the Bay of Fires. The wind was in our faces, but the riverside was worth it. Criticizing houses and planning a team talent show, I actually felt pretty exhausted from the sun and winds for the first time. The day was a long one, leaving after midday to do 100km to Bridport. We had stacks on gravel, almost got decapitated by log trucks and realized G’s gear cable snapped, so she was stuck in the easiest gear for 50km. This sounds like it wouldn’t be too bad, but judging by her chafe, it was literally torture. We made it into Bridport just before nightfall, and set up at the local caravan park, at $25 for all of us. Annie and Anna and G and I devoured a whole chicken, and we all declared day ten our first rest day.

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I couldn’t sleep, which is so typical of me when I am allowed to sleep in. So I got up to find G pulling the broken cables off her bike. We needed to get to a bike shop 20k away in Scottsdale, so with bleary eyes we set off, grabbing some cardboard from a local café and jumping in a car before the ink on the sign had dried (I did refuse an obese man with a huge dog before our lift). Our ride were an older couple on the way to do the fortnightly shop. We killed time waiting for the sleepy town to wake up. The ex-Olympian bike shop owner strolled in at midday, gave us the basic parts and we were on the road again. The afternoon was spent rolling around in postcard perfect Bridport beaches. Orange mossed bulbous rocks were our parkour playground above the clearest water known to mankind. A high white quartz content creates the eye-divertingly white sand, and in turn keeps that water crystal clear. We had a big feast with the communal kitty, pleasing vegos and non-vegos alike. Every night we try and get around to a game of cards, but we never seem to have the stamina or concentration to stay up past dinner and laughs.

 

Saturday 13th Feb 16, Bridport – Policemans Point 100km – Binalong Bay 40km

 

I am sitting on that white powder watching the mid February sunrise over the sea, and I am bursting to document what happened last night. Hollie, G and I hitched into St Helens to stock up on a days food, and some well deserved beers for the day. An Australian cyclo-tourist took us there, and a lesbian couple in a raging Land Cruiser with a slobbering staffy in the back stuffed us in for the 15km trip back. We started playing cards and making a mess with our food when our friend Andy arrived. G and I met him in Moruya while he was living on his brothers 50ft catamaran in the river mouth for a week. He came bearing dozens of oysters Kilpatrick and natural, as well as more beers. It was such a great night to celebrate making it off the gravel roads of the northeast and into the deep heart of the pristine Bay of Fires. As I normally do with our ridicously blessed Tasmanian weather, I left my fly off the tent because I like to see the stars through the mesh. We all put the extra food in our tents, and after watching Moneyball on a laptop squished like sardines in Brodie and Georgia’s tent, it was time to fall asleep on my very sought after European Quecha sleeping mat and general sweet set up. Two hours later I was woken from my dreams by the sound of possums. I had felt one sitting on my feet over the tent, but just kicked him off. Without thinking, I went to touch my zips to open the tent, and in a Jackie Chan split second a possum attached itself to my arm. I was in complete darkness and waved my arm frantically, opening the zips up even more. For a moment, I thought the animal had let go and retreated, but then I heard it bashing around with me in the tent. I lost it and jumped outside, screaming for help, while the possum switched spots with me and raged around my little home. G put her headlight out of the tent, and I saw the blood on my arm and freaked out even more. It was still in there shaking the tent like dirty business and having me teetering outside. It left casually after peeing in my tent, popping my air mattress, ripping a gash in my door, eating some bread, cutting my arm and scaring the beejesus out of me in Cozy Corner South free camping area. G kindly came and slept in my tent despite the stench, and the possums continued to roam and sniff and generally dominate their nocturnal domain. As I lay on the hard dirt on a crumpled mat holding the zips shut, I prayed for a gun.

