3 weeks in Tasmania.

A mountain bike.
A very heavy mountain bike.
45 kg of opulent travel.

Lots of sweat and many magnesium tablets.
Every available steak and three veg pub dinner I could find along the way
and a few beers too,
while going north to south through the guts on the most remote bush tracks available.

850+km.
16 riding days.
An average of 55km per day.
A lowly 16.5 kmh average speed, including a good 6 hours of walking.
A massive amount of vertical metres climbed.
Far too much logged out forest, not enough wilderness.

2 fresh rainbow trout feasts.
Platypus playing,
devils squealing,
too many tiger snakes too close for comfort. (Missed the biggest one by 6 desperate inches.)

2 punctures, 1 destroyed bottom bracket, 1 spoke broken inside a spoke nipple,
which was threatening to become a dealbreaker because I had spare spokes but no nipples,
when I espied a kiddies bike wheel in a pile of rubbish in the bush two days later which was ransacked to save the day.
Oh yes and 1 dodgy fish and chips in the last week= 1 destroyed bottom .

So many wonderful generous people met along the way.
$18 for accommodation for three weeks.
6 nights as a guest in wonderful homes.

Everything from subzero temps with wild windchill factors and snow on the hills
to ozonehole 30+ days that melted the glue holding the velcro on my shoestraps,
and sunburnt arms which I would wipe the fluid blisters from,
to 150kmh+ winds,
cold and bitter rain,
and perfect perfect days.

Days where I never saw another human being.
4 books read, no music, no ipod, no computer touched, no phone 99% of the time.

I LOVE Tasmania.

http://s237.photobucket.com/albums/ff54/thefunkyplumber/Tassie%20Trail%20Jan%2009/
or if that won't work straight away for some reason, try this then click on the Tassie Trail album
http://s237.photobucket.com/albums/ff54/thefunkyplumber/




Wind was my biggest enemy, whether crawling from Launceston airport to Deloraine then Devonport over two days into strong headwinds on the bitumen, which in hindsight at least got me mentally used to flogging myself just to crawl along at 10kmh early and also let me figure out I needed to get a lot more weight forward on the bike to stop the rear end swaying around uncontrollably. Heavy panniers on a sloppy old duallie is um interesting. After a few hours of riding I'd hop off the bike to find myself distinctly motionsick- the suspended rear triangle and it's complex series of linkages swaying side to side had the equilibrium in my ears feeling like I was swaying sitting still, no matter how smoothly I'd try to pedal. Getting off the saddle for more than a couple of seconds was almost impossible too. Oh yes, wind... later on going from Judbury to FcukingGeeveston, well actually Port Huon because you couldn't get a beer in FcukingGeeveston on a cold wet wild day which was 157kmh winds in Hobart, and omigod, trees down, I think I'm going to die, strong over the Wellington Range.

So anyway, first arvo from the airport I'm flailing around with the headwind driving me willy nilly across the road, frying in the sun, with my inner thighs being worn out by my newly rearwheelsteering bike and I get to Westbury around 5pm feeling savaged, 20km still to Deloraine, damn that's 2hrs at this pace, thinking fark it I'll camp in the paddock behind the 24hr pie shop??? and I drag my body off the bike to find 3 roadies pulling up. Chat a bit, then a car pulls up, one of them says 'here chuck your panniers in the wife's car and ride into Deloraine with us'. OK. We battle the wind into town, well they do while I do my best to hide my sore, cramping carcass behind them, and we're finally there, and I'm plied with beer and food and bikenerd chat and put up for the night in my first experience of the gobsmacking generosity of so many wonderful Taswegians.

I got to Devonport at 1.30 the next day, after first posting myself food packages at various post offices along the way to drop weight; much less weight on the back and more on the front makes a slower handling but more rideable bike, wind picks up bigtime from the northwest again so I'm down to 10kmh again; only to find the Devonport Cup has closed the town at lunchtime, so no quick EPIRB pickup today. Camp at the bluff on Bass Strait, take a nice ride on the bikepath up the Don River, meet the very well travelled Seppo bike tourist couple camped across from me... dip the front wheel.... game on.

Sheffield the next day via Seven Sheds brewery at Railton for a tasty beer and clover mead 'lunch', oh and a nice little rail trail from there too, enjoy meeting locals at the Sheffield pub who drag me home for rainbow trout dinner. Goodness indeed. I probably didn't need to buy us a whole carton though.

