Strahan to Hobart

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Queenstown to Tarraleah (Ticklebelly) 20th - 21st January 2019

The management is not happy but the stoker doesn't care. We had booked the midday bus to take us and the bikes from Queenstown to Derwent Bridge. It is 80km with 1400m of climb. This is totally outside the stoker's battery range “and probably the rest of her as well” says the management in defensive mode. There are no buildings of any kind and so nowhere to charge her battery.

So the management was not prepared to cycle, even though he could. The stoker thinks he is protesting too much in the circumstances.

We left the Fawlty Towers of the Empire Hotel and bought supplies for a couple of days. Going for coffee, we met the Swag Family Hughes who were just about to start a 40km hilly ride. Parents Andrew and Nic and two children, Wilfy 3 and Hope 5, are touring Australia on two Thorn tandems . We first met them yesterday along with a Swiss couple cycling around Tasmania.

Having seen no touring cyclists and few cyclists of any kind it was both good and surprising to meet six in one place. The others were going around Tasmania clockwise whilst our management chose anticlockwise so we swapped much advice in both directions.

The Hughes family were not only inspiring but reminded the management of his own much less extensive tours with children. It has to be good for the family to involve everyone in their great project.

Our bus, a small 30 seater with a luggage trailer, arrived. The bikes went into the trailer first. Luggage, ours and from all the other passengers, was then packed around them.

Bike bus

The bus then took off up the mountain road at a cracking pace and we were soon in the wilderness. The first mountains were bare of any vegetation, a mining moonscape. After a while we were back into the heavy vegetation natural to the island.

The driver kindly took us into Lake St Clair National Park Centre on the way to Derwent Bridge. St Clair is a huge lake and the destination for five day walkers from Cradle Mountain. Mind you if you want to walk it you need to book a year in advance. Not quite our thing either now or in the past. We have always liked wilderness without a safety net.

We stayed in a very expensive cabin at Derwent Bridge. It was nice but they presumably cater for city people going walking and don't care how much it costs.

Monday was hot and sunny before we even got up and we were back on the lightly trafficked Lyell Highway. We were soon out of the mountains and into rolling countryside. The flat valleys looked boggy and we passed several large lakes.

Swag family

We came to a monument beside one of the lakes. We were in the geographical middle of Tasmania and the words on the monument give credit to those who surveyed the roads. As do we.

The management was on the look out for Tiger snakes. It looked like snake country. The stoker said it doesn't matter which snake you come across they are all venomous. We saw a couple of squashed snakes along with the usual sad road kill of wallabies.

Just before we arrived we had to negotiate a 400m hairpin bend descent with a similar climb out. The area had been the subject of massive hydro electric engineering between 1930 and 1950 which brought huge social and economic change to Tasmania.

The management was not feeling at his best today and found the final climb very hard going, especially as the road builders had not provided any shade. There was also a very loud and ominous creaking coming from his bottom bracket.

He had to walk anyway but the creaking would have been a good excuse if he needed one. Andrew and Nic, the tandem family, had suggested we take a gravel road which avoids the climb. We passed the entrance and it was call “Fourteen Mile Road”. We thought then and even now we think that 14 miles on gravel would have been worse for us than the climb on made roads.

We stayed in a very nice cabin on another old hydro site. The management filled the bottom bracket with oil through the cable retainer screw. Chris Juden always said external bearings were seriously inferior to a cassette for touring. Right again Chris.

A forest fire, not clouds

Tarraleah (Ticklebelly) to Hamilton 22nd January 2019

An easy day today if any ride with 683m of climb can be easy. But to be fair it also had 1142m of down. So the order of the day was for the management to freewheel down at break neck speed and grind up in a bottom gear which is not low enough, and the reverse for the stoker.

As we climbed out of Ticklebelly, as Tarraleah was called by the media in the 1930's, it was already hot and with a clear sky. We followed the massive water pipes up to the top.