 

Today we rode from Bridport through Gladstone to Policemans Point. It turned out to be the day from hell for our Spanish G. My soul sister from the northern hemisphere has been followed by a little devil for a while now. A bee sting to the eye, riding uphill ten k with one pedal, being stuck in that high gear for 50km, irreparably flat tires on the 40km start to this day, which the other 8 just breezed through, and then a huge stack on gravel. We have been doing so well escaping injuries, but when Brodie asked G how many ks we had done, she turned to look at him and that sent her straight into the thick gravel on the left. She managed a huge elbow cut, and we all winced for her as she applied the alcohol wipes. On we pedaled, through dry farmland being irrigated with whips of fertilized water. Purple paddocks of upturned earth, black cockatoos perched in the silhouettes of skeleton trees and kilometer beyond kilometer of gravel. Every time we reached a little stretch of bitumen, our chafed buttocks would jump for joy. A naked body devoid of a single tan line welcomed us to Policemans Point at the northeast of the Tassie coast. The few campsites were full of grey nomads or dreaded Frenchies cutting bud and playing electronica music, so we set up in the sandy car park and fell into the water.

Yesterday morning we had devised a wild plan to push our bikes along the beaches rather than go back inland on the gravel. The nudist man gave us ten litres of water to survive the day and heavily advised against it. Back inland on the gravel turned out to be beautiful and we even spotted a spotty wombat. Warm raindrops fell, keeping the dust away and the roads firm. The white quartz extends to the colour of the road as well, and the tall healthy green contrasted with the white snaking fire trail. Two amazing things happened after 30km, we hit permanent bitumen and arrived permanently inland at the Bay of Fires. The sun came out to play and we slept like lizzards on rocks, played with monster thick seaweed, found another tartget for fresh water, ate our remaining mi goring and instant mash and generally felt high on life. Hollie is starting uni when she gets back, Grace and Georgia and Brodie are returning, Annie might fly to Nepal, Anneliese’s plans are brewing, Tom deferred the semester to take a job, G and I are hiking Wilson’s Prom and cycling west. Everyone is here at the right time (literally, we just missed the fires and the floods). We cant afford to lose a single soul, because we are all a piece of the puzzle on this trip. Ive never seen group dynamics of strangers work out so nicely, and I can truly reflect back on every single part of this southern journey with a warming smile.

 

19th February 16 Binalong Bay – Diana’s Beach (25km) – Coles Bay (110km)

It has been a wild week of drone footage, barbequed abalone, clean clothes, hitching, hiking, history, stacks, ferocious Antarctic winds, farewells and fun. We had a rest morning in St Helens area, recharging batteries both phycisally and psychologically. We spent the afternoon stretched in white sand and time, followed by a night camped out at Andy’s parents place. Andy spolit our bellies and our taste buds with abalone and salmon steaks, and our bodies with freshly washed clothes, soft grass and hot outfoor showers. Andy wiped the rust of an old bike to join us on the coastal hugging eastern roads to Freycinet National Park. With nine people fed on 1kg of one dollar Black and Gold porridge, we flew south with the wind. Munching on mulberries, pondering the purpose of life, craning necks at soaring eagles and maybe pushing it a bit too far before lunch. Annie hit the bitumen after 66km, in a mix of mistakes and exhaustion. The cars behind us stopped and took her to the next coastal town of Bicheno nursing a sore arm. We had a Valentines Day picnic in this gorgeous town, and continued to the famed Freycinet National Park. Castles of boulders speckled with marone and prehistoric bird poo met us at the heart of the Park. We bagged one of the last campsites on Richardson’s beach as the wild winds settled in for the night and crashed in bed before the sun set over the water. We woke before dawn to hike to Wineglass Bay for an impossibly beautiful sunrise. The fire embers in the sky traced out God’s long fingers and set us up for a good day. It was out last day as a group and it was some of the worst weather we had seen. Some of us hiked Mount Amos in the afternoon, scrambling up through rock crevices and emerging with 360 degree views of the entire peninsula and its dotted islands. We surfed the wind on boulders and returned high on life. Over dinner, we reminisced on the highlights of our 1000km cycle through Tasmania; a broken spatula, swimming stalkers, Tom’s tattoo sleeves, Tom’s pannier contents, Annie’s Broulee vocab, Noel’s stories, the anticlimax of the great Lake, the Queenstown Angels, Tasmanian devil possums, G’s bad luck and the topiary gardens in Railton. Much deb has been consumed, dodgy water drunk and beers craved. Many mountains have been conquered, bikes broken and wills strengthened. Overall, we killed it. Cheers Tasmania.