Next arvo I'm hurting through Paradise, high 20* days are quite brutal down here, the ozonefree summer Tassie sun is burning the hell out of me no matter how much sport spf30+ I apply. I enjoy the run down to and across the Mersey, which would be a nice spot to camp, then die a thousand deaths on the interminable loop of steep young pine plantations back out the other side. Hopeless trail directions out of the Mersey, and I learn how to use the GPS a mate loaned me after exhausting every incorrect road and track in that area, and then I finally find that unmarked window in the bush. I run out of water, lesson 1, fill everything. It's 3 or 4 kg worth carrying. It's late when I get out to Mole Creek Rd after a disc smoking steep plunge and I softcock it left to Deloraine again for some luxury. :)

Enjoyed the next day to Bracknell, what campsite at Cluan???? all I found was a horrid sand speedway track, no sign of a toilet or water even. A long gentle climb on the Cluan Tiers Rd leads to a thrilling descent and then through a clearfelled section with smallish tree trunks scattered like pickupsticks across the track, interesting when your front wheel slides at 30kmh along ones that're aligned in roughly your direction and you heave it up and over. Ignore the trail detour signs in favour of belting down a lovely lush ferny section with dodgy little wooden 'bridges' to a sawmill at Myrtle Creek. Beers, oysters and steak at the Bracknell Pub have me a happy man that evening. Playing pool and drinking with the young sawmill owners til godknowswhathour has me starting late again the next day after a nice campsite by the river in town. I rarely hit the road before noon actually.

I took a 30+* day off in Miena, when it was nasty hot and a strong headwind beckoning, and I had a sore knee and a hangover from partying at the pub again with some great flyfishers, and hey I don't need any more excuses, I'd made it out from the Caves Track alive the day before. :)
Hmm, did I miss something? Oh yeah, that's right, that bloody Caves Track. Enough said. I might be trying to blot that experience from my memory. Benchpressing 45kg up that was ....... interesting. Didn't even ride five minutes of it. Relentlessly steep loose shale and rocks made walking hard, let alone lifting a bike up it. I actually camped 2/3 of the way up where I saw an inviting big flat rock and a little creek, very glad I did. I was never going to make Arthur's Lake that night and it was a lovely spot to camp.

Once I made it out from the Caves Track the next day I stopped to cook lunch at Arthur's Bog, now I'm worried about my now very sore right knee/quad/tendon so pedalled with one leg to Miena. Day off. More great company and hospitality- here take my car and have a look around while we're out fishing. Wow. Even if his mates called the cops on me when they saw me driving his car out of town :)

Missed Bung Bung Creek and Pine Tiers lagoon on the way down to Bronte Park after the lovely peat section off to the left, simply couldn't find the way in so it was straight down the Marlborough to pick up one of my food packages and some supplies and cook a quick lunch at Bronte Park, and then I decided to take a detour across to Lake St Clair and check out The Wall. The weather turned ugly overnight while I was camped on the Derwent River, only 2 or 3* and squalling rain settled in from the west, next morning after a cold sleep I laid out the amount of clothes I figured I'd need to wear to stay warm while wet on the bike in that weather and decided that didn't leave enough dry ones to stay warm at night so basically just holed up where I was and ate A LOT, and read a book for a couple of days with the occasional dash to the Lake or to the cafe or the pub when I was freezing to death. Too wet for a campfire after the first night sadly. It was snowing up behind Lake St Clair, with wicked windchill and the third evening I caved in and went and bought a fleece jacket at the lovely Derwent Bridge Hotel. Love those fireplaces. More nice locals and a late night singalong at someone's house. Back in the tent I was in my sleeping bag with 2 pr of socks, my snow long woollen thermal bottom and top, long pants, another thermal shirt and a jacket, gloves and a beanie and just my nose peeking out but still cold. Yeehah. Was actually still fun, and a nice bit of variety.