By the way Ticklebelly was as near the media could get in the 1930's to suggesting what happened when women arrived in the hydro settlements. Some of the men had probably being doing it all the time even though they were not quite lumberjacks.

After an hour or so on shady forest roads we came over a rise and suddenly we were in rolling prairie country for as far as the eye could see. It was a big change after being in the forests for over a week.

It was also very hot and even the strong wind felt reminiscent of being in a fan oven. We made it for early lunch in the tiny settlement of Ouse. It was fun sitting in the air conditioned café, general store and meeting place as all manner of people came in at lunch time.

We saw, among others, truck drivers, tourists, sheep shearers, hydro workers, women with children and those like us just loafing at the cool tables, though sadly no other cyclists.

We continued on in the heat haze to our destination of the day, a convict built hotel at Hamilton. One lady runs the shop, post office, café and hotel. She could not open the hotel for us until she had locked the safe for the night, Post Office rules.

We were the only guests because the hotel was keeping rooms in reserve for firefighters and possible evacuees from a forest fire. Yesterday we had seen the fire to the north of the Lyell Highway. It looked massive. The sky to the north was so full of smoke that it looked like heavy clouds in the clear sky and the centre of the fire was very wide.

Yesterday we were not down wind of the fire and we felt no risk. Apparently the wind is forecast to rise during the next couple of days and with it the danger to the local community. We assume that this hotel is safe and the nearer we get to Hobart the further we will be from the fire.

Running repairs

Hamilton to Hobart 23rd - 25th January 2019

As we left the convict constructed Hamilton Inn the stoker talked to the postman in his van. His round covered most of our last two days' journey and he had seen us several times as he delivered the letters and parcels. “Just one big climb and it's downhill all the way after that” he said.

The stoker relayed this to the management. He was sceptical, but it was much nicer than hearing from the average overweight loafer. They usually suck and say how big the hills are as they go on scoffing whatever junk food they have in their hands. In fact there were at least three largish climbs but they were mostly better graded than in the more remote areas.

The traffic got steadily busier but was still light. We stopped at Gretna Green's only pub for a coffee. We thought of Sue and Jim, soon to be married. There was no sign of a blacksmith here, only the pub.

We stopped for the night in New Norfolk, the first settlement in Tasmania. In the early 1800s ships brought settlers up the Derwent River and they were granted land by the Governor of Australia. We saw few signs of anything historic in New Norfolk. It is bit of a scruffy place but in a lovely setting surrounded by high hills.

Oast house

The land was in part worked by convicts who were hired to the settlers by the state. The convict era stinks of injustice and brutality and the British should be ashamed of it, along with many other things which went on here. These include mass murder of the native peoples and forced deportation and physical and sexual abuse of British children which continued until the 1960s.

After New Norfolk we found the wide road quite busy, though this may be because we were used to so little traffic. The narrow hard shoulder tended to come and go and was in parts very rough. Most drivers are considerate but the vehicles tend to be larger than in the UK. They are not used to cyclists and they do expect us to ride on the hard shoulder even if there isn't one.

The amazing thing is that from about 15km out of Hobart there is a cycleway all the way in. It starts on minor roads and then follows the railway on a concrete surfaced wide path. Of course being Australia it is covered in warning notices, safety notices and rules.

It was delightful to cycle along the river and refreshing for us sea side dwellers to be by the estuary after two weeks of no sea. The path itself was wonderful but needs serious improvement at most of the road crossings. Many of these are difficult and traverse the deep concrete gutters that are the norm here.

We met a rare touring cyclist going the other way on the path. A Scot from Edinburgh he was cycle camping and had been to even more places than we have. We swapped routing advice. We were able to tell him about the North West of the island and how we had found the forest fire risk. He helped us with the East and North East. It was pleasant to talk to a like minded person.

We had a day off in Hobart with lots to do and enjoy. The management decided to be on the safe side and get the bottom bracket on his bike replaced at the Spokes bike shop next door to our apartment. We even managed to see a very good international production of Les Miserables from the front row of the stalls at the Playhouse Theatre,