5 – 15 December, 2013 – While we packed up our things in Hobart the bright sunshine lit up the house and a clear blue sky made us looking forward to a nice and sunny ride. At the same time our host told us that heavy rains and even snow is expected in the mountains for today. We looked at him doubtfully thinking he was joking. He wasn’t. We were hardly out of town and a huge storm brought lots of rain. Once more we put on our rain suits and our heads down and pedaled on along a winding river. We arrived wet and tired at Mount Field National Park, put up our tent in the rain, cooked and went to bed. In the middle of the night I woke up as Johan was making strange noises next to me. It started with some shooshing and continued with barking, wild gesturing and smacking the tent. A possum was sitting on our kitchen bag between the outer and inner tent trying to get to our food! It wasn’t scared at all and only when Johan smacked it, the beast would run away. The next morning we discovered that animals were even sitting on our bikes, the frames and saddles were covered with dirt from their paws. This by the way would now happen more often, one beast even tried to eat Johan’s saddle. His saddle now has a nice natural teeth engraving.
Despite the continuing rain we still wanted to hike Mt. Field as we had taken the effort to get here. A nice woman gave us a lift up the mountain and we hiked for about five hours in the pouring rain. As we were above 1000m the board walks were covered in ice and very slippery. We walked through button grass covered moorland. We walked around a few lakes we could hardly see. We walked through bushland with huge eucalypt trees having brightly colored barks. We saw lots of wombat poo – it is very distinctive as wombats poo in squares, this is not a joke, they only have four muscles, hence the different shape. There wasn’t more to see that day and we didn’t really enjoy the walk, but also didn’t want to turn around as we hoped for better weather. Tony would give us a lift down again and we couldn’t wait to take a hot shower and go to bed.
Over the coming days we would experience many rainy days followed by a nice day in between to finally be able to notice the changing landscape. More rugged mountains and rougher scenery with crooked trees unable to withhold the heavy winds, breath-taking scenery on sunny days, lonely roads with only a few passing cars per day, no signs of civilization in between towns. The hills would become tougher as well, long and steep climbs followed by short and steep descents.
In Derwent Bridge we stayed at the free campsite of the National Park and as it was raining we could cook at the nearby picnic hut where Johan lit a warm campfire. The next morning it was freezing cold – less than four degrees Celsius – and we couldn’t wait to get back to the hut and lit another fire before leaving for another beautiful day.
This day would become the most scenic of all Tassie days with more rugged mountains, more extraordinary fauna and flora, more lakes and more diverse landscapes. A long cycling day ended with a long and steep climb and a long and ice-cold descent into Queenstown, a historic mining town. The surrounding mountains weren’t covered in forest anymore as more than 100 years ago the wood was used for mining purposes and the sulfates resulting from the mining fires wouldn’t allow any plants to grow anymore on these mountains. The town itself is very surreal, almost like a Hollywood setting.
The weather was getting worse over the coming days with day-long downpours and chilly winds. Despite our expensive Goretex rain suits we would become wet from the inside almost as much as from the outside. Our gear certainly is neither waterproof nor breathable. This is also true for our expensive walking boots from Timberland. Within an hour we have a swimming pool in our boots. Very disappointing. As we got so wet and cold and there wasn’t an end to the rain we started renting cabins on campsites to ensure we could warm up and dry our clothes. In Rosebery the owner of a takeaway place felt so sorry for us that he offered us a ride over the next tough mountain. At the crossing where he wanted to drop us he continued as the weather was still dreadful. In the end he dropped us at Cradle Mountain and saved us cycling for more than a day in the worst weather ever. I am sure we would not have been able to cover the whole distance by bike in one day and there wasn’t anything in between where we could have stayed dry and sheltered. We were very grateful for so much generosity!
As we had gained a full day we once again walked around a lake in the rain, but this time for about two hours only and without any snow. We stayed a few more days at this incredible park, saw nice pademelons (mini kangaroos) and wombats and finally left on a beautiful day again. The sun was back! We spent two more pleasant cycling days and arrived tired in Devonport for another night sail back to Melbourne.
Tassie was fantastic, at least if it comes to its landscape. Always beautiful and often dramatic. Certainly a place to love. We spent 26 days on the island, it rained twelve full days, the strong wind blew into our faces for 24 days and we cycled more than 1200km. If you’d ask us if we would cycle there again? I don’t really think so, at least not with the luggage we’ve been carrying. For the first time during our trip we were jealous when we saw people stepping into their cars or campervans. They could just turn on the heating and get warm and dry again. The climate is certainly not cycling friendly, the weather is unpredictable, often cold, wet and stormy. However, in terms of nature the island was one of the highlights so far and certainly is a hiker’s paradise.
Tassie, thank you for a great experience!