After that 3 night extended detour the weather was finally good to go and I was pleased to find my knee had recovered too with 2 days off so off I gently went, met a young roadie riding from Hobart to Queenstown in a day, 260 big km :-O, and on to a lovely night at Dee Lagoon where I paused for a break and was gifted an awesome fresh rainbow trout for my dinner, very glad I stopped there and then camped a few k on at what was a wonderful spot on an amazing lagoon and hadn't pressed on to that horrid 'campsite' near Victoria Valley Falls.
JUST swerved and missed a big 6ft tiger snake not far past the falls the next day, glad I've got that epirb 'cause I'm half an hours hard ride from the nearest person and no phone reception, then another exquisite switchbacked downhill dash to test the brakes and on to Ouse, the pub, some good local advice, and platypus playing in the river where I camped in the park in the middle of town. Bottom bracket has crapped itself by now, mega crunchy, and lots of play side to side- nearly an inch at the pedal by the time I got to Dover, and only about 2/3 of a downstroke on the driveside. I'm realising I'm not likely to make Dover in my planned 2 weeks after that prolonged detour.


On to New Norfolk the next day, accidentally missed what I'd say was a lovely bush saddle track and the Broad River crossing the other side of the Repulse Power Station dam because a bloody arrow points left, which takes me down the flood option to the Derwent I'd just spent an hour climbing away from, and I don't realise until I'm most of the way down and I'm not going back up it again, but then I'm forced up a stinking hot series of bastard bitumen hills which made Alpe D'Huez seem like a pimple, although I thusly meet a couple of Melbourne blokes all panniered up on the road, so I skip Mt Bethune too (the old fella whose property that is has died recently too so wasn't sure of it's status anyway, and I've done rocky benchpressing already thankyou very much) and enjoy some company for a couple of fun hours to the Mt Field NP turnoff, where I'm humming and hahing over whether to join them overnight into there while we scoff a kg or two of fresh raspberries, YUM, but no, bye fellas, I'm staying on the trail and going on to New Norfolk. Kinda wish I'd done that NP campsite and waterfalls actually. It took me a while to realise that the Trail was primarily a horse trail, and they're not allowed in National Parks, so a bike rider should use his or her wisdom when it comes to the recommended campsites and potential detours from the trail to beautiful places nearby. Hmm. Next time. A bit of local advice had me skipping the Black Hills Rd too in favour of a nice bitumen run along the river from Glenora to NN. So I kinda shortchanged the Trail ideal that day.

I change my flight in the morning to add a week and then head off to the 'bike shop' to see what I can do about my BB. It's not a chainsaw so not much is the answer, but we turn down a cassette tool on the lathe so it'll fit over an ISIS BB, and I vainly pull it apart to find sealed bearings and nothing to be done. Oh well, whack in a heap of grease and bolt it all back up. Late lunch at a cafe gets me an offer of a crashpad in Lachlan, so a very short riding day, but some lovely guitar playing and nice company for the night.

Next morning I take advantage of his friend who is the local masseuse who lives just up from the start of the Jefferys Track and roll up for an awesome two hour massage. Bliss. Hey of course I'm roughing it. Sheesh. Float up the affeared Jefferys track with a refreshed mind and body and love the White Timber Plains, despite the incredible amount of standing water/mud puddles up there. Loved the high saddles with their ferny glades and majestic stringybark. Absolutely fly down towards Judbury at a risky 60+ considering the state of the track, rough as guts with huge ruts and footy sized loose rocks, but hey it's rough at 10kmh too so I might as well let the bike stretch it's legs and enjoy it, great buzz, break a spoke though. I had spare spokes but it broke in the nipple, and I didn't have those. Woops.

