19 November – 4 December, 2013 – We spent all morning repacking our gear as we wanted to take as little weight as possible knowing we would have to climb many hills. If we would have known how many, we would have taken even less…I’ll get to this fun part later on.
The boat left at 7.30pm and the sail was quiet and uneventful except for a weird couple sitting next to us and shortly after setting off the woman massaged her husbands belly so he could burp for about five minutes. While I was having dinner next to them. Very appetizing. And except for a bunch of young and excited Asians sitting all around us and making a lot of noise for a very long time. And except for an elderly woman playing computer games with the sound full on. We couldn’t sleep anyway!
We disembarked at around 6.30am, went straight to McDonalds for a filthy breakfast and to warm up as it was grey and cold and rainy. We also needed to inform our next host about our arrival time, but WiFi was out of order that day.
By 8.30am we were fully packed in our rain suits and headed off to our next destination – Launceston. We checked our map to see where we could buy lunch and decided to do that in one of the next villages on our way. Beginner’s mistake number one. About three hours later and slightly getting hungry we noticed that the village dots on our map weren’t real villages but just a few houses, nothing more. We actually had passed one village without even noticing it. Thankfully there was a farmer walking up the street we could ask. The next little town on our way was about 40km away with many hills in between. No way we could do that distance without any food. So we had to turn again and cycled to a small Port town where we bought our lunch, got freezing cold – it was still raining – and had a yummy hot chocolate at a coffee shop next door. As it was still heavily raining and about ten people had told us by now that it wasn’t a good day for a bike ride, we thought it to be a good idea to stay at the campsite of the village instead of continuing our journey to Launceston. There we enjoyed the luxury of a fully equipped camp kitchen, a heating and a grumpy owner. When we asked if we could sleep in the kitchen because of the heavy rain he was quite annoyed with us, of course this wasn’t possible. That night we noticed that our tent wasn’t waterproof anymore at the bottom. Nice prospect!
The next day the weather wouldn’t improve a bit. We waited until 10am and as the sky looked a little clearer we put our heads down and went off. Not even ten minutes later we cycled through a heavy hail storm, with hail almost piercing our faces. But brave as we still were we continued cycling and the hail storm turned into heavy rain and then into light rain and then even into a little sunshine. We used a small rain-free slot for our lunch and got immediately freezing cold again. The landscape we cycled through was stunning, very green, a lot of eucalypt forests, some lakes and winding rivers and a lot of hills. Long ones and short ones, steep ones and easy ones, but each climb was followed by a downhill just to go up again a few seconds later. We were so glad that we hadn’t continued our journey the day before as we would have never made it to anywhere.
We desperately wanted to arrive in Launceston, as we had another host there waiting for us and we couldn’t delay our arrival by another day as Chris would be away for the weekend.
By 2pm we noticed that we didn’t make any progress. By now we were fighting against a heavy headwind that made us also crawling downhill at a speed of 8km/h. We pedaled and pedaled but hardly moved on. This day was so frustrating and tiresome and at around 2pm we called Chris to tell him we wouldn’t be able to make it to Launceston as we weren’t even half way. Chris offered us to pick us up and we didn’t hesitate for long and thankfully accepted his offer. He would leave home by 4pm and meet us wherever we would be by then. This gave us another energy kick and we happily pedaled on. And suddenly the direction of the road changed and with a little help of the wind and a road winding downhill we finally made some progress. We met Chris only 15km before his home, loaded all our luggage into his car and cycled the last part light but against the wind. At his home we were welcomed by Barnaby and Sherlock, two wonderful dogs we would have fun with the coming days. Chris cooked us a delicious dinner and we chatted along for the rest of the evening.
We decided – given the bad weather forecast – to house- and dog sit while Chris and Caro were away for the weekend. We had a great weekend in Launceston, walking the dogs twice per day, feeding and cuddling them, we went to the museums in Launceston, did the gorge walk, went on a daylong bike tour on the heritage trail to see some beautiful villages and enjoyed another two evenings with Chris and Caro. By the way, the weather was fantastic all weekend long. Nowhere else the weather forecast has been so useless as in Tasmania so far.
