Hobart to Saint Helens

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Hobart to Buckland - 26th January 2019

We were not sure what we were expecting from Hobart but our feelings are mixed. We had a great evening out at Les Miserables and the area around the Salamanca Market seems a pleasant enough docklands tart up. The cycle way beside the railway on the west side of the Derwent River is good.

We were not impressed with the city centre on a walk in. A grid pattern race track where no one is meant to walk was our experience. We saw none of it in its best light, both because of the temperature reaching 40 degrees and the whole place being cloaked in mist from the smoke of forest fires.

We needed to cross the Derwent to reach the east coast. The highly arched long main bridge has a narrow walkway on one side. Several people had advised us not to use it, indicating various levels of danger and difficulty.

We have crossed bridges before where the authorities and their engineers only have eyes for motor vehicles. It is never pleasant and in this case the management decided to change the route to use the next bridge north.

According to Mr Google's walking man this bridge has some cycle facilities. And we also knew that we could get to the bridge by reversing the way in on the good cycle route. As it happened the cycle access was bad by design and had fallen into disrepair years ago.

On this Saturday morning traffic was light on the Bowden Bridge and we crossed it on the road going as fast as we could. Australian drivers are not in the main antagonistic towards us but many of them have no idea how to overtake cyclists safely. The less time exposed to them on the bridge the better.

As we left the Derwent River we had the biggest climb of the day. It was nicely graded but the road was busier than we would like. There were a few roadies around but nothing like the number there would be if the roads were cycle friendly.

We had early lunch in Richmond. For the first time in Tasmania this village with its church, buildings, parks and riverside could be mistaken for the UK. We are not sure how we feel about that. While there we discovered that Zeehan, where we had stayed a few days ago, was being evacuated because of fires.

Onwards and out of town we had a stretch of gravel road before a steady climb which became a serious climb. A couple of kms from the top the stoker's battery predictably expired. The management took over her luggage and she trudged up on tired legs.

Once over the top we had a long descent and hopes that we would reach our destination without a further climb. This was not to be and she had to trudge on for a couple of kms with the last bit to our remote B&B being up a super steep gravel road.

The house was in a superb position and surrounded by wilderness with wallabies and white parrots which we recognised. Sadly the views were spoiled by the air still being filled with ash from forest fires. The population here and in mainland Australia make an appalling contribution towards global warming. Gas guzzling cheap vehicles and fuel are the norm and there is almost no solar or wind power.

Dangerous arched bridge - Hobart

Buckland to near Little Swanport River - 27th January 2019

We were served a wonderful breakfast, the wallabies were having theirs outside. The smoke in the air seemed to have cleared a bit as we headed back down the 1km gravel road. The management's nearly forgotten mountain bike skills came in useful and he took all four panniers. The stoker sensibly walked the steeper bits.

The Tasman Highway, which we have to follow for several days, was again busier than we would have liked and the vehicles were travelling too fast. The route passed through a beautiful area of wooded valleys, lakes and hills but having to be so aware of bad driving spoiled it a bit for us.

We reached the coast at Orford on the Australia Day bank holiday weekend and the village resort was busy. We decided to go on to Triabunna, the port for Maria Island. We took a leisurely picnic lunch and watched the world go by in their polluting four wheel drives which have no off switch when they park.

After lunch three disconcerting things happened. It got hotter, the smoke in the atmosphere increased and there was little traffic going in our direction though a lot going back towards Hobart.

It was easy to put two and two together and make six, at least in our minds, but there were no warnings along the road. So we went on quickly toward Wind Song, the B&B we had booked for the night.

Gravel Roads are normal

The management had, for reasons best known to himself, chosen a destination 5km up a dead end road, much of which was gravel. Isolated Wind Song was wonderful, and we had a very large apartment separate from the main house. Even the stoker came around to the need for the diversion from the main road.

Tom the owner was setting up and turning on a sprinkler system around the house, his defence against forest fires. This was not reassuring but he said the main fires, the smoke of which hung heavy in the atmosphere, were a long way away. He was guarding against the risk that a local fire might start. Everything is tinder dry, no doubt partly because of global warming.

Near Little Swanport River to Belmont House near Swansea - 28th January 2019

Our hosts, Tom and Jane, being about our age and thinking about the future, have decided to gift half their land, currently an organic farm, to the Aboriginal Land Trust. It is a first for private individuals and there will be a major ceremony to celebrate.