Nasty weather again the next morning, hella wind and dust, which sadly inhabited then ate the gears in my camera (which finally gave up the fight just as I came over the hill into Dover later on, although I managed to prise the lens out for some shots later on) so I have a leisurely morning again and pull apart the wheel to try and get the spoke thread out of nipple. No can do so bung it back together and try to get it roundish and straightish and useable. Valve pulls out of the tube when I go to pump it up. Grrr. Shoo another tiger snake away from my tent, and pack up despite the brewing storm. I figure I'll wait til the front passes and it should calm down a bit and at least it'll push me southeast right? Rain comes through and it seems a tad better so off I go. Umm. Wow. Bermuda road was nuts. The wind and rain turned feral as I'm riding up and over the Wellington Range, throw on another layer of wet weather clothing and a beanie, I'm clambering around and over trees down everywhere, it took out half the power in the state, and I'm riding up the jetsam strewn saddle under massive creaking bending tall trees which I'm increasingly sure are going to kill me. I'm lucky I was the only person around, I was literally being blown up to 2m sideways or simply brought to a halt as it swirled and steamed. Finally I'm over and across into the lee of the wind, no views today though when I'm on top of the world. Four Foot Plains was probably nice, but I'm a bit savaged now and not appreciative enough by this point. There's a nice protected bit of pine forest at last where I spy another big pile of household rubbish in the middle of nowhere... wtf?... hang on there's a kids bike in the pile. Screech. Put the billy on for a welcome hot brew while I salvage some rusty but useable spoke nipples which will save my both chainstay rubbing by now egg of an overloaded back wheel. Yay. Fly down to the Arve road and again hum and hah over Hartz NP inland or civilisation and beer to the left. Hit Geeveston in short order ;) and ravenously tuck into what seemed like heaven but turned out to be a very wrong fish and chips. Then find there's nowhere to camp and I can't even get a beer in town. Bastards. On to Port Huon, it's 7 or 8pm and there's still no power, ah a pub, sink a few beers to calm my ravaged self, and start my bout of foodpoisoning expulsion. I'm still cold and hungry again so I loan my headlights to the chef at the pub so she can see to cook dinner, someone drives their ute up to the door and fires up their generator to power some floodlights in the bar and we're golden. I eventually find a public toilet to set up camp next to for the night down by the seafood wharf near the river mouth. It was actually a nice spot but sadly I spent far too much time sitting down staring at a bessa block wall.

Roll back through FcukingGeeveston the next day where I get my first puncture, on the bitumen???, anyone getting the idea this wasn't my favourite little town? Ok, time to chuck in that spoke too, get it all vaguely round and off we go again. Another nasty pinch flat an hour later, hmmm maybe I didn't patch that well enough? It's bent the rim, cut the tyre bead and put inch long slits on both sides of the tube, time to grab that second and last spare tube I had, so foolishly I lift the bike without the skewer in, which the pannier racks attach through, and the rack rips the derailleur cable housing to shreds. Duct tape to the rescue. A few wrong turns and some quite decent sharp little climbs in the next couple of hours and I'm not really enjoying this last stage much. Expectation of the end of the trail got the better of me I think, although it was the most troublefilled day by far. Another wrong turn through more freshly logged stuff without any markers and I realise I'm heading down to the Esperance River campsite. Eh, that'll do. It's the friday evening of the Australia Day long weekend so there's 3 families from Hobart camping there already, but it's a nice big spot so I say gday and after an invigoratingly cold dip in the river set up camp, cook up the last of my supplies and force them to take some money for a sixpack. More lovely people.

Leave my camp set up there and ride a blissfully light bike back to the trail and up and over into Dover at last the next arvo. How much fun was that last half hour of track? Snap a couple of photos of that glittering bay as I come over the last hill and the camera dies so I don't get a photo of the 'The End' sign or the obligatory dipping of the wheel. Spy the RSL sign in town, so the moth is off to the flame and I pull up to watch the woodchopping contest across the road for a few minutes before I decide I deserve a beer. Try to make a tight uturn from a standing start with my half a downstroke BB and unceremoniously fall off for the first time, splat in the road in front of a hundred people. Lie there laughing and then go buy myself a couple of well deserved 20's. Shopped up a storm for the weekend, squeezed a carton into the panniers and then more wind and rain on the way back along the river to the campsite for a relaxing weekend. The longdrop being handy was definitely good still too, although I could have done with some gentle Sorbent by now. I'd been toying with heading further south still, to the thermal baths and Cockle Creek, and maybe even down to Southeast Cape, but nup, both the bike and I were done. Lazing around in the sun when it came out and reading and recharging around a big campfire at a nice little spot on the river was fine by me.

Got offered a lift back to Hobart and enjoyed Ozzie Day arvo there and caught up with two lads from there who'd I'd met here in Sydney a few weeks before, one of whom had done the trail too, swapped war stories over too many beers and got put up for a couple of nights in their amazing home and a guided tour of town to boot. Might even try the west coast with them next summer.


And that folks, was that.
Thankyou Tasmania. Very very nice.

Sadly I'm now back in Sydney trying to get back into the rhythm of work, trying to readjust to the rat race again, and frantically chasing payment for all those unpaid jobs from December. Grrr. I know where I'd rather be.