We continued our journey east with a moderate uphill climb and many smaller steep climbs in between. We rested on top of a hill for too short a time as despite a nice and sunny day a chilly wind from the Antarctic made us freeze again. Cycling downhill we enjoyed fantastic views over a hilly landscape and once more we felt like cycling through “James Herriot” landscapes. We camped that night on a free campsite, watched an Erpel raping the ugliest duck around and went to bed early as the next day would become tough once more.
There isn’t really an easy cycling route in Tasmania, unless you have endless time and can split it up in shorter distances. But as we had another host in St. Helens, where we could camp in the garden, we had to cover a long distance and climb two long passes. Pass sounds really big. If I tell you the altitude, you will start laughing. I will tell you anyway: 600m. No, this isn’t a typo and there isn’t a 1 or a 2 in front of the 6 missing. 600m. It sounds ridiculous but for us it is more strenuous than crossing a real pass. Just because real high mountains usually have long winding roads with moderate gradients. You get into a rhythm and can cycle for hours with just a few stops in between. Here gradients feel mostly far beyond 10% and at times I cycled at a speed of 3.8km/h, so slow, that I almost fell off the bike. The continuous ups and downs are killing us. There is never a real flat part in between and we were told it is getting worse in the west. Thankfully our rides were still very rewarding. The landscapes are just unbelievable. Wild, vast, beautiful, fascinating, breath-taking, surprising, English, Irish, Scottish, green, blooming, to name just a few. Old mining villages in between set you back into the gold rush age. Old timber houses tell the stories of past glory. Roadkill is the sad prove of still existing and numerous wildlife in the bush.
In St. Helens we were welcomed by a wonderful retired couple living in a humble house on top of a small hill with sea view and a huge vegetable garden. They also had great cycling tips for us. We would stay there two nights and as the second day was rainy Pip showed us around by car. We walked on beaches and through the bush at the Bay of Fires and admired vast dune landscapes during storms and heavy rainfalls. A pity we couldn’t enjoy the bay at nicer weather.
The following days we cycled mostly along the east coast, fascinating ever changing scenery with more breath-taking views. We camped at a beach and made beginner’s mistake number two: we didn’t take water as we thought every free campsite would be as great as the first one we stayed at. But this one had just two pit toilets and nothing else, not even water. Hence, we went to bed unwashed and left the next day unwashed. While cooking dinner next to the tent wallabies watched us from very close hoping to get some easy food from us. All night we could listen to the sounds of the sea and the animals still searching for food around our tent.
One day we went for a walk to see the famous Wineglass Bay and continued cycling for a full day on softly undulating roads with tailwind. We were more flying than cycling and enjoyed every second on the bikes – grinning faces included. Tasmania is fascinating! Is this the beginning of a love story? We also cycled through a lot of wine areas, Tasmania seems to have award-winning wines as well. In Richmond we admired the oldest bridge Australia’s and enjoyed a campsite with hot showers. Showers have become a luxury in the meantime as we usually camp on free campsites with hardly any facilities. We love sleeping in our tent, it’s cosy and warm and after a long and tiresome cycling day we can’t wait to crawl into our sleeping bags, discuss the day and fall asleep with the setting sun.
After seven exhausting days in the saddle since Launceston, one rest day in St. Helens and 505 km we arrived at noon in Hobart, Tasmania’s capital. We would stay at Greg’s house, another Warm Showers host with whom we had nice chats and great food once more. Hobart marked the end of our trip in the east of Tasmania, the hard part was yet to come. Gladly we didn’t really know what to expect. Stupidly we didn’t really rest in Hobart and instead went sightseeing all day long and embarked tired on the second part of our Tasmanian adventure.
20 November, Devonport – Port Sorell: 40km
21 November, Port Sorell – Launceston: 74km
22 November, Launceston – rest day
23 November, Launceston – Longford – Evandale – Launceston: 70km
24/25 November, Launceston: 11km
26 November, Launceston – Scottsdale: 66km
27 November, Scottsdale – St. Helens: 103km
28 November, St. Helens – rest day
29 November, St. Helens – Friendly Beaches: 101km
30 November, Friendly Beaches – Coles Bay: 44km
1 December, Coles Bay – Triabunna: 104km
2 December, Triabunna – Richmond: 63km
3 December, Richmond – Hobart: 43km
Total distance cycled: 18,522km of which 839km in Australia