The wind had strengthened to a stiff breeze and on the good side it had cleared some of the smoke from the atmosphere. Perhaps we were exaggerating and worrying unnecessarily yesterday but the stoker lost some sleep. On the bad side it was a serious head wind for today's ride. As our Swag family friend, five year old Hope, said “a head wind – something which annoys your head” and the management would add hurts your legs and drains your electricity.

Unfortunately the traffic on the only road north had not reduced very much and the road became narrower. The stoker found some drivers particularly challenging today. It is one of those days when we would have been better off on the tandem.

Again parts of today's ride, particularly the parts along the coast, were very pretty. Blue seas, distant mountains, white beaches, just as you would expect a Pacific island to look.

Just as we found on mainland Australian beaches it is great to have the place to yourself but a complete lack of ice cream, cake or coffee stops is not what British cycle touring is about. When we did find suitable sustenance after 40km the management also paddled in the sea. It was warm but not quite warm enough to persuade him to go in.

A short-beaked echidna

Belmont House – Bicheno 29th - 30th January 2019

An early start for a shortish ride with climb levels more like Dorset than Tasmania. Even the traffic on the Tasman Highway was less than the previous three days.

The management was delighted to see a short-beaked echidna, a large hedgehog type animal with a nose like a duck billed platypus to which it is related. He had been watching for one for days and this one scuttled across the road in front of him.

So the management was happy but the stoker was not her usual self. She had been off her food since yesterday's ice cream. It was a lovely local ice cream cone with chocolate on top also eaten by the management so could not be to blame. Maybe it's the heat and some local water at the remote places we have stayed.

Whatever the reason she found the distance hard and relied on the electricity to help. The management had a job to hang onto her back wheel which was essential because we still had the head wind. And for much of the ride there was no shelter either from the wind or the sun though the views were still lovely with many vineyards offering tastings.

The idea of coming to Bicheno was to see 30cm high, i.e. tiny, penguins coming home to roost in the evening. And also to see captive Tasmanian Devils which are endangered dog like marsupials. This didn't work out because the penguins were absent, apparently moulting at sea. And staying up late to go to a devil's zoo didn't appeal. We did see them both on TV on an old David Attenborough programme, a highlight of Australian TV, an exception here as TV is consistently bad.

Even without the visitor attractions we had a very nice and welcome day off at Bicheno. Our well equipped cabin was on a campsite just across the road from a lovely little beach with white sand and rocky headlands. Anywhere in Europe this beach would have been packed. At 9am in the morning there were fewer than half a dozen people there.

The stoker was mainly in recovery mode while the management went for a welcome swim in the sea on a hot afternoon. The water was not summer Mediterranean hot bath warm, but for getting in and staying in, it was just right. Even in the afternoon the beach was far from crowded.

Heavy trucking to make life easy for the stoker

Bicheno to St Helens via Scamander 31st January 2019 - 2nd February

As we left Bicheno we realised what a large village it is. Like many places it is a bungalow settlement which straggles on a couple of km from the centre. Some of the bungalows are very upmarket. It is not just ribbon development either, there are also holiday type complexes which only have one way in, no shops and in Europe would most likely have gates.

We broke the ride to St Helens at Scamander. This was in order to get the right starting place i.e. St Helens, for our second ride into the wild north of Tasmania. Having an extra day in Scamander was a good idea as it happened as it gave the stoker a chance to fully recover and the management a chance to lounge around which he is particularly good at.

Lazy Wallaby

The ride from Bicheno to St Helens was great. It was beside the wide sweep of the blue ocean for almost the whole way. And uniquely in our experience the coast road was not hilly. We did need bottom gear a couple of times, but in the main the following wind pushed us along and over the undulations.

The traffic was again light, almost like it was before we were sucked into Hobart, something the management would not do again. The weather was perfect, starting at 20 degrees and rising only a little. We did get a sprinkling of rain and donned waterproofs but, as we have often found, the rain then stopped.

As usual we did have long gaps between refreshment stops, 40km. And even then we had to do a 1km detour to a very smart wine and beer tasting venue. It even had some up market holiday bungalows for those incapable of leaving, not us.

The next week of our tour, the return to Devonport, required a lot of planning which we had time to do. We now know that the stoker's bike will only reliably climb 800m in a day, and that provided the ride is not also a long distance.

Rather than get caught out as we did with the 1500m climb to Cradle Mountain without any electricity we searched for places to stop on the way and top up the battery. Whether they actually exist remain to be seen.

The other planning issue is what supplies to carry and which venues have full or partial cooking facilities. It is unlikely that we will get it completely right but it is well worth trying. And one of them has a vegetable garden where we can help ourselves.

Beer and Wine tasting - the stoker