 

Annie, Anneliese, G and I left our bikes in Coles Bay and hitched to ort Arthur to escape the 45km/h southerly winds. A few nights ago after a few beers, the four of us booked tickets to Party in the Paddock, a weekend festival boogieing with the youth of Tassie. This meant a quick trip south before reuniting with Andy and heading t the festival near Launceston. We are in the car right now, trailer and four bikes loaded on the back, buzzing for a part in the paddock.

 

My head is starting to swell with all of the things that have been happening and I need to release some of the pressure. Between us we had ten hitches to Part Aurthur and Coles Bay, a caravanning family with one year old Ted, a French pilot living between Madagascar and Mauritius, a guy who went to my highschool, a murderly earringed man who desperately wanted us to stay at his house for the night, a tall French oceanographer and most fun of all, a Rwandan Tutsi family who have survived the Rwandan genocide and are about to release a book about their story. Port Arthur’s prisons had us fascinated, disgusted and passionate about Australia’s colonial history. Hobart had us guzzling champas in the sexy Salamanca district. The past few days have brought us on an inland journey; exposing us to the quaint farmland of the centre. Sheep with bad haircuts sniffle the air when we roll past, dilapidated shacks with green and purple corrugated iron flaps creak in our wake. We spent a weekend partying in a paddock with dry poo, sheep tails and 6000 wild Tasmanians. We raided Vinnies for shoes and clothes and got them covered with dirt from dancing in the dust. Glitter and pop eyes security guards, mind buzzing beats, water bottles of vodka, sleeping on the ground next to the tent, party buses and crowdsurfing dominate my memories. We farewelled Annie in Devonport due to a broken derailleur and continued on as three. The net day G had a flat and Anneliese and I continued on as a duo to Devonport, G screaming from the car that gave her a hitch. We stayed a night in the main street of Cressey with my old boss’s girlfriend Merrily who is house sitting. We cooked a feast and spent the following day in heaven on earth known as Liffey Falls. We were advised it wasn’t flowing on our way through the area a few weeks ago, but then found out it was actually flowing and lovely as ever. We drove with Merrily in a bowlful of crumbling mountains and continued on narrow dirt forever to reach the start of the track. The huge fern trees glistened green and threw magic fairy dust over us. I ran from trunk to trunk to compare springiness and munch on mushrooms. The sunlight meandered down the gulley with us, lighting our minds with consciousness. We hit the falls and our jaws dropped on the slippery moss. G was first to get under the icy shower, followed by a squealing Anneliese and I. It was one of the best moments of the trip. Later that afternoon, with hands dyed black from wild blackberry smuggling, we took shelter in a garage to repair G’s tire. The first thing I spotted was a saw in the dark cellar and we were just waiting for the blood-smeared hand to wipe the window. I was so jumpy when Ivan Milatt strolled over from his truck with a bottle of chloroform that I somehow stuffed up the hole in the tire even more. He turned out a lovely man and gave us lemonade before driving G to Deloraine to set up camp. Anneliese and I rode pannier free in the rain and dark, and I swear to God we saw a Tassie devil along the way. G couldn’t find a spare inner tube and had to hitch the next day to Devonport. Anneliese and I reminisced on our last day, passing roadkill and farmland under a wet mist and even stopped in at a winery or two to celebrtate. G greeted us with hot showers at a headland surfclub, a BBQ and big hugs. We set up camp one last time on the Spirit of Tassie, overheating ondeck in our down sleeping bags. We left G behind in Melbourne while Anneliese and I drove to Moruya with the incentive of a home cooked meal from Mum. Pool swims, sunset, juicy scotch fillets and story telling filled the night. I spent the weekend as a bridesmaid for Katie Grace at the gorgeously decked out protea patch in Broulee, getting hair and photos done and making new friends in the outdoor magic.

We jumped in the car after the jam packed weekend and followed the familiar road down south with mum and dad and my freshly serviced bike catching bugs on the roof. Daniel and Anneliese and G and the three of us found each other in Tidal River to begin yet another adventure.
 

 

 

 

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